Wanstead Park is one of the few large areas of known archaeological potential in the lower Roding Valley which remains open and comparatively undisturbed. The park was enclosed around 1500, but prior to that there is evidence of occupation dating from the Late Bronze Age or Early Iron Age, and extending through the Roman and Mediaeval periods.
Archaeology is important to the management of Wanstead Park in three ways.
- It has the potential to shed light on the development of the landscaped gardens, and to some extent the built structures, of the Wanstead estate between the Stuart and late Georgian periods.
- It offers the only available means to clarify the earlier history of the park, of which we have only a very limited understanding.
- Archaeological surveying can map areas of archaeological sensitivity, to avoid inadvertent damage by the park’s custodians during routine maintenance or improvement work, or by utilities providers.
The Friends are continuing to sponsor the rolling programme of archaeological investigation started in 2005 by the Wanstead Parklands Community Project. Expert guidance and a trained workforce are provided by the West Essex Archaeological Group (WEAG). The Friends believe that any future Conservation Management Plan for Wanstead Park should identify archaeological research as a priority, as part of a wider research programme.
One of the things that has made our project unusual for a community-based exercise is the use that we have made of the latest archaeological technologies. Although we carried out some limited evaluation trenching in 2007-9, the main emphasis of our work has been on non-intrusive forms of research. It’s been a great success – not only have we uncovered important new information about the park, we have also built up our own expertise and developed a range of skills which are not normally available in amateur groups. In addition, we have been able to disseminate these skills to other groups thorough presentations, demonstrations and practical help. We have also placed a strong emphasis on keeping the wider public informed through exhibitions and local events.
Our archaeology pages aim to give an overview of the investigation of Wanstead Park from the eighteenth century to the present day, and the techniques which are currently being used to unlock the park’s many secrets.