Communities work with archaeologists to research history of Devon

Communities in Devon and Cornwall will be able to research the history of Roman, Iron Age and medieval settlements in the region by helping experts on a major archaeological dig and associated surveys this year.

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the University of Exeter has been awarded initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a £222,500 grant and development funding of £38,500.

A series of projects will allow people to take part in an excavation near Ipplepen in South Devon this June. They will also have the opportunity to take part in landscape surveys and workshops in Bere Ferrers, Ipplepen, and on the National Trust estate at Cotehele.

This work, which includes archaeology activity days in local schools, is possible thanks to National Lottery funding awarded to archaeologists Professor Stephen Rippon and Dr Chris Smart at the University of Exeter.

The archaeological dig near Ipplepen is held each year in partnership with Devon County Council, Cotswold Archaeology, and the British Museum/Portable Antiquities scheme. Finds from this year’s excavation will be on display at Torquay Museum, hopefully in 2018.

Members of the local community will be able to help on the dig, and will be given expert training. The landscape surveys will involve geophysics, test-pitting, and looking at maps, documents and aerial photographs.

Professor Stephen Rippon of the University of Exeter said: “We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. The villages and countryside all around us are full of history, and this project will allow communities at Ipplepen and in the Tamar Valley to start unlocking this heritage. We, and our project partners, are excited by the opportunity to help communities understand the past that’s hidden within these historic landscapes”.

Dr Chris Smart of the University of Exeter who is managing the project, said: “We, and our project partners, are excited by the opportunity to engage new audiences with the past hidden within these historic landscapes. The generosity of the Heritage Lottery Fund will enable us to help communities record some of the most important archaeological and historic sites within the region, and provide a knowledge-based legacy that will provide a benefit for generations to come.”

Nick Stokes, National Trust House and Collections Manager at Cotehele said ‘We are delighted that the National Trust at Cotehele will be working with the University of Exeter on this project. It is an exciting opportunity to support the understanding of archaeology for the benefit of the local community and visitors to Cotehele.  This part of the Tamar Valley is rich in archaeology.  We welcome the chance to work with the University and local people to learn new skills and promote and develop a deeper knowledge of the landscape around us’.

Alistair Dewhirst, Devon County Councillor, said: “I am delighted that the Department of Archaeology at the University of Exeter has received this generous award. I have always supported the important and exciting work taking place in Ipplepen and Professor Rippon’s commitment to involve local people in the project. 

“Villagers have been trained to take part in the actual digging, and there has been a fascinating information point in our Community Hub during the period of the excavations and last year the site Open Days attracted over 1,000 visitors to our village. We are all richer for the knowledge gained about our ancestors and the way they lived.”