Featured image: Nev Midwinter, 47, from Thetford, excavating at Rendlesham, with supervision from Cotswold Archaeology (Credit: Suffolk Mind)
Volunteers from Suffolk Mind have been unearthing the fascinating history of the Anglo-Saxon royal settlement buried beneath the Suffolk countryside, as part of the ‘Rendlesham Revealed’ community archaeology project.
Joining the army of volunteers excavating on-site were clients from Suffolk Mind and its Waves service, giving them a chance to take part in an internationally significant archaeological dig while meeting their emotional needs.
Nev Midwinter, 47, from Thetford, said the project had boosted his confidence so much, he has decided to volunteer at this year’s London Marathon.
“I think this project is epic, it’s absolutely brilliant. It’s so good for our mental health, it really helps you relax and take your mind off things. You are treated just like a member of staff, you feel like one of them. The first day I was here I was very nervous, I was shaking. Now, I’m preparing to do a parachute jump for Suffolk Mind and volunteering, doing things I never thought I would. There’s no way I would have started my voluntary job at the museum, and I certainly wouldn’t have been able to volunteer at the London marathon.”
Martin Smith, 55, from Aldeburgh, is new to the dig, taking part in his first day last week.
“I love it here. I was quite apprehensive beforehand but as soon as you meet everybody and relax it just opens up in front of you. It feels like a real privilege to be part of it – it’s incredible. It’s quite mind-blowing, the people who lived here are gone but not forgotten.”
The on-site excavations are led by Suffolk County Council Archaeological Service, supported by Cotswold Archaeology Suffolk and Professor Christopher Scull, and funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
This summer saw the second year of community excavations at Rendlesham. Significant discoveries made this year included the rare discovery of the foundations of a large timber royal hall, built for the first Kings of East Anglia over 1,400 years ago.
Faye Minter, from Suffolk County Council’s Archaeological Service, said:
“The site at Rendlesham is the largest and wealthiest settlement of its date known in England and the excavation of the hall this year confirms that it is the royal residence first recorded by Bede in the 8th century. The work at Rendlesham tells us about the people that lived here from all levels of Anglo-Saxon society and what their daily lives were like over a thousand years ago, for a period of hundreds of years. We have really enjoyed welcoming the Suffolk Mind clients to site and into our team, they have all contributed to the investigation of internationally significant archaeology with much enthusiasm and we look forward to working with them again as the project progresses.”
Jon Neal, CEO at Suffolk Mind, said:
“This project has really engaged our staff, volunteers and people who use our services. It has helped raise their confidence and made them feel part of something really special. We would like to say a big thankyou to the team at the dig for making our volunteers feel so welcome.”
Find out more
Read more about the Rendlesham Revealed project
For more information on Suffolk Mind and its Waves service, visit www.suffolkmind.org.uk
This fieldwork is part of the community archaeology project Rendlesham Revealed: Anglo-Saxon Life in South-East Suffolk, funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. We are very grateful to our many local and national partners who have made this project possible, and for the support of our volunteers and of the landowners and farmers who work and manage this historic landscape.