Time Team Reflections


Over this summer, I’ve been the contributing historian on four Time Team programmes, which I’ve told you about before (see more photos and videos here), but I haven’t before commented much on the process.

Three of the sites I worked on were Tudor – houses owned by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey near Watford and Charles Brandon, duke of Suffolk at Henham Park, and the third, a copper mine in the Lake District that was started under Elizabeth I – and one was Norman – an Anglo-Norman castle in Pembrokeshire.

The experience has been exceptionally enjoyable.

The Time Team crowd is a good one, full of experienced and professional people with deep and thorough expertise – be it in archaeology, ceramics, metalwork, production or presenting. I have learnt much from their example, and benefited from their generous friendship.

There is also a very high level of research behind each shoot: what you see on screen is the tip of the iceberg.

To give you an example: on the last shoot – the Elizabethan copper mines at Coniston – I prepared myself by reading around the subject and was sent, before filming, a pack of extra articles and documents to bring myself up to speed on the niceties of early modern mining.

But, on top of this, on location, researcher Celyn Williams and I worked through photographs of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century manuscripts of (among others):

  • the charter creating the Company of Mines Royal in the name of Queen Elizabeth I
  • surveys commissioned by Elizabeth I
  • letters written by the German miner who founded the mines, Daniel Hoeckstetter
  • parish registers for 1590-1620

This was genuine historical research, and the fruits of it – and not all the hard graft behind the scenes – is what appears on screen: historical research complementing the archaeological discovery unfolding over the three days. The two together brought results that were surprising and salutary, and it was very rewarding to have been a part of uncovering this history. Hopefully you too will find it all as enjoyable to watch.

The new series will air in early 2013.