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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

The “Dig for a Day” scheme at Woking Palace offers those who have not been involved in archaeology before the chance to try digging for themselves, free of charge, through the excavation of Henry VIII’s Royal Palace, a Scheduled Ancient Monument

Following the very successful seasons of excavations in 2009 and 2010 the third and final season will take place at Woking Palace this summer from 13th July with a Public Open Day to be held on Sunday 31st July from 11am when guided tours of the excavations will run until 4pm

Digging will take place over three weeks:
Week 1: 13th July to 17th July
Week 2: 20th July to 24th July
Week 3: 27th and 28th July

The weekend days of 16th and 17th July and 23rd and 24th July are reserved in the first place for those who work Monday to Friday

To permit the widest possible chance for novices to get involved the opportunity to participate is restricted to a single day or two-half days in the first instance. Please note that 15 and 16 year olds must be accompanied on site by a parent

If you would like a day in the trenches please apply for a chance to participate to Laura Joyner, the Assistant Community Archaeologist for Surrey County Council, at or by phone 01483 518737

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).

Find out more here



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