Greenwich Park is perhaps the most historic of all the Royal Parks with a history that dates back to Roman times. It is the site of two scheduled ancient monuments; the Roman Temple and Anglo-Saxon Cemetery and is part of the Greenwich Maritime World Heritage Site. We know a lot about its history but much remains to be discovered.
The Old Keepers Cottage, or Lodge, stood close to Queen Elizabeth's Oak, near the centre of the Park and was demolished in 1853. From a map of the Park dated 1695, a building similar to that demolished in 1853 is illustrated, surrounded by an orchard. Both the old oak and the pump (existing horse trough) were within the oaken garden fence.
In 2010 The Royal Parks ran a very successful community archaeology project for one week. This identified the potential for further fieldwork.
During the Old Keepers Cottage Community Archaeology Project 2014 - 2016 we propose:
- To excavate the former 'Keepers Cottage', a complex of 17th century buildings demolished in the 19th century.
- To locate and excavate the Tudor 'Snow Well'.
- To undertake; cleaning, survey and measured drawing, and relate findings to the historical evidence.
- To record, and subsequently analyse, and publish results.
Updates on the dig
Wednesday looked like it was going to be a busy day with 9 volunteers booked in. However, a few didn't turn up, but we were lucky enough to have three young ladies from The Royal Parks Foundation came along to help in the morning. Thanks to them and all our helpers once again!
Either way a busy day archaeologically, with a substantial ditch in one pit and something looking similar in two more. Plenty of finds! The schools will be kept busy with these next week.
The buildings are still proving elusive, but we've made real progress thanks to two of our volunteers who did some historical research. Genia found a couple of fantastic plans of the complex for us in the local archives which date back to 1838 and 1844. The first plan is better than the well-known Sayers survey of 1840. Brian, meanwhile, checked census returns and has found that Robert Eagleston (father and son) were the Park keepers and residents in the very buildings we are looking for. He got a lot more details besides that for us. Great stuff!
The pace picked up again on Day 2, with a couple of trenches looking very promising. No sign of the Old Keeper's Cottage itself yet, but plenty of finds - pot, clay pipe fragments, bits of roof tile etc, all of around the right date (18th/19th-century). A few early 20th-century halfpennies (two George V) and a lovely pot sherd with what looks like a George and the Dragon motif were probably the best pieces.
Cathy also enjoyed explaining what we're doing to a couple of Met Police PCs - she was made up when one of them faithfully took down the details in his notebook.
Plenty more to do during the rest of the week - so do keep watching this space!
Day 1 was very much about getting started, and the first couple of test pits we excavated were pretty uneventful. Although our lovely crew of volunteers didn't seem to mind.
Things picked up in the afternoon as we revealed much more of the paving around the old pump base, near the Queen Elizabeth Oak.