The Aldbury Excavations

During the war, in early September 1943, Miss G B K Harris, then Headmistress of the school at Aldbury, reported the finding of small fragments of pottery in the village to Percy Westall – then curator of Letchworth Museum.

This material had been shown to her by a Mr Wright, whilst on a nature ramble, when trying to locate a plant – the Great Henbane – on Mr Wright’s smallholding.

The site

The site, a rare cremation cemetery dating from the early 1st century A.D., was excavated by the school children who remarkably kept a detailed record of their work, including written descriptions, scaled drawings of the site and finds as a school project.

Several of pupils’ exercise books have survived and these, together with other correspondence have enabled the full story to be recorded.

Important finds from the excavation

The finds consist of at least six individual burial groups. Each group was buried in a separate pit and consisted of several pottery vessels. In each case, one served as a ‘burial urn’ and probably contained the cremated human bones. The others, known as ‘Accessory vessels’ consisted of flagons, platters and drinking beakers. These almost certainly contained food and drink for the afterlife.

Aldbury Pots

DACHT : 679.08 Small black pot found at Aldbury

Three decorated brown ‘ Colchester’ type brooches, very similar to large safety pins, were also recovered. The pottery itself seems to be mainly of local manufacture, although some pieces are almost certainly ‘imported’ from outside the region.

Aldbury Pots

DACHT : 679.01 Two larger pots

On current evidence, the burial ground appears to date from the 1st century A.D and is one of the largest groups of such vessels known.

Aldbury Excavations

DACHT : 679.17. An exercise book showing detailed records kept by one of the pupils at Aldbury school.

 

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