Petworth Park gives up its ancient secrets

IN scorching summer sunshine for nine days, archaeologists, history experts, volunteers and school groups have been excavating in Petworth Park to search for Henry VIII’s banqueting house.


The building is alluded to on a map dated 1610, marked only as a mysterious tower and proof of its existence have never been found.

Finds including brick, stone and tile were unearthed but far from solving mysteries, many questions have been left.

Archaeologist Tom Dommett said: “The dig has been a massive success, and we have found much more than a banqueting house. We now have evidence of occupation on Lawn Hill from thousands of years ago, possibly even as far back as the Neolithic period.

“The main outcome has been evidence of a series of buildings that stood on the edge of Lawn Hill overlooking the historic parkland, the last of which was probably Elizabethan and timber-framed.”

But conclusive evidence of an actual banqueting house has proved more difficult to find. Materials unearthed showed definite signs of a ‘high-status building’, with possible service and food preparation areas. Other clues include fragments of fine glass drinking vessels and shoe and belt buckles and cloak pins.

To help date the occupation on site in Petworth Park, experts have researched two hammered coins found last week, one of which was minted during the reign of Henry VIII. The other is Elizabethan and stamped 1565.

“We can now confidently say this is indeed an incredibly important spot,” Tom told the Observer.

“Almost certainly there would have been a single-storey building of stone, with possibly two or more timber stories above.”

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