14/01/2022 Archaeology on Prescription brings together York residents to uncover the area’s history

Archaeology on Prescription is a new, innovative social prescribing project that seeks to engage York’s residents in archaeology. It will improve people’s health and wellbeing, foster new social connections and improve confidence through the building of new skills and knowledge.  

The project aims to help create the most detailed picture of life in this part of the city from the medieval period to the modern day. It is currently being piloted by York Archaeology in the shadow of York’s city walls, on the City of York Council-owned site of a former care home. The project engages people from all over the city, but local residents, particularly those who live or have lived in the surrounding Walmgate area, are also being encouraged to get involved.  


A man and woman in high vis look at the ground during a dig

The scheme brings together York Archaeology and a range of local partners operating in the city, to reach those who will benefit the most. For the first pilot, delivered in Autumn 2021, these included Converge, an educational charity for those with lived experience of mental health challenges, based at York St John University, and Changing Lives, who work with people recovering from addiction. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.  The plan for the second phases of the project is to involve more partner organisations across the city, in particular those working with younger people such as Tang Hall SMART, The Hut and SASH, and Afghan and Syrian refugees.     

Sarah Maltby, Director of Attractions for York Archaeology, said:  

“Over the coming months, we will be building on what we’ve learnt from the delivery of the first pilot to develop our Archaeology on Prescription model further and create a sustained programme of activity. We are also looking to work closely with the heath sector through the Vale of York CCG and Ways to Wellbeing team to develop a referral process for individuals in the local area who might benefit from joining the project. In making these partnerships we are hopeful we can engage as many people in archaeology as possible and have a profound, positive and sustained impact on the wellbeing of the people of York.”  

Katrina Gargett, Community Engagement Officer for York Archaeology, is working with the National Academy for Social Prescribing. NASP are supporting York Archaeology to learn more about the local social prescribing landscape and develop their partnership with the health sector.   

“We are keen to ensure that Archaeology on Prescription goes beyond a short-term intervention, as projects that end just as participants have become immersed can be detrimental to well-being,” said Katrina.  “While the outdoor excavation side of the project has been hugely engaging, we’re now extending this to cover year-round activities that can continue throughout the winter months.”  

The National Community Renewal Fund awarded York Archaeology a £120k grant for the next stage of Archaeology on Prescription, which includes embedding a social prescribing link worker and utilising the project’s activities for social prescribing referrals. The project to date has kindly been supported by funders including the Assura Community Fund, Ed de Nunzio Charitable Trust, City of York Council, Arnold Clark Community Fund and Culture and Wellbeing York.   

You can listen to Katrina talking about Archaeology on Prescription as part of the Heritage Special episode of NASP’s Podcast on Prescription.   


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