Volunteers are needed for community dig

Old St Helen's Church, The Ridge
Old St Helen's Church, The Ridge

CONSERVATION work is underway on one of the town’s oldest buildings, and now members of the public are being asked to lend a hand.

The future of Old St Helen’s Church, in The Ridge, was secured in July thanks to a £470,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, awarded to Sussex Heritage Trust.

As part of the efforts to preserve the ruins of the Grade II listed building, a community archaeological dig is to take place in April, excavating the chancel and nave area, which have so far been unexplored.

The Sussex Heritage Trust is appealing for volunteers to help out. The dig will run from April 2 to April 28 (excluding the Easter weekend and then Tuesday to Saturday each week), and be supervised by Chris Butler Archaeological Services Ltd.

Volunteers can sign up for individual or multiple days or times (although a minimum of three hours at any one time is recommended) throughout this period. The daily times will be from 9.30am to 4.30pm, with short breaks in the morning and afternoon, and a half-hour break at lunchtime. Volunteers can participate in excavation and/or finds processing.

Bronwen Griffiths, Sussex Heritage Trust education co-ordinator, said: “What we are hoping to uncover is more information about the structure of the building. Experience isn’t necessary, we are just looking for interest and enthusiasm.”

Councillor Peter Chowney, lead member for regeneration, said: “This interesting building is currently on the English Heritage ‘at risk’ register so this conservation work is vital.

“The dig is just one part of the process, already volunteers from the Hastings Area Archaeological Research Group have carried out a headstone recording project and badger exclusion works have been carried out to stop further damage to the graveyard.”

The Old St Helen’s Church is believed to be the oldest surviving building in Hastings. This and Hastings Castle are the only structures in the town from the 1066 period.

For more information on the community dig, contact Bronwen Griffiths on 01424 430467 or email bronwengriff@aol.com, or download an application form from www.cbasltd.co.uk/communityarchaeology.html.