Archaeology experiences for all

Dirty Weekend: Archaeology dig at Soulton Hall

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Join our archaeologists on a dig to unearth an ‘adulterine castle’ at Soulton Hall.

Dates: Saturday 24 – Sunday 25 July 2021
Group size: 15 people maximum
Meals: Basic breakfast, lunch and dinner with the team is included (see FAQs for details)
Travel and accommodation: Not included (see FAQs for your options)
Experience level: All levels welcome


Dig into Shropshire’s past on this unique archaeological excavation. You’ll learn about the ferocious power struggle between Empress Matilda and her cousin King Stephen as they battled for the English throne just eighty years after the Norman conquest of 1066. You’ll dig alongside our team of archaeologists, and we’ll work together to unearth new clues from this tumultuous time. You’ll also discover stories that take us even further back into the past with a special sunset walk to a unique local landmark…

Our dig site

The manorhouse at Soulton Hall is an ancient landmark in its own right: historical records show that it was first owned by Britric the Saxon, brother of Edric, last Ealdorman of Mercia. But the surrounding fields are also full of archaeology…

To the east lies a Bronze Age barrow; to the north, records hint at the remains of a deserted medieval village; through the middle runs a Roman road between Uriconium (Wroxeter) to Mediolanum (Whitchurch), and somewhere close to the hall itseld are the likely remains of a small town called Rutunio whose exact location has long-since been lost.

But it’s what lies just to the north east of the manorhouse that we’re going to be investigating on our Dirty Weekend!

The mystery of the ‘adulterine’ castle

Tucked away in a field beside the manor stands a large, rectangular mound – the strikingly visible remains of a 900 year-old fort. These remains are a protected scheduled ancient monument, which we’ve been given special permission to investigate further.

So far, clues picked up from the surface suggest that it was built in the 1130s, during the ferocious power struggle between Empress Matilda and her cousin King Stephen as they battled for the English throne just eighty years after the Norman conquest of 1066.

As Matilda battled to reclaim her crown, the war descended into stalemate and the country entered a state of civil war known as ‘The Anarchy’. Matilda gained control of the southwest, Stephen the southeast and the rest was in the hands of independent barons.

In the ensuing breakdown of royal authority, a nationwide boom in unauthorised castle-building swept the country.

Today it’s thought that less than half of these ‘adulterine’ castles survive, with most being destroyed on the orders of Matilda’s son when he finally took the throne in 1154. And yet this is what we suspect lies to the north east of Soulton Hall.

Will we be able to prove it? Or will an altogether different and more complex picture emerge? That’s what you’ll be using your new archaeological field skills to help us find out…

What we'll do

Over the course of the weekend, you’ll learn all the basic skills that a field archaeologist uses on a dig. We’ll start with an in-depth archaeological briefing on the background to our dig site. Then we’ll grab our trowels and jump straight into the trenches to begin your hands-on archaeological training!

You’ll learn how to excavate, recognise new archaeological layers, identify finds, and record your discoveries like a pro. You’ll have opportunities to accrue other archaeological skills too, like survey, geophysics, photogrammetry, and finds processing.

We’ll work together to unearth our site, and our friendly team of professional archaeologists will be there to guide your search for evidence every step of the way.

On Saturday evening, we’ll get together for a special team dinner, where we’ll make the most of our opportunity to talk about the site’s abundant archaeology, and take a sunset walk to another unique local landmark.

By the end, you’ll be heading home with a whole new range of archaeological skills and experiences. And (fingers crossed) you might even have helped us to solve a real-life archaeological mystery…


Dirty Weekend - Day 1

09:00 Rendez-vous for archaeological briefing
10:00 How To Do Archaeology lesson
11:00 Break
11:15 Excavation
13:00 Picnic in the grounds (bring your own packed lunch)
14:00 Excavation and recording
16:00 Tea break
16:15 Interpretation and discussion of discoveries
17:00 Tools down!
19:00 Dinner at Soulton Hall (Saturday only)

Dirty Weekend - Day 2

09:00 Rendez-vous for archaeological briefing
10:00 How To Do Archaeology lesson
11:00 Break
11:15 Excavation
13:00 Picnic in the grounds (bring your own packed lunch)
14:00 Excavation and recording
16:00 Tea break
16:15 Interpretation and discussion of discoveries
17:00 Tools down!


Additional information

'Safe Dig' Policies

You can read more about our Safe Dig policies here, including what we’re doing, what we ask you to do, what to bring, and your booking options if your experience is postponed or you can no longer attend due to the ongoing pandemic.

Arrival and departure

Soulton Hall
Soulton, Wem,
Shropshire, UK


Please arrive at 9am, Saturday 24 July. If you’d like to join us for breakfast, please arrive at 8am.


We’ll down tools and finish our day at 5pm on Sunday 25 July. You’ll be welcome to leave from then, but you’ll probably need to factor in some time for goodbyes and a group photo!


A simple breakfast and lunch will be provided for everyone on the team on both days, plus dinner and special event on Saturday.

Unless you book a room to stay at Soulton Hall on Sunday night, dinner will not be provided as you will be heading home!

Travel and accommodation

Travel is not included, and everyone will be expected to make their own arrangements for arrival and departure.

Accommodation is also not included in the Dirty Weekend, but there are plenty of places to stay in the area, including rooms at Soulton Hall.

Soulton Hall is also a romantic, atmospheric, historically fabulous and quirky Elizabethan Country House B&B.

If you’re interested in booking a room at Soulton Hall, please contact them directly letting them know you’re part of the DigVentures Dirty Weekend.

Soulton Hall contact: 01939 232786 or


Pricing for this experience covers your participation in a real, ongoing archaeological dig.

This includes your tools, tuition, supervision, and meals. It also includes your contribution towards the logistics of the wider excavation, as well as the proper professional care, analysis, conservation, and publication of all of our discoveries. For example, a single radiocarbon date can cost upwards of £120.

Our work is largely supported by our Subscribers, Venturers, and participants, and is guided by our team of professional archaeologists who are all highly experienced excavators, as well as instructors. Together, we’re able to investigate areas of the past that wouldn’t otherwise be excavated!

What is Friends with Benefits?

A Dirty Weekend gets you a single place on the dig for the weekend. But things are twice as much fun when there’s two of you!

If you book two places on the dig for the weekend, you get a 20% discount… that’s ‘Friends with Benefits’. Hurrah!

What happens to our discoveries?

Anything you discover will become part of the official archaeological record, and your name will be included as part of our team.

We publish all of our discoveries online and open access in real time, so that professionals, amateurs, and the incurably curious can see finds.

Once we have completed the fieldwork, all of the data and discoveries from the dig will be analysed by our team, and conserved or examined further by specialists as required.

The results will then be written up and published in an official report according to professional standards, and published in our reports library.

We’ll also email everyone who was part of the dig when the report is ready for you to read so that you can see the results of your Dirty Weekend contribution.

Who will we be digging with?

There are just 10 places available on this unique archaeological adventure. As well as your fellow Dirty Weekenders, you’ll be digging alongside the DigVentures team.

You can read more about our team members on our Meet The Team page.

What do I need to bring?

We’ll bring the tools, the expertise and the commitment to teach you everything you need to know. You just bring yourself and bags of enthusiasm! Having said that, here’s a few things you’ll also find handy:

  • Sturdy boots (walking boots are fine)
  • For cold weather: Hat and waterproofs
  • For hot weather: Sunhat and sunscreen
  • Day bag to bring everything you need to site
  • Plastic bag to carry any muddy gear home in
  • Anything else you might need for a two-day outdoor adventure!

Who is DigVentures?

DigVentures is a team of professional archaeologists who run excavations that are open to anyone with an interest in uncovering the past.

We launched the world’s first crowdfunded dig in 2012, and since then our international community has continued to help the team make seriously impressive discoveries: we’ve located the original Anglo-Saxon monastery on Lindisfarne, solved the mystery behind an Iron Age hillfort in Gloucestershire, and even unearthed a rare Bronze Age barrow in Lancashire.

DigVentures’ biggest passion is enabling people to get involved in archaeology, and we’ve even built a digital platform to enable people around the world to follow our discoveries online, in real time.

Why Soulton Hall?

The rolling hills of Shropshire are filled with ancient landmarks, from impressive castles, Roman towns and enigmatic standing stones.

The Shropshire border between England and Wales is rich with impressive historic monuments and ancient archaeological sites. They range from the spectacular (think castles, hillforts, and Roman towns like Wroxeter), to those for which little above-ground evidence survives.

Soulton Hall is a historic monument in its own right, but spread across its grounds are the remains of at least five more ancient landmarks, whose stories remain unexplained. It’s an almost perfect microcosm of the surrounding Shropshire landscape, and for one weekend only, you can join archaeologists attempting to unearth traces of a long-lost past that have so far remained hidden underground…

You can read more about the fascinating history of Soulton Hall, which is located in Shropshire.

Geophysics results, historical research, fieldwalking surveys and LIDAR scans together indicate several different sites of archaeological interest.

Where can I learn more about the excavation site?

DigVentures has already carried out an early preparatory dig at Soulton Hall, designed to evaluate the archaeological potential, and assess whether a larger excavation would be likely to yield the answers we seek.

The results of that excavation are available on our Reports page.

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