Volunteers and Basingstoke Archaeology Society at Basing House

Max Jones spent a morning earlier this week interviewing some of the volunteers at the trench who are members of the Basingstoke Archaeological and Historical Society (BAHS). BAHS are essential collaborators at the Basing House Project. The volunteers who come to dig at Basing House with us often share important fieldwork skills with the undergraduate students and are an essential part of the team.

You can find out more about the BAHS via their website: www.bahsoc.org.uk/

A big thank-you to Max on this insightful blog post!

BAHS and Digging at Basing House

Written by Max Jones

Throughout the three weeks of our dig at Basing House there has been no shortage of enthusiastic volunteers from the Basingstoke Archaeological and Historical Society (BAHS for short) that have joined in with every aspect of what has been a fruitful dig, both archaeologically and socially. The BAHS is, and has been, an integral part of all things archaeology in Basingstoke for years. With a potent blend of both experience and youthful gusto which is second to none, the members of the society have served to be a great influence upon the undergraduates from the University of Southampton. This impact is shown no better than in the dig of 2014 where a handful of volunteers have made their way to Basing House day in day out to guide us undergrads in the realms of digging archaeology. Additionally they have served to shed light upon important aspects and features of the site in a much wider context than just the trench that we have been excavating these past weeks, an ability that can only be championed by those select few who have lived and breathed archaeology for more years than I have been alive!

Over the past three weeks every undergraduate has had the pleasure of engaging with members of the society and this blog will explore a select few BAHS members. Members who have enlightened us about what it means to be a BAHS member at Basing House in 2014. Firstly Ian Waite, not only does he sport a fierce handlebar moustache, he also has been a member of BAHS for as long as he can remember. He spoke of his younger more freshly cut self being inspired by Time Team to become an archaeologist! The sentiments and actions of Tony Robinson spurred Ian to seek out Dave Allen, who is the Keeper of Archaeology for Hampshire Museums Service, and Alan Turton, the then Curator of Basing House, and the rest is history. 2014 is the first year that Ian has ever dug on the new house area of Basing House, with his previous digs being in and around the citadel. With this new experience Ian voiced his enjoyment at being part of such a social and welcoming dig, a sentiment that was a common theme throughout all interviews with volunteers and members of the BAHS society. Ian was very clear that being part of this society has allowed him to ‘get his hands’ on lots of new untouched stuff, no better an example is in the untouched areas of the new house – the areas which Lord Bolton didn’t even touch!

Another member of BAHS without whom this dig would not have been what it has been this year is Jim Oram. Jim laughs in the face of top soil and relishes a chance to use his personal spade to dig precisely cut squares of soil at a pace Usain Bolt would have trouble beating! He spoke of how he joined the BAHS because of his interest in the historical side of things mostly, joining some 20 years ago motivated by the ruins of old churches mostly. During conversations with Jim he has voiced his love of the group of people on the dig this year and states that the working environment has a great amount of relaxation that is not intimidating nor is it unprofessional – the perfect blend!

While on my way to write up the blog I ran into Penny, a volunteer from around the area, who voiced her praise of the social aspects of this year’s dig. She stated that unlike most digs that being a volunteer at BH14 has been both welcoming and fruitful. In particular she was very pleased by the way both Gareth and Nicole went about taking her personally around the trench every day she was here, giving every volunteer the feeling that they, along with every undergrad on site, were accepted on the same level as all those at the dig. On that note, Alan Turton stated that both Gareth and Nicole were the best supervisors he has come in contact with.

Finally, I caught up with Miriam Andrews who was a member of BAHS and now is a 2nd year student at the University of Southampton. She spoke of how BAHS has helped her build up a substantial wealth of archaeological experience that she was able to use when applying for university last year. Miriam was part of the BH13 team that dug last summer and has thoroughly enjoyed her time here as a student of archaeology this year. BAHS has allowed her to focus within the discipline and is an example of the influences and importance of the BAHS upon digs in and around Basingstoke. Long may their involvement continue!

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