TillVAS Till Valley Archaeological Society
TillVAS             Till Valley Archaeological Society

Patron: Rt. Hon. Lord Joicey                                             www.tillvas.com                                       

Hon. President   : Dr. Chris Burgess                                


Latest Newsletter

September 2021

Our Next Meeting


WEDNESDAY, 1st September 2021 7.30pm in Crookham Village Hall


Katharine Tiernan – “Cuthbert of Farne”


Katharine Tiernan writes prose fiction. She grew up near the coast of north Northumberland, and has now returned to live in Berwick after many years of exile. In her talk about her books and the research that has informed them, she will be focusing on her trilogy about St. Cuthbert and the survival of his Community at Lindisfarne, Chesterle-Street and eventually in Durham through the Viking Raids and Danish occupation to the Norman Conquest, the harrying of the north and the building of Durham cathedral.


This meeting is an exciting collaboration with the Friends of the Union Chain Bridge. They have the equipment needed to film and broadcast the talk live, so you can choose whether to come to Crookham or to watch it live on-line via Zoom.


Whichever you choose you will need a ticket to enable us to limit numbers in the hall. Tickets for both the live event and the online Zoom broadcast are available from www.wegottickets.com/UnionChainBridge. Please note that the talk will not be recorded so that it will not be possible to watch it later.






When you receive this Newsletter, we shall be preparing to welcome a digger to backfill the trenches after our final Mardon dig. An end-of-dig report will appear in the October Newsletter. In the meantime, here are a couple of overhead photos of some of the excavations, taken using a drone. Richard Carlton took them on 21st August, our very wet Open Day, as rain reveals features like these much more clearly. He has also provided the text.


Photo 1 shows an area opened in the south-west quadrant of the Iron Age enclosure previously investigated in 2017 and 2018. At the east end of the trench (right side of the image) is an area covered with a spread of grey, silty material within which are several concentrations of stone, one of which appears to form the remains of a wall or embankment, while another to the north fills a shallow gulley-like feature which may be part of structure or perhaps a trackway into the centre of the enclosure. West of this are the remains of two roundhouses. The first is shown by the presence of at least three concentric gulleys filled with dark silty material which inscribe approximately two-thirds of a circle. The gulleys may represent a combination of structural features, drip trenches or pathways around the roundhouse, or could suggest phases of rebuild. The slighter, more partial remains of another roundhouse lie to the west, with part of it beyond the northern edge of excavation. Running through the centre of the first roundhouse to connect with a small yard area - excavated in 2018 - is a long, slightly curving gulley. Also in this area, mainly on the north side of the first roundhouse, are a series of post-holes which may form part of that structure or a related fence-line, while a number of other gulleys run east-west across the west side of the roundhouse and into the southern edge of excavation. All of these features continue to be investigated, as does a section of the western outer enclosure ditch of the enclosure (out of shot to the west). (The diagonals trace the lines of field drains inserted in the nineteenth or early 20th century.)

Photo 2 shows excavations further west targeting a long curving field boundary extending from the west side of the enclosure and turning to the north. This has been investigated by means of a series of test-pits across it which show it to have been constructed in stages, with some sections wider and deeper than others. The feature is particularly shallow where it bends to the north and divides temporarily into three separate channels, the purpose of which is obscure. West of the bend of this field boundary ditch are at least two apparent sunken yard features which are interpreted as stock gathering areas, presumed also to be of iron age date.







A small pilot project led by Durham University and The Gefrin Trust is about to begin at Yeavering on the site of Ad Gefrin, the early medieval palace of King Edwin of Northumbria, where Bede records Saint Paulinus spending 36 days in 627 AD, converting many local people to Christianity and baptising them in the adjacent River Glen. The site of the palace was revealed by cropmarks and extensively excavated in the 1950s and 60s by the late Professor Hope-Taylor. I recall a site visit some 20 years ago when the site was described as one of the most important in England, but no material remains are visible as the buildings were made entirely of wood.

The aim of the pilot project is to re-excavate one of the early medieval features found by Hope-Taylor and to test out, through excavation, a crop-mark in close proximity that may well be another early medieval structure. The whole pilot project is low key, as the project partners are keen to have the space and time to get to grips with the challenges of archaeology on a site that is difficult to excavate due to soil conditions and weather. It is part of a bigger collaborative programme to initiate new research on the site and on the original excavation archive and finds.

A small team will be working on site from 28th August to 18th September. The project partners have not broadcast news of the dig nor opened it to volunteers this season, simply because the aim is to trial the potential for new findings. They would, however, like to invite members from local groups and societies to visit in the last week of the dig and they hope, further funding permitting, to open up a larger, future season to local volunteer involvement. Indeed, some of the current funding could support structured involvement with local groups in 2022 around conducting geophysical survey in the hinterland of the palace, to inform plans for ongoing excavations.

They are keen to talk further with local societies and groups about potential participation and we have asked for TillVAS to be kept in the loop. They hope to provide an open site day for local visitors and an onsite talk on the 16th or 17th of September. If this goes ahead, they have agreed to send me details that I can circulate to you nearer the time.

This Yeavering work may link to the TillVAS talk planned for November, when Professor Ian Ralston is due to speak about Doon Hill near Dunbar. It was Professor Hope-Taylor who excavated 2 timber halls at Doon Hill in the 1960s and interpreted both as AngloSaxon. As a result of their much more recent work, and with the benefit of radio carbon dating, Ralston and his colleagues have reinterpreted one of these halls as Neolithic. Could there be similar reinterpretations as a result of further work at Yeavering?






Shortly before the beginning of the first Covid lockdown in March 2020, TillVAS was getting ready to launch a new category of Family Membership, enabling children to be members with the participation of a parent. To our great disappointment, this had to be put on hold. We finally gave Family Membership a “soft launch” at our Pre-Dig Open Day on 1st August, when we signed up 2 families, and have since signed up a third. All 3 families have taken part in the Mardon Dig.

Congratulations are due to Heather Waldron has been the main driver behind this innovation. This and future Newsletters will now include an item designed for families, but not of course limited to them. Here is the first:


Family Quiz – email your answers to Heather at nordlaw76@aol.com What do you know about the Iron Age?


True or False


1. Iron Age houses are usually called round houses.

2. People from the Iron Age kept animals including geese.

3. Many Iron Age people lived inside the enclosure walls of hill forts.

4. The Romans arrived in Britain after the Iron Age was ended.

5. People started using Iron in about 800BC.

6. The Iron Age ended when Britain became part of the Roman Empire in AD 43. 7. We can learn about the Iron Age people using their written records.

8. Iron Age people sometimes dyed their clothes.

9. Brooches were the most common jewellery item to wear.

10. Iron Age people knew how to make glass.

11.The term Celtic is often used to describe the people of the Iron Age.

12. The Iron Age people used rotary querns






September 2021 6 th September Bowsden History Group: Michael Simpson: “Charles, Second Earl Grey”: Bowsden Village Hall – 7.00pm for 7.30pm. Places limited so you must book: email to: nicolasjbjones@gmail.com or text 07889 509324.


20th September Bowsden History Group: Peter Tullet: “Petroglyphs and the Stars in Northumberland”. This is an extra talk. Venue, time and booking details as for 6th September talk.


October 2021 4 th October Bowsden History Group: Margaret Kirby: “The Cult and Culture of Monasticism”. Venue, time and booking details as for 6th September talk.


6 th October TillVAS: David Jones: “Dere Street”. Crookham Village Hall – 7.30pm.


AND FINALLY Val Glass, who attended the classroom version in 2019, recommends an online course of 10 lectures by Professor Maria Chester on Ice Age Cave Art to be run by Berwick Educational Association starting in October. Here is a link you can use to get more information and make a booking: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/the-dawn-of-art-ice-age-cave-art-tickets-15000557772


Print Print | Sitemap
© TillVAS

TillVAS talks


Our next talk is entitled


'Dere Street'

by David Jones.


7.30 pm on 6th October at Crookham Village Hall

(more details to follow as it may be necessary to book a space)

Lowick Heritage group are holding a dig at Hunting Hall this month ( September). Please see their website for details




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, Julia Day.


Northumberland Archives



Border Archaeological Society



North Northumberland Genealogy Group



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


This is temporarily unavailable due to Covid restrictions. Anyone wishing to ask about publications please use the contact form