Q&A: Grantham archaeologist David Hibbitt

David Hibbitt of Grantham Archaeology Society.
David Hibbitt of Grantham Archaeology Society.
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Archaeologist David Hibbitt was inspired to take-up a new hobby in 1995 when he watched Tony Robinson’s Time Team.

Today he is a director of Grantham Archaeology Group who has even appeared on Channel 4 show which sparked his initial interest.

How did you get started? Were you always interested in history?

I was very indifferent to history at school but I have always had an interest in archaeology and history, it was always there. Then Time Team came along and I got interested in that. I found out about a local group and joined to gain field experience. That was in 1995.

Were you hooked immediately?

Yes, pretty much so. I didn’t necessarily know I wanted to do it as a career but I found it interesting and rewarding.

Do you find any time period particularly interesting?

The Romans were good because they were messy and left lots of things behind!

Any digs in particular stand out for you?

Every site is unique so it’s quite hard to pin down any one event. Although, I did meet my wife on an archaeological site so I should say that really! I enjoy running the sites. Plenty of people want to excavate but not many want to do the paperwork before and afterwards! People tend to want to dig things up then go home.

Last time I saw you was at a dig at St Vincent’s in Grantham, former home to Bomber Command...

We ‘re finding that a lot that has been written on St Vincent’s turns out to have errors in it so what my wife, Angie, has done is compile the historical research for St Vincent’s right back to the original documentation - that way you are getting it right from the word go. I think Graham Jeal (the owner of St Vincent’s) is very pleased with what we’ve done up there. Luckily he’s a nice chap because we said ‘we want to dig your garden up with a JCB’ and he’s said ‘yeah, no problem’. Not everyone would let us do that, although I wish they would. We’ve also been doing some work out at Ancaster with schoolchildren.

Can a more practical side to history help children learn?

A good sound knowledge of text books is good but you can’t beat being out in the field. You can read about it as much as you like but until you get out and do it you don’t know if you are going to enjoy it or not. We like to give people the opportunity to have a go and the majority seem to stay with us.

You’ve said Time Team was an inspiration and you have appeared on the show yourself...

Yes we helped with the Time Team dig at Belton (home of the First World War Machine Gun Corps). That was very moving, very interesting and very evocative. We were asked to dig a machine gun trench by hand; the difference was we were doing it in the summer, people weren’t shooting at us and trying to kill us and we weren’t doing it in a foreign land. It really brought home how difficult it would have been.

What advice would you offer someone looking to take the first step into archaeology?

Talk to your local groups and your local history societies and just get involved. Specialize as well. The money and job satisfaction is in specialist fields like pottery identification or human remains.