Archaeologists working to prepare the UK for HS2, the new backbone of our national transport network, have begun unlocking almost 900 years of history at St Mary’s Church in Stoke Mandeville, Buckinghamshire.

The Old St Mary’s Church in Stoke Mandeville was built in 1080AD, shortly after the Norman conquest that transformed Saxon England. Renovated in the 13th, 14th and 17th centuries, it played a central role in the community, furnished with a variety of extensions and the construction of a brick bell tower. The site sits on the line of the new HS2 route and is being carefully removed by a team from LP-Archaeology, working with HS2’s enabling works contractor, Fusion-JV.

The construction of a new church closer to the centre of the village in the 1880s saw the building abandoned and falling into disrepair. According to local accounts, a child was killed by falling masonry in the 1930s, and by 1966 the building was considered so dangerous that the Royal Engineers were drafted in to demolish it. Over the next 50 years the rubble pile left became overgrown with vegetation, blending into the surrounding greenery, meaning newcomers to the area may have been unaware of the existence of the church building there previously.

The St Mary’s site is unique and the HS2 scheme is providing a rare opportunity to excavate and understand the history of this building, how its use and meaning changed over time and what it meant to the community of Stoke Mandeville. The burial ground at St Mary’s was in use for 900years, with the last recorded interment in 1908. The team of 40 archaeologists working on the site will be able to construct a picture of the role of St Mary’s in the local community from its construction in the 11th century through to its decline in the late 19th century.

Helen Wass, Head of Heritage for HS2 Ltd said:
“HS2’s unparalleled archaeological programme is well underway and the start of works at St Mary’s offers an exceptional opportunity for archaeologists to uncover and shine a light on what life was like for the community of Stoke Mandeville over such a timespan.

“All artefacts and human remains uncovered will be treated with dignity, care and respect and our discoveries will be shared with the community through open days and expert lectures. HS2’s archaeology programme seeks to engage with all communities both local and nationally to share the information and knowledge gained as well as leaving a lasting archival and skills legacy.”

In 2018 LP-Archaeology began initial work to carefully pick apart the rubble mound. A comprehensive series of archaeological excavations, surveys, and building recording has followed, revealing well preserved walls and structural features of the Church. In October last year, HS2 revealed that unusual stone carvings, medieval graffiti and other markings have been found, with questions raised as to whether they were sun dials or witching marks.

In early 2021 works begun on the final phase of excavations at the site. A large “tent” structure was constructed over the whole church and churchyard to protect it from the elements and provide a stable environment for the excavations to take place. This covering also helps the archaeologists give those people buried there the dignity, care and respect they deserve. Over the next six months, a dedicated team of archaeologists, assisted by engineers, will remove the remaining structure of the church and excavate all of the individuals buried in the churchyard. Around 3,000 burials are expected. Before work on the burial ground began a virtual blessing was given by the Bishop of Buckingham. All remains will be reburied in a local spot to be determined by HS2, with a specially created monument to mark the location.

Dr. Rachel Wood, Project Archaeologist for Fusion JV, said:
“The excavation of the medieval church at St Mary’s will offer real insight into what life was like in Stoke Mandeville for over nine centuries. Those buried there will be remembered once again and the lives they lived over 900 years understood. The best way to honour the dead is to understand their stories and how they lived their lives. Ultimately, this is what the works at the site of Old St Mary’s church will do, providing a lasting legacy to the present community of Stoke Mandeville”.

HS2 is planning to share the discoveries and stories of what life was like in Stoke Mandeville over a 900-year period a series of events and expert lectures in the coming months. More information will be made available on the HS2 in Buckinghamshire website.

Due to COVID-19 we are unable to hold an event near to you so we have provided an update in this virtual room. This includes the new timetable of works happening in your area between July and Autumn 2020.

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Fusion Trainee Quantity Surveyor Terl Patrick has secured professional qualification in double quick time.

Technical members of the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (TCInstCES) usually have to have at least three years of experience to demonstrate competencies, although this is not a set minimum.

Terl Patrick is currently working for Fusion, the joint venture between BAM Nuttall, Morgan Sindall and Ferrovial Agroman, on the HS2 Central enabling works.

“It’s a fantastic feeling to be the youngest technical member of the Institution,” says Terl. “When I was at school I wasn’t sure what career I wanted to pursue. I knew I liked Maths and Science but Business also interested me and the careers adviser suggested surveying.

“I didn’t want to take A-levels so joined the BAM Nuttall apprenticeship scheme at Stephenson College in Coalville, Leicestershire. Everybody has been very supportive, it’s well organised, I have worked on interesting projects and I’m paid while studying so it has turned out well for me.”

Ian Cowling, head of Commercial Services at BAM Nuttall and the current President of the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors, said: “We are really pleased to see that our Trainee Quantity Surveyor, Terl Patrick, has become the youngest ever technical member of the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors following his successful review. It is reward not just for his ability, but his hard work and enthusiasm as well.”

This month, colleagues from the Fusion JV attended the Big Bang Fair. The Big Bang Fair is aimed at young students of all ages, helping to promote STEM subjects in a fun, energetic and vibrant environment.

The event hosted in Birmingham was held on the 14 – 17 March and Fusion participated in the four day event, supporting HS2 on their exhibition stand. Rafa Riesco, Daniel Montero, Andrea Parrado (pictured) Kevin Kane-Brookes and Naeem Gul met with budding young scientist and engineers, aged between 7 – 16 years old.

With smiles and a sparkling attitude, our team welcomed the young visitors; answering questions, offering advice and talking about their own roles and experience of science and engineering.

With stalls, activities, presentations and competitions there was plenty on offer for visitors to explore!

Thank you to the team for being a positive face for our industry. Whilst a great opportunity for Fusion to build on its reputation, there was an important message for future talent, our industry and the HS2 project has a lot to offer!

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This week (Thursday 22 June) industry body, High Speed Industry Rail Leaders, of which Fusion are members, hosted their second summer conference in Birmingham.

The conference, how HS2 will transform regional economies, was delivered by a range of speakers, all invested in how HS2 will; connect people, communities, businesses and cities for the future.

In participation of the conference, Fusion sponsored professional illustrator, Juli Dosad, to capture messages from the speakers, in illustrative form. A large canvas was featured prominently on the stage, as delegates observed the progress of the illustrations being scribed live. Once completed the fully illustrated canvas was featured, for delegates to enjoy.

Feedback was positive, with many commenting on the power of illustrations, as a tool to engage, with those outside of the industry.

Overall the illustrations captured were themed around; the transformation of regional economies through regeneration, innovation and use of the latest techniques in construction, how the industry will attract a diverse and inclusive workforce and compete globally with a new world class railway.

Within Fusion the illustrations will be used as a means of taking industry themes and communicating them with a wide range of stakeholders. A commitment to changing perceptions of the industry.

Fusion took the challenge once again participating in this year’s Big Rail Diversity Challenge for the second time, an annual event organised by Women in Rail. The team were also joined by supply chain partners, Thomson Ecology, a commitment to developing a one team – one culture approach.

During the course of the day the gender-mixed team took part in mental and physical activities that included blindfolded land rover driving, a quad bike obstacle course, a bubble football match and crazy golf. Fusion competed alongside teams from HS2, parent company BAM Nuttall and others.

However behind the excitement and fun of these exhilarating challenges was a very important message: for the industry to continue raising the importance of inclusion and diversity within the workplace.

One in five rail engineers are aged 55 and over. This ageing workforce combined with the development of high speed rail leaves a growing skills gap within the rail industry. Inclusion and diversity enables the industry to widen its reach for talent, tackling acute skills shortages.

Attending the day, Sam Hewlings, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Manager at Fusion, said, “The Big Rail Diversity Challenge, unlike typical industry events, is centred around sports, games and team spirit.  Working in this way makes for inclusive team-building. All have a part to play and each individual has the opportunity to demonstrate their strengths and unique skills.

“The day to day behaviours of a typical working environment are removed.  Individuals are no longer identified as a role or by a set of characteristics but for the person they are; their abilities and talent. These are the behaviours we must take back to our organisations, encouraging the industry to continue to build on this all important issue.”

The new employer-led National College of High Speed Rail, will provide higher apprentice schemes, to tackle the acute skills shortage the UK has in rail infrastructure. The three year apprenticeships offered will include; operations and departmental management, civil engineering, track systems and systems engineering.

Apprentices attending the college will benefit from receiving industry and employer-led training giving them knowledge of the latest skills and techniques, delivered at the colleges brand new state of the art campuses, in Birmingham and Doncaster. Both campuses will see up to 1,300 apprentices trained each year, gaining much needed transferrable skills in order to hit the ground running in rail infrastructure.

With the first phase of HS2’s major civil works due to be awarded in the coming months, in response, the college will be opening its doors to the first of its alumni in September of this year. Creating the next generation of high speed rail engineers, for the largest investment in UK railways since the Victoria age.

Nissar Mohammed, project director at Fusion, said: “To be one of the first organisations to sign up our apprentices is yet another milestone in Fusion’s high speed rail journey. The college’s ambition, to provide highly skilled people and close the skills gap through our supply chain will be a lifeline for the industry. Particularly if the UK is to remain competitive in a global high speed rail market.”

It is up to infrastructure businesses like ourselves and the supply chain to work with the college to develop the next generation of rail engineers, the first alumni, trained by the industry for the industry through the college.”

Pictured are Claire Mowbray, Chief Executive, of the NCHSR and Nissar Mohammed from Fusion.

On 17 May,  Fusion hosted a visit from ICE President, Tim Broyd and his team, for his recent presidential tour in the West Midlands.

The president, who was visiting the Midlands for two days, meet with several organisations, to learn more about some of the essential infrastructure projects currently underway.

Fusion proved to be no exception and hosting a session for their work within HS2, Europe’s largest infrastructure project.

The visit consisted of Fusion presentations from; Mike Robins, Project Director for Main Works, Louise Townsend, Head of Socio-Economic Impact and Mike Franklin, Lead Planner.

Along with an overview of Fusion and HS2, discussions covered the essential works being delivered for Area Central, (Fusion’s enabling works contract) and Fusion’s efforts towards upskilling suppliers and attracting new talent to the industry.

ICE thanked Fusion for the visit and welcomed future opportunities to be further engaged in the communications of this ground-breaking project.

Pictured from left to right; Mike Robins, Mark Franklin, Yvonne Aust – ICE West Midlands Chair, Professor Tim Broyd – President, Louise Townsend and Paul Chambers – President’s Apprentices.

On the 3 May HS2 and the three enabling works contractors hosted a meet the supplier event in Birmingham.

Held at The Vox, near the NEC, HS2 along with the three enabling work contractors, including Fusion, met with a staggering number of over 700 suppliers on the day.

Proceedings kicked off with a presentation from HS2’s commercial director, Beth West. Followed by presentations from the three enabling work contractors. Representing Fusion for Area Central, project director Nissar Mohammed, talked through Fusion’s values, our culture of collaboration and the track record of Fusions’ three partner companies.

Following the presentations, suppliers had the opportunity to take part in; 1-2-1 meeting opportunities, networking, visit the innovation hub and participate in BIM upskilling workshops.

For Fusion, the day was an opportunity to signpost suppliers to CompeteFor, a free service connecting businesses to the available HS2 procurement opportunities, and expand on the available opportunities and activities to be undertaken within area central.

Alan Harris, supply chain manager at Fusion, commented; “In total we had roughly 20 representatives from Fusion, so suppliers could reach someone from within the Fusion. We have a responsibility to understand the upskilling requirements of our supply chain, so we tailored our conversations around these requirements.

The coming months will inevitably be busy but we hope to signpost our suppliers to the correct procurement path and engage early on.”

Pictured are the speakers from HS2, Fusion, LM JV and CS JV