The Sizergh Castle: Dig in the Park project was a joint project between the Levens Local History Group and the National Trust to encourage local people to get involved in the archaeology of Sizergh Park in South Cumbria. A team of professionals from OA North, aided by volunteers from the Levens Local History Group, excavated a prehistoric burnt mound, an earthwork suspected to be medieval or post-medieval, and surveyed the Great Barn. These sites were in different locations around the park, which were investigated as part of a two-week long period of excavation, recording, and outreach in July 2013.
The burnt mound at Sizergh provided an excellent opportunity to examine a well-preserved example, which consisted of a wooden-lined trough surrounded by a horseshoe-shaped mound of heavily fire-affected stones and charcoal. The stones were not local limestone, but stone from elsewhere, such as sandstones, which may well have been selected from local glacial erratics for their suitability in the processes conducted. The mound was built on top of a dense layer of root and branches, and was close to a source of water, and contained no small finds or evidence of bones or other materials.
The ditches examined by the volunteers in the top trenches were quite substantial. When they were cut the spoil appears to have been thrown to one side, forming a bank, which may suggest it was an enclosure ditch and bank, perhaps even defensive. The ditch then silted up with pretty sterile soil, with no small finds to speak of. While this does not necessarily rule out this being a post-medieval park pale as was originally suspected, it does rule in some other intriguing possibilities, especially as it might be reasonable to expect more bits of pottery, clay pipe and other debris in a post-medieval ditch fill. This has led to the intriguing possibility that it may not be related to the deer park, providing an interesting point of focus for future investigation.
In amongst the excavation and survey work there were hands-on activities for the site visitors to get involved in. A number of local schools and the local Young Archaeologists Club sent pupils and members along for a visit and they tried their hands at excavation, and learned all about the site, and the archaeological processes being used. During the weekends a mini-dig, bronze age pottery coil building workshop, and finds handling display were put on, allowing visitors to learn more about the objects archaeologists recover, and how they were originally made and used.
Find out more on the project website.