Before any housing was built on the Preston estate, a local archaeologist excavated a fantastic medieval moated site, in the area separated to the north and south by Preston Lane, and east by Marbles Way. The site was never published, and the archive left in boxes in Guildford and Scotland.
Since 2008 a group of local residents have been meeting regularly to work on the archive to try to make sense of the site. Although progress has been made, there are several questions that have arisen which can only be answered by re-visiting the original trenches excavated in 1952-4 with modern archaeological techniques.
A Community Excavation has never been undertaken on the Preston Estate before. This project provides the opportunities to experience a new activity, meet new people, work together as part of a team, learn new skills and improve local historical knowledge. Find out the results of the Dig Preston Project below.
Dig Preston 2011
Last November saw the hunt for Preston’s very own medieval manor house with Dig Preston 2011. The project was organised by the Preston Community Archaeology Project group, Raven Housing Trust and Surrey County Archaeological Unit. The team set out to find Preston Hawe, the manor house that stood on the site between the 12th and 15th Centuries, using the results of geophysical surveys and a set of rough plans drawn up by Brian Hope-Taylor, an archaeologist who investigated the site in the 1950s. Unfortunately, since Brian visited the site, the area had been used as a rubbish tip, which the team had to clear before even reaching the archaeology. In spite of this, the dig was a huge success and turned up some fantastic finds!
The enthusiastic volunteers, working alongside members of Surrey County Archaeological Unit, and the Preston Community Archaeology Project, managed to locate and uncover sections of the manor house itself and the chapel that served the wealthy families that lived there. The dig has provided us with important information regarding the location and positioning of these buildings, as well as the construction techniques and materials used. In addition, the team uncovered lots of interesting artefacts, including medieval roof tiles, a variety of glazed and patterned pottery and even the site of a human burial.
Dig Preston has been a brilliant opportunity for members of the local community and over 200 children from local primary and secondary schools to discover archaeology and help to uncover Preston’s secret past. The students taking part in the dig were given an historical tour of the site, they learnt excavation techniques and finds identification and processing skills, and even got a chance to work with our team of metal detectors. An evaluation survey undertaken after the event has demonstrated an overwhelming support for the project. In answer to the question ‘What did you most enjoy about Dig Preston’ replies were very positive, such as:
‘Camaraderie; the challenge to find something!’
‘Participating in an event of historical significance literally on my doorstep.
‘Getting involved with the field archaeologists and learning new skills’
‘Doing something different and helping out.’
‘The whole thing’
‘Finding out more about the area and the history’
Finding out more
Following the excavation, the next stage of the project is to produce an information booklet and interpretation board about the site. The Preston Community Archaeology Project Group continues to meet regularly to work on the archive and the results of the new dig. This project has been kindly funded by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. For more information on the project and how you can get involved please visit Preston Community Archaeology Project or email email@example.com or contact 01483 518737.
Report by Laura Joyner, Assistant Community Archaeologist with Abby Guinness, Community Archaeologist, Surrey County Archaeological Unit