Newington History Group
Highlighting a local archaeological dig gave Newington Uncovered, the community days organised by Newington History Group, an extra boost in 2019. Sue Flipping, from Newington History Group, has been part of the team organising their Heritage Open Days for the last 5 years.
Sue Flipping - Newington History Group, Kent
Why we take part
Newington’s medieval church, St Mary’s, is rarely open outside service times so HODs gives us the opportunity to show off its murals, graffiti and tombs and to use it as a display area. It also gives us an annual event through which we can show the work Newington History Group (NHG) is doing to record the village’s history and to engage local people. We enjoy the two-way exchange of information - we’re able to share our knowledge of and passion for our history and heritage, and learn new things; people come and tell us their memories or bring photographs for our archives and share their interest in history with us.
What we do for HODs
Uncover the history of a rural Kent village in the beautiful surroundings of its medieval church, and see the first public exhibition of the internationally significant excavation of Newington's Roman past. (2019 Event Directory Description)
In previous years we have opened the beautiful 13th century St Mary’s Church for visitors to discover its rare murals, mediaeval graffiti and interesting tombs as well as learn about Newington’s history and heritage through displays and activities researched and presented by NHG.
In 2019, we supplemented that by organising the first public exhibition on the recent discovery of a ‘significant’ late Iron Age-Roman small town in the heart of the village. NHG organised publicity for the excavation, which involved 30 archaeologists led by SWAT Archaeology, and the story was covered around the world. The senior archaeologist and two of his team volunteered to join our team at HODs to explain the significance of the finds. They brought with them rare and unusual artefacts, including an intact face pot and beautiful Samian ware – most visitors had never seen such ancient items without the glass of a display case separating them.
Anticipating the amount of interest, we put up a marquee with a display of dozens of photographs showing other significant finds along with information, researched by members, that described and put them into context. A local couple who’ve uncovered more than 5,000 sherds and coins in their back garden set up an additional display, which complemented the information about the professional excavation by showing that archaeology is accessible to everyone.
A team of ladies representing the church provided homemade cakes, savouries and hot drinks and, for the first time, we set up tables and chairs outside, next to the Roman exhibition. Thanks to the fabulous weather, a garden party spirit developed.
We’re surprised and pleased by the diversity of people who visit – some are attracted by the community nature of the event and then find out things about local history and heritage. And this year, we didn’t expect three professional archaeologists to offer their services free of charge for the event! It really made the weekend.
The difference it's made
Following the success of previous years’ events, we now have a semi-permanent display about Newington’s history in the church and local council members have invited us to apply for grants to develop our community engagement work.
This year we engaged 500 people from Newington and further afield in discovering more about their local heritage. Villagers say they feel more pride about living in the village as a result of what they found out at the event, whilst awareness of Newington has grown through social and print media. We also doubled the number of volunteers, all of whom say they will volunteer again.
As a direct result of NHG’s ongoing engagement with SWAT Archaeology and the excavation, the remains of the Romano-Celtic temple uncovered on the site will be re-built in the village to be enjoyed by everyone – a permanent reminder of Newington’s Roman heritage and a legacy NHG is very proud to leave to the village.
- Find just one reason for visitors to come to your event then use social and mass media to directly target the people who would be most interested and build-up interest gradually. Use a Page/Group on Facebook to join other relevant groups and post on those as well. We are a small team but our social media posts were reaching more than 9000 people in the week before the event and we had regular coverage in the local paper.
- If you’re a volunteer, commit to heart a few unusual or interesting facts. It gives you a great opening to start engaging visitors.