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Creating a Moment in History – Stanwick Lakes Heritage

by | Jan 4, 2023

Over the past 12 years, Stanwick Lakes have been fortunate enough to receive Heritage Lottery funding for a number of projects exploring the heritage and history of the site and surrounding valley.

Our Trading Places barn was built as a hub for sharing, teaching and protecting traditional crafts such as woodwork, blacksmithing and willow weaving, creating a space for craft artisans to teach and share their knowledge in these crafts through courses and community events.

Settlers of the Nene Valley explored ancient settlers in the Nene Valley from Neolithic to Medieval times and share that with our communities through events and school visits. Our Heritage Barn and Heritage Garden were developed and constructed entirely by volunteers, enabling us to explore ancient plants and build techniques through the ages.

Carrying on from the successes of these legacy heritage projects, our new ambitious 3 year venture, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, will delve into the Bronze Age and the Iron Age, exploring their monuments and settlements with one aim – to bring the past to life.

We are privileged to work in such a historically rich area, but not many people are aware of what lies beneath their feet whilst enjoying a walk around the Nature Reserve, or exploring the Adventure Trail.

Before quarrying works started in the 1980’s, a number of archaeological excavations on site unearthed a huge wealth of history dating from the Neolithic (c 3,700-3,500BC) to Medieval (1150AD – onwards). The archaeological survey kept growing, becoming one of the largest archaeological sites ever excavated in the UK. You can visit our Heritage Zone upstairs in the Visitor Centre to find out more and to see some Stanwick Lakes artefacts on display.

The discovery of Neolithic tools, Bronze Age Round barrows, an Iron Age settlement, a luxurious Roman Villa and a late Saxon Hamlet showed that there has been human activity and communities on the Stanwick Lakes site for over 5000 years – making it an impressive and important heritage site.

Create Your Moment in History by joining us on this heritage journey through the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

Bronze Age Round Barrow

The Round Barrow is a Scheduled Monument, which means it is protected by law.

Over time, the barrow has started to erode due to water levels and invasive undergrowth. Over the next 3 years we will be working with Historic England to make sure that the barrow is protected for future generations by agreeing a regular maintenance plan for the hedgerows and trees, shoring up the edge nearest the railway ditch, and mesh covering the mound to stop further erosion.

Our ranger team and conservation volunteers worked tirelessly through the hot summer of 2022 to remove and maintain the hedgerow and undergrowth around the barrow.

The whole monument will need regular upkeep and monitoring.

Working with the University of Northampton, we will be creating a contemplative rest space on the northern side of the barrow, reflective of the spiritual and significant importance of the site.

Experimental Bronze Age Boat Build

We will be embracing experimental archaeology by building a Bronze Age log boat, working with Dr James Dilley from Ancient Craft.

Since May 2022 we have been researching and looking for the right type and size of tree that will make our boat build project possible. This has probably been the most complex part of the project so far! We have created links across the county through heritage and local partnerships, and having sought specialist advice have decided that lime would be archaeologically accurate and also provide a softer wood for our community volunteers to work with the ancient tools.

Understanding that our ancient settlers would have used the waterways around the Nene Valley and Stanwick Lakes to hunt, forage and travel, the build will not only increase learning for skills such as woodworking but will be a team effort involving communities, partners and specialists. The hope is that we will be able to experiment with different techniques and wherever possible, replica Bronze Age tools.


Creating a Prehistoric Settlement

Many visitors to Stanwick Lakes would have walked past our one roundhouse, built in various forms since 2018 down by the edge of Celtic Lake. It was built there facing the site of the Iron Age settlement uncovered in the archaeological excavations in the 1980’s.

We are going to transform this area into a typical prehistoric farm settlement to be a focal point for “Living History” experiences with schools, visitors and our communities. The settlement will be used for learning activities such as traditional crafting, immersive history and of course, community heritage events.

We will be working with volunteers, partners, and crafting experts to build a second larger roundhouse, a ditch and bund boundary with hurdle fencing, and a small garden area to showcase crops, herbs and plants that would have been commonly used during the Iron Age. Our heritage garden will also be developing a “Living History Nursery” to cultivate plants for this area, which you can read more about here.


Exploring the Bronze and Iron Age through Textiles and natural Dyeing

We are working with the Northants Guild of Spinners, Weavers and Dyers to create an additional heritage garden space for traditional plants used in the dyeing process. You can read about the project here.

Alongside this project, the NGSWD are exploring Iron Age clothing and textiles, and will be re-creating the clothes of The Huldremose Woman – an Iron Age bog body discovered in Denmark in the 1870’s which was so well preserved that her clothing was almost fully intact.

Research on Huldremose Woman has been able to ascertain the colour, weave and material of her clothing, making it possible to create extremely accurate replicas. The Guild will be creating each garment from scratch using traditional Iron Age methods and tools, experimenting with processing the wool and nettle textiles to create a close a match as possible. It will give a really detailed insight into the work that went into creating clothing in prehistoric times, and truly is experimental archaeology at its best!


Ways you can support the charity that runs Stanwick Lakes

From volunteering on conservation or heritage projects, to sponsoring a bird box, or partnering with us as a business, find out the many ways you can contribute to your local environmental charity.

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