The Hadleigh High Street "Dig" 1968

Were you there?

The two cottages are marked in red

In September 1968, an excavation was carried out on the site of two demolished cottages, situated to the right of the path leading to the church of St James the Less.

It was carried out by 30 volunteer diggers under the direction of L.Helliwell and D.G.Macleod of Prittlewell Priory Museum.

The cottages had occupied the site in 1799 and close by was the Turnpike Road leading to Prittlewell.
The “finds” discovered far outweighed the expectations of the site directors and told of a history of Hadleigh dating from the Iron Age to the 16th century.  There was an early Iron Age burial, an antler shed by a red deer, then a medieval building which was probably tiled and contained a hearth of vertically placed tiles.
Most interesting was the discovery of a ditch and rampart which could indicate that Hadleigh was a fortified village, the ditch surrounding our Saxon Church, possibly from the time of King Alfred. (Not too far-fetched with the Danes just down the hill!)

Were you there?
Did you take part in the “dig” that August Bank Holiday week in 1968?
You may remember that it poured with rain on the last day!

Here is a transcription of the original Provisional Report.

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  • AGES Archaeological & Historical Association is currently reviewing this excavation and any subsequent reports or articles. It appears that the child burial was eventually dated as Saxon rather than Iron Age, but we can so far find no explanation for this. There are no remaining site records within the Southend Museums Service.

    We have been successful in following the suggested Medieval Archaeology and ESAH Transactions leads, but despite asking at Southend Library, they have no record of any relevant report in any issue of the “Museum Publications Southend-on-Sea County Borough. Libraries, Art Gallery and Museum Committee.” If anyone knows where we can get hold of that report, please let us know via this website. This would help us confirm that only the provisional report exists and there still remains a need for a final report based upon all the information available. Thanks.

    By Terry Barclay (28/01/2017)
  • Some of those who were involved with the excavation went on to form the South East Essex Archaeological Society in 1975. The group that Martin referred to was the archaeology sub-committee of the Southend and District Antiquarian and Historical Society (usually known as Southend Historical), which sadly closed at the end of 1996 . Many of the members of the Southend Historical joined the South East Essex Archaeological and Historical Society. I believe that there is a brief note of the work in Medieval Archaeology – the journal of The Society for Medieval Archaeology. There was also a brief article published in The Transactions of South East Essex Archaeological Society about the work at Hadleigh.

    By Bernard Arscott (10/06/2014)
  • I was one of the ‘young volunteers’ – organised through the Southend Amateur Archaeological Society to work on the dig. The group was led by Leonard Helliwell – the Southend Borough Librarian and D.G. (Mac) Macleod. I clearly remember when we were excavating the ‘mound’ which turned out to be the iron age burial and how the expectation had been that there would be Saxon remains but not anything earlier. I recall that there were detailed drawings done of each stage of the excavation and a report, which I think was published in an issue of the “Museum Publications Southend-on-Sea County Borough. Libraries, Art Gallery and Museum Committee”.

    By Martin Davis (25/04/2013)

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