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Archaeological fieldwork exploring Saxon history of Rendlesham near Woodbridge cancelled due to coronavirus pandemic

A key archaeology project in Suffolk exploring Rendlesham’s Saxon past has been forced to cancel public events and fieldwork because of the coronavirus pandemic.

But archaeologists are using the delay to boost the project’s online offering, with council bosses confirming it has been extended by nine months.

The Rendlesham Revealed project in the Deben valley secured more than £517,300 in National Lottery Heritage Fund cash at the start of the year, which in turn unlocks a further £200,000 in match funding.

Volunteers excavating an Anglo-Saxon house at Rendlesham. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL (40969869)
Volunteers excavating an Anglo-Saxon house at Rendlesham. Picture: SUFFOLK COUNTY COUNCIL (40969869)

It features archaeologists developing on their dig, which ran from 2008-17 uncovering evidence of Anglo-Saxon royal settlements in the area – hailed as internationally important.

But the coronavirus pandemic and associated social distancing measures mean that the series of public engagement events planned for this summer, and the fieldwork, have had to be put on hold.

In a report prepared for councillors, Suffolk County Council cabinet member for the environment Richard Rout said: “By doing this, we can make sure the public still have the same opportunities to be involved and benefit from the full experience of the project.

“The National Lottery Heritage Fund has been supportive and agreed to a nine-month extension to enable this.

“We are keen to maintain the project’s momentum and so have adapted the original timetable, and, where possible, brought forward some of the activities such as creating the walking trail and interpretation boards for the public.

“There will also be a new alternative online programme this year, which will add value to the project and continue to engage the public.”

According to the council, those planned events which have had to be pushed back included workshops both on site and off with the public and schools, which will also take place in the summers of 2021 and 2022.

The scheme has also included opportunities for volunteers to get involved in excavation and surveys, among other activities.

Alongside the online webpages being created, a series of free online talks by those involved is also to be aired, beginning from September 9.

The royal settlements in Rendlesham, near Woodbridge , were first mentioned in the 8th Century by Bede in the Ecclesiastical History of the English People, and would have been a seat of power for East Anglian kings to feast with their followers and mete out justice.

Over the last 12 years experts have been exploring the area’s royal Saxon history and the link to King Raedwald and Sutton Hoo, with the Lottery funding allowing the work to continue until at least 2023.

Visit www.heritage.suffolk.gov.uk and follow the links to find out more about the online talks.

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