Archaeologists from the University of Leicester have started unearthing secrets from the past at Bradgate Park.
Over the next five years, academics, professional archaeologists and students from the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History, will be working together to uncover the many mysteries of Leicestershire’s 850-acre deer park.
The public park in Charnwood Forest, Leicestershire is best known as the birth place and childhood home of Lady Jane Grey – the ‘nine days Queen’. It attracts half a million visitors annually.
Project co-director, Dr Richard Thomas from the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History explains, “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.”
The first season of excavation which will last six weeks began on Monday 8 June, and is focused on a moated site identified to the west of Bradgate House, thought to be the home of the medieval park-keeper, or a royal hunting lodge. It will last six weeks
“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.” added Dr Thomas.
The Bradgate Park fieldschool project as it is known will encompass a series of targeted excavations, topographic and geophysical survey, environmental reconstruction and standing building survey.
In future years, other sites of interest will be explored, including 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.
Director of the Bradgate Park Trust, Peter Tyldesley, 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.”
On Saturday 27 June, the University of Leicester team will be hosting a free family open day 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.