Pupils dig into the past during quarry visits and discover Roman artefacts

Roxton Lower School pupils discover archaeology at Black Cat Quarry -  far left, Ben Dyson of Archaeological Research Services; centre, Hopes Quarry Manager Simon Bryant; standing right, Roxton Lower School head teacher Jane Trott.
Roxton Lower School pupils discover archaeology at Black Cat Quarry - far left, Ben Dyson of Archaeological Research Services; centre, Hopes Quarry Manager Simon Bryant; standing right, Roxton Lower School head teacher Jane Trott.

More than 40 pupils from Roxton Lower School have enjoyed an unusual day trip, digging into the past at the nearby Black Cat Quarry.

With curiosity sparked by recent Roman discoveries on the site, the Years 1 to 4 children were invited to spend a day at the quarry, learning about archaeology, digging for their own ‘finds’ and getting a closer look at the operations of the sand and gravel quarry.

Two groups of children visited the quarry over two days, listening to talks about the quarry and introduced to the world of archaeology. They saw one of the skeletons recently discovered, together with a complete decorated Roman pot buried with the body, and were given a tour of the site as archaeologists were working.

Finally the children got to have a go themselves, digging test pits, sieving the soil and recording their finds of flints and pottery fragments.

Ben Dyson, leading the excavations for Archaeological Research Services Ltd said: “Black Cat Quarry has revealed some fascinating remains including a multi-phase Roman period farming settlement that was flooded and rebuilt on at least two occasions, together with the cemetery for these farming folk that includes at least 15 individuals.

“We are looking forward to analysing the finds and making the information available to the public, so having the school children on site has been great as they asked interesting, fundamental questions.”

Hope Construction Materials opened Black Cat Quarry in 2014, a major milestone as it was the company’s first new quarry. Since then it has supplied aggregates to construction projects across the south.

Quarry manager Simon Bryant said: “Since the quarry opened it has been extremely busy with construction booming in the region. So we need to move into the next phase and location in the quarry. Before we do this we carry out in-depth surveys and assessments to ensure our impact on the environment is minimised and we are sensitive to any areas of historical interest.

“This includes archaeological investigations. Through our partner Archaeological Research Services, we have unearthed a wide range of very interesting finds including whole skeletons, pots and beakers. The experts have established that these are from Roman times. With the school so close by, we approached them to see if they might be interested to come to the quarry and find out more.”

Head teacher Jane Trott said: “It was an amazing opportunity for the children to experience archaeology first hand. They thoroughly enjoyed seeing the finds and then looking for their own. We were most grateful to Hope Construction Materials and ARS for all the preparation and for helping to make it fun.”

Simon added: “These visits were a great success – for us we were able to open our doors and show the children and staff what we do at Black Cat Quarry, helping us build a partnership with the school; for the school it was great to see the children see history come to life in such a practical, hands-on way.”