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 2000 years. 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.
Excavation by the BRP began in 1996 and we have unearthed over 4 metres of stratified deposits. This means we are able to obtain excellent data from our work and contribute to the archaeological record of north east England and northern Europe. In the castle we have discovered large and small, domestic and industrial buildings, a probable early medieval chapel and evidence of large scale industrial practices (see the ‘Excavations’ and ‘Publications’ tab on the website for more info), all accompanied by thousands of small finds. While uncovering defences of the early palace we have also found evidence for a probable large arched gatehouse.
I haven’t excavated before – Will I be okay 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. 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 will try to accommodate you.
What should I bring?
Sturdy boots are required on site. You will not be permitted on site without them. We also recommend you bring a change of shoes just in case your boots get wet.
The weather at Bamburgh can change very rapidly, from glorious sunshine to stormy wet weather. We recommend that you bring wet weather, cold weather and warm weather clothes with you. Ideally, bring layers that you can add/take off as needed. Sunglasses, hats, sunscreen etc. are all useful and rucksack/bag to bring your lunch and personal items to and from site is recommended.
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.
If you take any regular medication, bring enough for the season. There is a G.P. (Doctor) in Belford, and a pharmacy, but it will be easier if you are prepared for any regular health requirements.
How do I find you? When do I show up?
Students are in charge of booking their own accommodation. The staff will be staying at Budle Bay Campsite which has a variety of accommodation options. If you have also booked to stay on this campsite here is how you would get to us by public transport:
If you get a train to Berwick-Upon-Tweed, there is a bus service from the train station to Budle Bay Campsite 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. Further details and bus times will be emailed to you after you have booked your place for the season.
We suggest you arrive at your accommodation on the Saturday before your booking so you can settle in. The working week begins on a Sunday and will begin with a site induction. It is important that you are available for this on the Sunday morning.
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.
We head off to the castle at about 8:30 each morning. Our staff are all licensed, safe drivers, and we use private vehicles to shuttle between our home and worksite. Once we get to work, we wait for our Supervisors to explain the days aims and objectives, 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.
Our lifestyle at camp is quite busy. While you are more than welcome to sit and read a book we are all very sociable! Each week we have a BBQ 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 much easier, and will give you a chance to try a meal that you may not have at home.
Does Budle Bay have easy access to facilities?
Nearby Belford is easily accessible only a few minutes away by bus. Students will also be shuttled there at least twice a week to shop at the Co-operative supermarket (which has a cash point (ATM) within). There are also several pubs in Belford and a fish & chip shop. There is a launderette in Belford and at Budle Bay campsite. 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.
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.
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.
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.