The excavation of Henry VIII's Nonsuch Palace in 1959 is said to have been the biggest archaeological operation in a single year carried out in this country. The organisation of the project owed much to John Dent, Epsom & Ewell Borough Librarian, and the archaeology was directed by a young Ministry of Works archaeological consultant, now Professor Martin Biddle. Although a team of professional archaeologists was in charge of the digging, the work relied heavily on volunteers with differing degrees of experience. Some 500 must have worked on the site for varying periods, the daily attendances averaging 80. Public interest was such that there were over 60,000 visitors over a twelve week period.
The venture was highly successful: not only were the foundations of the palace discovered, but also the remains of Cuddington Church and a great quantity of artefacts such as remnants of the elaborate decorations of the palace and a wide range of table-ware, enabling a convincing picture of the life of Nonsuch to be built up. It was an enterprise remarkable for the excitement and enthusiasm that it generated and it is not surprising that many of the friendly team of local volunteers who had acted as diggers, guides, museum attendants and receptionists should wish to keep in contact with one another when the work was completed and the trenches refilled. Proposals were made for forming an 'Association of Nonsuch Diggers', and this came into being following a public meeting in 1960. The name was soon changed to Nonsuch and Ewell Antiquarian Society and again, in 1972 to Nonsuch Antiquarian Society. In 2004 the name was again changed to Epsom & Ewell History & Archaeology Society. The initial aims of the Society were 'to take an active part in matters of an historical and archaeological nature mainly connected with the Ewell area but extending further afield as the opportunity occurs'. The changes of name in 1972 and 2004 reflected the widening of the area covered to include Epsom and other adjacent places. Martin Biddle, who had directed the excavation so successfully, became the first president of the Society.
50th Anniversary of the founding of Epsom and Ewell History and Archaeology Society 2010
To celebrate 50 years of the Society we published a booklet " 50 years of Epsom and Ewell History and Archaeology Society: 1960-2010"
Click the link button to view
As part of the Society's 50th Anniversary celebration in 2010 a series of eight posters were commissioned and displayed in Bourne Hall Museum. Click on the links below to view the posters.
The Origins of the Society
Archaeology in the 21st Century
Lectures and Visits
Looking to the Future
RULES OF THE SOCIETY
If you would like to see the Rules of the Society agreed at its AGM on 3rd March 2004 follow the link:
Click on the link button to see original British Pathe news of the excavation