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Digging into Cassiobury Park’s history

Amateur archaeologists discovered some copper metalwork, identified as possible roof flashing, on a dig recently in the grounds of Swiss Cottage in Cassiobury Park.

In preparation for the archaeology dig this summer volunteers from a variety of groups got together to clear an area of the Cassiobury Nature Reserve. The Conservation Volunteers’ Cassiobury Green Gym were joined by the Cassiobury Archaeology Volunteers and South West Hertfordshire Archaeological and Historical Society who helped them clear litter, undergrowth and fallen branches from the site of the Swiss Cottage.

Swiss Cottage was built by the Earl of Essex in the early 19th Century, when such structures were very fashionable. By the early 1950s the building was dilapidated and, by the 1970s, had been demolished.

With the support of council officers, local Green Gym volunteers have been working in Cassiobury Park, helping to transform this historic area, increasing accessibility to the park and supporting the habitat of local wildlife. The volunteers meet every Wednesday morning for a three-hour session, and no project day is the same. They may plant hundreds of bulbs or native hedgerow trees, construct raised vegetable beds for Peace Hospice patients, build insect hotels and hedgehog dens, scythe the meadow or plant wildflowers.

Laurie Elvin, who headed up the archaeological dig, said: “We hope to record the exact location of the building and recover some interesting items used by the residents of the cottage or for building it. Archaeological digs are often done in dark basements or on construction sites so it was a welcome change to work in nature on a cold but brilliant winter morning.”

Councillor Derek Scudder, portfolio holder for parks, said: “As work begins on the refurbishment of Cassiobury Park we are taking the opportunity to find out a bit more about what is hidden beneath the surface. Our new visitor centre will feature interactive displays on the history of the park – it may be that any exciting finds from these archaeological digs become part of those displays!”

Interested residents will be able to join a second dig in June.

Contact Debbie Brady to find out more and get involved debbie.brady@watford.gov.uk

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