The current project: The Search for the Old Hall

John Chandos KG from the Bruges Garter Book, 1430/1440, BL Stowe 594

Radbourne History & Archaeology Group (RHAG) is a new heritage group established in the winter of 2016-17. We are community group whose main aim is to explore and develop the history and heritage of the village of Radbourne. We aim to engage not only the residents of the village, but also nearby communities, schools and young people, in discovering and learning about the history of the village.

What have we been doing?

Well, after quite a bit of discussion among ourselves, we decided that our first project would be to see if we could find the ‘old hall’. It’s whereabouts has long been the subject of speculation among villagers past and present, and it is thought to be located within the parkland of the current Radbourne Hall, which was built in the first half of the 18th century. We were able to get a rapid walkover Archaeological survey carried out, and it identified a number of possible medieval or post-medieval features in the Parkland. Documentary research by the group has found evidence of the existence of a large, medieval period manor house. We aim to extend the literature search, discover more of the history of the various incarnations of Radbourne hall, what archaeological features remain and link these to the historical documents.

In order to support such a project we formed a steering committee to organise and submit applications to various funding bodies during the course of 2018. We were really excited to be awarded a significant grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) as well as smaller ones from The Mick Aston Archaeology Fund and the Royal Archaeological Institute to help with scientific analysis of environmental samples

Commenting on the award, Lady Annie Chichester said: “We are thrilled to have received support thanks to National Lottery players, and are confident the project will generate a real sense of community by encouraging participation from local people, involving schools so that young people can learn about our village, as well inviting others who share an interest in history to be active citizens with pride in their Derbyshire heritage.”

We’ll be working with a range of professionals, including archaeologists, historians and other specialists and this will give all our volunteers, teachers and participants an opportunity to develop skills and knowledge to further learn about their local heritage and its relevance.  

Our research aims

We’ll be undertaking both historical/documentary and archaeological research to try and find the site of this old hall. The specific research aims of this excavation will draw upon the High Medieval section of the East Midlands Regional Research framework which has been developed by Archaeologists to help improve our understandings of Medieval activity in the region; and we hope to add to this with our excavation and full analysis of the material we find.

Among the recommendations for future work stated within the East Midlands Regional Research Framework it is noted in High Medieval section that the following are key questions that would underpin this project:

  1. How can the classification of moated and non-moated manorial sites be improved?
  2. Can we improve our knowledge and classification of moated sites in the region, and how can environmental data add to our knowledge?
  3. How did manor buildings develop over time, how may architectural styles have varied, and what can we learn about traditional constructional skills and designs?
  4. Was there continuity of location between castles and country houses, and are earlier structures concealed in later buildings?
  5. What local resources were used for building and maintenance and what was the environmental context and economic impact of these buildings?
  6. How and where was post-Conquest pottery manufactured and distributed, and what communication systems were employed?
  7. What can environmental remains teach us about diet and living conditions in rural communities?
  8. What may fish bones and other environmental data contribute to studies of the exploitation and distribution of freshwater and marine fish?

In addition to these questions, it is hoped that it is possible to obtain suitable material for C14 (Carbon 14) dating from secure contexts.