ULAS archaeologists return to city park to explore historic monument linked with the Knights Hospitallers

Dig will run from 2 – 27 September at Castle Hill Country Park

In September, University of Leicester archaeologists working with Leicester City Council and members of the public, will return to Castle Hill Country Park at Beaumont Leys to continue exploring a large scheduled ancient monument, Castle Hill, believed to be the remains of a medieval manorial site linked with the Knights Hospitallers.

The Knights Hospitallers, or The Order of Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem to use its full name, was a medieval Catholic military order founded in the late 11th or early 12th century to protect the Holy Land and provide care for sick, poor and injured pilgrims travelling there. They held several properties in Leicestershire from the late 12th century onwards, most administered from their Preceptory at Old Dalby. In England, the Order was supressed and their property passed to the Crown in 1540, during the English Reformation.

Volunteers and University of Leicester archaeologists excavate a medieval manor site at Castle Hill Country Park, Beaumont Leys. Photo credit: ULAS/Mathew Morris

Last year, a two-week community dig on the site uncovered well-preserved medieval archaeology dating from the mid-13th century through to the late 15th century. A ditch and stone rampart, yards, and possible buildings were all discovered, along with large quantities of medieval pottery, iron smithing waste, roof slates and expensive glazed ceramic ridge tiles, all dating to the period when the Knights Hospitallers were known to have owned a manor at Beaumont Leys (between AD 1240 and 1482).

This year, volunteers under the guidance of a team of archaeologists from University of Leicester Archaeological Services (ULAS) will be on site for four weeks and plan to dig further trenches across the earthwork, to learn more about what was discovered last year and investigating new areas of the monument.

Part of the rim and handle of a large 14th century jug found during excavation at Castle Hill. Photo credit: ULAS/Mathew Morris

Mathew Morris, Project Officer for ULAS said “Last year’s excavation was so successful, this year we are excited to be back for a longer, four-week, dig, which will allow us to explore much more of the site. Big questions from last year’s dig that we want to answer include, how important was the site in the medieval period? The large amount of good quality pottery, and the presence of roof slates and glazed ridge tiles, suggests that there was a building of some status on the site. This year we hope to find more evidence of this building. We also want to investigate an enigmatic earth mount in the centre of the site? We discovered last year that it might be deliberately built and may have a stone kerb running around its base. Could it be a Bronze Age barrow, or a medieval windmill mound? We want to find out.”

The dig runs from Saturday 2nd September to Wednesday 27 September. An Open Day will be held on Sunday 10 September, 10am – 4pm, as part of Leicester’s Heritage Open Days. There will be an opportunity to meet the archaeologists and see them at work, tour the site and investigate the trenches to find out what has been discovered this year, along with plenty of activities to occupy the kids.

Volunteers and University of Leicester archaeologists excavate a medieval manor site at Castle Hill Country Park, Beaumont Leys. Photo credit: ULAS/Mathew Morris

The community archaeological dig is part of Leicester City Council’s Story of Parks project, a two-year Heritage Lottery-funded scheme helping to collect and celebrate the history of Leicester’s parks through the stories and memories of local people that use them.

To find out more about the history of the site and what was found last year, please visit: https://www2.le.ac.uk/services/ulas/discoveries/projects/medieval/castle-hill-in-search-of-the-knights-hospitallers

Follow this year’s dig live on Facebook to find out about the latest discoveries https://www.facebook.com/ulasnews/

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