Oxburgh Hall: Thousands of 'rare items' found in attic

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Fragment of a 600-year-old manuscriptImage source, National Trust
Image caption,
A 600-year-old manuscript was discovered under floorboard in Oxburgh Hall, Norfolk

Thousands of "rare items" dating back to the 15th Century have been found in the attic of a Tudor house.

An archaeologist made the "unique discovery" while working alone through lockdown at Oxburgh Hall in Norfolk.

A 600-year-old manuscript, fragments of medieval books, Elizabethan textiles and an empty wartime chocolate box were among the items found at the National Trust property.

The trust said some of the items had been "perfectly preserved".

Image source, National Trust
Image caption,
Oxburgh Hall was built as a statement of "power and prestige"

The moated manor house was built by Sir Edmund Bedingfield in 1482 and his descendants still live in part of the building.

As part of a £6m project to restore the roof, floorboards in the attic were removed and archaeologist Matt Champion conducted a fingertip search of the exposed area.

National Trust curator Anna Forest said the "rare items" had been "undisturbed for centuries".

Image source, National Trust
Image caption,
The roof repair work is being funded by a number of different charities and organisations including The National Lottery Heritage Fund

Ms Forest said inches of dust and a layer of lime plaster had drawn out moisture in the attic which "resulted in much of it being perfectly preserved for centuries".

"The value of underfloor archaeology to our understanding of Oxburgh's social history is enormous," she said.

The Bedingfields were devout Catholics, which led to the family being ostracised and persecuted, but they used the manor to shelter clergy members.

The manuscript fragment, which was unearthed by a builder, "may well have been used in illegal masses and hidden deliberately", the trust said.

Image source, National Trust
Image caption,
A wartime chocolate box was one of the items discovered in the attic

Two ancient rats nests containing more than 200 fragments of textiles such as silk, velvet, satin and leather were also discovered.

A builder also found an "almost intact" copy of a book called the King's Psalms, which was dated 1568 and was complete with leather binding.

Image source, National Trust
Image caption,
A few fragments of the King's Psalms had previously been found in a rats nest

Russell Clement, general manager of Oxburgh Hall, said the finds were "far beyond anything we expected to see".

"These objects contain so many clues which confirm the history of the house as the retreat of a devout Catholic family, who retained their faith across the centuries," he said.

"We will be telling the story of the family and these finds in the house, now we have reopened again following lockdown."

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