Nottinghamshire County Council’s Community Archaeologists will be running a volunteer excavation at Rufford between 7th and 18th July this year (excluding weekends). The first week will be run as a field school, and the second week will be a general volunteer dig. No experience is necessary and there is no charge to be involved, but spaces are very limited.
Rufford was founded in 1146 by Gilbert de Gaunt, Earl of Lincoln, and completed in 1170. It was a Cistercian abbey dedicated to St Mary the Virgin. The Cistercian monks, also known as ‘white monks’ because of their natural white clothing, believed in living an austere life, dedicating themselves to hard work and prayer. Although it was only a fairly small abbey it was moderately wealthy. It was one of the first to be affected by Henry the VIII’s dissolutions in 1536, after which it passed into the hands of the Talbot family and then the Saviles to be used as a country estate.
Part of the structure of the medieval abbey survives where it was incorporated into the grand house built by the sixth Earl of Shrewsbury. It is the ‘best-preserved remains of a Cistercian abbey west cloister range in England’ (English Heritage).
The Community Archaeologists will be running an archaeological FieldSchool and volunteer excavation to investigate some of the medieval remains, with the aim of answering some of the questions we have about the site.
Nottinghamshire County Council has had a Community Archaeology team since 2003 and has been running free field schools for several years. We also offer a wide range of events and activities for local people to get involved with. If you want to find out more, check us out on Facebook or email us to be added to our mailing list.
‘Each day started with a talk about a particular aspect of archaeology eg:- Terminology, site grids, excavation, recording etc. followed by ‘hands-on’ experience which involved excavating the foundations of an ornamental gate which had stood within the grounds. The week’s course was extremely enjoyable and very informative, giving a good grounding in basic vocabulary and techniques and I have since been involved in various ‘digs’ and other projects.’ - Chris Evans, 2013 Field School student
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