Feature: Southburn Archaeological Museum

By Debbie Sutton

Local history enthusiasts will have the final chance to see an extensive collection of archaeological finds in their original setting at an open day this weekend.

The Southburn Archaeological Museum (SAM) displays exhibits of artefacts from all periods of history from Neolithic times, through the Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman, Viking and Medieval periods.

From pottery and jewellery to axe heads and flint tools, the vast majority of the exhibits have been found on land belonging to JSR Farms at Southburn. On Saturday, members of the public will have the chance to see and even handle some of the precious artefacts on display and can try their hand at weaving, pottery making, grinding corn and making chain mail during the final open day at its current premises at Southburn.

From June, the museum is moving to new premises at the JSR Green Lane Farm between Nafferton and Driffield and will be reopening in spring 2017. The museum’s collection began in the late 1950s when Brian Hebblewhite began working as a tractor driver at Southburn Farm. He began to find interesting objects made of stone. His wife Val was a member of the East Riding Archaeological Society and suggested he take the objects to Tony Brewster at Hull Museum who confirmed their archaeological importance. This began a labour of love for Brian, Val and their daughter Ann, who with the support of the then owner of the farm John Rymer, spent many years combing the site and their collection expanded to include artefacts from all periods.

Southburn Archaeological Museum (S.A.M.) - Moving to Green Lane Nafferton 2016
Southburn Archaeological Museum

Mr Rymer gave Brian two redundant pig farrowing sheds in which to house the collection and some farm workers made him some cabinets in which to display the objects, but at this point it was just seen by family and friends. Brian drew a very accurate map of the farm highlighting where he had found every item. Brian and his family moved away from Southburn in the 1990s and sadly he passed away shortly afterwards.

In 2005 the Southburn Archaeological Museum (SAM) project was formed by volunteers, with the agreement of Tim Rymer, Director of JSR Farms, with the aim of making the collection and information about history and archaeology available to more people. After years renovating the buildings and cataloguing the collection, the museum formally opened in July 2008 at an event coinciding with the 50th Anniversary of JSR Farms.

Bill Coultard, Chairman of SAM, said: “The museum is run entirely by volunteers who have a great range of talents. We are funded through grants and donations and we have been extremely fortunate to have the support and backing from JSR.

Southburn Archaeological Museum (S.A.M.) - Moving to Green Lane Nafferton 2016
Southburn Archaeological Museum (S.A.M.) Chairman Bill Coultard

“The aim of the museum is to keep local finds local and to be hands on to give our visitors the opportunity to get a real sense of the history of this area.

“As well as the artefacts, which we allow people to handle where possible, we also have replicas to show how the items would have looked in their entirety and to give people the chance to see and try out how they worked, as well as mannequins wearing replica clothing and jewellery.

“Our main display at the moment is entitled Swords, Spears and Skeletons and features a reconstruction of the Kirkburn Warrior Burial, which was discovered in 1987.

Southburn Archaeological Museum (S.A.M.) - Moving to Green Lane Nafferton 2016
Southburn Archaeological Museum (S.A.M.)

“The warrior was found buried with a sword, which is on display in the British Museum, and is considered to be the finest example of an Iron Age sword ever found in Europe.”

Bill’s wife Margaret, who is one of the founding members of the voluntary group, added: “Our display is an exact replica of what was discovered at Kirkburn, complete with the bones of the joints of meat that the warrior was buried with for his afterlife and with three spears, which would have been put into him after his death to symbolise his status.”

The museum has grown and now includes a hands on activity room, which is particular popular with the parties of school children who visit the museum. More than 1,000 items have been found on the Southburn Farm alone, with exhibits also from surrounding areas in East Yorkshire. All the items have been carefully catalogued by SAM volunteers.

Southburn Archaeological Museum (S.A.M.) - Moving to Green Lane Nafferton 2016
Southburn Archaeological Museum activity room

The oldest items date back to the Neolithic period around 6,000 years ago and include flint stone axes and even some Red Deer antlers which were found in Wansford when digging the Trout Farms.

Some of the more recent items date back to World War Two and include badges, coins and buttons. Among some of the famous finds at the site are an Iron Age spearhead which was found by two school boys around 30 years ago; a gold ingot from Viking times and an Iron Age pot found at Arram.

Artefacts still make appearances today although the window of opportunity to get onto the land is much smaller with modern farming methods because the land is fallow for such short periods of time. Bill said he hoped the move to new premises would allow the museum to enhance its appeal to the public.

Southburn Archaeological Museum (S.A.M.) - Moving to Green Lane Nafferton 2016
Southburn Archaeological Museum (S.A.M.) – Moving to Green Lane Nafferton 2016

He said: “We are so grateful for the support from Tim Rymer and JSR. Our current location is in the middle of a working farm and so access at certain times of the year can be more difficult.

“Although we will still be based on a working farm at Green Lane, we are right at the entrance and so access will be much easier.

 

Southburn Archaeological Museum (S.A.M.) - Moving to Green Lane Nafferton 2016
Southburn Archaeological Museum (S.A.M.) – Moving to Green Lane Nafferton 2016

“We expect to be open in spring 2017 in time to coincide with Hull’s year as City of Culture and are looking forward to the future.”

The Southburn Archaeological Museum Open Day takes place this Saturday 28th May from 10am until 4pm at the site at JSR Farming at Southburn.

Members of the Jorvik Viking Centre will be on hand to give an insight into the life of the Vikings and to involve people in Campaign Canute to help develop and fund new and even better experiences and displays when the centre re-opens next year following extensive flood damage last December.

Entry to the open day is free and donations to the upkeep of the museum are welcome

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