She may have been a queen only for nine days during the 16th century and her home may lay in ruins, but a field school open day in a sunny deer park with fabulous views and picturesque ruined towers makes a wonderful family day out that could have made Lady Jane Grey proud. Phil had already been summoned to see the slates and the bricks on Thursday, but now on a warm Saturday we came the whole family to see the development of the new project and get a glimpse of the structures below the turf.
What a difference a new park manager makes. Last year, when Phil found a Roman rooftile from the brook in Bradgate Park, the manager was truly interested. The recent start of the Lottery Heritage funded Charnwood Roots project by the Victoria county histories at Leicester meant that the Bradgate House and its environs were a natural location for the Leicester field school to move after many successful years at Borrough Hill Iron Age hillfort on the exactly opposite side of Leicestershire. The first stage of preparations had included a survey of the park and a Lidar prospection from the skies. Thus, the department could target an interesting selection of trenches both inside and outside the House and at other locations.
Two posters pinned at several locations detailed the progress so far and the combined results of different surveys, including geophysics. There was a general information tent nearer the main entrance almost next to the ice cream sellers that told about the projects and finds. In addition, there were further activities behind the House ruins with certain aspects of early modern life re-enacted, meant for the general public and the members of the Young Archaeologists’ Club (YAC). There were also guides in finer, upper-class period costumes at the chapel.
For me the true novelty was the realisation that there was a Medieval moated house slightly further away from the main ruins towards Linford Newtown, the village moved from the site of the manor house in the past. I had noticed the humps and bumps, but the slight elevation of a squarish site had escaped me and Phil, since only now the hay and grass has been cut. The park management has also carried out cutting back brambles, so everything is more visible now.
There will be further site tours on the 11th of July as part of the Festival of Archaeology and the excavation news are described in real time through Facebook and Twitter. The University web site gives limited information with main communication happening in social media (links provided there).
The excavation site can be approached by foot along the public footpaths across the fields, potentially following a Roman roadline from Anstey where the city buses 74 by First and 54 by Centerbus stop. If anybody wants a lovely walk on a sunny day.
Next year will also see a community dig in Bradgate Park - following after a recent one in Anstey. Stay in tuned.