Archaeological discovery at Attingham

An archeaological plan of the remains of an Anglo Saxon hall at Attingham Park

The remains of an Anglo Saxon hall have been discovered by archaeologists on the wider estate at Attingham. Only a small number of halls like this have been excavated in Britain making this a really exciting discovery.

The site was first thought to contain archaeological remains in 1975 when an aerial photograph was captured from the air, showing a complex set of cropmarks. 
The image was taken by Professor J.K. St Joseph of the Cambridge University Committee for Aerial Photography (CUCAP; St Joseph 1975). The site’s striking similarity to other important excavations resulted in the site being designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

Until now, the field has been left undisturbed with no further investigations carried out. 
Due to concerns surrounding damage to the site from unlawful use of metal detectors and large numbers of rabbits, archaeologists from the conservation charity decided the time was right to excavate the site. 

Working with Dr Roger White from the University of Birmingham, National Trust archaeologist Janine Young successfully applied for permission from the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport for consent to undertake the excavation, which included digging two large trenches. 

Dr Roger White from the University of Birmingham and National Trust archaeologist Janine Young in one of the dig trenches
The archaeological dig underway at Attingham Park (2017)
Dr Roger White from the University of Birmingham and National Trust archaeologist Janine Young in one of the dig trenches

Janine said: “We are delighted with our findings. What we have discovered was– certainly a high status building from the Anglo Saxon period possibly a feasting hall, or could even be a palace.
“We have identified that the building was of wooden frame, dug into a trench with wattle and daub walls, samples of which were found during the dig.

A number of items have been found, including several Roman coins, three Roman brooches, Roman pottery, a Saxon loom weight and part of a Viking stirrup mount, as well as a probable Anglo Saxon strap tag. 

A Viking stirrup discovered during the dig on the estate at Attingham
A close up of the Viking stirrup mount found on the dig at Attingham Park
A Viking stirrup discovered during the dig on the estate at Attingham

Dr White added: “As one of only a small number of Anglo Saxon Halls to be excavated in Britain this makes it a very significant discovery 
“We believe the wooden hall burnt down at some point. Despite the damage to the site from the fire and over the years, we’re still confident of working out the exact era that the hall was built and used in.”

Samples of charcoal have been sent to a specialist radio carbon dating centre in Glasgow for examination. The results are due later this year and should clarify the exact date of the building, accounting for a 600 year window from 400AD to 1066. 

Some of the items uncovered during the archaeological dig at Attingham
Trays of findings from the archaeological dig at Attingham in 2017
Some of the items uncovered during the archaeological dig at Attingham

The dig was aided by metal detectorists from the Newport Historical Society, who have thoroughly examined the entire field to ensure that no artefacts were missed. An intern with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, funded by the British Museum, also assisted in the excavation.  

We will be hosting talks on the excavation and the archaeology of the site later in the year.