Land of the Fanns built heritage programme (c) MOLA

My week learning to be a buildings archaeologist


Archaeologists from MOLA worked alongside the Prince’s Trust and the Land of the Fanns to give six young people a chance to learn about built heritage recording and gain a Bronze Arts Award. Participants were introduced to archaeological skills used to record historic buildings and put these into practice at the Thames Chase Centre - a well preserved 17th century threshing barn - and the 15th century church of All Saints at East Horndon. Audrie, a 19-year-old Thurrock resident, took part in the week-long archaeology course as part of her Prince’s Trust programme. In this blog she shares her experiences and highlights…

On the first day of our archaeology experience we met our instructors, Paul and Ashley from MOLA, who kindly spent the week teaching us all about archaeology. It was a fun-filled and informative week, which gave us a new perspective into possible career paths that we may not have considered beforehand.

After an initial look into the plans for the week, we learnt basic terminology relating to the medieval barn around us. We then went on a tour of the barn and were asked to identify features of the building that aligned with the terminology we had learnt. After this, we tried our hand at putting maps, showcasing the same area of East Horndon and All Saints Church, which we’d visit later in the week, in date order.

The next day we took a trip to All Saints Church in East Horndon, to look at and identify features of this historic building. We gathered some fun and informative historical facts along the way and then had a go at photography. This part intrigued me as I enjoy photography and learnt plenty of new techniques to help me when capturing a good photograph.  This included thinking about lighting, to make sure that the result didn’t end up over or under exposed and using scales in photos, so people viewing them could estimate the measurements in the pictures. As a group, we reviewed each of our photos and received individual feedback. I learnt that I need to improve my use of scales of photos, as I didn’t line up the measuring stick accurately, therefore making it difficult for someone viewing the photo to estimate measurements.

The following day we ventured to the All Saints Church once again, to begin recording through photography or drawings. I opted to draw and label my recordings, which I enjoyed as I got to study the buildings in detail. To label the drawings, I had to calculate the measurements of my chosen subjects, using a measuring tape and a laser tool. Members of the team who were photographing used the skills they had learnt the day before. The next day we began the written element of our Bronze Arts Award booklet. Our first written task was a film review. As a group, we watched an informative film depicting life in the seventies for people living in city apartments. We then discussed the film and reviewed what we had learnt in our booklets, such as the positives and negatives for these people.

In the coming days we undertook a range of activities, such as ‘building’ and ideal city using pictures of buildings and locations, learning about the bricks used at different periods of time, undertaking research and writing about an inspirational person of choice and doing a skills-share presentation.

My chosen skill came from my passion for writing fiction. I chose to present my method of building characters in stories, by using a ‘cheat sheet’ to help structure the basics of an original character. All in all, I think my presentation went better than I had anticipated. From the feedback I learnt what everyone else thought of my method, but also presentational tips I will keep in mind for next time.

To conclude the week, we did an activity that involved using the medieval barn as inspiration for a creative output of our choosing. Although I struggled initially, I eventually settled on writing a short story. The archaeology week with MOLA was, without a doubt, my favourite part of the Prince’s Trust programme. I am grateful to have been able to experience this with friends, in a safe place where everybody was welcoming and showed passion for their work. Paul and Ashley, our instructors, not only taught us but supported us all the way through. And for that I thank them and Thames Chase Forest Centre for having us. This experience has most definitely peaked my interest in archaeology, and I’ll be keeping it in mind when deciding my future plans.

The Built Heritage Recording Project was delivered as part of the Land of the Fanns project with support from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and National Lottery Heritage Fund. To find out more about Land of the Fanns, visit their website or follow @LandOfTheFanns on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Community project
  • Built heritage

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