King Athelstan - 924 ~ 2024

The Big Athelstan Dig is a unique professionally led opportunity to dig through Malmesbury's history at test sites across the centre of town, and to see the excavations taking place, finds recovered and the start of expert interpretation.

The Athelstan 1100 Big Dig Project – ‘Malmesbury’s Big Athelstan Dig’ - has been awarded a grant of £14,540 by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, which was made possible by National Lottery players.  It will be used to support the professional involvement of Cotswold Archaeology in planning, organising and delivering the project, the excavation of test pits in and around the town on Saturday and Sunday July 6 and 7, and the reporting that will follow. Cotswold Archaeology are also providing generous matched professional staff resource and support to the project.

With Cotswold Archaeology we are aiming to enable people of all ages, including local primary and secondary students, to learn about being archaeologists and taking part in real excavations, finds recording and cleaning. The weekend Big Dig Trail will enable visitors and people from the wider community to see what is going on and learn more about how archaeology works.  The finds will be on view after each day’s excavating and a report will be produced to explain what was found to all. 

On behalf of Athelstan 1100 and Malmesbury Town Team we would like to thank the National Heritage Lottery Fund and National Lottery players for this grant and Cotswold Archaeology for their direct support. We are confident our Big Dig project project will be engaging and will help raise the profile of archaeology and Malmesbury’s important history to a much wider audience.


Malmesbury’s Big Athelstan Dig – 6th and 7th July 2024

10:30am to 4:00pm each day

A dozen live dig sites, two interpretative sites, a finds centre, children’s activities and a great discovery trail that links them all together.  

We're working with Cotswold Archaeology, students from Malmesbury School, members of the Young Archaeologists Club, Malmesbury 1st King Athelstan Scouts, and volunteers to create a trail of test pits and experiences across Malmesbury. There will be professional finds interpretation, explanations of Malmesbury’s Anglo-Saxon and historic landscape and special discovery locations for children. 

Malmesbury’s Big Athelstan Dig Trail is open for viewing on Saturday the 6th and Sunday 7th July between 10:30am to 4:00pm. The Finds Centre in the Town Hall will be open from until 6:30pm. The free Trail Map will be available to download here from Monday 1st July. It will also be in the Town and Tourist Information Centre in the Town Hall and other locations in Malmesbury. This priceless event is free to attend.


What is the Malmesbury’s Big Athelstan Dig?

Malmesbury, a beautiful market hilltop town in North Wiltshire, has a fascinating continuous history of human habitation from at least 800 years BC.

From being the site of an Iron Age hill-fort to becoming a town of European significance in the Anglo Saxon period, the chosen burial place of the first king of England, the most important town in Wiltshire by 1066, the birth-place of Thomas Hobbes, and ‘the most Rotten Borough in the country’ in 1832, its past can be felt everywhere.

Malmesbury’s Big Athelstan Dig is a unique professionally led opportunity to dig through this history at sites across the centre of town and to see the excavations taking place, finds recovered and the start of expert interpretation.

The locations of our @ dozen sites will be revealed on the 1st July. But we can say they offer a fascinating range of possibilities to discover more from all periods of Malmesbury’s past…

We are looking forward to welcoming you to Malmesbury.




If you would like to volunteer to help at Malmesbury’s Big Athelstan Dig please send an email to with your contact details, when you are available, and what you would most like to do, by Monday 17th June.

We have volunteer roles for stewards, historic interpreters, trained archaeologists, and site diggers.

Site digging - which includes site preparation and restoration - will take place from Thursday 4th July to Monday 8th July. All other roles are needed on the 6th and 7th July. We will be generally be operating two hour ‘shifts’.