The largest volunteer-driven archaeological dig in the city this century has started this week by the Deep.
The South Blockhouse, a Scheduled Ancient Monument on the east bank of the River Hull, will see around 50 per cent of the site exposed for the first time in over 150 years, with over 4,500 volunteer hours assisting the council’s in-house archaeological team, Humber Field Archaeology (HFA), over an 11-week programme.
Volunteers have been gathered by HEY! Volunteering and HFA to offer the people of Hull a chance to get their hands on their heritage and help tell the story of this key site in Hull’s history. HFA will also be working with the Goodwin Trust, Absolutely Cultured and National Initiative for Creative Education to bring community groups from across the city to engage in this exciting project.
Whilst the project will see the monuments explored by the archaeological team its remains will be examined and assessed by specialists.
The site will be open Wednesday – Sunday each week with members of the public encouraged to visit the dig and learn more about this historically important location. Artefacts found by the volunteer team will also be put on display for the public to see.
This phase of the programme has been made possible by a £1million grant from National Highways, who have Government funding to deliver benefits to communities above and beyond maintaining and operating England’s strategic road network.
In earlier phases of evaluation, Historic England secured funding from Highways England which helped create the expectation that community involvement in archaeological excavation would be the new norm in Hull.
Councillor Paul Drake-Davis, Portfolio Holder for Regeneration said:
“The South Blockhouse is of significant local and national importance, identified as one of the key sites by King Henry VIII as defence against any potential continental Europe invasion of a key port, city and river.
“This National Highways grant will now allow it to become a place of education and exploration, and it’s fantastic to see residents and volunteers at the heart of it.
“I’m very much looking forward to seeing what treasures the team uncover on what I’m sure will become a popular visitor attraction over the summer.”
Fran Oliver, Project Manager of the National Highways’ A63 Castle Street major project in Hull city centre, said:
“National Highways always aims to go above and beyond building, operating, maintaining and improving roads and we’re thrilled to have been able to fund work on this project.
“The South Blockhouse is a fascinating and important part of Hull’s history. I just want to say thank you to the community volunteers for their support.
“We’re greatly looking forward to working with all our partners in creating this unique visitor space, supporting communities to become involved in its development and discover more about this incredible Tudor monument.”
Keith Emerick, Historic England Inspector of Ancient Monuments, said:
“We worked closely with Hull City Council on the initial archaeological evaluation of the site and are delighted that the excavation is going ahead.
“This dig is exciting for many reasons – it’s taking a radically new approach to excavation by seeing if we can reduce the amount of plastic used, it’s building on the idea of participation engaging as many people as possible in the local community, and it will highlight this important landmark in Hull and the nation’s history.
“It’s fantastic that so many people will be involved, exploring the secrets of the past on their doorstep.”
The South Blockhouse will compliment Hull Maritime, a locally led project funded by Hull City Council and The National Lottery Heritage Fund, a key cultural regeneration scheme in the heart of Hull’s city centre that will protect and celebrate 800 years of Hull’s maritime heritage.
Excavations have now started with teams of volunteers on site Wednesday – Sunday each week until Saturday 17 September, with public visits welcome between 11am and 3pm.
Open days will also take place with the first on Saturday 23 July as part of the nationwide Festival of Archaeology and Saturday 17 September as an end of site project celebration.