19 Jul 2014
Festival Of Archaeology 2014 - Forty Hall - Day 5
Bingo! Hours of tiring work in intense heat, high humidity and biting insects was rewarded today by the long anticipated palace structure.
An extension at the north end of the trench quickly revealed what at first looked to be a narrow wall buried just under topsoil, but a further extension showed that it is in fact a substantial wall with what looks to be some slumping on one side, making it look at first glance narrower.
An extension to the east and another north revealed at least two and possibly more phases of wall construction, following a dog-leg. The section that was first revealed has a brick offset footing, whereas the section in the east half is sitting on a mortar bed.
As we had suspected, this is more than just a simple boundary wall and very likely is the source of the architectural debris -- glass fragments, floor tiles etc. which have been teasing us all week.
Analysis of the finds so far is leaning towards an early Tudor date, which could make this structure part of Sir Thomas Lovell's courtier's palace, which served as his headquarters and with which he entertained Henry VII and a young prince Henry who would later acquire it for himself as Henry VIII.
The brickearth and rubble filled ditch we started exploring yesterday runs directly in front of the walls and so has become an even stronger contender for a palace moat. Though the ditch is not very deep it is quite wide. Ornamental moats are very typical for sixteenth century palaces, and this seems to fit the bill nicely.
Tomorrow is our big public event and the last day of the dig. While we are relieved to have some great archaeology to show the public tomorrow, there are still some important questions to answer, including the reason for the wall's dog-leg and for the slumped area of brickwork. Speculation amongst the digging team is running wild -- possible explanations put forward have included a tower projecting from a palace wall, a fireplace, a garderobe and even a cess pit with a drain set in the wall (seen elsewhere on the site).
Hopefully tomorrow will shed some light on things, though if things go the way they usually do the biggest mysteries are yet to come!