Once initial introductions were out of the way the development producer and series editor headed to Newmarket to meet with those involved to decide whether the site and the story would be suitable for the Time Team treatment. We were welcomed to the museum on a cold January morning and shown round its impressive collections by an enthusiastic Chris. It soon became clear that a compelling story existed to be told - one that would be enhanced by the archaeological skill we could bring to the town. Time to see our targets. Chris walked us round to the, now deserted, Charles II royal stable area, opposite what is left of his magnificent palace. This area is due for significant development in the near future aiming to build a centre bringing together various collections currently housed in the small museum and tell the story of the illustrious royal and sporting heritage of Newmarket. A window of opportunity existed to investigate archaeological remains on the site ahead of this work.
So the opportunity was there and the story sounded good, but would it work for Time Team? During the production process a number of issues have to be considered for the team to be confident that a good programme will result. With around fifty people arriving at any site these concerns can include the mundane - parking availability, local accommodation, access to the site for machines etc, to the more obviously programme related; where will we site the incident room? Is there enough in the area to take our crews off site to help tell the story? Is there enough archaeology in the ground to keep us busy for three days?
Luckily the answers to all these questions were addressed in Dunwich through a number of meetings with historians, council officials and others; all of whom had a stake in the project. We visited the famous Jockey Club and were shown around its hallowed halls in case we should wish to film there. We visited the race course itself and were given a quick explanation of the pomp and ceremony that still take place at the prestigious race meets. There seemed to be plenty to keep us busy.
Time Team recces often involve our logistics and site manager Kerry whose job involves the details of how we are actually going to conduct the archaeological work. What sort of equipment will we need? What size diggers should we use? Where are the pipes and services that might interfere with our work? Kerry ensures that all these important details are taken care of and begins the process of booking facilities, helicopters, cranes and anything else we might need to bring the programme to your screens.
Newmarket did, however, present a challenge we don't often encounter at Time Team - urban archaeology. This type of archaeology is very different to excavating a villa in a field. Archaeological deposits are often far more complex than rural sites with any number of rebuilds and additions confusing the picture. This meant that we had to have the right experts with us on site to help identify building features and specific finds dating to the period in question.
Time Team is not unlike a mini military operation. Carefully planned and executed we arrive on a Monday and leave on a Friday with three days digging in between. To those who host us it often feels like a whirlwind of activity but by the time we have left we've learnt an awful lot about the site. In the case of Newmarket we were able to tell the story of the Sport of Kings...