Sudeley Castle

19 - 31 October 2021

Unearth Tudor ruins on our crowdfunded dig in the heart of the Cotswolds

103.3% Funded
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33 Days left
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£7,500 Goal
103.3%

Crowdfund our unique archaeological dig at Sudeley Castle and you can choose to join the excavation team, or watch online as we try to bring a long-lost piece of Tudor history back to light…

We’re crowdfunding a unique archaeological dig at Sudeley Castle. Our goal is to unearth a rare set of Tudor ruins that have lain undisturbed for nearly 500 years. With your help, we’ll unearth new clues about one of the most celebrated, but least understood aspects of Tudor life.

You’ll learn about the triumphal progress of Elizabeth I, discover the surprising consequences of hosting a garden party fit for a queen, and contribute new evidence to our understanding of the unseen infrastructure that maintained Tudor royals’ important annual journey around the country.

Sudeley Castle has an illustrious history
The remains of a banqueting house built for Elizabeth I are buried in the castle grounds
... along with an original Tudor garden
Geophysics has revealed its ghostly outline
We're going to unearth these incredible 'Tudor treasures'
Watch the discoveries online, or join us on site!

Our dig site

Nestled in the beautiful Cotswolds, Sudeley Castle was one of the Tudors’ most beloved palaces, and often housed those closest to the crown. It’s where Anne Boleyn stayed with Henry VIII while he made his decision to dissolve the monasteries, and where Katherine Parr, Henry’s last wife, later lived after he died.

In 2019, our team was called in to examine a mysterious grassy mound in the castle grounds. We soon realised that we were looking at a substantial platform. Geophysics has also revealed that this platform does not stand in isolation; it is surrounded by the ghostly outlines of something much, much larger.

Experts now believe that what we’re looking at are the traces of something incredibly rare; something that few archaeologists have ever had the chance to excavate… a temporary Tudor palace and gardens!

What we’re looking for

Like her father Henry VIII, Elizabeth I often spent her summers touring the country, with a vast retinue of servants, courtiers, and players travelling with her. At each stop along her route, the local aristocrat would have to construct a temporary palace in which to host her… and put on a right royal celebration for her entertainment!

The construction of these sites was often an enormous and elaborate undertaking, with eyewitness accounts testifying to the incredible effort that was put into them.

Unfortunately, the physical remains rarely survive; during the 18th and 19th centuries, a popular landscaping craze swept through the country’s stately homes, destroying all evidence of these temporary palaces – as well as the elaborate Tudor gardens in which they were erected.

This discovery at Sudeley Castle gives us a rare opportunity to uncover the physical remains of one such structure. We think the grassy mound was once the platform for the royal banqueting tent, built with rubble from older ruins including remnants of Winchombe Abbey.

Meanwhile, the ghostly imprint of the garden that surrounded it is, as far as we know, one of only two that survive in their original condition. While many have been reconstructed from historical depictions, this is one of England’s last true surviving Tudor gardens.

People from all over the world are helping
We found signifcant signs of Elizabethan feasting
... the centrepiece of a long-lost Tudor garden
... hints of the long destroyed Winchcombe Abbey
Now, YOU can help us to continue the search
... and unearth EVEN MORE Tudor history!

What we’ll do

This will be our second excavation at Sudeley Castle. We’ve already unearthed traces of a huge feast, and the centrepiece of the Tudor garden. Now it’s time to dig in, and find out even more!

During this year’s excavation, you’ll help us unearth new corners of the Tudor garden, and find out more about how the temporary palace or royal tent was constructed – and what happened inside it. There’s some evidence to suggest it may have been partially built from fragments of Winchombe Abbey, and that

How we’ll add new knowledge to history

We know from historical records that Elizabeth and her retinue arrived at Sudeley Castle in the summer of 1592, on the eve of the fourth anniversary of her victory over the Spanish Armada. We also know that she was clearly in the mood to celebrate; the ensuing party is said to have continued for three whole days, and nearly bankrupted her host.

But it’s not simply the extravagance of the event that matters. Historians are increasingly beginning to recognise the importance of the temporary palaces, royal tents, and formal gardens, that provided both the infrastructure and backdrop to some of the biggest political events in Tudor England. While some have been reconstructed based on historical evidence, these remains are one of perhaps only two in the entire country where the original paths are still in place, making this one of England’s last true surviving Tudor gardens.

Bringing this incredible set of Tudor ruins back to light after 500 years presents an incredible archaeological challenge; the remains are both rare, and delicate. But with your help, we can do it. And if we do, we might just be able to reconstruct one of England’s last true surviving Tudor gardens and find out what it would have looked like in the days when Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I and Katherine Parr walked its paths.

With your help, we’ll be able to reconstruct the garden, and contribute heaps of new evidence to ongoing research into the royal tents and temporary palaces that provided the infrastructure for Elizabeth I’s royal progresses.

It’s going to be an incredible archaeological challenge, but bringing these two rare Tudor treasures back to the surface for the first time in nearly 500 years would be an amazing achievement – for everyone.

Join our Dig Team and we'll show you how to excavate
You'll learn top-notch archaeological field skills
And make a real contribution to scientific research
And you can't join us in person...
You can take part in online events
Or help us produce a new episode of our docuseries!

We’ll show you all the skills that a field archaeologist uses on a dig. You’ll learn how to excavate, recognise new archaeological layers, identify finds, and record your discoveries like a pro. You’ll also have opportunities to accrue other archaeological skills too.

Our friendly team of professional archaeologists will be there to guide your search for evidence every step of the way, and we’ll work together to unearth a real piece of history, and contribute new evidence that will help to grow our understanding of Tudor power and politics in new and exciting ways.

Crowdfund this dig to support public involvement in archaeology, watch our discoveries online, or make a real Tudor discovery of your own!

About the dig

Why does this dig matter?

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.

What does my crowdfunding contribution cover?

This crowdfunding campaign will enable us to run an eight day excavation, with the specific aim of finding out more about the garden, the party held during Queen Elizabeth’s visit in 1592, and the role of royal tents and temporary structures in Tudor England.

Participation:

Crowdfunders will be able to:

  • Join the Dig Team for anywhere between one day and two weeks
  • Join the Finds Team
  • Watch the dig online, and be part of a selection of virtual VIP events

Our archaeological goals:

  • Reveal the layout of the garden.
  • Recover botanical evidence
  • Investigate the banqueting platform, and contribute physical evidence to ongoing historical work that aims to re-establish the central role of mobile courts and royal tents in Tudor politics
  • Potentially contribute to the future regeneration of an original Tudor garden

Funding:

We need to raise £7,500 to carry out our excavation, analyse everything we find, and make the results available online. By supporting the dig, you will be helping us to:

  • Plan the dig. There are some (fairly complicated) logistics involved!
  • Run the excavation. We need enough archaeologists on site to make sure that everyone who comes digging with us has plenty of expert support
  • Provide free events alongside the dig. We can’t to share the history you’re helping us uncover with as many people as possible, so alongside the dig we’ll run free online events, details of which we’ll publish on our Calendar.
  • Pay for all the ‘aftercare’. We’ll need specialists to conserve and take care of all the artefacts we find – especially any burials and human remains
  • Analyse all the finds. We’ll also need specialists to analyse and interpret everything we find, including any burials, animal remains, ceramics, metal artefacts and environmental samples
  • Share lots of updates before, during and after the dig. It doesn’t start and end with excavation. We’ll be publishing videos, live streams, virtual artefacts and blogs so that you can follow the whole process from start to finish
  • Write the official excavation report
  • Make sure that all of our data, discoveries and interpretation are freely available online. We think that the results of publicly funded research should be free and easy to access. We’ll be putting all of ours online as soon as they’re made.

Joining the Dig Team

Where is Sudeley Castle?

How do I book my place?

You’ll need to pick which date you want to start at checkout (our new intake days are Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday)

Each dig day runs from 9:30 am – 4:30 pm and you’ll need to arrive in plenty of time. This is especially important on your first day, as you’ll need to complete an archaeological briefing and risk assessment before we can get you into the trenches.

We provide all the tools, training and one-to-one instruction you will need in order to learn and have a great time whilst you are on site with our team. You just need to bring yourself, a packed lunch and a bucketful of curiosity!

We’ll send you the exact details of where to meet us within the castle grounds once you’ve signed up for the dig.

What can I expect?

Whether you’re a newbie or an experienced digger, joining us for just a day or staying the full two weeks, we’ll do our best to make sure you have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

We’ll make every effort to provide a healthy dose of fun and social activity, but it is still a real research excavation; it’s not your usual relaxing holiday! Fieldwork can be challenging, and weather conditions, daily work schedules and varied terrain are all part of the rich tapestry of archaeological fieldwork.

Participants must accept this as part of what archaeologists regularly deal with during research digs, and as part of what makes DigVentures experiences so unforgettable! So, please prepare to learn, to laugh, to work hard, and to play a bit as well!

Once you’ve had your morning briefing, and completed the basic training, we’ll head straight to the trenches.

Depending on what’s been uncovered by the time you arrive, this could be:

  • Troweling back to look for new features on the surface
  • Helping to investigate a feature that’s already been identified
  • Excavating something like a building, a post-hole, a pit or even a burial
  • Recording, photographing or interpreting the archaeology

You’ll have an experienced and friendly archaeologist at your side, and before long, you’ll be learning to identify artefacts, spot features and new archaeological layers and record your own discoveries in our online app.

The specifics of what we do on site will change daily, depending on the archaeology that needs to be done, but we will ALWAYS have elevensies, lunch and an afternoon tea break!

Please remember that archaeology isn’t just about digging – it’s also about recording and understanding everything we find. This is a vital part of the process, and it’s where you really get to start thinking like an archaeologist!

Is food, transport or accomodation included?

Food, transport and accommodation are not included. You’ll need to make your own arrangements.

Food: We recommend bringing a packed lunch suitable for enjoying picnic-style in the gardens. Alternatively, there’s the option to buy lunch in Sudeley Castle’s Terrace Restaurant for anyone who prefers to enjoy eating in style!

Transport: If you want to make shared travel plans with other Venturers, please note we will be emailing all our crowdfunders a link to our Facebook chat group, where you can make shared travel and accommodation plans together if you wish.

Accommodation: There are plenty of places to stay in the area, including Sudeley Castle cottages. If you’re interested in booking one, please contact them directly letting them know you’re part of the DigVentures excavation.

What happens once I make my crowdfunding contribution?

Hooray! So you’ve decided to crowdfund the campaign. We’ll ask you for any relevant details, like t-shirt size, or your preferred dates, and the names of any companions you’ll be bringing, at checkout.

You’ll receive a payment confirmation as soon as you make your payment, and a separate follow-up email providing a bit more information.

We’ll also email you a reminder including how to watch the dig, and any final details you need to know, two weeks before the dig begins.

If you’re keen to start planning your trip, we’ve provided some suggestions about where to stay in the food, transport and accommodation section.

What happens if you don't reach the crowdfunding goal?

We’ve set our crowdfunding goal to match the level of excavation and analysis we think this site deserves. Obviously, the closer we get the better, and the more people who join in the more we can discover, but we won’t abandon our plans if we fall shy of the target – this archaeology is too important to miss!

If we don’t reach our goal, we’ll stick to our guns and do the dig anyway – we’ll just scale down the size of the excavation to suite.

For example, we’d excavate a smaller area and send fewer artefacts off for scientific analysis, but the dig would still happen and you’d still be part of our team.

That being said, we’re confident we’ll reach our goal because we know there’s incredible archaeology waiting to be found and people like YOU are willing to help us prove it!

When will I received my goodies?

If you’re joining us on site, you’ll receive your t-shirt when you arrive.

If you’re watching from home, we’ll send out any physical goodies, like team t-shirts, at the end of field season.

You’ll then start getting all your digital goodies (like videos updates and virtual artefacts) when the dig begins.

Once the dig is over, it takes us about 12-18 months to analyse the finds and write up the official report. We’ll keep you updated with any significant developments from the lab during this time. It will be well worth the wait!

Can I come and visit even if I'm not joining the Dig Team?

ABSOLUTELY! We invite everyone who crowdfunds the dig to come and visit – in person, or virtually.

Due to the ongoing pandemic, the situation is changeable so we will email you closer to the time about your options.

You can also check our calendar for details of any free or other public events we’ll be running alongside the dig closer to the time.

 

What if I have done archaeology before, or am an archaeology student?

We also offer a special discount rate for students – just look for the ‘Student’ benefit level.

What happens if I can no longer make it in the end?

We can either transfer your dig days to another excavation, or you can bequeath them to someone else… go on, pass on the archaeology love!

You can also check our Safe Dig policies for more information about what we’re doing to protect our staff, our Dig Team, your bookings, and local communities during the pandemic.

What if the weather is terrible?

Archaeology isn’t only outdoors! If the weather’s truly terrible, we can head to the archaeology lab to work on the finds… cleaning, examining and identifying the things we’ve found so far.

Is there anything else I can do to help?

Crowdfunding isn’t the only way you can help. Even just sharing our campaign on social media could introduce us to someone else who wants to support the dig!

Crowdfund this dig

Choose your benefit level and join the team - online, or on site!

Digital Digger

Thanks for supporting great archaeology!

You’ll be able to see highlights from the dig online, and get updates about all the discoveries your support helps us make.

Once you’ve made your payment, you’ll get an email confirming your contribution. We’ll also email you when the dig begins letting you know where you can see our dig highlights.

We can’t wait!

£10
Make it official

A little extra support goes a long way!

At this level, you’ll get all the benefits of a Digital Digger, PLUS a credit in the official site report.

Once you’ve made your payment, you’ll get an email confirming your contribution. We’ll also email you when the dig begins letting you know where you can see our dig highlights. And when the official site report is finally ready, we’ll email you a copy… with your name in it!

We’ll also keep you updated while we write it, with news about any significant findings we make while analysing the discoveries in the lab.

It can take around 12-18 months for all the results to come through and get the report written up, but it will be well worth the wait!

£25
Team T-shirt

Now you’re making a statement!

Pardon my trench. We don’t dig Mondays. Eat Sleep Dig Repeat. We pride ourselves on having the best archaeology team t-shirts in the field.

At this level, we’ll send you one of our latest exclusive designs, as worn by our team.

Choose your size at checkout, and we’ll then send your team t-shirt at the end of field season for you to wear with pride!

(includes all the benefits of Digital Digger and Make it official)

£50
Science Superstar

Isotope analysis can tell us where people came from. Radiocarbon dates can determine how old things are. And residue analysis can reveal what an individual pot may once have contained.

Yes, scientific techniques can help us extract even more information from the things we find, but we need laboratory specialists to run the tests for us.

As one of our Science Superstars, we’ll put your contribution straight towards doing more analysis, plus you’ll get one of our amazing Archaeology Team T-shirts!

Once you’ve made your payment, you’ll receive a welcome email letting you know where you can watch the dig when it begins.

And once we complete the lab work, you’ll get to learn more about the results, what they mean, and the techniques we used. You’ll have to be patient with us though – it could take up to 12 months after the dig for any analysis to be completed.

But you’ll know that your contribution is helping to get some extra special work done.

(Science Superstar includes all the benefits above, plus Digital Digger, Make It Official, and Team T-shirt)

£75
Dig for a day

Always wanted to try archaeology? Make your dream come true!

At this level, you’ll get a taste of archaeology with a day digging alongside our team. No experience needed – we’ll teach you everything you need to know to make a REAL discovery.

Dates: The dig will run for two weeks (Week 1: Tue 19-Sun24, Week 2: Tue 26-Sun 31). You can start your experience on Tue 19 (SOLD OUT), Thu 21, Sat 23 (SOLD OUT), Sun 24, Tue 26 (SOLD OUT), Thu 28, Sat 30.

You can choose your date, and enter the details of who you’re booking for, at checkout.

Once you’ve made your payment, you’ll receive a welcome email pointing you towards some additional information about the dig.

We will also send you an email reminder containing any final details you need to know two weeks before it begins.

(includes all the benefits of Digital Digger, Make It Official, and Team T-shirt)

£185
Dig for two days

Two days of archaeology is twice as much fun!

At this level, you’ll get plenty of trowel time, plus a chance to try out some more advanced excavation skills, like investigating features, and interpreting stratigraphy.

Dates: The dig will run for two weeks (Week 1: Tue 19-Sun24, Week 2: Tue 26-Sun 31). You can start your experience on Tue 19, Thu 21, Sat 23 (SOLD OUT), Tue 26, Thu 28, Sat 30.

You can choose your date, and enter the details of who you’re booking for, at checkout.

Once you’ve made your payment, you’ll receive a welcome email pointing you towards some additional information about the dig.

We will also send you an email reminder confirmin any final details you need to know two weeks before it begins.

(includes all the benefits of Digital Digger, Make It Official, and Team T-shirt)

£370
Friends with benefits

Archaeology is double the fun when there’s two of you!

At this level, you’ll get plenty of trowel time, plus a chance to try out some more advanced excavation skills, like investigating features, and interpreting stratigraphy… together!

Dates: The dig will run for two weeks (Week 1: Tue 19-Sun24, Week 2: Tue 26-Sun 31). You can start your experience on Tue 19, Thu 21, Sat 23 (SOLD OUT), Tue 26, Thu 28, Sat 30.

You can choose your date, and enter the details of who you’re booking for, at checkout.

Once you’ve made your payment, you’ll receive a welcome email pointing you towards some additional information about the dig.

We will also send you an email reminder containing any final details you need to know two weeks before it begins.

(includes all the benefits of Digital Digger, Make It Official, and Team T-shirt)

£590
Dig for a week

Come for a week and get trained up as an archaeologist!

You’ll be in the trench from Day One and learn lots of extra skills, like how to locate archaeology, analyse what you find, and provide the aftercare for your discoveries.

Dates: The dig will run for two weeks (Week 1: Tue 19-Sun24, Week 2: Tue 26-Sun 31). Each Dig for a Week’ experience is six days, so you can start your experience on Tue 19, or Tue 26.

Basic details about where to meet, what to bring, and other information about planning your trip is available in the FAQs on this page.

You can choose your date, and enter the details of who you’re booking for, at checkout.

Once you’ve made your payment, you’ll receive a welcome email pointing you towards some additional information about the dig.

We will also send you an email reminder containing any final details you need to know two weeks before it begins.

(includes all the benefits of Digital Digger, Make It Official, and Team T-shirt)

£700
Student discount

Archaeology student wanting to top up your field skills?

DigVentures is the UK’s only CIfA-accredited field school, and digging alongside our team will you the chance to try some of the most cutting-edge field techniques.

We’re even happy to give you a skills assessment, targeted training, and… a 20% discount!

To claim your discount, just choose your Dig or Finds Room experience, add it to your basket, and then enter the code DIGSTUDENT20 to get a 20% discount.

You can enter your chosen start date, and the details of anyone you are booking for, at checkout.

You will also need to send us an email from your tutor confirming your enrollment status.

Basic details about where to meet, what to bring, and other information about planning your trip is available in the FAQs on this page.

(also includes all the benefits of Digital Digger, Make It Official, and Team T-shirt)

20% off
Dig for two weeks

Experience the full excavation, and all the skills that go with it. Even pros would trade their favourite trowel for this!

£1350
Any amount

Want to make a contribution that helps someone else?

Sometimes people ask us how they can make a contribution to the dig, but forego any benefits like t-shirts, or digging. We are so touched by these requests, that we have decided to do something very special… We’re formally opening a Pay It Forward option!

Ready to make your contribution, but want to pass on the benefits? Just close this box, choose the benefit level that matches the contribution you want to make, and make sure you write PAY IT FORWARD in the order notes.

You’ll still receive email updates about the dig, and be able to follow online – just like a Digital Digger – but instead of receiving any associated benefits like t-shirts, or a place on the Dig Team, you’ll get the satisfaction of knowing that the full amount of your contribution has gone straight towards the project AND that we’ll use it to help create a dig place for someone else who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

PS. If you’re choosing to contribute anything above £75, our booking system will ask you to choose a date. Just pick one to keep the system happy, and we’ll know to ignore it!

Pay It Forward

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