Southwell Community Archaeology Group has received a £10,000 Sharing Heritage grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for an archaeological investigation of the gardens at Vicars Court and Orchard land at Church Street in Southwell.
The land on which Vicars Court and the Orchard stands is part of the historic landscape of Southwell Minster. The site lies partly within a Scheduled Ancient Monument covering part of a Roman villa complex and Anglo-Saxon cemetery and is next to the site of the former Minster School. That land has been gifted to the Dean and Chapter for heritage and community use. The geophysical survey area of the Vicars Court Project is shown shaded lilac on the plan.
It is fitting that ten years after the group was formed to bring to public attention the risk by development of the adjoining parts of the villa complex that this very important piece of the wider assemblage is being investigated for the first time with the aid of the HLF grant.
This is a multi-disciplinary project being undertaken with the agreement and support of the Dean and Chapter and under professional guidance and involvement with Historic England and the County Archaeologist. In addition to its research potential the project will further enhance and develop the skills and understanding of SCAG members.
The project brings together a wide range of objectives the aim of which is to add to the tantalising but incomplete record of the history of the land. Wherever appropriate, members of the group and the wider community will be engaged in the following activities:
I. A visual examination and recording of the extensive unstratified archaeological material particularly with reference to 1 Vicars Court;
II. A detailed topographical survey of the site assisted technically by Nottingham Trent University
III. A geophysical and remote sensing survey which it is expected will identify any anomalies such as the Roman villa complex or the medieval Vicars Court complex
IV. The examination and recording of extensive hitherto unrecorded architectural fragments possibly from the Bishops Palace or the Minster;
V. The evaluation by excavation under the supervision of Emily Gillott Nottingham Community Archaeologist and Dr. Chris Brooke & Dr. Will Bowden of part an extensive anomalous mound within the garden of 1 Vicars Court which may possibly represent the spoil heap from the 1959 excavations;
VI. Reconciliation of the findings with those of the Charles Daniels' 1959 excavation;
VII. The interpretation of the site as part of and informing the heritage of the wider assemblage;
VIII. Throughout the project the membership and wider community will be kept informed of the progress by the use of social media and web-based reports. Articles will be published in the local press and community paper. At the conclusion of the project there will be a public celebration event on or adjoining the project land which will include display of the material discovered and the survey work completed.
The project plan includes the preparation and publication of a popular booklet to be part of the story of Southwell for the community and visitors. If the final results are of significance a peer reviewed paper for formal publication in the Transactions of the Thoroton Society will be undertaken.
In consultation and collaboration with the Dean and Chapter and Southwell Town Council it is intended that interpretation material and other resources relating to the site and its place in the town’s heritage will be provided.
Vicars Court Project