Preston Community Archaeology Project

During the 1950s an excavation was carried out by Brian Hope-Taylor on the area that is now the Preston Estate in Tadworth. These excavations unearthed 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, with many plans and notes being scribbled on the back of shopping lists and site photographs mixed up with holiday photos.

Between 2008 and 2016, a group of local residents met regularly to work on the archive to try to make sense of the site. This work included cataloguing finds, organising the paper archive, marking pottery and cross-referencing records. Although progress was made, several questions arose which could only be answered by re-visiting the original trenches excavated in 1952-4 with modern archaeological techniques.

This was the first community excavation ever undertake on the Preston Estate, and the project provided residents with opportunities to experience a new activity, meet new people, work together as part of a team, learn new skills and improve local historical knowledge.

Dig Preston 2011

In 2011 the excavation itself took place. The project was organised by the Preston Community Archaeology group, Raven Housing Trust and Surrey County Archaeological Unit (SCAU). 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 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!

Local involvement

The enthusiastic volunteers, working alongside members of SCAU, and the Preston Community Archaeology Group, 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 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.

Taking part

Dig Preston gave the local community and over 200 school children from primary and secondary schools, the chance to get hands on with the archaeology of their estate. The students taking part in the dig were given an historical tour of the site, 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, including:

'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

This project was kindly funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and culminated in a display board being put up at the site on the corner of Marbles Way, Tadworth. You can also see a display of finds at Tadworth Leisure and Community Centre.

If you would like to learn more or volunteer on a future project like the Preston Community Archaeology Project, please email the Community Archaeologist at or contact 01483 518737.

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