Test pit surveying is becoming more and more popular with community groups and is an established way to get a ‘snapshot’ of a settlement such as North Duffield. We invited residents to dig a 1x1x1 meter test pit in their gardens- we would do it for them if they were unable to do so themselves. The intent is to try to gain evidence of former dwellings or the origin of the settlement- if it is a good place to live now it probably always has been. Could we find evidence of earlier residents? Indeed we could. Fifteen test pits were dug in 2011(see plan) and a further 7 in 2015. Lots of people took part including many children. The results suggested the settlement core is round the Main Street - King’s Arms area, much as you would expect. Our earliest finds were of Roman pottery; Pits 12,3,4,6 and 10 in 2011.They covered the late Roman occupation (late 4th early 5thC AD. Pit 4 on Back Lane produced the most important finds both in terms of number and age.  A piece of Samian pottery, the ‘best china’ of the Roman era, 3 pieces of Roman grey ware that all fitted together and with them were some ‘pot boilers’(heated stones dropped into cold water making the water boil in the times when pottery was not strong enough to take a naked flame without cracking). This assemblage was found quite deep down so had lain undisturbed from the Romano/British period- the transition from Iron Age to Roman after 43AD.

Prior to the test pit survey it was decided to create a Methodology so that every test pit would be dug in the same way using the same method thereby ensuring consistent results. To view the Methodology click here  A Test Pit Kit List was also created and a list and the kit it contained was supplied to each site. To view Test Pit Kit List click here It was also necessary to create a Context Recording Card to ensure that every feature and element discovered in each test pit was recorded in the same way. To view the Context Recording Card click here and Notes for Completing the Context Recording Card click here.  A number of forms were created to record aspects of the survey. To view the templates click here In order to test this Methodology, the local primary school was approached to see whether they would allow the children to dig test pits in the school playground and the Head Teacher, then Elaine Ward , gave a resounding yes and a tradition was created. We have been having a Big School Dig every year since then(up to 2018)  The children love the idea of handling something that humans hands have not touched for 2000 years until they find it. Every dig has resulted in Roman and Norman pottery being found as well as more recent items up to the present day.


Approximately 250 North Duffield Primary School children have had the chance to experience ‘live’ archaeology. We have also gone to other local schools conducting similar events further afield. For anyone interested the Finds Tables click here, click here, click here

The Big Village Dig 2011 was held over the weekend of 16th and 17th July, 2011 with The Big Village Dig 2015 being held on 18th July 2015..

Test pitting

Big Village Dig 2011- test pit sites

The Big Village Dig 2011 was a resounding success even though the weather did its best to dampen spirits. Fortunately, the village charity, The ASH Duggan Committee loaned us some gazebos which were just large enough to protect the diggers from the rain. Lots of children got involved, many of the test pits were dug by the householders themselves and, where that was not possible, a lot of York University archaeology students and volunteers helped out. Sandwiches were laid on by Mark Buckley at the King’s Arms at lunchtime to refresh the workers.

Pit in the garden of the King’s Arms  and  lunch at the King’s Arms

A total of 13 test were dig(see plan above) two on Main Street, two on Westfield Road, two on Oak Road,  two on the village green, one in the Kings Arms garden, one on Back Lane, two on Manor Drive and one on Broadmanor.

To view details of the finds from each trench go to RESOURCES Item 8.

Big Village Dig 2015 – test pit sites (map courtesy of

In view of the fact that we had more gardens volunteered for investigation than we had staff and gazebos, we decided to have another Big Village Dig in 2015 to mop up those outstanding venues and to include new gardens volunteered when people heard of what we were doing.

The 18th July 2015 was the chosen date and it was registered as an event in the Festival of Archaeology. On this occasion we started with a list of 10 sites although this became seven for reasons beyond our control.

The above map and the and the finds chart in RESOURCES Item 9 show which sites we investigated, the greater majority of which were dug by the householders. The sites were Sunnyside Farm, School Lane, one on Back Lane, one on Garth Avenue, one on Main Street, one on York Road, one on Green Lane and one in the allotments behind the Chapel.

The 13thC Humberware pot shown above was found in many fragments and handed to me for cleaning when I realised, there was a fair chance, all the bits were from one item. I put it all together and it now has pride-of place on display in Sunnyside Farm.

The results proved to be very similar to those from the survey in 2011 but a notable result came from the test pit at Sunnyside Far, School Lane.


This is a shortened version of the item that appears in the book ‘North Duffield: Archaeology and the Local Community available to purchase from this website at £12.50 (£15 with P & P)

            Pit 10 under excavation                                             The Humberware pot from Pit 10