REMAINS of lost medieval villages are being excavated in the grounds of a stately home.

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Archaeologists have found evidence of settlements in the grounds of Wimpole Hall, where they have been carrying out digs ahead of a programme which will see thousands of trees planted in the grounds of the house.

Stephen Macaulay, senior project archaeologist at Oxford Archaeology East is leading a team of five who are digging small pits around the house.

He said: “We know from maps dating back to the 1600s that there were villages and hamlets around Wimpole Hall, such as Bennall End and Thresham End. But the owners of the house at the time, the Chicheley family, decided they wanted to surround it with parkland, so they turfed everybody out and landscaped over the area.

“All the humps and bumps which people see in the grounds when they visit are the result of this.”

The team have dug 160 holes in preparation for the tree planting, and using the maps have found items such as foundations of houses and clunch used for roads and pathways, as well as the foundations of a Jacobian stable block.

“It’s quite exciting because you can use the map and know exactly what used to stand there,” said Mr Macaulay.

“The really interesting thing is that we have records of the people who were living near Wimpole, but we don’t know where they went afterwards – they don’t appear on records elsewhere.

“The population would have been diminished slightly by diseases like the Black Death, but where the rest of them went is a bit of a mystery.”

The work is being paid for by the National Trust, which owns the house, and the tree planting project will see over 1,000 trees planted around Wimpole Hall in the coming years.

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