News Headlines

January 2006

A summary of the articles in this issue of the Digger. Click read to view the full story.

Archaeologist denies wanting to return to Iraq.

Susanne Osthoff, the 43-year-old archaeologist and aid worker who was abducted and then freed in Iraq recently, has denied she said she wanted to return to the war zone. read

Heritage Enquiry wants your views..

The Parliamentary Culture, Media and
Sport Committee has announced a wide-
ranging inquiry into the heritage sector.. read

Norfolk privitises Unit as Councils cut jobs.

Norfolk County Council is planning to privatize its archaeology unit. NAU will be taken over by NPS Property Consultants Ltd.. read


Can you picture his face? Your site director turns up to work on Monday to find Stonehenge has appeared on his site ... read


The Digger

WHS Trowel bites the dust?.

Ping! It's become a sound familiar on sites up and down the country, usually followed by the indignant shout of an angry digger. Ping! The noise of the blade of another WHS trowel snapping in half.

We never thought it would come to this. WHS trowels used to be indestructible. You could lever out slabs of masonry, scrape clean acres of cobbles and then throw your trowel under the JCB and it would still be good as new. Indispensable too. Short of a fishslice for your Friday night fry-up? WHS to the rescue.

Recently the design changed. The new trowel looked good at first - with its knuckle protection and flash red handle. But the blade is thinner and can?t stand up to the punishment of an archaeological site. Ping!

It's got so bad that one major unit has already given up on WHS in favour of its US rival. Duncan Waltham, Logistics Manager at Oxford Archaeology, told The Digger that the new WHS trowels are inferior to the old type. 'The problem seems to be that the metal used in the construction of the new trowel is much harder and therefore more brittle. The blade tends to snap rather than flex. The Marshalltown Trowel is one of the types we have tried and at the moment seems to be the favourite.' Manufacturers Neill Tools have also changed their supply policy, making their trowels more difficult for OAU to obtain.

William Hunt and Sons (WHS) of Brades Steel Works was founded in 1793. The company was acquired by Brades Nash Industries in 1951 and then by Spear and Jackson eleven years later. Neill Tools inherited the WHS name when it bought Spear and Jackson in 1985. In the building trade, the WHS initials are affectionately referred to as 'Work Hard or Starve,' or if you?re an archaeologist 'Work Hard and Starve.'

The 4-inch pointing trowel, or the 'London handle type standard heel width pattern number 111 part number 11104L 100mm (4 inch) one-piece solid roll forged pointing trowel,' to give it its full designation, has been used by archaeologists for decades. WHS boasts that 'all trowels are manufactured in Sheffield from top quality carbon steel and each one is guaranteed against defective materials and workmanship.' It is an icon, a design classic.

We contacted Neill Tools to see what they had to say. Marketing Director Derek Thomas told us: 'I can confirm that the design has indeed been amended, this followed consultations with our construction customers (as this is where the majority of our sales go). Their requests for lighter more flexible bricklaying and pointing trowels were considered and balanced with the needs of our other customers such as yourselves. I am sure you appreciate the difficulties in balancing two or more sets of requirements with just one product, and it would appear from your comments and those of your readers that we haven’t got it quite right.' So what was he going to do? ?I would be pleased to re-introduce the previous 'indestructible' 4 inch trowel.'

So there you are. Result! Get your orders in quick before they change their mind!


BAJR Forum mesage on the 'new' trowel

Spear and Jackson website


(Breaking News … BAJR and Neill Tool have cooperated to bring back a trowel that isdesigned with archaeologists in mind, thicker blade, higher lift on handle (no more knuckle scrapes) and a flat tang that is set into the ferrule… so no more rotating blades in the handle…we hope. This trowel is now being tested….. to sign up to test… contact David Connolly at

Tell me!

The Digger
PO Box 23570
E13 9YP

Useful Links

These links and pages may be of interest to you and open in new windows

External Resources:

Support Us.

The Digger is a non-profit making newsletter existing entirely on donations.

All donations welcome, make cheques payable to The Digger.

Any contributions of material positively encouraged. The Digger is available by post, by email as well as here online If you want to receive The Digger but donít, or you donít want to receive The Digger but do, send us your details and weíll sort it out.

The Digger
PO Box 23570
E13 9YP