Digging up the past
On the first weekend of September 2012 Docking Heritage Group carried out our first Community Dig in the parish The dig was the first of many that we hope to do over the next few years. We are hoping they will help us understand the spread of the village at least back to Roman times and may be before. We are still looking for any evidence of Docking’s Priory building; and hope that there maybe pockets of medieval finds which will help us to locate where the main part of the village was at that time.
In 2012 we dug test pits at six sites over the course of a weekend with the help of volunteers and recorded the results. Some interesting finds were uncovered, a number of which can be seen in the pictures below. It was a very enjoyable weekend for all the enthusiastic diggers and other volunteers.
After the dig, time was spent cleaning and sorting the finds and in October Dr Rik Hoggett and two of his colleagues, Christopher Kolonko and Claire Bradshaw from Norfolk Historic Environment Services, returned to our heritage room to help with the sorting process, removing anything that wasn’t man made. They then took the remainder back to Gressenhall for the other archaeologists to help identify.
In February 2013 the finds were returned to Docking. The reports show a wide variety of items were uncovered. Naturally we found modern material in every test pit but almost all test pits revealed a scattering of finds from Victorian clay pipes to 8th century pottery. Many of the test pits also contained fragments of oyster shell, a sure sign that the Romans were here. The oldest find was confirmed as the tip of a flint tool, possibly around 6000 years old.
In 2013 we excavated a further six test pits, spread over two weekends in August. Once again we were helped by a number of volunteers who together uncovered many more interesting finds including Saxon and medieval pottery and several pieces of worked flint.
UPDATE: The finds from our 2013 digs have now been processed and an interesting picture of human activity in early Docking is beginning to emerge. The finds are showing more activity within the village during the Neolithic period than previous finds had suggested, and it’s possible that Docking could have been a more important settlement in Saxon times than previously thought as one piece of pottery, which is still being studied by the experts, may be of a type of which only around five other pieces have ever been recorded in the whole of West Norfolk. More news on this will follow as soon as we have it.
More test pits were dug in 2014. The finds from those are still to be fully analysed but once again the digs have proved very productive in telling the story of Docking’s past.
One test pit (the one in the picture) turned up almost nothing but Victorian demolition fill but it did show that a much earlier building once stood on or very near the site while another test pit, despite moving almost one ton of soil, turned up nothing but it did tell us that we were outside the area of settlement which in itself is important information.
We took a break from our test pitting in 2015 but continued to survey both within the village and in the surrounding areas.
A number of interesting finds were discovered from the Roman, Saxon, Medieval periods as well as later material. These finds together with those from our test pits are beginning to show us that Docking was quite a large settlement as far back as the Saxon period.
These were the years of the Big Dig, where we returned to the same garden for three years running. The finds were important and interesting so these digs have a page to themselves.