Community fieldwalking to uncover Hitchin's Roman ruins hailed 'huge success'
- Credit: Amy Finch
After the Comet put a call out for people to get their hands dirty, more than 50 people gathered together on Saturday (September 18) to unearth some of Hitchin's undiscovered history.
Dubbed a "huge success" by organiser Cllr Sam Collins, who represents Hitchin Highbury, over 100 expressed interest in the project, which involves uncovering highly historically important - and previously undocumented - Roman ruins in a Letchworth Heritage Foundation-owned field, just outside the Ninesprings estate.
"There was a wonderful mix of people from young teenagers to retirees, some with archaeological training and others who were just interested. All were welcome and everyone seemed to have a lot of fun," Cllr Collins said.
The gloriously sunny day was kicked off with a briefing from North Herts Museum's Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, who explained how fieldwalking works and what to look out for. Then the groups set off across the field to see what could be found.
"I was slightly concerned all along that my archaeological hunch would turn out to be little more than that, an unfounded hunch," he continued. "But, I’m delighted to say we uncovered a vast amount of finds. Far more than anyone expected, and we pretty much filled the museum van!"
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All finds, including a Mesolithic tranchet axehead which may be 6,000 to 8,000 years old, have been taken to Hitchin's North Herts Museum, where they will be cleaned and studied - hopefully by more eager volunteers in the not-so-distant future - in a bid to establish what the community collective has discovered.
Sam exclaimed: "It could be a ritual site, a large villa or something else entirely!"
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He continued: "The aim of the field walking was to test my theory that there are a number of previously unknown and undiscovered Roman buildings on the site, and it seems that my theory was correct.
"A vast amount of Roman material was found, coming from a number of locations around the field. Every find made on the field had its location tagged and they will soon be mapped out to study where the concentrations of finds are."
He added that hardly any metal finds were located during their extensive search, something Sam said was due to illegal metal detecting - often known as Nighthawking - around five years ago.
Determined not to let this impact the search for answers, Sam, Keith and the rest of their band of volunteers are eager to work to establish more about why such an important site is on our doorsteps - and has been left undisturbed for so long.
To get involved in future parts of the Roman project, contact Cllr Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org.