FELTWELL (HISTORICAL & ARCHEOLOGICAL) SOCIETY AJO
To some people delving into the past is a boring pastime but to an increasing number it is an extremely interesting hobby. To a comparative minority, the archaeologists and local historians, whether professional or amateur, it can be and often is exciting, to say the least. For a number of years I have been interested in archaeology and local history and particularly so with regard to the parish of Feltwell of which I am a native. Feltwell abounds with items of archaeological interest and evidence of occupation of the parish for thousands of years is always cropping up in the form of flint tools and pieces of pottery.
Any person who enjoys a good detective story, whether in the form of a book or a television serial would thoroughly enjoy dabbling in either subject. Finding the clues, sifting the evidence and piecing together the story of the past, whether from the viewpoint of the archaeologist or the local historian is a hobby which is not only a cheap one but also one which can provide enjoyment at all times of the year for all age groups. When the weather is not suitable for "field-work" there are numerous books to be read on either subject. They can often be picked up for a few shillings in old bookshops or can be borrowed from the nearest public library.
It is because I have had so much enjoyment out of delving into Feltwell History and because there is so much more to be discovered that I founded the Feltwell (Historical & Archaeological) Society in October 1966 to encourage others to do the same. Since then we have maintained an active membership of around 50 which, for a community of the size of Feltwell, has been extremely encouraging. The Society was responsible for collecting subscriptions for the Village Sign which was presented to the Parish Council on 9th August, 1969.
Before I took an active interest in Archaeology I was at a loss to know where to begin and in 1961 I visited the site of a Roman town which was then being excavated at Hockwold. The empty trenches meant very little to me until the young man in charge explained various markings (which I had not even noticed) in the walls of his trenches. Within half an hour he told me a fascinating story about the settlement. In the main street had stood a granary which had caught fire, 1800 years ago. The charred grain which the labourers had shovelled out of the building into the roadside drainage ditch were there, shown, together with the old road surface, in the trench walls. As the main structural posts of the timber buildings had rotted, they had stained the soil and by measuring the distance between these "postholes" it was possible to record the actual measurements of the buildings. On the surface of the meadow, rows of thistles were growing immediately over the Romans' roadside ditches and by tracing the paths made by the thistles, the whole street pattern of the Roman town was clearly visible. Examination of some of the trench walls even showed road repairs and road-widening. One ditch had been filled in, another dug further from the centre of the old road and a completely new, cambered, surface laid on the old road. The bug had bitten and after reading one or two books, my wife and I decided to do something practical. Armed with our scanty knowledge and two carrier bags, we set off down Oulsham Drove. Having first obtained the permission of the landowner (and this is essential), we decided to spend exactly one hour in systematically "walking" part of one field.
At the end of that hour, we had collected 78 small "bits and pieces" of building material, etc. Carefully washing and drying these we eventually took them to Norwich Castle Museum for identification. We were delighted to find that only 5 pieces were "rubbish". All the others, which formed the nucleus of my collection, were Romano-British potsherds, and pieces of flue-tiles, roof-tiles and floor-tiles of the 3rd and 4th Centuries A.D. Later excavations on that same field (but not through our efforts) revealed the substantial foundations of a Roman Villa and its Bath-house.
Over the years, several of the village farm-workers have picked up odd pieces of flint, pottery and metal (anything which appears to be "foreign" to the soil) and have brought to light several items of great archaeological interest. The golden rules are: First-obtain permission before you "walk" a field, secondly, record your find, not just the field but the actual spot. Prepare a rough sketch showing the position of the field and the number of paces from two identifiable objects to the "find", such as the corner of a building and a certain gate-post or tree. Thirdly, get the find identified and reported to your nearest museum (or to an amateur archaeologist who will do this for you). The museum will record your "find" on large-scale Ordnance Maps. (I maintain similar records for finds in Feltwell and pass them on to Norwich Castle Museum.)
In an area so rich in archaeological material as is Feltwell, "finds" often come to light in cottage gardens. I have found 13th/14th Century pot sherds in the garden of Lawn House (25, The Beck) and Iron Age sherds on the adjoining paddock.
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