INTERESTING discoveries have been made at an archaeological dig at the site one of Cumbria’s oldest buildings.

The West Cumbria Archaeological Society, established in 2003, were awarded £69,300 in National Lottery Heritage funding to carry out the Holme Cultram Harbour Project.

Holme Cultram Abbey, in Abbeytown, near Wigton, was the largest monastic house in the county and was founded by Cistercian monks.

This dig project aimed to build on previous discoveries from 2016, when local volunteers working on some excavations uncovered a jetty to the south east of the stunning abbey.

It is believed that vessels travelled in from the Solway Firth on a long filled-in deep water channel using this as a landing stage, possibly during the construction period of the abbey.

With the lottery funding, the project was able to revisit the area and focus on the ways the monastery used and adapted the river.

Mark Graham, an archaeologist working on the site, said: “This season we’ve been looking at two main areas. The stone jetty and the timber.

“The stone jetty is really interesting. We’ve also been looking at how you could build a monastery out of sandstone.

“We’ve found some anomalies but also found that you could bring boats up to the abbey from Skinburness that we didn’t know about.”

A trench was dug along the jetty where some old timber was found.

Mark continued: “The timber we have found looks like it has been re-used in the monastery and we were able to prove that through our finds that the river was here.”

Another trench was opened on the east side where volunteers and members of the society were looking at the chapter house. This is where some former monks’ toilets were discovered.

Volunteers and schools engaged with the vital project through working with local company Grampus Heritage and Training Limited, as well as the Solway AONB who delivered the educational side of the scheme.

Activities ranged from archive research and geophysical surveys to coring, excavation and post-excavation assessment of material.

Mark added: “It’s all done by volunteers and community volunteers. They own their discoveries.

“It’s brilliant to have the schools involved. It’s so much easier to explain things when they are involved. You cannot beat being involved in the discovery its so much more real.”

Gill Goodfellow, secretary of archaeological society, said: “The society is delighted how well the excavation has gone.

“We have exceeded our expectations and thanks to the funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we attracted lots of new volunteers and introduced many more people to the abbey. We had visits from adult and youth/school groups as well as individuals from the local community and further afield.

“We have confirmed how important Holme Cultram Abbey was in the wider Cistercian wold, and not just a backwater in northern England. We will now be working along with our professional colleagues on the report which will be out later this year.”

The dig finished last Friday.