Why is Bamburgh Castle so significant?
Bamburgh was the fortress palace of the Anglo-Saxon kings of Northumbria, and has been in continual use for over 3000 years. We have the privilege of working on one of the best known sites in North East England. We have a wonderful state of preservation in our trenches, including over 4 metres of stratified deposits. This means we are able to get excellent data from our work and contribute to the archaeological record. Part of this includes filming our work daily to ensure we have extensive and detailed archives. Our current excavation has two open trenches in the Castle grounds, and one trench and test pitting at the Bradford Kaims. In the castle we have discovered large and small buildings domestic and industrial buildings, and evidence of large scale industrial practices. While uncovering defences of the early palace we have also found evidence for what we believe to be a large arched gatehouse. This would have been an impressive site in its heyday and is still thrilling to note in the archaeology.
Much of the early history of the area comes from the Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. Bamburgh was the early seat of the Northumbrian Kings Oswald and Oswy, who are credited with introducing Christianity to the English royals. After being left in a ruinous state, the 18th Century Dr John Sharpe began the restoration, and the 1st Lord Armstrong renovated the living quarters of the castle, creating the beautiful staterooms and private apartments you see today.
I haven’t excavated before- Will I be ok to dig with you? Do I need to bring my own trowel? Am I too young/old to take part?
Here at Bamburgh, we welcome anyone who has an interest in heritage and archaeology. If you’re under 16 you must have a responsible adult dig with you, and if you’re under 18 you need to have parental consent. We have a wide mix of people of all experience levels, and we welcome everyone. Having such a wide array of attendees gives us all a better experience, and we hope everyone leaves us feeling more comfortable about their excavation skills than before. If you have your own 4” pointed trowel, feel free to bring it along. If not, we have trowels here available to purchase for £12.
Can I get credit with my University/College for the work I do at Bamburgh?
We do not provide specific accreditation, as we are not affiliated to any one university. However, we assess all participants individually and provide a report based on their experiences and skills on site. We can liaise with your institution and come up with a program to meet your needs and will attempt to meet all reasonable requests. We will write individual assessments of each student who requires fieldwork appraisals for their University or college. Please tell us when you arrive if you need one. We encourage students to use data from Bamburgh as the basis for continued study, and we will make every effort to assist anyone wishing to take their studies further.
I am particularly interested in learning environmental sampling techniques, artefact recording, and conservation or survey techniques. Can you help me?
Of course! Let us know what you’re most interested in and we can make sure you get plenty of opportunities. We have a rota system to allow everyone the opportunity to spend time in each department. We do suggest that you spend at least two weeks onsite for this reason, to ensure you get the most out of your time with us. If there is something that you would really like to learn, just speak up and we can accommodate you.
How do I find you? When do I show up?
We stay at the Bluebell Farm Caravan and Camping Park in Belford, Northumberland. Belford and Bamburgh are safe, rural towns, and we are lucky to have such a warm reception when we arrive. We stay on a family friendly campsite and Phyl and Ian are wonderful hosts.
If you get a train to Berwick-Upon-Tweed, there is a bus service from the train station to Belford that will drop you off to us. The Arriva website should help you plan your journey to us. Alternatively, the taxi service from Berwick-Upon-Tweed will bring you to us for about £25. The Bluebell Farm van park is located across the street from Belford’s Co-op, and is very easy to spot from the street.
If camping with us you are expected to show up on the Sunday before your booking so you can set up your tent and settle in. The workweek will go from Monday- Friday with one day off at the weekend, either Saturday or Sunday.
What should I bring?
A tent will be provided for you. Make sure you have a warm sleeping bag, and something to get you off the ground. There’s nothing worse than sleeping on the floor after a hard days’ digging! Don’t forget a torch!
Waterproof gear is always a good plan- A jacket is certainly required, and waterproof over pants have proven very useful in the past. Plenty of warm clothes are also a must!
All work equipment is provided, except for a trowel, so you don’t need to bring anything specific. Trowels are available to purchase for £12.
Bring a backpack/good sized bag to take your lunch and personal items to the castle with you.
If you take any regular medication, bring enough for the season. There is a G.P. in Belford, and a pharmacy, but it will be easier if you are prepared for any regular health requirements.
What’s in a normal day?
A normal day at the Bamburgh research Project usually starts at about 7:30am. You get up, sort out your cup of tea and breakfast (everyone is responsible for their own meals) and get dressed and ready for the day. You need to organise your own lunch. You can make sandwiches at the campsite, or buy lunch at the castle tearooms. At 8:30 everyone meets by the student campground to find out their assignments for the week.
We head off to the castle at about 8:30 each morning. Our staff are all licensed, safe drivers, and we use private vehicles and a mini bus to shuttle between our home and worksites. Once we get to work, we wait for our Supervisors to explain the days aims and intentions, and then get to it! We have a morning tea break at 10:30, lunch at 12:30, afternoon tea at 3pm and we head home at 5pm.
We alternate days off on the weekends, so if you work on Saturday you will have Sunday off. On a weekend we leave for the castle at 10:10am, have a break for lunch at midday, and leave by 4:30.
Our lifestyle at camp is quite busy. While you are more than welcome to sit and read a book or watch the ducks in the creek, we are all very sociable! Each week we have a group bbq night (just let us know if you have any dietary requirements), a quiz night and a night at the local pub. Everyone is responsible for their own meals, but we find that sharing your cooking with other students does make life a little easier, and will give you a chance to try a meal that you may not have at home. There is a small supermarket (Co-op) across the street from our campsite, several pubs, and a fish & chip shop.
Does Belford have easy access to facilities?
Belford has a well-appointed Co-operative supermarket, and a cash point (ATM) within. There are also several pubs in town and a fish & chip shop for nights when you don’t feel like cooking. There is a launderette near the campsite, or there is a wash service available in Belford for a fee. Belford has a Community Club with games room, pool table and function rooms, a golf club and football oval. There is a Doctor, Dentist, post office and pharmacy in Belford if needed.
If you need a bank there is a Barclays in nearby Seahouses, or the larger town of Berwick-upon-Tweed is about 15 miles away. A lift with a staff member can usually be arranged, however the bus services in the area are regular and reliable.
What’s the weather like at Bamburgh?
Bamburgh and the surrounding area get all kinds of weather. It’s important to be prepared for all eventualities. We suggest you pack layers, as we can get some very hot days and some very cool nights. Being on the North-East coast of England there is always a chance of rain, so some good quality waterproofs are always a good idea.
A warm sleeping bag and a roll-mat or air mattress to get you off the cold ground are always a good idea. If you are coming from overseas or are unable to carry these items with you, we recommend that you purchase them online and have them delivered to the campsite before your arrival. The address is:
C/O Bamburgh Research Project
TIPS FROM STAFF
Remember that the sun only sets for a few hours each night here. It’s not unusual to get about 4 hours of darkness. It might be easier to sleep in your tent with a small eye mask.
Lauren, New York
Bring your good attitude and sense of humor. Banter in the UK can be very different to jokes in the US, or anywhere else in the world. Bring lots of underwear and socks, too!
Natalie, South Australia
Be prepared for anything. Murphy’s Law comes into play here regularly. The one day you forget to bring your waterproof WILL be the day that it rains heavily.
Roll mats are more reliable than air mattresses. Expect a different attitude from staff on and off site. We live, work and socialize together and the staff want to instruct you professionally at work, and want to meet some new friends after work. We form very close friendships here, so don’t feel too surprised when we want to know everything about you!
Emily, New Orleans
Bring something nice to wear to pub night. Sometimes after several weeks of dirty dig clothes, it’s nice to take a shower, put on something a little fancy and go out for the evening.