ARCHAEOLOGISTS at Wallingford believe they have discovered the wharf where royal visitors disembarked from the River Thames to visit the town’s medieval castle.

Experts from Leicester and Exeter universities are in the town for the third year running, hoping to uncover more of Wallingford’s hidden secrets.

They are carrying out extensive excavations at Queen’s Arbour, on the edge of the castle site and next to the River Thames, after geophysical surveys two years ago indicated something hidden underground.

Now the archaeologists, joined by a dozen volunteers from the town’s museum, have discovered what they believe to be an ancient quay, once used to bring goods and visitors to the castle.

Project director Ollie Creighton said: “We are looking for part of the outer defences of the castle. We know what is there is something to do with water, as it is on the Thames-side of the castle.

“We thought it could be a quay or wharf where building materials were unloaded during building operations at the castle, or it could be a walkway or a dam for fish ponds.

“We’ve now uncovered a structure which is probably 15 or 20 metres long, and 15 metres wide. We think it is late medieval, possibly the 13th century, and our best guess is that it is a wharf for building materials. It could also have been a high-status private entrance to the castle.”

Meanwhile, smaller-scale excavations are being carried out at the Bullcroft, to search for the town’s lost Priory of the Holy Trinity There is extensive archival evidence for the priory’s existence from the time of the Norman Conquest, but during the dissolution of the monasteries under Henry VIII, the priory was demolished and the site was lost.

The archaeologists are sinking small trenches in the Bullcroft to try to identify where it once stood.

This will be the last of three years of digs in the town as part of the Burh to Borough project, which aims to trace back to how a Saxon walled town built by Alfred the Great gradually developed into a medieval settlement.

Because of Wallingford’s later decline, compared with nearby Oxford and Reading, much of the archaeology is still intact, making it ideal for experts to gain information about its history.

The team includes academics, professional archaeologists, a dozen undergraduate students and volunteers from the Wallingford museum.

The digs continue until this Friday.