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Work Experience

Work Experience 2014


Yes folks, it comes around faster every year! The time for work experience placements at CPAT arrived once again in early July. We were blessed with (mostly) good weather this year and several enthusiastic young people keen to learn a bit about archaeology in Wales. Why not read on for a flavour of what they got up to?


The group at Montgomery Castle

Monday 7th July - 2014

Eleanor Humphreys - Llanfyllin High School

On the first day we arrived at the CPAT offices at 9:30 and all introduced ourselves to the each other, there was Sam, Sam, Eleanor, Eleanor and Polly which made it easy to remember names but harder to differentiate between the two. The first thing we had was a Health and Safety briefing by Jeff Spencer our supervisor. We then were introduced to CPAT and its work. I found it very interesting that the company were making finds locally as I thought most of the archaeology is found in Greece and Italy as the remains of the ancient civilisations were once there. We then had a tour of the CPAT offices which was shortly put on hold to let us chat with Adrian Simmons, a metal detector enthusiast who brought in some finds that he had discovered, which consisted of a Henry III, voided long cross medieval penny that had been clipped which indicated that a person was taking bits of silver from the coin to make new coins or sell for money. Amongst the other finds was some sort of decorative plaque that would have been part of a coat of arms. The plaque depicted a mythical creature with the body of a dragon and a head of a bird. The object was quite heavy and weighed to about 194.9g. The last object that Adrian showed us was a powder measure that would have been used by a soldier of the Civil War in the post medieval period (17th Century). For all of the objects we identified the material, the field type they were found in and the depth and grid reference they were found at. We also measured the length, width and height of all of them and weighed them. After the visit from Adrian we finished the tour of the offices and had lunch.

Jeff Explaining Barrows and their function to the group

After lunch we headed off to Montgomery Castle for the afternoon, when we arrived before we went to the castle we had a look at a Royal Observer Corps monitoring post, towards the top of the hill, which was used from the late 1940’s all the way up until 1991 in the Cold War. It was designed to pick up any signals or indication that a nuclear bomb had been dropped in the region, the post would then send that information to the main HQ which would then be able to work out where in the country they were being hit and how many bombs were being dropped. The monitoring posts were dotted all over Wales and the rest of Britain. We then went back down the hill to Montgomery Castle. I learnt so much about the castle, it was medieval but there have been considerable developments and changes through out time to it.

After we visited the castle we went to see some Bronze Age barrows at Long Mountain above Welshpool but on the way we stopped by a stretch of Offa’s Dyke and had a look, this stretch was quite well preserved and in good condition compared to other segments that I have seen. Jeff told us about how it was made and why it was put there (to show King Offa’s power and to create a Welsh/English border). Next we went to the barrows. Before work experience I never knew what barrows were, I was intrigued to know that there were ancient tribes/villages there and I was told that the barrows were there on the hill top so that people looking up could see them and remember that their ancestors/chiefs were there, which I think is incredibly intellectual and intelligent for that time period.

The day came to a close and we made our way back to the office to go home. My first day on my work experience is one to remember and I won’t be forgetting it anytime soon. I learnt so much just in one day and have been very surprised at some of the things that I was told. But overall I had a brilliant day.


Eleanor H and Jeff measuring the geographical earth works

Tuesday 8th July - 2014

Polly Mascord - Newtown High School

On Tuesday we started the day at 9:30am as usual, and our first activity was to go to where Strata Marcella Abbey once was. After gathering all the equipment we needed (measuring tape, pegs, etc.) we went on to the mini bus to get to the site. Even though it was not obvious that there had been an abbey on the site, there were still reminisce of the building and the foundation of the building still present. Jeff and Viviana (our two supervisors for the week) showed us around the site, as well as giving us maps of the remains of the Abbey.

Me, Eleanor Sheppard and Eleanor Humphreys then went around the site to see if we could try to find where the old bridge over a mill leat once was. It did take quite a while to find the bridge, but we did eventually find it… but we are still trying to decide whether or not it was a bridge or a Chihuahua hide away. While we were trying to find the bridge Sam Halliday and Sam Bowers found two mounds were specific areas of the abbeys’ foundations.

Eleanor S recording the measurements on site.

We all then went to set up the equipment to survey the site, but did get a little distracted by an overly friendly sheep, which bonded instantly with Eleanor H and began to have a “conversation” with her. However, as none of us understand what the sheep was “saying” the topic of the conversation is still unknown. Surveying the site consisted of using Pythagoras’s theorem, to make sure the measuring tape was completely straight, and then measuring and recording the height of the two mounds Sam H and Sam B had found. Recording the height of the mounds was much more difficult than I’d expected it to be, but still very interesting. This was a new skill for me, as I have never attempted to do anything similar to this before.


Sam H, Jeff and Viviana taking photographs of the flints.

We split up into two groups to record the mound, (Viviana helping me, Eleanor H and Sam H record one mound and Jeff helping Eleanor S and Sam B record the other) yet we both recorded the mounds differently. This was interesting, as I hadn’t thought that these two similar mounds could be recorded differently. The weather, unfortunately, decided to turn against us at the last minute, and began to rain leaving us slightly damp. Luckily the paper we were using was waterproof. Arriving back at Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust building, we quickly dried off the diagrams we had drawn, before having a break for lunch.

That afternoon, we where given around 30+ flints to record (recording the size, shape, weight, etc.). Personally, I found this very enjoyable, yet I am biased as the recording did include drawing the flints and I adore drawing in general. There was a little confusion as some of the flints had been previously been miss recorded, but there was very little hassle correcting it.

To end the day we took photographs of the flints with scales next to them using two different methods, one camera was hand held and the other camera was on a stand. We learnt that the front of a flint is called the dorsal and the back of the flint is called the ventral. We ended the day at 5pm as usual, after saying our good-byes we left the CPAT building to go home. The second day of work experience was extremely enjoyable and I don’t think I will forget it anytime soon.

Strata Marcella floor tiles

Wednesday 9th July 2014


9th July 2014, Wednesday

On Wednesday morning I arrived at CPAT at 9.30am, when everyone arrived we were shown a power point of the Beacon Hill Fort. The power point described the history of the hill fort and what we were going to do in the day when we arrived there.

In the morning before we went out to the hill fort we went down to the Powysland Museum to see the finds from Strata Marcella. However before we got the finds out we were allowed to go around the museum to see if there were any improvements to be made. When we were all together again we went up to see the Strata Marcella finds. Eva Bredsdorff, the curator, was kind enough to let us see them first hand by getting them out of their case. This linked in very well as the day before we went up to the site trying to get an understanding of what went on there.

Sam H using the level

When we arrived at Beacon Ring Hill Fort we all sat down and had some lunch before looking around the fort. After lunch we went inside the fort and tried to make out the letters E II R. These letters represent the queen’s coronation in 1953. We then walked around the outside of the fort to try and understand how it was built and how they dug the ditch out. We …well Jeff told us that he believed the ditch was built with different groups of people assigned different jobs or places to dig out. We assume this because the ditch is straight in parts and it also goes up where the two straights come together. Meaning that the ditch was not consistent the whole way around. As we where walking around we noticed that the footpath of Offa's Dyke runs straight through the middle of the fort.

Sam B and Polly using the GPS

After walking around the fort we measured the steepness of the ditch using a tape measure, level and a measuring staff to measure the depth of the ditch and the height of the defensive bank. When we got it all set up we moved the measuring pole every 50cm and took a reading of the depth. We took the reading and shouted it to the person who was plotting the points on the paper; after we had finished we looked at the results. When we had finished we swapped groups so me and Polly went off and got the co-ordinates of the outside of the fort. We did this using a GPS. After all the readings had been taken we got back on the bus and headed back to Welshpool.

As the week progressed my expectations were meet as a whole and I am now thinking about doing a job with something to do with history involved in it. I have gained many skills such as map reading and I now know how to measure the depth of the ditch. I also had no experience or knowledge of archaeology when I arrived here on Monday and I have learnt so much over the five days I have been here. My favourite job of the week was looking through the level and taking the readings. I also prefer this to school as you are out and about most of the time you are here. I have enjoyed the week here and I am now looking into careers involving archaeology.


Cleaning the fragments of clay pots excavated at Buckley.

Thursday 10th July - 2014

Sam Halliday - Welshpool High School

Thursday 10th July - 2014

On Thursday I arrived here at 9.00 where I waited for the others to arrive, our first activity was we were given a quick power point show by Viviana, which described the excavation by CPAT of a Victorian clay pottery and how the broken pots were dumped near the old kiln in Buckley, after that we filled a bowl each of luke warm water got a toothbrush and cleaned lead glazed pieces of Victorian era clay pots found during the excavation.


Sam H, Eleanor S and Polly take posing for the photo.

After that we had a quick 30-minute lunch break and reported back to Jeff, then We got in the van parked at the museum and Jeff drove us to Bryntail lead mine, it was roughly a 40 minute drive which felt much shorter and soon we were parked inside the valley where Bryntail was based, we had to then cross a bridge and look upon a giant valley with a huge dam just behind the ruins of the lead mine, it was really cool and I liked how the ruins were parked in the middle of a field between the sides of the valley it made it seem almost surreal, interestingly I found out that the mines were used to process lead ore by use of water wheels powering their machinery.

*** Caption for Photo Here ***

Eleanor H and Sam B taking measurements at the lead mine complex.

When we chose a place to leave our stuff we looked round at all the old buildings and the old places where the machinery would be i.e. (the water wheel and the ovens) it was really cool, then we split up into two groups me, Polly and Eleanor S in one group and Sam B and Eleanor H in the other, the groups then had to draw a building each and measure how long the sides were using measuring tape, after that we used the satellite receiver (GPS) which was very frustrating to try and find the coordinates for each corner of the building, however we finally accomplished it when the receiver picked up a signal and showed us the coordinates.

Finally we got the ranging rods and stuck them near the corners of the ruined building and took photographs of each other smiling at our success. Then we patiently waited for the others to finish packed up and got back to the bus, I initially had low expectations for this trip but it turned out to be a lot of fun and I learnt a lot about lead mines in old Victorian Wales and how they were powered.

We got back a bit later roughly about 5:25 and we parked the bus back at the museum, we then walked back to the building and went home, all in all it was a fun day, which I enjoyed very much.

Us working industriously on our diary entries

Friday 11th July - 2014

Eleanor Sheppard - Shrewsbury High School

Today started as every other day this week. By the time the bell had rung five times, five work experience students had entered the building and were waiting patiently for this days work to begin. To pass the minutes until 9:30, Eleanor H pulled out her copy of the Greek Tragedy Antigone and entertained us with an explanation and recital of the messenger speech; a version of which can be found in most Greek tragedies, she informed us, as no violence was permitted to be displayed on stage. It seemed to me that this was an excuse for the author to describe the death of their characters in great detail with extra emphasis on the gore. In any case, we were suitably impressed.

Enter Jeff, who upon arrival explained to us that our task for the morning was to write a diary entry for each day of the week and upload it onto the CPAT website. This I am now doing while drifting between the computers of my colleagues, racking my brain on activities we performed earlier in the week. Now I realise why I was allocated Friday – my memory only stretches effectively to what I had for breakfast!

'Happy' faces on a rainy day

The rest of the day has yet to come, and as I am no fortune teller I will have to leave the finale of our adventure to your imagination. I have only this to say: Jeff set out to give us a comprehensive flavour of life as an archaeologist. I am sure that he also had buried intentions to persuade us to follow an archaeological career path, but perhaps my excavation in this area is a little inaccurate. He most likely just wished us to have an enjoyable week. And he succeeded. Whatever the five of us go on to do in life, it will be enhanced by the experiences we’ve had here at CPAT.

We may have had wild expectations of digging up long lost treasures and half decomposed corpses, but actual archaeology takes a lot more courage than facing a three thousand year old mummy. It involves perseverance through the harshest weather and determination to hold fast through the hard times in the name of what you love. It also involves a considerable amount of imagination, for when measuring a grass ditch, you have to bear in mind that a long, long time ago someone else was digging it.

All that remains to be said is a big fat THANK YOU.

Information gathered, prepared and presented by Eleanor Humphreys, Eleanor Sheppard, Polly Mascord, Sam Halliday, Sam Bowers, Viviana Culshaw & Jeff Spencer - July 2014.

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