18th August 2014:
Staff from OA East carried out a watching brief and test pit evaluation at the gothic folly, Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire, as part of a programme of consolidation and restoration works.
The folly (a scheduled monument) was originally constructed as a 'Gothick sham ruin' during the late 1760s following a design by Sanderson Miller. It stands on Johnson's Hill in the north park of Wimpole estate, with panoramic views across the estate, house and gardens.
Constructed from brick and clunch stone, the latter had started to decay as a result of weathering, requiring urgent consolidation work. Because the monument was built as a ruin, one of the major challenges facing the archaeologists was to work out which elements of the structure were original and which represented subsequent collapse.
Remains of a brick courtyard within the inner part of the folly, and the foundations of an internal wall, were the earliest elements uncovered following the removal of vegetation. Work on the south tower, the only completed element of the folly, revealed evidence of two stairways, one leading from the top of the terrace and the other along the inner wall, in addition to associated floors/paths. The stairways formerly led to the first floor level of the tower which at one point was occupied by the gamekeeper.
Evidence of other buildings, pathways and yard surfaces was also exposed, along with a range of later buildings that are probably the remains of dog kennels constructed when the gamekeeper lived at the folly. A series of brick/cobble pathways were also identified leading into the main south tower and towards doorways into the two ruined towers. One of these towers may previously have had a first floor level that was used as a laundry when the folly was occupied
Further restoration of these remains (some of which were unexpected), and possibly some additional archaeological work, are likely to be required at the folly. Meanwhile, the monument is covered with scaffolding allowing important consolidation work to take place, which should be completed at the end of this year.