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Community Archaeology Projects - Woking Palace Excavation

Woking Palace - A new Community Archaeological Project at the scheduled ancient monument

What we know at present

The exceptionally large (8 acre) moated site at Woking Palace was the manor house of the Royal manor of Woking from at least 1272. During the following two hundred years it was granted to and often occupied by those close to the throne, including the Despencers (it was moated by the time of their execution in 1326), the Earls of Kent and Somerset, and Lady Margaret Beaufort (the mother of Henry VII) who lived there with her third husband. In 1503 its status was further enhanced when Henry VII decided to develop the property as a Palace, and it continued to be favoured and developed under the Tudors. Its remains include well-preserved moats, ruined and standing structures, and fishponds, all set within a 590 acre deerpark started in the thirteenth century and enlarged repeatedly up to the time of Henry VIII. Some limited archaeology has taken place (a wall-chasing excavation in 1911 from which only a plan has survived, and a resistivity survey and a few test-pits in the 1990s but it is currently impossible to tell a coherent story of the development of this royal complex.

The quality of the site has been very well expressed by English Heritage in the Schedule of Ancient Monuments:

'Woking Palace is of particular importance because of its excellent survival, high diversity, enormous archaeological potential both on the island itself and in the waterlogged moats and particularly because of its historical association with royalty and the amenity value which is afforded by this association.'

The site is owned by Woking Borough Council and is currently accessible to the public on a restricted basis. It forms a heritage resource of immense potential for the local community but one that is presently under-used and under-appreciated.

The new project

It is intended that the project will focus around three summer seasons of excavation over a period of three years. Work has already started towards the first season of digging, with topographical, resistivity, magnetometry and ground penetrating radar surveys already completed. It is hoped that these will provide a lot of information about the buried remains, and show the general layout of the wall foundations and other features. Excavation will be targeted at providing an understanding of the dates and sequence of development on this complex site. The digging is planned to take place during late July and early August, with an Open Day on the 9 August.

The project has been jointly organised by Surrey County Archaeological Unit (part of Surrey Council) and Surrey Archaeological Society, with the generous support of Woking Borough Council, The Friends of Woking Palace, Archaeology South-East (University College, London), and QUEST (Quaternary Scientific, University of Reading).

For more information about how to get involved in this and other projects in Surrey please contact Abby Guinness, Community Archaeologist, tel: 01483 518772 or email:

To find out more:

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