Uncovering the past: Gawthorpe Hall Dig at Harewood

Student archaeologists on trail of Yorkshire gem’s hidden past

Gawthorpe Dig with York University Archaeology Department - gawthorpe old drawing

Archaeologists from the University of York are revealing intriguing traces — hidden for more than two centuries — of the forerunner of one of Yorkshire’s great country houses.

In the shadow of Harewood House, a team of undergraduate students is carrying out the painstaking task of unearthing the remnants of Harewood’s predecessor, Gawthorpe Hall, which was demolished in 1773.

After carrying out exploratory digs and geophysical surveys over the last two years, the student archaeologists are spending three weeks uncovering the layout of the Hall of which only two contemporary illustrations survive.

Education sessions will allow school groups to explore the excavation, get their hands dirty digging and talk to the archaeologists. Workshops, lectures and public tours of the dig as well as exhibits of finds will be a feature of Harewood’s Medieval Festival on 16th and 17th July. You’ll also find out more about Harewood All Saints’ Church (founded in 1116), the 12th century Castle and medieval village of ‘Harwood’ [then spelt without an ‘e’]. Visit our Medieval Festival event webpage for details.

Gawthorpe Dig 2011 - finds

The archaeologists have already discovered a wealth of artefacts including a coin dating from the early 15th century, an 18th century chamber pot, decorative glassware and wine bottle fragments, decorative pins and a thimble as well as a range of ceramics from the medieval period up to the 18th century, which will help us to tell the story of how the family lived, how the hall was decorated and much more besides. The students have also unearthed a flint arrowhead dating back to pre-history.

Dr Finch said: “As well as providing a much longer history of Harewood that stretches thousands of years back into prehistory, the archaeology will give us a unique insight into the impact the Caribbean sugar industry and slavery had, not just on the fortunes of the Lascelles family, but on English landscape and society as a whole over two hundred years ago.”

Gawthorpe Dig 2011

David Lascelles said: “So much of what we know of Harewood’s history focuses on Harewood House and who has lived there. The excavation being done by York University students is helping to fill some of the gaps of that earlier history and – we all hope – answer some of the questions about Gawthorpe. We’ll be re-creating medieval Harewood in a digital “fly-by” to be shown as part of our Medieval Festival event in July, revealing a landscape without Harewood House and before Capability Brown’s intervention.”

Dr Finch headed a team from the University of York which travelled to Barbados last month to investigate the old Lascelles plantations, some of which still operate as sugar plantations with historic houses and factory buildings still surviving. Artefacts discovered there will be added to those found at Gawthorpe to create a new teaching resource based in Barbados and Yorkshire.

Education Sessions for Schools

Bookable education sessions will allow school groups to explore the excavation, get their hands dirty digging and talk to the archaeologists. Contact our Learning department for details on 0113 218 1043 or email.

To read more about our upcoming Medieval Festival, visit our What’s On pages here.

University of York logo

For more information about the University of York’s Department of Archaeology visit their website here…

You can also visit the dig to see the archaeology in action. Click here to read more…

Keep up with the progress of the archaeology team on their blog or facebook
You can see finds from the Dig in the Terrace Gallery as part of our Summer exhibitions programme. Click here to read more…

This summer, explore Medieval Harewood with us…

Find out more on our Medieval Harewood webpages…