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Friends of Lincoln Archaeological Research and Education (FLARE)
How Lincoln's lively archaeology group got underway and earned its enviable reputation

The Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology is the product of a series of amalgamations dating from 1965. 2009 saw the most recent one, with FLARE joining and enhancing the Archaeology Team of SLHA.

How FLARE began

FLARE was established in 1977 at the suggestion of Dr. Kathleen Kenyon, the famous archaeologist of the Near East, who was, at the time, Chair of the Lincoln Archaeological Trust. One of the earliest initiatives was teaching materials on local archaeology. An exhibition of these in 1978 was opened by the city's then MP, Margaret Jackson (later Beckett).

Lecture Series

The continuing programme has been the highly regarded lecture series of archaeological talks by national and international speakers which have broadened the knowledge and experience of members. We have been pleased that many archaeologists have visited Lincoln to share their expertise.


Among other activities organised by FLARE were training schemes using government funding to help young people equip themselves with some skills. The first was from 1978 to 1984.  It involved training diggers as well as publishing aids for schools, including Children's Guides to both Roman Lincoln and Lincoln Castle, both of which are still in print.

A later one was through FLARE Projects, Ltd., a company set up with the aid of the City Unit and employing between 20 and 30 young people between 18 and 25 years of age with full time training opportunities. Some worked in the city of Lincoln but others were transported to excavation sites across the County. One highly productive site was the Romano-British site at Sapperton.


The City Archaeology Unit

Lincoln City Council bought The Lawn complex when it closed as a mental hospital in 1985 and the former nurses' home, Charlotte House, was converted into the headquarters of the City Archaeology Unit. One of the ground floor rooms became, in 1990, an archaeology exhibition with hands-on displays to explain archaeological terminology and practices as well as highlighting the archaeology of the city.

FLARE members became the custodians of the centre for the first part of its life and manned the rota each day seven days a week. This dedication proved sufficient to cause the City Council to eventually employ staff for this popular attraction, which welcomed 40,000 visitors in its first year.

A large replica Roman amphora near the door acted as a donation box to this free entry facility giving FLARE a start on funding projects within the City. Some went to help research into the City's past but much went into publications to educate young and old about the City's stories.

The centre closed its function when The Collection museum opened in 2005 and absorbed its educational and hands-on activities.

Site Visits

A purely parochial outlook has never been on the agenda as the lecture programme shows. Arranging visits both national and international has been an essential part of the annual routine. There have been regular day visits to sites of archaeological significance as well as week-end and week-long stays across England and Wales and countries in Western Europe.

The Future

It is hoped that with the enlarged Archaeology Team working alongside the Local History and Industrial Archaeology Teams, we look forward to a new era where involvement in practical projects is high on the agenda and members across the County can participate.

Excavation in the Roman forum, Lincoln
Excavations at St Paul in the Bail
in the area of the Roman forum

Somerton Castle
Modern archaeological techniques are helping understand the history of a thirteenth century castle

Antony Bek, Bishop of Durham, received licence to crenellate his castle at Somerton, 8 miles south of Lincoln, in 1281. It is quadrangular with circular towers at the angles and linking curtain walls. It was probably not built as a defensive structure but rather as a demonstration of power and wealth, even though King John of France was confined there in 1359-60.

Today, in private ownership, the south-east tower remains at full height with an impressive attached Elizabethan house. The towers at the north-east, which has a fine central pier and vaulting, and south-west also survive but are much truncated.

The fourth tower and curtain walling no longer exist, probably swept aside with the development of a substantial farmstead on the site in the Victorian period.

Close against the towers is a moat and there are further earthworks and a second moat mainly to the south. Possibly these were fashionable landscape features.

More detail of the earlier form of the castle can be gleaned from Samuel Buck's C18 drawing and the detailed survey undertaken by J S Padley in the nineteenth century.

Heritage Lincolnshire with the support of SLHA are currently arranging an investigation of the site, including magnetometry and resistivity surveys. Experts on early medieval buildings are also being invited to examine and offer an interpretation of the existing structures.

Results of this wide-ranging investigation will be published in due course and also summarised on this website.

Somerton Castle, resistivity survey
Resistivity survey
in the grounds at
Somerton Castle



Medieval Jug from Toynton All Saints
A painting by Ethel Rudkin, who made a particular study of Toynton pottery and pottery kilns

This is a painting by Mrs Ethel Rudkin of a medieval jug found at Toynton All Saints near Spilsby in c1954.

Mrs Rudkin made an early study of pottery and pottery kilns in the Toynton All Saints and Bolingbroke area. She conducted excavations of kilns and classified pottery from the Middle Ages up to the Post-Medieval era. She was able to reconstruct several pots from the fragments she found and she also recorded them through paintings, such as this.

Many of the pots - and several of her paintings - are now in the care of the Lincolnshire County Council Museum Service.

Cover illustration from Lincolnshire History & Archaeology, Volume 38, 2003

Medievel jug, Toynton pottery

A Roman Altar
An inscribed fragment unearthed at Ancaster by Channel 4's Time Team

This fragment of an altar was found at Ancaster during excavations by Channel 4's Time Team. It had been re-used as part of the stone lining of a grave in the late Roman Christian cemetery there.

This surviving portion represents the top and left-hand side of the front face of the original altar. It measures 33cm high, 52cm wide and 12cm thick.

The inscription in well cut Roman capitals reads ...


... which translates as 'To the holy god Viridius...'

Steve Malone in Lincolnshire History & Archaeology, Volume 37, 2002

Roman altar fragment, Ancaster

A Paleolithic Burin
An important early Stone Age tool found at the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds

This burin was found near the River Lymn at the southern edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds.

It a is a long slender blade (about 10cm long) which among other tasks enabled early man to open up large animal bones to get at the marrow, a very convenient source of protein. Using this method a bone would be deeply scored with the point of the burin and then the weakened bone could be relatively easily broken into splinters and the marrow taken out.

The way the burin was made was ingenious. One early technique was by snapping off a series of small splinters, which were removed from one corner, down the edge of the flake to form a sharp chisel-like feature.

The burin was to develop into one of the most important tools. From ths humble beginning the Stone Age artificer was able to scribe through not just bone but also wood, horn and ivory. A special burin was developed for the artistic amongst them, an engraving tool called a 'beak burin'.

One of the country's earliest artistic images, a horse head inscribed on a bone found at Cresswell Crags, Derbyshire, was probably created by one of these special tools.

T William Bee in Lincolnshire History & Archaeology, Volume 38, 2003

Paleolithic burin from River Lymn
Paleolithic burin from River Lymn

Roman Remains in Ancaster
Work on a new bungalow yields substantial Roman material

A report in Lincolnshire History and Archaeology No. 26 (1991) describes an excavation in Ancaster which reads like a Time Team Special.

The dig took place in 1980 and the report written by Tom Lane of Archaeology Project Services. The excavation was begun when a human skull was found by builders whilst digging the foundations of a new bungalow. No more bones came to light in the foundation trenches but what was to become the new garden was throroughly examined and it produced more human remains.

Ancaster is rich in Roman remains dating from its period as a simple fort through to its growth to become a small town and a considerable amount of exploration took place in the late 1960s to 1980s.

On the bungalow site there were substantial walls but since there were plenty of large nails, Tom assumed that the upper walls were of timber. They were certainly plastered and decorated.

As is often the case there was evidence of infant burials under the floors including one that was in a stone lined grave. Some bones were built into a wall of a later building.

Some of the exposed walls became a feature of the new garden when it was landscaped. Most likely, if the excavation had taken place in more recent times, the advice wlould have been to cover it up to prevent deterioration from weathering.

Needless to say a number of dwellings in Ancaster boast Roman remains in their gardens and who would not like to have them on display!

The photograph shows the quality of the walls at the time of the dig.

Excavation of Roman building, Ancaster
Excavation of Roman building

Church Visits - Now and Then
Contrasting records of the Society's visits to local churches

The Annual Reports of the Lincolnshire Architectural and Archaeological Society contained lists of comments on churches visited. In the 19th century it was fashionable to consider the Gothic style far superior to any other and their reports reflect this. Their annual meetings, lasting several days, involved calling at as many churches as possible.

The 1872 report has a lengthy comment on All Saints Tealby. The entry commences with the tower.

The lower half of the tower is, undoubtedly, the oldest part of this church. The arches and jambs of its various openings are of native dark red sandstone, giving them a very rich effect, and they have the usual massive character of the Norman style.

The archway under the tower is an extremely fine one. Previously to the present restoration it was walled up and a large gallery stood in front of it.

Above and towards the north side of this archway there is a smaller opening leading to the bell chamber, which has also been partly blocked up and plastered over. This opening is a curiosity in its way, and it is difficult to say for what purpose it was intended.

The etching of Tealby arch shown here is credited to J L Fytche, a very active member of the Society.

SLHA arranged a visit to several churches in 2006. How was this different? Part of the report of this 21st century visit reads:

In May 2006 a group of SLHA members took part in a tour of six Lincolnshire churches with 11th century towers.

The tour was led by David Stocker and Paul Everson of English Heritage in advance of their book Summoning St Michael: Early Romanesque Towers in Lincolnshire, available from Jews' Court Bookshop for £50 (postage extra).

After an initial talk in Ingham Village Hall the party visited the churches of Marton, Heapham, Harpswell, Springthorpe, Glentworth and Corringham, with David and Paul providing further information at each site.

The photograph (by Mark Acton) shows the tower at Glentworth. The single vertical opening below the bell chamber gave the sexton a view of the churchyard enabling him to toll the bells at the moment of interment.

The 1872 visits were to study the entire church but in 2006 our visit was more selective, providing a comparative study of a special feature.

Another difference was the mode of transport. In 2006 a coach was hired but the antiquaries of 1872 used railway and horse-drawn carriages. The stop for lunch would have been the same - the local hostelry.

Tealby doorway, 1872 drawing
Tealby doorway
From the 1872 LAAS Report


Church tower with twin bell-openings, Glentworth
Church tower with twin
bell-openings Glentworth



Archaeology in Lincoln, 2010
Highlights of material uncovered in the City over the recent past

Mesolithic Tools

Very important collections of Mesolithic stone tools were found both on the site of the University pond and others from the St Catherine's area. According to Jim Rylatt, who has studied the material, the former site was probably a hunting camp of late Mesolithic date (c5000-4000BC), while the St Catherine's occupation is more likely to represent occupation extending over a longer timescale, into the Neolithic period.

There was also some useful information from analysis, by James Rackham and colleagues, of pollen and other environmental samples from the Brayford area sites for the Bronze Age and early Iron Age landscape.

Roman Finds

Among other advances, there is an increasing amount of information about the fringes of the Roman city, including Roman suburban occupation, cemeteries and field systems to both north and south, three new areas where pottery kilns have turned up, and the sites of villas - centres for farming estates - close to the city.

New ideas about the end of the Roman city are constantly emerging, even updating some of the evidence discussed at the Archaeology Day held only in March, and Tom Green's forthcoming book on "Britons and Saxons in Early Lincolnshire", to be published next year by the History of Lincolnshire Committee, takes up the story in the 5th century.

Saxon Trading

Until this year, Lincoln had produced no clear evidence for a "-wic", a mid-Saxon trading settlement of the type known from London and York, but in 2010 the first traces appeared, along with 7th-8th-century pottery, on a site west of Melville Street that may have lain on the so-called "Thorngate Island".

This settlement steered well clear of the former Roman walled town, whereas the earliest churches of the Anglo-Scandinavian city may have made use of visible Roman structures. In turn, the emergency excavations undertaken by Philip Dixon during the laying of a new surface by the west front of the cathedral appear to have proved conclusively that the cathedral succeeded a Saxon church, probably a minster, on the same site.


The final main point was the extent of quarrying to the north and east of the upper city, mainly from the medieval period for limestone but, as Stewart Squires's research is demonstrating, extending much further east in the 19th century for ironstone.

One impact of all this activity was to destroy any earlier remains, but in a few cases finds were recorded.

2010 excavation at University of Lincoln
Excavation on the University site