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.

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We will be entering our project  into the Northamptonshire Heritage Awards, which is organised by the Northamptonshire Enterprise Agency and the Northamptonshire Museums and Heritage Houses Forum.

The Young People


Our Final Visit from our Young People

The young people have  visited the manor and museum now on  a number of occasions, mostly  during the latter part of the Summer. One one occasion one of our volunteers played some medieval music on our replica horn which we keep in the museum.  They recorded Mike playing because they wanted to use it as the basis  of making another piece of  music. I suspect this will be done using computers and synthesisers. The sound of medieval music was new to them and not much liked as the sounds are so different to modern pop music!

Originally the evening event was to be held in late September but we changed the date to early October, which was just as well.  The evenings in late September were very cold and there is no heating in the museum. As luck would have it early October was warm and sunny and our young people and audience were able to use the garden as well as the museum.

On the evening of the event, first a van arrived  with copious amounts of amplifiers, and we knew that were in for a noisy evening. Then the  Corby young people arrived with all their guitars, drums and other items, all designed to make loud music. Even tuning up was very loud!

We have a large screen in the museum and a projector which we used to showcase the video that they made.  The film was, as I thought, rather crooked in places and not one to watch if  alcohol had been consumed, which luckily none of us had.  It was a good effort as they had not had the opportunity to use a video camera before. We then heard the music that they had made having be inspired, or not, by Mike’s playing. It was very good.

We laid on lots of food for the guests and young people, which was enjoyed by all, and then the music started. Actually it was great fun.  Jordon, the lead guitarist, was participially gifted and later said that he wants to study music when he leaves school. Some of our guests sat out side to listen, finding the loudness too much. Certainly these young people would not have visited a site like this if it had not been for the music and our project.

Jordan the lead guitarist

Some of the younger members of the group watching the others. Our visitors are sitting right at the back of the Tithe Barn away from the amplifiers!

The general consensus was that they had enjoyed visiting very much and were surprised that I liked their music.

It was a great evening.


Visit from young people from Corby, Northamptoshire

Two photos of some of the young people’s visit to the manor and museum.


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Playing the replica medieval horn pipes

With Simpson in his own special place in the garden we have concentrated on our MuBu project, which has been fun.

A number of young people visited and made a video of me showing them around the manor and museum.  I would be surprised if the video was very clear, as the young person in charge had a habit of holding it upside down!  Time will tell.

The young people were particularly interested in our collection of prehistoric flints, and wondered how on earth prehistoric people ever managed to use them. They also liked the replica musical instruments that are in the museum. Mike, one of the volunteers, got the bagpipes out which one of the young lads tried to play, causing  peals of laughter amongst the others. Here a young person  is having a go at playing the horn pipe, which is made from a cow’s horn and is very difficult to play.


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Simpson the dog from hell

Once upon a time I had a dog called Simpson.  He was a Jack Russell and the dog from hell. He growled, snarled and bit. He hated  everything,  the hoover, church bells and aeroplanes especially the parachutists plane. Sibson Airport is quite close to us and we can see them throwing themselves out of the plane. Simon runs around barking and biting at the air and generally creates a great deal of noise.

On the day that we had a visit from a group of young people, he went ballistic due to the parachutists falling out of the sky. The young people were meant to be looking at the museum  but they thought this behaviour was very funny and Simpson took all their attention  they thought he was a sweet little dog.  However when  I picked him up  to put him inside he bit me which changed their perception!

Finally we got into  the museum to look at all the displays and to handle  some of the pottery, dress up, play musical instruments,  and generally have fun.

Simpson is now dead and buried in the garden. He has a stone to mark where he is and the manor, museum now have peace and quiet and on the whole we don’t  miss him. I imagine the young people that came across him on their visit would also not miss him although they might feel a bit sorry for him.


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.