Treasures buried underground for hundreds of years have been unearthed as part of an archaeological dig taking place at Sudeley Castle.
A team of archaeologists are excavating a field within the grounds of Sudeley Castle in the hope of unearthing a long-lost Tudor garden and banqueting house.
While digging a series of trenches, experts have found fragments of hand-made green glazed pottery, with the potter's thumbprints on it, possibly from the 16th or 17th century, as well as glass, clay pipes and ornamental iron work.
They have also discovered large pieces of decorative and architectural masonry from a mound they are investigating to see if it's the location of a long lost banqueting house built for Elizabeth I.
Ceramic building material have also been revealed in a second mound the team are investigating to see if it's part of the remains of a Tudor viewing platform.
The dig, which is underway from now until Sunday June 2, offers the public a rare opportunity to see archaeologists working to unearth secrets of Sudeley that have remained hidden underground for hundreds of years.
Visitors to the castle, in Winchcombe, near Cheltenham, can join guided tours of the dig site and join in a host of archaeology-themed events throughout May half term as part of the event. Children’s historical discovery activities will be on offer as well as the chance to chat to experts and see some of the artefacts that have been found.
The excavations are the most significant archaeological investigation at the attraction since the discovery of Roman villas on the estate in Victorian times. The efforts are being led by a team of archaeologists from DigVentures who are exploring a series of trenches in the castle’s Hop Field, behind the famous Queens’ Garden.
It comes after a successful test dig at the castle in October which revealed evidence of one of England’s last surviving Tudor gardens - hidden in the castle grounds for nearly 300 years. Initial findings included fragments of post-medieval pottery, masonry and animal bones, consistent with garden archaeology.
Further explorations of a mound, discovered in the middle of the field, could now confirm that it was once the site of a temporary banqueting house and the location of a huge celebration by Elizabeth I as part of her progress around the country to mark her victory over the Spanish Armada.
Sudeley Castle’s chief executive, Wendy Walton, said: “This archaeological dig is a hugely exciting and rare opportunity for members of the public to witness the re-emergence of a thrilling piece of Tudor history. It’s wonderful to have made such exciting discoveries already and we are keen to see what else we find over the next week.
“Finding an intact Tudor garden is an astonishingly special occurrence. Bringing it back to the surface would be an amazing achievement and gives us the chance to find out what it would have been like in the days when Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I and Katherine Parr, Henry VIII’s last wife, walked its pathways.”
Lisa Westcott Wilkins from DigVentures, added: “This buried garden is believed to be one of England’s last surviving Tudor gardens. Most were destroyed in the 18th and 19th centuries when a popular landscaping craze swept the country. We think it is one of perhaps only two in the whole country where the original paths are still in place.”
Sudeley Castle was one of the Tudors’ most treasured palaces, often housing those closest to the crown. It’s where Anne Boleyn stayed with Henry VIII while he decided to dissolve the monasteries, and where Katherine Parr, Henry’s last wife, lived after he died. She now lies entombed in the Castle’s church.
Today Sudeley Castle is widely recognised as one of the most romantic and beautiful castles in England, surrounded by a 1,200 acre estate and 10 award-winning gardens, which are now full of spring colour.
The castle’s huge fun fort, adventure playground, obstacle course and willow maze offer hours of fun for younger visitors. Throughout this year, visitors can also take part in a new, free pebble trail throughout the gardens, which celebrates bees and butterflies. The trail guides visitors throughout the castle gardens to find out more about these fascinating creatures and how we can help protect them.
Entrance to the dig site and all activities are included in general castle admission, which can be purchased online, a day in advanced here.
For online updates about the excavation, visit www.digventures.com/sudeley-castle
Please note that no digging will take place on bank holiday Monday, May 27 but a historical talk will be given at the dig site.