Archaeological fieldschool launched at Bradgate Park

Archaeologists set to unearth secrets from the Stone Age through to the Second World War at popular county attraction.

logo2The many mysteries of Leicestershire’s 850-acre deer park are set to be explored by archaeologists at the University of Leicester over the next five years with the launch of a fieldschool at Bradgate Park.

The public park in Charnwood Forest, Leicestershire, best known as the location of the birth place and childhood home of Lady Jane Grey – the ‘nine days Queen’ – attracts half a million visitors annually. It is set to be the new focus of a joint venture involving ULAS and the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, with academics, professional archaeologists and students working together to uncover the hidden history of this popular attraction.

Project co-director, Dr Richard Thomas from the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History explained: “In terms of an archaeological landscape, Bradgate Park is about as good as it gets. We have identified multiple sites of interest spanning the past 12,000 years. Careful excavation will not only allow us to explore the world of Lady Jane Grey and her family, but chart how people have engaged with and altered this landscape since the last Ice Age. The project will also provide a fantastic opportunity for training in archaeological practice for our students.”

surveying1
Students learning to survey at Bradgate House

The first season of excavation, which begins on Monday 8 June, will focus on a moated site identified to the west of Bradgate House, thought to be the home of the medieval park-keeper. Buildings of unknown date and purpose, located just outside Bradgate House, will also be investigated.

More than 80 archaeology students from the University of Leicester – 50 first year students in the first two weeks and 30 second year students in the next three weeks – will be on hand to explore these sites, working alongside academics and professional archaeologists from the University for the six-week long excavation.

trenching
Students uncover a wall in the moated site.

Dr Thomas added: “This is the start of a really exciting project for us as we don’t know a lot about many of the features of the park. Archaeologically speaking it is an untouched landscape. We are incredibly grateful to the Bradgate Park Trust, Historic England and Natural England for helping make this project a reality. All of our students will have the opportunity to visit the landscape over the next five years which will provide them with invaluable practical experience of excavating many different kinds of site.”

The Bradgate Park fieldschool project will encompass a series of targeted excavations, topographic and geophysical survey, environmental reconstruction and standing building survey.

Other sites of interest which will be explored in future years include the site of Lady Jane Grey’s house, a Palaeolithic open site – one of only a few in the United Kingdom – and an enclosure of possible prehistoric date.

Peter Tyldesley, Director of the Bradgate Park Trust said: “There are three main reasons why we are welcoming the University of Leicester to explore Bradgate Park. Firstly through sheer intellectual curiosity; we know that there is a lot of history and archaeological interest here, but we want to know more about what it is. Secondly, the more information we know about the site, the better we can manage and protect it; and thirdly so that we can share the story with the public. The department has a fantastic reputation and so we are delighted to be working with them to discover more about the park.”

The University of Leicester team will be hosting a free family open day on Sunday 27 June for members of the public to learn more about their discoveries at the park and there will also be an end of season excavation tour on site on Saturday 11 July as part of the Festival of Archaeology.

You can follow the progress of the project on Twitter via @DigBradgate and on Facebook at Facebook.com/BradgateParkFieldSchool. The project website is: https://www2.le.ac.uk/departments/archaeology/research/projects/bradgate-park-fieldschool

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