History lovers are being invited to help archaeologists unearth a long-lost Tudor garden and banqueting house at Sudeley Castle.
A two-week excavation is set to take place in May, to further explore a site which experts believe could reveal one of England’s last surviving Tudor gardens – hidden in the castle grounds for nearly 300 years.
Initial findings at the site in October 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.
Members of the public are now being invited to join a team of archaeologists from social enterprise company, DigVentures, for the excavation in May, and help uncover more of the site’s secrets.
“Finding an intact Tudor garden is an astonishingly rare occurrence,” said Sudeley Castle’s general manager, Wendy Walton. “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,” she added.
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.”
The DigVentures team has launched a crowdfunding campaign, inviting Tudor history lovers around the world to help fund the investigation. Find out more, or contribute, at digventures.com/projects/sudeley-castle
“This discovery gives Tudor history enthusiasts a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help investigate an absolutely stunning piece of Tudor history, and to learn more about the role of gardens and temporary structures in the Tudor period, especially during the reign of Elizabeth I,” said Lisa Westcott Wilkins.
The effort is being supported by historian and author Philippa Gregroy, who will be visiting Sudeley Castle in May to give a talk to its crowd-funders, which can also be watched online.
“There’s a tremendous amount of history in the ground there, which no one has seen since it was buried,” Philippa said. I’m really excited about this project and can’t wait to see what gets found.
“Wherever you are in the world, you can support this wonderful project by crowdfunding the dig. Thanks to DigVentures, even those who can’t attend in person will be able to watch live events from the dig online, including my talk,” she added.
Crowdfunders will be able to choose whether they want to watch the discoveries online through a series of live broadcasts, or get hands-on and spend a day digging with archaeologists, learning how to excavate, interpret finds and make Tudor discoveries of their own.
Wendy explains: “We are delighted to be able to invite Tudor history enthusiasts and budding archaeologists to join us for the next phase of this exciting chapter in Sudeley Castle’s history. I’m sure there is a great deal more we will learn about this fascinating historic site.”
The excavation in May will be the most significant archaeological investigation at the Winchcombe attraction since the discovery of Roman villas on the estate in Victorian times.
The project has strong local support, but is also gaining interest from Tudor history fans around the world, including America, Switzerland, France and Australia, and is already 30 per cent funded.
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 buildings castle in England, surrounded by a 1,200 acre estate and 10 award-winning gardens.
Contributors to the dig at Sudeley Castle will be helping unearth evidence of a remarkable moment in Tudor history. Find out more at digventures.com/projects/sudeley-castle
Sudeley Castle re-opens for the new season on March 4th, buy your admission ticket here.