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Long Melford Heritage Centre reunited with 2,000-year-old Roman artifact to mark re-opening from Covid-19 lockdown




A 2,000-year-old artifact has been reunited with the Suffolk village where it was found decades ago, as a local museum strives to build the big picture of the area's extensive Roman history.

Long Melford Heritage Centre welcomed visitors for the first time this year at the weekend, unveiling a variety of new displays added during the lengthy closure caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The exhibits include finds from recent archaeological digs at Long Melford Football Club in Stoneylands – believed to be the heart of an ancient human settlement – where evidence of a Roman road and bathhouse were unearthed.

To mark the opening of the Long Melford Heritage Centre, there was a visit by a local historian and an archaeologist from Norwich Castle...PICTURED: Archaeologist Alice Lyons talks briefly about the pots...Picture by Mecha Morton.. (47925811)
To mark the opening of the Long Melford Heritage Centre, there was a visit by a local historian and an archaeologist from Norwich Castle...PICTURED: Archaeologist Alice Lyons talks briefly about the pots...Picture by Mecha Morton.. (47925811)

Roman pottery expert Alice Lyons visited the centre on Saturday morning to shed light on some of the new exhibits, including an amphora donated by historian Ashley Cooper, whose father, Harold, had held it for safe keeping in Gestingthorpe.

Discovered in Long Melford in the 1950s, the amphora was identified by Dr David Williams as a rare type of pottery built in Cadiz, in southern Spain, and imported to Britannia between the first and second century.

Kenneth Dodd, lead archaeologist at the heritage centre, said the knowledge of Roman-era Long Melford has increased enormously over the last five years, and the team is eager to grow people’s understanding of its history.

To mark the opening of the Long Melford Heritage Centre, there was a visit by a local historian and an archaeologist from Norwich Castle...PICTURED: Ashley Cooper with the Haltern Type Roman storage Amphora he has given back to Long Melford. His father, a local, was given the amphora in the 1950’s for safe keeping...Picture by Mecha Morton.. (47925812)
To mark the opening of the Long Melford Heritage Centre, there was a visit by a local historian and an archaeologist from Norwich Castle...PICTURED: Ashley Cooper with the Haltern Type Roman storage Amphora he has given back to Long Melford. His father, a local, was given the amphora in the 1950’s for safe keeping...Picture by Mecha Morton.. (47925812)

The centre was awarded a grant by the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies to carry out further excavations and geophysical surveys in the village, and Mr Dodd invited the community to get involved.

“It has been known for a long while that Long Melford is sitting partly on top of a Roman settlement,” he told the Free Press. “What we’re trying to do now is bring all the knowledge together and, in many cases, debunk myths about Roman Long Melford.

“In the past, it would have appeared it was a little village settlement, but the picture we’re getting is it was a very much more important and substantial town.

To mark the opening of the Long Melford Heritage Centre, there was a visit by a local historian and an archaeologist from Norwich Castle...PICTURED: Kenneth Dodd, lead archeologist for the heritage centre...Picture by Mecha Morton.. (47925813)
To mark the opening of the Long Melford Heritage Centre, there was a visit by a local historian and an archaeologist from Norwich Castle...PICTURED: Kenneth Dodd, lead archeologist for the heritage centre...Picture by Mecha Morton.. (47925813)

“This grant means we can reveal a bigger area and try to prove the hypothesis that Roman Long Melford was a much bigger town with an organised administration.

“The commercial side of archaeology has sort of pushed the amateur out, but we’re all volunteers who aren’t constrained by finances. There’s a latent interest out there.”

Other exhibits in the centre include new photographic displays of the Long Melford Railway from more than 100 years ago, as well as pictures and artifacts from the nearby Second World War airbase in Lavenham.

To mark the opening of the Long Melford Heritage Centre, there was a visit by a local historian and an archaeologist from Norwich Castle...PICTURED: Alice Lyons, archaeologist, with some of the pots of interest...Picture by Mecha Morton.. (47925810)
To mark the opening of the Long Melford Heritage Centre, there was a visit by a local historian and an archaeologist from Norwich Castle...PICTURED: Alice Lyons, archaeologist, with some of the pots of interest...Picture by Mecha Morton.. (47925810)

Long Melford Heritage Centre is open from 10am to 4pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and noon to 4pm on Sundays, until October 31, with Covid-19 safety measures in place.

Anybody interested in volunteering can contact John Nunn on 01787 313496 or Kenneth Dodd on 01787 319131.

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