The Newark Project 2019-2022
5th April 2019. ORCA, the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology, have received
£202,000 funding from Historic Environment Scotland for further work on the site.
What we could have done with that - or any - money! And so the Newark Project was
born. October 2019 update.
In 2018 a group from Scottish Coastal Heritage At Risk visited the site, and the
protective sandbagging noticed in 2017 was extended. Historic Environment Scotland
have since been providing more sandbags to be filled locally for more shoring up
sessions. HES also want to have the academic work arising from the excavations of 50
years ago pulled together and this has resulted in the Newark Project; over a three
year period there will be further research involving mainly professionals from ORCA at
Orkney College along with the Orkney Museum and a host of volunteers, including
“old” diggers. Using the latest technology Deerness will be able to meet some of the
ancestors at last and piece together a lot of its lost history. This is planned to culminate
in 2022 with an exhibition in the Orkney Museum at Tankerness House in Kirkwall,
pulling together all the strands - archaeological, historical and social - of this complex
site. We always knew it was important!
... to any Yorkneyites (Yorcadians?) visiting these pages dedicated to documenting the
York University dig at Newark Bay, Deerness, Orkney, carried out between 1968 and
1973. It all began in 1967 when Sam Berry was at Newark, probably searching for
Orkney voles, and spotted some bones in the cliff face that he thought his friend Don
Brothwell might be interested in …
1968 saw a group of students from the University of York begin digging up the chicken
run at Mr Delday's farm at Newark Bay in Deerness in Orkney; so perhaps it’s about
time to see what was achieved over the six years of the dig, and what, if any, lasting
results were achieved.
and an apology …
We were a group of undergraduates, mainly studying English literature, with no
previous knowledge of archaeology, who came to Newark primarily to find some
medieval skeletons to go to the British Museum under the stewardship of Don
Brothwell, who was at that time head of the sub-department of Anthropology. In our
search the walls, flagstone floors, graves and their occupants were all photographed
and drawn. We noticed the shells that appeared to have been placed around the
skeletons, and we guessed there was a cultural significance. Some of the graves were
outlined with slabs which were photographed and then discarded; one of these may
have been the Pictish grave slab recently discovered apparently in some trench backfill.
3D view of Pictish Cross Slab, Deerness, Orkney, by Dr Hugo Anderson-Whymark.
What evidence from the tunnel and “earth house” as to their possible use did we
overlook and lose? There was probably a lot that we weren’t trained to see. So our site
is now considered to have important early religious significance, and Historic
Environment Scotland along with UHI are considering how best to treat the constantly
eroding cliff face. I have to say that current archaeologists have so many more
resources in the form of scientific research techniques (and proper education - and
funding apparently) available to them than we did in the archaeological dark ages of
If you have any documentation, photos or other memorabilia you wish to share please
email me, Sue Hopkins, at the following address, replacing the word (at) with @ please:
sue (at) hopkinsweb.org.uk
The first photo in this group is one I
took in 2017 on one of my regular visits
to check on the site since the 1970s.
The next two are from the Friends of St
Ninian Deerness Community page on
Facebook, and show more
sandbagging in June 2019 and the
fourth rather bad photo is of a poster
advertising US in the Deerness Co-op
window also in June this year (2019).
Don Brothwell, without whom none of this would have
been possible, died in September 2016. There is an In
Memoriam webpage that has been collecting stories and
photos from Don's friends and colleagues, and he has an
entry in Wikipedia.
THE YORKNEY FILES
The map on the header is from the Balfour Estate archive
and shows Newark as a courtyard house and not z-plan.