Linking Past and Present: Soulton Hall Dig Connects Medieval Secrets to Shakespearean Inspiration

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The sixth season of archaeological digs at Soulton Hall, led by Dig Ventures, has concluded, revealing further fascinating glimpses into the evolution of the landscape over millennia.



A key focus of the early phases of this study was Soulton Mound, a prominent feature that served as the center of high-status living during the medieval period. Excavations unearthed a “tiny castle” with a moat, occupied in the 12th century and into the 15th century. Notably, the dig revealed a rare example of a well-preserved timber moat bridge. Finds within the moat include an ampulla (a small flask) and a cross. The dig also exposed the top of the structure’s walls, showing evidence of stone removal for later construction phases – potentially at the current Soulton Hall site and its Base Court in the 1400s.

Intriguingly, the team established that the mound’s height was likely reduced and flattened sometime in the 1550s, transforming it into a garden feature. This alteration provided a clear view of the newly built “corps de logis” (main house) constructed by Sir Rowland Hill.  Hill, a prominent figure who served as Lord Mayor of London, published the Geneva Bible, and is believed to be an inspiration for Shakespeare’s “As You Like It.”  This suggests the modified mound might have served a civic purpose for performances or held an allegorical significance for Sir Rowland, given the extensive architectural references he built into Soulton Hall.

The dig then shifted its focus to the lost avenue connecting Soulton Bridge to the eastern face of the hall. Excavations confirmed that this avenue was deliberately aligned with the rising sun on Easter morning, and led to the most important feature in the house of Old Sir Rowland – the chapel. Evidence confirms a deliberate creation in the 16th century, with a defining ditch and historical records confirming the avenue’s trees were all elms.

Most recently, the dig ventured into the orchard, uncovering a vast collection of early post-medieval ceramics. This discovery confirms a shift in life’s focus from the “castle” site to the current location of Soulton Hall in the 1400s, coinciding with the establishment of the Base Court, which includes the civic buildings which appear 18th century but are actually on a much older footprint: Soulton Court is the other part of this surviving quadrangle. Further extensive transformations occurred in this area during the 18th century.

2024 has also seen non-invasive studies by the Earth Rover program.

All of this work has resulted in a very high-resolution picture of the site’s evolution. The Ashton family expresses immense gratitude to all who supported the project, including the dedicated volunteers (diggers) and the remarkable team itself.


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