Saturday, 20 October 2018

Heatwave reveals original signs of historic mansion

HIDDEN traces of Greys Court’s Tudor past have been brought to the surface by the July heatwave.

HIDDEN traces of Greys Court’s Tudor past have been brought to the surface by the July heatwave.

The 16th century mansion’s front lawn has been scorched in areas where the foundations of old buildings are still buried.

This phenomenon, known as parch marks, happens because grass grows more thinly above underground objects and structures.

The foundations draw moisture from the soil immediately above them, making it less fertile.

The parch marks trace the walls of two old courtyards and lodgings as well as their towers. The ruins date back to the 1500s.

Before the buildings were torn down over the centuries, they were probably linked to the main house by a passageway.

The marks first appeared three weeks ago, a few days after temperatures in the Henley area rose above 30C.

Because the weather stayed warm and there was little rain, they have not faded.

Although there were buildings on other parts of the Greys Court estate, they have not caused parch marks because the foundations were ripped up in the 18th century.

House manager Laura Gangadeen said: “The marks have appeared before but I’ve been working here for 10 years and they’ve never been so clear.

“They are really useful because they are a good tool for talking to visitors.

“You can explain Greys Court’s Tudor and medieval history to people but if you can point at the grass and show them the actual lines it helps fire their imaginations.

“It’s also a thrifty alternative to carrying out archaeological surveys, which are very thorough but not necessarily as clear as this. The marks have not shown us anything we didn’t already know but they add colour and help us illustrate our history.

“We have had a lot of visitors asking about them. They tended to assume that they’d been made by people all walking across the same part of the lawn, so we explain what they actually are.”

There was a settlement at Greys Court as far back as the 11th century of which traces of a stone tower still remain.

The main building was demolished and rebuilt in the Tudor era by the treasurer of Elizabeth I’s household, Sir Francis Knollys.

The mansion passed into the National Trust’s care after its previous owner Lady Brunner died in 2003.

Parch marks have also appeared this summer at Cliveden, near Maidenhead, which the trust also owns.

lGreys Court is open from 1pm to 5pm daily but the gardens and shop open at 11am.

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