Enfield Archaeological Society

Founded in 1955, the Enfield Archaeological Society is active in carrying out research and fieldwork in and around the London Borough of Enfield, in order to understand and preserve its history.

Our main aims are: to promote the practice and study of archaeology in the district; to record and preserve all finds in the borough and encourage others to allow their finds to be recorded by the Society; and to co-operate with neighbouring societies with similar aims.

Membership is open to anybody with an interest in the past.

The Enfield Archaeological Society is affiliated to the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society; the President for the society is Harvey Sheldon BSc, FSA, FRSA

Latest News  

Dig With Us

All members of the society over the age of 16 are welcome to dig with us – no experience is necessary. We typically run at least one dig a year in the summer, on the site of Henry VIII's Elsyng Palace with other work often cropping up through the rest of the year.

More Information

Latest News:

21 Jan 2024

2024 Dig Dates

We will be returning to Forty Hall twice this year, to investigate two separate but possibly related features of the Tudor palace of Elsyng.

Tudor wall
2006 test pit revealing a mystery wall

The first dig will be a fairly small scale investigation in May, into a mysterious section of wall we first encountered in 2006, during test-pitting in the lime tree avenue ahead of proposed tree planting.

Owing to time constraints we were never able to to fully investigate the feature and so know very little about it or what part of the palace it belongs to. Due to its presence a tree was never planted in the proposed space, however in the intervening years a lime tree has set itself in the gap, and if left unchecked its root system could pose a direct threat to the archaeology.

We aim to open a small trench to both fully investigate the wall and evaluate its state of preservation. The dig will run over a long weekend, either from May 4th - 6th or if the weather is bad, from May 25th - 27th.

wall corner
Corner of possible octagonal pillar emerges at the last second of 2023 dig

The wall is something of a mystery but is quite nearby to the wall and octagonal turret we discovered last summer which featured on BBC2's Digging For Britain.

Close to the octagonal turret featured in the programme, after the cameras stopped rolling we discovered a very deep rubble-filled feature which we think may be a palace cellar. At the very end of the dig towards to bottom of the rubble we uncovered the corner of an in-situ brick feature. The angle of the corner measures almost exactly 135 degrees, and so we strongly suspect it is another octagonal feature - in this case possibly the remains of an octagonal pillar that once supported the cellar ceiling.

This will be the primary target of our 2024 summer dig, which will run for two weeks from July 7th - 21st with a public open day on the 13th. We aim to open a much larger trench here in order to safely reach the bottom of the cellar and fully reveal the possibly octagonal feature. If the brick feature is an in-situ pillar, it would also indicate the possibly of an intact cellar floor waiting to be discovered.

As ever, our digs are open to all members of the Society over the age of 16; no experience is necessary.

If you have not yet renewed your subscription or are not a member of the Society and would like to join, please do so as soon as possible - see enfarchsoc.org/join or direct any queries to the membership secretary at membership

There is also the possibility of a dig on a Roman site later in the year, but this is still in early negotiation.

Members will be kept up to date on this and further details of the Forty Hall digs on the usual mailing list.


18 Dec 2023

Digging For Britain Broadcast Date

digging for britain

The new series of Digging For Britain, featuring this year's summer dig on the site Elsyng Tudor Palace in Forty Hall, will be broadcast on BB2 and will be available on BBC iPlayer beginning Tuesday 2nd January at 8pm. The episode featuring the EAS dig is slated for broadcast on January 9th at 8pm.

palace wall

The 2023 dig was an excellent year for Tudor archaeology, and we are very pleased to be able to share our discoveries with a wider than usual audience.

During this year's search for the inner gatehouse of Henry VIII's palace we discovered several new Tudor structures and, after filming ended evidence for what we currently think may be a substantial palace cellar.

We'll be back in Forty Hall in 2024 to continue the gatehouse hunt, and hopefully explore the hidden depths of Henry's cellars!


22 Jul 2023

2023 Summer Dig - Day 13

trench 4
Backfilling T4 - initially with topsoil to protect in-situ brickwork

It was a busy but relatively uneventful day today, on what turned out to be the final day of our two-week dig on the site of Elsyng Tudor palace, in the woods by the lime tree avenue of Forty Hall.

The dig naturally reached a point late yesterday afternoon where further significant digging would not be possible in the remaining available time, and so this morning after a few small excavation jobs we pushed on recording the final elements in Trenches 4 and 7 and were able to get the site fully backfilled and cleared before three o'clock.

Trench one was completely backfilled in the morning, followed by Trench 4. All in-situ structures were covered with topsoil first to protect them.

Inner (western) face of the truncated wall in T7

Trench 7 needed a bit more work, including section and elevation drawing.

In the end we were able to reveal ten courses of bricks in the truncated wall in Trench 7, laid in a rather crude header bond. This is the wall that formed the east side what we think may be a palace cellar.

We didn't reach the bottom of the wall, which is perhaps not surprising since, if the interior of the building is, as we suspect, a cellar, the wall could well extend down to the cellar floor, which is beyond our limit of safe excavation.

We suspect that the wall's truncation may have been due to the 17th century demolition crew's removal of a salvageable feature, perhaps such as a flight of stone steps leading down into the cellar.

column base
Large brick column base in T7

Excavation elsewhere in the trench similarly reached the safe depth limit so we don't know how deep the mortar rich rubble layer is - if it is filling a cellar it could be at least another metre or more deep.

We were able to clean up and define the edges of the angled brick feature at the opposite end of Trench 7 - we assume it is one corner of a very substantial octagonal column, perhaps a support for a cellar ceiling, but since we only saw one corner we have no clue to its overall dimensions.

If we have found a palace cellar, this apparent column could have survived to a considerable depth, and may indicate other very well preserved elements of the building close by, not to mention the floor of the cellar itself.

This will almost certainly become at least part if not the major focus of next year's dig, as will further work on the octagonal turret in Trench 4 (once the adjacent undergrowth is cleared), to find out how the 'cellar' and turret are related.

trench 7
Backfilling T7

Once everything was fully surveyed, drawn and photographed, the brick structures were also covered with a protective layer of topsoil before the trench was fully backfilled.

The long process of post-excavation work will now begin, the results of which will appear in future editions of Society News, and of course on BBC2 in the new year, when Series 11 of Digging For Britain airs.

As ever, we owe a big thank-you to all our members whose hard work and enthusiasm made this one of the most productive digs we've had in recent years.

We are most especially grateful to the core team of members who turn up every day rain or shine, and muck in with all the unglamorous and arduous tasks, of which backfilling is only one, without which the dig could not happen.

We are also particularly grateful to Forty Hall Farm for their kind provision of tool storage space and generous loan of wheelbarrows.


21 Jul 2023

2023 Summer Dig - Day 12

trench 4
Final excavation in T4 (facing south)

Excavation began to wind down today, on day 12 of our two-week dig on the site of Elsyng Tudor palace in the grounds of Forty Hall.

Most of the day was taken up by recording trench sections and the elevations of the various walls we've discovered this year, including the stretch of wall in Trench 4 that runs south from the octagonal turret and is reinforced by octagonal column bases.

A small area by this wall, at the south end of Trench 4 is still under excavation, to more closely study the wall's foundations and related stratigraphy, but the rest of the trench has now been fully recorded and a small part of it was backfilled this afternoon.

trench 1
A mess of brickwork in T1 (facing north)

Excavation was completed in Trench 1 and it was fully recorded this afternoon. The brickwork uncovered in Trench 1 is quite disorganized and seems to be a fairly isolated patch not obviously connected to a building or boundary wall, although it could possibly be connected to the boundary wall in Trench 4, evidence supporting or refuting this is impossible to see due to the chaos caused by the invasive tree roots over the brickwork's north and west sides.

Damage caused by these roots has also added to the disorderly appearance of the brickwork, but we currently think the bricks are the remnant of a revetment between the corner of the artificial mound upon which the walls in trenches 4 and 7 are located, and the moat, the cut of which we think we may have just about identified at the edge of Trench 1.

trench 7
Truncated wall at east end of T7 (facing south)

We continued digging by the truncated wall in Trench 7, and confirmed that the deposit on its eastern side represents the original external ground surface, while the mortar rich rubble deposit on its east side is filling what was the interior of the building.

Excavation down the wall's west face has so far revealed at least 8 courses of bricks, and disclosed a second, lower context of rubble with much less mortar but we have still not found the bottom of the context and are now only centimetres from our maximum safe digging depth.

trench 7
Remains of very large octagonal brick pillar at west end of T7

At the other, west, end of T7 we had noticed a concentration of much coarser rubble, and late this afternoon this was removed to reveal the remains of what looks like a very substantial octagonal brick pillar base.

This last minute discovery seems to add weight to the theory that this side of the wall in Trench 7 is a palace cellar, which, in line with other Tudor palaces, could have had octagonal pillars supporting a fan-vaulted ceiling.

As elsewhere in the trench, we are right on the limit of safe depth at this point and so may not be able to reveal much more of this feature, at least this year.

Tomorrow is effectively our last day of practical excavation, and as there is not much more work to do in either Trench 4 or 7, backfilling may even begin tomorrow. Still, we have already got several prime follow-up targets for next year's dig, which looks guaranteed to be as productive as this one.


20 Jul 2023

2023 Summer Dig - Day 11

trench 4
The boundary wall and turret in T4 (looking north)

Recording work began in earnest today in the woods by the lime tree avenue of Forty Hall, as we draw towards the end of this year's dig on the site of Elsyng Tudor palace.

Planning of the thin boundary wall and its octagonal pillar bases, and the large octagonal turret at its north end was completed, and it was thoroughly photographed, leaving only section and elevation drawings to do.

Two sections at the far east end of the trench were also drawn and recording that side of the trench is now complete so that backfilling at least part of the trench can begin from tomorrow.

column base remains
Severely root-disturbed remains of a column base

While that was going on, one last extension to the trench was made at its south end, to further follow the thin boundary wall as far as possible towards a stand of trees, which we found yesterday contained a wasps' nest, hindering our efforts to dig there yesterday.

Fortunately the wasps had calmed down considerably overnight, which allowed us to follow the wall line south by about another metre, almost right up to the base of the nearby trees, where we found the severely damaged remains of another octagonal column base.

The stand of trees appears to have grown almost over the middle of the column and have largely destroyed it, although it does seem that the core of the wall continues to run further south, at least for another few tens of centimetres.

Further excavation in this direction will not be possible due to the trees and their root system.

truncated wall
Large but truncated wall in T7 (looking south)

We made good progress over in Trench 7 today, which was laid out beyond the north side of the octagonal turret, on the far side of an intervening stand of holly trees, in the hope of picking up evidence of the large building that the turret ought to belong to.

Today we revealed the full extent of the wall that had emerged in the trench a couple of days ago, and today showed it to be quite substantial and likely to be the external facade wall of a sizeable palace building.

The wall runs into the trench from the trench's southern side but has been abruptly truncated before it reaches the north side. The extremely sandy mortar-rich rubble deposit that contained sizeable chunks of stonework is confined to the wall's western side, indicating that this was the interior of the building.

So far we've dug through about a metre of this rubble layer and it looks like we might reach the safe limit of depth in this trench before we see the bottom of it.

In terms of interpretation, the jury is still out on Trench 7, but it does seem very likely that we have found a major building connected to the turret in Trench 4, even though the wall in Trench 7 is not on a direct alignment with it. The sheer depth of the rubble deposit is also causing speculation as to whether we might not be looking at something like a palace cellar.

farthing in mortar
A tiny copper coin - probably a farthing - embedded in a mortar fragment

Trench 7 continued to produce great finds today including a very unusual and potentially extremely important find.

For as long as the palace has been studied archaeologically, one of the key dating methods of the various building phases has been the study and comparison of mortar. By comparing and contrasting mortar characteristics such as colour, sand content and so on, it has been possible to broadly group building phases, from medieval mansion through to courtier's and royal palace.

The star find from Trench 7 today was a tiny coin, securely embedded in situ in a piece of mortar. The coin is not immediately identifiable but superficially resembles a copper coin about the size of a farthing, such as those introduced by James I.

If this were the case for example, it would show that the mortar sample it belongs to probably dated to no earlier than the early 17th century, when the palace was occupied by the Earl of Montgomery, and so possibly originated from modifications and repairs to the palace at that time.

The actual dating will not be possible however until the coin is removed from the mortar, cleaned and properly identified, and this probably won't happen until the dig finishes and post-excavation work begins.