Industrial Revolution

A Slightly Less Archaeological Day Than Usual

Last weekend my left knee decided to stop working. So I had the day off today.  This means doing work for the course I am undertaking alongside my full-time job.

I work as the archaeology officer for Southwark Council. Other than staff in the Heritage team who work in the Borough’s museum, I am the only archaeologist at the Council. I work within the Development Management department (we no longer control development, we manage it!). I advise planning officers on whether proposals comply with the requirements of the Borough’s archaeology policy, wider heritage policies and the relevant paragraphs of the National Planning Policy Framework. I issue briefs for archaeological work, check WSIs, monitor site work, check reports, make recommendations for the discharge of archaeological conditions and manage much of the digital data for the department. Along side the archaeological work I also undertake some conservation work where an archaeological input is necessary or valuable or if it is a GIS heavy project.

I work in a team with conservation officers, urban design officers and a tree officer. As part of my employer’s commitment to staff training I am currently undertaking a postgraduate diploma in Historic Environment Conservation at the Ironbridge Institute. This is part of the Institute of Antiquity and Archaeology at Birmingham that is currently threatened with closure. Ironbridge is an immensely valuable training organisation that provides recognised degrees and qualifications that are organised in a way whereby those in full-time work can easily undertake the qualification with a minimal level of interference with their full-time jobs.

I have nearly finished by essay on concrete conservation (far more interesting than it sounds) and would urge anyone reading this to visit this web page for more information on the potential closure If you wish to support the effort to preserve the IAA please sign the petition

More post-excavation tasks

After completing this morning’s interim report on the Stirchley Station watching brief, I have now turned my attention to the various odds and ends which have built up during the week and really need to be sorted before the weekend.

First amongst these was finishing the archive for the blast furnaces community archaeology project which we completed in May. Yes, I’m afraid to say that the drawings and finds have been littering the office for the last three months or so – but I am pleased to report that they are now all boxed up and ready to be sent off. Part of the reason for doing this now is that I am preparing a paper on the site for the Historical Metallurgy journal – the site may contain the remains of the first ‘hot blast’ iron smelting furnaces in the world!

Archiving of projects is one of the big issues in commercial archaeology at the moment – with museums finding it hard to take stuff… and even I do sometimes wonder if some of that stuff is really worth keeping.

Something else that has been in the office for a couple of weeks – and this is definitely worth keeping – is this lovely early nineteenth century mixing bowl which has been converted to a flowerpot by someone drilling rather crude holes in the bottom. We found this on another watching brief in Wales.

Welsh mixing bowl converted to a flowerpot

Also today I have been speaking with one of our team who is working on a site in Cheshire, and dealing with a couple of questions from clients. I have hardly had time so far to get down to work on the big excavation write-up, but I think I can have a good crack at it in the next couple of hours.

Here I am at my desk in contemplative mood!

I guess one of the things about being an archaeologist is that it never stops! I am currently the Chairman of the Historical Metallurgy Society, so inevitably bits of the day (and much of the evenings) are taken up in dealing with the activities of our various committees and thinking ahead. It is the society’s 50th anniversary next year, and we have a meeting on Monday to do some intensive planning – so I need to think about that over the weekend.

Tomorrow, just for fun, I am spending the day with a friend (another archaeologist, of course) looking at urban industrial sites and comparing their condition today to how they were when they were officially surveyed 25 years ago. I expect that this will take about 12 hours of our free time!

You do need to be quite mad to do archaeology – but still after 20 years it is very enjoyable!