27 years at Piddington and counting…
Roy & Diana (Liz) Friendship-Taylor write:
It all started in November 1978 with a phone call from Dick Hollowell, the 'grandfather' of field archaeology in Northamptonshire, to tell us that the local vicar had rediscovered the lost villa of Piddington, following a change from pasture to arable farming when the farmland changed hands. The whereabouts of the villa had been lost since it was first discovered in 1781 during quarrying operations.
The new farmer had tested the depth of the soil on his new land with a JCB, bringing to the surface many small bricks (opus spicatum), roof tile, tesserae and other archaeological debris. Dick asked whether I knew that the vicar had started to dig holes into the archaeology with the aid of his metal detector? We arranged to meet him at the site on Sunday morning, knowing that the vicar would be busy on that day. So, we gathered at the site on a misty morning in mid November 1978. What we saw horrified us. Holes had been dug through tessellated floors and pottery and tiles were scattered in heaps. Even a large iron key had been discarded. A discussion followed, involving the county archaeologist, the late Alan Hannan,
who wrote on our behalf to the landowner, the late Mr Joseph Chambers, who readily gave permission for the Upper Nene Archaeological Society to mount an excavation. Over the next six months plans were laid to start work in April the following year.
Paul and Charmian Woodfield and members of the Upper Nene Archaeological Society (the River Nene in our part of the county is pronounced as 'Nen') started work on site and on schedule. We tentatively suggested to the farmer that, if we were to dig until the autumn, it would enable us to achieve some grasp of the nature and plan of the site…never dreaming that, from that misty day in 1978, 27 years later, and counting, we would still be digging at Piddington. Not only has a substantial proportion of the site been excavated, but the Society has its own museum in Piddington village, where the complete archive is stored, displayed and studied.
For the first seven years we ran a 'training excavation' at Piddington that was self-financed. The trouble was, we eventually became very much aware that we were spending more time
The early excavations at Piddington showing the pitched-tile pavement in the front veranda. Piddington church can be seen on the horizon.
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