We invite members of the Society to suggest destinations for evening walks, full and part day visits or long weekend excursions to sites of archaeological, architectural or historical interest. Please contact excursions
Excursions in 2022
WATCH THIS SPACE FOR FOR INFORMATION ON PLANNED EXCURSIONS IN 2022
Information about excursions that took place in 2021
Thursday 2nd December: Hidden Holt exhibition at Wrexham Museum
The Chester Archaeological Society organised an excursion to the “Hidden Holt” exhibition at the Wrexham Museum on Thursday December 2nd
Jonathon Gammond of Wrexham Museum, and one of the organisers of the exhibition alongside the Holt Local History Society, took members on a short tour of the exhibition.
Monday 14th June: Guided walk around Holt
CAS members were guests of Holt Local History Society (HLHS) who provided a team of members to act as guides and share their knowledge of Holt’s archaeology and history with us. We were led on a well-planned route between the principal points of interest in the village and had the additional pleasure of fine weather in which to appreciate views of the River Dee above and below Holt Bridge.
The significance of the area’s geology to its archaeology was an important theme of the day. For example, St Chad’s Church, our first stop on the route, was established in 1267 on the second river terrace, out of reach of floodwater from the River Dee. It was enlarged in 1490 by Sir William Stanley who is associated with the elaborately decorated font. The violent disruption which the Civil War brought to the area is evident in musket ball holes, inside and out. In that same conflict Holt Bridge became a battle site.
The course of the river south of Holt Bridge in the first century AD, together with the clay pits and woodland existing at the time, help explain the location of the Roman tile and pottery factory. The final highlight of our tour was Holt Castle. There are several excellent information boards in this area to explain the Castle’s history but hearing it directly from our guides, who had taken part in excavating the site, made the scale and magnificence of it in its heyday particularly vivid.
This brief report does not do justice to the infectious enthusiasm and knowledge which Cynthia Payne (Chair of HLHS), Brian Payne, John Cubitt and Professor Cynthia Burek shared so generously with us, nor to the many interesting features they showed us during our walk. By the end of the day we had been provided with a number of leaflets which will enable each of us to return to Holt with friends and family and pass on what we have learned about the history, archaeology and, of course, geology, of this small but significant Welsh village.
Information about excursions that took place in 2019
Saturday 14th September: Visit to Oswestry Castle
CAS members visited the excavation of Oswestry Castle mound, now in its third season. The visit included an introductory talk, an opportunity to view a selection of the finds and a tour of the excavation itself.
Saturday 3rd August: Moel Arthur Open Day
CAS members attended CRAG’s Open Day. CRAG is investigating a new area adjacent to that excavated in previous seasons and it is hoped that this will give further insights into past activity on the hillside.
Tour of Liverpool Old Dock Monday 15th July 2019
We met in the vestibule of the Maritime Museum at Albert Dock but were then intrigued to be led across Strand Street into Liverpool One. The group paused to watch the line of fountains which commemorate the work of William Hutchinson, who, for thirty years from 1764, kept a detailed twice-daily tide record at a fixed point on the wall of Liverpool Old Dock. These fountains are located in Thomas Steers Way, Steers being the engineer who designed the Old Dock and oversaw its construction.
Still mystified we then taken through a locked door into a service area in the retail complex, along a passageway, through another locked door, through a lobby and finally down a stairway. Our destination was a viewing gallery suspended over the sandstone bed of the Old Dock, and within touching distance of its brick walls.
Rock and brick have never before been so interesting! Whether it was the lively narrative delivered by our two guides or the suspense created by the approach through the bowels of Liverpool One but the whole experience of the tour was both fascinating and curiously moving, since the construction of the Old Dock was the precursor to Liverpool becoming one of the world’s great ports.
Visit to Ecton Copper Mine Saturday 6th July 2019
We travelled to Ecton, situated in the White Peak National Park, through heavy rain and low cloud. However, once underground, surface conditions were left behind, and any water dripping on us came from the limestone rock above.
We were led into Ecton Deep Pit, at its peak in the second half of the eighteenth century the deepest mine in Britain. Walking along Salt Level, laboriously tunnelled out between 1804-06, we saw the hand-drilled shotholes made to hold gunpowder for blasting away the rock. We were told that the powder was funnelled in using the quill from a feather and tamped in place using the volcanic clays which appear between some of the limestone rock layers.
Traces of azurite, malachite, hematite and galena on the rock surface were pointed out to us as we walked towards the cavity where the ‘pipe’ of ore had been extracted, mainly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Looking up, the wooden ladders used by the miners could still be seen suspended over a heart-stopping drop. We saw the Deep Shaft which had been cut to accommodate the two kibbles used to carry ore to the surface.
The Deep Shaft extends above Salt Level, and in the afternoon we walked up the hill to see where it appears on the surface close to the Engine House. The Engine House accommodated the Watts and Boulton steam powered rotary engine which came into use after 1788. This innovative engine shows how much the Dukes of Devonshire were prepared to invest in the mine which, between 1760 and 1790, earned them a fortune.
As well as the restored Engine House, our tour on the surface took us past the dressing floors, smelters, Powder House and several adits where other mine shafts had been sunk.
Our tour was led by volunteer guides whose knowledge and enthusiasm were outstanding. They were supported by a team from the National Trust and the Ecton Mines Educational Trust who all made us very welcome. Photographs taken by Frances Bagnall appear on the CAS Facebook page.
Tour of Chester Amphitheatre on Wednesday 26th and Thursday 27th June 2019
Peter Carrington led tours of the amphitheatre on consecutive days as part of the Chester Heritage Festival. ‘The amphitheatre, prequel and afterlife: Chester’s history in a nutshell’ covers the latest ideas about the amphitheatre and the surrounding area from Stone Age and Iron Age discoveries, right through to the nineteenth century.
Visit to a Medieval Pottery Site, Saturday 8th June 2019
Members of Chester Archaeological Society joined the Clwydian Range Archaeology Group (CRAG) on a visit to a privately owned medieval pottery site close to Chester.
Visit to the Lion Salt Works, Saturday 6th April 2019
Photographs taken in the course of our visit to the Lion Salt Works reflect the keen interest of members in the information supplied by Lisa, the Trust’s Education Officer, who acted as our guide. An engrossing history of salt making from prehistoric times to the present day was presented as we toured the five pan houses with their stove houses, as well as the brine shaft and tank, pump house, railway siding and ancillary buildings.
Lion Salt Works was the last working open pan salt works in the UK, closing as recently as 1986. This is well within living memory and consequently the Museum has been able to conjure up a vivid picture of the working lives of ‘lumpers’, ‘wallers’ and ‘lofters’, in addition to amassing a collection of work-related artefacts.
Archaeological investigation on the site and in adjacent areas continues. After restoring the ‘nodding donkey’, the Lion Salt Works Trust hopes to establish a new working salt pan.
The brilliant April sunshine encouraged some of our members to take the footpath along the Trent and Mersey Canal to the Anderton Boat Lift, to add another archaeological feature to the day’s itinerary.
Information about excursions that took place in 2018
Visit to the site of Aldford Castle, Sunday 21st October 2018
Under the leadership of Dr Rachel Swallow CAS members visited the site of Alford Castle on Sunday 21st October 2018.
Dr Swallow shared her knowledge of the site’s fascinating history and archaeology at length, prompting much interested discussion during the visit
Visit to Oswestry Castle Community Research Project live dig at the Castle Mound, Oswestry, Sunday 16th September 2018
OCCRP have been excavating here seasonally since 2014 to investigate the largely buried remains of an Anglo-Norman keep probably dating from the mid-12th to early 13th century.
Eighteen CAS members and guests heard an introductory talk by Roger Cooper, site director, in the Guildhall before touring the excavation site on the Castle Mound.
CAS members and guests inspect the excavation site on the Castle Mound
West facing view of the excavation of the south wall on the keep
Visit to Clwydian Range Archaeology Group live dig at Moel Arthur, Saturday 28th July 2018
This hillside site has produced evidence of human activity over the past 8,000 years, including a considerable assemblage of flint and other stone tools. The tour group saw that this year’s excavation was well underway. Ian Brooks explained the history of the site saying that early results looked interesting as Clwydian Range Archaeology Group (CRAG) members excavations follow up ring-shaped anomalies from the geo-physical survey.
Ian Brooks explaining the history of the site and this year’s finds
Panoramic view of the area being excavated in 2018
CAS Tour of the Archaeology of the Vale of Llangollen, Saturday 28th April 2018
This tour was led by Professor Howard Williams, of the Dept. of Archaeology, University of Chester who has worked in and extensively studied the Vale of Llangollen archaeological landscape.
The tour group visited and discussed the iconic ancient monuments of the Pillar of Eliseg, Valle Crucis Abbey and Castell Dinas Brân.
More information about the sites can be found on Professor Howard Williams’ Archaeodeath Blog:
CAS members assemble at the site of The Pillar of Eliseg
Valle Crucis Abbey founded in 1201. View of the east end from the fishpond. Note the corner buttress forming a giant arch, supported by a pair of internal buttresses framing the upper windows
Professor Williams highlighting the carved 13th/14th Century grave slab commemorating Maruruet set above the 16th Century fireplace in the abbot’s house
CAS members approach Castell Dinas Brân from the north east
Information about excursions that took place in 2017
Visit to the Poulton Research Project Saturday 19th August 2017
Dr Kevin Cootes led a visit of 18 CAS members and guests to the Poulton Research Project, and gave a very comprehensive talk on the Project updated to discoveries of that very morning.
In fair weather we then toured the large site which has yielded evidence of human activity almost continuously from the Mesolithic period right up to modern times.
Finds excavated that day included a medieval arrow head and what is thought to be a bodkin, pending x-ray confirmation.
Thanks are due to Dr Cootes from CAS for a very interesting, thought-provoking and illuminating afternoon.
Excavation trench across part of a D-shaped enclosure which appears to be Roman but may have Late Iron Age origins (yet to be determined).
A rim sherd from VCP with finger impressions, dating from about 50BC to early C1st AD, used for final evaporation and transportation of salt. Poulton has produced the largest assemblage of VCP discovered to date in NW Britain
A rim sherd from a Holt Ware vessel dating to late C1st / early C2nd AD.
The Poulton Research Project Exhibition can be viewed at the Grosvenor Museum, Chester until 5th November 2017.
Guided tour of the Amphitheatre and Roman Gardens
As part of the Chester Heritage Festival Peter Carrington led guided tours of the Amphitheatre and Roman Gardens on Thursday 20th July and Saturday 22nd July 2017.
The site of Shotwick Castle
On Saturday 8th July 27 members and guests enjoyed a walking tour to the site of C12th Shotwick Castle led by Dr Peter Carrington
Peter Carrington writes:
For those who want to know more about the strategy behind Shotwick Castle and the other castles of W Cheshire I recommend Rachel Swallow’s article, ‘Cheshire Castles of the Irish Sea Cultural Zone’ in the Archaeological Journal vol. 173 (2), 2016. You can download this from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00665983.2016.1191279 (free, at least for the moment).
Nearby is one of John Douglas’s houses, Shotwick House (1872), now converted to apartments. For more information see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shotwick_House.
Shotwick village (SJ 337 718) is also interesting and there is some information at http://www.shotwick.org.uk/village.html.
Norton Priory and its new Museum
On 27th April 21 members enjoyed a special guided tour of Norton Priory which was led by Lynn Smith, Senior Keeper at the new museum.
Information about excursions that were organised in 2016
Live Dig Visit to Moel y Gaer, Sunday 24 July 2016
Professor Gary Lock of Oxford University hosted a field visit by CAS members at the ongoing dig at Moel y Gaer, Bodfari, now in its fourth year. The weather was fine and members found much to interest them on this large site.
Fiona Gale, County Archaeologist for Denbighshire, introduces CAS members to the site.
Trench 5 is new this year, sited where the team are hoping to investigate the western entrance of Moel y Gaer hillfort.
Trench 5, with Professor Gary Lock overseeing excavations.
Trench 3X has been open for three years. This photograph shows the last activities in this trench which was backfilled 5 days later.
Staffordshire Hoard Gallery, Thursday 14 April 2016
Twenty nine CAS members and guests enjoyed a visit to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery. Many thanks to Pieta Greaves & Kayleigh Fuller of the curatorial staff for interesting and informative talks on the Staffordshire Hoard www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk They provided us with a tour of their conservation labs as well as answering many questions from members on less well known aspects of their investigations.