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In this popular and (literally) groundbreaking programme, Tony Robinson and a team of experts travel the country to investigate a wide range of archaeological sites of historical importance

About the Show

In this popular and (literally) groundbreaking programme, Tony Robinson and a team of experts travel the country to investigate a wide range of archaeological sites of historical importance

Series 20 Summary

The 20th series begins with an examination of what life was like for the First World War Machine Gun Corps, revealing the lost secrets of the stately home where they were trained.

  • Episode 1 - The Forgotten Gunners of WWI

    Golfers at a popular East Midlands golf club now know that a huge wooded bank beside their fairway is a rather special area of 'rough'. Time Team's experts discovered, that 90 years ago it was a machine gun firing range - and buried in the bank are tens of thousands of spent bullets.

    Belton House near Grantham may be one of Britain's finest stately homes but during World War I, the grounds were home to thousands of men training for frontline duties. It was where the Machine Gun Corps was created and its troops were trained.

    The Corps was set up as a response to German superiority in using these deadly weapons and became vital to the war effort. Most of the Machine Gun Corps' records were destroyed, first in a fire and then in the Blitz in World War II.

    Today almost nothing is visible above ground. Tony Robinson and the Team have quite a task to locate the hundreds of barrack blocks, kitchen blocks, roads, social centres and shooting ranges.

    To the Team's relief, the dig is rich in finds, revealing glimpses of the men's lives in wartime; whether from the site of the YMCA, where a cup of cocoa could be had for a few pence, or from the hastily erected huts where they lived for their six weeks of intensive training.

    They uncover stories of young men who went so bravely to their deaths. Of the 170,000 who trained here more than 12,000 were killed and another 50,000 injured. The Corps' nickname was 'the Suicide Club'.

    The sound of a Vickers gun reverberating around the park for the first time in 90 years provides a shocking but fitting tribute.

  • Episode 2 - Brancaster

    Tony and the Team uncover their largest ever range and number of items from Roman Britain, and undertake their most ambitious geophysics project to date.

    The archaeologists explore a spectacular site at Brancaster in Norfolk, which is believed to have been a Roman 'Shore-Fort'. Excavations could determine how large it was, what it looked like, and whether it was one of the key military outposts of Roman Britain.

    If the site turns out to be as significant as the Team hope, it suggests this question: Why build a major stronghold in such a far-flung corner of the country?

    As the Team try to answer, they unearth an unprecedented 2500 finds, which provide lessons about everything from Roman sports to the decorative arts and even cockfighting.

    They even find a spectacular piece of a legionary's armour in a previously hidden chamber.

    The Team also take on a high-definition geophysics survey covering 24 acres. It generates so much data that the computers grind to halt. Can they be fixed in time to reveal the site's layout?

    The biggest surprise reveals evidence of a staggering level of trade with the local population, and clues as to how wealthy nearby Britons became on the back of the Roman presence.

  • Episode 3 - A Capital Hill

    Time Team investigate a huge hill near Cardiff that may be immensely significant; is it the long-lost Iron Age capital of South Wales?

    During the course of their investigations the archaeologists make one particularly rare discovery: the most complete Early Iron Age cup ever found in South Wales, which proves that the site is from the earliest part of the Iron Age, at around 800BC.

    A huge hill dominates the Ely housing estate in Cardiff. Its towering ramparts and deep ditches identify it as a hillfort, and the effort of their construction indicates that this was no ordinary Iron Age homestead. The site's so big that thousands of people could have lived up here.

    It's never been explored before. If there were houses, none are visible now and the age of the fort has always been a mystery.

    Tony Robinson and the Team have five acres of hilltop, half a mile of ramparts and ditches, and just three days to answer some very big questions.

    Fortunately, local residents are keen to help, and finds such as jewellery and fine drinking-vessels show that Iron Age domestic life in the area was rich and colourful.

    But finding any houses is harder than anyone imagined and provokes fierce arguments among the Team as time ticks away.

  • Episode 4 - Henham's Lost Mansions

    Tony and the Team help charismatic Hektor Rous, the son of 'Aussie Earl' Keith Rous, piece together the mysterious history of the family's Tudor country home in Suffolk.

    Hektor Rous moved from Melbourne to Suffolk in 2004 to try to rebuild his family estate's fortunes, and established premier events such as the Latitude festival in its 3500-acre grounds.

    The estate has belonged to the Rous family since the 1500s and now handsome Hektor is desperate to find out all he can about his illustrious ancestors and the houses they once occupied.

    In 1773 a drunken butler supposedly set fire to Henham Hall's wine cellar, sending the whole place up in flames. Can the Team piece together the family home's history, and find out if the butler did it?

    There's nothing visible where the house used to stand, and there's almost nothing left of the huge Georgian mansion that replaced it.

    Geophysics shows up the clear outline of a Tudor house, but can the Team work out what it looked like; whether it was one of the finest houses in the land, as some claimed; and the truth about its demise?

    After nearly three days of uncovering piles of fancy decorations and Tudor bricks, the archaeologists and Hektor discover a huge surprise. Could there have been three mansions on the site?

    The answer to all their questions may lie in the infamous cellar. But can they can find it... ?

  • Episode 5 - Warriors

    In a sensational three days, an ancient site yields burials dating back to 2000BC, along with rare Saxon brooches, beads, spears and jewellery.

    In the middle of the army training ground on Salisbury Plain, just a mile from Stonehenge, is the extraordinary Barrow Clump.

    It's a huge mound of earth built by Bronze Age people to bury their dead. More than 2500 years later, the Anglo-Saxons re-used Barrow Clump, burying their dead with staggering artefacts. But it's now being destroyed by badgers.

    At the dig site, Tony and the Team join soldiers from Operation Nightingale, who are being trained in archaeology as part of their recovery after being wounded or traumatised in Afghanistan.

    Working alongside these soldiers is a moving and thought-provoking experience, as modern-day warriors respectfully uncover the remains of their ancient predecessors.

    As the finds pile up, pottery dates the earliest burial to around 2100 BC - much the same time as when the big stones went up at nearby Stonehenge.

    And the Saxon finds speak of a relatively wealthy, cosmopolitan people living in the area in the sixth century.

  • Episode 6 - Lost Mines of Lakeland

    Tony and the Team head to the Lake District on an expedition that takes them both higher and deeper than they've ever dug before.

    They're on the trail of a forgotten piece of the nation's industrial heritage - the Lake District used to be a major source of valuable copper.

    There are nearly two dozen old mines across these mountains. Some tunnels that are still visible 1500 feet up mountainsides are thought to have been established 400 years ago, when the valleys would have been studded with workshops, scaffolding and water-powered machines, and home to a brave band of Tudor miners.

    But few signs remain of their presence, and nobody really knows what this place looked like back then. Archaeologists hardly know anything about Elizabethan mines.

    The Team battle the rain, the wind and dangerously unstable trackways. But the combination of sheer effort and some ultra-high-tech kit finally takes them into the heart of the old mine-works.

  • Episode 7 - Horseshoe Hall

    Oakham Castle is the best preserved 12th-century building in Britain, but there's much more to it than meets the eye.

    The walled area surrounding the castle is full of mysterious lumps and bumps crying out to be investigated.

    The castle was once home to the Norman knight Walkelin de Ferrers, who fought alongside Richard the Lionheart in the Crusades. Before that, the same site was home to some of our most legendary Saxon kings and queens.

    Time Team's task is to find out about the many buildings that would once have surrounded the castle, and they're particularly excited about the prospect of finding de Ferrers' long-lost private quarters.

    Fascinating finds add to the big clues on the ground, but it takes the full three days of twists and turns to determine what Oakham looked like 900 years ago.

    And to mark the visit, Tony casts a special giant Time Team horseshoe to add to the extraordinary collection of hundreds of shoes that have decorated the castle hall for 500 years.

  • Episode 8 - Mystery of the Thames-side Villa

    In the 1960s, a young PhD student decided to excavate a South Oxfordshire field where a farmer was regularly ploughing up Roman remains.

    He found a mosaic and the stone walls of what was clearly a Roman building, in an area where the remains of few Roman buildings had ever been found. But he never found enough evidence to prove exactly what was there.

    Now aerial pictures show clear building lines in the ground, indicating that there was something big in the field, and the farmer who owns it continues to turn up Roman brick and tile.

    But what is the building, and why is it here? And does its location indicate how the Thames's course has shifted in the last 2000 years? Time Team aim to finish the job the student started 50 years ago.

    Geophysics get to work and Roman pottery almost falls out of the first trenches. With finds like that, clear crop marks and old drawings, what can possibly go wrong?

  • Episode 9 - The Lost Castle of Dundrum

    Tony and the Team search for the remains of a renegade knight's Norman castle in one of Northern Ireland's most picturesque spots.

    King John sent John de Courcy to Ireland in 1170 as part of his invasion force, but de Courcy rebelled against his king's orders, instead establishing his own small kingdom and building a fine castle to defend it. King John refused to tolerate his disobedience and sent the loyal Hugh de Lacy across the Irish Sea to defeat him.

    De Courcy's castle was rebuilt, and much of its replacement is still standing. But the experts are convinced that some of what remains dates from de Courcy's time, and the archaeologists set out to find the lost structures.

    As they survey and dig within the huge castle walls, the Team are in for a big surprise. It seems the site was occupied by tribal chiefs for many centuries before anyone had even heard of the Normans...

  • Episode 10 - Wolsey's Lost Palace

    For 100 years schoolboys have been playing a few feet above the remains of the most opulent palace in Britain.

    The Manor of More was masterminded by Henry VIII's right-hand man, the all-powerful religious leader and statesman Cardinal Wolsey, who was also responsible for Hampton Court Palace. Tudor visitors remarked that it was grander than Hampton Court.

    But the palace went missing until the 1950s, when a group of pupils at Northwood School in Hertfordshire discovered its remains beneath their school playing field.

    Now one of those schoolboys - Martin Biddle, who is now one of the country's most distinguished archaeologists - joins Tony and the Team as they try to piece together the complete picture of this huge palace.

    In its heyday, the Manor of More would have been an opulent playground fit for royalty and state visitors. Like Hampton Court, it was built as a place in which to entertain. Thomas More and Catherine of Aragon would have known it intimately.

    But working out the layout of the palace is as tough a challenge as the Team have had for a long while.

    There should be a huge front courtyard, but where is it? There should be a long gallery running off the back range, somewhere under the school's tennis courts. But it's equally elusive.

    But, finally, enough pieces of this challenging Tudor jigsaw fall into place for the Team to visualise the splendour that once stood here, with its towered gatehouse rising majestically out of a wide moat.

  • Episode 11 - An Englishman's Castle

    What happens when you try to create your own grand design but find a mystery at the heart of your home, and its origins are so unclear that it could either be medieval or Victorian? You call in Time Team to help you work out the answers.

    When Steve and Pru Barlow fell in love with pretty Upton Castle in Pembrokeshire they had little idea what they were buying. Acres of overgrown gardens surrounded the building, which looked like a medieval castle at the front and a Victorian mansion at the back.

    It was a romantic mystery. Is it part of the network of castles built by Anglo-Norman invaders to defend themselves against Welsh tribes? Or perhaps a Victorian folly?

    Two effigies in the castle's chapel may provide a key clue, but are they originals or copies? And the chapel's age and origins are no clearer than the castle's.

    Tony and the Team dig trenches as they look for a medieval courtyard, building specialists crawl through the roof, there's digging out front for the remains of a drawbridge, and there's a mound of documents to pore over... and some wet Welsh weather to contend with.

    Can the Team determine if Steve and Pru's home really was one of the Anglo-Norman castles built to defend 'Little England beyond Wales' from the locals?

  • Episode 12 - The Time Team Guide to Experimental Archaeology

    Tony Robinson celebrates the more than 150 practical experiments and re-creations that he and the Team have conducted over 20 years in order to unlock the mysteries exposed by their digs.

    Rebuilding - and even reliving - the past is a controversial area of archaeology. But it's one that Time Team has long championed, and one that has yielded some amazing results.

    This programme revisits some of the programme's greatest hits, from recreating individual objects such as Stone Age axes, Roman pewter bowls, medieval pottery and a Stone Age sword that throws new light on the myth of King Arthur's Excalibur, to building an entire Iron Age house and a Roman machine that lifted water from a deep well.

    The programme also revisits some of Time Team's forays into living history, from finding out what it felt like to be in Dad's Army to surviving 24 hours as a Victorian prisoner, in an attempt to see the past through our ancestors' eyes.

    Plus how a huge and - at times - contentious experiment for the programme finally solved the riddle of Seahenge.

  • Episode 13 - Twenty Years of Time Team

    In this special celebration of the nation's favourite archaeology programme, Tony Robinson relives the best bits from two decades and 230 episodes.

    The programme takes in highlights from digging up the garden of Buckingham Palace to revealing the final minutes of a crashed Spitfire, and discovering the first stone circle to be found in Britain for 150 years.

    It also tells the story of how Time Team grew from nervous beginnings in a Somerset field to include city-wide digs - and even nationwide events, when thousands of people spent the weekend digging their own back gardens.

    Time Team has transformed the way millions of people understand Britain's history and heritage, and made a multi-million-pound investment in our archaeology along the way.

Time Team synopsis

In this popular and (literally) groundbreaking programme, Tony Robinson and a team of experts travel the country to investigate a wide range of archaeological sites of historical importance

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16 Series, 173 Episodes

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