Ludlow Medieval Artefact Study & Test Pit Excavations


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Here in Ludlow we have a unique historic medieval market town that is situated in south Shropshire. The town has had over 75 years of historians researching and postulating over the medieval surviving texts, and this led them to begin to compile their chronologies…so far

Over 450 listed historic buildings in the town still surviving… and there is the high potential of undisturbed archaeology that remains buried.

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The Medieval Artefact study is now in preperation and I am aiming to complete a test pit excavation in the historic core of the town within the next few years. I can then retrieve any archaeological evidence and analyse them back in the museum lab. From here I will be able to understand in particular the medieval pottery in order to get me a date range on the origins of the town…

The Test Pits…

The idea of test pits is to get a sample of the archaeology underneath an urban environment using a simple less invasive strategy than a full-scale excavation. This gives me a sample of the archaeology underneath the town, as on any excavation, the idea to get a view underneath the ground to examine visible trace remains of a past landscape.

It’s like peeling back layers of an onion. In a rural environment, there is plenty of open space to investigate without the complications of urban buildings disturbing the soil.

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But in an urban environment you are restricted….by buildings and less open spaces

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Going Down…

The methodology of excavating the test pits is to excavate down 10cm spits. In each layer everything that is found is bagged and tagged from their individual contexts.

From site the finds are recorded and separated into pottery, tile, bone, metal, glass and organic finds, the context layer found in is recorded on the finds bags. Then they are to be sent back to Ludlow Museum to be cleaned, recorded and analysed

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Ludlow Medieval Artefact Study & Test Pit Excavations

Archaeology Discovery Week…. A Great Success



The very first Ludlow Castle ‘Archaeology Discovery Week’ kicked off this year 2017 with fantastic success and we’ve just had one of the best weeks here at the Castle…

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After a week of interacting with the public all things archaeological were discussed, demonstrated and talked about with the public fully engaging in the events.

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With the sun shining most of the week I met loads of people had lots of laughs, and met lots of future archaeologists so a BIG thank you to all those that came along

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Both Saturdays had a great response with the Victorian William St John Hope and his Mad scientist assistant making a grand appearance… who just so happened to pop in from the future and give us the science bit…


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     It was a fantastic event and next year will be even better…

Archaeology Discovery Week…. A Great Success

Press Release… ‘Ludlow Castle Archaeology Discovery Week’

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Ludlow Castle resident archaeologist to guide tours

One of the region’s most impressive ruins now has its own resident archaeologist – and he will be showing the public around over the next two weeks.
Leon Bracelin, well known in Ludlow for his ongoing surveys around the town, has now turned his attention to Ludlow Castle itself and across the Easter holidays will be conducting talks and tours around the towering medieval structure at the heart of the historic town.

Leon, aged 43, is a freelance archaeologist, now working towards his PhD, who has been carrying out survey projects around Ludlow for the past few years, first looking around basements and subterranean passages to see what remains of the older town and, more recently, calling for Ludlow residents to let him open test pits and conduct a green survey looking under flowerbeds. to build up a catalogue of medieval pottery for the town as part of his studies, which is ongoing.

He said: “Late last year the custodian of the castle, Sonja Belchere, got wind of what I was doing in town and invited me to come into the castle as a professional and develop the archaeological understanding of the castle.”

He said he was the first person to take on the role as resident archaeologist and the last in-depth archaeology at the castle was done in 1903 by William St John Hope, with most of the knowledge and research about it coming from documents and texts rather than a physical examination of the structure itself.

“It’s so massively misunderstood, presently people looking around don’t really know what they’re looking at.                                                                                                                           “But the archaeology is second to none, you can see all the phases of development,” he said.                                                                                                                                                            He said people tended to focus on the outer battlements, but the main area with its 12th century round chapel of Mary Magdalene, linked to the Knights Templar, was much older and more interesting.

He said the role was a dream come true. “I feel like I’ve been ‘given the keys to the castle’. It’s pivotal for me because as a monument it’s central to my studies – and as I take people around it’s reinforcing my own knowledge,” he said. An archaeology discovery week will be held between Saturday 8 and April 15. Leon will be leading ongoing free tours inside the castle – though the usual castle entrance fees still apply – and there will also be an archaeological treasure hunt and lectures on the archaeology of the monument.

Leon and staff at the castle will continue to give archaeological guided tours during the weekends of the tourist season to raise awareness of the monuments history.


Press Release… ‘Ludlow Castle Archaeology Discovery Week’

Ludlow Castle ‘Archaeology Discovery Week’ 8th April – 16th April 2017




This Easter Ludlow Castle and myself as the resident archaeologist are producing an ‘Archaeological Discovery Week’ here inside the castle.

Archaeology Discovery week starts during the first week of the Easter holidays from Saturday 8th – 16th April. Come along and enjoy this public event to help raise the awareness of the fascinating archaeology of the 11th century monument and the town.

There’s all things archaeological going on inside that you can see and do, and William St John Hope from the Victorian era will be appearing.  Look out for him on the weekends alongside other characters, giving an insight into what was first discovered at the monument on the first excavation in 1903…

If you can’t get there during the week then by all means come along and have yourself a dirty weekend… will be great fun!


Other activities during the week will also include

  • Lectures will be given in the castle on all aspects of the Castles archaeology and in relation to that of the town. These will be given at the weekends and throughout the week

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  • Small scale excavation for children (and adults)in the outer bailey whereby you can get some practical insights into excavation processes.

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  • Town archaeological tours visiting some of Ludlow’s medieval military archaeological remains that link to the castle.

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8th – 16th APRIL 2017


Ludlow Castle ‘Archaeology Discovery Week’ 8th April – 16th April 2017

Ludlow Castle: 12th C Norman Castle


The season is soon to start again for visitors to this unique monument…

Last year I was appointed by the Ludlow Castle and its custodian to be it’s very first ‘Resident Archaeologist’ which has been a real honor. Not only is this monument key to my PhD studies and the medieval artefacts of the town, it also gives me the opportunity to engage with the public and guide them as a professional around this fantastic monument. The archaeology of this monument has never been looked at sine 1903 let alone discussed and now is a real opportunity to bring it into the light and let it shine…

Here are some of the archaeological tours with the visitors I did last year 2016 during the end of the summer. We had a fantastic array of people with various interests and much has been learned by all…

Here is to another fortuitous year 2017


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Ludlow Castle: 12th C Norman Castle

ARCHLUDLOW; The archaeology of a unique medieval market town in South Shropshire


A blog all about the current archaeological investigations that I am conducting in the small medieval market town of Ludlow South Shropshire…

 I have been working as a professional archaeologist for over 20 years as a professional working up and down the country and abroad on private investigations, and excavations for various companies and county units. I have lived in Ludlow since 1994 after coming in from the east coast in Essex.

I will be adding all archaeological content that I discover on my journey as it happens along the way now into 2017 and beyond. Currently I have gone back to study a PhD at Worcester University and am researching the medieval artefacts of the town by excavating a series of test pits around the historic core of the town.

All the Archaeological work and Investigations that I am conducting I will post and keep updated along the way for those that are interested which includes…

  1. Ludlow Medieval Artefact Study – Test Pit Excavations their finds from the field, and the museum process of studying the artefacts from my PhD work

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2. Ludlow Castle updates – My work as the Resident Archaeologist of Ludlow Castle

3. Rescue Excavations I will be working on up and down the country


4. Ludlow’s Subterranean Archaeological Investigation – Updated new and intereasting cellars investigated. My first archaeological investigation into the town was the Subterranean Archaeological project in 2015 which you can read from the previous posts…

















ARCHLUDLOW; The archaeology of a unique medieval market town in South Shropshire




See here for small film clip showing the extent of the Wheatsheaf cellar and medieval drawbridge feature


The conclusions of the subterranean investigation yielded some fantastic insights with the ultimate find surfacing at the Wheatsheaf cellar.

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The Wheatsheaf Inn today and in an old postcard

Wheatsheaf Inn

In any archaeological investigation one has to try to be completely neutral and base the conclusions of the investigations on factual evidence and what actually what was found and understood from it. This study did not aim to go and ‘find’ hidden subterranean entrances and tunnels underneath the town, it wanted to test the theory of whether or not there were any or trace evidence of them.

Surprisingly it was found that there is more evidence of tunnels, underground networks and features underneath the streets of Lower Broad Street than anywhere else in the town. Here there is a vast array of archaeological and documentary evidence of such elaborate cellars, especially underneath the Wheatsheaf. In the 17th – 18th centuries it was known as a slum area and in particular one lady (or not) called Mary Derby was frequently penalised publicly. She was found (in the court rolls) to have been a ‘vagabond, minstrel, pedlar, tinker, lewd and filthe of her tongue’ 


Archive Documents 

The Wheatsheaf Inn was built in the late 16th century and was built up against the Broad Gate (which is a 13th century gate house) which in turn is built over the town medieval town ditch and back onto a part of the town wall. On the left of the picture is a Georgian manifestation of a house with the Wheatsheaf on the right to the front of the eastern turret of the Broad Gate


An old drawing of the Wheatsheaf and the Broad Gate

Outside the eastern and western turrets of the Broad Gate today

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Below are drawn plans as to what the Broad Gate may have looked like, with a side elevation (see the wooden drawbridge platform)




Below the HER record of Ludlow with its 360 listed buildings


Below Broad Gate and Wheatsheaf section



And then deep down in the Wheatsheaf deep dark depths…

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The centerpiece of the medieval drawbridge below




Notice the stone steps leading into the sealed off drawbridge 

Urban Myths

As with any town landscape that has monastic or military buildings such as castles and abbeys there always seems to be myths and legends and folklore surrounding the possibility of secret hidden entrances and especially tunnels. Local people will often recall hearing about tunnels and passageways that link underground (sometimes seeing them)

I came across this perception with many of the townsfolk when I based my archaeological study that recalled many events of themselves and or family or people they knew who knew about them and had directly been in them. It is interesting how some facts can become embroiled with a little fantasy (we are humans after all) and then the notion of these hidden places becomes secret places and evolves. In the subterranean investigation I did find some entrances and even the 12 century medieval drawbridge but the reality was that in the investigation there was no obvious direct evidence of them linking with other networks. There has to be some question as to what the other entrances are if not subterranean, and how they were used in consideration of the built up urban landscape in town.


That is to say that there are not any hidden underground spaces, there may well be a significant underground network that is linked and has not yet been discovered. You have to keep an open mind. But the fact of the matter is in this investigation that only a small number where found of entranceways which in fact shows that there is a significant enough what is now a hidden landscape as the use of the town has changed. The archaeology when you go underground becomes extremely complicated in understanding what building phase occurred first and then was added to. Nearly every building cellar I investigated contained a matrix of contexts and truncating features with mixed up deposits….It’s enough to do your head in…

What was apparent in the investigation was that the landscape and the ground levels of Ludlow have become considerably altered so that what now today appears to be blocked off entrances that are half submerged like this example below, where in fact at one time functioning at a different level.

Therefore what we perceive as underground now was at one time was not, and it always amazes me just how much earth can be built up to changing levels that we see today. The subterranean landscape is there all you have to do is look….