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…
Historical records show that the first known owner of the manor of Soulton Hall was Britric the Saxon, brother of Edric, last Ealdorman of Mercia, but archaeological evidence indicates that its grounds have been occupied for much, much longer.
To the east lies a Bronze Age barrow; to the north, records hint at the remains of a deserted medieval village; through the middle, a Roman road between Uriconium (Wroxeter) to Mediolanum (Whitchurch), and somewhere close to the hall, 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 manor that may be the most intriguing…
Tucked away in a field beside the manor stands a large, rectangular mound – the strikingly visible remains of a thousand year-old fort. 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 picture emerge? Excavation is the only way to find out.
Always wanted to try archaeology? This DigVentures Dirty Weekend is your chance to help archaeologists investigate Shropshire’s rich and varied past.
In 2019, DigVentures organised a ‘Dirty Weekend’ to scope out Soulton Hall’s archaeological potential. The result? PLENTY!
This year, we’re coming back for a full-on week of excavation and survey. You can join us for a two day ‘Dirty Weekend’, or book yourself in for a week-long archaeological adventure.
You’ll get an in-depth archaeological briefing and learn to identify ancient features in the landscape. Then, we’ll reveal our exact dig locations – each one designed to help investigate a remarkable piece of Shropshire’s history.
Next, we’ll grab trowels and begin your hands-on archaeological training. You’ll get instruction on the techniques of how to do archaeology, learn how to identify artefacts, recognise archaeological layers, and record your discoveries. Over the next two days, our team will guide your search for evidence as you help excavate five different archaeological puzzles.
Throughout the week, there’ll be opportunities to excavate in different areas, as well as accrue a whole range of different archaeological skills, like survey, geophysics, photogrammetry, and to learn lots more about this incredible ancient landscape.
On Saturday evening, we’ll be treated to a scrumptious farm-style dinner at Soulton Hall (vegetarian options too!) where we’ll make the most of our opportunity to talk about the site’s abundant archaeology, and get a glimpse inside one of Soulton’s most fascinating features: the new, purpose-built Bronze Age burial mound (with processional standing stones!). Working with Sacred Stones, the family that own and carefully steward the land at Soulton have created a very special monument, accurate in every painstaking detail, which can be used as a place of burial, commemoration and community gathering.
By the end, you’ll be heading home with a whole new range of archaeological skills and experiences. You’ll also have solved your own archaeological mystery and (fingers crossed) helped to recover evidence that can tell us more about the remarkable history surrounding Soulton Hall.
PLEASE NOTE: there are just 15 places available. Book now to secure your place.
Soulton Hall is also a romantic, atmospheric, historically fabulous and quirky Elizabethan Country House B&B. If you would like to stay in the property, get in touch and let them know you’re with the DigVentures crew for a special DV rate: 01939 232786 or email@example.com.
Everything you need to know about joining the Dig Team at Soulton Hall
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!
09:00 Rendez-vous for archaeological briefing
10:00 How To Do Archaeology lesson
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)
We will be excavating a number of different locations around the grounds of Soulton Hall. Geophysics results, historical research, fieldwalking surveys and LIDAR scans together indicate several different sites of archaeological interest.
We’ll reveal the exact targets of our excavation closer to the time, but over the course of the weekend, you’ll learn the basic skills that a field archaeologist uses in their investigations, while using them hands-on to help us in the field.
These skills include the process of stratigraphic excavation, identifying finds, features and new archaeological layers, and how to record anything you find.
If you stay for the whole week, you’ll also have opportunities to excavate in a variety of locations, and learn an array of different archaeological survey skills too.
By the end, you should be confident in using all these skills, and (hopefully!) have helped us solve at least one archaeological mystery!
Don’t worry! Once you’ve made your booking, we’ll send you an email with specific instructions about joining us at Soulton Hall closer to the time.
There are just 15 places available on this unique archaeological adventure. As well as your fellow Dirty Weekenders, you’ll be digging alongside the DigVentures team.
Accommodation is not included in the Dirty Weekend, but there are plenty of places to stay in the area, including rooms at Soulton Hall. If you’re interested in booking one, please contact them directly letting them know you’re part of the DigVentures Dirty Weekend.
Soulton Hall contact: 01939 232786 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday night dinner at Soulton Hall is included in the Dirty Weekend or Dirty Week, but breakfast and lunches are not. We recommend bringing a packed lunch suitable for enjoying picnic-style in the grounds.
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:
You can read more about the fascinating history of Soulton Hall, which is located in Shropshire.
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.
No nonsense. Just dig alerts and the insider's view on the week's biggest archaeological discoveries.