We have finally reached the end of our Tudor Palace contribution to the Stories of Enfield project and I am pleased to say that it has been a great success with both publications now available and selling quite well while all the other aims of the project were fully accomplished.
When this all began over 18 months ago, we did wonder if we had bitten off more than we could chew with a mixture of public and educational events, oral history and film making plus the publication of both an academic and a popular work all built around our annual Elsyng Palace excavation.
We would not have been able to succeed in all this without the extraordinarily hard work running the overall project carried out by Jan Metcalf and Judith Stones. Their experience of such events plus their local knowledge and contacts brought everything together and steered the whole project to its successful conclusion.
On behalf of the Society and also of the many local citizens touched by different aspects of the project, I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation for everything they did.
Thanks also to Martin Dearne for the academic report and for running the dig under somewhat different circumstances than usual. Particular thanks also to Neil and John Pinchbeck for creating the wonderful popular account of the history, archaeology and excavation of the site from its origins to the summer of this year (out now! - Ed.).
Stories Of Enfield
Stories of Enfield was a project funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, via Enfield Council, to develop and deliver a range of creative community heritage activities from exhibitions and events through to festivals and theatre performances and involved local communities and organisations from across the borough. It also provided additional support to the Museum of Enfield and the borough’s archive and ran from November 1st 2021 to October 31st 2022.
Between November 2021 and October 2022 the EAS received funding as part of the Stories of Enfield project, to help us continue our ongoing research on the site of Elsyng Tudor Palace, and importantly, to publish and share our work with a wider audience.
The core of the project was the professionally-led excavation in July 2022 whose participants included experienced archaeologists, University and College students and volunteers from the Borough including newcomers to the subject. There were also training sessions for participants.
The events and associated activities of the summer dig were covered in Neil Pinchbeck's book "Elsyng: Enfield's Lost Palace Revealed", which also features an excellent introduction to the history and archaeology of the site, and is available to order online now.
During the period a film was made about the site and the summer excavation, which is now available to watch online here.
"Monarchs Courtiers and Technocrats", a definitive technical report on all aspects of the history of the site and all of the archaeology carried out by the EAS from 1963 to 2020 was also produced by Martin Dearne and is also available to order now.
Stories of Enfield Conclusion
Elsyng Dig Video
A short film about our 2022 annual excavation on the site of Elsyng, Enfield's lost Tudor Palace in the grounds of Forty Hall, made by Footpath Films and funded by The National Lottery Heritage fund as part of the Stories of Enfield project is now available to watch online: see below and enfarchsoc.org/elsyng
Stories of Enfield Touring Exhibition
Come and learn about 14 incredible stories exploring elements of Enfield's heritage, history, and identity - from river communities, stained glass windows in Southgate and Bangladeshi migration through to London's only vinyard and Edmonton's boxing bishop, and of course the Tudor royal palace of Elsyng, which we excavated this summer.
Locations and dates (free entry):
- August 29 - September 13 - Edmonton Angel Sterling Way
- September 27 - October 11 - Forty Hall Courtyard
- October 11 - October 25 - Palmers Green Broomfield Park
- October 25 - November 15 - Edmonton Green Shopping Centre
Summer Dig - Day 13
As predicted, we finished backfilling and re-turfing (with what litte turf there was) and had cleared the site by 11 o'clock this morning.
That concludes this year's exploration of Elsyng Palace - we came for the gatehouse and left with a moat, and more unanswered questions, but we're used to this by now - one of the defining characteristics of Elsyng is its unpredictability owing to the ad-hoc way in which it was built and modified over several centuries. If we knew what we were going to find we wouldn't need to dig it in the first place!
Post-excavation work will begin now, but we already have a list of targets in mind for next year, probably beginning with another trench close to trench 4, to try and find out how far west the outer courtyard's northern range of buildings extends, since we didn't find it as expected in trench 4.
We've also got our eyes on a large platform or mound not far away from this year's site, in the woods to the west of the lime tree avenue, which may be another contender for a gatehouse location.
This would be pushing us further into the area of the inner courtyard, which is where the more high-status buildings of the palace, such as the chapel and royal apartments would have been, so even if the inner gatehouse continues to elude us, there's every chance of finding some new and exciting archaeology.
A big thank-you to all our diggers this year who braved the sunshine and didn't complain (too loudly) about the lack of tangible structure in this year's trenches, and as ever a special thank-you to those of you who mucked in with the less glamorous work including backfilling and lugging equipment up and down the hill every day. Special thanks also to Forty Hall farm, for the loan of wheelbarrows and storage space for our site gear on the farm.
This year's dig was funded by the Stories Of Enfield project, organised by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Enfield Council, to develop and deliver a range of creative community heritage activities across the borough, and has helped us to reach a wide audience including local residents and schools, and crucially has enabled us to publish our latest book Monarchs Courtiers and Technocrats.
A comprehensive history of the palace and people who owned and lived in it, the book also features a complete technical publication of all the archaeological work we've done on the site since 2004 plus a summary of the original work by the EAS in 1963-67 which rediscovered the palace site.
If you prefer a little lighter reading, we are also working on a smaller book, to be published later in the year, which will include an account of this year's dig.
Summer Dig - Day 12
We worked hard in the lime tree avenue of Forty Hall today tying up loose ends and backfilling all but one trench, on what turned out to be the last day of excavation for this year's summer dig on the site of Elsyng Palace.
Although we still haven't found evidence for the elusive inner gatehouse, we have instead built a picture of what may prove to be quite a substantial moat separating the inner and outer courts of the palace.
We pressed on with excavation in trench 4, which we opened a few days ago on the alignment of the western end of the range of buildings which define the northern side of the palace's outer courtyard, in order to find out how far west the range extends, and whether or not the new 'moat' feature we identified in trenches 1-3 extends out this way to meet it.
By the end of the day yesterday this trench had revealed an alignment of rubble which closely matched where we would have expected the building range to cross the trench, and early this morning we began excavating this rubble deposit to find out whether there was evidence of any structure or not.
By mid-afternoon however, the rubble had been lifted to reveal what at first appeared to be a sloping brickearth surface - precisely like the sloping brickearth cuts in our other trenches which define the edge of the 'moat' - but further work in the afternoon showed that the slope was illusory, and the brickearth contained a substantial amount of brick and roof tile rubble, meaning that it was itself the fill of a larger cut.
We pressed on excavating this context throughout the mid to late afternoon and eventually came to the conclusion that it probably is the fill of the 'moat' feature, which does then indeed seem to be extending out towards the western end of the outer courtyard's north range.
Unfortunately, having been forced off site early in the week due to the severe weather has left us short of precious time that could have been spent fully excavating this trench and exploring the theory further, but it does give us a good starting point for next year's work which will probably include an effort to locate the actual end of the north range and to examine how it meets this year's 'moat'.
Despite the absence of palace structures in trench 4 we did have the consolation of plenty of small finds, including a large sherd of another Bartmann jug, (see day 6) this time bearing a smaller armorial fragment of what may have been the arms of Amsterdam.
Trench 4 also produced a complete clay tobacco pipe bowl of a form we've seen before, and is closely dateable to circa 1640-60, meaning it could well have been deposited by workmen during the final demolition of the palace.
All that remains to do on site tomorrow is backfilling trench 4 and clearing the site, which we expect will only take at most half the day.