Queen Anne House

National Trust recommence excavation of the site and welcome amateur archeologists

The National Trust, in partnership with Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Built Heritage Directorate and Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork (CAF) at Queen's University are undertaking a second season of excavation at the site of a former early 18th century mansion house at Castle Ward, County Down.

The excavation of the Queen Anne house is a major contribution to a wider archaeological research project and historic landscape survey of the 820 acre walled demesne and will take place from June 10-28, 2009.

In 2008 over 40 volunteers took part in a 15-day excavation of the site, under the direction of a small team of professional archaeologists from Queen’s University and the National Trust. During this time the buried remains of this former building were exposed for the first time in over 150 years.

The team of volunteers, most of whom had never experienced archaeological fieldwork before, were trained in archaeological excavation techniques by the professionals. It was ultimately the volunteers who revealed and recorded the walls of this building, providing important information on its location, orientation, construction and condition.

There are no surviving architectural drawings or plans of the Queen Anne house, but small scale elevation drawings of the building are illustrated in several pre-Ordnance Survey maps, all from 1755, as well as glimpses of the building in sketches by Mrs Delaney of Castle Ward dating to c.1762. From these various depictions the original house appears to have been a short rectangular or square building, two storeys high, with a steep roof, two chimneys and front southwards facing elevation.

One of the volunteers found a piece of carved Wenlock-type limestone imported from either Wales or Shropshire and most probably from a high quality fireplace surround. Other construction material such as purple-coloured Triassic sandstone, sourced from the Scrabo-North Ards region and a couple of dressed blocks of Bath limestone suggest a variety of different construction materials in the house, probably in its finishings.

The team is returning to the site for another 15 days of excavation, commencing Wednesday, June 10 until Sunday, June 28. Similar to last year the team will be largely made up of volunteers, supported by a small team of professional archaeologists.

This time round the aim is to open further trenches across the ground-plan of the former house to trace its extent and limits and to better understand its construction. At the end of the excavation, which will be on view to the public Wednesday-Sunday weekly, the team hope to leave some ground markers at key points of the building so that future visitors to the site can appreciate its location.

Volunteers are still welcome to join the team and no previous experience in archaeology or excavation is needed to take part. Visit the excavation and pick up a form, or contact Malachy Conway, National Trust Archaeologist on 028 9751 2304.