Can Calke dig it?
Calke Abbey has a history spanning centuries - standing on the site of a medieval religious house and hidden in a hollow within ancient parkland. The often eccentric Harpur-Crewe family preferred a solitary life and this has shaped how we see the property today, but a team is hard at work behind the scenes uncovering more of Calke's rich and diverse history.
The Calke Family Archaeology Club was founded in 2009 by Rachael Hall, archaeologist, and Patti Cust, who at the time was a Learning Assistant at Calke Abbey. The club was formed after the team received a number of requests from visitors at an archaeology day wanting to get more involved in archaeology.
Now nine years old, the club is a family archaeology group and, although the activities are aimed at the younger members, the parents often get involved and enjoy the annual summer dig just as much as their young trowel-bearers. The youngest member of the club, Eliora Rutter, is ten years old and has been a member for over three years. 'My favourite session was when we mummified a fish. I've still got it in my bedroom!'
And if identifying bones and mummifying fish weren't treat enough, these archaeological endeavours have even inspired some of the club's members to get baking, including Mille Walters, who created an 'archocake' at age nine inspired by a previoud dig.
Calke Abbey is an ideal site for an archaeology club, with a rich and diverse archaeological resource dating from the medieval period to the present day, to be found across the 600 acre estate. Club members get involved in a wide range of activities - recent highlights include the annual summer dig, when the group have been discovering and excavating a 'lost' Calke garden building, an away trip to Moira Furnace (a 19th century iron-making blast furnace) and some time spend as animal bone detectives. Excavation of the octagonal garden building on the East Lawn will continue as part of this summer's big dig, now in its third year.
The group often works in partnership with the local archaeology society, Ticknall Archaeology Research Group which, in previous years, has run a pottery identification workshop for the club.
The club meets monthly from March to September - Rachael runs the club with the help and support of Calke volunteer Patti Cust. Zoe Knights, Calke's Engagement Officer, manages the club's admin and can be contacted about membership.