Friday, September 09, 2005


Divers probe home's giant cistern

September 06, 2005

Knole House was built in 1456 by
the then-Archbishop of Canterbury.

Specialist archaeological divers hope to uncover treasures dating back more than 400 years when they carry out a survey of a water tank in Kent.

The divers will examine a giant cistern at Knole, a National Trust Property in Sevenoaks, on Tuesday.

Divers first entered the waters in the early 1990s but centuries-old silt was disturbed, making it impossible to see anything properly.

Radar surveys have revealed the tank to have a network of arches and tunnels.

Knole was built in 1456 by the then Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Bourchier.

'Particularly special'
The cistern is beneath the property's Stone Court, a flagged courtyard.

The complicated radar survey in 2003 found the cistern resembled a huge underwater church-like building more than 30ft long, with the interlinking tunnels and arches built of carved stone.

Remnants of the walkways created to enable the initial construction work seem to still exist.

The water is 12ft deep and used to be the main source of water for the house.

During the dive beginning on Tuesday, a remote video camera will be placed into the water to record comprehensive footage of the whole structure before divers take part.

It is hoped this will limit the chances of silt being disturbed and darkening the water again.

Steven Dedman, property manager, said: "This is an extraordinary achievement, a real architectural treasure trove.

"Not only is there very little information about cisterns of this type, it seems that the one at Knole is particularly special - how strange to construct something so ornate and impressive that so few people were ever expected to see.

"Having said that, you only have to look at the quite wonderful carved lead water hoppers, with their turrets and spires, that link the guttering which serves the cistern in this courtyard, to realise that the previous owners of Knole never did things by halves."


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