Archaeological find makes park dig Worth all the effort

Archaeologists working on the Worth Park Restoration Project have uncovered an unexpected piece of Victorian history.

The team working to return the Formal Gardens, opposite Ridleys Court, to their former glory have discovered a maze-like structure which appears to be an attempt at a landscaped garden.

Vicky Lillywhite and one of the volunteers from the Horsham District Archaeology Group

Vicky Lillywhite and one of the volunteers from the Horsham District Archaeology Group

While the park was known to contain the remnants of a high-status late-Victorian pleasure garden, constructed by renowned landscape gardeners James Pulham and Son, the new find is believed to be around 10 years older.

And with no evidence that the somewhat shoddy structure was the work of Pulham - who won medals at London’s Great Exhibition of 1851 - the archaeologists and restoration team have been left with something of a mystery.

Edwina Livesey, Project Participation Officer, said: “One of the workmen hit one of the edges when he was putting in a water pipe.

“The whole area was turfed over and the plan was to take the surface off and plant roses.

“We’re not sure how far back it dates so we called in the archaeological group.”

The group in question – the Horsham District Archaeological Group – has been working on the site for the past two weekends in an effort to date the find and work out how it fits into the whole Worth Park story.

Kellie Mills, one of the volunteers, pointed out a latticework of Rowfant bricks, dating from around the 1880s, which had been used to support the stone borders.

The gaps in the feature appeared to be in sharp contrast to the solid structures built by Pulham and Kellie said: “As far as we can tell, the brickwork is only like that to save money.”

One theory put forward to explain the relatively poor workmanship was that the owners of the gardens may have attempted to carry out the landscaping themselves before giving it up as a bad job and calling in the experts.

Several ideas have been voiced as to what to do with the find - which is the oldest uncovered in the park so far - with some wanting it reburied while others would like it preserved under glass for everyone to see.

But, although the five-year restoration project has been financed by a £2.42million Heritage Lottery Fund grant, budget may be the deciding factor.

Tim Graham, of the Friends of Worth Park, said: “I think we should preserve the best bits and leave it exposed for people to look at. There’s enough planting area available without planting here – this is the most interesting bit.”

The restoration project is due to continue until spring 2014. For details log on to www.crawley.gov.uk.

For more about HDAG, log on to www.horshamarchae ologygroup.webs.com/