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Digging up Calne's Castle
By Sarah Jones
BBC Wiltshire

Castle Street, Calne
Wendy Smith, from the Wiltshire Archaeology and Natural History Society, is hoping to unearth Calne's illusive castle

With nearly 30 streets named in its honour, a prominent spot on the town's coat of arms and several mentions in the history books - Calne Castle must have existed.

The only problem is, for the last 150 years, no one's been able to find it.

But, at the beginning of July, the volunteer field group from the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society (WANHS) are hoping to finely dig up the answer when they bring out the diggers in a park in Calne.

Castle Street, Calne
Calne boasts 29 'castle' places names

And Wendy Smith is one of them.

"There are 29 different places all around here," says Wendy, "which have current or old names including the word castle. And the town's coat of arms has a shield with a tower with a portcullis. It's not just a simple tower.

"So it would lead you to think that there is a castle here."

But where 'here' is, is a mystery.

So where do you start to look for a castle that seems to have fallen off the map?

For Wendy, and her field group, the mound that overshadows the town that's not only aptly named Castle Hill but topped by the even more aptly named Castle Fields Park was a good place to start.

Not only does it look suspiciously out of place, in its gently rolling surroundings but also has a touch of the man-made about it:

"It obviously was a promontory anyway," says Wendy, "it was in that way, natural. But it has been engineered and there is very obviously work that's been done here.

"The fact that it's been scarped that it's been flattened on the top leads you to think that there is something here worth looking at."

Seeing Beneath the Soil

But it's not the first time that Castle Fields Park has been the prime suspect in the hunt for a castle.

Calne Coat of Arms
Even the town's coat of arms features a castle

Back in 1999, the Archaeology Field Group painstakingly surveyed the area, albeit with nothing more than a homemade resistivity meter, without turning up a castle.

For Wendy's group of active volunteers, however, technology has moved on and with the aid of a barrage of ground-penetrating radar scanners, magnetometers and resistivity meters Castle Fields has been given the once over to a depth of up to two metres.

And the results not only show that the ground has been disturbed and that there is something down there but that the couple of hectare site is hiding a building

"There are big walls underground," says Wendy, "And we've found a circular building which is really interesting because that could possibly be a circular house or would you believe a tower.

"But whether these are from Tudor times or something like that we don't know. We won't be able to tell until we dig it up."

Digging up a castle

And at the beginning of July, that's exactly what they're hoping to do.

Castle Hill Park, Calne
Castle Hill overshadowing the town is a prime suspect

Coinciding with the British Archaeology Festival, WAHNS will be on-site with a digger hoping to unearth the mystery of Calne Castle.

And for two days everyone is welcome to come along and check on their progress.

"We're not allowed to dig any deeper then 1.5 metres," says Wendy, "so we must follow the rules. But, unlike Time Team that only has three days, we've got two weeks, so hopefully we'll have something to show."

"I can't wait to get started."

And if you want to find out if the Archaeology Field group has finally found Calne Castle you can check on their progress on two public open days, on July 17 and 18, during the British Archaeology Festival.

The site is situated at the top of Castle Hill in the Castle Fields park. On-street parking is available in Patford Street and Station Road, and there is free parking at the lower Sainsbury car park and paid parking (50p for six hours) behind Bank House.

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