Retiree Digs Up Medieval Ruins
Updated: Jun 10
If you ever wondered what it would be like to uncover a medieval palace in your backyard, well, it's apparently an expensive endeavor.
A few months ago, 81-year-old retiree Charles Pole decided to add an addition to his home in anticipation of selling the property, and broke ground in his back yard in Somerset, England. He was surprised and initially excited to uncover some ruins a few feet down. However, when he brought local archaeologists over to take a look, they found that the ruins were actually the foundations of a long-lost 13th-century Bishop’s palace.
Local historians had been trying to find the palace ruins for over two centuries, so the discovery immediately put a halt to any plans Pole had of completing his project.
The palace ruins were once the home of the bishops of Bath and Wells, but over the centuries, became uninhabitable. By the 1700s, locals were using stones from the palace for their own construction projects.
Drawings from the 19th century show that parts of the palace were still identifiable and included “some walls, just sufficiently good to be roofed in and used as a wood house or garden storage.” However, since then, no one has been able to pinpoint the exact location of the original palace, although its 14th-century gateway remains standing nearby (below).
The stone-and-thatch palace buildings were probably constructed soon after 1256, when a royal charter granted the bishop of Bath and Wells the right to hunt in the area. The palace was one of several residences used by local bishops in the region through the 16th century.
To date, archaeologists have uncovered walls, floors, and some 12th-century pots from the site. Over the coming months they will record the site with video and photos, before covering it and re-burying it so the homeowner can complete his addition.
Unfortunately for Pole, he is responsible for paying for the archaeological excavation, about $20,000, which has caused him significant financial strain, as he is disabled and lives alone.