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Excavation work aims to date planned village

By This is Somerset  |  Posted: September 24, 2008

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A NEW season of talks and visits for Harptree History Society began yesterday, with a presentation on the major English Heritage study aimed at increasing people's understanding of the historic environment of the Mendip Hills.

The three-year research project is being achieved through a multi-disciplinary approach involving various teams within English Heritage, including architectural investigation, archaeological survey and investigation, and aerial survey.

The results of the study will increase people's knowledge of the history of the Harptrees and, over the next year, may even contribute to discovering the origins of East Harptree.

Chairman Lesley Ross said: "There are several features which make East Harptree so fascinating historically: the layout of the village is indicative of it being planned, but the Norman castle (Richmont Castle) and church do not obviously relate to the layout of the streets and there is no knowledge as to when or by whom it was planned."

Elaine Jamieson, along with Barry Jones, an architectural historian, gave an introduction to the project and detailed some of the highlights to date.

Elaine, who is leading the work in East Harptree and has carried out a survey of the site of Richmont Castle, made particular reference to some of the work already done in the Harptrees.

This included the results of their surveys of the castle, the church and Haydon's field, and at Pitchers Enclosure, an Iron Age site above West Harptree.

The study of Haydon's field, which is in the centre of the village, is said to be leading to interesting new evidence about the early history of East Harptree.

An earthwork survey of the field, carried out by the history society, records signs of several buildings, indicating this part of the village was formerly occupied.

Last month, English Heritage held a geophysical training week for local history groups in this field.

On the basis of these surveys, a specialist team of archaeologists, with local help, is planning to excavate trenches and trial pits in the field and village next spring, which they hope will be able to date when the planned village was laid out and discover what was there before it.

Lesley said: "We are a very friendly group and everyone is welcome.

"With so much research work being carried out in the village over the next year, this would be an excellent time for anyone interested in learning more to get involved – either by joining the committee, the research group, for which no experience is needed, or helping out occasionally."

The society meets at 7.30pm on the last Wednesday of the month at West Harptree Memorial Hall.

New members and visitors are welcome and entry is £1 for members and £2.50 for non-members, including refreshments.

For further details, call Lesley on 01761 221758 or Andrew Sandon on 01761 221941.

Ros Anstey

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