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Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Copped Hall Trust Archaeological Project

The name of Copped Hall first appears in a document of 1258 but the family named in the document, the Fitzauchers, who were the King’s huntsmen, had been granted land in the vicinity in 1165. Waltham Abbey bought the Hall in 1350 and held it until 1534, when it passed to the Crown. Mary Tudor (the future Queen Mary) lived here and celebrated the Catholic mass under her Protestant brother’s rule. Queen Elizabeth I granted the manor to her Chancellor, Sir Thomas Heneage, in 1564, who immediately started rebuilding it to create a Tudor grand-house. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream may have had its first performance at Heneage’s wedding festivities here in 1594. Later it was home to Lionel Cranfield, a Lord High Treasurer of England under James I who was condemned by Parliament for ‘bribery, extortion, oppression and other grievous misdemeanours’. But the Tudor grand-house at Copped Hall – save for some ‘romantic ruins’ – was demolished in the mid-18th century and replaced by a new mansion 250 metres to the south-east. This in turn was gutted by fire in 1917 and stood ruinous for much of the 20th century. In 1995, the Copped Hall Trust succeeded in saving what remained of this mansion and its gardens from the attentions of a variety of developers, authorities and vandals and has since been working to restore them to their original condition.

The Copped Hall Trust Archaeological Project (CHTAP) was set up, with the support of the West Essex Archaeological Group (WEAG), to investigate the remains of the Tudor grand-house. In previous seasons, an intriguing sequence of brick walls and foundations overlain by the landscaped gardens of the 18th century house has been uncovered. The excavations will continue in 2009.

The 5-day Training Dig, for beginners only, will be held in the week starting Monday 10th August. Participants will learn about: tools and their use; excavation methods; archaeological surveying; written and drawn recording; finds and finds processing. Talks will be given on related subjects but most of the instruction will be “hands on” and in the context of actual excavation. A special bonus is the architect’s tour of the 18th century mansion, which is currently being restored, although much of the original framework is still visible.

The 5-day Field School, for people already familiar with the basic techniques of archaeological excavation and recording, will start on Monday 17th August. A small number of places may be available for those who have attended the first week’s training dig but priority will be given to more experienced diggers who are keen to develop their existing skills under expert supervision and those returning to Copped Hall from previous years’ digs. No formal teaching sessions are planned for this week, but for those interested there are likely to be opportunities to take part in a geophysical survey, photographic recording and environmental archaeology.

Instruction and supervision will be given by professional archaeologists, who know the site very well, assisted by highly experienced volunteers. The directors will be Christina Holloway and Lee Joyce. John Shepherd is consultant to the project. Attendance certificates will be awarded at the end of the course. Costs will be £140 for the training dig week (WEAG members £130); £90 for the field school week (WEAG £80). Tea/coffee/water will be provided, as will all tools except a digging trowel, but you will need to bring your own packed lunch.

Accommodation will not be made available at Copped Hall but details of nearby B&B/hotel/hostel/camping accommodation can be supplied. The site is just off the M25 and easily accessible by car or bicycle. Though not directly on any public-transport route, a taxi firm operates a service from Epping Station on the London underground Central Line.

If you wish to come, please fill in the attached form and return it to Mrs Pauline Dalton, Roseleigh, Epping Road, Epping, Essex, CM16 5HW. For some further information see www.coppedhalltrust.org.uk or www.weag.org.uk or phone Mrs Dalton on 01992-813-725, or email pmd2@ukonline.co.uk