Lives of the Common People

Castleton and Hope’s Hidden Medieval History: A joint project by Castleton and Hope Historical Societies 2012 – 2013

In 2012 Castleton and Hope Historical Societies received £26,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund for an exciting new project to find out about the ‘hidden history’ of Castleton and Hope villages in the medieval period.  The project aimed to discover where the common people of the area lived and worked between the Norman Conquest of 1066 and the Civil War in 1642.

Greg Pickup, HLF Grants Officer, said: “We were delighted to support this exciting volunteer-led project. It will provide opportunities for the whole community to gain new skills whilst exploring a hidden part of the Hope Valley’s fascinating heritage. The project will uncover stories that have been buried for centuries, allowing people to discover how the lives of common people shaped the history of Hope and Castleton in Medieval times.”  Extract from “Lives of the Common People – 2012 and ongoing”. Click here for full document.


Training session on archaeological surveying

The project got off to an exciting start with visits to three record offices and a training day in landscape archaeology. Archivists at Matlock, Litchfield and Sheffield record offices gave training in researching documents; searches of the Litchfield records were particularly fruitful, uncovering a range of documents for both villages.

Following a training session on archaeological surveying, volunteers headed up the valley side north of Hope to practice some of the skills demonstrated. The aim was to record the archaeological features associated with the old routes between the two villages, which may date to the Middle Ages. Read the full report in  Project Update March 2012

Test pits in Castleton


Gazebo providing useful cover

Using 2 gazebos as protection from the rain, it was possible to dig 22 test pits in Castleton. The finds included sherds of 18th century slipware and glazed blackware, possible medieval pottery from three sites in Castleton, quite a few clay pipe stems including a possibly relatively early, thick, wide-bored section, part of a human jaw with teeth near Joules Yard as well as a few other human bones.


Part of human jaw

Read more in Project Update July 2012

Display at Hope Show:  August 2012

img_5941reduced_crop-resizedThe project took a stand at the 2012 Hope Show with a small display of photographs showing the progress on the test pits in Hope and Castleton, together with a panel for the landscape survey and documentation. The documentation panel had the will and inventory of Thomas Stephenson from 1648 with a transcription which proved very interesting. The landscape survey panel illustrated the two routes between Hope and Castleton which were investigated as part of the project.

There was also a panel featuring the children from Hope primary schools getting a feel for life in medieval times. John Hudson, a potter provided a working display which kept children and adults enthralled throughout the day.

Finds Day 1: 29th July 2012

The Finds Day at Loxley Hall in Hope was a great success with over 120 visitors. A tray was set out for each test pit to display all of the finds from over 60 test pits excavated in Castleton and Hope’s gardens and fields. Dr. Chris Cumberpatch was on hand to offer initial comments about the pottery. The formal evaluation and documentation has still to be done. Finds will be analysed by finds specialists over the next few weeks with a report written in the near future. There was also a photographic display and a slide show of photographs taken during the test pit fortnight.  The Big Finds Day Report

Finds Day 2: 3 March 2013


Finds Day 2

Finds Day 2 held in Loxley Hall Hope presented the expert reports on the pottery finds and on the bones. Dr Chris Cumberpatch and the project team were on hand to answer visitors’ questions. The event was very well attended. There was a photographic display which included an update on the landscape survey work for the north and south routes between the villages and a continuous slide loop showing the test pit work and the landscape survey shots.


Finds Day 2

Grateful thanks to all those villagers who have allowed test pits in their gardens and fields, to the volunteers and especially in Castleton, to the Bulls Head for letting us store tools in their garage, and to the Methodist Chapel for access to the Walker Room at lunchtimes that provided dry respite for the test-pitters! Also to the Heritage Lottery Fund.


Finds Day 2


Finds Day 2

You can follow this link to view the publications resulting from this project:
Medieval Lives in Castleton and Hope
Castleton Test Pit reports (3  parts)
Landscape Survey Report (67 pages)
Lives of the Medieval People in Castleton & Hope