Post date: 1st June
A series of underground vaults have been discovered during a major £350,000 restoration project on our historic North Steps.
Under the steps which have welcomed millions of visitors into the Palace for almost three centuries were discovered three ‘vaulted voids’ acting as supports for the steps above.
A recent survey showed the flight of stone steps were slowly spreading apart and moving away from the main structure of the Palace and a team of specialist stonemasons were brought in to restore them. Following initial excavations, they carefully removed the steps and each of the Portland flagstones, before reinstating the underlying substrate. Every step and flagstone was then thoroughly inspected to see if it could be repaired or had to be replaced.
It was during the restoration work that the subterranean vaults, which are believed to have been created for structural support for the steps, were discovered, having only previously been viewed from geophysical surveys.
“It was a surprise to find these empty/unused spaces below the steps; each vault is covered in fine thin stalactites created by the trickle of water through the closed environment over the centuries,” said Richard Bowden, Historic Buildings & Conservation Surveyor at Blenheim Palace.
“No objects or artefacts were discovered and other than for structural reasons the actual purpose is not immediately apparent; although further investigations are scheduled. Now that work is completed the North Steps are fully re-opened to visitors and the historic entranceway to the Palace is back in operation,” he added.
The work is part of a continuous programme of restoration and conservation which taking place here at Blenheim Palace.
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