Friday, 19 July 2013

The North Wing of Petworth House begins to be uncovered

The last couple of days have been very exciting here at the Petworth
Park dig. Our volunteers have been doing a fantastic job and have made many new discoveries, which have changed our view on the internal gully and courtyard that were excavated earlier in the week. Probably one of the most significant discoveries was made in Trench 4. If you’ve been keeping up to date with the blog you will know that this trench was located in the Ha Ha bastion ditch and even before the excavation had begun we could see brickwork and masonry eroding out of the bastion ditch. Well, after some hard work removing all the rubble we made a great discovery - we appear to have a wall from the former North Wing of Petworth House.

As we dug deeper it became apparent that much of the wall had a plaster surface. It was initially thought that this may have been part of the cellar, but our volunteers quickly reached the bottom and found a tile still in situ, this means that the floor is unlikely to be a cellar as it’s not deep enough. As more was excavated the rest of the mortar floor could be viewed, parts still showing the impression of the tiles that would once have covered it. A quite substantial internal wall has become apparent and we’ve also found pieces of soot blackened plaster wall within the trench, could we be looking at the kitchens? Hopefully soon we will be able to tell!

A volunteer uncovers part of the floor of the North Wing, with tile in top left hand corner

This discovery in Trench 4 has changed our perception of the gully in Trench 3 as initially it was thought that this may have run alongside the wall of the North Wing. However the levels of these features suggest that the gully is quite a bit higher than the wall in Trench 4. The gully may have been part of the later formal gardens.  

The courtyard in Trench 2 is a bit of an enigma. The level here suggests that it is of a similar period to the gully, so possibly part of the formal gardens, but a piece seems to be missing. A sondage (deep test trench) in this area now indicates that this missing piece has been caused by the removal of a wall which stood here – a ‘robber trench’, where much of the stone has been dug out and removed to be re-used elsewhere.  The wall probably formed the boundary between the 6th Duke’s ‘Iron Court’ and the Parterre from the 18th century.
Volunteers working on the courtyard in Trench 2

In the coming days we hope to dig deeper into Trench 3 to see if we can find any part of the North Wing below the level of the gully. In addition, we hope to put in a small trench where we think the wall from Trench 4 continues, to gain a better understanding of the structure and functions within the North Wing. Of course we will keep you updated with all that we find.

Earlier in the week I promised you pictures of the finds and below you can see some of the things we have found. One of the most impressive pieces is a glass seal that would once have been part of a glass bottle. Impressed onto it is the emblem of the Percy family, the Earls of Northumberland, who owned Petworth from the early 12th century until the late 17th century. We have also found impressive pieces of moulded and painted plaster cornice, which along with the finds earlier in the week (green-glazed roof tiles, post-medieval vessel glass) clearly signifies a high status building.
A finds tray with parts of the soot covered plaster (in the bottom half of the tray)
The glass seal with the imprint of the Percy family emblem

If you fancy visiting the Petworth dig we will be here until Sunday 21st July, with daily site tours from 3.30pm on weekdays and 12 noon and 3pm on weekends. Hope to see you soon!

Plaster cornice work, similar to ones seen on the current Petworth House

(If you wish to see a map of the locations of our trenches please see the previous post)

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