18 Jul 2016
It was a tiring end to the final day of our week-long summer dig in Forty Hall, as we finished recording the interior of our palace building in what turned out to be the hottest day of the dig if not the year so far, but as ever our efforts were rewarded with fascinating finds and more crucial information about the structure of the building.
We put out a last-minute five-metre extension to the west of the trench in an effort to find some sign of the western end of the building but this drew a blank, confirming our suspicions that the footprint of the structure is much larger than we had imagined.
Similarly, an extension to the north only revealed more of the pebble and chalk surface we found on the north side of our probable staircase, failing to show any signs of a large exterior wall to parallel the one we found last year and the year before, which held the garderobes.
Meanwhile, the eastern trench extension we opened on Saturday had more success and did eventually find an end if not to the building then at least to the room on the east of the main trench, as it disclosed a T-junction to the small east-west wall which marked the boundary between the pebble and chalk surface and the mortar bedding which held the glazed tile floor. These walls were again quite narrow and relatively insubstantial.
It’s too early to be sure, but we’re beginning to suspect that this building may not be as solidly constructed as we thought, perhaps even being a half-timbered structure built againt the hefty palace boundary wall. This will be a question for post-excavation analysis and will perhaps lead into next year’s work.
16 Jul 2016
It was another great day today in what may be one of our most successful ever digs on the site of Elsyng Palace. We’ve now fully excavated and recorded the remains of the mortar surface which once held the glazed floor tiles we have been recovering all week, as well as the other distinctive area of pebbles and chalk.
Meanwhile, the extension in the north-west corner of the trench was further excavated – this forms a square enclosure and features a small square of bricks in its center – we now think this is a (originally wooden) staircase with a central column.
The construction of the walls of this feature have turned out to be a messy mixture of brick and tile courses, rather than just tiles as we first thought, though it still seems likely that the walls were supporting a timber framed construction – it’s interesting that this is all definately not workmanship of the highest quality despite the fact that it seems to date to the period when the palace had come into royal hands. It may be that these structures were built in something of a hurry in anticipation of the arrival of the royal court.
We’ve continued to make some fascinating finds, most notably today we found a concentration of what looks like a variety of iron tools including a splendid hammer head (pictured) which stil contains the remains of the wooden handle in its socket, as well as what may be a file, possibly a chisel and a small chisel blade that may have been part of the hammer head or possibly a tool in its own right.
In light of this, second, third and even fourth opinions have been circulating about the three-pronged iron object we found on day three, which may turn out to be some sort of tool after all.
We have still not seen the ends of our building so we still don’t have a clear idea of its overall size, so further extensions have been opened to the north and west of the trench. Tomorrow is the last day of the dig and so our last chance to answer this question, although in light of the successes of the week it’s unlikely any of our diggers will complain if we have to come back to the same spot next year!
15 Jul 2016
Another great day’s progress investigating the interior of our palace building – we’ve nearly finished revealing and recording the floor levels in the main trench, and have found two distinct areas – the first at the north end (left and rear of picture) is made from a compact cobble surface including a large amount of chalk, while the second (right and rear of picture) is the remains of a mortar bedding, which must be the surface in which the glazed tiles we have found would have been set (we continued to find several more of these today).
What this difference in surface signifies, and how (if at all) the two were separated (maybe as two rooms inside the building) we can’t tell yet.
As expected, we extended the trench at its north-west end (foreground of picture) to follow the first of the two dwarf-wall lines. Although as we hoped, we did find another return on this wall, it is still only a small foundation for a wood-framed internal partition and not an external building wall. The three sides we have found probably enclose what was a cupboard or small storage room inside the main building, which is now looking much larger than we had imagined.
The trench continued to produce a variety of interesting and unusual finds including some shaped bricks that we think may have been the base of a column or even possibly a mantelpiece, and several pieces of window glass – including one particularly nice piece of purple-stained glass – something we very rarely find at Elsyng, even though we know from household accounts there were many windows with decoration including the royal arms and those of Sir Thomas Lovell, who owned the palace in the early 16th century.
Tomorrow we may extend the trench again, in the hope of eventually finding an end wall of the building, and will probably open another extension on the dwarf wall on the other side of the trench (mid-background of picture) in the hope of finding the end of the building in that direction.
14 Jul 2016
It was another great day’s digging on the site of Elsyng Palace in Forty Hall today as we continue to reveal the layout of our (probably mid sixteenth century) building.
The line of tiles we revealed yesterday has resolved into a definate wall line, but like the wall it runs parallel with, it is just a thin tile construction that probably supported a timber framed internal partition. The narrow (about 2 metres wide) strip these two wall lines define along the center of the trench may represent a corridor inside the palace building.
By mid aftertoon we’d found this new wall line turns a 90-degree angle, just like the first and although at this point the wall is also quite narrow it is of a much more substantial brick-built construction.
The reason for the two walls turning a corner and becoming more substantial is not yet clear, and since only a short stretch of each is inside the trench, it may well call for some small trench extensions tomorrow or at the weekend.
Today was also an excellent day for finds, which came thick and fast and in a great variety. We have now recovered a considerable number of glazed floor tile fragments leaving little doubt as to what the floors of our building were made of – we have also revealed the remains of the mortar bedding they would have been laid in (as expected, the floor has been entirely robbed out).
Interestingly, all of the fragments we recovered showed considerable signs of wear, so much so that at the time of demolition many of the tiles would have had no glaze left on their upper surfaces at all – testiment both to how long they were in place and to the lack of maintenence that ultimately led to the palace falling into disrepair and out of royal favour.
One of the nicer small finds we made today was the end of a bone hair pin (pictured) – with carved decoration and even signs of colouring (it was probably green).
Perhaps the oddest find of the day, though, was a large lump of ironwork in a remarkably good state of preservation, which at first glance may look like an offensive weapon but is in fact a window fixture.
The lower end would have been set in brickwork probably outside a window, and the semi-ornamental spikes would have provided protection against intruders and would also have deterred the local bird population from perching on and defacing the palace facade.
It’s a great (and very unusual) find that adds a little detail to the practicalities of running a palace, but also adds to a sense that the seventeenth century demolition crew weren’t perhaps being as picky as they might have about salvaging resalable material.
We’ve now found a few items like this, such as the large amounts of window glass last year that would have been worth a reasonable amount of money at the time the palace was demolished, making it all the more surprising to find them. Whether the demolition crew were sloppy or had simply saturated the local market by the time they got to this part of the palace, it has provided us with a wealth of unusual and highly dateable finds, for which we’re grateful, no doubt with more to come tomorrow!
13 Jul 2016
We made great progress today on the second day of our week-long exploration of Henry VIII’s long-lost palace of Elsyng.
Yesterday we had removed most of the topsoil covering the demolition layer
representing the final phase of the palace’s destruction in the
mid-seventeenth century, and had just begun to see traces of deliberately
laid roofing tiles, which looked like they may have been the base of a
timber frame possibly for dividing walls inside our target building.
After tidying up yesterday’s work (slightly smudged by torrential rain overnight – luckily we avoided the worst of it today) we began the painstaking process of recording the rubble before starting to remove it to see what lies beneath.
12 Jul 2016
After the disappointment of our dig in Cedars Park last week, which failed to deliver any pre 20th century archaeology, Forty Hall offered a welcome relief as we returned to the site of Henry VIII’s Elsyng Palace and were rewarded early on with in-situ Tudor palace remains.
We’ve returned to the site of the C16th building we first discovered in 2014, which so far we’ve found to contain two garderobe (toilet) chutes, but so far we haven’t seen much of the building’s interior.
This year’s first trench covers a 6x4 metre area inside this building and will hopefully give us a better idea of its size, construction and date.
Despite the best efforts of the weather we made good progress today, de-turfing and removing topsoil to reveal the ubiquitous demolition layer of broken brick and tile fragments that cover most of the palace site, deposited some time around the palace’s final days in c.1650.
The most encouraging feature was a line of roofing tiles deliberately laid in a right-angle in the north-east corner of the trench, approximately where we had suspected the end wall of our building might be.
Roofing tiles were commonly used in wall construction for various purposes, such as making uneven walls level, and as may be most likely in this case as the base for a timber framed construction. It’s too early to interpret this feature fully, and we’ll have to expose more of it tomorrow, but it already poses questions about our building – was it a half-timbered structure, or was it much larger than we thought and could these be internal walls dividing rooms?
04 Jul 2016
Just four days to go until our summer digs kick off in Cedars Park, Broxbourne and just over a week until we return to Forty Hall hot on the trail of Henry VIII’s Elsyng Palace!
All digging places are now full - we’re looking forward to meeting lots of first timers - hopefully with lots of lovely archaeology to show them. Members of the public and the EAS are still more than welcome to come and say hello during the week, and each Sunday will be a public event - coinciding on the 21st with Forty Hall’s “Music on the Lawn”
19 Apr 2016
This year we wil be returning to the former sites of Elsyng and Theobalds palaces as part of our Festival of Archaeology excavations.
We will be digging on the 8th 9th and 10th July in Cedars Park, Broxbourne on the former site of James I’s Theobalds Palace, continuing to look at the remains of the loggia that once formed part of the celebrated 17th century ornamental palace gardens. Last year we uncovered evidence that the loggia was colonnaded and bounded by an ornamental canal. This year we hope to find more evidence for the interior of the structure and perhaps get a better idea of its full size.
The following week, we will be digging from the 12th – 17th in Forty Hall, Enfield on the former site of Henry VIII’s Elsyng Palace, continuing our exploration of the large palace building we first discovered in 2014. So far we have uncovered two garderobe (toilet) chutes, together with substantial wall remains and evidence of an ornamental moat that fronted the palace building. This year we aim to move into the building in search of more dating evidence, to study its floors and get a better idea of the building’ size. Last year’s star find was a complete panel from a palace window, still set in its lead channels, so hopes for similarly exiting finds this year are high!
We will be cooperating with the Forty Hall estate to give tours and talks to school classes during the week – for more information contact Frances Cherry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Each Sunday will be a public event with stalls and Society members on hand to answer questions and explain our work.
Details of meeting places and start times for members who wish to join the dig will be sent out later in the year.
19 Jul 2015
An arduous but thoroughly rewarding final day’s digging in Forty Hall saw the sun shine despite poor forecasts, which thankfully let us crack on and achieve almost all of our principal objectives, and brought a sizeable crowd to witness the fantastic archaeology our trench finally produced.
Yesterday we had removed most of a top layer of sandy rubble from the top of our newly discovered garderobe chute – the layer below seemed to be more solid and our hopes that it would contain useful finds were thoroughly fulfilled.
18 Jul 2015
Our penultimate day’s digging in Forty Hall threw us an unexpected surprise today, as we continued to uncover the Palace wall that we found yesterday.
We’ve now extended the trench nearest the lime tree avenue until it just touches the edge of last year’s trench. The wall – a continuation of last year’s – appeared to thicken as we uncovered it in the end of the trench next to last year’s garderobe (lavatory) chute, and as we removed the rubble we began to suffer from déjà-vu as we noted a rectangular area of slumped bricks on the wall’s south side.
Sure enough, just as last year, we found the slumping was caused by a rectangular void backfilled with palace rubble, which has subsequently settled and allowed the surrounding bricks to tilt inwards – the void is yet another garderobe chute, right next to the one we found last year.
This second chute is abutted against the wall, and therefore must be later in date, although both appear to be of mid to late Tudor construction. There are several puzzling features of the new chute, including its south and east edges which seem to be built of bricks on-edge, in contrast to the other sides. We will be able to tell more once it is fully excavated tomorrow – we have just about finished removing a layer of sandy rubble in the top and have come to what we hope is the original fill of the chute – this is where the critical dating evidence will (hopefully) be, and is what we ran out of time to look at last year.
Meanwhile, our other important job is to determine how far the main wall runs west of the avenue. After the brickwork runs out, we have followed the demolition cut that removed the wall for a few metres, and have extended the west end of the trench to follow it – finding out where and in what direction the wall turns is critical to interpreting the building.
We had many interesting finds today, including a second piece of painted Venetian vessel glass, the complete handle of a post-medieval red-ware flagon (above), and the complete base of a black-glazed red-ware mug, with a numeral ‘X’ scored on it (pictured) – probably a tally mark made by the potter.
Having found two garderobe chutes, we are beginning to wonder if we may have found the palace’s ‘Privy Jakes’ – the communal household toilet block that many Tudor palaces had – in which case there may be more chutes to the east of last year’s trench as well, all discharging into the ornamental moat feature which ran along the building’s south edge.
This would be a significant discovery, and a very important leap forward in understanding the layout of the palace.
We’ve got one more day to excavate and record the structures, and the weather forecast is not too good for tomorrow – rain may make digging and drawing difficult.
Hopefully it won’t put off visitors, since tomorrow is our main public event. After all, it’s not every day you get to see a Tudor Privy Jakes lost for 360 years!
17 Jul 2015
Better late than never, we finally revealed the wall of the Tudor building we’ve been chasing all week today. In the end, we’ve had to move right back until we almost joined up with last year’s trench – we’ve expanded the test pit nearest the avenue into a proper trench and sure enough, here we find the continuation of the Tudor building.
The wall only runs intact for a few metres, after which it is difficult to tell whether it has been robbed out or if it turns a corner at some point (or both). The mess of demolition material – brick and tile fragments and a thick spread of mortar debris make it slow progress to pick apart, leaving in-situ elements in place – we are also looking out for signs of a floor surface inside the building. It could be that the isolated block of brickwork we found yesterday was actually part of the wall, and was cut through when the building was demolished, probably around the year 1650.
Sorting this out is crucial to our understanding of the route of the wall and therefore the nature of the building, and so this will be our focus at the weekend – it will probably require opening one last trench tomorrow and so there will be a lot of work yet to do.
The structural archaeology emerged just in time today, as we were visited by pupils from local primary schools – it was nice to have part of a substantial palace building to show them, as well as members from the Colchester Archaeological Group, who also visited us in the afternoon.
Our main public event is on Sunday, when we will be giving more site tours to the public, and there will be various stalls on display and people on-hand to explain our work.
Hopefully by then we will have a more complete picture of this building – as ever, stay tuned!
16 Jul 2015
Another day of mixed fortunes in Forty Hall, on the third day of our Festival of Archaeology dig in search of part of the Tudor Palace of Elsyng.
Since trench one has now shown definitively no signs of any substantial structure, Historic England, who visited us today, kindly approved a change in strategy. We have moved back towards the lime tree avenue, closer to last year’s trench and opened two small test pits on the alignment of the building we are after.
Frustratingly, there is still no obvious wall emerging from the ground – the structure we uncovered last year was very substantial and shallowly buried so it should be hard to miss when we do find it.
The pit closest to the avenue, and only a couple of metres from last year’s trench is so far looking very promising – there is a block of in-situ brickwork in its corner, although it looks to be too insubstantial to be the wall we’re after – it may be an internal feature within the building, which in itself would be excellent news.
The pit is also producing a lot of rubble and quite a few very nice finds, including part of a glazed floor brick (pictured), which once may have been part of a chequer-board pattern within our target building.
We have also found small fragments of window lead and even a few pieces of window glass and several large pieces of a splendid stoneware pitcher (pictured).
We found a similar vessel last year, decorated with oak leaves and acorns, which would have been imported from Cologne in the sixteenth century, though this one appears to be undecorated and has not yet been accurately dated.
The smallest find to come from the pit was a small fragment of a decorated Venetian glass vessel, quite late in the day (so no picture yet – stay tuned). It’s only the second such fragment ever found at Elsyng and would have been an expensive import, and a very prestigious item in its day.
Just before we finished working in trench one, it produced an almost complete clay tobacco pipe, probably dating from the late sixteenth century. We’ve almost finished excavating and recording trench one, and will probably begin to backfill it tomorrow, and concentrate our efforts on our two test pits.
If there is still no sign of our wall in the area closest to the avenue, we may find that the wall sharply changes direction very close to where we excavated it last year – one way or the other we ought to find out tomorrow.
We still have three days to go, and we’re determined to get to the bottom of the mystery of the vanishing wall before the week is out!
15 Jul 2015
A glorious day in Forty Hall, spoiled only slightly by misbehaving archaeology. The archaeology of Elsyng Palace has been notoriously unpredictable ever since we first opened a trench here in 1963, and so it came as no great surprise when we recorded and lifted the line of rubble we thought yesterday was lying over a wall, to find it was only the fill of a very shallow linear cut.
As we noted yesterday, the rubble line was substantially thinner than the wall we were expecting, despite the fact that it was in exactly the position and alignment we had predicted. We extended the trench, as planned, to the north to make sure there is no sign of an interior building floor, and to be sure the wall had not changed direction slightly, but after a hard day’s mattocking we were rewarded only with a skim of ubiquitous demolition rubble.
Compared to last year’s trench, there is very little rubble – another sign that we are some distance from any demolished structure. As we said yesterday, this may require a radical rethink in strategy. Tomorrow we may extend the trench south to double-check the line of the ornamental moat runs where we predicted, before changing tack – because the site is a Scheduled Ancient Monument any radical change in the dig plans will need to be sanctioned by Historic England. Luckily, they’re planning on visiting the site tomorrow, so we’ll be able to discuss it in person.
It’s early enough in the dig not to cause panic yet, but we’ll need to get a grip on the archaeology tomorrow, so that we’re not rushing to catch up with ourselves at the weekend – we’d also quite like to have something interesting to show the public on Sunday!
14 Jul 2015
We’ve hit the ground running at Forty Hall this year, as we return for the 11th year in our search for Henry VIII’s Elsyng Palace.
Last year we (unexpectedly) discovered the wall of a substantial C16th building, just to the west of the park’s lime tree avenue, apparently bounded on the south side by a shallow but quite wide ornamental ‘moat’.
This year we aim to uncover more of this building and hopefully get a better idea of its size and date, and how it relates to the rest of the palace complex.
We opened Trench 1 today on a point twenty metres west of last year’s trench, following the line of the ‘moat’ – and therefore the wall. The plan is to get another section across the wall (and perhaps part of the moat), and then to expand the trench into the building, to examine the size and nature of the rooms inside it.
So far, having de-turfed and removed topsoil, we have revealed a distinct line of brick rubble, exactly on the predicted line of the wall. This will (hopefully!) peel off tomorrow onto in-situ brick structure, and eventually reveal a floor surface on its north edge.
The width of the apparent wall is, at the moment, slightly worrying, in that it is much narrower than the building section we saw last year. Hopefully, as we reveal more of it it will get bigger – otherwise we may be looking at a boundary wall rather than a continuation of last year’s building. This may require a radical rethink of strategy. Stay tuned tomorrow!
20 Jul 2014
The final day of this year’s summer digs was, as usual rewarding but exhausting. The structure at the north end of the trench is undoubtedly the exterior wall of a palace building, fronting an essentially ornamental moat, and we are now almost certain that the wall features an integral garderobe (lavatory) chute, which would have discharged directly into the moat.
The reason for the slumping area of brickwork is that the rectangular chute was backfilled with large sections of rubble, stuck together with a very soft sandy mortar – the gaps in the rubble and the soft sand has allowed the contents of the chute to settle, the in-situ brickwork around it slumping inwards. It also appears that a large part of the front of the chute was chopped out at its base during demolition, probably in an effort to fell the wall directly into the moat. The soft sandy mortar is typical of the early Tudor phase of the palace, lending more weight to the theory that at least part of this building belongs to Thomas Lovell’s courtier’s palace.
19 Jul 2014
Bingo! Hours of tiring work in intense heat, high humidity and biting insects was rewarded today by the long anticipated palace structure.
An extension at the north end of the trench quickly revealed what at first looked to be a narrow wall buried just under topsoil, but a further extension showed that it is in fact a substantial wall with what looks to be some slumping on one side, making it look at first glance narrower.
An extension to the east and another north revealed at least two and possibly more phases of wall construction, following a dog-leg. The section that was first revealed has a brick offset footing, whereas the section in the east half is sitting on a mortar bed.
18 Jul 2014
Despite thunderstorms overnight, the ground quickly dried out today and the summer heat continued to make work very difficult for our diggers.
Yesterday’s half-width trench extensions were today widened to the full width of trench one while the south end of the trench containing the shallow rubble-filled ditch feature was backfilled and re-turfed, having been fully recorded.
The north end of the trench contains a complex mixture of rubble and brickearth dumps, which at the moment seem to be part of one large deposit filling yet another linear feature such as a ditch, albeit much deeper than the one we backfilled today.
17 Jul 2014
Despite the oppressive heat today (the hottest of the year so far), we managed some decent progress in trench one – looking now like the only trench we will open this year.
Yesterday’s disturbance at the south end of the trench eventually resolved into a linear feature, much as we had expected on day one, but not, as we had hoped, a wall.
The linear magnetic feature now seems to be a broad, very shallow ditch filled with large amounts of palace rubble. While this explains the magnetic signal, it does not explain the origin of the rubble, and the existence of a long shallow ditch bordering one side of the palace is at the moment difficult to explain convincingly.
16 Jul 2014
A hot and tiring second day saw trench one extended by two metres south, in an attempt to identify the putative ‘curtain’ wall causing our targeted linear geophysics anomaly.
While no wall has yet emerged, there has been a significant amount of brick and tile rubble concentrated at the south end of the trench, including odd fragments of dressed stone, glazed floor tiles and other ceramics. The deposits surrounding the rubble dumps are very disturbed and it is still not possible to be sure if the rubble is lying in a random dump, a pit or a linear cut – if the latter was true then it may explain the geophysics anomaly – perhaps the remnants of a demolished wall lying in a shallow ditch – but this does not explain where exactly the wall itself was.
15 Jul 2014
After a day off to recover from our successes at Cedars Park, this year’s investigation of Elsyng Palace kicked off today in blazing sunshine.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of our renewed excavation and research programme in Forty Hall, and it will be the first time in nearly fifty years that we have worked west of the lime tree avenue.
Our target this year is a combined geophysical and topographic feature which runs from within the lime avenue out west towards the inner palace complex. The feature is comprised of a linear magnetic anomaly strongly suggestive of a wall, running parallel with a long shallow ditch-like depression, identified and mapped by LiDAR.
03 Jul 2014
Just over a week to go!
For other national events near you, see: archaeologyfestival.org.uk/whatson
01 Jul 2014
Less than two weeks to go!
We will be digging at Cedars Park (Theobalds Palace site) from the 11th–13th July. The target is a loggia projecting from the main wall of the palace gardens. Work on the Friday will start at 10am and may only last a few hours so all are welcome but this will be mainly fencing, deturfing etc so we may not have work for everyone. Saturday and Sunday will be 9am to 4 or 5pm (possibly later on the Sunday). Non-diggers willing to help with marquees, manning stalls etc are especially welcome from the start on Sunday 13th. The site is directly opposite the main car park. Toilets and cafe nearby.
We will be digging at Forty Hall (Elsyng Palace site) from Tuesday 15th – Sunday 20th July. We will be tracing the south wall (and any moat etc) of the palace west towards the royal apartments. Work will be 9am to 4 or 5pm usually but earlier finishes Tuesday – Friday possible depending on progress/weather. Non-diggers willing to help with marquees, manning stalls etc are especially welcome from the start on Sunday 20th. To find the site from Forty Hall main car park walk down the hill to the left of the double Lime tree avenue and it should be obvious. Cafe and toilets are a fair walk away back up the hill.
New diggers especially may want to note that stout foot wear is needed (preferably boots); you should bring plenty to drink and sun screen if hot and a packed lunch. We have a few trowels to lend but if you don’t have one and want to buy one go for a Standard WHS trowel (e.g. www.archtools.eu at £9 + p&p) For any further queries on practical arrangements e-mail the site director (Dr Martin Dearne): email@example.com
We look forward to seeing you!
22 Jul 2013
The final day of our summer digs was another day of surprising but rewarding archaeology. A brief cool spell in the morning soon gave way to thirty degree heat, and as our diggers braved the afternoon sunshine, further details of the barn complex emerged.
Just in front of the northernmost building we found a substantial block of dressed stone deliberately set into a gravel and rubble surface.
21 Jul 2013
The surprises kept coming today on the penultimate day of the dig. The milder weather was a welcome relief and allowed us to push on with some of the more strenuous work, opening a large trench in the south area of the ‘barn’. So far there is no sign of any more circular brick features at this end of the building, but we will finish investigating this properly tomorrow.
Meanwhile, we went in search of a wall line that, according to the L shaped barn theory, should have met the east/west wall that we decided yesterday was probably on top of an old palace wall line. As we chased the ex-palace wall line east, there was no sign of any north/south turn or junction and so today we went back to the last known position of the north/south wall and began to follow it south towards the ex-palace wall.
20 Jul 2013
Our diggers soldiered on as the heatwave continued today, producing interesting archaeology and even some great (and datable!) finds.
We continued to follow the external barn wall that surprised us yesterday by turning both towards and away from the palace at a T junction. As the wall runs east towards the palace courtyard, it becomes increasingly robbed out, eventually being capped by a compact gravel layer and therefore probably does not form part of the seventeenth century barn complex. We have determined that the east/west run of this wall is on the same alignment as a heavily robbed out palace wall we first dug in 2010 – we now strongly suspect that although this palace wall was demolished, part of its foundations were reused as the footing for parts of the barn – and it may well be that at least part of the barn is itself sitting on the footprint of a palace building.
19 Jul 2013
Today we began to move from the known to the unknown, as we followed the pair of walls (re)located yesterday.
The two walls, with the crude mortar surface between them first discovered last year, continue some distance north just beneath the turf of the lime tree avenue. As expected, the smaller (external) wall turns west, forming the north side of the building. What we did not expect is that the wall also turns east, forming a T junction, and runs east towards the palace courtyard for at least two metres.
Further complicating matters is a line of tiles set into the top of a stretch of the north/south part of the wall (pictured). This may be a door threshold and the eastern stretch of the wall may be part of a porch, although by the end of the day this was beginning to look less likely.
The possibility has been raised that this tangle of walls may be related to some sort of (probably late) palace structure – our first priority tomorrow will be to continue to follow this wall and hopefully find out more, as well as some elusive dating evidence.
17 Jul 2013
The excavation team made good progress today, with the weather looking set to make this year’s dig a feat of endurance. We’ve now fully established the position of last year’s trench and located the two parallel walls – one large and the other small – that we speculate may have formed a narrow passageway within the south end of the barn building.
We can now use these walls as a reference for locating conjectural points in the building outline to confirm (or not!) the layout and function of the building, and hope to begin answering some of the outstanding questions about this building and its history.
16 Jul 2013
Today was the first day in our six-day long dig in Forty Hall, continuing our research into Elsyng Palace, as part of the festival of British archaeology.
For the last few years we have been working in an area to the west of what was the outer Tudor courtyard, investigating a building that we now believe to be a threshing barn. Apparently dating from the mid to late seventeenth century, this building fills in a gap in the history of the site between the final demolition of the palace and the construction of the current lime tree avenue and pleasure grounds between c.1650 and 1750.
Very little was previously known about this time in the site’s history, and we hope to fill in some details about the building including an accurate date of construction and demolition, as well as hopefully finding out more about the palace precinct in this area.
Although the very hot weather continues to be a challenge, today we managed to open a few small trial areas, to identify parts of the building we discovered last year, so that we can follow them and fill in some of the gaps in our knowledge later in the week.
Meanwhile, throughout the week in cooperation with the Forty Hall Estate, we will be taking primary school classes on short tours of the site and explaining about how the site has changed over the past five centuries, as well as (hopefully!) sharing the discoveries of the excavation as they happen.