TitlePatrick Adkins - Birch Centenary Chronicle 34
AbstractPatrick Adins 1933-2003
Local Archeologist and Historian

Birch, Layer Breton & Layer Marney Local History

Centenary Chronicles - No. 34.

Published in Parish News - May 2004

Sadly, Patrick (Pat) Adkins passed away in hospital on Monday 29th December 2003. Complications set in after a routine operation in 1997, followed by a heart attack. Accepting the need to reduce his strenuous hobbies, in 2001 he was diagnosed with a terminal lung condition. Unable to complete the processing and reporting from many of his excavations, which he had planned for his retirement, he remained positive throughout a long painful illness. He remained his usual friendly cheerful self, enjoying the simple pleasures of life in the familiar countryside, revisiting the sites of his excavations with his wife Betty and children Kelvin and Lorraine. His funeral was attended by members of family and many friends.

Born in Birch, Pat and his four brothers and sisters had a challenging time in their early years. The family had very little to survive on through the war years, yet Pat had many fond childhood memories and was a lifelong lover of the countryside, happiest working at remote rural locations with sights, sounds and smells reminding him of his early days.

He met Betty at a fair in Tiptree in 1950. Married in 1955, Pat moved there and became very popular locally, first working for a local builder and then running his own building business. He later worked as a Shipwright for Colvic Craft at Witham. With the local Fire Brigade from 1962 to 1988, his keenness was shown on his first shout. When the siren sounded he forgot he was on a bungalow roof, so he just dropped his tools and ran, fortunately landing safely in a sandheap!

Pat's main interest was archaeology and through his enthusiasm and determined hard work he discovered, excavated and recorded a number of sites, some of national importance, mainly around the Blackwater estuary area. Most of Pat's discoveries were made in the 1980s under very difficult salvage excavation conditions. He would follow the tracks of machinery used for topsoil clearing on gravel extraction sites, working single-handed, shifting hundreds of tons of soil by shovel and trowel, in all weather conditions. He used his warm genuine personality with site managers and machine operators, gaining their interest and support. Such co-operation was vital in the discovery and recording of many sites which would otherwise have been lost without trace. The sites included a very rare early Saxon iron smelting industry at Rook Hall Farm, and a Neolithic settlement at Chigborough Road, Little Totham. A member of Archaeological groups in Colchester and Maldon, he took part on early digs at Lofts Farm and the Maldon south bypass.

Influenced by his early work experience, on the Birch Hall estate, together with growing up in a small rural community, he understood how man worked in harmony with nature. He had an amazing "sixth sense" for finding features from the most subtle marks in the subsoil. He was also adept at divining and produced remarkably accurate plots of features by this method. His hands-on experience of hedge laying, coppicing, hurdle making, charcoal making etc. was used in interpreting archaeological evidence from excavations. He also became expert at finding new sites from cropmarks visible only from the air. He and son Kelvin spent much time flying and piecing together the ancient landscape of the Blackwater, Colne and Stour valleys.

This dedication to archaeology was acknowledged, in 1988, when he was presented with a British Archaeological Award for his excavation work in advance of gravel extraction. All of his finds (amounting to several tonnes!), photographic records and working notebooks were handed over to Colchester Museum stores. A summary of some of his work can be found at the website:

Pat's interest extended to local history and genealogy. He collected and presented an album of old photographs of Birch Primary School to the school. He recorded the details and monuments in St Luke's churchyard, Tiptree. He made many presentations on his work to local groups.

Throughout his life, Pat always found time for others, whether an old person in need or answering the enquiring mind of the smallest child. Pat was a true "salt of the earth" whose warm friendly smile will be sadly missed by all who knew him.

PublishedMay 2004
SourceMersea Museum / Breton Heath