Duke drops in on ancestral Palace

HRH the Duke of Gloucester paid a visit to Woking Palace on Thursday to mark seven seasons of community archaeological excavations.

His Royal Highness was the ideal choice as he studied Architecture at Cambridge and was a partner at a London Architects. The death of his brother William left him heir to Dukedom duties but he remains interested in architecture and conservation and, until recently, was a Commissioner for the Historic Building and Monuments Commission.

Palace Steering Committee Chairman Richard Savage escorted the Duke around the site, along with a small party including Deputy Lord Lieutenant, Lady Louise O’Connor.

They saw pupils from Hoe Bridge School examine and clean finds, and volunteers from Friends of the Palace up to their wrists in mud. Finds vary from piles of oyster shells and fragments of pottery to Valencian tiles and some delicate personal items.

Director of Excavations Rob Poulton described what had been uncovered in the newer trenches, while Andy Lobban talked about trenches close to the 15th-century Vaulted Building.

Meanwhile Friends’ Treasurer Jean Follett led another group  around the site, incl-uding High Sheriff of Surrey Elizabeth Kennedy; Mayor Derek McCrum; Jonathan Lord MP; Chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund South East Paul Hudson; Council Leader John Kingsbury and Strategic Asset Manager Ian Tomes; and Hoe Bridge Headteacher Nick Arkell and Bursar Clive Abbott. The Duke also met Kayt Marter Brown, Archaeological Archives & Finds Officer at the County Archaeological Unit.

One volunteer reckoned only between 10 and 20 per cent of the site has been dug so far. Doubly sad that this is the end of the last dig for some years. Work will continue for another year in writing up the finds, and many of the artefacts will eventually be on show at The Lightbox.

HRH said it was a ‘pleasure to follow in my ancestors’ footsteps and visit Woking Palace’ – he is a direct descendant from Lady Margaret Beaufort and Henry VII. He then unveiled a plaque to mark the seven years of excavations of the Royal Manor and Palace of Woking.

Digs were sponsored by Woking and County Councils, Surrey Archaeological Society, Friends of Woking Palace and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

When the Duke left, the workers went back to their trenches and he returned to Kensington Palace – not that distant from Woking Palace in miles but centuries in time.

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