Petworth was hunting ground for King Henry VIII, says historian ahead of exciting new dig

Watch more of our videos on Shots! 
and live on Freeview channel 276
Visit Shots! now
Henry VIII spent a lot of time in Petworth, according to Professor Anthony Musson, who is leading the way on an exciting new project set to reveal more about the area’s deep Tudor connections.

The dig is scheduled to take place in two locations near Petworth House from 19 to July 31 and archaeologists hope to find evidence of a now-destroyed North Wing of the manor house, which would have included a chapel, a fortified tower and a new, bigger hall, as well as a ‘mystery building’ on Lawn Hill.

It’s all part of a national research project called Henry VIII on Tour, designed to deepen our understanding of Henry VIII’s reign, and his relationship with parts of the kingdom other than the capital, with further projects, exhibitions and displays set to take place all over the UK.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We chose Petworth because we know it’s a place King Henry VIII spent a lot of time,” said Professor Anthony Musson, the historian heading up the project. “Especially in terms of adding to and building on the existing manor house.”

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

He added that Henry, who famously loved hunting, may have liked to do so in the area: “We’re also looking at (digging on) one of the hills, Lawn Hill, and that overlooks an area that was clearly used for hunting, and where we think may have been Henry VIII’s banqueting household grandstand, so we’re sort of hoping to build on that understanding and find out more about what might have been done there.”

Petworth House – a 17th century estate built on the foundations of a much older manor house – has been subject to a number of excavations already, which have uncovered all sorts of treasures, including lead shot and gold rings. But unlike many of those previous digs, the organisers of this project have invited public participation. Anyone living within 25 miles of Petworth House is invited – once they sign up – to join one of the dig teams and get their hands dirty. Professor Musson hopes it will galvanise locals into taking agency ownership of – and pride in – their history.

"Throughout this project, we’re reaching out to the public much more generally to show that they can get involved with history in their own backyard, their own locality,” he said.