TillVAS Till Valley Archaeological Society
TillVAS             Till Valley Archaeological Society

Archaeology News

TillVAS Archaeology Manager: Heather Pentland

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Patron:  Rt. Hon. Lord Joicey.

Hon. President:  Dr. Chris  Burgess.


Funding Plea

Mardon Dig Finds


The Mardon dig was a great success. So much so, that it uncovered some finds that were totally unexpected and important.  These consist of several soil samples, animal bones including two large shoulder blades probably used as tools, wood fragments and pieces of turf, including possibly an ancient beetle, from the bottom of a two-meter deep ditch. These finds have been preserved for 2000+ years as they were in a water-logged environment, but now they are on the surface they will deteriorate.  In view of the urgency to have the finds properly analysed and dated before they do deteriorate, the TillVAS Committee decided to devote £1,000 of reserves to having a preliminary analysis carried out. Depending on the results of this preliminary analysis, we might need to spend up to a further £1000 on more detailed analyses.


Although the grant for the Branxton & Crookham Village Atlas project contains funds for the dig, it does not contain any funds for these unexpected analyses, which will cost between 20% to 40% of our reserves.


The Committee has therefore decided to launch an appeal to TillVAS members for extra funding to meet these costs, and any donation, however small will be gratefully received .    If this appeal brings in more than we need spend, the balance will be ring-fenced to meet future dig costs.


Contributions can be made through a collection box at meetings, or via a cheque, payable to TillVAS, posted to The Treasurer, The Manse, 1 Crookham, Cornhill on Tweed, TD12 4SX, or by BACS transfer to the TillVAS account, 80-13-02, 06001108. (Please put the word `dig’ somewhere in the transfer advice.)


Mike Keating, Treasurer.

Maureen Charlton, Secretary.


Report on Mardon Excavation - September 2017.

As part of the “Branxton and Crookham Village Atlas Project” begun in 2016 and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, TillVAS (Till Valley Archaeological Society) planned an excavation within the designated area, and after a great deal of research by  the Archaeology Group and using aerial photographs, a site near Mardon, possibly Iron Age, was chosen.  The farm is owned by Mr. and Mrs. George Farr of Pallinsburn House.

Permission was requested to dig up an arable field and this was granted on the condition that it was completed by early September, when it would be sown with winter wheat, leaving quite a short window in among all the other TillVAS activities.

Preparations were made under the supervision of Archaeologist Richard Carlton and despite the fact that geo-physics showed very little of note, the excavation began on 31st August manned by up to seventeen volunteers from as far away as Morpeth.

Only one wet morning interfered with the work and once the top soil was removed by digger the potential of the site became apparent.   A number of trenches were opened including two over probable ditches, one of which, although below the modern field drains, contained certainly two springs of clear running water.    Several pieces of Iron Age pot were found and few worked lithics in the trenches.

The widest ditch became very deep and reinforcements in the shape of three brawny lads were called in to help.   As a result of their labours the ditch continued to a final depth of about 1m 75, and towards the bottom began to produce definite evidence of Iron Age occupation; first – shards of pot, then pieces of wood, and a very ancient piece of bone.   Then finally, a section of vertebrae and two shoulder blades, all much too big to be human, and which could possibly have been used as digging tools by the original diggers of the ditch.

The excavation closed on Saturday 9th September and everyone involved were happy with the outcome, and the camaraderie of the site, despite the sore knees and aching backs.

Our special thanks must go to Mr. and Mrs. George Farr for their support and all the volunteers who gave up their spare time and effort to achieve a worthwhile result.   We may return in 2018, so watch this space.


2017 Summer Excavation, 29th August to 9th September - Advance Notice

The site for the Society's summer excavation this year will be on the site of what is described as a later prehistoric settlement and field system south-east of Mardon Farm. Aerial photographs show crop marks of a single ditch enclosure containing at least one hut circle and a number of other features. Ditches are visible to east and west. The Grid Reference is NT909373. The site is shown by the green arrow on the map above and adjoins the east side of the designated Flodden battlefield area shown hatched with maroon boundary. 

A geophysical survey was carried out by David Astbury of Newcastle University on 20th March 2017  by kind permission of the landowners, George and Jane Farr of Pallinsburn Estate Ltd. The site was chosen by Hon. Member, Richard Carlton in conjunction with the Archaeology Group of the Branxton & Crookham Village Atlas Project and the excavation will take place after the oil-seed rape has been lifted and before the winter wheat has been sown.

The excavation will form part of the Branxton & Crookham Village Atlas Project (the boundary of which is shown in black on the map) and will be funded from the grant awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Further details will be sent to members in due course and will also be disseminated to residents in the two villages. 

In the photo below, David Astbury is carrying out a geophysical survey of the site. David was able to step carefully between the emerging oil-seed rape plants whilst maintaining the necessary rhythm of the magnetometer survey. Pallinsburn House is in the middle distance.




Now that the Flodden 500 Project has ended, we are into a new era. We will no longer have the benefit of the Flodden 1513 ‘umbrella’ for helping to finance certain expenses and enabling us to take part as volunteers in archaeological excavations financed by the Heritage Lottery Fund.  However, the TillVAS committee is determined to take a pro-active approach and to do all that it can to ensure that archaeology continues in our cross-Border area with opportunities for volunteering by TillVAS members. We are fortunate in already having in place our own Heritage Lottery funded project for the Branxton & Crookham Village Atlas with a major excavation, test-pitting, fieldwalking and metal detecting all taking place during 2017.

This will provide a ‘cushion’ whilst other possible projects are being considered for the future. Our contacts with professional colleagues and supportive estate owners give us confidence that there will be projects coming forward. Some of these may not need substantial financial input if, in large part, we are able to draw upon our own resources in terms of volunteers and the considerable range of TillVAS equipment, although we will always need a professional input. Other projects may require grant aid but this will be a challenge which we will face at the time, as we did when obtaining funding for the Branxton & Crookham Village Atlas. We will also be able to take part in projects funded by other organisations, e.g. the Peregrini Landscape Partnership excavations at Lindisfarne and the Lennel Kirk excavations in Coldstream. 

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Wed, 4th April followed by update on Mardon dig from Richard Carlton.


All nominations or volunteers for committee members and office bearers and any items for the agenda by 19th March please

The Blyth Battery Story

18th March 2.30 pm

Ferguson Hall, Belford

The Willington Wagonway. Find out what has been learned since its rediscovery in 2013. Discovery Museum, Newcastle, 23rd March, 11 - 3. Free

Thank you to everyne who supported the TillVAS Coffee Morning at


See gallery for photographs

Glendale History Society

Our next talk is on March 14th, 7.30pm, with refreshments from 7pm as usual.

Our speaker will be Dr Stephen Platten, who will give an illustrated talk on the Alnwick and Coldstream Railway.

Symposium - new light on old metal. 24th February, in the museum of scotland from 10 - 17.00. To book phone 03001236789. £40 including lunch.

We now have a grand total for our Mardon Dig Appeal. Thanks to donations and ur coffee morning you have raised a magnificent £1060.48. We would like to offer our sincere thanks for all your support.

 Newcastle University press release: Preserving rock art at the touch of a button at http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/news/2017/11/rockartapp/. The app and project highlighted in the release about safeguarding rock art may be of interest to your broader membership

The app is downloadable free from

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A new list of photographs of Branxton have been added to the archives.


See Archaeology News for information about our dig at Mardon



The Society has an extensive collection of documents and photographs held in its secure archives. These are invaluable for members wishing to study the local history of the area or wishing to gather information for e.g. the  Village Atlas Project. Please click on the tag above to see the catalogues. Anyone wishing to access the archives should contact the Society's Archivist, Maureen Charlton or the Assistant Archivist, Julia Day.


Please see a new section on the website—click on the appropriate tab above.  Please let us have your thoughts, in prose or in verse.


There are some important meetings of the Activity Groups scheduled over the next few months. Please click on the appropriate tag above, which will take you to the Village Atlas page and give you all the dates, times and places of the meetings.


Please click on the Latest Newsletter page to see information for the current month.


Click on Reports on Events, above, for detailed accounts and press reports.


The Society operates a bookstall at all its meetings.

Items for sale include:-

1. The Society's first publication Breamish and Till: From Source to Tweed at £10 per copy and

2. Vivian Wilcock's Andrew Todd 1844-1908 ( with research input by TillVAS members) at £5 per copy.

See the Publications page for more about these books. Copies of Breamish and Till are also available in Cornhill Village Shop and the Lavender Tea Rooms and Village Shop in Etal.


There are also archaeological books and journals for sale. Net proceeds of sale go to TillVAS funds.