Archaeology students to explore historic monument linked with the Knights Hospitaller.

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Throughout June, archaeology students from the University of Leicester will be excavating at Castle Hill Country Park in Beaumont Leys. The dig will continue the exploration of Castle Hill, a large, enigmatic monument believed to be the remains of a manorial site linked with the medieval Order of Knights of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem, commonly known as the Knights Hospitaller.

Volunteers excavate at Castle Hill in 2016.

The work will continue excavations started in 2016 as 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.

Previous digs uncovered well-preserved medieval archaeology dating from the mid-13th century through to the mid-15th century. A large ditch and earth rampart surround yards and a large building, possibly the manor house. Large quantities of medieval pottery, iron smithing waste, roof slates and expensive glazed ceramic ridge tiles were discovered, all dating to the period when the Knights Hospitaller were known to have owned a manor at Beaumont Leys (between AD 1240 and 1482).

This year, university students 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 this important site.

ULAS archaeologists begin work at Castle Hill in 2021.

Mathew Morris, Project Officer for ULAS said “Previous excavations were extremely successful but also raised new questions about the scale and dating of the site and how the Knights Hospitaller used it. It is exciting to bring students from the University of Leicester to the site for a third season of excavation. Big questions we want to answer this year 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 were buildings of some status on the site. This year we want to learn more about these buildings. We also want to investigate an enigmatic earth mount in the centre of the site? Could it be a Bronze Age barrow, or a medieval windmill mound? We want to find out. We also want to excavate more of the outer bank and ditch and find out how the site was accessed in the medieval period. This will be key to our understanding of how the site functioned within the wider landscape.”

There will be an Open Day on Saturday 26th June, 10am – 4pm. COVID restrictions permitting, there will be an opportunity to meet the archaeologists, tour the site and investigate the trenches to find out what has been discovered this year.

To find out more about the project and keep up to date with the latest discoveries, visit https://ulasnews.com/searching-for-the-knights-hospitaller/  or follow us on Facebook.

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