History enthusiasts around Doncaster are being given a unique opportunity to get their hands dirty alongside leading archaeologists this summer as part of a fortnight-long dig to try to uncover secrets about the town’s First World War and military history.
As part of the Doncaster 1914-18 project, archaeologists will be conducting two weeks of excavations in the grounds of St Peter in Chains Church on Chequer Road – the former location of the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry’s Scarbrough Barracks and just a stone’s throw away from the project’s curators at Doncaster Museum & Art Gallery. Members of the public will be trained in archaeological techniques, before picking up trowel and brush to see what early 20th century stories they can uncover buried beneath the ground.
“The dig site in central Doncaster offers a fantastic opportunity for those with an interest in history to work on a real archaeological dig. The site is the location of the former Scarbrough Barracks; these were built shortly after World War I, but prior to this the site was used for military training during the war, so we are hoping to find evidence of what activities were carried out here,” comments project manager, Dr Glyn Davies of ArcHeritage, which has been commissioned to undertake the dig. “A recent dig at what is now the new cultural quarter revealed practice trenches excavated by soldiers training in Doncaster. We don’t know if they were undertaking similar training in trenching on the barracks site but the excavation provides us with the opportunity to find out what they were doing.”
During the main dig, running from 10 – 22 August, the archaeologists will require 15 – 20 volunteers each day to help dig and process finds – including cleaning, labelling and bagging – but before that, around 5 people per day are needed at the end of July to help with geophysical surveys of the site. “This will give us an indication of the best places to start digging so that we can focus our efforts on parts of the land that have the highest potential to contain archaeological remains,” explains Dr Davies.
The volunteering opportunity is open to anyone over the age of 16, and no prior experience is necessary. Training will be provided on the Monday and Wednesday of each week, with volunteers then spending at least a day working on the site. Young archaeologists can also get involved, as those aged between 8 and 16 can join the team if they are accompanied at all times by a parent.
“Our team are spending the next four and a half years talking to communities in and around Doncaster about the experiences of their ancestors during the First World War and we are hopeful that this archaeological excavation will help us better understand how we prepared our young men for life on the front line,” says Doncaster 1914-18 Project Manager, Jude Holland. Father Augustine O’Reilly of St Peter in Chain’s Church added, “We are supportive of this project and encourage a good response to the appeal for volunteers. I hope it will be productive and the knowledge gained may be a source of great inspiration to future generations.”
Alongside the volunteering opportunities, the dig will be open to the public every day (except Sundays) between 10-22 August, 10am-4pm. On Saturdays 15 August and Saturday 22 August, visitors can join in action packed archaeology open days between 10am-4pm.
There will be hands-on activities, and fun for all the family. The Great War on Tour, the Project’s travelling roadshow will be present on both days, presenting a snapshot of Doncaster 1914-18’s latest research. “Once visitors have seen the archaeology in action, they can pop into the museum to learn more about the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry’s role in the War in our new exhibition, ‘A Call To Arms’,” adds Jude.
For details on how to register, volunteers should visit www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk or the ArcHeritage website http://www.archeritage.co.uk/news/#790 or contact ArcHeritage, by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0114 2728884.
For further information on the Doncaster 1914-18 project, please visit www.doncaster1914-18.org.uk