Hidden treasures including Roman pottery were unearthed by the teenagers who took part in last week’s excavation at the former site of the Machine Gun Corps in the parklands of Belton House.
A hundred years ago, Belton’s parkland was home to tens of thousands of soldiers of the Machine Gun Corps, training for frontline action in the First World War. Over the last six months a team of young volunteers aged between 14 and 19 years old have been investigating the archaeology of this camp.
Last week, this work culminated in an archaeological excavation of the three areas of the training camp, to discover more about the site and the men that served there.
Finds included bullet cases, pottery and evidence of the huts that served as the buildings in which soldiers ate, slept and socialised.
Under the guidance of Rachael Hall, the National Trust’s archaeologist for the Midlands, and Melissa Maynard, learning manager at Belton House, the team discovered the hidden story of the end of the camp’s life. They found nails, bolts and other building material remains revealing that the huts were dismantled quickly during the early 1920s.
One of the excavation areas remained a bit of a mystery. Showing up on geophysics and landscape surveys, the young people wanted to discover what was there. Initial thoughts and speculation labelled the mystery building as officer’s latrines, only for excavation to find evidence of a medieval gully!
As well as a handful of personal belongings, including a bully beef tin key from the officer’s barrack block, the team also uncovered some shards of Roman pottery and a clay pipe dating from the time that the house was built. These are the earliest finds ever discovered at Belton.
Melissa said: “We’re very proud of all the work and enthusiasm shown by our project team, with the young people themselves deciding on the research questions and locations of the three excavation trenches. But it’s not over yet as we move into the second phase of the project and they design and create remembrance walks and an exhibition due to open in November this year.”
The Lest We Forget Belton’s Bravest is an HLF Young Roots funded project.