PICTURES: Digging deep into Derbyshire’s industrial past

Andy Robinson, the Chesterfield Canal Trust cor-ordinator of community archaeology and Russell Martin French an archaeologist with Elmet inspect on of the two boats unearthed at the Staveley dig.
Andy Robinson, the Chesterfield Canal Trust cor-ordinator of community archaeology and Russell Martin French an archaeologist with Elmet inspect on of the two boats unearthed at the Staveley dig.

Over the last two weeks, an army of amateur archaeologists have been digging deep into Derbyshire’s past.

Sitting just a few feet from the surface of a field in Staveley, artefacts of Chesterfield’s industrial heritage are slowly being uncovered.

Richard and Angela Knisely-Marpole volunteer their time at the dig.

Richard and Angela Knisely-Marpole volunteer their time at the dig.

The two remarkably well preserved narrow boats they have found are just the latest piece of a jigsaw that has been put together over three decades.

Taken as a whole, the project not only completes the picture of the past - it also points the way to the future.

Chesterfield Canal Trust member, Rod Auton, explained.

“In 2012, our project manager Andy Robinson had a vision,” he said.

Sam Marples.

Sam Marples.

“He wrote a paper called the Last Cuckoo which said that there would be boats here.

“Some people said he was talking rubbish, but he is the reason we are here - it is just magic.”

The project got the financial backing it needed after winning a competition run by insurance company Aviva.

Around 500 people have so far volunteered their services to the dig team, all under the watchful eye of ‘community archaeology’ firm, Elmet.

Finds from the dig.

Finds from the dig.

One of the youngest diggers is 18-year-old Sam Marples, from Staveley.

Sam - who has just finished his A levels and is about to study ancient history and archeology at university - said he had spent 42 hours there in total.

“It has been an interest of mine for a long time but this is my first experience on a dig,” he said.

“It has really given me a taste for it.”

Volunteers on the dig.

Volunteers on the dig.

Project manager, Andy Robinson, said: “You speak to some of the old fellas around here and they said there were once boats in this area.

“They said people used to play in them, one even said he learnt to swim in the canal itself.

“People have been coming up to me saying ‘I have had a wonderful time’ and that we should be ‘very proud’ of what we have done.

“Things like that really makes it all worthwhile.”

The fortnight ended on Saturday (August 19) with a community open day where the dig’s finds were shown off to the public.