'Imagine the heat' - Remains of 19th century kiln uncovered

People taking part in a Aylsham Roman Project dig at the site of an old kiln on the grounds of Woodgate Nursery.

People taking part in a Aylsham Roman Project dig at the site of an old kiln on the grounds of Woodgate Nursery. - Credit: Aylsham Roman Project

Parts of a 200-year-old kiln that once fired up to 20,000 bricks at a time have been uncovered by volunteers in a community archaeology project.

The dome-shaped kiln, located on the grounds on Woodgate Nursery in Aylsham, was built more than 200 years ago and it is thought it would have supplied bricks for different buildings around the area. 

Peter Purdy, who owns the nursery and is founder of the Aylsham Roman Project, said a team of volunteers had dug for three days at the site of the kiln, which was demolished around 1920.

People taking part in a Aylsham Roman Project dig at the site of an old kiln on the grounds of Woodgate Nursery.

People taking part in a Aylsham Roman Project dig at the site of an old kiln on the grounds of Woodgate Nursery. - Credit: Aylsham Roman Project

Mr Purdy said: "My grandfather remembers playing in it when he was a child.

"We've been finding quite a bit of brick, and quite a bit of the actual kiln fabric itself which was actually melted in places and are glazed. It was a massive dome, between 30-40ft in diameter, and it had three firings a year.

"It must have been quite a thing to have been there when it was operating. Imagine the heat coming off it."

People taking part in a Aylsham Roman Project dig at the site of an old kiln on the grounds of Woodgate Nursery.

People taking part in a Aylsham Roman Project dig at the site of an old kiln on the grounds of Woodgate Nursery. - Credit: Aylsham Roman Project

Mr Purdy said the digs were test sections of one square metre each, and it was hoped the whole site could be excavated at a later date.  

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He said the project's main excavations took place annually over three weeks in August, on different parts of the 40 nursery site.

Mr Purdy said: "We've got 10,000 years of local history here. There's evidence of the Bronze Age and Iron Age, heaps of Roman items, there are two Roman brick kilns, it's endless.

"We have all ages taking part - it's a lot of fun.

People taking part in a Aylsham Roman Project dig at the site of an old kiln on the grounds of Woodgate Nursery.

People taking part in a Aylsham Roman Project dig at the site of an old kiln on the grounds of Woodgate Nursery. - Credit: Aylsham Roman Project

"There are children right up to 80-year-olds, amateurs as well, who have never dug a hole before and are now learning to do archaeology. There's a great community spirit."

The summer digs are overseen by Bury St Edmunds-based Britannia Archaeology and are carried out with input from Norwich Castle Museum, Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse museum and Historic England. 

Mr Purdy said Aylsham was so rich in archaeological remains because of its natural water springs, which drew people in different eras to settle there. 

Other items found on Woodgate's grounds include parts of a Roman mosaic, part of a jet necklace and Paleolithic flint.