A unique project which uses archaeology to help vulnerable people to integrate better into mainstream society, including veterans from the armed forces and uniformed services, is taking place in Wales to help solve a major archaeology mystery.  (More details to be released nearer the time).

The privately owned site covers an area of approximately two acres and is a combination of grass and pasture and a house dating to the 19th century.  The front part of the site, comprising mainly lawn, is not scheduled and is the focus of the works.  The pasture and the area to the rear of the house are scheduled and will not be part of the excavation.

The objectives of the archaeological work within the proposed development area are:

  • To assess the accuracy of a 19th century plan against the actual remains
  • To gain an understanding of the construction methods and development phases of the building
  • Carry out a Geo Physical survey of the building using state of the art GPR to see if there are early remains that pre-date the current building
  • To recover an assemblage of finds in order to assist with understanding the function of the building and its dates.  While the finds will be un-stratified due to the back fill it will provide some understanding as to dates and building use from the pottery assemblage and small finds not recovered in the original 19th century excavation
  • To recover samples from secure and well-stratified contexts if appropriate for palaeobotanical remains and residues
  • An examination of the layout, form and development of the building comparing to other buildings on the site
  • Look at comparisons of other sites within the UK
  • To examine the links between this site and other sites nearby in terms of trade from artefacts recovered

The ‘Services Archaeology and Heritage Association’ (SAHA), part of Solider On!, a registered charity (1136567), has organised the project in collaboration with students from Liverpool John Moores University and has invited other organisations to benefit from this work. This project gives participants, some of whom have complex physical and mental health needs, along with members of the local community who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, as well as archaeology undergraduates, the opportunity to learn a series of skills including excavation, land survey, drawing and mapping techniques and building recording on a site of national importance.  Additionally, during the project, an personal development program will be run to help participants who are looking to find meaningful opportunities in work, education or volunteering.

The charity runs circa 8 projects per year in different regions and is funded through donations. Soldier On! needs to raise approximately £4,000 to deliver each project. No salaries are paid.

Diarmaid Walshe, MD, Solider On! said: “This unique project provides an opportunity to demonstrate the skills of veterans, members of the emergency services and the individuals within the local community in helping to preserve, explore and record the heritage that is under the protection of the SAHA/Solider On!  It’s helping to build links with the local community and also engages with elements of the local population that normally have no interaction with heritage.  Additionally, it provides a programme that helps prepare participants, through training and experience, allowing them to make considered choices on education and employment.  

 The feedback from individuals, who have attended previous programmes, is not only have they enjoyed themselves and had a positive experience, but it has helped them deal with issues that were holding back their recovery. The key to the success of the project is that the participants find themselves the main focus of everything we do. They will engage in all the different activities, from digging to surveying, photography and finds processing. We give them the responsibility to ensure that the key task expected to be carried out are achieved. This builds the element of teamwork and comradeship that they tell us they have missed.

 The reason the program works is that it gives them something useful to do which can help rebuild their self-esteem, provide them with a sense of purpose and give them something positive to strive for.”

Dr David Jordan – Liverpool John Moores University said: “We are delighted to be involved in this project which not only expands opportunities for our students but also helps support of individuals and communities in accessing their heritage.  Additionally, it also allows our institution to help support former military, emergency service personnel and other disadvantaged people, to go forward into education, employment and supports community cohesion”. 

Local MP David Davies said: “This project sounds like a great way to support veterans and discover a little more about the rich history of Monmouthshire. I am looking forward to visiting with a trowel and lending a bit of a hand.”