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Archaeologists dig at Petworth House in search for medieval banqueting hall
Archaeologists are attempting to uncover the medieval wing of one of Sussex’s grandest country houses.
The first ever serious dig at Petworth House has already uncovered what experts believe to be a 16th century banqueting hall built by Henry VIII.
They now hope to unearth the former great hall and the Earl of Northumberland’s medieval stables – said to be the finest in the south of England.
Tom Dommett, who is leading the dig, described the project as both “exciting” and “ambitious”.
He said: “This is the first serious archaeological investigation to ever take place in Petworth Park, which has been a dominant feature of the Petworth landscape for nearly 1,000 years.
“Today people see gentle rolling slopes, tranquil lakes and grand vistas, but 300 years ago, it was completely different. There were vast formal gardens and avenues, parterres and greenhouses, rampart terraces, and ornamental ponds.”
However, back in the 14th century it was a grand medieval manor house.
The team has used evidence from historical maps, paintings and illustrations along with geophysical surveys to discover the possible remains of the former building.
Built in the 14th century, it is said to have housed a great hall for hosting important guests from across Europe.
Further additions came over the following centuries with a banqueting house built by Henry VIII for entertaining.
However, with vast developments, older parts of the house fell into disrepair and eventually disappeared.
Now after a year of research and excavations, the team is inviting members of the public to join them to discover some of their finds.
An event will be held across the weekend where visitors can inspect some of the finds, enjoy a living history exhibition and join an archaeology trail around the grounds.
Mr Dommett added: “We’re really keen to open it up to our visitors, who can watch us quite literally unearth the history of the park.
“The North Wing was built in the 14th century and is supposed to have housed a Great Hall, which was further extended in the 17th century.
“We want people of all ages to come and see the trenches, handle some of the artefacts and piece together the story of the park on our archaeological trail.”
For more details visit nationaltrust.org.uk/petworth-house/
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