Painting Whilst Pondering Snails

As part of the South West Anarchy Research Project, we are investigating modern forms of resistance and future heritage preservation in Bristol. In relation to this, we have been working with the Peoples Republic of Stokes Croft who recently held a mural painting event which was attended by some of our UoB Student Volunteer Team! Here is an account from one of our lovely students.

‘On Sunday 29th October I partook in the painting of a large mural in St. Werburgh’s, on the side of the M32 going into Bristol. When I arrived, I noticed the warm atmosphere, as volunteers greeted and helped one another, working together to promote the cause of the Bristol Fair Renting Campaign. Their kindness and egalitarian approach stand in stark contrast to what they fight against: the merciless rental system. I enjoyed my time on this clear skied day, the work was physically demanding but felt meditative, soothing, and important.

As I painted, I noticed there were clusters of snails that had congregated in the cracks and crevices of the mural wall. Nestled into these humble territories they were out of way of human beings… or so they thought. This was clearly a hot destination for the snails, and it appeared they had been there for a while. Furthermore, there were at least 10 in each corner, a clear occupation. Yet, I picked them off and relocated them to a less hospitable spot on the ground. Some I left in position and painted around, but my action had still altered their communities irreversibly.

As I continued to paint, I became preoccupied by these snails; by the power I held over them and the consideration of whether to paint around them, and sacrifice the quality of my painting, or to displace them from their homes. Snails are constantly being stomped on by human beings. They are repeatedly being chucked off their homes, having their natural habitats destroyed, and having their last means of refuge: their shells, broken by us. To snails, these recurrent waves of destruction must be an unavoidable feature of their lives in the Anthropocene. Lightning strikes from the powers above them. I thought that this was an apt analogy for how it feels to be a private renter.

The Bristol Fair Renting Campaign manifesto shares different accounts of the experiences of renters in Bristol. What permeates all these accounts is an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness in the face of landlords and renting agencies. Since 2011, rent prices in Bristol have increased by 52% (Bristol Fair Renting Campaign, 2021). Most young people in Bristol know how dire the situation is. We all know people who have been treated in shocking and illegal ways. We all live in unsatisfactory conditions with poorly maintained houses and persistent damp and mould. We all pay far too much to live in these conditions. This alone constitutes shocking mistreatment of people. However, the inability to change these circumstances is what renders renting in Bristol truly bleak. When rooms are falling apart, when essential appliances break, when conditions pose health risks for occupants, there is no assurance that the problems will be fixed. In many cases, emails are ignored for months and in most cases, problems are never addressed. In my rental, we can see where the patches of mould on the walls were previously painted over. The landlord refuses to fix the root cause, only superficially fixing the problem. Nonetheless, ours and many other property’s rents will go up in price next year as we are forced to pay increasingly steep prices for terrible housing.

Thinking back to the snails, if we were to consider the drastic influence our actions have on their lives, then perhaps we would alter our behavior to be kinder and more considerate. Bristol Fair Renting campaign are calling for this change in attitude; for landlords and agencies to stop stomping on private renters. They demand stricter regulations on landlords and a rent cap to secure safe and affordable housing for private renters in Bristol. Their striking mural is visible from the M32 as you enter Bristol, sending a clear message that the people of Bristol are coming together to resist cruel rental system in the city.’ – Matilda Wright, University of Bristol.


News: King Stephen Medieval Coin Hoard

The period now known to us as the Anarchy (1135-1153) is interesting in terms of coinage – as people were constantly switching allegiances from Stephen to Matilda and Matilda to Stephen, there is evidence of both sides minting coins throughout England.

A recent discovery of a coin purse near Wymondham in Norfolk containing two coins dating to Henry II and III’s reigns, and ‘two pennies, three cut halfpennies and two cut quarters of pennies from Stephen’s reign’.

To read the full article on the BBC News, see link below:

King Stephen medieval penny hoard found near Wymondham – BBC News

BGAS 2023 Symposium!

On Saturday, the South West Anarchy Research project was lucky enough to attend the Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society’s annual symposium, generously hosted by MShed in Bristol! The theme of this years talks were ‘Community Archaeology’.

The day began at 10:00am (earlier for us as we had a stall to set up!) with the arrival of lots of wonderful BGAS members, and the morning session was introduced and chaired by Graham Barton, the Hon. Secretary for BGAS. Between 10:40am and 13:00pm, we were able to listen to 4 wonderful talks – interspliced with tea and biscuits of course!

The first talk by Timothy Darvill of Bournemouth University gave us an insight into recent excavations at the Sisters Long Barrow in Gloucestershire, followed by an update on the work being undertaken by GlosArch on Cleve Common, given by Phil Cox, GlosArch’s secretary.

After a quick coffee and hobnob, we were treated to a talk by Neil Holdbrook, Chief Executive of Cotswold Archaeology, on recent excavations of an incredible Roman tile kiln in Minety. This was followed by the final talk of the morning session, by Kurt Adams, the Finds Liason Officer for Gloucestershire and Avon. Kurt gave us an insight into the discovery and excavation of three coin hoards from Wickwar.

After questions and a lovely lunch at MShed’s cafe, the afternoon session began, with talks from Martin Papworth of the National Trust, on Chedworth Roman Villa mosaics, Tony Roberts, the director of Archaeoscan on new sites in Gloucestershire revealed by Public Access Archaeology and, of course, more tea and biscuits!

After this short break, SWARP’s own Dr. Stuart Prior gave a talk on the project – covering our excavations at Hartygrove, and in Royal Fort Gardens, and how the community have been and will continue to be integral!

As the theme was Archaeology in the Community, we were there to tell people about SWARP – it was a pleasure to be there with some of our finds, and information about us, and we had lots of wonderful people sign up to volunteer with us in the near future!

A huge thank you to BGAS, and MShed, we had a blast!

SWARP Archaeology Field School 2024 NOW OPEN

South West Anarchy Research Project’s archaeology field school 2024 is now open for applications!

The summer school is open to international students with or without previous site-based experience. Our expert faculty staff will help you to develop your excavation, post-excavation analytical, anthropological, and archaeological skills. Together we will uncover an exciting and important moment in British history.

More details can be found on the Field School website.

South West Anarchy Research Project: Quick Update!

New Academic Year!

After another brilliant season of student training and summer school excavations at our Hartygrove site, we are all looking forward to welcoming new students in the coming weeks, and welcoming back our 2nd and 3rd years. We can’t wait to hear about the Archaeological digs abroad that lots of our existing students embarked upon this summer, and to welcome fresh faces into the department!

We also welcomed a wonderful cohort of students about to embark on their final year of A-Level study, to the University of Bristol’s Open Day that was held on Saturday. It was brilliant to have so many young people come and talk to us about the Department of Anthropology and Archaeology courses, and we hope to see many of them in September 2024!


What’s on in September!

Over the summer, our SWARP team have continued to work hard on the project, getting some exciting things underway!

Bristol’s Graffiti Heritage

Our first self guided graffiti recording workshop was a great success, with over 70 sites of graffiti, street art and murals being mapped in Bristol’s Ashely Ward. Our next step is to repeat this process for Bristol’s Central Ward, and then shortlist sites to be surveyed and photographed at regular intervals. Our aim here is to record street art, graffiti and murals in Bristol to contribute to the preservation of them as cultural heritage sites. We also want to make sure that we respect the inherent nature of this element of heritage, so instead of recording every site once, we will revisit sites that are ever-changing in terms of the graffiti and street art. Stay tuned on our social media platforms for developments!

Bristol’s Brilliant Archaeology – Come along!

We will be attending the Bristol’s Brilliant Archaeology Festival, on Saturday 16th September 2023 @ Blaise Estate. This event is free and will be an amazing day of archaeology, history and heritage for all the family!


Volunteer with us!

As always, if you would like to volunteer on the South West Anarchy Research Project, please get in contact via email with our Project Officer Matilda at Everyone is welcome!

Summer School Student Experience!

From the 19th July to 30th July the International Field Archaeology School ran at our Hartygrove excavation site. It was a wonderful and enriching two weeks, with students from all over the world in different stages of their education coming together to work as a team and get excavating! We continued explorations in Trenches 1 and 2, as well as extending Trench 2 into Trench 4. Some exciting finds were uncovered during this time (keep your eyes and ears open for finds updates!). Most important during this two weeks however, were the experiences had by our International Students! Here are some quotes from our wonderful students:

It’s such a cool spot to be able to excavate. I really enjoyed finding the pottery and fitting the pieces together. We have gained a lot of experience!‘ – Thea, Norway

This was an unforgettable challenge in my University studies, and my favourite part was working as a team!’ – Iris, Hong Kong

‘Usually children say they want to be an astronaut or a princess or whatever when they grow up, so I wasn’t taken seriously when I said I wanted to be an archaeologist but look at me now! I was really serious!’ Selene, Switzerland

‘A precious opportunity! I have been given the opportunity to experience real archaeology which I don’t get at home so this is very precious.’ Neil, Hong Kong

‘This has been an opportunity to confirm my enjoyment of archaeology!’ Colin, Canada

‘I have loved the instructors, they are very informative, and of course my course mates!’ Gary, Hong Kong

‘I have found this whole experience very educational and to get actual digging experience is amazing. I have learned that even the smallest things can be the most useful.’ Jimmy, Hong Kong

Divya and Hannah: Pottery from the Student Training Excavation

It’s the start of a brand new day on site, and everyone is hard at work. Today, we’re going to talk about pottery, our most abundant find! The most interesting of all the pottery that has been found is probably the Ham Green pottery which was recovered in Trench 3.
Ham Green pottery traces back to Ham Green, a hamlet near Pill in Somerset. It was produced from 1100 AD to 1250 AD. Ham Green is the only Medieval kiln site which has been excavated in the Bristol area. An excavation there found an oval kiln, around 2.5m x 1.2m! Ham Green potters usually produced jugs, tripod pitchers, cooking pots, bowls, lamps, and dripping trays, with designs of humans and animals. They used the River Avon and Severn to trade; many Ham Green pots have been found in Ireland. Some of our finds show evidence of local geology being incorporated, such as quartz and limestone being crushed into the pottery. Additionally, the high levels of iron are easily identified due to the colour of the pottery.
We spoke to Ysabel, a first year student, about the pottery she had found. Ysabel found a new kind of pottery which was black and shiny; there is some speculation that it may pre-date the building. Ysabel says she thought it was unusual and was happy she found lots of different pieces. Afterwards, Ysabel and some other students cleaned the pottery with toothbrushes and water and commented that “It was nice to see the pottery come to life.” Whilst cleaning, the students discovered some pieces were quite charred. Top tips for cleaning pottery are be careful and go slowly!
We also spoke to the landowner, who described the volume of pottery found on site over the years. Over 13 years, 10,000 sherds of low grade quality have been found. 3 Ham Green jugs of high status were found during HARP projects. Over the years, a very small amount of sherds of Roman pottery have also been found. Lots of these sherds and pottery were found in the lower corner of the site – perhaps this was a well filled with rubbish?
Although not pottery, the landowner’s favourite find at the site is a Viking sharpening stone with a hole in, which was worn around the neck.

Jude’s Trench Summaries – Week 3

As I write this, I’m sitting in trench 1 as we dig deeper into the collapsed wall and rubble, cutting directly through a central ditch. The past two weeks have revealed a number of small but intriguing finds in this particular area of the site. Young members of the team have frequently extracted sherds of pottery and animal bone making for an especially excited atmosphere. The enthusiasm for potential finds here in the week to come is very palpable as I speak to Theo, a key part of the success in this trench. He says, in a determined and unamused tone, “I will find something this week”.
The trench is unique to the rest of the site in that is may represent an earlier phase in the development of the site here at Lower Hazel. Site manager, Joel explains to me that the lower surface of the trench that goes beneath the nearby wall indicates activity that was earlier than the walls themselves.

I venture over the baked earth and tired walls to trench 2 to see what is happening on the other side of the site. We have now excavated a long, thin and deep ditch as we follow what we think may be the foundation cut that we uncovered last week. However there is debate amongst the high ranked members of the dig about this ditch. Some are leaning towards other theories about the large rocks at the bottom of the ditch, postulating it may be a drainage system of some sort. There is no doubt, however, that this lower rock structure is from an earlier time than everything else. The pottery found here seems to be of an earlier typology than those found in other places. Aaron, who has been working this section for the last few weeks, admits this trench is still a mystery. 

In trench 3, there is a collection of busy workers trowelling hard. They explain that they are preparing the trench to be dug deeper into. Trench 3 has been responsible for most of the significant finds during the excavation, including a large part of a ‘Ham Green Pot’, a type of pottery associated with the Anarchy period.

As we come to our final week, there are still intriguing problems to solve in each area of the site. The mysterious story of the Hunting Lodge here at Lower Hazel continues to fascinate. 

A Semester Abroad in Bristol!

This semester we are lucky enough to have two brilliant students from the University of São Paulo in Brazil studying with us at Bristol. This means we also get to have them on the Hartygrove Excavation with us!

So we decided to get their insight as international students, and asked them each a few questions!


Why did you choose to study abroad at Bristol (and why Anthropology and Archaeology)?

I was looking into the exchange programme options at my home university, saw Bristol and it seemed like a great city to experience student life, as it’s very creative and intercultural. The University called my attention because of its rankings and of the units that would be available to me as a study abroad student. I had previously studied History and Archaeology of Classical and Hellenistic Greece, back in the University of São Paulo, but it was a theoretical unit. So Archaeological Practice was a great opportunity to have a more hands-on experience.

What have you learnt so far and how has it complemented your degree?

I have been able to learn what Archaeology is like in practice – what it’s like to be on site, how the surveying methods and equipment work, as well as taking part in the HARP excavations. As a student of Ancient Greek, it has been nice to develop skills that can open doors in the future, broadening my options of study beyond language and literature (my degree at my home university).

What have you been doing today (31/05/2023) at the excavations?

After helping remove rubble from one of the trenches that will be excavated, Juliana and I were asked to do a section drawing of what was presumably a doorway. We measured and recorded the stones using drawing materials:


Why did you choose to study abroad at Bristol (and why Anthropology and Archaeology)?

First, because of the language. I have been studying English for many years, so I knew I wanted to do a semester abroad in the UK. Second, during the process of choosing a University in the UK, I always caught myself going back to University of Bristol’s website because it showed to me a campus full of diversity and events that prioritize this same diversity. Once we were selected by the UoB it was time to choose the units. As a student of ancient Greek in Brazil, I was always, even before entering the University, curious about Archeology, so when me and Bianca saw that Bristol has a class called Archaeological Practice we made it one of our priorities, specifically because we don’t get the chance of having practical classes of archaeology like this one in Brazil.

What have you learnt so far and how has it complemented your degree?

In Archaeological Practice Class there is a great effort to teach from the basis to the latest technologies in the Archaeological field. Of course it is a lot, but to someone that has never studied Archaeology before it was an important opportunity to learn how the UK archaeology works and apply that in my future career. It has complement my degree in the sense that back in my home University my focus was on literature, but there is a huge field of the classical studies dedicated to Archaeology, which interest me as a student of Ancient Greek.

What have you been doing today (31/05/2023) at the excavations?

First me and Bianca worked removing stones with the trowel together with two other students. In the end of the morning we started to do a section drawing of the walls 16, 21 and 22 where there was supposed to be a door. 

Week 2: Theo’s Daily Diary

Day 7: Wednesday 31st May 2023

cartoon illustration of boy in bed with dream bubble above head containing a brush, trowel and archaeology sieve
The dreams of archaeology students…
Archaeology is a fascinating subject which can be subject to many interpretations and changes in how we view the world of the past. As such it can be the root of many peoples dreams. So I decided I’d find out what some of my fellow archaeology students dreams are. Though naturally with such a broad subject so were peoples dreams. We had many from ‘discovering Atlantis’ to finding out the way people behaved in the past by viewing their botanical food remains.
Though on the darker side of dreams is archaeological nightmares, talking to Alex I found out that not all finds are good finds on a dig. Whilst many of the students, when asked what they would like to find replied with ‘a human skeleton’, Alex said that this is normally a nightmare to find, though not because any spirits will be haunting your sleep but more because of the paper work required! Other than the large amount of paper work required,  if one is found you often have to excavate it and this can be an agonising task for an archaeologist who may have another trench which has definitive finds in it and all you can think about is the other trench. Also plans for reburial must be made and sometimes even a coroner must be called!

Just like the field of archaeology my question was left somewhat to interpretation and I also heard about what people had actually dreamt about archaeology. Some tasks in archaeology can be quite repetitive (the magic dust of causing dreams). Sometimes archaeology can be buried quite deep in the ground and troweling through meters of soil to get to the archaeology would be quite inefficient, so a 360 excavator machine will be used instead (aka a digger). One of our site supervisors Joel on another site was tasked with this job and said, ‘I watched a 360 excavator all day dreamt about watching it all day to wake up and watch it again.’ Another dream I heard about was from Izzie who said that after spending days troweling out the dirt from the walls, she dreamt that her pillow had turned into a rock and she had to trowel out the dirt from between it! She thinks she was actually half awake while dreaming about this and actually doing the action.

More unexpected insights to follow – stay tuned it!