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Woking Palace Archaeology Project

Where and When

Old Woking, Surrey (GU22) July 2011

Initiated and run by

A third season of community archaeological excavation work at Woking Palace was organised by Surrey County Archaeological Unit (SCAU; part of Surrey County Council) and Surrey Archaeological Society (SAS), with the support of Woking Borough Council, Friends of Woking Palace, and technical expertise and assistance provided by Archaeology South-East (University of London) and QUEST (Quaternary Scientific, University of Reading)

Woking Palace excavations 2011

Funding sources

The following grants were awarded to support the project:

  • Woking Borough Council £5k
  • Surrey Archaeological Society £6K
  • Surrey County Council £9K
  • Donations - £446.99

Aims

  • To widen community participation in exploring and understanding the local heritage, providing a unique opportunity to take part in an archaeological project directly relevant to the history of the Old Woking, Woking and its residents.
  • To foster public appreciation of the interest and value of Woking Palace, the single most important heritage asset in Woking Borough.
  • To enable a range of outcomes of benefit to individuals and the community.
  • To provide information that will help inform, refine, and develop a Conservation Management plan for the site, and ensure its long term future as a public heritage asset.
  • To develop a rounded understanding of the development and character of Woking Palace, and to place it in its regional and national context.
  • To provide a flagship project, around which a wealth of positive publicity can be generated for the value of archaeology and heritage to Surrey’s cultural life.

Work done and results

A third successful season took place in July involving 130 local volunteers, 50 members of SAS & FWP, and around 400 visitors on the open day. The team uncovered Tudor kitchens, the gatehouse and a lovely gold hatpin in a fleur de lis design set with rubies.

Woking Palace - local people taking part in excavation

A key part of the project, as always, was giving members of the public a chance to become involved in the excavations. In all some 130 adults and 50 children and young people with little or no previous experience were able to have their first taste of life in an archaeological trench and to experience at first hand the processes through which evidence of the past is obtained from the soil.

The public Open Day offered 350 visitors a tour, led by a Friend of Woking Palace, around the various trenches, where the discoveries were explained by some of the 50+ archaeologists from SAS who had worked on the site. They were also shown some of the objects found and the work of the finds processing team and given the opportunity to visit the various stalls set up outside the moats by a variety of groups and organisations involved in Surrey’s history and archaeology. Children were not forgotten, having the chance to trowel for artefacts in specially prepared sandboxes and to try metal detecting. Other tours of the site, specifically for local heritage organisations, attracted another 100 visitors.

Lessons learned

This was the final of three seasons of work on the site, and as such lessons learnt from previous seasons were put into place for this one. For example, only allowing community trench participants to book onto a day session rather than swopping digging cohorts after the morning session. This enabled continuity of work on site, and more time digging (less time repeating the introduction). Uptake from schools was poor this year, which may have something to do with the timing of the dig (end of summer term) and accessibility of the site.

Further information

ALGAO general enquiries
01223 728592
admin [at] algao.org.uk

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