The majority of the works at Chester Farm involve restoration, but there is also an exciting and major new build – the provision of an Archaeological Research Centre (ARC).
Northamptonshire's archaeological archives are a unique and irreplaceable part of our county's rich heritage. They are largely hidden from public view, housed in a number of stores across the county and beyond; so dispersed that it is hard for them to be looked after effectively and allowing little opportunity for education and learning.
Chester Farm, a multi-period archaeological and historic landscape, provided the ideal location for the ARC, a facility that can manage and make accessible over 50 years of archaeological excavations from the county, not to mention the material from future excavations. They comprise the bones, artefacts, building materials and environmental samples, together with the records created during their excavation. The ARC will contain material from every single parish and community in the county.
Northamptonshire's rich archaeological archive is of national and sometimes international importance. If we can treat and manage this collection as a single and integrated resource the value is increased immeasurably. Our geographical position straddling the north-south divide gives significance.
At times a boundary zone, for example, dividing Anglo-Saxon England from part of the Danelaw; such areas have their own character and are worthy of intense study. From prehistoric times to the present day, it will be possible to explore and study the various 'ages of man' from birth to death, the family, local communities, industry and commerce, transport by road and river, food and agriculture, pastimes, shrines, temples and churches, the military and warfare.
The ARC will create a storage area that can accommodate the county's archive with room for at least 25 year's expansion; space for curators, researchers and volunteers; the space to hold small exhibitions and to host group visits. The aspiration is that the ARC will become a model of good practice that can act as an exemplar for other counties struggling to address the crisis facing archaeological archives.
The Archaeological Research Centre will have the same ridge height and a similar footprint as the semi-derelict corrugated iron building it has replaced. It will be timber clad to look like a modern barn, but inside it will be ordered and functional, with carefully monitored environmental controls to protect the artefacts that will be housed there.
Our pictures show the site before we began and building progress as at June, 2017. We will update on a regular basis.