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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