Leiston: Dig this... chance to help uncover Medieval past

Jonathan Hodgson, assistant director of Pro Corda, in the ruins of the abbey.

Jonathan Hodgson, assistant director of Pro Corda, in the ruins of the abbey. - Credit: Archant

SECRETS left hidden underneath a ruined Suffolk monastery for 630 years could be unearthed this summer.

The ground beneath Leiston Abbey has remained largely untouched since 1383 but archaeologists are hoping to launch the world’s second “crowdfunded and crowdsourced” excavation this July - giving the public a chance to work in the trenches alongside professionals.

Following a similarly funded dig at the Flag Fen Bronze Age site near Peterborough last year, London-based DigVentures is asking amateur relic hunters to help raise £18,000 by June 10 and become part of the latest project at the abbey ruins.

The team hope to identify the exact locations of the abbey’s most important areas and build the information into a five-year research design.

Lisa Westcott Wilkins, managing director of DigVentures, which began as a response to cuts in funding for archeological projects, said: “Leiston Abbey is going to be an absolute time capsule. It is an archaeologists’ dream to be the first team to really have a go at uncovering the centuries of remains on a site with so much history.

“We already have support from people around the world but we won’t feel like we’ve properly achieved our goal until locals get involved.

“We have a daily curriculum that allows people who have never even held a trowel to come and join us in the trenches.”

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The abbey was founded during the reign of Henry II in 1182 and moved to the current site, just outside Leiston on the road to Theberton, in 1383.

Now owned by the Pro Corda Trust, it is a scheduled ancient monument and one of the most completely preserved examples of a Premonstratensian monastery in England.

Andrew Quartermain, CEO and artistic director of Pro Corda, a registered charity and school devoted to nurturing young musical talent through ensemble and performance training, said: “This dig will be very important for the future of Leiston Abbey. The more we know about our archaeology, the better care we can take care of it in future as the school expands.”

Raksha Dave, field school manager and former Time Team archaeologist, added: “We have exciting plans for the field school this year, but you don’t have to dig with us to be involved.

“You can also be a part of the project through our digital communities, where we’ll be sharing news, interviews, lectures and special events live from the dig every day.”

The dig will run from July 2 to July 14 and registration is open until June 10. You must be 17 or older to dig, or 15 to 16 if accompanied at all times by a participating parent or guardian. Funding options start from £10 and go up £2,000.

Check www.digventures.com for details.

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