This summer archaeologists will trace the footsteps of Henry VIII as they search for evidence of a lost Tudor wing at a Sussex stately home.

The two-week dig at Petworth House is part of ‘Henry VIII on Tour’, a landmark research project led by Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) in partnership with the University of York.

For the first time ever, they plan to map every venue occupied by the Tudor king on his royal progress, a tour consolidating his rule over the country. The project aims to enhance historians’ understanding of the purpose of royal progresses and their impact on 16th-century political culture.

The excavation coincides with the International Festival of Archaeology and there will be opportunities for the public to take part, including guided tours of the dig site, bookable half-day sessions as well as family-friendly sessions to help with the dig itself or handle any finds that may be uncovered. Other free Tudor-themed activities will be available with no booking required. Normal admission to Petworth House applies.

The archaeologists will be searching for the footprint of the lost North Wing which was built when Henry VIII acquired the house in 1536. The wing included a chapel, fortified tower and large hall, and was located on what is now the north west lawn in the park.

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There is also the possibility of discovering a lost “mystery building” in the park which is indicated in several historical documents and was believed to be a banqueting house or hunting lodge where the king would have entertained his guests.

Visitor experience manager at Petworth Sue Rhodes said: “It’s extraordinary to think that Henry VIII once owned Petworth House, and we can’t wait to finally understand more about these lost buildings he may once have stood in. We’re also very keen for our visitors to get involved in the dig.”

Petworth House displays one of the finest art collections in the care of the National Trust, including a portrait of Henry VIII from the studio of Hans Holbein the Younger. Its rich 900-year history encompasses the Gunpowder Plot and the Napoleonic Wars, and the upcoming excavation is an opportunity to travel back in time to a fascinating and little-understood era of the stately home.

Professor Anthony Musson, head of research at Historic Royal Palaces, said: “We're really excited to be partnering with Petworth as part of the Historic Royal Palaces-led ‘Henry VIII on Tour’ research project. Our ambitious three-year venture is charting all of Henry's royal progresses and exploring the properties he stayed at, particularly the less well-known venues and those now 'lost' Tudor palaces and landscapes.

“It is very much part of our commitment to helping communities discover their local heritage, which we're facilitating through digital visualisations, Tudor festivals, archaeological digs and musical performances. We’re especially looking forward to seeing what we uncover in this dig.”