The county town of Stafford is today a small conurbation, containing the medieval buildings of St Mary's, St Chad's and the High House within a few metres of each other at the town centre. The campaign reported here began in 1974, when a member of the local archaeological society, Ashley Carter, found a quantity of "Roman" pottery in excavations at Clarke Street in advance of an anticipated ring road. In 1975 Martin Carver (of Birmingham University Field Archaeology Unit) identified the pottery as late Saxon by comparison with the pot containing a late Saxon coin hoard previously found in Chester. That same year he excavated the Clarke Street site (ST15), unearthing copious quantities of the newly identified bright orange late Saxon pottery that had been dumped in a marsh. n a watching brief in 1977 Carver discovered a kiln at Tipping Street south (ST17), which justified his calling the new pottery Stafford Ware. In 1979, in a collaborative project with Stafford Borough and County and the Department of the Environment, Carver carried out an urban evaluation, digging an eventual 28 trenches with students of the Birmingham University practical course (aka the "year out") whence he constructed an urban archaeological data base and a model of the deposit for the town.
In 1980-85, Stafford Borough made available for excavation three large sites in the town centre, prior to their development (known as St Mary's Grove, Tipping Street north and Bath Street). With Clarke Street, this made four "windows" across the historic town. The workforce was largely composed of young persons on job creation schemes, the Manpower Services Commission (MSC) and Youth Opportunities Programme (YOP), both of which provided untrained local labour (16-20 years old) with some cash support. Together with students of the Birmingham "year out" these young people undertook a great deal of digging, recording and the sorting of finds, both on the main area excavations and elsewhere in the town. Several studies were produced: by Jill Walker (1976) and Jenny Glazebrook (1983) on overviews of the town, by Sarah Bazalgette on the evaluation trenches, by John Darlington on the metallurgy of iron objects (1985) and by Lawrence Bowkett on Stafford's hinterland.
This archive contains the Field Reports for the Stafford campaign (primarily , comprising the edited surviving evidence for the evaluation and the major excavations together with studies of the artefacts, bones and plant remains. The edited Field Reports include new analyses and reinterpretation by M Carver and take into account work undertaken since 1985, particularly by Debbie Ford (on pottery) and John Darlington (excavations at Stafford castle and town). However, the research undertaken in 1985-90 on the artefacts, animal bone, human bone and plant remains has not been extensively revised or updated, apart from new specialist reports on objects from the "blacksmiths' pit" (F234 in Int 32): by Steve Ashby on the Medieval comb and Cecily Spall on the metalwork. The Stafford results are considered in their national and international context in the Research Report, the monograph Birth of a Borough by Martin Carver (Boydell Press), which may be regarded as the synthesis that accompanies and draws on this archive.