About Us - and the work we do
Marlow Archaeological Society (MAS) – now more conveniently known as Marlow Archaeology - was established in 1999 to focus investigation on our part of the Thames Valley. The river has been important to human settlement since prehistoric times. In the area around Marlow there is evidence of Mesolithic, Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman, Saxon, medieval and more recent activity. We are investigating all of these periods as the opportunities arise.
The first known mention of Marlow is in the Domesday Book, although there is scant written information until the 17th century. It is through archaeology, combined with careful map and documentary research, that the early history and development of our town and the surrounding area is becoming apparent. Everything we do seeks to protect our history and heritage and increase our understanding of how people lived here long ago and the area changed and developed.
The hidden past is an important part of our heritage which, along with our natural and built environments, is under threat from changes in planning policy, competing local authority priorities and growing development pressures. This limits opportunities for archaeological excavations other than in exceptional circumstances which, sadly, are often rushed projects prior to destructive building development and which invariably are undertaken by professional groups.
However, there is scope for voluntary groups, such as Marlow Archaeology, to investigate sites with archaeological potential. We seek out interesting local sites that are worthy of non-intrusive survey or excavation, based on prior research and local knowledge. We work to Historic England and professional standards and we have taken on some particularly interesting projects – some of national archaeological importance - with the approval of the archaeological authorities.
Most of our important fieldwork has been conducted on various sites in and around Marlow and nearby Cookham, with finds and features dating from the Mesolithic to the mid 19th century. As examples, we have at length excavated a mixed period site on a Marlow farm, discovering a very rare Neolithic tannery among other fascinating features. We excavated at Cliveden, investigated a fortified Iron-Age enclosure at Taplow Court and attempted to locate medieval church foundations at Bisham Abbey. Our Rookery Park excavation revealed a C17 chalk cellar within the foundations of a substantial house spanning the C17, C18 and C19 centuries. We also excavated an interesting site close to Cookham church and have recently carried out searches for the position of the mysterious yet documented 'lost' Saxon Burghal Hidage fort of Alfred the Great at Cookham.
At our larger excavations, usually we arrange educational open days for the public. These can include school group visits and we produce informative photographic displays of our work that are exhibited at various local events, as well as at historical and archaeological courses and conferences in neighbouring counties.
Several of our members are involved in major projects around the country and we use their experience gained to better teach good archaeological practice to our new members. A good grounding in archaeological fieldwork can be gained on-line at the Dig Ventures course, which is good preparation for anyone who wants to get involved in practical archaeology. We can then provide the practical guidance and experience in land surveying, geophysics, augering and excavation on archaeological projects.
For those with more sedentary inclinations, our talks programme offers a range of topics from speakers knowledgeable in their chosen fields. Research is an essential prerequisite of site work that will be a preference for some, as may be post excavation curation and archiving.
Anyone who would like to learn more or be included on our fieldwork volunteers list should contact the Society and go to our fieldwork page for further information.