Oxford Archaeology celebrated four decades of success in archaeological services with a 40th anniversary event at the King’s Centre, Osney Mead, Oxford on 30th October.
From its beginnings in 1973 as the Oxfordshire Archaeological Unit, Oxford Archaeology has grown to become the largest and longest established independent archaeology and heritage practice in Europe. With 250 staff across its three offices in Oxford, Lancaster and Cambridge, it is one of the largest employers in Oxfordshire, making the list of top 100 employers in the county in 2012. Between 2007 and 2011, when the company also had offices in France, Oxford Archaeology employed almost 450 staff.
Oxford Archaeology has been instrumental in developing and shaping modern British archaeology. It pioneered methods of large-scale excavation and sampling for biological and environmental remains in the 1970s and 1980s. Having maintained its reputation for quality and reliability as the competitive market was introduced in the late 1980s, it designed and successfully delivered archaeological projects for highly-complex infrastructure projects, such as High Speed 1 and Heathrow Terminal 5. It has also provided heritage development and training in China, Eastern Europe and the Caribbean, and fostered long-standing partnerships with other archaeological organisations, construction companies, universities and governmental bodies.
Oxford Archaeology is an educational charity, and an important part of its work is to provide opportunities for the public and local community groups to engage with their archaeology through exhibitions, open days, and community archaeology projects. Often this work is supported by national and regional bodies, such as English Heritage and the National Trust. Over the summer, for example, OA continued its work for the Discovering Dorchester (Oxfordshire) Project, which is a collaboration between Oxford Archaeology, the University of Oxford’s School of Archaeology, Dorchester Abbey Museum, and the people of the village of Dorchester-on-Thames and funded in part by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
Over the past 40 years, the company has earned a reputation for a high level of expertise and knowledge. OA’s staff have featured in documentaries and other TV programmes, including Time Team, Meet the Ancestors, and Digging for Britain, spoken at conferences, and written many academic papers and books. In addition, Oxford Archaeology’s former staff have gone on to take high-profile positions. OA’s first director, Tom Hassall, became Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (which merged with English Heritage in 1999), its second director, David Miles, joined English Heritage as Chief Archaeologist, while its last director, David Jennings, has gone on to run the York Archaeological Trust, which includes the world-famous Yorvik Viking Centre.
Oxford Archaeology’s current CEO, Dr Gill Hey, said, “OA has made a very big contribution because we have focused on being both flexible and at the forefront of developments. I am excited and privileged to be leading such talented and hard-working colleagues, who I believe to be the best in British archaeology. Cutting-edge research and new insights into our past are not just the preserve of universities but occur on our own sites and in our offices.”
This very successful Oxford-based company has much to celebrate. A special AGM was held on 30th October at the King’s Centre, Osney Mead, for staff past and present. There were posters and banners showcasing some of OA’s most significant sites and an impressive display of all OA’s books and other publications. OA’s former directors, as well as its current CEO, Gill Hey, gave talks on the past 40 years, as well as its future, and Julian Munby gave an entertaining talk about some of the highlights of OA’s work.