So many findings from historical Sunderland dig - and here’s how you can still get involved

Dave Jackson from Wardell Armstrong explaining the site findings.
Dave Jackson from Wardell Armstrong explaining the site findings.
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Investigators have unearthed plenty of finds after an archaeological dig in Sunderland - and the role of everyone who helped has not been forgotten.

Pottery, glass, bricks, shaped stones, clay pipe fragments and more have been discocvered during the Forgotten Stones Archaeological dig at South Hylton.

Volunteers wash the finds.

Volunteers wash the finds.

The two-week dig was part of the Sunderland’s Forgotten Stones project and took place opposite the Shipwrights Hotel, funded by a Heritage Lottery Grant.

The Forgotten Stones looks at the development of industry along the River Wear to Nab’s End.

It particularly focuses on the origins of some elusive stones, known as Brig Stones that have been the subject of discussion amongst historians, antiquarians and archaeologists for more than 200 years.

Experts were investigating whether the Brig Stones formed part of a Roman bridge or dam or whether they were from a later structure, and what that structure was.

There has been no shortage of volunteers and involvement by the local community and there will be more volunteering opportunities in October when the next site is examined

Margarita Rainford

Project volunteer Margarita Rainford said the success of the scheme depended on the involvement of volunteers - and there were plenty of those.

She said: “There will be more volunteering opportunities in October when the next site is examined.”

Plenty of research was done in advance, and then when it came to the dig, volunteers from the Northern Archaeology Group provided support for the professional archaeologists.

They “got stuck in and also helped with the actual dig and helped to wash finds. It was dirty work with the archaeologists and helpers up to their knees in mud,” said Margarita.

The specialist archaeological diver getting ready to work.

The specialist archaeological diver getting ready to work.

Ian Stewart and Norman Kirtlan, who along with Denny Wilson were instrumental in getting the funding for the project were also on the site most days helping with the dig.

Margarita said there were lots of visitors to the site and the archaeologists found it really interesting to talk to them as some visitors recalled their memories of South Hylton and the industry along the river. The archaeologist suggested these memories should be collected.

Margarita added: “The Forgotten Stones Project would be very interested in receiving any stories or recollections of industry (or Romans) at South Hylton. If anyone would like to submit their memories of industry at South Hylton they can be submitted via the contact form on the website at www.sunderlands-forgotten-stones.com.”

She said: “History groups visited and helped with the organisation of the site and also helped with visitors, so we have to thank Sunderland Antiquarian Society and South Hylton Local History Society for helping in this way.”

Margarita explained that there had already been some initial feedback from the archaeologists from Wardell Armstrong as Dave Jackson (the lead archaeologist) explained the findings at the end of the dig.

“A fuller explanation of Wardell-Armstrong’s findings will be published as soon as we receive the report,” she said.

“Dave explained that the site excavation produced lots of finds mostly dating from the 1800’s and 1900’s consisting of bricks, small shaped stones, clay pipe fragments, bits of pottery, glass and rusted metal items (that look like big nails).

“He thought that the river must have been used by Romans due to their activity in South Shields and Chester le Street, but on this initial site excavation no evidence had been found of Roman activity and no finds dating to the period of the Romans in Britain were unearthed. He realised these finding would disappoint many people, but he explained that what had been found was very interesting.”

The archaeologists produced a detailed drawing of the stones they had excavated along the river bank and with local information reached the conclusion that this was the site of the former Wighams Ship Repair yard.

The North Hylton site will provide lots of opportunities for school children and adults to get involved with seeing how the archaeologists work.

There will be test pits, field walking and washing and organising of finds.

An itinerary will be published soon on the Sunderland’s Forgotten Stones website.

If you would like to volunteer or get involved, visit the projects website which can be found at www.sunderlands-forgotten-stones.com where those interested will find a contact form.