Old Sarum Landscapes Project

Old Sarum and the landscape around it, is the subject of a research project [1] undertaken by the Archaeology Department at Southampton University, that began in the spring of 2014. Every year since then, a team made up of undergraduates  accompanied by University Staff, has spent several weeks at Old Sarum as part of their training programme.

Before the project team came to the site, LIDAR [2] image data made available by the Environment Agency was carefully studied. Plans were drawn up in order to focus on promising 'areas of interest' shown in the images, so that surveying time was used in the most efficient way. 

Image published here with the permission of the Environment Agency and the University of Southampton.

In the autumn of 2014, news was released to press agencies to announce what early results from the scanning techniques had uncovered.

"Experts have produced a detailed plan of Old Sarum without any digging at the site. The latest scanning techniques have uncovered a network of buildings at the 11th century hillfort, once a thriving medieval city. Residential areas have been identified and there is evidence of industrial features such as kilns or furnaces.


The university's director of archaeological prospection services Kristian Strutt said 'Archaeologists and historians have known for centuries that there was a medieval city at Old Sarum but until now there has been no proper plan within the city walls. Our research so far has shown how the entire outer bailey of the monument was heavily built-up in the middle ages, representing a substanial urban centre.'" [3]

Since that 2014 announcement, residents of Stratford sub Castle have been keen to learn more about what has been discovered so close to our village. The 'Friends of St Lawrence Church' arranged for expert speakers to come to packed venues in March 2015, in May 2017 and again in October 2018, so that later research findings and their historical context could be explained.

In 2016, the University of Southampton encouraged local residents and archaeological groups to take a more active part in the OSLP and a study day was held at the University in January 2017. In April 2017, when the students extended their investigations to include the fields between Old Sarum and Stratford sub Castle, several local volunteers took part in the geophysics surveying. 

Up to this point, all of the work had been non-intrusive to the landscape. In July 2017, the Summer School activities included some limited excavations revealing quantities of medieval pottery and some debris from WW2 when troops were stationed nearby. Alex Langlands from the University of Swansea also took part.


The OSLP Team returned to Stratford sub Castle in April and July 2018 to carry out more geophysical work and further excavations.


In April 2019 the team returned to begin surveying near The Portway. There was a Summer School for 3 weeks during July 2019.


Due to COVID-19, the 2020 spring geophysics and summer Field School did not take place.


[1]  Source - University of Southampton

[2]  Light detection and ranging - Wikipedia explanation

[3]  Source - The Journal December 11, 2014

Images of surveying, excavation, and of some of the 'finds' uncovered in Stratford sub Castle, are in our Photo Gallery.  


Alex Langlands recorded a short video about the Old Sarum Landscapes Project in 2017

for 'Visit Wiltshire'.  Click the image (right) to view.


www.stratfordsubcastle.org.uk is a non-profit site maintained by local residents.

Sponsored by St Lawrence PCC; Stratford Garden Club; Stratford Guild; Local History Group

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