We are looking to discover more about Thomas, Lord Stanley and his legendary palatial fortress home, Lathom House. We are also keen to learn more about the events leading up to the Lancastrian victory over King Richard III at Bosworth Field in 1485.
The project will encompass a number of integrated elements, which include the investigation of several different kinds of multi-period archaeological sites.
In 2017 our focus will be the 15th century Lathom House, important because of its iconic status during the late-medieval and Tudor period, up until its destruction in the post-civil war period.
The project offers you a rare opportunity to learn excavation techniques on one of the best archaeological sites in England.
The 2017 project will involve area excavation of targets identified last summer by ground penetrating radar (GPR) undertaken by our sponsor SEP Ltd. The primary objective will be to locate structures relating to the 15th century fortified house which was also home to King Henry VII’s mother, Lady Margaret Beaufort, wife of the 1st Earl of Derby.
Previous work has clearly shown that the late-medieval castle of Thomas, Lord Stanley underlies the 18th century pleasure garden, but beyond that we know very little about the structure. The main aim of the 2017 research project is to establish the character, form and extent of archaeological remains identified by the non-intrusive surveys, and to investigate their depth, complexity and state of preservation, thus allowing an assessment of their significance within the known history of Lathom, and their potential for further investigation. Any surviving below ground archaeological evidence for this building would form the primary project objective.
After many years of speculation, it is now certain that the legendary site of local folklore, the 15th century ‘Northern Court’ the principal residence of the noble house of Stanley, has been confirmed.
If you would like to join us in our search to discover more about King Richard III's slayer then please get in touch by clicking on the link to reserve your place.
As part of your dig experience you will have the rare opportunity to spend your days in the extensive pleasure gardens of the early-18th century Lathom House, the gardens were designed by the famous landscape gardener Sir Humphry Repton in 1792.
During your time at Lathom you will experience some of the best archaeology in England. There are at least 3 main phases of high status occupation: the 11th century house of the de-Lathom Family, the 14th - 18th century house of the Stanleys, earls of Derby, and 18th century country mansion of Thomas Bootle.
There is the added bonus of an English Civil War siege (1644-45) when the 300 strong garrison in the house held out for two years against an opposing parliamentary roundhead army of 4,000 men.
The archaeological buried remains of Lathom House, the Northern Court of the 15th & 16th century Stanleys is located on the west side of the River Tawd in the Douglas Valley between the medieval market towns of Ormskirk and Wigan in Lancashire, North West England.
The 18th century country mansion, Lathom House has long been connected with the fortified palatial home of the Earls of Derby, the 15th century Lathom House. Antiquarians writing in the 19th century confidently placed the late-medieval house beneath the Georgian house. Broxap writing at the turn of the 20th century favoured an alternative site, Spa Roughs Wood some 900 metres south-east of the 18th century house. A topographical survey by Holly Lodge Sixth Form College in 1979 led to the erroneous designation of Spa Roughs as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. In March 1996 professional archaeologists discovered a deep rock cut moat in a paddock to the south of the West Wing of the 18th century house. There were no finds later than 1750, which strongly suggested that the moat had been backfilled by that time.
The archaeological potential of the 18th century Lathom House and pleasure garden was highly rated in nineteenth century literature, and the source of this information appears to result from the 1860s refurbishment of Lathom House, and an 18th century ‘History of the Stanley Family’ by John Seacombe which included a contemporary description of the 17th century Civil War house:
‘Standing on a flat moorish, springy and spumous ground, was at the time of the siege encompassed with a strong wall, of two yards thick: upon the wall were nine towers, flanking each other, and in every tower were six pieces of ordnance that played three one way and three the other. Without the wall, was a moat eight yards wide, and two yards deep; upon the brink of the moat, between the wall and the graff, was a strong row of palisadoes, and to add to these securities, there was a high tower called the Eagle Tower, in the midst of the house, surrounding all the rest; and the gatehouse was also a strong and high building with a strong tower on each side of it; and in the entrance to the first court upon the tops of these towers were placed the best and choicest marksmen. Before the house, to the south and south-west, there is a rising ground so near as to overlook the top of it, which falls so quick that nothing planted against it on those sides can touch it, further than the front walls. And on the north and east sides there is another rising ground, even to the edge of the moat, and then falls away so quick that you can scarce, at the distance of a carbine shot, see the house over the height’.
In 1801 the diarist Thomas Pennant on his tour of England wrote: ‘The ancient Lathom, the celebrated seat of nobility and hospitality, stood between the north-east offices of the present house and the kitchen garden’. He recalled local folk memory when writing that the legendary Eagle Tower was still standing and inhabited right up to the early 1700s.
The 18th century Lathom House was extensively remodelled in the 1850s & 1860s and it was during these works that many medieval architectural fragments were found incorporated within the fabric of the 18th century mansion block.
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The 2017 Lathom House excavation will be directed by Stephen Baldwin who is a professional heritage consultant and director of Bluestone Archaeology. Stephen has run his own independent practice since 2003. He has over 20 years’ experience in research and field archaeology. In 1997-2009 he directed a long-term archaeological research project at the regionally and nationally important Lathom House site which revealed structural evidence to confirm, for the first time since its civil war destruction, the exact location of the medieval palace fortress of the Stanley family, earls of Derby. In 2006 he supervised an international research archaeological excavation for Liverpool University at the Thracian emporion, Pistiros in Septemvri, Bulgaria.
The 2017 post-excavation programme will be managed by Dr Rob Philpott, who is an archaeological consultant and a director of Bluestone Archaeology. He is also a part-time Research Assistant in the Department of Archaeology, Classics and Egyptology and a part-time Continuing Education lecturer at the University of Liverpool. He was head of Archaeology at National Museums Liverpool until 2015. He has been involved for three decades in research into the Romano-British and later rural settlement in lowland North West, through aerial reconnaissance, fieldwalking and excavation, and has excavated and published a number of Roman, medieval and post-medieval sites in the region. He has a research interest in the post-medieval ceramics from the North West of England. Recent publications include editing and contributing to a monograph on excavations on ceramic manufacturing sites at Rainford near St Helens.
He is a Member of the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London.
Dr Jonathan Foyle (BA MA Dipl Arch Ph.D. Hon Ph.D.) is former Chief Executive of World Monuments Fund Britain and Curator of Historic Buildings at Historic Royal Palaces. Following a Courtauld Institute MA on English Art & Architecture c.1560-1660, his PhD presented a reconstruction of Cardinal Wolsey's Hampton Court. He is a consultant on the analysis, interpretation and presentation of historic buildings and associated artifacts, about which he lectures widely.
A presenter of numerous television programmes on architecture and history (presently for Channel 4), he is a regular contributor to the FT Weekend on issues of heritage and crafts.
Having written the fourth in his series of monographs on English cathedrals, he is now writing on Windsor Castle.
Paul Sherman is the research director at Lathom Gardens and project coordinator for the 2017 Lathom House excavation.
In early 2016 Paul's foresight and commitment was instrumental in Lathom Gardens being successfully acquired for the purpose of conducting archaeological research. He was subsequently tasked with overseeing projects on site and developing partnerships with other researchers. Paul has spent over 30 years researching the history and archaeology of South West Lancashire, including the investigation of Mesolithic and Neolithic sites on the south west Lancashire plain, the early medieval settlement of the West Lancashire coast and the Civil War skirmish at Crossens, Southport. He has recently completed a three year investigation at a site where finds indicate the possibility of Viking age trade links between the Lancashire coast and the Baltic.
Paul is currently working closely with the staff at The Atkinson Museum and Gallery in Southport towards the staging of a major Viking exhibition to be held there in spring 2018.
George is an associate of Bluestone Archaeology and will be one of the supervisors at Lathom House in 2017.
George has been a professional field archaeologist for 28 years with experience in both commercial and research projects. In the commercial sector he was an archaeological project officer on infrastructure projects supervising teams along 70km pipelines.
George was also was a supervisor for two seasons at Chester’s Roman Amphitheatre project, and on numerous multi-period urban excavations in Chester. This is really where he found his passion and speciality for teaching. He also has special interests in Roman numismatics, Roman military metal small finds, soil science and photography. The inclusive nature of the amphitheatre project meant that he taught young persons and adults, and also the physically and mentally impaired.