Friday, 19 April 2013

Geophysics in Petworth Park

If you went out into Petworth Park over the Easter Holidays, you might have seen a lot of red and yellow canes across the lawn in front of the House, and lots of people walking up and down between them.  This is because over the weekend of 6th and 7th April, the National Trust teamed up with Worthing Archaeological Society, Chichester & District Archaeology Society and Liss Archaeological Group to undertake geophysical survey as part of the Petworth Park Archaeology Project.

Geophysical survey is used to identify archaeological features and deposits preserved below the ground – we used the ‘Resistivity’ survey technique, which measures the electrical resistance of the ground using metal probes. The survey area is divided into 20-metre grids (that’s what the canes were for) and investigated by taking a reading every metre to build up a map of the measurements.  Archaeological features – like a wall or a ditch – will have a different resistance reading to the natural geology, allowing us to draw them out from their surroundings.

We looked at four archaeological sites on the West Lawn – the site of the medieval ‘lost’ North Wing of Petworth House, the 17th century 9th Earl’s stables and the 18th century 6th Duke’s stables that followed, and an area that was houses and fields - part of Petworth town – until they were cleared to increase the size of the Park (and improve the view!). We gathered a lot of information about all of the sites, proving that there are substantial remains buried beneath the ground, but some of the most impressive results came from the area of the 6th Duke’s stables, near the Upper Pond.

Geophysical survey of the 6th Duke’s Stables at Petworth (top) with interpretation overlain (bottom)

You can clearly make out the outline of the building (shown in blue), and even the individual stalls for the horses. It looks like the entrance to the stables was in the bottom right of the picture, possibly through an archway or gatehouse.  In the central courtyard was a large circular and rectangular feature (shown in red), possibly an ornamental water feature and a trough – the drains for this can be seen coming into the courtyard from the top-left of the picture.

A big thank you goes to all the volunteers from the societies who worked so hard to make the weekend a success.  If you want to find out more about how to get involved with your local archaeology society you can use the contact details below:

Worthing Archaeological Society (WAS):
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Email -

Chichester & District Archaeology Society (CDAS):
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Email -  

Liss Archaeological Group (LAG):
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Thursday, 4 April 2013

Why I volunteer...

Hello, I’m Vicky and I started volunteering last month at Petworth House helping Zoe the Marketing & Media Co-ordinator.  I’m really enjoying my time here meeting lots of friendly people and learning a range of new skills. The team have looked after me and so far I’ve had an induction and also been on volunteers training where I was given an overview of the house, learning all about its history and splendour. I can’t recommend volunteering enough, if you have the time it’s a great way to get involved, improve your CV or just give something back to a charity.  It’s a lovely feeling that I’m helping our heritage.  

Not only do I feel I’m helping a charity, I’ve been involved in loads of fun things from the team meeting, creating posters, writing a blog and helping find free advertising. I really look forward to that one day a week I’m part of the team here at Petworth.  Every time I leave the office I’m always trying to think of new ideas to entice more visitors.

You can be involved in inspiring visitors too, by helping them to discover more about Petworth House in an interesting and enjoyable way.  Whether you get in to a costume from Petworth’s past and bring a character back to life or you assist in the new second hand book shop there is always something exciting to be involved with as a volunteer.

Volunteer interpreters having fun in the Historic Kitchens.

There are many opportunities to match your personality and  fill your day.  Whether you lead visitors on a journey of discovery and adventure through the landscape as a pathfinder or help run workshops and family events as a volunteer learning assistant.  You could even learn about Petworth’s history as one of our tour guides or help with the fundraising for restoration projects.  Any idea big or small I feel is always valued here at Petworth, I’m finding it a fun and exciting learning experience and you too can also be part of something rewarding.  For more information email

Richard and Barbara James have been volunteering at Petworth for nearly five years.