Discovering more about Enfield’s lost palace

Judith Stones from Enfield Archaeological Society invites people to help with the group’s mission to uncover the secrets of Elsyng Palace

Volunteers from Enfield Archaeological Society at a previous dig on the site of Elsyng Palace
Volunteers from Enfield Archaeological Society at a previous dig on the site of Elsyng Palace

Since the 1960s Enfield Archaeological Society has run professionally-led community-based excavations at the site of the historic royal palace of Elsyng, within the grounds of Forty Hall Estate.

Elsyng Palace developed from an earlier courtier’s house into a royal palace occupied at various times by Henry VIII, Edward VI and Elizabeth I; in fact both Edward and Elizabeth were present at Elsyng 475 years ago, in January 1547, when they were told of the death of their father Henry.

We’d like Elsyng to be better known in the area, especially as excavations and original historical research have added substantially to our knowledge of the palace layout, its structures, the people who lived there and their daily life.

Our society has existed since 1955 and includes professional archaeologists, experts in related fields and a core of volunteers among its hundred-or-so members. We were recently awarded a grant through Enfield Council’s National Lottery Heritage Fund-supported ‘Stories of Enfield Project’ which is enabling us to undertake a wider range of activities than we have been able to take on in past excavation seasons, with the central aim to increase awareness of this important historic feature in our borough.

An impression of how Elsyng Palace was thought to have looked, before it was demolished in the 17th Century
An impression of how Elsyng Palace was thought to have looked, before it was demolished in the 17th Century (credit John Pinchbeck)

Our upcoming excavation is planned to take place from 10th–24th July (on every day except the 18th) with the intention to explore the palace’s inner gatehouse. We have an education specialist working with local schools before, during and after the excavation, and are planning an open weekend on the weekend of 16th and 17th July. We also have a filmmaker who will create a compelling visual story of the site, the palace and the people who lived and worked there, as well as those who rediscovered it through painstaking excavation.

Fundamental to the project is a definitive book, by our director of excavations Dr Martin Dearne, reporting the results of all the excavations on the palace site since the 1960s, along with historical evidence derived from original research in local and national archives. That book, with extra funding from The Enfield Society, is being published this month.

In addition, we are producing a highly illustrated guide to the site, by Neil Pinchbeck and John Pinchbeck, called Enfield’s Lost Palace. This will be available later in autumn, and it will include the latest discoveries from our excavations this summer, as well as a contribution from the schools who visit the dig.

We’re still looking for volunteers from across the community to join our team. Contact us using the details below.

For information about this month’s dig, get in touch with Enfield Archaeological Society:
Email [email protected]

To help with oral history interviews and filmmaking:
Email
[email protected]