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Retiree Digs Up Medieval Ruins in Back Yard

Updated: Jun 23, 2021

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to uncover a medieval palace in your backyard? It’s not what you'd expect.

When 81-year-old retiree Charles Pole decided to add an addition to his home in and broke ground in his back yard in Somerset, England, he was excited to uncover some ruins a few feet down. However, local archaeologists soon explained that the ruins were actually the foundations of a long-lost 13th-century Bishop’s palace, leading to the suspension of his construction project.

The stone-and-thatch palace buildings were originally constructed around 1256, when a royal charter granted the bishops of Bath and Wells the right to hunt in the area. The palace became one of several residences used by local bishops through the 16th century. But by the 1700s, the palace had become inhabitable and locals began using stones from the palace for their own construction projects.

Drawings from the 19th century show that the ruins consisted of “some walls, just sufficiently good to be roofed in and used as a wood house or garden storage.” Since then, however, the ruins became completely overgrown and in the past century, no one has been able to pinpoint the palace's exact location, even though its 14th-century gateway remains standing nearby (below).

To date, archaeologists have uncovered from Pole's garden walls, floors, and some 12th-century pots. Over the coming months, they will create a video and photographic record of the site, before re-burying the ruins so Pole can complete his addition.

Unfortunately, Pole, who is disabled, is responsible for paying for the excavation, the equivalent of about $20,000.


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