Review: The First Nottinghamshire Local History and Archaeology Day

Pen and paper in hand my dad and I found ourselves at 11am this morning seated in the Djanogly Recital Hall awaiting the beginning of a series of short lectures that opened the very first Local History and Archaeology day. Considering this is the first of its kind in my hometown, I figured I’d share this day and to applaud what I believe its success. Organized by the University of Nottingham Museum, Lakeside Arts Centre prepared itself for the descent of several professional and amateur historians, archaeologists and societies all seeking a day of knowledge and information pertaining history in particular to regards with the Nottinghamshire county. Supported by Thoroton Society and the Society for the Promotion of Roman studies the day included talks, videos, exhibitions, pottery handling and coins all found in Nottingham excavations. The entirety was a free drop-in event apart from the lectures which was ticketed due to limited seating and popularity.

David Knight of the Trent and Peak Archaeology Association kicked off the lectures introducing excavations sites and finds dating as far back as the Palaeolithic era across the county from Trent near Thrumpton, Bingham and Staythorpe. Due to time limitations he included one slide for each supposed era including Neolithic, Bronze Age, Roman and Medieval showing that Nottinghamshire as an area had been widely populated even from the earliest Hunter-Gatherer tribes. From here Knight passed the speech baton to five local societies to present their work the best of which were:

  • Bingham Heritage Trails – Peter Allen spoke of his amateur archaeologist society that focuses on the fields of Bingham Parish, namely within the Anglo-Saxon era.
  • Ice Age Journeys – Gwil Owen and the Farndon Archaeology Society are currently trying to prevent a new road being built across a field containing finds from the last Ice Age.
  • Nottinghamshire Local History Association – John Parker had been commissioned by the council to record all inscriptions on gravestones to preserve the information they contain on familial connections, historical preferences and religious connotations.

From here the day largely consisted of walking between rooms discovering the difficulties of bioarchaeological handling (bones and fauna), identification of medals and differences between different types of Roman and Medieval pottery. The best part of the day for me was the challenge to read inscriptions on Roman coins to dad and then define which emperor they would have circulated under, and this was difficult even with a Sherlockian magnifying glass, and getting them in the majority correct! For the very first time this event was held, it was not overly crowded; the spread of items included meant that there was easy access to all sections and a good chance to discuss pieces in detail without interruption. All the people involved were happy to talk and give historical background behind pieces, discuss how their society contributes to the Nottinghamshire historical and archaeological projects with many producing major publications on Roman and Medieval history within the East Midlands.

The busiest part that was full of slightly sunburnt historians was the displays and exhibitons set up by the societies in the Rehearsal Hall. The hall was invaded by 31 stands all attributed to different kinds of history such as a World War One hospital in an old manor house and archaeological groups dedicated to Mercia. The interactive exhibitions sold books, provided actual dirt from an archaeological dig and allowed you to design your own cave painting all while being provided with the ability to touch finds from digs, feel the edge of a Neolithic axe and cut out outfits to pin onto paper WW1 nurses and soldiers. Life Lines also brought the WW1 atmosphere to celebrate the centenary by allowing visitors to write on post-it notes sharing their family connections to the Nottingham Hussars Infantry which my own Dad was part of in the TA before leaving a career in the army.

All in all a good day and good first event for the Nottinghamshire locals who are interested in history. Apart from being stalked by a camera man which means Dad and I may end up on the cover of a paper this day would be worth a visit if interested in East Midland excavations or for just a day out if you are in the local area. I hope this event happens again so we can keep up with new finds each society creates and support the Ice Age team in preventing a road destroying a brilliant British archaeological field.

I include some of the societies who attended today for further information:

  • Roman Society
  • Council for British Archaeology
  • Nottingham Postcard Society
  • Southwell Burgage Earthworks Project
  • University Project in Southwell
  • Nottingham City Museum and Galleries
  • DH Lawrence Heritage
  • The Harley Gallery
  • Nottingham Local History Association
  • Friends of Toton Fields
  • Bramcote Old Church Tower Trust
  • Burton Joyce and Bulcote Local History Society
  • Life Lines
  • Mercian Archaeology
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