20 Jul 2018

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 9

Alex Langlands
Alex Langlands expolores the furnace

Another beautiful day for digging in Forty Hall today, as we near the end of our two-week dig on the site of the service ranges of Henry VIII's Elsyng Palace.

The majority of excavation is complete and there remain only a few relatively straightforward digging jobs to do.

We were joined today by Alex Langlands, who is currently filming a series for Channel 5 featuring several digs of various periods around the country.

Much is often made of the 'Lost Palaces of Henry VIII', such as Greenwich, Nonsuch and others, but Elsyng is frequently overlooked -- we jokingly refer to it as the 'Lost-Lost Palace' -- so we are very pleased to be able to raise its profile and bring it to a wider audience, not to mention that of Forty Hall.

the burnt brick floor of the furnace fully revealed

Alex helped us to finish excavating the fill of the furnace today, exposing and eventually removing the ash deposit from its base, left over from the last time it was fired, probably some time in the mid seventeenth century.

This has now exposed the burnt brick floor of the furnace, and it only remains to remove the rubble and ash fill from the flue.

We also spent much of today removing the rubble deposit from the inside of the external wall by the flue, attempting to find the extent of the furnace's ash pit, part of which we excavated last year.


As we removed the rubble from the south side of the flue, we found another rectangular void set in the west face of the furnace, corresponding to the one on the north side that we saw yesterday (see yesterday's blog).

truncated floor in front of the cupboard (top under root)

We're not entirely sure what the purpose of these is, but our current guess is that the neck of the flue where it meets the furnace was originally wider, and at some point was made narrower, without bothering to fill in between the new neck and the old.

In the section of the trench near the cupboard we excavated yesterday, we found the remnants of an ash-covered brick floor which has apparently had a pit cut into it (pictured). This may be a crude enlargement to the ash pit made late in the building's history.

Tomorrow we'll finish excavating the flue and hopefully get a better idea of the ash pit's outline.

the 'garderobes' wall with unexpected projection (to its right)

In the south-west corner of the trench we opened a small extension to confirm the alignment of the stub of wall that protruded into it. As mentioned earlier in the week, this ought to be part of the substantial wall containing the garderobes in the rooms next door to the furnace, that we excavated in 2014/15.

To our surprise, we found the wall is not rectangular, but has a projection springing off at an angle. This could be the beginnings of a round or even octagonal turret -- perhaps a staircase or even another garderobe.

Whether there's enough time this week to resolve this remains to be seen -- once the furnace and flue/ashpit are fully excavated tomorrow we will be very busy surveying, drawing and photographing all the complex of features in this trench.

Tomorrow is a public event and there will be guided tours and family activities, and will be your last chance to come and see our fantastic Tudor archaeology, before it is reburied for another 400 years!


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