Archaeologists dig deeper into history as second Shrewsbury Castle excavation starts
Archaeologists are digging deeper into the history of Shrewsbury, by trying to learn what used to lie at one of the town's most important landmarks.
A second dig began this week at Shrewsbury Castle to try and establish what may have been at the site before the castle was there.
It comes after the first-ever major excavation at the castle last year was hailed a huge success and produced finds of national significance.
Curious visitors took inquisitive looks on a gloriously sunny morning yesterday as the team began digging a trench, wondering what may lie beneath. The team gathered and spent time brushing through and inspecting the soil to see if there were any discoveries to be found.
The team has made a start on excavating a trench on the grassed slope of the western rampart overlooking the drive close to the Great Hall.
The dig is again being led by Dr Nigel Baker and is a partnership project between Shropshire Council, University Centre Shrewsbury, Shropshire Museums and the Castle Studies Trust. Colleagues Dr Morn Capper and Professor Tim Jenkins from University Centre Shrewsbury and students are also playing major roles in the project.
Archaeologists wills be working there until September 18, though the last couple of days will be spent restoring the land back to normal.
In 2019, 4,500 people visited the castle and were actively engaged with the dig team.
The first season dig in 2019 showed just how strongly fortified the original Norman castle was – it successfully resisted a siege by rebellious local people in 1069 – but also how much damage was done to the castle remains by no less a figure than the engineer Thomas Telford in the years between 1786 and 1790. The new excavation aims to shed more light on both these issues.
The first item on the dig agenda is to find the footings of the Victorian greenhouse that stood on the site until it was taken down and moved, probably in the 1920s. The greenhouse was cut into the sloping bank, and the excavation team intends to empty its remains as a rapid and non-destructive way of accessing the deeper archaeological layers.
A ground-penetrating radar survey done in 2019 suggested that what may have been one wall of the greenhouse is suspiciously deeply founded – and could belong to much older structure.
Dr Baker said: "We want to empty it out and try and find out what was in that area. We've started small but we will make the trench bigger when we find out what is here.
We were very pleased with how we were able to solve some of the mysteries of Shrewsbury Castle with last year's dig, and we're aiming to answer some more of the questions that were raised.
"We were the first people ever to excavate here. We know most of it was built in the 1060s, right after the Battle of Hastings, to stop rebellion in Shrewsbury. It was a big, royal fortress.
"Thomas Telford restored it for the town's MP, who was living here at the time. We don't know quite how much damage he had done to the medieval remains. We know he moved a lot of earth."
From cooking pots and glazed jugs to military artefacts and details of the castle’s original defences, last year's excavation produced finds dating from 1100 to the 20th Century
Two discoveries of national significance were made, rewriting what was known about Shrewsbury Castle. The first key find was the great defensive ditch that encircled the base of the Norman motte.
The excavation has shown that when a castle was first built by the Normans in or just before 1069, the motte, with its defensive ditch, was enormous.
It would have been about 12 metres wide and the geophysics suggest there was probably a bridge over it.
The second key find was the discovery of two arrow heads or crossbow-bolt heads.