Dig the Tudors at Sudeley Castle

21st May - 2nd June 2019

Join the search for one of England's last surviving Tudor gardens, and a banqueting house built for Elizabeth I

110.8% Funded
/
£16,619.00 Pledged
/
£15,000 Goal
110.8%

Got a thing for the Tudors? Love fine architecture, rich clothes, and powerful queens? This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help archaeologists unearth one of England’s last surviving Tudor gardens, and a banqueting house built for Elizabeth I

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.

But hidden in the castle grounds, we’ve found traces of yet another remarkable moment in Tudor history; a famously epic three-day party attended by Elizabeth I to celebrate her victory over the Spanish Armada.

Historical records indicate that in the summer of 1592, Elizabeth and her retinue arrived at Sudeley Castle. It was the eve of the fourth anniversary of her victory over the Spanish Armada and she was clearly in the mood to celebrate; the ensuing party continued for three whole days, and nearly bankrupted her host.

When our team was called in to examine a mysterious grassy hump in the castle grounds, we soon realised that we were looking at a substantial platform, just like those on which a banqueting house would be constructed. Experts from Sudeley Castle now believe that this grassy mound is where Elizabeth’s epic celebration took place.

Our preliminary investigation suggests that this banqueting house was probably a temporary structure built especially for the occasion. Historians are increasingly beginning to recognise the importance of royal tents in Tudor England. Not only were they often enormous and elaborate undertakings that took weeks to build, they were also vital to a proper understanding of Tudor politics, in which a mobile court that could indulge in elaborate displays of wealth and magnificence all over the country were fundamental.

This discovery at Sudeley Castle gives us a rare opportunity to uncover the physical remains of one such structure, and to learn more about the role of royal tents in the Tudor period.

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!

And there’s even more to these remains than meets the eye. A geophysical survey has confirmed that the banqueting house does not stand in isolation, but is in fact surrounded by a buried Tudor garden.

Remarkably, most were destroyed during the 18th and 19th centuries, when a popular landscaping craze swept the country. While some have been reconstructed based on historical evidence, this is 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 it back to the surface would be an amazing achievement, giving us the chance to find out what it would have been like in the days when Anne Boleyn, Elizabeth I and Katherine Parr walked its paths.

We’re making it our mission to unearth these two extraordinary Tudor treasures, and we’re hoping YOU can help us.

Crowdfund this dig, and you can choose to watch the discoveries online, or to get hands-on and join the dig team for a chance to make a real Tudor discovery of your own!

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.

This crowdfunding campaign will enable us to run a two-week 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
  • Visit the dig and be part of a selection of 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 £15,000 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 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.
Where is Sudeley Castle?

What do I need to know about joining the Dig Team?

Our crowdfunded dig at Sudeley Castle is set to run for two weeks, from Tuesday 21st May – Sunday 2nd June 2019.

You’ll need to pick which date you want to start at checkout (our new intake days are Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, and we don’t dig Mondays!)

Each dig day runs from 9am – 5pm 9:30 am – 5pm 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 within the grounds of Sudeley Castle, and any other final details, two weeks before the dig begins.

What do I need to know about joining the Finds Room team?

Our Finds Room will be running throughout the second week of the excavation, from Tuesday 28th May – Sunday 2nd June 2019.

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

Each Finds Room day runs from 9am – 5pm 9:30 am – 5pm, 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 you can start handling any artefacts.

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 within the grounds of Sudeley Castle, and any other final details, two weeks before the dig begins.

We can’t wait!

What do I need to know about joining DigCamp?

Sudeley Castle DigCamp will run from 10 am – 4pm 10:30 am – 4 pm on Saturday 25th May 2019, Sunday 26th May 2019, and Wednesday 29th May 2019.

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, a bucketful of curiosity… and your junior archaeologists!

We’ll send you the exact details of where to meet within the grounds of Sudeley Castle, and any other final details you need to know for your big day, two weeks before the dig begins.

We can’t wait!

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 asking for a few more details that we need to complete your registration.

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 in 2019.

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!

And what about DigNation Beta…?

We’ll email you whenever there’s an upcoming talk for you to watch online, and send you more details about the one day conference we’re planning in September closer to the time!

Can I come and visit even if I'm not joining the Dig or Finds team?

ABSOLUTELY! We invite everyone who crowdfunds the dig to come and visit. Bring friends, bring family, make a day of it! If you give us a heads up, we might even be able to squeeze you onto one of our VIP tours.

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!

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!

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