Collyweston Palace home to Henry VIII's grandmother Margaret Beaufort uncovered by local history society
A group of amateur historians have uncovered a long lost palace.
For those growing up in Collyweston, the village’s Tudor palace was something of a legend having been lost for centuries.
Keen to prove it wasn’t just a myth, the Collyweston Historical and Preservation Society (Chaps) decided to take on the task of searching for the royal palace.
Now after eight years of research, digging and surveys, a complex series of below-ground structures have now been identified confirming the location of the site.
Chris Close, chairperson of the group, said: “It’s not every day you get the chance to find a royal palace.
“A lot of people have resonated with how a bunch of amateurs in a historical society have found a palace, with very little funding and resources.
“We are no experts with no artists’ impressions to call upon.”
He said many had grown up hearing about the palace, adding: “We were always wondering what it looked like, who lived in it and why it was there.”
The palace would have been made up of a large network of buildings located to the west of High Street, and was recorded as being ‘one thousand paces in area’.
It would have included a great hall, a jewel tower and guard houses, and hosted hundreds of people at once.
“It was an administrative centre for the Midlands,” said Chris.
The structures were found located beneath the grounds of seven properties in the village but the society is keeping tight-lipped about their exact whereabouts to ensure the home owners aren’t affected.
Although there was some disruption while work was being done, Chris says everyone was ‘enthusiastic and supportive of the project’.
The structures will remain as they are underground and ‘not changing the lives’ of residents nearby.
Research has been done by the group, university professors and historians, who found the palace belonged to Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry VII and grandmother to Henry VIII.
“We knew we had to find it,” Chris, 48, said.
Notable figures would have visited the site including Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, and it is thought the palace could be the reason why Collyweston is as it is today.
Chris said: “This is something Stamford and the surrounding areas should be really proud of.
“It is something that has never really been acknowledged.
“It has gone from a palace no one knew anything about to knowing how important it was during a time when the whole of the country was run by privy councils from here.”
Henry VIII was too young to ascend to the throne after the death of his father so Lady Margaret became regent and effectively ran the country until he reached the age of 18.
After the death of Lady Margaret in 1509, Collyweston Palace was passed back into the hands of the crown and then bequeathed to Anne Boleyn. Henry VIII described it as "a palace fit and neate for a Kynge". It was later bought by the Tryon family.
However, what was once a thriving Tudor palace became empty a century later and is believed to have fallen into disrepair. It has been lost for hundreds of years.
A new phase of work exploring Collyweston’s role in the progresses of Henry VIII himself is set to start.
The Henry on Tour project, led by Historic Royal Palaces and colleagues at the Universities of York and Newcastle, will work with Collyweston Historical Society, to investigate ways of bringing Henry’s visit to life for the local community.
“What I have learnt from this is any society or organisation out there which has something of interest on their doorstep should learn to investigate,” said Chris.
“If you feel you don't have enough money or expertise, with lots of hard work you can do it.”
The group has ‘had to learn the hard way’ uncovering history takes a lot of time - despite what TV shows can suggest.
“In reality it is very different - this has taken seven years,” he said.
“We will always be researching.”
Chris is one of the six volunteers - the others being Sandra and Paul Johnson, Debby Guthrie, Sarah Baker and Linda Ball - and has done the research alongside his job in construction.
“It is very much a love project,” he said.