This week we held our first public open day for the residents of Weeley, and over 40 people joined the tours on Wednesday. We always welcome the opportunity to meet people local to our excavations, giving them the chance to view our work in progress and see what we’ve found so far. We’re also fortunate to benefit from visitor insights into local history and the memories they can share with us.
One of our tour attendees thoughtfully brought us a copy of the sales list of the fixtures, fittings, and furnishings of the barracks published in the newspapers when it was decommissioned in 1815. They were sold by public auction by Hawes and Fenton on Monday, 3rd July 1815. The fittings and fixtures list panel doors, meat rails and hooks, stone sinks and lead pipes. The list of items for sale include bedsteads, officers’ mess tables, washing tubs, kitchen ranges and even chamber pots! As well as the contents, the bricks and tiles of the buildings were also auctioned off. We’ll be diving into the archives on Weeley Barracks more thoroughly once our excavation finishes to compare what we’ve found in the ground with what’s detailed by historical documents, but this helped us to paint a vivid picture of daily life in the barracks during our open day tours. It also helps explains why we’ve only found the building footings and relatively few artefacts from this period with the barrack buildings systematically vacated.
As well as the barracks, there was a lot of interest in the bottle dump on the edge of Barrack Field. The contents were widely recognised by our open day visitors and reactions to the Shippam's meat paste jars ranged from fondness to revulsion!
The site tours were led by our Project Supervisor Lindsey and Project Manager Louise. It was a blustery day, so they did well to raise their voices above the wind and keep hold of the pictures and maps to show visitors, and thankfully the rain held off. It took about an hour to walk the tour groups around our excavation areas, with pauses to take photos and answer questions. One young visitor brought along a book of ‘amazing facts’ and treated us to some fascinating titbits of his own while waiting for his tour group to congregate! It’s always especially rewarding to meet budding young archaeologists and help nurture their curiosity and enthusiasm for the past.
At the end of the tours, our Project Officer Nick talked to visitors about the artefacts found so far. We were delighted to see some of the participants from our Operation Nightingale team return to see the site, and we had some of the pottery and clay pipes they excavated from an early nineteenth-century rubbish pit on display. We’ve added a selection of new photos to our finds gallery to showcase some of the finds on display at the open day.
Our Community Manager Clem was on hand for the day and our team members Chris, Holly, Graeme and Adrian did a brilliant job of meeting and greeting and chatting to visitors. We also owe a big thank you to Weeley Parish Council and the Residents Association for their help in publicising the event.