The Kelmarsh Blog

Kelmarsh Hall is undertaking its largest ever restoration project and are excited to announce that the archaeologists appointed, Iain Soden and Joe Prentice of Iain Soden Heritage Services Ltd have made some exciting discoveries in connection with The Kelmarsh Trust’s Heritage Lottery Funded ‘Below Stairs’ project.

Iain and Joe both specialise in stately homes and country houses, making them ideal for this role and since Kelmarsh is a Grade 1 listed building, it is a requirement from the Listed Building Consent for our project to have archaeological recording in the hall’s basements and laundry.

Iain and Joe have been working alongside Stone Edge Ltd who have been appointed as Principal Contractors for the HLF project.  Last month the foundations of an 18th-century wall were uncovered next to the stable-yard. Although the wall relates to the hall we see today, it contained re-used fragments of the older, Jacobean Hall which preceded it.  Until now we were unsure where the former house was situated and the discovery of the re-used fragments now gives an indication that the current house was built on top of, or very close to, the old site.

Additionally, when examining the wall and its surroundings, Iain and Joe discovered how the wall cut across a late Iron Age ditch (1st century BC-1st century AD) and even though there were no important archaeological discoveries made, it shows the long history of activity on the site. 

Also recently discovered was a cast iron fireback which was excavated from the building site.  It has the year 1633 cast in relief and it is thought to be from a domestic fireplace. Although the Jacobean hall predates it very slightly, it probably comes from that building.

Des Brack, the Operations Manager at Kelmarsh Hall says, “the initial findings are beginning to throw new light on how the basement rooms have evolved over the past 300 years”. 

These discoveries are really exciting.  Some finds are destined for removal and writing-up, but others which can be preserved in the ground will be covered over after being recorded.

The project, supported by The Heritage Lottery Fund through a grant of £1.3 million, is currently underway with 'Below Stairs' areas formerly used by those who worked in the Hall being preserved and opened for visitors to see. If you want to see ‘behind the scenes’ book on to our Heritage Restoration Tours and Have A Go Restoration Experiences which are running this winter. 

The total cost of the project is £1.6 million. The £1.3 million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund will be rounded up to the final total through fundraising by The Kelmarsh Trust. Anyone who is interested in supporting the project or would like more details can call Fundraiser Carla Cooper on 01604 686543 or email fundraising@kelmarsh.com. All donations are gratefully received.


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