Community archaeology project

Dawn view of Chirk Castle in Wales

Even after 700 years Chirk Castle and its landscape still hold many mysteries. Over the last few years the National Trust have been carrying out research to try to understand the castle and its surroundings in more detail. During 2015/16 an archaeological intern was placed at Chirk Castle to look at the landscape. They found old trackways possibly used to bring materials to build the castle as well as field systems which may pre-date the castle itself. Early in 2017 an archaeological survey of the castle was carried out too.

These surveys have hinted at a landscape and castle that still have lots to tell us. As a result a short pilot project has been set up to try to understand some of these mysteries. Volunteers will be working to carry out non-invasive archaeological techniques such as geophysics, which can pick up features such as walls buried underground.  

Areas that will be surveyed are part of Offa’s Dyke, a large bank and ditch that is believed to have been built by Offa, King of Mercia in the 8th century, as a defence against Welsh attacks, as well as areas immediately outside the entrance to the castle to see if we can see any lost walls of the courtyard that used to be here.

Come back over the next few weeks to see what we have been up too and what we have found.

Latest updates

10 Jul 17

Exhibition to reveal results of project

Our initial project phase is sadly coming to an end. As a result we will be holding an exhibition to reveal results of survey work carried out. The exhibition will take place on the weekend of the 15th and 16th of July within the state rooms and is free, although normal admission prices apply. Although this is the end of the current project volunteers will still be carrying out survey and research work so look out for further updates for any new discoveries.

21 Jun 17

Making Mud

Soil can tell us a lot about the past and last week our volunteers learnt just how by Dr Fiona Grant. Pollen, charcoal, seeds and insects, to name but a few, can be preserved within the layers of earth and by extracting and studying these we can learn about past environments as well as human impact on their surroundings and even what they were growing and eating. However in order for us to be able to find any possible seeds, etc we had to turn our bucket of soil into mud! After adding water and mixing it we then had to slowly pour the water off through a sieve to catch any tiny seeds and charcoal that may be present. After collecting this we then had to search under the microscope to see if we had found anything and the exciting news is we found two seeds. Although we don’t know what these seeds were we could see that they had been burnt. All this training will help us if we are able to carry out excavations in the future as we all know now how important it is to carry out soil sampling.

Chirk Castle Community Archaeology project volunteer undergoing training on interpreting finds found in soil

17 Jun 17

Hidden archaeology revealed at Chirk Castle

Last week the community archaeology project at Chirk Castle was busy carrying out a geophysical survey of the area outside the castle entrance. Geophysics is a non-invasive survey method used by archaeologists to see what is underground without damaging any of the archaeology. An intrepid group of volunteers braved the wet weather and spent the week surveying outside the castle and the initial results are interesting. It appears that there is a rectangular feature at right angles to the Distil Tower and a couple of circular features. What these features are is uncertain, hopefully excavation would answer these questions but could the rectangular feature be a building? Could it be something to do with the construction of the castle? Could the circular features hint at a much older prehistoric past? Sadly geophysics can’t give us the answer to these questions but what it does show us is that Chirk Castle still has lots of secrets to reveal.

This image shows geophysics resistance data for the area north of the castle