At the end of October, the Friends of Woking Palace (FWP) were shortlisted for the 2018 Marsh Award for Community Archaeology for their Woking Palace and its Park project. FWP Chairman, Jean Follett, together with Trustees John and Liz Felton, attended the award event in York and were stunned and delighted to learn they were the winners of this prestigious national prize. In addition to a special certificate FWP received a letter, stating:
"Your work on the project and the way you have involved the whole of the local community is exceptional and was recognised by the judging panel as outstanding."
Woking Palace and its Park was a community project financed by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £306,000. awarded to FWP in March 2013. The theme of the project was the promotion of public appreciation and understanding of Woking Palace including the original surrounding 590 acre Royal Deer Park. FWP set up an Advisory Steering Committee in April 2013 with two executive officers from FWP and representatives from Surrey County Archaeological Unit, The Lightbox, Surrey Archaeological Society and Woking Borough Council and they held regular committee meetings and workshops.
The project was originally for three years but was extended by HLF to nearly 5 years so that FWP could satisfactorily complete every aspect of the project which was made up of 26 different activities. These included three weeks of excavations in 2013 to 2015 together with finds processing, plus talks, creating 5 heritage walks, Tudor Themed Events, Tudor Costumes, Local Research Forums, equipment to enhance annual Open Days, a new website, handling boxes and source packs for loan to schools and community groups, three temporary displays and a permanent display about Woking Palace at The Lightbox.
During the three seasons of excavations, over 1,800 volunteers helped with a variety of tasks, including 950 school children from local primary and secondary schools. The excavations gave participants with no previous experience the opportunity to help out with "Dig for a Day" or "Finds for a Day". In addition, 50 participants completed a 3-day Basic Skills in Archaeology course and received a certificate from AQA. Corporate groups from local council and businesses, two local Young Archaeologists Clubs, Brownies, Scouts and Home Educated children also had special sessions. In addition, Surrey County Archaeological Unit ran several workshops and finds processing sessions at Combat Stress, a charity supporting members of the armed forces community with mental health issues, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Towards the end of final excavations in September 2015, FWP were honoured when HRH The Duke of Gloucester visited Woking Palace to see the excavations in progress and then unveiled a special plaque to commemorate his visit.
All of the sessions and activities throughout the project were free of charge, enabling anyone of any age, living locally or far away, to take part and learn more about archaeology and the history of Woking Palace. A very important team of volunteers from FWP provided tea, coffee and biscuits during breaks throughout the excavations and to everyone's delight volunteers also produced a regular supply of homemade cakes.
"Receiving the Marsh Award for Community Archaeology was very humbling and a huge honour, especially when considering the standard of the other two very well known groups who were shortlisted for this award. The results of our project are phenomenal and FWP have a wonderful legacy to carry forward. Thousands more people now know about Woking Palace and we have new knowledge and resources to work with to continue encouraging more of our local community to find out about our Scheduled Monument. FWP is run by a very small group of volunteers and we are very proud of what we have accomplished. We all believe it is a very special place and hope than more people will join and help us so that we can continue to promote public appreciation and understanding of this unique and very important site and ensure it is protected for future generations."
- Jean Follett, FWP
For further information please visit www.woking-palace.org.