Gatehouse’s history is unearthed in town dig

Archaeologists have begun the first phase of work to finally open up Kenilworth’s 14th Century gatehouse to the public with a community dig.

Students, volunteers and archaeologists came out to help with the week-long dig at the Abbey Fields site last week.

Timed to coincide with the National Festival of Archaeology, the project hoped to find ways of supplying electricity to the gatehouse, as well as to shed light on the buildings.

Lead archaeologist Bryn Gethin said it revealed more than expected in just a week.

“We know two stone buttresses were used to support the now vanished upper floor of the gatehouse,” he said.

“These were clearly part of the original 1360 construction being crafted from wonderfully cut stonework of the highest quality.

“These remains have been buried for almost 500 years and give a good impression of what the rest of the building would have looked like in its glory days.”

Also among the finds was a floor tile decorated with a both a fleur-de-lys and a castle - a design associated with Eleanor of Castile who was the wife of Edward I of England and which has previously been found at Kenilworth Abbey.

During the dig, volunteers from Kenilworth History and Archaeological Society and archaeology students also worked through piles of stonework and rubble thought to be the result of the demolition of the upper storey of the gatehouse after the abbey was closed by Henry VIII in 1538.

Last month the Abbey Advisory Committee launched the Harry Sunley Memorial Project to open up the currently unused gatehouse and show off the history inside.

The dig will help the essential supply of electricity for the ambitious plans, and Richard Morris, chair of the AAC said it has already helped by engaging the community.

“The excavation exposed the very well preserved foundations of the 14th-century gatehouse, and a wall from an earlier medieval building close by,” he said.

“Passers-by keeping asking if he had found any gold coins, but no such luck.”

The gatehouse has been closed off to the public for many years, used only for storage and by volunteers.

But the memorial project - named after a former town clerk who dreamt of opening up the site - will refurbish the ‘Tantara’ gatehouse for the first time.

The group plans to fundraise £30,000 to transform the currently unseen rooms within the Grade I listed structure by the end of 2016.

Plans include to remove storage racks and install a mezzanine platform where there was once a floor.

Full details on how to donate are available at www.