Monday, 22 July 2013

A Great Week Digging

The past nine days have flown by but we have now come to the end of the excavations here at Petworth Park. It has been very exciting with new features and artefacts being found daily, helping us to gain a further understanding of both the former North Wing and formal gardens. Our volunteers have worked their way through soil, rubble and stone, in sweltering conditions, and their hard work has led to even more discoveries over the past weekend.

Trench 3 has been a hive of activity since we discovered the floor of the North Wing in Trench 4. Once we had the level of that floor we removed much of the soil and rubble in Trench 3 in the hope of discovering similar flooring. After some tough work trowelling through the last few inches of rubble the mortar floor was revealed and this quickly led to even more discoveries. First, the remnants of the south facing outside wall - whilst much of it had been removed, possibly to use on other buildings, the foundations remain. On the outside of the wall a complex drainage system was found, part of it built into the outside wall, showing several different periods of construction. To our surprise we also noticed our first medieval tile, not on the floor where it would have originally sat, but re used to cover the drainage system. In addition a large amount of elaborate cornice work, which would have adorned the upper parts of the indoor walls, has been found within the rubble, along with a decorative lead flower.

                                                 The team give the finishing touches to trench 3

We hoped that we would have a similar outcome in Trench 5 as it looked as if the wall would continue through the trench. Unfortunately it would appear that little has been left of the former wall, but two in situ floor tiles, located at the edge of the trench, confirming the extent of the building in this area.

The above discoveries, along with features found earlier in the week, have helped us to begin to answer some of the questions regarding the North Wing and the formal gardens. It would appear that the North Wing underwent significant alteration during the early to mid 17th century, as we have found very little, apart from the medieval tile, of the original medieval building (and this could be from a different building). The internal wall and apparent soot covered plaster suggests that the ground floor of the wing was compartmentalised and that different functions occurred in different areas. The wonderful quality of the green-glazed roof tiles and elaborate cornice work supports that this was a high status building and that at one time or another, due to the post-medieval vessel glass, bottle glass and oyster shells, food and drink were consumed in the building, possibly during feasts and banquets. In terms of the formal gardens we can say with some certainty that adjacent to the large carriage turning circle within the 6th Duke’s ‘Iron Court’ there were surface drains, stone pathways aligned with the house and courtyard areas, with enclosing walls separating it from the parterre.
                                                              A clean and tidy trench 4

It has been an incredibly enjoyable nine days, and it has been great to see the interest, from visitors, in the excavation (many are disappointed that we have to fill the trenches in!) and it has been great to see children and adults getting their hands dirty helping us out. A special thanks to all the volunteers whose hard work in the hot sun has made it all possible.

Our findings from the excavation of the North Wing, and the artefacts we have uncovered, along with the results from all of our other archaeological surveys within the Park over the last year, will now be brought together in an exhibition to be held at Petworth House in October.  This will tell the story of how the Park has evolved over the last 900 years and how archaeologists have been investigating sites ranging from the medieval village at Tillington and the Second World War camp, to Henry VIII’s banqueting house and the magnificent 18th century stables.

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