Bradgate Park Fieldschool

Our fieldschool held annually between 2015 and 2019

This major student training and research excavation project focuses on the upland landscape of Bradgate Park, Leicestershire.

A panorama of the ruins of Bradgate House

Bradgate Park is located 10km north-west of the City of Leicester and covers an 830-acre recreational park which attracts c. 400,000 visitors each year. The landscape is designated as a SSSI and is described by Natural England as “one of the finest remaining examples of ancient parkland in Leicestershire” containing some of the “last remaining fragments of wet heathland in the County”.

The park is first documented in 1241 (as a deer park) and is known primarily as the location of one of the first unfortified brick-built aristocratic houses in England (c. 1520), which was later the birth place and childhood home of Lady Jane Grey: the ‘nine days queen’. However, recent excavations of a known late Upper Palaeolithic open site (c. 15,000 years old) situated atop the north spur of a gorge overlooking the River Lin has revealed an in situ stone tool assemblage consistent with Creswellian activity. This is one of only a few sites in the UK dated to this period and is thus of national and international significance. A LiDAR and subsequent walkover survey of the park, conducted in 2014, identified over 250 potential archaeological features not documented within official records. Some of these earthworks appear prehistoric in date and include terracing and a ditched enclosure, which suggests that human occupation and interaction with the landscape has a longer history than previously recognised. Despite the prehistoric and historic importance of the Park, there remain many unanswered questions, which this joint venture with ULAS, hopes to answer. The project will run for five seasons from 2015-2019. Discoveries so far have included: a late Mesolithic flint scatter, a Bronze Age enclosure and round house, a medieval hunting lodge; a 17th-century stable; and an unknown earlier phase of stone buildings below Bradgate House.

Project team

The project is co-directed by Jen Browning (ULAS), James Harvey (ULAS) and Professor Richard Thomas (SAAH).

Rachel Small is an AHRC Midlands3Cities PhD student associated with the project - using zooarchaeological and archaeobotanical evidence from Bradgate House to explore the extent to which humoral theories concerning food and drink were actively employed in the early modern period. 

Excavation seasons

Five seasons of excavation were conducted:

Publications

Thomas, R., Harvey, J., Browning, J. and Liddle, P. 2019. A medieval hunting lodge at Bradgate Park, Leicestershire. Transactions of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society 93: 169-197.

Social Media

You can follow and engage with the project as post-excavation activity continues on Twitter and Facebook.

The excavations are undertaken with kind permission of Historic England, Natural England and the Bradgate Park Trust.

Unearthing History at Bradgate Park