• Medieval drain<br />similar to those<br />in monasteries
  • Henry VIII's sanitary system

Woking Palace Archaeological Project 2010

Third week of excavations

The final week of this year’s excavations proved both challenging and exciting in many different ways. Each batch of new community participants continued to receive a briefing on the history of the site and the aims of the project when they arrived for their morning or afternoon session. A number of special sessions were arranged for young people so that they too could join in the processes of drawing the story of the site out of the remains in the ground.

Meanwhile things in the other trenches were getting really mucky as layers containing the remains of waste of various kinds were uncovered. Medieval pottery and a wide range of animal, fish and bird bones were recovered from a kitchen waste dump. The creatures represented by the remains evoked scenes of rich feasting on the site well before the Tudor monarchs arrived to continue in the same vein. To add to the excitement a film crew arrived for two days filming for a programme commissioned by BBC 2 just as these discoveries were being made.

At the same time there was further excitement in an adjacent part of the trench when a feature that may be a chalk lined latrine was uncovered. The water table was so high that a pump was needed to allow the diggers to get in to carry out the work of exposing the neat chalk walls and take samples of the grey sticky material that filled this ‘drain’ to send off for analysis. The nearest parallel for this type of ‘drain’ is a medieval communal latrine in a monastic building so the results of the post-excavation work will be awaited eagerly.

Another example of the sanitary systems on the site, this time dated from the Tudor period, was uncovered in the area currently thought to be the King’s apartments. There was insufficient time to excavate this apparent garderobe pit, which may be associated with the construction of a new ‘jaks’ close to the stairs to Henry VIII’s own Chamber mentioned in the building accounts for 1537.

As the excavation drew to a close we can reflect that we have the evidence to tell much more of the story of Woking Palace, but are left with many enigmas such as “Are substantial brick foundations beside the river on the eastern side of the site the remains of the Queen’s apartments or part of an Elizabethan Long Gallery or something else?”. There is just not enough evidence yet to be sure.

The team from the Woking Palace Archaeological Project hope that enough money can be raised to go back for a third season in 2011 to learn more about what is a nationally significant site for both the Tudor and the medieval periods.

Diggers Diggers
WExamining the drain?

Examining the medieval drain

Clearing the drain

Clearing the medieval drain

Queen's apartments?

Queen's apartments by the river?

Bird and animal bones

Bird and animal bones

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