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Medieval Manor Community Project - VOLUNTEER

By Isle of Axholme and Hatfield Chase Landscape Partnership

When and where

Date and time

July 17, 2018 · 9:30am - July 28, 2018 · 4:30pm BST


St Andrew's Church Vinegarth Epworth DN9 1SW United Kingdom


Starting this summer, the Isle of Axholme and Hatfield Chase Landscape Partnership’s project ‘Castles and Manors’ will begin archaeological investigations at the site of Vinegarth. The project will search for the Mowbray’s Medieval Manor House in Epworth, North Lincolnshire. This is a great opportunity for all ages of the local community with a passion for history and archaeology to take part in a live archaeological investigation in the Isle of Axholme.

Reputed to be the site of a medieval manor house, Vinegarth was home to one of the greatest families of the Middle Ages, the Mowbrays. Generations of the Mowbray family left their mark on the Isle of Axholme. Baron William de Mowbray, witnessed the sealing of the Magna Carta in 1215. Thomas Mowbray, later Duke of Norfolk, founded the Carthusian Priory at Low Melwood in Owston Ferry. The Mowbray crest is still prominent in the Isle of Axholme today - a proud lion positioned on a red shield. The project’s aim is to map the location and extent of the manor’s buildings and settlement exploring areas previously not investigated.

In the 1970s, investigations revealed sections of a tiled kitchen floor, with elements of the principal hall and a cloister arrangement to the South overlooking a possible courtyard or garden area.

Last year, local volunteers took part in a geophysical survey of the site that identified a number of anomalies that could relate to possible walls. The excavation will investigate the anomalies, which could indicate, a much larger and extensive manorial complex was present on Vinegarth. Here is a helpful reconstruction of the survey results

From Tuesday 17 until Saturday 28 July, archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust will be breaking ground on the Vinegarth site. Volunteers are needed to help carry out the works and full training will be provided.



Mowbray Manor Revealed - A Community Archaeology Project at Vinegarth, Epworth, Lincolnshire

Please take a few moments to carefully read the volunteer policy and handbook and complete the IOAHC volunteer forms. These can be found at You will need to complete the volunteer documents and bring them along with you on the morning of your volunteering or email prior to the event with the completed attachments.

What are we doing?

We are excavating two trenches measuring up to 30m² and 20m² over the projected remains of Mowbray manor, thought to stand to the south of St Andrews Church in Vinegarth, Epworth. The site is known from previous investigations undertaken in the 1970s, but the full extent of the site, its form, function and date are unknown. The locations of these two trenches will be determined by using the geophysical survey results produced by archaeological company APS in 2017. We are also aiming to excavate 1m² test pits in a number of fields to the west of the church. The fields are laid out in long and thin burgage plots, a system of farming used in the Medieval period, and are therefore of specific interest. We will also be targeting local properties with test pits. Our aims are:

Map the location and extent of the manor’s buildings and settlement, and any other remains and, where possible, to characterise the archaeological features thus located

Investigate the development, structure and landholdings of Mowbray Manor. Were the burgage plots associated with the manor itself?

Provide an opportunity for volunteers to develop new skills

We are going to be:

  • Excavating the trenches by hand (De-turfing, excavating using trowels, spades, buckets etc, then backfilling)
  • Excavating test pits in local back gardens and burgage plots by hand.
  • Sieving the spoil heaps for any more finds
  • Cleaning up the site and taking photographs
  • Drawing plans of all the features and structures we find
  • Drawing sections to show the layers (stratigraphy) that we have dug through
  • Creating a paper archive recording as much information as possible about each layer and feature
  • Washing and identifying the artefacts

If you would like a more detailed run through of what we are going to be doing before you join us on site, please don’t hesitate to ask!

What do you need to wear and bring?


  • Gardening clothes/ clothes you don’t mind getting dirty.
  • Gloves (They can be optional but you may blister!)
  • Sturdy footwear, preferably with ankle support. Wellies are ok but you may get uncomfortable after a while, you will get warm. Definitely NO plimsols or converse!
  • Check on weather forecast and be prepared for an English summer - so cold and wet (warm and waterproofs) or baking hot (sunhats and sun block) or both.
  • High visibility vests will be provided for all volunteers.

Food /Drinks

  • Bring your own drinks and food. We will have access to the churches kitchen and we will be providing tea and coffee (maybe a few biscuits!).


  • We will provide all necessary tools and equipment , however if you have a preferred spade or shovel, please feel free to bring it, some of our tools can be a little heavy.
  • If you have an archaeologist’s trowel, brilliant, bring that too! The more worn your trowel is, the more prestigious!

Daily Routine

  • The dig day runs from 9.30am to 3.30 pm with 30 minutes for lunch from 12.30 to 1.00pm. Arriving early doesn’t mean you will start early! You must be available for the whole day.
  • We will also aim for 15 minute tea breaks in the morning and afternoon.
  • Site will close up at 3.30pm, please help to pack away the tools.
  • Each session will start with volunteer check in, a safety talk and a brief explanation of what has been found so far and the plan for the coming session.



  • All must behave sensibly at all times and follow the directions of the field archaeologist on site
  • All must remain aware and alert to their surroundings at all times
  • All phones must be used off site
  • Watch out for hazards on the ground and overhead.


  • Professional medical advice is to be sought in the event of feeling unwell during or after taking part in an excavation. Trained first aiders are on site together with a first aid box.
  • Any broken skin (blisters, cuts etc) to be cleaned thoroughly and covered. Tetanus status to be checked before taking part in excavation and updated if necessary in event of significant injury.
  • Wash your hands before eating.
  • No intoxicants to be brought onto site and no persons to be on site while under the influence of intoxicants.
  • Be aware that objects such as tins and bottles may contain residues of dangerous substances. Don’t taste or sniff anything you find in the ground.
  • Manual handling – only do what you are capable of, we are here to help, not watch you struggle!

Tripping and falling:

  • Be aware that as the excavation gets deeper it will become more of a hazard.
  • Keep the site tidy at all times.
  • Keep the area within 2m of the excavation clear of equipment and anything else that might be a trip hazard (that includes the spoil heap!)
  • Walk AROUND the trench, NOT across it. Never jump across the open trench/pit.
  • Never run on site


  • If it’s cold, keep warm by digging!
  • If it’s wet, avoid doing paperwork unless it is protected - use a gazebo to keep your paperwork dry
  • If it’s sunny, watch out for sunburn. Use hat/sun block as needed.
  • If it’s hot, watch out for heatstroke – keep hydrated and take breaks in the shade as needed

About the organizer

A Heritage Lottery Funded project which aims to reconnect people to their cultural heritage and landscape.

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