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The coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown has, for many, been a period of great stress and isolation. Some people, however, have utilised the amount of free time they now have and got to work on things they may have been putting off. This was the case for one archaeologist who found himself in an estbalished Tudor house in Norfolk.
Working alone, Matt Champion made the “unique discovery” while working through the lockdown.
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”.
The manor is encircled by a moat built by Sir Edmund Bedingfield in 1482.
His descendants still live in part of the building to this day.
As part of a £6million project to restore the roof, floorboards in the attic were removed.
It was here that Mr Champion carried out a fingertip search of the exposed area – uncovering a wealth of goods.
National Trust curator Anna Forest said the “rare items” had been “undisturbed for centuries”.
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According to Ms Forest, inches of dust and a layer of lime plaster had drawn out moisture in the attic.
This resulted in “much of it being perfectly preserved for centuries”.
She said: “The value of underfloor archaeology to our understanding of Oxburgh’s social history is enormous.”
Devout Catholics, the Bedingfield family were ostracised during a period of religious persecution.
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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.
Two ancient rats nests containing more than 200 fragments of textiles such as silk, velvet, satin and leather were also discovered.
Also found, an “almost intact” copy of a book called the King’s Psalms, dated 1568, complete with leather binding.
Russell Clement, general manager of Oxburgh Hall, said the finds were “far beyond anything we expected to see”.
He added: “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.
“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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