The National and Regional Context of the Research Framework

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The National and Regional Context of the Research Framework

Nicholas J. Cooper and Patrick Clay


This volume presents an Archaeological Resource Assessment and Research Agenda for the East Midlands. The region comprises the modern counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire, and the unitary authorities of Leicester, Nottingham and Rutland (Fig. 1) and is coincident with that covered by the East Midlands Development Agency (emda) and the Government Office for the East Midlands (GOEM). The volume is the product of the first two stages of the three-stage East Midlands Archaeological Research Framework project, sponsored jointly by English Heritage and the local authorities of the region. The single, over-arching aim of the project is to provide an effective, yet flexible, structure for decision-making regarding future archaeological research, and it is part of a wider English Heritage initiative to develop interlocking Regional Research Frameworks across the country (Olivier 1996, 2; Goal C, Williams 1997, 2), in order to push forward the national strategies first outlined in Exploring our Past (English Heritage 1991; 1998a).

The aims of this document are:

  1. To provide an accessible and up to date overview of the current state of archaeological knowledge in the region.
  2. To highlight the major gaps in that knowledge and potential areas where the region can contribute to regionally and nationally important research questions.
  3. To encapsulate the archaeological character of the region and its research potential and therefore act as an authoritative reference tool in the future management of that resource in the interests of curation, conservation, education, public appreciation and research.

Current Concerns: the Need for a Research Framework

Archaeologists in the East Midlands have long recognised the need for a regional research framework and research priority documents have been produced at both regional (Mahany 1977a) and county level (Foard 1979; Barrett 1988), with Frameworks for our Past tabling 24 relevant published and unpublished documents (mainly research-based) from the region (Olivier 1996, 10, table 4). However, the rapid pace of archaeological discovery over the last fifteen years, notably following the introduction of the Department of the Environment’s Planning Policy Guidance Note 16: Planning and Archaeology (PPG16) in 1990 and Planning Policy Guidance Note 15: Planning and the Historic Environment (PPG15) in 1994, emphasised the urgent need for an up-to-date framework.

Frameworks for our Past (FfoP) synthesised current concerns expressed in a wide-ranging survey across the discipline, and the most significant of these are worth outlining within the regional context. The chief problem concerns the difficulties faced by Local Government Archaeology Officers and English Heritage staff when making recommendations for the protection and recording of archaeological sites. The lack of a framework makes it difficult to balance both curatorial and academic objectives when reaching such decisions (FfoP 1.2 and esp. section 4.2), and the issue has been the subject of a number of papers (Bishop 1994; Carver 1994). In particular, officers were concerned that tenders from archaeological contractors for work carried out under PPG16 should be matched against agreed research objectives set out in a comprehensive framework document (FfoP, 4.2.2, 96), that could carry enough authority if cases are tested at public enquiry. Additionally, the document could be used to support the formulation of site and landscape management policies, by aiding the selection of areas for intensive work (FfoP 4.4.2). Importantly, FfoP (4.2.4) recognised the pivotal role of the LGA officers in influencing what is studied at the local level, and that they therefore needed appropriate support to enable them to underpin their policy role.

The development of a new framework document would therefore go some way to satisfying the perceived need amongst curators to enhance the credibility of the development control process, by demonstrating to developers that it had identifiable and accountable objectives and targets, and that the discipline had an intelligible rationale for the requirements they are expected to fulfil (FfoP 4.2.3). Once in place, a framework could then be used to define essential research requirements through the research agenda, and that continual review of the relationship between strategic aims and objectives would allow recognition of those areas which were not being addressed through PPG16 work, and which required targeting through academic or commissioned research work.

The implementation of research frameworks was also recognised as a way of halting the progressive erosion of the research culture within British archaeology, caused by the fragmentation of the discipline during the 1980s and 1990s (FfoP 4 and 5). The divergent paths taken by the curatorial, contracting, voluntary and academic strands of the discipline, over the last decade in particular, had caused this fragmentation and created the perception that there was no longer a single vision for archaeology, since each sector now had a different priority. So, although the 1990s had witnessed more money and greater employment in archaeology, not to mention greater media interest, than ever before, the discipline no longer has a common goal. While the curatorial and commercial priorities of the local government and contracting elements respectively had distanced them from the world of research, the RAE-driven priorities of the academic community had taken them abroad in search of ‘internationally significant’ topics. Contracting field archaeology was now generating more data than ever before, without sufficient academic input to synthesise and drive forward an understanding of the whole. In turn, improved understanding was not consistently finding its way into project briefs produced by the planning authorities, and so contracting archaeologists were rarely given the opportunity to engage with research opportunities. The voluntary sector, meanwhile, became increasingly isolated by these developments.

The creation of a research framework is therefore seen as the essential way of breaking the cycle, not least because the process itself, involving the mutual agreement of curators, contractors, academics and independents (FfoPo 4.2.6), would help to pump prime a new climate of collaboration and help overcome many of the barriers, perceived or real, which often arise because of difficulties of information exchange. The implementation of the research agenda identified within the document must therefore include measures to attempt to remove these barriers and engender a research culture. Underpinning this is the need to acknowledge that all fieldwork can be research driven and contribute to fulfilling research strategies and that the framework therefore has an important role in legitimising the research value of developer-funded work. Equally, the academic community needs to recognise that much research in British archaeology is of international significance and can be placed in the appropriate context by seeking publication in international peer-reviewed journals. To engender research interest in British material, access to the growing mountain of ‘grey’ literature generated by contract archaeologists (e.g. developer reports), as well as SMRs and museum collections, must be improved, through web access, and the ongoing OASIS project is a step in the right direction. The tangible success of such a strategy could be measured in terms of the increasingly well-considered and justified project designs that would consequently come from the professional and academic sectors, with objectives which are clearly defined, sustainable and attainable.

Importantly, collaborative arrangements must be founded on the development of local networks, which help to feed the results of independent research into the mainstream. County societies could play an important part in bringing together the professional and voluntary sectors at the local level, to undertake projects advocated within the framework. From the opposite direction, the academic sector has an obligation to draw on the region’s framework as a source of topics for undergraduate and postgraduate research. Both initiatives have the potential to enhance public appreciation of the resource and improve transparency and perceived relevance of curatorial and academic activities.

The Regional Research Framework Initiative

Frameworks for our Past (Olivier 1996) set out a three-fold structure for developing research frameworks comprising the following elements:

  1. The Resource Assessment: an overview of the current state of knowledge and understanding in the region, which allows the setting of…
  2. The Research Agenda: recognition of the potential of the resource, gaps in our knowledge and an unprioritised list of research topics. The Agenda informs…
  3. The Research Strategy: a prioritised list of research objectives (seen as flexible over time), furthered by implementing specific Research Projects, the results of which would be fed into the resource, leading to changes in the agenda and thus the strategy (shown in schematic form in Glazebrook 1997, fig.1).
A map of the East Midlands region showing the county boundaries of Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire, Leicestershire, Rutland and Northhamptonshire, and their position within the UK.

Fig 1: The East Midlands region showing county boundaries

This structure saw physical form when it was adopted by the Eastern Counties during preparation of their Research Framework, the first part of which, the Resource Assessment was published in 1997 (Glazebrook 1997, 2) with the Research Agenda and Strategy published together in 2000 (Brown and Glazebrook 2000; As part of the same national initiative, three other research frameworks have also been published recently. The first, for the Greater Thames Estuary (Williams and Brown 1999), combined all three elements whilst the second, for London, saw the separate drafting of elements; the London Archaeological Resource Assessment (Schofield 1998), published as Archaeology of Greater London (MoLAS 2000) and A Research Framework for London Archaeology (MoLAS 2002), spearheaded by a strategy document Capital Archaeology: strategies for sustaining the historic legacy of a world city (English Heritage 1998b). Within the East Midlands itself, Lincoln has identified a series of research agenda zones within the city (Jones et al. 2003). A research assessment for Yorkshire has been published following the Yorkshire Archaeological Research Framework Forum Conference held at Ripon in September 1998 (Manby et al. 2003). Two others currently exist as web publications in the West Midlands ( and the North-West (, the former due for hard cover publication in the near future. Other regions currently within the process include the North-East (, the South-West ( and the South-East. Additionally, important discussion documents have been produced in other regions (though not explicitly part of the same process), such as Wessex Before Words: some new research directions for prehistoric Wessex (Woodward and Gardiner 1998).

Progress has also been made in formulating period-based national research agendas for the Palaeolithic and Mesolithic (Prehistoric Society 1999), the Iron Age (Haselgrove et al. 2001) and for Roman Britain (James and Millett 2001). Elsewhere within the British Isles the progress towards a research framework for Wales is also being made

The Procedure in the East Midlands

Various attempts were made to launch a research framework during the 1990s including two seminars organised by the IFA East Midlands Group and the Association for East Midlands Archaeological Services (AEMAS) in 1994 and 1995. A project proposal from the University of Leicester to initiate a research framework for the region was discussed with English Heritage but due to the imminent publication of their policy document, Frameworks for our Past (Olivier 1996), no further progress was made at that time.

In 1997 the current initiative was started by the region’s Sites and Monuments Record Working Party, representing local authority archaeologists for the five counties of Derbyshire, Leicestershire and Rutland, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Nottinghamshire and the unitary authorities of Leicester, Nottingham and Rutland. The consensus was that the process had to be a ‘bottom up’ appraisal of the resource using the SMRs (limitations notwithstanding) as the foundation.

Stage 1: The Draft Resource Assessment

Officers in the East Midlands decided that the best way to tackle the first stage of the framework, the Resource Assessment, was to convene a series of period-based seminars with an openly invited audience drawn from all sectors of the archaeological community within the region, curatorial, contracting, academic and voluntary, along with interested parties from outside. Each period-based seminar comprised presentations, usually from a member of the relevant curatorial team from each of the five counties during the morning, followed by a discussion in the afternoon. The morning presentations summarised the resource for each county and highlighted items for inclusion in a research agenda. The afternoon discussion, led by a chair and discussant, sought to focus the results of the morning by identifying where the major gaps in knowledge lay and what potential contribution the region could make to national agendas. A series of eight period-based seminars covering the Palaeolithic to Modern periods were held at County Hall, Leicester between April 1998 and March 2000. Between thirty and forty archaeologists attended each seminar. The period divisions were drawn as follows.

  1. The Palaeolithic and Mesolithic (subsequently separated)
  2. The Neolithic and Early-Middle Bronze Age
  3. The First Millennium BC (the Later Bronze and Iron Ages)
  4. The Roman Period
  5. The Anglo-Saxon Period 400-850
  6. The Medieval Period 850-1500
  7. The Post-Medieval Period 1500-1750
  8. The Modern (Industrial) Period 1750-2000

It was recognised that the county resource assessment presentations formed a useful resource in their own right, as well as providing the basis for the next stage of the research framework. It was agreed that their publication on the web would be an effective way of circulating this information widely and providing a forum for consultation. The resource was launched at the end of 2000, on the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History website, where it will be maintained for the foreseeable future ( Collectively the 45 chapters formed a document, A Draft Archaeological Resource Assessment for the East Midlands and provided the basis for the second stage of the project. Some aspects of the county papers have been published elsewhere (e.g. Clay 1999; 2001; Tingle 2004).

Stage 2: The Resource Assessment and Research Agenda

The second stage recognised the need to produce a coherent regional overview for each period from the individual county viewpoints, in order to achieve a consistent East Midlands identity that might form the springboard for a balanced research agenda. To this end, a group of authors who had been integral to the first stage of the process were invited to contribute the summarised resource assessment and research agenda chapters, which form the backbone of this publication. Drafts of these chapters were received in the spring of 2001 and placed on the website for consultation. During May and June 2001, a series of four meetings was held to discuss the format of the research agenda for each of the nine periods. The authors outlined their consultation drafts to an audience invited from across the archaeological community, and a focused discussion followed. A further period of consultation via the website then followed until September, when the authors were asked to submit final versions of their chapters for editing. An additional chapter on environmental archaeology was included at this stage. Final drafts were submitted by the end of November 2002 and the chapters in this volume include amendments following circulation and comment.

Stage 3: The Research Strategy

It is envisaged that the third stage of the project will follow the present publication, and will see publication through the website, to allow for periodic review. Chapter 12 provides a first step towards a strategy.

Defining the Region and its Character

The East Midlands comprises the modern administrative counties of Derbyshire (2641sq km), Leicestershire and Rutland (2548 sq km), Lincolnshire (5915 sq km), Northamptonshire (2370 sq km) and Nottinghamshire (2214 sq km) and covers a total area of 15,688 sq km (Fig. 1). It is the fourth largest of the nine English regions although its population of 4,191,000 is the second lowest. Six per cent of the region (917 sq km) is covered by National Park, which is close to the national average of 8%. However, only 3% (519 sq km) is designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is well below the national average coverage for England of 16% (English Heritage 2002a). Like any other region, it is an arbitrary geopolitical construct and much discussion has focused on the difficulties of defining a regional identity, not least archaeologically.

The region comprises a variety of landscape zones, both highland and lowland, and including fen and coastal areas. All counties except Lincolnshire are landlocked, and the region as a whole presents dramatic variation in relief, ranging from sea level in the Fens to over 600 m in the High Peak of Derbyshire. The solid and drift geology of the region (Plates 2 and 3) echoes this variety, with the ‘stone belt’ bordering the south and east of the region giving way to claylands (liassic and glacial till) over much of the central area, with permeable limestone and sandstone uplands to the north in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. The substrata encountered include gritstone uplands, Magnesian limestone, Coal Measures, Bunter sandstones, River Trent gravels and alluvium, the Mercia Mudstone Group, boulder clay, glacial gravels, Jurassic ridge limestones, Northampton Sand ironstones, Lias clays, fen alluvium and Oxford clay. This geology is crossed by another of the region’s defining characteristics, its drainage, comprising the rivers Trent, Welland, Nene, Derwent and Witham and their many tributaries (Plate 4).

The consensus was that this variety of landscape was actually one of the region’s defining features, but as successive period discussions progressed, it became clear that what was actually most significant about the region was that it spanned the traditional Highland and Lowland Zone divide, defined by Cyril Fox in the 1930s (Fox 1932), as running roughly parallel to the Severn-Trent line. The region therefore represents a microcosm of the country as a whole, and during many periods of both prehistory and history it formed a transitional zone between the South-East and the North-West. A transect drawn south-east to north-west across the region might, therefore, provide a reasonably representative sample of its archaeology. On the other hand, the outer areas of the region have much in common with adjacent areas. For example, the Peak District has strong affinities with the Pennine Chain to the north, whilst Lincolnshire and Northamptonshire share characteristics with the Eastern and South-Eastern regions respectively. The formulation of a research agenda therefore has to acknowledge and complement the archaeology in these adjacent areas.

Managing the Historic Environment in the East Midlands

Quantifying the resource and the threats to it

The historic environment is defined as the surviving landscape and townscape and what it contains, both above and below ground. The archaeological resource of the region, contained therein, is both deep and extensive. The known element of that resource is currently described and understood through the local authority maintained Sites and Monuments Records (SMRs), which contained 89,000 records in 2002, and is supported by Urban Archaeological Databases (UADs), now completed for Lincoln (Jones et al. 2003) and under construction for Leicester. There are few locations where an absence of records within SMRs can be correlated with a genuine absence of evidence, and therefore in assessing the historic environment of the East Midlands, data recorded in the SMRs should be considered a starting point and not a true indicator of its real potential.

In common with the rest of the country, the major threats to the historic environment in the region are identified as development and urbanisation, demolition and building alteration, mineral extraction (including de-watering), industry, cultivation, pipeline construction and road building. In addition, coastal erosion is recognised as a major threat in Lincolnshire, and erosion in areas where there are high visitor numbers has been recognised as a threat in, for example, Stanton Moor in the Peak District and Bradgate Park in Leicestershire (Cooper 2002). Although each threat varies between localities, the most significantly consistent threats remain agriculture and development. Current development is indirectly reflected in the number of planning applications in the region; in 2002-3, 47,700 applications were made, an increase of 10.7% over 2001-2 and above the national growth rate for planning applications of 9.1%.

Of the records held on the SMRs, less than 2% (1499) represented sites scheduled as Ancient Monuments by the Secretary of State, some 7.7% of all scheduled monuments in England. The English Heritage Monuments at Risk Survey (MARS, Darvill and Fulton 1998) identified that although 55% of the scheduled monuments in the region were in a satisfactory condition, 31% had significant problems, and 13% were in a wholly unsatisfactory condition. Significantly, 25% were defined as in a declining condition compared to only 5% in an improving condition. Overall 13% were at high short-term risk, 22% at a medium risk and the remainder at a low risk. More than a third, therefore, need some management action to prevent deterioration or loss. The pressure on the monuments of the region can be measured in terms of the number of class consent cases, as a proportion of all scheduled monuments, which for the East Midlands is 6.1% compared to a national figure of 4% (English Heritage 2002a).

In 2003, the East Midlands had 29,588 entries on the List of Buildings of Special Architectural or Historic Interest, 7.8% of the national total. The region had 4.5% of its grade I and II* Listed buildings classified as being at risk which is above the national average of 3.6%, although lower than the 1999 base year figure of 5.1%. In July 2002, the East Midlands had 994 conservation areas compared to the average number per English region of 1003. Although 41% of local authorities have a budget for conservation area enhancement, compared to the national average of 35%, only 10% have Conservation Area Advisory Committees. The East Midlands has one of England’s 14 World Heritage sites, the Derwent Valley Mills in Derbyshire (Chapter 10). In 2003, there were 132 entries on the Historic Parks and Gardens Register compared to an average per region of 170, while five of England’s 43 Registered Historic battlefields are in the East Midlands (English Heritage 2003a).

The MARS report (Darvill and Fulton 1998), found that in line with the national trend, 15% of all recorded monuments in the East Midlands (and East Anglia) had been destroyed since 1945. However, more serious still was the realisation that the piecemeal erosion of monuments had had a cumulatively greater effect, degrading it by 35% in the sample area examined. Much of the region (53.5%) is dominated by areas of arable farmland and has seen successful agricultural exploitation since prehistoric times. Agricultural practice, which lies outside the planning process, has therefore, in conjunction with urban development, opencast coal mining, sand and gravel, limestone, and ironstone quarrying, had a very considerable impact on the survival of the region’s archaeology. The collective impact of these threats is highlighted by data from Northamptonshire (Kidd 2000), which indicate that c. 75% of the county has been heavily ploughed and 12% quarried or damaged by urban development. Only two or three percent has remained unploughed and undeveloped during medieval and modern times, and thus still holds the potential for surviving pre-medieval earthworks, whilst a further 6% is protected beneath alluvium or colluvium.

Potential development pressures for the East Midlands are reflected in the vision and targets of the East Midlands Development Agency (emda). As one of nine Regional Development Agencies in England, set up by the Government in April 1999 to bring a regional focus to economic development, emda’s vision is to take the East Midlands into Europe’s Top 20 most economically successful regions by 2010 (it is currently 32nd). In their Business Plan for 2002-3, their targets are to increase sustainable economic performance through increasing growth in GDP per capita from its present trend rate of growth of 2.15% to an average of 2.4% by 2005. It also has a target of a 2% increase of new urban housing to be on previously developed land and a 5% increase in the supply of new employment land. Housing targets include the reclamation of 1182 ha of brownfield land by 2010. While this is to be applauded, many brownfield sites in urban contexts contain some of the best, stratified and well-preserved archaeological deposits in the region.

Future protection

The current national review of Heritage Protection (DCMS 2004) includes several recommendations, which are designed to enhance the management of the historic environment. These include a simplified system of designation, and procedures for managing consents, greater transparency and accountability, statutory and consistent Sites and Monuments Records (now termed Historic Environment Records, HERs), protection of sites from plough damage, and better training provisions. Changes in listing criteria and a move towards a unified list to cover buildings, ancient monuments, battlefields, and parks and gardens, are also proposed. A number of these recommendations are likely to have a significant impact and are worth outlining in more detail.

Arguably one of the most significant developments which may come from the review is the provision for area designations covering ‘extensive archaeological resources’, both urban and rural, which could mean protection for entire historic landscapes rather than ‘sites’ or findspots. Holistic agreements covering wildlife and buildings as well as buried archaeology are proposed, with management agreements covering different elements of work rather than the need for repeated consents.

The move towards HERs, containing a wider range of archaeological, historical and heritage data, is also to be welcomed. The emphasis on single, buried archaeological sites contained within most current SMRs has been identified as too narrow, and the completeness, quality, and accessibility of current records can vary considerably. At present, only 17% of the East Midlands SMRs are integrated to cover the entire scope of the historic environment (English Heritage 2003a). There is the potential for them to fulfil a wider role in helping protect the historic environment, by acting as an educational resource and so encouraging greater public involvement in the historic landscape (English Heritage 2000; English Heritage/ALGAO 2002). The main strategic messages from the review included reaching consistent standards and making the maintenance of an HER, or access to one, a statutory requirement of local authorities. Other important aspirations would include developing GIS systems for integrated spatial and map-based data, ensuring the compatibility of records between HERs, access to the HERs through the internet, developing outreach activities to promote wider use of resources, the updating of records to modern standards, and ensuring data entry is kept up to date. The last would include the integration of Historic Landscape Characterisation, Extensive Urban Surveys and Urban Archaeological Databases. All of these priorities have resource implications at a time when local authorities are under increasing financial pressure.

In response to the threat of plough damage to sites, English Heritage has recently launched the Ripping up History campaign (English Heritage 2003b) and has instigated the Conservation of Scheduled Monuments in Cultivation Project (COSMIC), which is being piloted in the East Midlands. The review also includes English Heritage’s undertaking of the preparatory work necessary to revise the 1994 Class Consent Order which, in certain circumstances, currently permits the ploughing of scheduled monuments regardless of the damage caused. It is hoped that the Ripping Up Historycampaign will raise awareness of the need for financial incentives to ensure the safeguarding of non-scheduled sites. New arrangements for agri-environment schemes, particularly Countryside Stewardship, should aid these initiatives.

Within the broader remit of regional planning guidance, it has been recognised (Environment Agency 1999) that the increasing demand for information and advice is putting the management and advisory infrastructure for archaeology under extreme pressure, with financial constraints impeding its ability to develop new approaches to management, especially those underpinned by concepts of sustainability. The region has therefore seen it as vital that the archaeological resource is protected as part of wider environmental approaches, and Local Authority Archaeologists have taken the opportunity to see it included within the Regional Planning Guidance for the Spatial Development of the East Midlands. Prepared by the East Midlands Regional Local Government Association (EMRLGA) with other regional partners, this document seeks to guide future development over the next 20 years in a sustainable way (EMRLGA 1999). Amongst significant changes to guidance has been the recognition, within the new Strategic River Corridors policy, of the potential for the preservation of waterlogged organic and structural remains in the flood-plains of the region’s major rivers, the Nene, Trent, Welland and Witham. In addition, a particular problem addressed by ALGAO at national level has been the difficulty of monitoring archaeological destruction and the need for the DETR to recognise the importance of the Historic Environment when drawing up lists of headline indicators of sustainable development (ALGAO pers. comm.).

Access, Outreach and Public Involvement

Archaeological research should not be considered the sole preserve of professionals. One of the criticisms of post-PPG16 archaeology in Britain has been the way in which the public has been excluded from much of its involvement in archaeological discovery. Government-sponsored documents such as Power of Place (English Heritage 2000, Recommendations 11 and 14) and The Historic Environment: a Force for our Future (DCMS 2001, 25-31 and 41-2) both demonstrate a commitment to public involvement and the profession has an obligation to demystify the subject to the public and to empower them to study their own heritage. We cannot ignore the fact that public interest in archaeology has never been higher than today with programmes like Time Team and Meet the Ancestors regularly topping three million viewers. This is not simply a media bubble which is about to burst, it taps into a fundamental interest the public has in its past, and we are dismissing an enormous resource which wants to be involved, and with simple training and opportunity, could be. Despite the loss of many of the region’s local authority archaeological resources, which had been actively involved in public outreach schemes and events (for example Leicestershire Archaeological Unit), the important principle that the profession should provide the public with information and, whenever possible, direct engagement, has continued to underpin archaeological activity in the East Midlands (Fig. 5) . This has been partly through the established county societies and the Council for British Archaeology regional group, but alongside these, there have been other notable examples to demonstrate that the region has been at the forefront of developing outreach schemes and involving the public in archaeological discovery.

A photo of a group of people in a field. Two people are constructing a small building out of wooden poles, and a larger group are standing around a tent, looking at something outside the frame.

Fig 5: School activities at Beaumanor Hall, Leicestershire

All the counties of the region have a tradition of amateur groups undertaking archaeological fieldwork, and, in particular, fieldwalking survey, which has had a dramatic impact on baseline archaeological knowledge, in some cases revolutionising our concept of settlement across particular landscapes. In terms of individual contributions, the work of David Hall in Northamptonshire might be highlighted (Hall 1985; Lane and Coles 2002), but in terms of broad public involvement, the most successful has been the ‘community archaeology’ scheme in Leicestershire, co-ordinated by Peter Liddle, which has now been running for nearly 30 years (Liddle 1985; Bowman and Liddle 2004). Far-sightedly, in 1976, one of the few integrated county-wide museum services in the country appointed an archaeological survey officer whose brief included the co-ordination of an embryonic Leicestershire Museums Archaeological Fieldwork Group, membership of which has since risen from 30 to 400 (Liddle 2004a, 8). The Fieldwork Group currently comprises twenty-six local groups, working at the parish level, with about one hundred people actively undertaking fieldwalking and other survey, including metal detecting, across the county.

The work of these independent groups has undoubtedly helped to transform our understanding of the scale of settlement in the central claylands of the region, which as little as thirty years ago were still considered a virtual wilderness before the medieval period (Clay 2002, 2). In particular, the work of the Lutterworth Group in revealing the prehistoric landscape of the Swift valley (Burningham and Wallis 2004) has directly contributed to broader research on the claylands (Clay 2002, 85), whilst the work of Paul Bowman in the Langton Hundred has greatly contributed to knowledge of Roman and Anglo-Saxon settlement patterns (Bowman 1996). The involvement of local communities has been further boosted by the launch of the Leicestershire Archaeological Network in 1996, to which 180 parish councils (representing 70% of the county) have signed up, by appointing an archaeological warden, to be the local eyes and ears of the planning process (Liddle 2004a, 9).

The success of involving the public in archaeological research depends on partnerships between the voluntary and professional sectors. As the above example demonstrates, a significant mobilisation of local resources can be achieved at very little cost. However, it is clear that the present local authority structure in the region could not take on this responsibility without extra resources. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is currently the most important source of such extra support for schemes of this sort and the most significant, both for the region and nationally, is the Portable Antiquities Scheme. The recent extension of the scheme nationally means that the region now has four county-based Finds Liaison Officers in post (PAS 2004, Although primarily aimed at recording metal finds, the Finds Liaison Officers also encourage detectorists to bring in associated pottery for identification. By promoting outreach activities, the officers aim to raise public awareness of the importance of recording all archaeological finds and encourage good archaeological practice. The officers provide identifications and guidance to the finders, building bridges between the professionals and the public and in return, the baseline data record for many finds types has increased immeasurably, providing potential for future research and effective curation of the resource.

A photo of a group of people standing in front of a large stone building, the front of which is supported by two wooden buttresses.

Fig 6: Visitors to Ulverscroft Priory. Leicestershire

Similar bridge building has seen the appointment of community archaeologists in Lincolnshire and the many open days run by local authority departments such as Nottinghamshire County Council and contracting archaeological units including Trent and Peak Archaeological Unit, University of Leicester Archaeological Services and Archaeological Project Services. In 2003, 253 historic buildings were opened to the public during the Heritage Open days weekend (Fig.6) and in Lincolnshire alone there were 12,000 visits to the 99 buildings opened (English Heritage 2003a). Alongside all the changes in the structure of professional archaeology across the region, it is encouraging to know that there are still outstanding examples of long-term research excavation projects run by voluntary societies, one of the most notable being that at Piddington Roman Villa in Northamptonshire run by the Upper Nene Archaeological Society (Friendship-Taylor 1999). With the current high profile media exposure of archaeology on television through programmes such as Time Team, it is important to remember that museums are still the only contact with real archaeology and artefacts for the vast majority of people, and it is crucial that this resource is maintained and continues to evolve. Whilst a new archaeology museum has recently opened in Lincoln, the pressures on local authorities have seen others, such as the Jewry Wall Museum in Leicester, coming under threat of closure.

Although it could be argued that they are no substitute for the real thing, there is no doubt that web sites have an almost limitless potential as tools of education, dissemination and discussion, and provide a quick, cheap and easy way for anyone to publish their findings. The prohibitive cost of traditional printing makes the web the perfect vehicle for the publication of archaeological work across the discipline, and not least that of local voluntary groups, many of whom have sites. The Creswell Crags Visitor Centre ‘Home of the Ice Age Hunter’ website is one of the best examples in the region, combining groundbreaking research news with education and local community interest. Similarly, the web can be used as a way to open up the activities of the contracting units (e.g. to a wider audience, which, even when it has the chance, may not be attracted to read the mountain of ‘grey literature’ they inevitably produce. As regards future specialist research, the most important thing the web can do is to bring the interested parties, who may not necessarily be from one discipline, together. A case in point would be the creation of a discussion network for the Palaeolithic as suggested in Chapter 2, allowing rapid response to new discoveries from a range of specialists.

Using this Volume

The core of this volume comprises ten chapters, nine considering successive chronological periods and the last reviewing environmental archaeology. All the chapters have been written by acknowledged specialists in their field with particular expertise in the region, and they in turn, have drawn on the knowledge of the authors of the county assessment papers and of the individuals who contributed comments during meetings, or read web drafts of the final chapters. Therefore, whilst the authors have been given free rein to develop the period research agendas, and thus each has an individual structure and style, the content has been informed by many individuals, whose help is acknowledged at the end of each chapter. The resource assessments for each period do not claim to be exhaustive, but are supported by detailed enough bibliographical information to provide routes into the literature on individual site types or issues. Similarly, the maps have been limited to illustrating the location of sites mentioned in the text, except where appropriate, and for distributions of individual site types, readers are directed to the relevant county SMRs.

During the time the Research Framework has been available on the website, it has been regularly consulted by a wide range of people across the discipline and in related areas, and is now routinely cited in project briefs and research designs, exactly as intended. It was inevitable that any delay in publishing the hardcover version of the document would render it, to some extent, out of date. The editing process has given the opportunity for some updating of texts, but it is futile to believe that any document can draw a line under the present state of knowledge and portray itself as a definitive statement, when the picture is changing all the time. Who, for example, could have predicted the discovery of the country’s first Upper Palaeolithic parietal cave art at Creswell Crags, or its largest properly recorded late Iron Age coin hoard, from Leicestershire, found by an amateur ‘community archaeologist’? These and many other significant sites have come to light during the lifetime of this project, throwing up new questions and new items for the research agenda. Because of its location, it is highly unlikely that the coin hoard mentioned above would have been discovered during a PPG16-led project. Yet the investigation in advance of development in a village core, at Glaston in Rutland, routine under this policy guidance, threw up an Early Upper Palaeolithic open site which has helped trigger a new avenue of research concerning predictive modelling for such sites (Collcutt 2001).

These occurrences tell us that we need all sectors of the discipline to be contributing effectively to furthering our understanding of the region’s archaeology and by extension, the archaeology of this country and beyond, and that the different strands need to be talking to each other and continually reviewing the current state of play. It is hoped that this volume will play an active role in promoting the region’s archaeology not only to those working in it but also to those outside, who may not be aware of its potential. It must act as a platform of current understanding to be built upon through the construction of a Research Strategy, the implementation of which will allow for continual revision of the agenda to take place through information feedback. It will be necessary for some kind of formal review procedure to take place in future years in order to maintain the Research Framework and this might be best achieved through collating the results of an annual or biennial seminar reviewing current progress. It is sincerely hoped by the many individuals involved in the project, that the following chapters demonstrate the potential of the region’s archaeology and suggest the steps required to realise it. Archaeologists should enjoy reading this volume, they should learn from it, but most important of all use it to inform the work that they do in the future. There is much to look forward to!

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