Amateur historians heard stories about the lost Tudor Palace. Then they dug it up.

For generations, the residents of Collyweston – a village in central England nestled on the banks of the River Welland – have passed down tales of the great Tudor palace, of royal processions through the valley below, of A king’s mother called this place home.

Over hundreds of years, the stories persist, even as the memory of the palace’s whereabouts gradually fades. But that legend suddenly came alive when some amateur historians Excavated parts of the long-lost palace, buried under several meters of soil. Historians from the University of York verified their findings.

“We are a small village with a small group of enthusiasts and what we have achieved here is basically a miracle,” said Chris Close, 49, president of the Association. Collyweston Historical and Preservation Society. “You know, it’s not every day you get to dig up a part of your country’s past.”

Mr Close, soft-spoken and warm with a dimpled smile, grew up in Collyweston, with family roots going back 400 years here. He remembered hearing stories about the palace as a child. It belonged to Lady Margaret Beaufort, who played a key role in the Wars of the Roses, a series of civil wars over the English throne. She acquired it in 1487, two years after her son Henry VII was crowned king. He, his son Henry VIII and Elizabeth I all walked the palace halls.

After the Tudor era ended in 1603, the palace fell into disrepair. Its contents were sold, some parts were demolished or reused, and new buildings went up. The palace gradually sank into history, disappearing into the dust. Most of.

Fast forward to 2017, when Mr. Close became president of the historical society — somewhat by accident. History was never his passion, but he promised his great-uncle, who once led the group, to help maintain it. One year after his great-uncle’s death, he made good on his promise.

Mr Close – who works for a British new house builder by day – has taken on the highest position in society at a precarious time. The group’s membership, then mostly retirees, has dwindled to just 500 pounds, about $635, in the bank. Meetings are spent poring over old Collyweston records with little to no mandate and some members are considering ending things. Mr. Close knew he needed to inject more energy into the proceedings.

He converted the society’s newsletter to email, from print. He set up social media accounts. And most importantly, he asked the members what they really wanted to focus on. The answer is clear: They want to find the Tudor palace.

The villagers suspected that the ruins were hidden underground, but with limited expertise and even less money, they didn’t have much to go on.

“Really, it was our naivety that got us through this,” Mr. Close said with a chuckle.

First, they relied on what little they knew about the palace’s history – including local legends that had percolated over the years.

Today, Collyweston, population 564, is little more than a few pretty stone houses with picturesque views over rolling fields. Sandra Johnson, 68, a retired real estate agent who now studies the historical society full-time – as well as helping to care for her grandchildren, gives glimpses into royal history. are visible to anyone who observes closely.

She noted that locals have long referred to the walled gardens in the area as “palace gardens,” and one can still see some of the terraces and fish ponds carved into the landscape .

“We know it’s here,” she said, a bright smile on her face. “It’s just a matter of finding evidence to prove it.”

For several months, the team combed through old maps and records. That only gets them so far.

During that time, the group connected with Dr. Rachel Delman, now a historian at Oxford University, who was then researching the palace. Her work provides detailed descriptions of palace buildings that she found in various historical archives.

The study is “a little bit of light shining on the project,” Mr. Close said.

But amateur historians soon realized that archeology had become a high-tech pursuit and that they too needed to embrace technology. They applied for a grant and had enough money to hire a company to conduct a drone survey and geophysical scan of the village. The growing buzz in Collyweston surrounding their activities has helped attract new members.

The real breakthrough came from through the ground Radar scans in 2021 and 2022 show man-made material underground. This guides them on where to dig.

Last May, they found the first evidence of the palace walls: sections of clearly defined thick base and foundations that experts later verified.

The ultimate goal is to find enough artifacts to analyze and date. The group hopes to create a digital model of the palace to display in a small museum Mrs Johnson curates in the village churchyard.

Although finds from this period are not particularly unusual in Britain, historians have hailed the find because of the important role the palace played at the time – and because it was found by a amateur group.

Professor Kate Giles, a historian at the University of York, pointed out that England has many local historical societies, but in the case of Collyweston, “the fact that it has a Tudor palace on its doorstep makes public This country’s affairs have become especially interesting. and interesting.”

Dr Delman, whose research helped launch the hunt, said the discovery had the potential to enrich public knowledge of the one-time base of royal power, commissioned by a Tudor woman rights, “making it a site of national and international significance”.

In early February, volunteers used shovels for a two-day dig, one of several planned this year, to better understand what the palace looked like.

Down a path on a small patch of grass, dozens of residents – including young professionals, parents, a former prison guard and several retirees – dug four small roped trenches under the supervision of Jennifer Browning, 50, an archaeologist from the University of Leicester’s Archaeological Service, who was hired to lead the excavation that day.

In one trench, soil was carefully swept from what appeared to be flagstone floors and foundation stones. Elsewhere, part of the wall has begun to emerge.

“We don’t know exactly what it is, but they’re meant to be there,” Ms. Browning said, standing in a 3-foot-by-5-foot trench and pointing to three large rocks arranged in a neat row about two feet down. feet. “The problem is, in a small trench like this, you can only take a short photo.”

Excavations to date have all taken place on private land, and although the site is considered a historical site, which under British law does not grant the public access to it. The group received permission from the property owner to explore the trenches and then fill them back in, but they had a tight window over the weekend because the owners planned to asphalt the strip of grass soon.

“It will be interesting to see how these things will come together,” said James Mabbitt, 42, a volunteer who has lived in Collyweston for the past decade.

His wife, Melissa, 43, and their young daughter wandered in with other villagers curious about the work. “For a small place, it has this incredible history,” Ms. Mabbitt said with excitement in her voice. She noted that ancient Roman ruins had also recently been found nearby. “I think it captures the spirit of the local community.”

Late in the afternoon, volunteers stopped for snacks and tea while chatting about their findings. Mr Close congratulated them on discovering “the clearest evidence to date” of the palace buildings.

“I’ve been asked, ‘Why are you involved in something like this?'” he said. “Look, one day, when people leave this world, you can say that you helped found the Tudor palace.”


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