See Hear Prebendal Manor

See Hear Prebendal Manor Blog

Saving the Archaeological Archive of the Prebendal Manor, Nassington

Extensive archaeological excavations were undertaken in 1984 at the Prebendal Manor and its surrounding grounds. However all the plans and notebooks were taken,  by one of the excavators, to the Czech Republic  on the understanding that a report would be written for publication. Having waited for twenty one years for this to be completed Mike, (my husband), and I decided that it was time for the archive to be returned to the manor, collated and sorted out for publication.

We left very early on a cold wet Sunday morning in late October, groaning at the thought of the very long drive ahead of us.  Our destination was 851 miles away. We wondered if we would really be given the archive, or if this going be a wild goose chase and we would return empty handed.

Here we are waiting to board Le Shuttle at Folkstone.

The tunnel crossing is very efficient  and once we disembarked we were soon on our way. Since I was the driver I was glad that the weather gradually improved.
The European road system is excellent but nevertheless we had carefully marked our route on the map. A route which was to take us across Belgium and Germany and into Czech Republic.

However there was no way that I was going drive  non-stop to our destination, so we chose the Hotel Montana in Limburg, Germany, as our stop off place. The hotel is close to the motorway and was relatively easy to find in the dark.

Limburg is a really beautiful medieval town and on the following morning we decided to spend some time wandering around before we left for the final long lap of the journey.


Everywhere we walked there were interesting buildings to look at. We would have like to have stayed for longer, but our mission was to save the archive, so reluctantly we left.

Our arrival in Czech Republic was later than planned because we got lost and the myriad of small country roads, with names of villages that we did not recognize, was confusing. I must have driven around one small village several times before we saw the tiny turn off to our destination.  It was a great relief when we finally arrived very tired and hungry.
  The house was cold and very dirty as it is in the process of being renovated. I had thought that it might not be very nice, but I had not expected to find so much chaos. It does not have a bathroom and only a very basic loo, in what must have once been a small cupboard. Having had supper in a local restaurant we rolled ourselves up into our sleeping bags and wondered where the archive could possibly be kept. There was dust and mess everywhere and this was to  be our destination for three days!
                                               The outside privy in the adjoining garden. We were told that it is only used when the ‘old man visits’.
We dared not mention the archive and had no idea where it was. In the meantime our host took us to see some really interesting places.
This is the castle in Shihov, a village about forty minutes from where we were staying. We arrived as it was getting dark, but the keeper of the castle gave me the huge bunch of castle keys to open the great front door. Once inside he kindly gave us a guided tour.
The castle keys
The inside rooms are vast and must have once been very grand, but they were too dark to photograph.
On the following morning, with still no mention of the archive, we went on a long drive to see Cesky Krumlov a really wonderful medieval small Czech town which is a World Heritage site. The castle is huge and sits on a very large rock. I have never seen such an amazing place. Beneath the castle is the medieval town, which is full of interesting houses, many of them highly decorated.

  One of the buildings within the castle.
 Many of the buildings were painted.
Bears were once bred on the castle premise and there is still a large bear pit containing bears.
Back to the saving of the archive. Mike and I were becoming quite concerned about it, since nothing had been shown to us.
As luck would have it I came across it in a room that we had not previously been in.
This archive contains about fifty archaeological plans and all the notebooks of  the archaeology of the Prebendal Manor, a site that has been in use since the Iron Age period.  The archive, although looking pretty grotty here, is crucial to the publication of the archaeology of the Manor. I have been asked  countess times as to when the publication is likely.
 We found one more plan elsewhere, and on leaving had to hide it within our sleeping bags before loading up everything into the car!

On our last day our host took us to see one of the local towns which had a wonderful  garden walkway with statues. I have no idea what these figures represent as I could not read the Czech information!
On our final evening our host handed over the archive and we stored it away safely in the car and went out to have dinner in a restaurant, which was once part of a grand house. Here we had the best meal of our stay in Czech Republic.
On the following morning we left early to make our way home. Once more we stopped at the Limburg hotel en-route. Having not had a proper wash the entire time we were in Czech, the first thing we did was to shower and clean up. It felt really great to be clean again!We had intended to visit Aarchen, in Germany, on our way back but we took the wrong turning off the autobahn and it took so long to find our way back that we ran out of time.

We stopped for coffee outside Wurtzburg, which is a wine growing area. The grapes had all been harvested but the autumnal colours were very pretty.

And so home again. Down long tunnels, past colourful forests and useful road signs.
After two days of rest we celebrated the retrieval of  the archive with a bottle of champagne.So this is what it is all  about.  We felt that the lack of publishing such an important site after twenty one years was not good. There is a lot of work to bring it up to standard for publication but at least now that it is back in England there is a greater chance.
This is a plan of the manor and demolished solar area showing the Iron Age ditches the Anglo-Saxon phase of about 900 AD and the aisled hall dated to about 1000 AD. The blue colour is where Time Team excavated in 2003.
Drawing by Pat Foster and Gill Johnston and added to by Wessex Archaeology for Channel 4 Time Team.
This is one of many plans that are in the archive, most of them require bringing up to publication standard.

About this Sponsor

The Grade I listed Prebendal Manor House is the earliest surviving dwelling in Northamptonshire. It forms the focus of a group of stone buildings, which includes a 16th century dovecote, a large 18th century tithe barn and a 15th century lodgings building.