THE owner of the land where a medieval castle has been uncovered in Wem believes the find could spark a golden era of archaeological discovery.

Tim Ashton, owner of Soulton Hall in Wem, says his family were convinced for around 100 years that a castle was buried on their land but were told that a medieval garden was more likely to be found; however, those working on the dig were becoming more convinced it was a castle with fortifications.

Enlisting the support of archaeology company Dig Ventures, Mr Ashton's family theory was proven correct, announcing the castle – which is thought to date back between 700-800 years – was uncovered, while allowing people from the community to see the work for themselves.

Whitchurch Herald:

But while he hopes that archaeologists arrive in north Shropshire to see what lies below ground, Mr Ashton insists it should be done properly or not at all.

"My amateur sense says that the archaeology of our area isn't properly understood," he said.

"There are probably more of these in north Shropshire but they haven't been dug and our history in this area, because it's borderlands, is not as known.

"We have the border with Wales but that does move; for example, Ellesmere was for a period controlled by the Welsh, Wem was being burnt down every half century and it's a 'gateway' town.

"Wem had bars that were closed to stop people getting in and the town is still on the surviving Norman street plan.

"We have a really rich history here but because it was effectively 'badlands' before the Norman Conquest – when Vikings were coming up the Dee Estuary and the Saxons were repelling them – it's not known.

Whitchurch Herald:

"I hope this find does kickstart proper research into the area but the responsible point to make here is this is everybody's heritage – it's survived for a long time.

"It's perfectly ethical and legitimate to investigate it but it has to be done incredibly carefully, putting the finds where they belong and recording it and making it publicly available.

"I really don't want to encourage anyone going in with a metal detector – do it properly or leave it alone."

Mr Ashton also admitted his quiet pride at being able to make the find accessible to everyone, and admitted it could be a long-term feature.

"We used social media to share the dig and created opportunities to show it off, with the first of those for schoolchildren in the area.

"We wanted to show it to kids for who university is a long way away and isn't a normal part of their family's experience.

"Hopefully that worked for Cardiff University to reach children they don't normally and outreach work has been really hard during the pandemic anyway, to run open days etc.

Whitchurch Herald:

"It is a nice thing for us all locally to have this heritage and we need to investigate, understand and share it.

"We will be asking police in the area to help us ensure that nobody will be digging it up as we need to look after that heritage properly and work out what needs to go on display.

"There is a surviving medieval moat bridge in there which is very rare, almost borderline unheard of – it's the beginning of quite a long project."