Richard Mortimer (b. 1961) & Roddy Regan (b. 1961)
Richard Mortimer was born in Dartford in 1961, left school at sixteen, helped build a power station on the Thames and then spent five years in a warehouse in South London. His interest and talent then took him to art school in Newport, but left him unemployed. Having gone hungry, Mortimer joined a government scheme for the unemployed in Exeter in 1986 and started digging. It was his first taste of archaeology and he has been digging ever since, first in Devon, then in France, Germany and Norway and since 1994 again in England. Employed by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, a unit supported by the University of Cambridge, Mortimer ran sites all across East Anglia. It was at this time also, in October 2000, that he and Roddy Regan, a colleague of his at Cambridge Archaeological Unit, discovered the Cambridge Hoard at Chesterton Lane corner. Mortimer recalls:
‘The Anglian Water men had to put the first concrete lining for the sewer shaft in, big circular rings, 3 metres in diameter, and they needed to make the hole circular so it’d fit, which meant a bit more machining around the edges. They took off a few inches here, a foot there, and the digger driver went off for lunch. Roddy and I jumped in the hole to clean up the edges, trowelling it down all the way round so that we could draw the section before the concrete went in. Working away, scratching through our lunch break, quarter of an hour or so and Roddy said 'I’ve got a coin here.’ I went over for a look, another gentle poke with a trowel and he said ‘There’s two or three of them.’ We poked some more and the stuff started to come out like we’d won the jackpot on a slot machine, most of it silver, but some of it gold. As we were pulling it out Roddy lined it all up on plastic bags in the dirt - buses going past one side and pedestrians the other. The gold was really shiny and when the digger driver came back we shoved it all in a big bag and pretended that nothing had happened. We left it in the bag in the dirt till the end of the day, did all the recording, packed up at four and headed back to the office. We had to stop at The Mitre, of course, where we slapped the bag on the bar and downed a pint each, in celebration or commiseration, not sure which.’
Having sailed from one temporary contract to another, Mortimer eventually left Cambridge Archaeological Unit to work for CAM ARC, a unit attached to Cambridgeshire County Council. Here he continues to dig, or at least watch others dig and write about what they have dug up. He has also been closely involved with Cambridge Young Archaeologists Club over the last few years.
Richard Mortimer lives with his family near Cambridge.
Roddy Regan was born in Edinburgh in 1961. Following secondary school and a series of odd jobs, he studied Modern History at the University of Strathclyde. He then entered banking, but soon realized that office-based work was not for him. Following his interest in old things, Regan replied to an advertisement for volunteer work on an archaeological dig in Northamptonshire in 1987. The rest is archaeological history: jobs in London and Cambridge, as well as in Italy and Turkey. Employed by the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, Regan discovered the first coin of the Cambridge Hoard at Chesterton Lane corner in October 2000. Looking back, he considers the dig a particularly mad one as there was so much archaeology in such a small space.
Roddy Regan now lives with his partner Sharon Webb near Kilmartin Glen in Argyll and works as a freelance archaeologist, mainly for the Forestry Commission and Kilmartin House Museum, but also on an ongoing research excavation at Catal Hoyuk in Turkey.
Department for Culture, Media and Sport, Treasure Annual Report 2000, p. 128
M. Allen, 'The Chesterton Lane Corner Coin Hoard', in 'Castle Hill, Cambridge: excavations of Saxon, medieval, and post-medieval deposits, Saxon execution site and a medieval coin hoard', ed. by C. Cessford with A. Dickens in Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society 94 (2005), pp. 73-101 at pp. 86-94
R. Mortimer and R. Regan, Chesterton Lane Corner, Cambridge: Archaeological Excavationsat Anglia Water Shaft M5, Cambridge Archaeological Unit, unpublished assessment report, no. 420, (2001)
The Cambridge Hoard is now on display in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Gallery 32 (The Rothschild Gallery).
Richard Mortimer speaking about his work as an archaeologist and the Cambridge Hoard can be heard on the Fitzwilliam Museum's multimedia eGuide. The eGuide is a handheld electronic guide covering a range of selected exhibits from the Fitzwilliam's collection and is available for hire from the Courtyard Entrance to the Museum
Do you have an interesting history to add to the above story?
Post your history/comments here.