DISCOVERING THE HIDDEN HISTORY OF RAVENSCOURT PARK
A project in partnership with the Museum of London
Stage one: 2014
Like many adventure stories, it began with an old map. After much searching, we finally tracked down the earliest known plan of the estate – a fragile parchment dated December 1754 – in the borough Archives.
We already knew that the 18th century house had been constructed on top of earlier buildings, whose ground floor rooms were retained and enclosed to become vaults and cellars. But to our excitement the map showed the manor standing on a small island entirely surrounded by a moat.
This was pictured before the stables (now the Café) had been built, and must have been shortly before the house itself was rebuilt as the Georgian mansion familiar to us from old photographs.
Our partners the Museum of London commissioned a geophysical survey from experts GSB to identify the footprint of the former manor and the location of the lost moat. Consultants to the TV series Time Team for over 20 years, GSB have worked all over the world on sites ranging from ancient monuments to country estates.
The survey, which took place in April 2014, provided an opportunity to set up a public display of historic maps and archive photographs in the Park, along with original medieval artefacts from previous excavations in Hammersmith.
This attracted a great deal of public interest. About 200 groups followed our history trail, devised for families. And we not only engaged with over 500 adults and children passing through the Park in the one and a half days when our display was set up, but encountered individuals in possession of photographs and historical information that had not previously come to light.
We all watched with fascination as GSB penetrated the chosen ground with the latest technology throughout two April days. We then had to wait until late summer for their report, but it was worth it as the findings were so exciting. The hand-drawn 1754 map proved to be remarkably accurate: when the outline of the moat was superimposed onto today’s Ordnance Survey, GSB were able to identify the position of the missing south and east sectors. The present lake was formed from the west side. It was also possible to find the footprints of both the medieval and Georgian houses, with cellars reaching to a considerable depth, as well as the brick culvert containing the central arm of the Stamford Brook.