Pete Nicholas

Written by |

Members will be saddened to hear of the unexpected death of Pete Nicholas in January. Born and raised in Saltash, Pete was a policeman before he took early retirement. He then studied for an Archaeology Masters degree at Exeter University, and over the last two decades he devoted much of his time to archaeology. He was a great champion for southeast Cornwall and became an Area Representative for Caradon, having taken over from Geoff Walford in 2002-3, and latterly, he kept an eye on 20 parishes south of Liskeard to Gunnislake and east of Liskeard to Crafthole. He became a CAS Trustee in 2010. He knew his area very well and was always prepared to speak out when developments threatened archaeological sites. He took the trouble to carry out detailed research, and wrote very effective and well- informed letters of protest.

Pete was always very generous with his time. Most Members will remember him for the leading role he played in carrying out many geophysical surveys across the county, as well as several field walking projects. He reported regularly at Trustee meetings on the various survey projects that CAS Members were involved with. Pete worked on the Caradon Hill Area Heritage Project (CHAHP 2011-14) and carried out geophysical survey at the Hurlers during the Cornwall Archaeological Unit (CAU) work for the Mapping the Sun Project. He and Iain Rowe set-up Caradon Archaeology, another CHAHP initiative, in order to obtain help to monitor Scheduled Monuments in East Cornwall. The work of this group continues today as part of our Monument Watch (Heritage at Risk) programme. At the same time Pete was a very active member of Saltash Heritage, the organisation that established and maintained Saltash Museum with its popular Local History Centre upstairs. The Tamarside Archaeology Survey (TAS) group was formed, as part of a Heritage Lottery project to refurbish the museum, and survey and geophysical survey equipment purchased. This was the practical foundation on which Pete’s survey work was built. Thereafter he was able to draw on the equipment, and volunteers from TAS and CAS and other organisations, in order to respond to the many requests for geophysical surveys across Cornwall.

Pete and his good friend Les Dodd surveyed many archaeological sites in southeast Cornwall, including more recently working with The Australian National University at Bury Down hillfort (Lanreath), and Duloe Stone Circle amongst others. He surveyed a number of CAS excavation sites– including Hay Close (Newlyn East) in 2007; Boden (St Keverne) in 2008; and North Cliffs/Hudder Field (Gwithian) in 2016. Following the discovery by a metal detectorist of extensive evidence of a battle/skirmish outside Tywardreath (part of the wider Battle of Lostwithiel 1644) he chaired CAS’s Battlefields project from 2010, although further survey work here proved too difficult to arrange. In 2007 he had worked a couple of miles to the north beginning what may prove to be his most notable survey – the geophysical survey of Restormel Roman Fort. This was a critical component of the Society’s Roman Cornwall project, of which he was an active member. It proved to be an arresting survey result, showing quite clearly the fort and an earlier temporary marching camp overlooking the medieval castle. Surveys of other potential Roman enclosures were examined (eg.Lestow and Goonzion) latterly he had been examining the surroundings of Carvossa hillfort in the hope of confirming this site also as a fort. Working with CAU he surveyed the site of Liskeard Castle, and carried out the preliminary surveys for the award winning Carwynnen Quoit (Camborne) project in 2009. CAS and many archaeological organisations across southeast Cornwall have much to thank Pete Nicholas for. His knowledge, enthusiasm and generosity will be sorely missed.

Nicholas Johnson

The family welcome any CAS Members who wish to attend the cremation at Glynn Valley Crematorium, Bodmin at 9.30am on 16 February. This is to be followed by a Service of Thanksgiving at Mary’s Church, Sheviock, followed by light refreshments at the Memorial Hall in Crafthole.

Pete Nicholas in typical survey mode at Restormel Roman Fort, with the Castle in the background. November 2008. Photo-Peter Rose.