Broadcast 24 October 2010 | Report available

The Royal Garrison Church is all that now remains of the Domus Dei (‘House of God’), the medieval pilgrim hospital that once stood on the site of Governor’s Green in Portsmouth. Probably built in 1212, it accommodated poor pilgrims en route to pilgrimage sites overseas, and also those arriving on these shores to visit popular shrines in England. The hospital survived until the Reformation; in the time of Elizabeth I it was transformed into a home for the Governor of Portsmouth. Time Team’s aim was to investigate the origins of the medieval hospital.

The initial geophysical survey confirmed the cartographic evidence by identifying various buildings within the hospital complex as depicted on maps and drawings of the 16th century and later.

The trenches subsequently dug demonstrated that the 13th century buildings of the Domus Dei hospital had been heavily truncated and reused during the remodelling of the hospital complex into the Governor’s House. The remains of a medieval floor had been reused within the 16th century rebuild, as had much of the useable stonework from the medieval buildings. The main enclosure wall of the medieval hospital complex did survive to some extent, but it had also been replaced in the 16th century.

Medieval finds included pottery and a very worn silver coin. One intriguing hint of the medieval hospital came in the form of one pottery sherd that could have come from a vessel used in the distilling process - the hospital would have used distilled alcoholic liquors in the treatment of the sick.


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