Archaeological Site Open Days Welcomed By Locals

Two open days held by Fusion at the historic St Mary’s Church site in Stoke Mandeville in Aylesbury recently have been met with gratitude by those in attendance.

The original St Mary’s Church was demolished in the 1960s but the majority of the stone and surrounding grave markers were left where they were. Fusion is currently working with L-P Archaeology to recover and record these materials.

Despite the chilly weather, over 300 members of the public attended the open days. A minibus service from a local community centre was provided to give visitors safe and easy access. On arrival, they were able to see displays of architectural stone recovered from the site laid out on wooden pallets, including recovered grave markers.

Visitors could also join tours which allowed them to see the remains of the standing church building which is in most places still waist high. Further displays of architectural fragments were on view around the site. The public also heard from archaeologists and about the work L-P Archaeology has been undertaking to preserve and record the findings.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive with many visitors offering their thanks as they left.

One man had expressed his disdain for HS2 and the “destruction” it was causing. However, before leaving, he told one of the team how relieved he was that the site was being dealt with by “professionals who clearly know what they are doing.” This reflected the views of a number of visitors who were keen to see further opportunities to visit the works.

HS2 has received compliments from visitors, as have Fusion. Doug Stuckey, Honorary Secretary of the Bucks Archaeological Society (BAS), said: “Thanks to everyone involved in organising and running the two open days and the field museum.

“The display and artefacts in the hall and marquee were well presented. The presentation was pitched for a general audience with the right balance between the archaeological potential, practical problems and rules of engagement for the site. We all (and there were many of us) appreciated the effort and expertise displayed so far and the scale of the task still to come.”

BAS welcomed the opportunity to “support further events that enable us to safely visit and appreciate the work of the archaeological teams along our section of the line – and play a part in archiving and providing access to the knowledge that your work creates.”

Charlotte Hewes, a Community Liaison Officer at Fusion, said: “It is excellent to receive feedback like this. The events were organised specifically for local people and others interested in archaeology, so it is great to know that they were received so well. So many people who attended clearly shared Fusion’s aim to deliver outstanding archaeology and also appreciate the unique opportunity that the St Mary’s site offers us.”

The days form part of Fusion’s community engagement activities through which it works to actively build relations with local communities along the HS2 (High Speed 2) route. They came at the end of a programme of public participation on the site. Over a three-week period, several small groups of interested members of public helped the professional team to examine and record the architectural materials from the old church site.

Fusion is a joint venture between three leading businesses, BAM Nuttall, Ferrovial Agroman and Morgan Sindall, that are conducting preparatory ground works to over 100km of the HS2 line between London and Birmingham, in readiness for major civil engineering activities.

Photo caption: Guy Hunt of LP Archaeology on the site of the old church