Big Fenland dig uncovers the mysteries of the Manea colony

Hard at work at the community archaeology project.

Hard at work at the community archaeology project.


A team of dedicated archaeologists and volunteers have taken a big step towards discovering the history of one of the most interesting social experiments of the 19th century – the Manea colony.

The Cambridge Archaeological Unit, along with a crew of local volunteers, have been intricately searching deep beneath the marshy Fenland ground that was once the home of a ‘socialist utopian’ community from 1838 to 1841.

The dig discovered artefacts such as ceramics, storage jars and glass, as well as excavating test pits to determine geological change in the area during the colony’s time there.

The biggest find of the three-week dig, however, were the foundations of some of the colony’s foundations, created by farmer Robert Owen under the guidance of socialist, Robert Owen, who harboured dreams of a ‘communitarian’ lifestyle.

The excavation, which began on September 12 and concluded on September 30, was led by Dr Marcus Brittain of Cambridge University’s Archaeological, and he says the project was a big success.

The volunteers who took part in the Manea community archaeology project. The volunteers who took part in the Manea community archaeology project.

“It was very much a success,” he said. “We had a field team of local volunteers as well as students from the university hard at work over the three weeks.

“It’s been very successful both archaeologically and for the local community.

“We’ll now go away and compile all the information we’ve discovered into booklets and a variety of other formats.

“The project certainly has the potential to be expanded – we have a lot more questions to find the answers to.”

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