Bradgate Park Fieldschool (2015-2019)
Bradgate Park is located 10km north-west of the City of Leicester and covers an 830-acre recreational park which attracts c. 400,000 visitors each year. The landscape is designated as a SSSI and is described by Natural England as “one of the finest remaining examples of ancient parkland in Leicestershire” containing some of the “last remaining fragments of wet heathland in the County”.
The park is first documented in 1241 (as a deer park) and is known primarily as the location of one of the first unfortified brick-built aristocratic houses in England (c. 1520), which was later the birth place and childhood home of Lady Jane Grey: the ‘nine days queen’. However, recent excavations of a known late Upper Palaeolithic open site (c. 15,000 years old) situated atop the north spur of a gorge overlooking the River Lin has revealed an in situ stone tool assemblage consistent with Creswellian activity. This is one of only a few sites in the UK dated to this period and is thus of national and international significance. A LiDAR and subsequent walkover survey of the park, conducted in 2014, identified over 250 potential archaeological features not documented within official records. Some of these earthworks appear prehistoric in date and include terracing and a ditched enclosure, which suggests that human occupation and interaction with the landscape has a longer history than previously recognised. Despite the prehistoric and historic importance of the Park, there remain many unanswered questions, which this joint venture with ULAS, hopes to answer. The project will run for five seasons from 2015-2019.
The project is co-directed by Jen Browning (ULAS), James Harvey (ULAS) and Dr Richard Thomas (SAAH) and project managed by Matt Beamish and Dr Richard Buckley . The outreach and widening participation programme will be lead by Debbie Miles-Williams. Esther Hamilton is employed as a post-excavation assistant.
Rachel Small is an AHRC Midlands3Cities PhD student associated with the project - using zooarchaeological and archaeobotanical evidence from Bradgate House to explore how food and drink were used as social capital during the early modern period. Bastiaan Steffens is a CSSAH-funded Graduate Teaching Assistant, who will be delivering fieldwork training for the duration of the fieldschool.
The third season of excavation will begin on 5th June 2017 with a public Open Day taking place in July. Tours of the excavations will also be conducted as part of the Festival of Archaeology (details to follow).
You can follow and engage with the project through social media:
The excavations are undertaken with kind permission of Historic England, Natural England and the Bradgate Park Trust.