Over 1000 people took the opportunity to visit the Longforth Farm archaeological site on Saturday. “It’s been manic. I’ve never seen this many people visit a dig,” said Laura Joyner of Wessex Archaeology, which has organised the excavations over the past three months.
TV archaeologist Phil Harding, best-known as a Time Team presenter, was one of the visitors. “It’s fantastic to see such huge public interest here,” said Phil. “You get a real sense of what a vibrant place this must have been, with a wealthy family plus their whole entourage living here.
“There was a real cross section of 12th and 13th century society on this site.”
Early conclusions from the dig, which has has another two weeks to run, are that the site was a major manorial or religious complex. Artefacts such as glazed roof tiles and flooring of a type usually only found in abbeys and monasteries indicate a high-status community living at Longforth almost a thousand years ago.
Visitors, who ranged in age from babies in buggies to older gentlemen in Panama hats, were guided around the acre of excavations in groups of 30. So great was the demand that Wessex Archaeology had to bring in extra staff to act as guides.
“It’s been great to see all this so close to home,” said Emma Rye, 15, of Wellington who took the opportunity to have her photo taken with Phil Harding.
“The guides were excellent,” commented Jayne Osborne of Wiveliscomb. “It’s just a shame it’s got to be covered up.”
Developers Bloor Homes have funded the dig, plus producing leaflets and online publicity for the Open Day.
“We are delighted to have been able to fund this excavation which has enabled Wessex Archaeology to help the community understand more about Wellington’s hidden heritage,” said Bloor director Paul Talbot.
More information about the site at www.wessexarch.co.uk/projects/longforth