About Us - and the work we do
Marlow Archaeological Society (MAS) – now more conveniently known as Marlow Archaeology - was established in 1999 to focus investigation on our part of the Thames Valley. The river has been important to human settlement since prehistoric times. In the area around Marlow there is evidence of Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age Roman, Saxon, medieval and more recent activity. We are investigating all of these periods as the opportunities arise.
The first known mention of Marlow is in the Domesday Book, although there is scant written information until the 17th century. It is through archaeology, combined with careful map and documentary research, that the early history and development of our town and the surrounding area has become apparent. Everything we do involves protecting our history and heritage and increasing our understanding of how people lived here long ago.
The hidden past is an important part of our heritage which, along with our natural and built environments, is under threat from changes in planning policy, local authority cuts and subsequent development pressures. This limits opportunities for professional archaeological excavations other than in exceptional circumstances which, sadly, are often rushed projects prior to destructive building development.
The benefit of working as a voluntary group
However, as a voluntary group, Marlow Archaeology is more fortunate. We seek out the most historically interesting local sites that are worthy of excavation, through research and local knowledge. We work to English Heritage standards and have the advantage of being able to call upon the services of a qualified professional archaeologist. This enables us to take on some particularly interesting projects – some of national archaeological importance - with the approval; of the archaeological authorities.
Most of our important fieldwork is conducted on various sites in Marlow and nearby Cookham, with finds and features dating from the Mesolithic to the mid 19th century. As examples, we have at length excavated a mixed period site on a Marlow farm, discovering a very rare Neolithic tannery among other fascinating features. We excavated at Cliveden, investigated a fortified Iron-Age enclosure at Taplow Court and attempted to locate medieval church foundations at Bisham Abbey. Our Rookery Park excavation revealed a C17 chalk cellar within the foundations of a substantial house spanning the C17, C18 and C19 centuries. We also excavated an interesting site close to Cookham church and are currently carrying out an exciting search for the exact position of the mysterious yet documented 'lost' Saxon Burghal Hidage fort of Alfred the Great at Cookham.
On our larger excavations we arrange educational open days for the public. These include school group visits and we produce informative photographic displays of our work to be exhibited at various local events, as well as at various historical and archaeological courses and conferences in the surrounding counties.
Several of our members are involved in major projects around the country and we use their experience gained to better teach good archaeological practice to our new members.
There are fieldwork opportunities on our current archaeological projects for members and visiting enthusiasts, involving geophysics, surveying, augering and excavating. Anyone who would like to learn more or be included on our volunteers list should contact the Society and go to our fieldwork page for further information.