Digging into town’s past

This Is Wiltshire: David Dawson with a Roman piece from the 3rd century AD found in a grave in Devizes in the 1920s David Dawson with a Roman piece from the 3rd century AD found in a grave in Devizes in the 1920s

ARTEFACTS from Devizes’ Roman past, or even earlier, could emerge from a community archaeology project being planned in the town by Wiltshire Heritage Museum.

Although the origins of the town are thought to date back only to the Norman Conquest, when the first castle was built by Roger, Bishop of Salisbury, there is evidence of settlement dating back 14,000 years.

Museum director David Dawson, who is spearheading the scheme, said: “We have a stone axe, made from stone that came from Cornwall, that dates back to 12,000BC.

“In 1714 Roman figurines of gods were unearthed on the Green.

“I can’t tell you what a sensation that caused at the time. It was before the discovery of Pompeii and it came as a huge culture shock.

They came from an England people had only read about in Latin texts.”

In the 1880s a Roman villa was discovered in the area of Southbroom School and many wonders were unearthed from a burial site in the area.

These included an exquisite glass jar that possibly came from Syria, complete with the perfume manufactured in that area.

When the county’s archaeology field group carried out a geophysical survey on The Green, they found evidence of archaeological features which could date back to the Second World War or even earlier.

The archaeology project will examine various areas in the town and involve local schoolchildren.

Mr Dawson said: “We would like to work closely with local schools and youth groups to engage and involve as many people as possible.

“We have already discussed the possibility of a project with Tom Strickland, head of history at Devizes School, where the Year 7 history students study the Roman period and Year 12 students might be involved in excavating Second World War features in support of their A-level course.

“All the local primary schools cover the Romans and local history topics.”

The project will culminate in an open day on the Green to coincide with the Festival of British Archaeology in July.

Any groups that would like to take part can call Mr Dawson at the museum on (01380) 727369.

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