‘The team know what they are doing’ says Wisbech Castle management after archaeologist urges proper record keeping for all finds

PUBLISHED: 14:04 04 June 2020 | UPDATED: 14:20 04 June 2020

Wisbech Castle management committee chairman Cllr Steve Tierney told Bob Smith, secretary of the Fenland archaeology society, Your advice is welcome, but the team know what they are doing. Picture: ARCHANT

Wisbech Castle management committee chairman Cllr Steve Tierney told Bob Smith, secretary of the Fenland archaeology society, Your advice is welcome, but the team know what they are doing. Picture: ARCHANT

Archant

Archaeologist Taleyna Fletcher who helped lead and wrote a report on a £50,000 funded study at Wisbech Castle has urged caution over finds within the grounds.

Wisbech Castle management committee chairman Cllr Steve Tierney told Bob Smith, secretary of the Fenland archaeology society, Your advice is welcome, but the team know what they are doing. Picture: ARCHANTWisbech Castle management committee chairman Cllr Steve Tierney told Bob Smith, secretary of the Fenland archaeology society, Your advice is welcome, but the team know what they are doing. Picture: ARCHANT

Since 2017 she has headed the Heritage Lottery funded Wisbech High Project but has advised the town council to take care over the castle.

The council, which has leased the castle from Cambridgeshire County Council, posted photos of discoveries to Facebook.

Ms Fletcher said: ”Wisbech Castle is a site of significant historical importance.

“Please make sure all finds are recorded with the local historic environment record. You can also contact them for professional advice.”

Ms Fletcher was the author of ‘Archaeological Investigations at Wisbech Castle: A Community Archaeology Project’ in 2010 following the project.

The money made available to the county council enabled archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology East to discover the lost Bishop’s Palace which occupied the site from 1478 until 1656.

The palace, built by Bishop Morton, later Archbishop of Canterbury and Chancellor of England, was enlarged and modified by subsequent bishops of Ely. Its most important claim to fame was its use as a prison for Roman Catholics from 1580. For over 30 years, priests and other Roman Catholics were held at the Palace.

The excavations at the site ran from September 16 to 29, 2009 and focused on Wisbech Castle built in 1816 but whose site has been the location of significant buildings for 1000 years.

Ms Fletcher’s comment came after Wisbech Castle posted that a volunteer had made some discoveries after clearing dense undergrowth.

“We aim to have a great seating area for the café as well as a nice family area, the archaeology that comes out is sometimes interesting,” said their Facebook page.

“These are some of the things to be found some mundane some interesting dating from 250 to 100 years ago!

“Gary Monger from FenArch has been interested in a few of the pieces.”

Bob Smith, secretary of FenArch that was formed following the 2009 excavations, says their chairman Mr Monger had not seen the items, only asked to comment on photographs sent to him.

He has told the castle management committee that the context of each find needs recording, as well as location and a host of other things.

“Once the lockdown is over, FenArch has a lot of experience that can be called upon,” he wrote.

“Indeed, it was formed 10 years ago after some of our members worked with professional archaeologists on your site. It would be a shame if important finds weren’t properly recorded.

“As secretary of FenArch and an archaeologist and historian trained to postgraduate level, I am always happy to advise although finds identification can be tricky. FenArch never charges for advice.”

He added: “Gary looking at finds is one thing but properly recording them and not removing them from where they are found until they are recorded is another.”

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Wisbech Castle management committee chairman Cllr Steve Tierney told Mr Smith: “If Gary had any concerns, he would tell us. If you would like to become a volunteer working with the working party then you would be very welcome to join us and help. Otherwise, your advice is welcome, but the team know what they are doing.”

Mr Smith replied: “I am not aware that you have any trained archaeologists in your team. I am happy to advise but just digging stuff up and displaying it is not archaeology and can compromise the archaeological record. There are all sorts of legal restrictions and even experienced archaeologists get it wrong.

“You cannot say ‘they know what they are doing’ unless you are au fait with the laws and methodologies.

A county council spokesman said: “We are the landlords, but it is leased to Wisbech Town Council.

“We are not aware of any archaeological digging onsite, but we see that Fen Arc (sic), a local archaeological group, are involved and would keep us informed of any discoveries.”

Mr Smith believes that when finds are made you should follow the maxim that “If you are on a property of some interest, you should really stop what you are doing and ask for advice”.


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