The Rose Playhouse holds a very special place in the history of archaeological science. It is one of the key sites where the science of archaeological preservation in situ was born and developed, paving the way for many important sites to be preserved around the world.

This came about following the passion to protect the site following its discovery in 1989 – the archaeological team realised it was not enough simply to cover the site back over. The remains of The Rose contain both organic and inorganic elements such as wood and chalk, and the site needs to be kept wet to preserve these organic elements, which are the more difficult to successfully preserve. A carefully designed scheme of Buckland sand containing a leaky pipe seals the deposits, under a layer of plastic sheeting and weak mix concrete into which water is gradually fed. The ‘pond’ this creates prevents evaporation of water from below, ensuring that water surrounds the archaeological remains and excludes oxygen. Oxygen would allow soil microbes to thrive, which would then feed on the remains we are trying to preserve.

The conditions are monitored monthly to ensure all is well, and the Historic England Inspector of Ancient Monuments dons her rubber waders and collects water samples from a series of dipwells across the site. The water level, pH, temperature, conductivity and redox potential are measured, as well as saturation levels of the archaeological layers, and the protective sand above.  By continuing to monitor the site, we can be sure that conditions are suitable to allow the remains to remain preserved safely below ground.