Excavation at Petworth House to shed light on King Henry VIII's royal tours

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An archaeological excavation set to take place at Petworth House and Park this Summer is poised to reveal the site’s deep Tudor connections.

Taking place from July 19 to July 31, the dig will target the area just outside the house itself, on ground in and around the estate. Experts researching the site believe the estate’s lawn might contain traces of a North Wing – an extension to the original manor house – which contained a chapel, fortified tower, a new and bigger hall. It’s believed to have been built sometime in the 1300s, renovated in the late 1500s, and then eventually demolished in the 1700s. So, if found, it could give researchers a glimpse into the history of the site pre-17th century.

Researchers are also investigating references to a banqueting house and a ‘castle’ near Petworth House, which appear in a handful of historical documents, among them a map from the 1600s showing a large tower.

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The exact location of these structures remains unknown, but researchers are speculating that it might be Lawn Hill, where several archaeological discoveries – including a bronze spur, an iron dagger and a gold ring – have been previously uncovered.

Petworth House. Photo: Eddie Mitchell.Petworth House. Photo: Eddie Mitchell.
Petworth House. Photo: Eddie Mitchell.

The dig is all part of the ‘Henry VIII on Tour’ project; a major research programme which seeks to shed light on the Tudor King’s famous tours of the country. “By charting changes in duration, regional location and accommodation through successive phases of his reign, and establishing a full itinerary for Henry VIII for the first time, Henry VIII on Tour project will be a huge addition helping to enhance historians’ understanding of the purpose of royal progresses and their impact on 16th-century political culture – and to highlighting the many interesting places that people today are unaware he visited,” the project website explains.

The Petworth House Dig in particular is open to members of the public to keen to get their hands dirty on a real archaeological excavation. Anyone over 17 living, studying, working or volunteering within 25 miles of Petworth is invited to join either the dig team or the finds team, provided they book online.

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