Visit to Bradgate Park Dig

Guide: Dr Richard Thomas

24 June 2019

Each summer, Leicester University runs a Field School to give experience of a real archaeological dig to its own students and to visiting students from around the world. This year’s dig was the fifth and final one to take place at Bradgate Park and on a pleasant evening at the end of June some of our members were shown round by the co‑director of the project, Dr Richard Thomas.

As we walked to the site, Richard reminded us of some of the project’s findings from previous years. First, the site of a late Palaeolithic camp, where flint tools were made by hunters returning to Britain at the end of the last Ice Age. Then a moated enclosure containing the foundations of a large hall, which is now thought to have been too grand for a warden’s residence and was probably an early medieval hunting lodge. Last year’s dig revealed many new features of the 17th century stable but they are still waiting for a more detailed evaluation.

This year, several trenches have been opened up inside the ruins of Bradgate House, in particular to investigate an older stone building that sits at a slightly oblique angle within the courtyard. It turns out that the stone walls are quite extensive and, as they are cut through by the brickwork that we see standing today, they indicate that a substantial stone building previously stood on the same site. Several good finds from the Tudor period have been unearthed in the various rooms of the building, including a candlestick and some lead piping. (The team were still searching for the rest of the Cluedo set.) The dates of the finds suggest that the stone building remained in use during the 1540s, which raises the question: could this in fact have been the house in which Lady Jane Grey (1537-1554) grew up? If so, then the familiar brick buildings including the Chapel, Great Hall and “Lady Jane’s Tower” might have been added only later, when Bradgate was restored to the Grey family towards the end of the century.

More investigation is needed!