Palmer Park - view of statue

Archaeological Survey at Palmer Park

  • The survey  is part of the pre-work needed for Reading’s leisure planning application
  • Six exploratory trenches will appear from Monday 15th March

AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL survey is being carried out at Palmer Park next month, as part of preparation work required for the construction of the new community swimming pool at this location.

Visitors to the park this month may notice a series of six exploratory trenches appearing from Monday 15th March and this work is expected to last a week.

Two major planning applications were submitted in December 2020 for modern and much-improved leisure facilities at Rivermead and Palmer Park. These applications are due to be considered at the end of March 2021.

The archaeological survey now taking place at Palmer Park forms part of the pre-work needed for Reading’s leisure planning application and is a necessary condition contributing towards any planning decision.

The Council is working closely with Berkshire Archaeology and Thames Valley Archaeology to survey and record the archaeological landscape of the area where the construction will take place.

The majority of the trenches will be around the existing car park and on the area of grassland to the right of the stadium. The trenches will be up to 1.6m wide and 15m long, to a maximum depth of 2m. Public notices will be on display and whilst the excavations take place, these pits will be protected by heras fencing to ensure site safety.

The work will contribute to the archaeological understanding of the area, recording any findings and, as is standard in any pre-development work, it will inform the planning submission for the future development.

Cllr Graeme Hoskin, Reading’s Lead Councillor for Sport, said:

“We are working proactively with Berkshire Archaeology, the statutory planning consultee on archaeology matters within the county, to ensure Palmer Park has a thorough archaeological survey.

“It will be fascinating to see what historical information the survey will reveal about how the land was used in the past.

“The site investigation work taking place in mid-March and forms part of the pre-work contributing to the planning application for the new community swimming pool and associated new facilities on this site. We anticipate the preparation work and archaeological survey will last around a week.”

Whilst the Reading area in general is archaeologically rich, the immediate location of the proposed site within the east Reading park is not known for any significant finds.  Most notably, however, a number of man-made pits (known as mase-holes or bell-pits) were discovered around the park, including within the stadium, in 2002.

Engineering consultants carried out investigation work after holes appeared and some parts of the ground sank. Their findings revealed the disturbances were caused by a number of unmapped pits which potentially date back to the 1700s. The pits, which go down to a depth of around 15 to 20 metres, would have been used to mine chalk and clay.

In 2019 engineer also carried out ground investigations in the area of the new swimming pool to inform the building foundation design but no mase-holes were found.

The planning applications for the major leisure project can be viewed at:  (search planning reference numbers: 201734 and 201735)

People can comment on the applications as part of the planning process. The applications are due to go before the Reading Council Planning Committee on Wednesday 31st March 2021.

More information on the new leisure facilities can be found at