Time Team on Saturday

Holyrood House
Holyrood House one of the sites in the Big Royal Dig. Photo by Ozzzie.

Don’t know if I’ll write a proper entry on this so here are my notes. There are bits I missed or mis­un­der­stood, par­tic­u­larly on the Buckingham Palace dig, so it’s not going to be a 100% accur­ate account of the programme.


Stock foot­age of Royal pomp to remind us what roy­alty is. Doesn’t she ever get tired of hear­ing that tune?


Fortunately the pro­gramme resur­faces from what could have been wear­ingly hagi­o­graphic. They’re explain­ing how George IV decided he needed a fan­cier house, hence Buckingham Palace. George’s lack fo restraint appar­ently exten­ded to thou­sands of mis­tresses, alogn with his open fin­ances and massive ego. Buckingham Palace is part of a rivalry with Napoleon. He wanted to sur­pass Napoleon’s imper­ial palaces by import­ing French fur­niture en masse. “George IV was the most the­at­rical mon­arch.” The bill came to 3/4 mil­lion pounds. The mod­ern equi­val­ent is £1.7 billion.


They start Picking apart the phases of Buckingham Palace. Surprisingly little known before Goring House. Geophysics, usu­ally a magic wand for the pro­gramme fails. They go into more detail into the build­ing of Buckingham House to explain more about what they might find. Brief his­tory of Buckingham House. It owned by the Duke of Buckingham, a man who after mak­ing “a brisk attempt on the King’s Daughter” was banned from palace and pos­ted to Tangiers. Married ille­git­im­ate daugh­ter of the last Stuart King.


They’ve not found the canal, but they reckon they have found the course of the River Tyburn by cor­ing. The reason they don’t think it’s a canal is that the sed­i­ments are coarse grains. Canals it seems carry fine grains because their flow is more gen­teel. They decide to open a trench so they bring in the dig­ger. They’re run­ning the dig­ger along boards across the lawn!

Digger at Buckingham Palace


They’ve found a brick. It must be some­thing about the name Phil. The trench does not look fun. The base is all clayey and stodgy. Five seconds later… I win the slow on the uptake award for the day. What else would you line a canal with? The bricks are also part of the lin­ing. The canal is orna­mental, a garden fea­ture. From this we know the upper-classes used to like nice gar­dens. The canal may have oblit­er­ated the earlier remains on site.


Hello to Neil Oliver, an enga­gingly intense nar­rator. Give me an early 16th cen­tury palace or give me death. Or a 12th cen­tury abbey. Describes the Kings who moved into the abbey as “Royal squat­ters”. Plenty of maps, show­ing the vari­ation in per­spect­ive and the uncer­tainty in the exact lay­out of the site.


Why have an abbey here? While out hunt­ing a white stag unseats King David. The stag pre­pares to gore him, but its antlers trans­form into a cross which Dave grabs. The stag runs off so he takes this as a sign to found an abbey here. Holy means holy and rood means cross. Geofizz are to search for the abbey. They’re look­ing for the refrect­ory which became the Great Hall of James IV. Out comes the mech­an­ical dig­ger. They’ve hit the abbey. Neil finds out they were more relaxed monks but not quite “slacker monks”. They may have found the wall of the east range of the cloister.


Now at Windsor, the old­est and largest palace in the world. Tim Tatton-Brown is look­ing for what came before the chapel in the Lower Ward. Thought to be a huge hall. Julian Munby is look­ing for a big round build­ing, but he’s not too sure on what it is. Windsor built on a cliff over­look­ing the Thames by William. Showing what a motte and bailey castle is. Henry II and III change the castle to a palace. Looking at the interior archi­tec­ture. The achingly yel­low walls are turn­ing the presenters yellow.

They’re draw­ing huge sig­ni­fic­ance on what they can see, but I can’t con­nect it to what they’re look­ing for. If we can see some­thing must it be auto­mat­ic­ally important?


The trenches are planned to find this great hall. First aud­ible air­craft, which see­ing as they’re under the Heathrow flight path is not bad. Possibly found the floor of the Great Hall. They know where the hall is – they have 19th cen­tury records. I’m not sure why they need to dig it. Ah — he thinks it’s not the Great Hall because the hall has a 1st floor, which you don’t get in a hall – the hall is fur­ther uphill? Looking for the upper end and the ser­vice end. Where is the hearth? It’s taken almost an hour for someone to say “high status”, which for Time Team sets a record for restraint. The archae­olo­gists obvi­ously have a plan in mind, but what they’re say­ing is let’s find stuff. They’re inter­ested in the trenches for a spe­cific research ques­tion but I’m not sure what.

Windsor Plans


In 1501 James IV incor­por­ates the mon­as­tery into the palace. The build­ing may be over­laid by eph­er­meral garden fea­tures. This over­lies the refrect­ory. Going back to the maps to look for details. Segment on how a Camera Obscura could be used to map. Looking for the site of the CO from the per­spect­ive of the map. Not easy as they find the map must have had sev­eral dif­fer­ent vant­age points.


Overtalk. They’re look­ing at the seal mat­rix they found yes­ter­day. Could be a trade seal from the 17th cen­tury. The presenter is strug­gling for ques­tions – can’t say I’d blame her. Still light in Edinburgh. More “High-status” — twice in five seconds. No human remains des­pite the prox­im­ity to an abbey. This was planned. This looks like a well planned pro­ject. Fixing the plan of the cloisters will help con­firm the accur­acy of the map. As I type they more or less say the same thing: “not a stunt”.

Holyrood House


It’s def­in­itely night in the north, yet Windsor appears set to enjoy the mid­night sun. Introducing the Round Table and the Knights of the Garter. Looking inside at the ban­ners. Thatcher doesn’t have a hel­met because she’s not expect to fight. That’s kind of the Queen. Eddie wanted 300 knights for his order. The Round Table was a build­ing cir­cu­lar 200 ft in dia­meter. The expert says it could not be roofed in this period and I don’t know enought to dis­agree. They think it’s not in the lower ward, due to the records of strength­en­ing bridges, which would not be neces­sary if it was in the Lower Ward. Where can you fit a 200′ wide circle. Second expert comes in to argue over if it was an arena or not. He thinks is was a feast­ing hall. Would this need a roof or did Ed eat alfresco?


Geofizz has found a 198′ circle. Maps show 200′ just fits inside. They’ve gone deep. They’ve found a rob­ber trench – the ghost of a wall. One find pulled from it is a shred of Surrey white ware dat­ing from the 14th cent. Records show the round table was built in 1344.


It’s a lot darker at Buck Palace.

They’re look­ing for the bound­ary wall. The rebuild seems to be cloud­ing out the geofizz, so they’re going with maps. Nothing to report so they’re mov­ing onto the civil war defences with Ronald Hutton. Discussions over where the defences might be. They’ve found a rivet. People in the past may have had shoes. Clay pipe shows they’re in Victorian lay­ers so it’s evid­ence of shoes in Victorian times. They’ve gone to a cameo of sol­diers march­ing in ECW gear, so they found noth­ing else . Hang on they’ve found a pot from 12/13 cen­tury pot. They con­clude Nash removed the defences when he laid out the garden. Hutton explains the defences would have been earth­works to deflect can­non. Any guess about why they’re missing?

- — -

The Holyrood House excav­a­tion looks like it could find some really use­ful stuff about the palace’s past. Windsor looks like it too could provide some new data, but I’m not sure how or even if the excav­a­tions there form a coher­ent plan. As for Buckingham Palace, I can’t tell what they’re try­ing to do. It’ll be inter­est­ing to see if they can do some­thing with the site. Looks like it could be a good pro­gramme tomorrow.


When he's not tired, fixing his car or caught in train delays, Alun Salt works part-time for the Annals of Botany weblog. His PhD was in ancient science at the University of Leicester, but he doesn't know Richard III.

6 Responses

  1. ajcann says:

    I’m a fan of Time Team, and I tried to like these par­tic­u­lar broad­casts, but so far have failed miser­ably. Watching the live cov­er­age is like watch­ing paint dry, and the even­ing sum­mar­ies are just so fren­etic. A proper invest­ig­a­tion of just one site would have been much more sat­is­fy­ing for me.
    (Also, I have a prob­lem whith the Scottish presenter, but maybe that’s just me).

  2. shelley says:

    I am a fan of time team. I would like to take Ajcann to task about the com­ment that was pos­ted August 27, “I have a prob­lem with the Scottish presenter” How can a beau­ti­ful man with lovely long black hair, who knows what he is talk­ing about be a prob­lem! Get a grip Ajcann, us gels luv ‘im. The only prob­lem that I have with Neil Oliver is… HE AINT SITTINGERE WIV MEEEE! Shelley nr RAF Hornchurch.

  3. ajcann says:

    It was his present­ing abil­ity in the drawn out live pro­gram rather than his totty rat­ing I was com­ment­ing on.

  4. shelley says:

    Ajcann. Neil’s present­ing abil­ity is fine. His totty rat­ing is even finer,Ajcann,so dont bitch about it,Ajcaaaann. Shelley nr RAF Hornchurch.

  5. Alun says:

    Can we calm down a bit on this one? I agree that Neil Oliver does know what he’s talk­ing about, but I’d also agree with Alan that Time Team didn’t show him at his best. If you really want to see him in action then watch him with a clay­more in Two Men in a Trench. That series vastly raised my opin­ion of bat­tle­field archaeology.

  6. shelley says:

    Well, there we are then. Thank you Alun. Shelley nr RAF Hornchurch. x