Archaeologists uncover Medieval predecessor to Harewood House at Gawthorpe Hall

By Poppy Bragg | 16 May 2011
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a cartographic style drawing of a country house and gardens
Gawthorpe Hall (1727) engraved by Wm. Von Hagen. Printed by Joseph Smith, London© Harewood House Trust
Archaeologists from the University of York are excavating the remains of Gawthorpe Hall, the predecessor of Yorkshire’s award-winning Harewood House.

The team of undergraduates, led by Dr Jonathan Finch in partnership with York Archaeological Trust, have already discovered a wealth of artefacts.

They include a pre-historic flint arrowhead, a range of ceramics dating from the Medieval period to the 18th century, decorative glassware and wine bottle fragments and a 15th century coin.

Gawthorpe, built in the 13th century by the Gascoigne family, was purchased in 1738 by Henry Lascelles, a wealthy trader with business interests in the West Indies.

Dr Finch, who travelled to Barbados last month with a team from the university to investigate the old Lascelles plantations, said: “As well as providing a much longer history of Harewood that stretches thousands of years back, the archaeology will give us a unique insight into the impact the Caribbean sugar industry and slavery had - not just on the fortunes of the Lascelles family, but on English landscape and society more than 200 years ago.”

a photo of an archaeological dig
Student archaeologists at Harewood
Gawthorpe was demolished by 1773 after the Lascelles moved to the newly built Harewood House, which is still owned by the family today.

Its remnants were covered with turf and became part of Harewood House’s gardens, designed by Lancelot “Capability” Brown.  

David Lascelles, the 7th Earl of Harewood, said: “So much of what we know of Harewood’s history focuses on Harewood House and who has lived there.

“The excavation being done by the University of York students is helping to fill some of the gaps of that earlier history and – we all hope – answer some of the questions about Gawthorpe.”

The dig will be a feature of Harewood’s Medieval Festival on July 16-17, when visitors can attend workshops, lectures and public tours of the excavation.

School groups can also book to explore the excavation, talk to archaeologists and do some digging themselves.

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