A recent geophysical survey has revealed the ghostly outline of a long-lost Tudor garden, with traces of what could have been a banqueting house in the same area where pieces of historic masonry were found in the 19th century. Now experts say it is time to investigate further.
The dig will take place over the weekend of October 13 and 14 and is thought to be the most significant archaeological investigation since the discovery of Roman villas on the estate in Victorian times.
A specialist team from social archaeology company, DigVentures, will begin an investigation of the site, which aims to ‘ground-truth’ the geophysics results. They hope to reveal some of the Tudor secrets that remain hidden underground at the castle.
Best-selling historical novelist Dr Philippa Gregory will also be joining the team. Philippa, who’s well-known works include The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen, started her research into Sudeley Castle whilst working on a novel about Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife.
Philippa said: “Sudeley is a fascinating site. It was always one of the most treasured by the Tudor monarchs and as such, housed those closest to the crown. Lavish banquets, with dozens of guests and many courses, would have been common there. I can’t wait to see what else this excavation can tell us about life there.”
Visitors can see the excavation in progress through a series of guided tours on Saturday and Sunday October 13 and 14, which are free with castle admission and no prior booking is necessary. These initial investigations may lead to further excavations on a larger scale next year.
Sudeley Castle’s head gardener, Stephen Torode, said: “This is hugely exciting – it could be a very important chapter in the history of Sudeley Castle – it will certainly be the most significant event in terms of the gardens here since the 19th century. It’s not every day that you get the chance to help discover a long lost Tudor garden.”
Following the popular landscaping movement inspired by Capability Brown, many Tudor gardens were lost, and this is perhaps just one of only two in England where the original paths remain visible.
He added: “The site has remained untouched since the mid-seventeenth century, so this is a fantastic chance for us to build up a picture of what it would have looked like. It is also a rare opportunity for lovers of Tudor history to come along and watch archaeologists at work as they begin to reveal new details about Sudeley Castle’s past.”
DigVentures co-founder Lisa Westcott Wilkins said: “We know that Queen Elizabeth I visited Sudeley Castle in the summer of 1592, while on a tour of her kingdom.
“It was the anniversary of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, and Elizabeth and her retinue famously attended a lavish three-day party hosted, at great expense, by Giles Brydges, 3rd Baron Chandos of Sudeley. This epic celebration has been described as one of the longest in royal history, but exactly where it took place has so far remained a mystery.”
Anyone interested in joining next year’s larger, crowdfunded excavation at Sudeley Castle can register their interest by joining DigVentures’ email list at www.digventures.com.