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!
Don Brothwell, without whom none of this would have been possible, died in September 2016. You can also read his entry in Wikipedia.
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)
“Fragile” Newark in the news - February/March 2020 Following a savage winter with three named storms, and a constant battering from tides, rain, and wind - gusts of over 100mph were recorded in the islands - our site has suffered further erosion. ORCA wrote a blog entry on it and even The Scotsman picked up the story, closely followed by STV and an American archaeology periodical.
Summer 2022 update Photos from the Newark Project exhibition and from Newark Bay can be found here. February 2022 The Newark Project This is the title of this summer's exhibition in the Kirkwall Museum in Tankerness House, which will open on the 14th of May and run through to October. It will focus on our dig but also look more broadly at the history of the Newark - the house and its owners - and of Deerness generally. January 2022 - a recently acquired photo This is from 1969 and the diggers are obviously on a trip somewhere looking earnestly at some ancient remains; while definitely not Newark, I wonder where this is? And do you recognise people in the photo? I can put a name to most of them, but who is the central figure in the blue jacket and brown trousers? February 2021 Geoff Bowles has very kindly written a summary of the Newark excavations 1969- 1972 and allowed me to publish it here. His accompanying diagram helps clarify the relationship between the house, chapel and burials, and the souterrains. Lockdown #3 - January 2021 Next summer, 2022, is still the end date for the Newark Project’s exhibition in Tankerness House Museum … 20 November 2020 Our Newark Project gets a mention in this article from The Orcadian: Historic Environment Scotland funding for Orkney projects When in lockdown … May 2020 It’s an opportunity to go through old files, and here is a photo of the 1973 diggers in Mossquoy looking suitably glum. Just noticed the cat! Credit: Trevor James.
Greetings ... ... 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 the 60s.
The map shown on the header is from the Balfour Estate archive and shows Newark “old ruins” as a courtyard house and not z-plan. Map reproduced with permission of Orkney Library and Archive.