Medieval Mysteries of Leicestershire

The Medieval period spanned from 500 AD to 1500 AD and was a time of tension with the Saxons, Danes and Normans as well as the War of the Roses. This was also a period where monastic activity greatly expanded with the founding of many monasteries, priories and churches. Some local examples are Grace Dieu Priory, Leicester Abbey, Holly Hill Monastery and Garendon Abbey. These religious buildings and communities were greatly affected during the 1536 Dissolution of Monasteries, often resulting in them being destroyed or falling into disrepair. This left many mysteries for us to uncover, particularly at Grace Dieu Priory, where many buildings and even the cemetery have yet to be located.

What is Past to Present Archaeology aiming to do?

In the past year Past to Present Archaeology have begun a research initiative to study the medieval landscapes of Leicestershire as part of our wider Archaeology of Leicestershire project. The project aims to add to the ever increasing amount of research-led archaeological investigation of Medieval Britain to help us to better understand how those inhabiting Medieval Leicestershire lived, worshipped and farmed.

Our 2022 project at Grace Dieu Priory

2022 marked the beginning of our research into the medieval landscape of the county, beginning with Grace Dieu Priory. In February 2022, we undertook a programme of geophysics alongside our friends at Allen Archaeology which identified lots of potential archaeology around the periphery of the priory. Following this we excavated a number of test pits to examine these potential features. The results revealed a number of ditches and a rubble stone wall. In July 2022, the first season of excavation will commence with a community participated field school. This first season aims to characterise monuments and features through dateable evidence to better understand activities around the priory and what the area was used for. The first season also sets out to better understand how the site evolved over a period of time, how well archaeological deposits have been preserved as well as ascertain the significance of any finds. This research will then help inform any further research done in the area.

Who is project aimed at?

Situated within a 10 minute drive of Loughborough and 30 minutes of Leicester, Nottingham and Derby, the field school is perfectly situated for students who wish to gain archaeological experience as well as archaeology enthusiasts. From enhancing your archaeological passport to simply having an archaeological adventure, this is the perfect opportunity to train with experienced archaeologists who will guide you and nurture your passion for archaeology. You are welcome to drive to site every day or choose to camp with our team during the 2 week project.

Join the Discovery

Project Dates

18th July-23rd July

You will receive archaeological training and instruction in:

  • Site conduct and health and safety considerations
  • Setting out archaeological grids for excavation, fieldwalking etc.
  • Clean and identify archaeological features and deposits
  • Stratigraphic excavation and recording
  • Maintaining accurate site records
  • Archaeological photography
  • Archaeological interpretation
  • Drawing archaeological plans and sections to appropriate scales
  • Archaeological survey with Leica GPS
  • Environmental sampling strategies
  • Building recording
  • Artefact retrieval and finds cataloguing
  • Dry sieving for flints

Tours around the priory are also available as part of the project.

Our 1 week experience is offered at £450 per person.

Shorter Experiences

If you cannot join us for a whole week, but would still like to get involved, why not join us on a day-to-day basis instead. Single days are charged at £100 per adult. We will give you the opportunity to experience as much or as little as you like from the main activity list. If you simply want to refine a particular skill, or just stick a shovel in the ground, we can tailor your experience to you.

Also we will be offering a limited number of spaces for our Saturday package. This will include excavation in the morning, a tour of the priory after lunch, followed by handling and processing artefacts in the afternoon. You are welcome to join our site BBQ at the end of the day, which will be provided to help raise funds for the priory.

Young Adventurers Club Days (U16s)

Priced at £65 per child, per day, your young enthusiasts will enjoy digging and sieving for finds, learn how to identify artefacts and experience photographing and recording like a professional! There is no limit to how many days your child wants to attend. All we ask is that they are accompanied by an adult.

If you have any queries about our field schools, please email us on:

Help us Crowdfund this Dig

If you are unable to join our summer excavations, you can still support our project in other ways. Every penny donated will be used to provide extra support on site, and enable greater efforts in the post-excavation laboratories.

Results will be posted online as they come in, and you can even help us interpret the results!