Worker Slips Down Toilet And Finds Secret Room At Peckover House

By Katie Brinkley | 10 June 2008
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Photo of a ladder going down a hole

The chute. © National Trust

A carpenter carrying out restoration work has made a surprising archaeological discovery at Peckover House in Cambridgeshire.

Shaun Allen, currently engaged in restoration work at the National Trust property in Wisbech, had a close call with an unusual hole that appeared as he was digging at an outside privy.

What he had discovered turned out to be the top of a forgotten chute, much to the surprise of staff and volunteers at Peckover.

Ben Rickett, Peckover’s House Manager, explained: “It was thought that this was once a ‘bucket and chuck-it' privy, however this obviously wasn’t the case”.

Photo of artefacts

© National Trust

While everyone scratched their heads, staff decided that perhaps the chute led to the river a few metres away. However, when Regional Archaeologist, Angus Wainwright, was brought in to climb down and determine where it went, a far more exciting discovery was made.

Rather than a tunnel, a sealed-off circular chamber lay beneath the chute. Moreover, it contained a varied collection of historical artefacts.

Photo of a large Georgian house and lush garden

Peckover House and Garden. © National Trust

“There were old glass bottles with unidentified liquids, substantial pieces of 19th century china, a pudding basin, green glass beads, a Victorian fire bucket, carefully selected tropical shells, a toasting fork, an alabaster statue, an Edwardian hand cream jar complete with cream and an unfinished crossword from an old newspaper to name just a few!” said Ben Rickett.

The aim now is for the items to be cleaned and put on display at Peckover.

On Saturday June 15 2008 Peckover House and Garden is holding a ‘What’s in There?’ day. Doors, drawers and cupboards not normally open to the public will be revealed – including the privy.

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Katie Brinkley is the 24 Hour Museum/Norwich HEART Student Writer in Norwich. Norwich Heritage Economic and Regeneration Trust (HEART) is the groundbreaking initiative to regenerate, manage and promote one of the most remarkable heritage resources in the UK and in Europe.

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