PIGGY’S HOLLOW – WHAT WAS IT FOR?
In the shadow of St. Denys’ Church lies Piggy’s Hollow, an unassuming mound with a moat north west of the Shady Lane Arboretum. This site is generally accepted as the location of Evington Manor, a substantial 13thcentury building with stone foundations and slate roof, built by the noble French aristocratic family the de Greys of Codnor, relatives of the de Greys of Ruthyn based in Newtown Linford, who established the deer park (Bradgate Park) and ancestors of Lady Jane Grey, the nine-day queen.
The manor was built by Henry or Richard de Grey, as was first mentioned in official documentation in 1265. The house and lands remained in the family for over 200 years, passing through 6 generations of de Greys, eventually being seized by the crown in 1502 as punishment for treason committee by Sir William Stanley and passing into the hands of the Earl of Huntingdon (current holder of Ashby de la Zouche).
Since then the land has remained largely unused being labelled as an empty field called ‘The Hall Yard’ on the 1617 tithe map of Evington, and even being ultimately listed for pig farming by a local pig keeper, hence the name ‘Piggy’s Hollow’.
However, what is uncertain about this site and other moated sites in England is what their true function was in the 13thCentury. This is largely borne from the lack of consistent labelling across the country. The site is within a deer park, a costly recreational hunting location, which can only have been created by having favour with the reigning monarch as all deer belonged to the crown. Often in literature, moated sites in deer parks are labelled as ‘Manor Houses’ or ‘Hunting Lodges’ without any real clear difference between the structures other than the current understanding and the use of location in the modern day. A perfect example of this is the moated site in Bradgate Park excavated in 2017, which is referred to as a hunting lodge.
This building has a stone foundation, slate roof and was built in the 13thCentury by a member of the de Grey family, with a deer park. Ring any bells?
Could these sites serve the same function? What does ‘manor house’ and hunting lodge’ truly represent in the 13thCentury? Do we need to reassess the roles these sites played?
And is the quality of the archaeology to be found there greater or less than we might anticipate?