VISITORS to Petworth House and Park have been walking on centuries of undiscovered history.
And now they are going to get the chance to help uncover it.
Excavation work began on Saturday (July 13) and goes on until July 22 when members of the public will be able to have a go themselves and see living history groups in action.
The forgotten north wing of the house has been buried beneath the feet of walkers for hundreds of years and in a year-long investigation, a team of archaeologists and volunteers has been working with modern technology to uncover it.
Lead archaeologist Tom Dommett, co-ordinator of the project, has been working alongside volunteers to reveal the ‘lost’ north wing.
More than 120 volunteers from local communities, and groups including the Liss archaeology group, and the Worthing, Chichester and District, and Horsham archaeology societies have taken part.
Work was funded with a £650,000 monument grant from Sainsbury’s charitable trusts.
The project has used aerial photography, historical mapping and noting anomalies in geophysical surveys, all of which indicate something may be hidden underground.
A geophysical survey identifies archaeological features and deposits that may be preserved beneath the ground.
Few documentary sources remain that would indicate building proposals and plans for the house.
The north wing was built in the 14th century and is supposed to have housed a great hall.
An excavation in a different area of the park has revealed evidence of the location of a banqueting house thought to have been built by Henry VIII in the 15th or 16th century.
Petworth Park was also home to the largest non-royal stables, comprising riding schools and rooms for carriagemen and stables that were two stories tall.
According to Mr Dommett, inhabitants of the house had grand plans for its development.
He said: “The ninth Earl of Northumberland drew up amazing plans for the house while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.
“We are not sure if these were ever carried out.”