Time Team Series 20. My Third Episode: Day Three

Isn’t life strange? I thought I’d wake up with a head as thick as two short planks, but no: I felt fine. Bouncy even.  As ever, Phil, Stuart Ainsworth and I were the first people down to breakfast, which is absolutely fabulous in this hotel. Anyhow, enough of that.

We were back at site by 8.30 and started our search for the medieval building which had been the start of this succession of large country houses. I think we found it – or rather a Tudor version of itself, but what really intrigued me (and which probably won’t make it into the broadcast version of the programme) was a large quarry pit about fifty yards from the great house. I assume that the pit had been dug over probably two or three centuries to provide clay for bricks and gravel for paths, but when the powerful family took over the site in the mid-1500s, they needed to clear the area for their huge development of the original, medieval, hall. So they levelled the ground where the new extensions to the house were to be built.

The soil they levelled off was dumped into the old quarry pit and it included substantial quantities of early medieval pottery, including the first mass-produced pottery of East Anglia, known as Thetford Ware. That Thetford Ware dated from roughly the period of the Norman Conquest. So that means the soil that was removed to make way for the big new house was removed from an area where people had already been living for some 500 years. That’s a remarkable thought. But let’s take it a bit further: I wonder how many ordinary people had lived out their lives on land now occupied by the other great buildings of Britain: say at Buckingham Palace, York Minster or Wembley Stadium? We mustn’t forget, in our rush to modernise, that everywhere and everything has its own history.

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