Irchester Field School 2024

Group tour programme.

The Irchester Field School is a collaborative community research project that is central to a
wide-ranging partnership between the University of Leicester and North Northants Council,
based at the Chester House Estate ( It encompasses
research, learning, community engagement, wellbeing and enterprise. The University of
Leicester team is coordinated through the University of Leicester Heritage Hub

The Chester House Estate is a unique free to enter heritage site. There is evidence for 10,000 years of human activity in the landscape, from flint scatters dating the Mesolithic (c. 10,000 to 4,000 BC) to a complex of traditional farm buildings dating back to the 17th century. Within the Estate lies one of the best preserved walled Roman small towns in Britain, known as Irchester.

At present, much of this heritage is buried; the challenge is to bring it to life and tell its stories.

The Archaeological Resource Centre (ARC) is a state-of-the-art facility located within the Chester House Estate, which is the new archaeological archive repository for the whole of Northants. The ARC will ultimately hold more than 20,000 boxes of archaeological finds from across Northamptonshire. This stretch of the Nene Valley is one of the richest parts of the country for archaeological investigation and archives.

The excavations

In June and July, the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History (SAAH) and University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) conduct archaeological excavations within the suburbs of the small Roman town of Irchester in partnership with volunteers and staff from the Chester House Estate and the ARC.

Archaeological survey and excavations are revealing houses, workshops and cemeteries, allowing us to better understand the lives of the town’s inhabitants. The area of the suburbs extends to the west, east and south of the walled area and contains multiple buildings as well as cemeteries. The team has cleaned an area with buildings and a north-south side road close to the main east-west road that leading to the east gate of the town. Continued work in this area will hopefully result in a better understanding of when these buildings were in use, when the side road went out of use, and whether there is any evidence for very late and/or post-Roman activity. To the west of this area, at the northern end of the site, the team has excavated pits and ditches in the back yards of buildings fronting the north-south road.

The excavations have uncovered part of a late Roman cemetery, densely packed with cist burials; approximately 90 have been excavated over the past few years. The human skeletal remains are being studied by specialists using a wide range of cutting-edge scientific techniques which are providing insights into the lives of the townsfolk, including information about diet, disease and lifestyle.

The Irchester Field School is a long-term collaborative project that supports local community and school involvement in archaeological research. The collaboration is enhancing our understanding of this archaeologically rich landscape, and is helping to make archaeological research and archives accessible for all.

The Irchester Field School was shortlisted in two categories for the Council for British Archaeology Archaeological Achievement Awards 2023 (Learning and Skills, Engagement and Participation).

Who is involved?

Co-directors: Ben Donnelly-Symes (Archaeological Archives Curator), Jack Pishhorn (North
Northants Council Culture, Heritage & Tourism), Prof Sarah Scott (SAAH/Heritage Hub), Dr
Jeremy Taylor (SAAH). Many other team members are involved in the design and delivery of
activities, including a core team from University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS).

The excavation provides fieldwork training opportunities for University of Leicester students, many of whom are studying by distance learning. Students work alongside volunteers from the Chester House Estate and students from the Creating Tomorrow College, a further education college based at the Estate. Creating Tomorrow College prepares young adults for independent living and provides employment opportunities as they transition into adulthood

Tour programme

The tour package includes

  • a guided tour of the excavations ( digs/) taking place in the suburbs of the small Roman town of Irchester with a professional archaeologist
  • a tour of the Northamptonshire Archaeological Resource Centre ( with one of the curators where you will see some of the highlights of the county’s archaeological discoveries
  • a workshop run by a Roman specialist showcasing some of the finds discovered from our excavations and what they can tell us about the town’s inhabitants.

Each tour can accommodate between 6 and 25 individuals. Tours will be led by archaeologists from the Archaeological Resource Centre (ARC) and the University of Leicester.

Tours will last roughly 2 hours 30 minutes.

All tours start at 1400.

Price £100 / tour

Please book via this link

Once you have booked, we will be in touch to confirm arrangements.

Refreshments are not included in the tour package, but if you would like to book lunch / refreshments in the café before your tour please email

Advance booking is recommended as the site will be busy.

Health and safety

You must follow all directions for site safety and protocols for your own safety and for the safety of others around you.

You are required to bring your own suitable clothing and footwear.

If you have specific requirements, queries or concerns please contact us at:

Wider activities

We run a wide range of activities during the excavation:
Our collaborative school engagement programme runs throughout the excavation

We run an annual collaborative festival in June, Roman Fest which will take place Saturday 22 and Sunday 23 June, with activities suitable for all ages

Please follow us on Facebook for updates

We look forward to seeing you at the Irchester Field School

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