Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Barby Hill excavation: introduction and how to get involved!

For the next few weeks, I will be helping to excavate a Late Iron Age (c. just before and after the Romans arrived) site at Barby Hill in Northamptonshire before I go out to excavate in Italy! You can also get involved  vat Barby Hill too, with details of how to get involved below.

Barby Hill is a small protruding hill that sits just to the west of Barby village, rising to some 50m high and covers a plateau of several hundred acres. It is technically part of the Northampton Uplands (which runs southwest-northeast), and overlooks the Vale of Warwick to the west, for the best part of at least 10 miles. On a clear day you can see Coventry, some 15 miles away. Rugby lies just a few miles northwest of Barby, sitting on it's own hill. The river avon flows through Rugby before going through the vale. Barby Hill is used for mixed agriculture by a few farms. The 18th-19th centuries had the biggest impact- the Grand Union canal was built (and modified), next to the hill. The Great Central railway also used to run alongside the Grand Union canal before being dismantled.

The archaeological record for Barby Hill is not great. Previous historical work by Gren Hatton (who organised the excavation) has shown that Barby hill used to have a large forest on it which was cut down in the post-medieval period, probably to make way for the profitable sheep industry, which has been the mainstay of the hill's local economy. Cotswold Archaeology surveyed and excavated part of the hill before a reservoir was put in, which hinted at some Late Iron Age works, but it wasn't very spectacular; one possible building (a roundhouse, to use the correct terminology, along with some pottery). More information about previous historical and survey work on Barby can be found here and here (thanks to Gren Hatton). 

So will this new site be spectacular? It's near to the previous excavation, so it might just give the same results. But this time, the Barby Hill Archaeology Project (BHAP) group have been busy fieldwalking and geophysically surveying the hill. This has uncovered a previously unsuspected Iron Age complex, what you and I might call a village, consisting of roundhouses and field systems on a hitherto unknown scale! Who knows what the inhabitants of this village were making, trading or sacrificing into the ground. This village existed all the way along the side of the hill and looks to have extended into Onley. The main problem now is the preservation of the site. Poor weather, combined with agricultural practices, may well be destroying the site. In addition, there are plans for the reservior on top of Barby Hill to be expanded, which will remove any trace of archaeololgy below it. But a small area between the farmland and the reservior, that is due to be built on, will be excavated this month, and a small team of local volunteers (including me!) and representatives from Northamptonshire Archaeology will be excavating a small strip of undisturbed land before it becomes a concrete reservior.

If you are interested in getting involved in some excavating or helping out in any way, please contact me asap at, or 07788605846! No previous excavating experience required. Unfortunately you must be 18 or over to get involved, but I can give you more information on other archaeology excavations if you are under 18.

So stay tuned for this site diary!

My thanks must got to Barby Hill Archaeological Project and the Community Landscape and Archaeology Survey Project for their help in funding this excavation and providing the opportunity to participate, in particular Gren Hatton for all the hard work he has put inot getting this excavation going!


Hatton, G., July 2011, Archaeology at Barby Hill: Part 1, iself published

Hatton, G., November 2011, Archaeology at Barby Hill: Part 2, self published

Hatton, G., May 2012, Archaeology at Barby Hill: Part 3, self-published 

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