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Plugstreet Blog

This is the new blog of the Plugstreet Archaeological Project.

   A Great War themed project exploring sites around Comines-Warneton and Messines in Belgium.    The project is being led by members of No Man's Land - The European Group for Great War    Archaeology and the Comines-Warneton Historical Society.

Sponsored by
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We are currently seeking a sponsor for this website as it follows the progress of the excavations on the battlefield, with contributions from established historians and well known experts, as the team attempt to match the historical evidence and family history to the archaeology on the ground.

Please contact us for more details.

If you enjoy this website please consider making a donation towards the costs of the project.

CBA North Home Front Legacy Day School

Monday, August 10th, 2015

The Cocken Hall CBA North Home Front Legacy Day School is being held this Saturday 15th of August 2015 at Palace Green Library in Durham, DH1 3RN.

The event is free but you need to register at https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cba-north-home-front-legacy-day-school-tickets-17390607776

This day school will:

• Get you actively involved with the Home Front Legacy 1914–18 project
• Share the toolkit and resources to use within your own projects, or to start one up
• Enable you to start discovering your local First World War surviving sites, structures and buildings using online resources
• Help you connect with your local Historic Environment Record
• Give you the skills and confidence to share your learning with your community group
• Provide the forum to share your projects and to meet potential partners

Course delivery: presentation, multimedia and practical demonstration. Bring along your own laptop, tablet or mobile, if you have one, for our practical recording demonstration.

Day school programme

10.30 Welcome and coffee

11–12.15 Presentation, multimedia

1. An introduction to the Home Front Legacy 1914-18 project
2. What remains are out there? First World War surviving physical remains overview Land, Sea, Air, Home Front:- Key Note Speaker Roger Thomas Assistant Designation Adviser (North) in Historic England’s Northern Designation Team, based at York.
3. Local Case Study – Excavations at Cocken Hall 2015:- Alistair Fraser Assistant Librarian (Early Printed Books) Archives and Special Collections Durham University Library

12.15–1pm Presentation, practical demonstration

Local Case Study – Durham at War Victoria Oxberry, Collections Access Officer, Durham at War.

4. Getting started – step by step to setting up and taking forward your recording project

Desk Research: How do you find WWI remains?
• The Heritage Gateway
• What are Historic Environment Records (HERs)?
• How do they help local groups?
• How do they protect your local historic environment?
• What services can you access?
• Questions for HER Officers

Other sources of information – online
• The National Archive
• Commonwealth War Graves Commission
• Genealogical web sites
• Local historical records, museums and archives
• Great War Forum
• War Memorials Online
• National Monuments Records
• Arts and Humanities Research Council Connected Communities First World War hubs
• Heritage Lottery Fund ‘Then and Now’

Networking lunch 1–2pm

2pm–3.45 Presentation, practical demonstration

5. Using the site recording toolkit
• Finding sites with maps and aerial photographs
• Field recording using the app
• Site recording demonstration from using the web resources to completing the app recording form and displaying your site and project on the online map of UK remains
• Writing site descriptions
• Local case studies

3.45–4pm Q&As Get involved/contacts and close.


The Day Thou Gavest

Saturday, February 28th, 2009

Well we survived the conference.
Thank you to all the wonderful speakers for their excellent contributions and for sticking to their allotted timeslots. Also a big thank you to tha audience for a stimulating set of questions and discussions points,as well as for being generally nice people who wanted to talk and even buy us beer!
It was good to see a few of the Plugstreet regulars in the audience,as well as our friend Eric,who will be joining us: Welcome Back from “Over There” mate!
Meanwhile we’re planning a short foray to record a concrete shelter on the British line before the potato crop goes in. More breaking news soon!


Conference on Saturday 28th

Tuesday, February 24th, 2009


Following a presentation of project findings to the Society of Antiquaries of London last week, several of the project team will be addressing this conference at Oxford University on Saturday.
Nick, Peter, Martin, Richard and Jon will all be giving papers which will draw in aspects of our work at Plugstreet. for any readers brave enough, you might also be able to find us at the Eagle and Child pub on St Giles on the evening of Friday 27th….


Conference Announcement

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Dear all
a chance for those of you that have been following the blog to come and meet a number of the key players and learn more about the archaeology of the Great War, with Plugstreet featuring prominently! Oxford University is holding a day school on Saturday 28th February 2009 at Wellington Square. The programme is detailed below (with an asterisk adjacent to Plugstreet project team members…)
The Great War: the archaeology of the first of the 20th Century’s Great Conflicts
‘Our knowledge and understanding of the First World War is considerable and yet much remains hidden. As we rapidly approach a time when there will be no surviving veterans of the conflict, the Great War through its archaeology offers a relatively new phenomenon that utilises familiar methodologies as well as innovative approaches to gain a better understanding of the war. This day school draws together a number of leading experts on Great War archaeology to examine a broad range of themes – from the sands of the desert war to the mud of Flanders and the material traces of those who fought
09:45 – Introduction
10:15 – Dr Nicholas Saunders* – Trench Art: Material Culture and the Antrhopological Dimensions of Great War Archaeology
11;15 – Coffee/tea
11:45 – Richard Osgood* & Martin Brown* – ‘We shall Certainly Change The Geography: Soldiers, civilians and the battle of Messines
12:45 – Lunch
14:00 – Peter Chasseaud* – ‘Imaging Golgotha – Aerial Photpgrahs and Trench Maps of the Western Front’
15:00 – Coffee/tea
15:30 – Dr Neil Faulkener – ‘Trains Trenches and Tents: the Archaeology of Lawrence of Arabia’s War’
16:30 – Jon Price – ‘Rise and Deride This Sepulchre of Crime: The Role of Archaeology and the Missing Dead of the Great War’
Programme Fee
Tuition: £40.00
Hot lunch: £10.00
Baguette lunch: £2.50
Join online: https://www.conted.ox.ac.uk/courses/apply/apply_online.php?id=O08P158AHJ
For an application form, click here:
Hope to see you there!


Fields of Conflict

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Over the past few days an number of the project team have been attending the 5th Fields of Conflict conference in Gent (Belgium). FOC exists to bring together specialists in Conflict Archaeology from around the globe. Delegates included Doug Scott, who virtually invented battlefield archaeology when he investigated the site of Little Bighorn, Glenn Foard, who has worked on Civil War sites from the UK and Susana and Achim Wilbers-Rost from the site of the Varian disaster (AD9) at Kalkriese. Inevitably the range of papers was wide, diverse and stimulating.
Project members Peter Masters, Birger Stichelbaut, Jon Price and Martin Brown all presented on Great War Archaeology, heavily drawing on the Plugstreet Project. Peter and Birger spoke on their remote sensing work, marrying geophysics, aerial photographs and map regression work, wowing the audience with their results. Jon spoke about methodological approaches to excavation. Martin spoke on the subject of looking over the parapet, which explored the wider frame in which excavations on the Western Front exist – militarised landscapes, civilians, training and the international links of the war.
Also speaking was Veerle Hendricks from the Flemish Heritage Institute, the VIOE. Veerle is writing up the A19 excavations around Ieper from 2002 onwards, including sites dug by No Man’s Land. It was her first major conference paper and she performed very well and wasn’t fazed by the eminent panel of delegates.
It wasn’t all work and we did enjoy some lovely Belgian beer, including some rarities and oddities, while Oude Druide is nice we weren’t so keen on Spook! Birger was an excellent local guide and we especially salute the Ratz Bar, opposite the Opera House!


Spreading the Word

Monday, July 14th, 2008

Yesterday Richard and Martin gave a presentation to the annual Conflict Archaeology conference at the Royal Logistics Corps Museum at Deepcut. It was good to present to an audience of interested amateurs and fellow practitioners in the field and the responses to our multistrand approach to the landscape and the individual sites was well-received.
The event was a mixture of ancient (Ramesses II) and modern (WW1 & 2 and Bosnia) with an interspersing of post-medieval (English Civil War). Tal Simmons paper on Bosnia was hard viewing and listening but ultimately worthwhile, not only because of her powerful delivery but also because it served to remind us of the reality of conflict, including injury, sickness and death in traumatic circumstances. Meanwhile Neil Faulkner’s paper on the Arab Revolt and TE Lawrence threw up some interesting differences with our work, although Plugstreet and Lawrence were contemporary. However there were marked similarities too, including the German trench systems.
The cross current in several papers was that this is essentially a community endeavour, whether those communities are close to the sites in UK, in Jordan or at a remove in a second or third country, as we are for this project. The nature of conflict means that it may have resonance and meaning years after the event for those affected, even indirectly. Archaeology gives some people the opportunity to engage directly with that heritage and, we hope, offers everyone the chance to hear something new about the events and people in the past.
Thanks and credit to Andy Robertshaw and his staff at the RLC Musuem.



Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

The British Museum in London was the venue for the first British Archaeology conference over the weekend just gone. It was organised by magazine Current Archaeology as a “festival” of, as they put it “The best of British Archaeology, at home and abroad”. In truth, the speaker list was impressive enough to substantiate this strap line with some of the big names and big themes under discussion.
On Sunday there was a session on Conflict Archaeology in which two of our project members spoke: anthropologist Nick Saunders gave an overview of the rise of “Conflict Archaeology” and made clear its difference to “Battlefield Archaeology”. It was nice to see that Nick’s second image was of the team at work on Jon’s trench beside the Factory Farm crater.
One of our intrepid leaders, Martin, presented on “Mud, Blood & Archaeology” and sought to look at No Man’s Land projects on the Western Front (by which he meant France, Belgium and the training areas of UK). Inevitably the Plugstreet Project featured heavily in the presentation due to its innovative use of such a wide range of techniques and its belief in looking beyond the battlefield to the wider world affected by the war.
There was some interesting discussion and comment we have subsequently received also showed that the full lecture theatre had thoroughly enjoyed it and continued to think about it afterwards.
We have nothing but thanks for the organisers for this opportunity to present in such a remarkable venue and at such a prestigious and well organised event and wish them all success in trying to make this conference an annual event.


O For a Muse of Fire

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Yesterday Martin gave a lunchtime lecture about the Plugstreet Project at the National Army Museum. There was an audience of about 50, including two team members. The lecture was well-received and stimulated both interesting questions and enjoyable discussion both in the lecture theatre and the NAM’s cafe afterwards.
Thanks to anyone reading this who did come along and thanks to the Museum for giving us the opportunity to give the first major presentation on our work.
If your archaeological/historical society would like to hear about our work then get in touch via the blog and we’ll see if we can arrange a lecture for you.
Martin also included the project in a presentation to Stafford and Mid Staffordshire Archaeology Society last Friday to an audience of about 100. He was actually talking about training camps on Cannock Chase and the New Zealanders but used the project as an example of how we can follow techniques and units from training to combat. It helps that the New Zealanders were assaulting Messines at about the time the Anzac 3 Div were attacking “our” German trenches.


Opportunities to Hear More…

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

Happy New Year folks.
Readers in London wanting to hear more about the project have an opportunity to see Martin give a presentation on the project at the National Army Museum in Chelsea on Thursday January 24th at 12.30. This forms part of the NAM’s lunchtime lecture series and we are grateful to them for this opportunity to present our results.
The Museum lecture series is listed here:
The NAM is situated on Royal Hospital Road, next to the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London. The nearest Tube station is probably Sloane Square. From the station walk down the King’s Road and turn left at McDonalds (yes they do have one on the King’s Road) and follow your road until you see the Hospital. The Museum is the 1970’s block on the right!
Meanwhile this blog will continue, describing our efforts to deal with last year’s results and set up another season of digging for 2008.


New Exhibition on 3rd Ypres in London

Tuesday, September 25th, 2007

Yesterday it was our privilege (as reps of No-Man’s-Land archaeology and the Plugstreet Project) to attend the opening of an exhibition to commemorate the 90th anniversary of 3rd Ypres. This exhibition, in the residence of the Belgian ambassador in Belgrave Square, London, was assembled by Franky (whom many on site will remember as being the chap that brought the crate of beer over on the last day!) and launched by the ambassador and HRH Duke of Kent. In addition to displays of kit in dioramas, and finds from the battlefield, there are some wonderful photographs and sculptures – the latter made from elements of the iron harvest. A link to the exhibition can be found here:
Free to enter and worth a visit!
Martin and Richard also met Ian Passingham, the author of the excellent ‘Pillars of Fire’ on the Battle of Messines. Ian was most enthusiastic about the team’s work and will visit site next summer. Other archaeologists present were Tony Pollard (1/2 of ‘Two men in a trench’ amongst other things) and Col Philip Robinson from Durand. Another plus was to meet up with Tori and Carla to confirm that they had indeed survived the excavation!


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