Treasures from the past found under Petworth House marble floor

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Conservation work to repair marble floor tiles in the Marble Hall of Petworth House has revealed some treasures from the past including half a clay pipe.

Other finds include hand-made iron nails, an iron clasp, an oyster shell, glass, a shard of pottery, and part of a corroded lead window frame.

The Marble Hall was built by the 6th Duke of Somerset in the 1690s as the impressive formal entrance for his new mansion. Apart from minor work in the 1920s to lay power under part of the floor, the tiles have never been re-laid, so these items were likely to have been buried during the construction of the original floor.

Over time some of the 17th century marble tiles have sunk and started to loosen, posing a danger to surrounding stone as they rub against them, risking breaks and cracks and making remedial action a necessity.

Janet Sinclair, house and collections manager said: “The Marble Hall of Petworth is one of our most impressive state rooms with its iconic symmetrical black and white tiles and conservation work like this is of incredible important to us to preserve these historic interiors and the National Trust collection for future generations to see and enjoy.”

The conservation work lasting nearly a week carried out by Cliveden Conservation Workshop to lift the problematic tiles from their foundation layers of sand, gravel and marble chippings also revealed some far less ordinary foundations.”

The shard of pottery is believed to be of German origin from a 17th century drinking vessel. The oyster shell may have been part of someone’s lunch as they laid the tiles and the window frame is thought to have come from the old medieval house that stood at Petworth before the Duke had the current mansion built.

“The finds are currently being investigated by a National Trust archaeologist to see if there’s anything further we can discover from the rubble and mortar to date the items and it’s hoped we can then display some of them to visitors when speaking about the conservation work that we do at Petworth and the National Trust,” added Janet.

The repairing of the marble floor is part of the long-standing winter conservation work carried out at Petworth that preserves and maintains the interiors and collection before the mansion and park open for the main season from March 18.

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