Archaeological dig at the University of Bedfo

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Archaeological dig at the University of Bedfordshire site

September 2011

planning & construction news

As part of their planning application for a new Postgraduate and CPD Centre for the University of Bedfordshire, Fisher German instructed Headland Archaeology to carry out an archaeological excavation before the University redevelops this area of the campus.

As part of a planning condition following initial trial trenching, Luton Borough Council have asked for the excavation to be monitored by the Archaeological Officers from Central Bedfordshire Council.

Why dig here? We are aware from historic records and from previous archaeological digs that this area was likely to be the site of a thirteenth-century castle. Fulk de Breauté, an Anglo-Norman knight and favourite of King John, built the castle sometime between 1216 and 1221, and we know some details about it from medieval documents which survive today.
 
We know that the castle was certainly surrounded by a moat, as there was a complaint that de Breauté had dammed the nearby river (presumably to help keep water in the moat) and caused serious flooding to crops and buildings belonging to the church. De Breauté was one of the most powerful men in the kingdom at the time, so was not overly worried by the complaints and allegedly said that he wished that the damage had been worse.
 
When we call this a ‘castle’ this may conjure up the wrong impression, as this site was probably more like a fortified manor house, surrounded by a moat and earthen bank. In the interior would have been living quarters, a great hall, stables and outbuildings. The line of the moat and bank was still visible in the 19th century and seems to have been rectangular in shape. Previous excavations for the University have revealed the line of the moat on the northwest side, and have found traces of timber buildings, in the form of slots and holes cut into the ground for beams and posts.

The University of Bedfordshire have provided a webcam from which you can watch progress online - this innovative move allows an unusual opportunity for people to see inside a dig, as it happens. Posters have been placed just outside the site in order to provide passers by with an explanation of the works. A copy of the poster (funded by the University of Bedfordshire) can be viewed here.
 
Finds from the dig are now being recorded and assessed, a process anticipated to take approximately nine months,before formal publication in appropriate archaeological journals.
 
For further information, contact Alan Hardwick on 01530 410859 email alan.hardwick@fishergerman.co.uk
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