DigNation '20

13 - 14 June 2020

Enjoy history. Discover archaeology. Go totally Tudor!

DigNation is the world’s first history festival where YOU get to make history while you’re there. Launched by DigVentures and Sir Tony Robinson in 2018, this year’s festival is going totally Tudor!

Hear about hot-off-the-press research from your favourite historians, enjoy loads of fun-filled Fringe events, and see archaeologists making *LIVE* Tudor discoveries that the audience helps to uncover.

DigNation is a new kind of festival for archaeology and history lovers: participatory, digitally-minded and accessible to audiences around the world (Virtual Tickets are available too)

Taking place in the beautiful grounds of Sudeley Castle, DigNation ’20 promises to be an unmissable celebration of the biggest, boldest and most exciting new developments in Tudor research.

You’ll get to hear from headline historians, meet awesome archaeologists, help bring a Tudor garden back to life through archaeological excavation, and enjoy fun-filled fringe events – all within the grounds of one of the Tudors’ most beloved palaces.

Philippa Gregory
Beautiful grounds and gardens
Dr Anna Whitelock
The Virtual Festival
*LIVE* archaeology
New Tudor research

Following on from the smash hit, sell-out success of the inaugural DigNation festival, where festival-goers got to hear from speakers like Sir Tony Robinson, Helen Geake, Phil Harding, and Francis Pryor, and helped to unearth the first site to be attacked by Vikings in Britain, DigNation ’20 is going totally Tudor!

This year’s lineup is being curated by DigVentures and Dr Anna Whitelock, Director of the London Centre for Public History and Heritage at Royal Holloway.

From big name personalities, to cutting edge researchers, you can expect to hear from some of the most enthralling speakers making waves in Tudor studies today.

You’ll also be able to help make history. Right at the heart of the festival, alongside the main speaker tent, is an archaeological excavation to unearth a lost Tudor garden. You can stand by and soak it all in, or jump in alongside the archaeologists by booking a Dig or Finds Experience along with your ticket. It’s your chance to make a real Tudor discovery and contribute to ongoing research!

Plus, the whole thing is taking place on the 500th anniversary of one of the biggest Tudor gatherings in history – the Field of the Cloth of Gold. Surely there’s no better excuse to come along to a big, fat Tudor history festival than that.

DigVentures would like to thank Lady Elizabeth Ashcombe and the Sudeley Castle team for making this event possible.

Love history? Fascinated by archaeology? Got a thing for the Tudors? Join us in making DigNation ’20 a huge success.

👉 Get your tickets now 👈

Patience, patience…

The full festival line-up is waiting to be announced, but what we can tell you is that it’s shaping up to be a Who’s Who of the people, projects and themes at the bleeding edge of Tudor research:

Day 01

Philippa Gregory // New research // Tudor women, and much, much more!

Day 02

New discoveries // Power, Politics & Display, and much much more!

Plus +

Archaeology tours, Tudor-themed Fringe events, book signings, follow-the-speaker, food stalls, extra-hot historical content from our *very special* podcast partners… and more!

A taste of things to come…

As if things could be any more exciting, we’ve already confirmed top British historical fiction writer Philippa Gregory, author of the award-winning Other Boleyn Girl, White Queen, and many other novels focusing on Tudor personalities, history, and court life.

One of Philippa’s most notable books, The Naming of the Queen, is an intimate portrayal of Kateryn Parr, Henry VIII’s last Queen, who lived out her final days at Sudeley and is buried inside the chapel. Philippa has been a tremendous support to our ongoing archaeological research at the castle, and we’re so thrilled she will be joining us as one of our Headline Historians to chat about her new book and all things Tudor.

Book your ticket now

For nearly a thousand years, Sudeley Castle has been home to some of England’s most famous monarchs. Starting with Goda, daughter of King Ethelred the Unready, the castle was later occupied by Richard III, who built its magnificent banqueting hall, and then by King Charles I, who made it his temporary base during the English Civil War.

But it was the Tudors who really made Sudeley their own: it’s where Anne Boleyn stayed with Henry VIII while he made his decision to dissolve the monasteries, and most famously where Kateryn Parr, Henry’s last wife, later lived and was buried.

It’s also where, in 1592, Elizabeth I came to celebrate the anniversary of her victory over the Spanish Armada; a three-day party that nearly bankrupted her host, Lord Chandos, and is remembered as one of the longest in English royal history. Whether there was an ornate temporary structure purpose-built for her, a permanent Banqueting House, or even if the entire garden itself was built to honour her visit remains to be discovered.

Tudor Gardens

Despite their reputation as being elaborate and extravagant, hardly any Tudor gardens actually survive. Most were destroyed during the 18th and 19th centuries by Capability Brown and the fashion for landscaped gardens; having remained mostly empty and out of court life since Sudeley’s slighting after the Dissolution, the gardens escaped this fate, and were lain undisturbed for centuries.

Tudor gardens were extremely important in court life, viewed as an extension of living space and utilised for exercise as well as privacy – after all, one could not be overheard whilst out on the open – and its not outside the realm of possibility that Henry VIII may have made his momentous decision regarding the Dissolution of the Monasteries whilst walking the paths at Sudeley.

The ‘ghost garden’ at Sudeley Castle is one of perhaps only two in the entire country where portions of the original paths still appear to be in place.

Digging Deeper

DigVentures’ excavations at Sudeley Castle began thanks to the castle’s Head Gardener, Stephen Torode, who had noticed that one of the large, untended fields to the side of the castle was filled with noticeable lumps and bumps. Castle records from the 19th century stated that owner Emma Dent Brocklehurst had found several pieces of ornate masonry in the middle of the field; so, out of curiosity, Stephen commissioned a series of topographic and geophysics surveys. The results were astonishing: the unmistakeable, geometric outline of a formal Tudor garden.

In October 2018, DigVentures carried out a preliminary investigation to test the depth and character of the archaeology across the site in advance of larger trenches. We discovered a substantial clay platform in the centre of the field, clearly man-made, and very similar to those on which a banqueting house or a viewing platform would have been constructed. The evaluation also showed ‘made ground’, or a ground surface that had clearly been intentionally laid, at a uniform depth and consistency across the site. Had we found the garden pathways? All that remained to confirm it was to find an edge.

Our team was back on site in May 2019 for two full weeks, to further investigate the features that were so clearly apparent on the geophysics survey. When we were first asked to try and unearth evidence of the beautiful Tudor garden and banqueting house where the festivities are thought to have taken place, it sounded like an impossible challenge – it’s not easy to find traces of a garden that’s been lost for over 400 years!

To our absolute delight, our trenches revealed the foundations of a very substantial wall, along with pottery, bones, and impressive pieces of decorative masonry. Their location fits perfectly with where you’d expect to find a banqueting house according to a classic Tudor garden layout. Then, we discovered an enormous circular platform, surrounded by an even bigger circular ditch, which we now think was the show-stopping centre-piece of the original Tudor garden where the festivities took place.

What next?

Our research at Sudeley Castle has really just begun, and Team DV is headed back into the field at Sudeley on 1st June 2020. By the time the DigNation festival weekend arrives, we are sure to have even more exciting new evidence hot from the trenches – if you join us at the festival, you’ll be one of the first people to hear what our team has found in this fantastic Tudor time capsule. See you there!

Want to dig with us at Sudeley Castle? You can join the main dig taking place from 02 – 08 June 2020, or try a DigNation Dig or Finds Experience during the festival weekend

To learn more about our previous work, check out our Sudeley Castle project page.

You can also watch the dig videos to find out more about our previous discoveries 👇






















👉 Get your tickets now 👈

Hello, lovely worldwide audience!

Let’s face it: we know there are Tudor-lovers across the world who might not be able to make it to a sleepy town in the middle of the UK, no matter how beautiful it might be.

We get it. Our solution is to extend the reach of DigNation to audiences unable to make it to Sudeley Castle, with Virtual Tickets!

DigVentures is always trying to find new ways to bring archaeology to as many people as possible. We can’t wait to see how using new technology and the Virtual Ticket experiment is going to help us to do this even better.

We’ll be livestreaming all of the headline speakers in the main tent for both days of the festival. There will also be extra special exclusive content, including live updates from the trenches, exclusive interviews with speakers, specially curated podcasts and video footage from the weekend, and a souvenir video.

We will also be using social media tools, such as twitter, Instagram and Facebook Live, throughout the weekend to bring you all the behind-the-scenes action, allowing audiences from around the world to be part of the action at DigNation in ways that wouldn’t have been possible even a few years ago.

Plans are still underway to see just how much we can broadcast – we’ll do our absolute best to make sure you don’t miss a thing!

We will send out your Virtual Ticket logins in the first week of June 2020.

VERY IMPORTANT: We will send the logins to the email address you use to purchase your ticket. If this is not a current address or one that you check regularly, you MUST get in touch with our team prior to the event to provide updated information.

Going to miss some of the talks? Don’t worry – you’ll be able to re-watch the talks online once the festival is over.

If something interrupts the livestream, we will upload copies of any talks that were missed as soon as the internet is back up and running.

👉 Get your tickets now 👈

Ticket types

There’s so much going on at DigNation: talks from top Tudor researchers, fun-filled Fringe events and activities across the castle grounds, livestreaming, podcasting, and trenches heaving with *live* archaeology!

Scroll down for a description of each ticket type, or book one right now

👉 Get your tickets now 👈

Saturday Ticket


  • Entry to see the Saturday speakers
  • Entry to Sudeley Castle grounds and Fringe events on Saturday

Does not include:

  • Dig or Finds Experience
  • Sunday entry
  • Festival Goodies
  • Virtual Ticket
Sunday Ticket


  • Entry to see the Sunday speakers
  • Entry to Sudeley Castle grounds and Fringe events on Sunday

Does not include:

  • Dig or Finds Experience
  • Saturday entry
  • Festival Goodies
  • Virtual Ticket
Weekend Ticket


  • Entry to see the speakers on Saturday AND Sunday
  • Entry to Sudeley Castle grounds and Fringe events on Saturday AND Sunday

Does NOT include:

  • Dig or Finds Experience
  • Festival Goodies
  • Virtual Ticket
Dig Experience Ticket (add-on)

Want to try archaeology? Fancy making your very own Tudor discovery? You can book a two-hour Dig Experience to excavate alongside our team. You’ll have a friendly archaeologist at your side, showing you how to excavate while you help to unearth the lost Tudor garden.


  • Entry to the Dig Experience at an allotted time
  • Entry to Sudeley Castle grounds and Fringe events on the day of your Dig Experience

You will be able to select your date and timeslot once you get to checkout. Your choices are:
– Saturday 10:00 – 13:00
– Saturday 14:00 – 17:00
– Sunday 10:00 – 13:00
Sunday 14:00 – 17:00

Does NOT include:

  • Entry to see the speakers
  • Virtual Ticket
  • Festival Goodies (t-shirt etc)

Please note, you do NOT need a day or weekend ticket to book a Dig Experience – you can do this as a stand-alone event.

Finds Experience Ticket (add-on)

Want to get hands-on with real Tudor artefacts? Fancy learning more about the discoveries fresh from the dig? You can book a two-hour Finds Experience with our team. You’ll have a friendly Finds expert at your side, showing you how to clean and identify artefacts that have recently been excavated.


  • Entry to the Finds Experience at your allotted time
  • Entry to Sudeley Castle grounds and Fringe events on the day of your Finds Experience

You will be able to select your date and timeslot once you get to checkout. Your choices are:
– Saturday 10:00 – 13:00
– Saturday 14:00 – 17:00
– Sunday 10:00 – 13:00
– Sunday 14:00 – 17:00

Does NOT include:

  • Entry to see the speakers
  • Virtual Ticket
  • Festival Goodies (t-shirt etc)

Please note, you do NOT need a day or weekend ticket to book a Finds Experience – you can do this as a stand-alone event.

Virtual Ticket


  • A login to watch livestreams of the festival talks

You will also be able to re-watch the talks after the festival, once they have been uploaded.

Does NOT include:

  • Entry to see the speakers
  • Entry to Sudeley Castle grounds and Fringe events
  • Festival Goodies (t-shirt etc)

You will receive an email with your login details in early June 2020.

Festival Goodies (add on ) - coming soon!


  • DigNation T-shirt
  • DigNation badges

Does NOT include:

  • Entry to Sudeley Castle grounds and Fringe events
  • Entry to see the speakers
  • Virtual Ticket
Fringe-only Tickets

Fringe-only tickets will be available to buy through the Sudeley Castle website. Please note that these will NOT provide any access to see the speakers, or take part in a Dig or Finds Experience.

When will I get my Festival tickets?

We aren’t sending out paper or e-tickets. You will receive your entry badge when your arrive at Registration. Please check the ‘Arrival & Registration’ tab for timings.


When will I get my ticket for the Virtual Festival?

We will send out your Virtual Festival passwords in the first week of June 2020.

VERY IMPORTANT: We sent the emails to the email addresses you used to purchase your ticket. If this is not a current address or one that you check regularly, you MUST get in touch with our team prior to the event to provide updated information.

How can I sign in to watch the live stream?

We will send out your Virtual Festival passwords in the first week of June 2020.

VERY IMPORTANT: We sent the emails to the email addresses you used to purchase your ticket. If this is not a current address or one that you check regularly, you MUST get in touch with our team prior to the event to provide updated information.

Will I be able to watch the talks after the festival is over?


All conference talks will be available after the festival as downloadable, closed-captioned podcasts.

We will have every WiFi-signal-missile-launching-boosting-hear-us-in-space system on hand to be as prepared as humans can possibly be for the livestream to run smoothly. In the event of unforseen circumstances that affect our ability to transmit the livestream, we will be in touch with everyone with updates, and we will make all the talks affected by the droppage available as podcasts ASAP.

What are the options for food at Sudeley Castle?

Sudeley’s Castle Kitchen restaurant, located in the main castle area, offers a range of delicious choices with its locally sourced, seasonal menu. This includes freshly prepared sandwiches, light lunches, a selection of cakes and scones and an ever-changing variety of hot meals. The restaurant closes at 3.30pm. Hot food service stops at 2.30pm.

Castle Kitchen Pantry

A range of light bites and snacks are also available from the Castle Kitchen Pantry, within the Visitor Centre at the entrance to Sudeley Castle. The Castle Pantry is the perfect pit-stop for cyclists and walkers, being well-placed on Winchcombe’s vast network of public footpaths. Castle admission tickets are not needed to visit the Pantry, which has an indoor garden room and an outdoor terrace seating area.

Dogs are welcome in the Visitor Centre and in the Castle Kitchen Pantry.

Cotswold Afternoon Tea at Sudeley Castle

Cotswold afternoon tea is also available to make your visit to Sudeley Castle extra special. Enjoy a selection of finger sandwiches, delicious scones served with clotted cream and jam, and a selection of locally made, handcrafted patisserie. Why not indulge in a glass of champagne or prosecco while you’re here?

Afternoon tea is subject to availability and must be booked 48 hours in advance. Afternoon Tea is served in the Castle Kitchen restaurant – as this is located within the castle, an admission ticket for each person is also required.

No matter what you decide, please be respectful and ensure you throw your rubbish away in the bins!


Plan Your Travel

Full address: Sudeley Castle & Gardens, Winchcombe, Gloucestershire  GL54 5JD

By Car

Sudeley Castle & Gardens is situated near Winchcombe, 8 miles north east of Cheltenham on the B4632 (A46) or just 10 miles from junction 9 of the M5. For Satnavs, our postcode is GL54 5LP.

Sudeley offer ample FREE parking and disabled parking.

By Bus

Bus services operate between Winchcombe and Cheltenham or Broadway. You can travel to Sudeley Castle with Stagecoach on their W bus service, or with Pulhams on their 606 service.

By Train

The closest train station to Sudeley Castle & Gardens is Cheltenham Spa.

There is also a Winchcombe Station Shuttle Service, from the GWSR train station to Winchcombe Town and the Castle. This service is run by, A Private Hire, and operates when the trains are running.

Contact Information for travel to the Castle ONLY

(all DigNation Festival inquiries to hello@digventures.com or +44 333 011 3990)

Recorded Information: 01242 604357

Visitor Centre: 01242 604244



What's the situation with parking?


Sudeley Castle has a large, free visitor car park next to the Visitor Centre with designated disabled car parking spaces available near the castle.

I don't have a ticket, can I come to Sudeley Castle?

Of course you can, silly!

Sudeley Castle is one of the Costwolds’ top visitor attractions, with a unique history and beautiful grounds and gardens to explore. And because of our team – now they have some epic archaeology for their visitors to see, too!

There is a standard entrance fee for Sudely Castle. Over the DigNaiton weekend (13-14th June 2020) ticketed entry will also include free festival events, activities and garden tours, as well as trench tours and archaeology updates.

More information about visiting Sudeley Castle can be found here, including prices, opening hours, and discounted online booking.

Can I bring my kids? How many children can I bring?

Entry to the conference sessions is very limited, so you cannot bring your under-12 children into the talks without a ticket for them as well.


Can I bring my dog?

We regret that dogs are not allowed in the castle grounds or gardens – including the children’s play area – apart from registered assistance dogs. Dogs are welcome at the Visitor Centre and cafe.

Can you give me advice about accommodation?

The Cotswolds are a very popular tourist destination and in the summer months, accommodation can book up extremely quickly. We recommend that you book your accommodation as soon as possible.

Options for every budget in the area include hotels, guest houses, B&Bs, and camping. The full address of the castle is: Sudeley Castle & Gardens Gloucestershire, Winchcombe GL54 5JD.

A quick internet search will turn up lots of options, and you can also plan your visit to Winchcombe through Inspirock Trip Planner or Cotswolds.com.


What does my ticket include?

‘Full Festival’ Ticket: entry to all festival venues, access to downloadable podcasts of festival talk, but NOT entry to Dig or Finds Lab Experiences

Dig / Finds Lab Experiences: these must be pre-booked and bought separately from all other tickets

Virtual Ticket: entry to livestream event, access to downloadable podcasts of festival talks



How can I contact DigVentures if I still have questions?

We’re here for you!

Get in touch with our amazing DV squad:

By email: hello@digventures.com

Telephone: +44 333 011 3990

Find us on twitter: @thedigventurers

Investigating the role of royal tents and gardens in Tudor England

When the grand pages of history are dominated by castles, manor houses, and fortifications, it’s easy to think of royal tents and gardens as little more than decorative doodles. But just as deer parks were used to cement social and political relationships in the early 16th century, Tudor gardens – and the royal tents often built within them – became places to entertain, feast, and to display newly found wealth, success and power.

One particularly detailed description of a temporary banqueting house built at Whitehall in 1581, ahead of negotiations for Elizabeth’s potential marriage to the Duc d’Alencon, states that the 332 foot long structure took 3 weeks and 3 days to build, was held up with 30 masts, and involved 375 people. The canvas walls were painted to look like stone, the roof was painted with stars, clouds and sunbeams to look like the sky, while the insides decorated with “292 glass lights… and… all manner of strang[e] flowers… garnished with spangs of gould [and fruits like] pomegarnetts, orrnges, pompions, cowcumbers, grapes, carettes, peas and such like”.

As historians are increasingly beginning to assert, these royal tents were not only enormous and elaborate undertakings that often took weeks to build, they are also vital to a proper understanding of Tudor politics, in which a mobile court that could indulge in elaborate displays of wealth and magnificence while moving around country was fundamental.

And as we approach the 500th anniversary of the Field of the Cloth of Gold (the meeting that took place just outside of Calais between Henry VIII and Francis I, King of France, and which took its name from the array of fabulous golden tents that housed the two kings’ entourages), the potential significance of this discovery becomes all the more clear.

This was especially true during the reign of Elizabeth I, whose love of display accelerated the creation of increasingly elaborate gardens.

Unlike her father, for whom it was unthinkable that any noble might live in more splendid surroundings than his own, Elizabeth egged them on, and indoor politicking spilled into the open.

Each summer, Elizabeth and her court would leave London on a ‘progress’ around the country, lodging with noble families often for weeks at a time. These visits were highly coveted by her two closest advisors; Dudley, a close confidant harboring romantic intentions, and Cecil her chief political advisor intent on keeping Dudley at bay. To entice Elizabeth to visit, and amuse her once she arrived, they created gardens and landscapes of increasing complexity, each bolder and more elaborate than the next.

Rosemary bushes shimmered with gold leaf. Bridges magically brimmed with wine. Dudley and Cecil, the two most powerful men in England, driven by their rivalry, devised ever more elaborate gardens to impress their queen.

It’s little wonder, then, that as Elizabeth toured the country, each of her hosts felt compelled to construct brand new gardens ahead of her arrival – each one a miniature wonderland, where the queen and her retinue would revel, feast and be entertained.

But these visits served a dual purpose. The “honour” of such a visit could also reduce a lord’s wealth substantially; Elizabeth and her retinue would devour all their stores. By the time they finally left Sudeley Castle in 1592, her host Lord Chandos had nearly bankrupted himself.

The startling thing is that for all their extravagance, barely a single Elizabethan garden survives. If they weren’t destroyed in the Civil War, they crumbled into ruin over the next few decades. And those that made it any further were erased during the popular landscaping movement of the 18th and 19th centuries.

The ghostly outline revealed at Sudeley Castle gives us a unique chance to unearth an original Tudor garden, and recover a moment in time when the humble garden became a beloved part of English life, and took on an even more important role: one of political influence.

Gone but not forgotten! Re-live the magic of DigNation 2018: the speakers, the archaeology, the fun and emotions of an incredible weekend.

DigNation is a new kind of festival for archaeology and history lovers: participatory, digitally-minded and accessible.

The inaugural DigNation event in 2018 was themed as a celebration of the legacy of archaeologist and Time Team presenter Professor Mick Aston.

Hosted by Sir Tony Robinson, Mick’s co-host and lifelong friend, and the Patron of DigVentures’ Advisory Board, the festival was held on Holy Island (Lindisfarne) 22nd-23rd September 2018. DigNation 2018 was the first-ever crowdfunded archaeology festival in the world to incorporate a live excavation and participatory experiences as part of the programme, alongside lectures, tech displays, a Fringe and a ‘Virtual Festival’ livestreamed around the world to honour Mick’s commitment to accessibility and continuing education.

The response to DigNation was fantastic: tickets to come to Lindisfarne were sold out, attracting nearly 500 people for the weekend, and the Virtual Festival expanded participation to thousands of viewers in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.

DigNation 2018 Line-up

Sir Tony Robinson // Carenza Lewis // Francis Pryor // Helen Geake // Phil Harding // Julian Richards // Theresa Hall // John Gater // Archaeologists’ Question Time Panel Debate, and many, many more!

Sign up to DigMail

No nonsense. Just dig alerts and the insider's view on the week's biggest archaeological discoveries.

Easy opt-out at any time - Privacy Policy

Archaeology / In Your Hands