In 2017-18, Oxford Archaeology East were heritage partners in a National Lottery Heritage Funded project with Cambourne Village College to explore and share the archaeological heritage of a Cambridgeshire new town.
Twenty years ago, Cambourne was one of the largest archaeological sites to have been excavated in the UK. The town is now home to over 11,000 residents and will be expanding to the west. In 2015, Oxford Archaeology East evaluated the archaeology of the land due to be developed and every Year 7 student at the neighbouring secondary school, Cambourne Village College, visited the excavation and took part in a hands-on activity day. This generated a huge amount of interest amongst the students involved, their families and the wider community, who hadn't been resident in the town during the initial archaeological investigations. An extra-curricular Archaeology Club was formed at the school and the students helped to write and submit a bid for funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund's (then the Heritage Lottery Fund) Young Roots programme. They successfully applied for an award of £50,000 and approached OA East to be heritage partners on their project to explore Cambourne new town’s archaeology.
One of their ideas for the project was to be the first residents of Cambourne to take part in an excavation and in September 2017 OA East supervised a week-long excavation of a Romano-British farmstead on land adjacent to their school. Following the excavation, the students curated their own temporary ‘pop-up’ museum at their school, which hosted visits from the four local primary schools and opened to the public for two days.
An event to reflect on and celebrate the achievements of the Archaeology Club was held at the end of the project, and a set of outdoor interpretation boards unveiled:
As part of this project, OA has produced an online interactive map, Unearthing Cambourne, to share archaeological discoveries with the town's residents. It pinpoints finds and features of interest which will be added to during OA East's future excavations at West Cambourne.
In April 2019, a talk was given about the project at the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists' annual conference in a session on improving the legacies of archaeological community engagement in placemaking.