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Time Team’s Phil Harding makes archeological discoveries in Uphill

PUBLISHED: 12:00 18 September 2015

Phil Harding and Neil Rushton.

Phil Harding and Neil Rushton.


A CHURCH in Uphill may have stood for around 1,000 years, but it still held some secrets for archaeologists to unearth last week.

Wojciech Mach and Grace Flood from Wessex Archaeology. Wojciech Mach and Grace Flood from Wessex Archaeology.

Time Team archaeologist Phil Harding led a one-off dig at the partially-ruined St Nicholas’ Church, which proudly overlooks Weston Bay from Uphill.

The excavations and surveys were organised by the Churches Conservation Trust, which looks after the church, as part of its Hidden Somerset series.

Visitors – including Mercury reporter Sarah Robinson – were invited to take part, and Uphill Primary School pupils toured the site while the dig was in progress.

Most of the church dates from the 14th and 15 centuries, although it is believed a fifth century Anglo Saxon church once stood on the same site.

There is even a story that Jesus Christ may have visited the area with his uncle and metal trader Joseph of Arimathea to buy tin.

If so, he could have visited Uphill while travelling up from Cornwall to Glastonbury.

Neil Rushton, archaeologist for the Churches Conservation Trust, said: “It was an important site 2,000 years ago.

“The reason why it is so important is because of its location over the Roman fort at Brean Down, Roman Road and the Mendips.

“It may have been used as a look-out post.

“What we do know from the records is there were two churches before this one.”

Flint axe could be ‘important’

A FLINT object found 30 years may prove to an important archaeological discovery.

Hannah Ballinger’s father Ken Smith found the piece of flint while on a walk along Roman Road in Bleadon.

Hannah, who used to live in Uphill but has moved to Burnham, took the piece to the dig for Phil Harding to look at – and he said it may once have been an axe and could be thousands of years old.

Phil said: “I would have said it is an important find.

“At the moment, it’s valueless. It’s not worth anything, it is a flint axe. But the value is the discovery of it and the knowledge it contains.”

Phil asked Hannah to take the flint to the North Somerset archaeologist so the find could be recorded.

Neil said he hoped they would discover parts of the former Anglo Saxon church beneath the layers of mud.

Staff from Wessex Archaeology carried out surveys of the burial sites to create a two-dimensional aerial view of the churchyard.

During his work, Phil uncovered two floors – the first likely to be Victorian, and the other from much later.

He was able to date the Victorian floor from roof tiles which were not used in the Uphill area prior to the 19th century.

Phil said: “We don’t know what the date of the other floor is, and it may be impossible to say.

“It would be nice to say it is medieval, but what we need is dateable archaeology.

“But the chances of that are quite low, because people don’t bring pots or animals to feast on to church.

“They might drop a coin if they are wealthy enough to have one.”

Visitors were given the chance to tour the church on Saturday, and enjoyed views over Uphill from the tower.

Neil added: “The reason we are here is to do a complete archaeological survey of the church and the landscape surrounding it.

“But it is also about education.

“I love the idea of getting young people interested in heritage and looking after the church in the future.”

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