The Archaeologists are back in Grosvenor Park

27 April 2022

The annual archaeological training excavation has begun in Grosvenor Park, Chester. University of Chester archaeology students will be learning fieldwork skills and adding to their practical experience with the archaeologists of West Cheshire Museums and L – P Archaeology until Friday 20 May.

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said: 

“This excavation is a partnership project between the Council and the University of Chester.

“As well as passing on skills to archaeologists of the future the project aims to find out more about the landscape surrounding Chester’s Roman Amphitheatre and the impact of the abandoned amphitheatre on the development of the area where the Church of St John the Baptist now stands and Grosvenor Park.

“There is also a chance to visit the Grosvenor Museum to see ‘Parkaeology the archaeological story of Grosvenor Park’ an exhibition designed by third year University of Chester archaeology students.”

Parkaeology is a special new exhibition focussing on the history of the excavations in Grosvenor Park to date, put together jointly by the Grosvenor Museum, Dr Caroline Pudney and third year archaeology students from the University of Chester. The students, enthused by their experience on last year’s training excavation, worked with the museum’s archaeologist to select, research and present objects from the archive which highlight important parts of the site’s history from Roman times through to the English Civil War. The resulting fascinating display will be at the museum until 31 July. 

Visitors are welcome to view the training excavation Monday to Friday 9.30 am to 12.30 noon and 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm when students will be pleased to answer questions about their work and discoveries.

For the first time since 2019 the excavation team can run an open afternoon on Tuesday 17 May 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm to have a closer look at the excavations and the objects that have been found. No booking is necessary for this free event. 

The discoveries made since 2007 include a Roman road leading across the park towards the Amphitheatre, a very large Saxon ditch, and a medieval ditch and stone wall running north-south across the park which probably enclosed the precinct that once surrounded St John’s church. In the late 16th century Sir Hugh Cholmondeley converted buildings at the eastern end of the precinct into a grand house that was later destroyed in the English Civil War, evidence of this destruction has also been found including military equipment. 

This year’s excavation will be asking:
  • Is there any evidence for pre-historic buildings or farming such as was found at the Amphitheatre?
  • Were there any buildings by the side of the Roman road?
  • Was the Saxon ditch part of a fortification?
  • What was happening in this corner of St John’s precinct in the later medieval period?
  • What changes did Sir Hugh Cholmondeley make when he first bought the land?
Dr Caroline Pudney, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology and Programme Leader for BA Archaeology at the University of Chester said:

“The opportunity to be back in Grosvenor Park and working with the Council is a welcome one. Our students are very lucky to be able to learn excavation and recording skills in such an archaeologically rich area. The layers of archaeology hidden beneath the grass provide unique glimpses into Chester’s past. 

“This is also why this year, our students have put together the museum exhibition in partnership with the Council which we really hope the people of Chester and surrounding areas are able to go and see, as well as visit the excavations in the park.”

The students will be posting updates throughout the excavation from the social media channels of the University’s History and Archaeology Department and the Grosvenor Museum (@HistArchChester on Instagram and Twitter and @ArchaeologyChester on Facebook; @cwacmuseums on Twitter and @GrosvenorMuseumAndStrettonWaterMill on Facebook).

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