Monday, 22 April 2019

Archaeology at Collyweston Palace

In February this year exciting news emerged about archaeology on the site of Lady Margaret Beaufort’s home at Collyweston in Northamptonshire. I recently found out that the Collyweston Historical and Preservation Society are looking for support in this project: see here. The preliminary geophysical services have been completed to guide the digs this summer. They plan to reveal their findings at a celebratory weekend on 7th and 8th September.

What makes this so exciting? Collyweston was one of the first brick manor houses in the region and its early grandeur was the work of the Yorkist Ralph Lord Cromwell, who was a major political figure through the fifteenth century. He fought at Agincourt and was Treasurer of England for a decade during which time he amassed considerable wealth. He stepped down because he opposed the policies of William de la Pole, duke of Suffolk. He was a member of Richard duke of York’s affinity from 1441, which was not always good for his political career. However, it has been speculated that his late arrival for the First Battle of St Albans was a consequence of misgivings at York’s violent approach. Unlike Collyweston, his great building projects at South Wingfield and Tattershall are still testament to his power and influence. He died at South Wingfield in January 1456.

Lady Margaret Beaufort acquired the palace in 1499, fourteen years into her son's reign. She made extensive improvements both to the gardens and buildings in 1502-3 including bay windows decorated with the Beaufort arms. It was during this time that Margaret offered refuge at Collyweston to Edward IV’s daughter, Cecily, who had been banished from court by an enraged Henry VII for secretly marrying a mere esquire, Thomas Kyme. But in 1503 the court came to Collyweston for three weeks of midsummer festivities. These were to mark Princess Margaret’s final days with her family before she departed for Scotland and marriage with James IV. It was probably the most spectacular period in Collyweston’s history and it marked what was to prove a turning point in British history. It will be wonderful to be able to reimagine the space in which these celebrations occurred.