Wessex Archaeology marks 40 years


This year, Wessex Archaeology celebrates its 40th anniversary, offering the chance to reflect on the challenges and successes that have shaped it and to look ahead at what the future brings, both for the organisation and the wider industry. For any organisation 40 years marks an impressive milestone, and for Wessex Archaeology we can be proud that our history spans almost the entirety of the modern profession. Our longevity and expansion prove that professional archaeology offers a valuable and meaningful contribution towards enabling sustainable development.  

Cultural heritage is a key economic driver for the UK; a unique selling point that draws millions of tourists each year, forges links with communities around the world and enhances our sense of wellbeing. The historical qualities of places and buildings helps to keep them distinctive and attractive to visitors and investors. The ongoing sustainability of our cultural heritage depends on managing, conserving and protecting the historic environment balanced against the economic and societal needs of the present and future. 

We help to maintain the UK’s position as global leaders in sustainability; since our inception in 1979 we have engendered significant changes in many areas of commercial heritage and archaeology and developed innovative sector protocols, guidelines and technology for managing heritage risk that are considered best practice today. It is important that to engage in a meaningful way with the construction industry through memberships with professional bodies like CIRIA, to strengthen of our offering in line with client and environmental needs and help to manage the interaction of development with the historic environment resource.  

The advance of technology over the past 40 years has enabled us to be more streamlined and creative in the delivery of our services. We regularly use UAVs (or drones) for terrestrial and offshore archaeological surveys and we have recently invested in our first Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to investigate underwater sites. This has had the benefit of reducing the amount of person-time required in hazardous environments. Our highly skilled in-house Graphics Office and Geomatics team are continuously expanding their capabilities in the digital and virtual realm, with the expertise to develop and print 3D models of landscapes, buildings and artifacts for both assessment and public engagement.

Wessex Archaeology’s sustained growth is the result of the passion and expertise of our staff, our continued innovation and the quality of our extensive range of services. Quality is what drives us; both in the delivery of our services to clients and in our dedication to enriching lives through heritage. The restorative effects that involvement with archaeology and heritage can bring is something that our clients are proactively investing in and we pride ourselves in offering a pioneering service in this field, offering resources to help deliver against CRM and community engagement objectives. We have invested in a full-time Community & Education Manager to redevelop our offering to communities, schools and stakeholder groups, with a menu of activities and workshops graded against our innovative ‘Gold-Silver-Bronze’ engagement standard. We are able to meet national curriculum learning objectives, not just in history, but in literacy, art and STEM subjects too. This helps to drive our charitable aims, using archaeology as the vehicle for inspiring and educating young people. 

This year has already been a turbulent one for the UK in light of Brexit, and we have our part to play in helping to hold communities together. It is important that we continue to draw attention to the cohesive value of heritage and the positive impact of the experiences it can provide to communities. 

Looking to the future, we have an ambitious 10-year business plan that will increase our global reach and explore new opportunities in a diverse range of environments and communities across the world. We are looking forward to continuing to provide creative and comprehensive solutions to our valued clients and stakeholders, and ensure that our contribution to sustainable development is valued for its quality and innovation.

Chris Brayne, Wessex Archaeology Chief Executive

Learn more about their celebrations on the Wessex Archaeology website.