Community fieldwalking to uncover Hitchin's Roman ruins hailed 'huge success'

More than 100 people showed interest in taking part in a day of fieldwalking in Hitchin to uncover Roman artefacts

More than 100 people showed interest in taking part in a day of fieldwalking in Hitchin to uncover Roman artefacts, co-ordinated by Lib Dem councillor Sam Collins and North Herts Museum's Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews - 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.

Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews of North Herts Museum shares some Roman finds with volunteer fieldwalkers in Ninesprings, Hitchin

Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews, curator and heritage access officer at North Herts Museum, shares some Roman finds with volunteers at the fieldwalking event on Saturday in the Ninesprings area of Hitchin - Credit: Amy Finch

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!"

Cllr Sam Collins and Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews with some volunteers and a small sample of the finds at the Hitchin fieldwalk

Cllr Sam Collins and Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews with some of the volunteers and a small sample of the finds at Saturday's fieldwalking event in Hitchin - Credit: Amy Finch

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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."

The site of the Roman bathhouse is near the Ninesprings estate, on the south west side of Hitchin

The site of the Roman bathhouse is near the Ninesprings estate, on the south side of Hitchin - Credit: Maya Derrick

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.

Letchworth resident and history student Theo Long was part of the team that uncovered Roman building material in Hitchin

Letchworth resident and history student Theo Long was part of the 50-strong team that uncovered Roman building material during a fieldwalk in the Ninesprings area of Hitchin over the weekend - Credit: Amy Finch

To get involved in future parts of the Roman project, contact Cllr Collins at sam.collins@north-herts.gov.uk.

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