Young archaeologists excavating 100-year-old secrets at Belton House near Grantham

The excavation team at Belton House. Photo tweeted by National Trust archaeologist Rachael Hall.
The excavation team at Belton House. Photo tweeted by National Trust archaeologist Rachael Hall.

A team of young archaeologists are underway with a week-long dig in the parklands of Belton House to excavate secrets left buried for almost a century.

With the support of professional archaeologists, the group of 14 to 19-year-olds are excavating at the site of the Machine Gun Corps camp which was home to tens of thousands of soldiers training, eating, sleeping and spending their leisure time there during the First World War.

This year marks the centenary of the formation of the Machine Gun Corps and the Lest We Forget Belton’s Bravest Project, made possible with funding from the Heritage Lottery Young Roots Programme, is one of the many ways the anniversary is being commemorated.

The budding archaeologists have chosen three areas of the camp to excavate as they search for clues about the camp and find out what life was like for the soldiers training there.

National Trust archaeologist Rachael Hall said: “During the geophysical survey last month the team discovered clues to a building that didn’t match the plan we have of the camp from 1915. I’m really excited that they chose to have one of the excavation sites here to find out something new about the layout of the buildings.”

The other two areas being explored will look at the differences between the lives of the highest and lowest ranked soldiers, investigating an officers’ and a privates’ barrack block.

Melissa Maynard, learning manager at Belton House said: “We’re so proud of our team and all the hard work that they have put into the last six months to get to this point. It would be really wonderful if members of our community were to come and visit us during this week to see what clues they discover.

With the support of volunteer Conservation Guides we also hope to be able to share some of the beautiful parkland with visitors, with views from Bellmount Tower, which is very rarely open.”

Visitors can visit the Lest We Forget Belton’s Bravest Team as they explore the archaeological remains of the Machine Gun Corps Training Camp from now until Thursday, July 30.

The site is open every day between 10.30am-12.00pm and 1.30pm-3.30pm, and visitors should park at Bellmount Tower car park and can also visit the excavation every day.

The Lest We Forget team is being supported by National Trust volunteers who will meet visitors and be their guide to the work being undertaken.

As the parkland is a sanctuary for Belton’s Fallow Deer, the team would really appreciate everybody’s help to look after the deer and all the beautiful fawns that are only a few months old. Therefore, visitors to the excavation are asked to only arrive via Bellmount Tower car park, Five Gates Lane, and not to bring dogs with them.

Updates on the project can be found at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/belton-house and on Facebook at BeltonHouse NT or on Twitter @BeltonNewsNT or @beltonfamilies using the hashtag #beltonremembers