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Press release

From 5th century mosaics to World War Two defences, National Trust places will appear in new series of BBC 2’s Digging for Britain

Archaeologist revealing a mosaic floor in the northern wing at Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire
Archaeologist revealing a mosaic floor at Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire | © National Trust Images/Stephen Haywood

Four National Trust places will be appearing in the new 6-part series of Digging for Britain presented by Professor Alice Roberts which begins on Tuesday 2 January on BBC2.

The range of archaeology at the sites and spaces cared for by the National Trust span centuries of human activity from cultural and social to industrial and military history.

The following four Trust places will be sharing their stories in Digging for Britain:

Ankerwycke – (Central Programme)

The programme focuses on the rediscovery of the medieval nunnery of St Mary’s at Ankerwycke, Surrey. Part of a wider National Lottery Heritage funded project at Runnymede and Ankerwycke, to understand this internationally significant landscape, the programme joins James Brown, regional Archaeologist, and the team, during one of their community excavations. The excavation revealed the medieval cloistral layout of the site, which had been preserved beneath Tudor landscaping gravel. These fascinating discoveries help to understand the site and reveal more about life for the nuns living in the nunnery beyond the male-biased historical accounts.

Fan Bay – (South Programme)

Fan Bay on the White Cliffs of Dover was an artillery installation built at the behest of Sir Winston Churchill immediately after the fall of France. The programme joins Jon Barker, Project Manager and the team at their summer excavation of one of the six-inch gun emplacements, as part of a National Lottery Heritage funded project. The excavation cleared the 1960s overburden to reveal the gun’s emplacement in excellent condition, as well as the entrance to the subterranean magazine structure. Cable shafts, ducts and even some surviving magslip cable was discovered during the dig, giving the team greater understanding about how the artillery was hard wired in such a groundbreaking way, during the darkest days of the Second World War.  

Smallhythe – (South Programme)

The programme joins Nathalie Cohen, regional Archaeologist, and the team at their third year of excavations at Smallhythe Place, Kent, revisiting a site once investigated by the Time Team. Now lying over ten miles inland, the tiny village of Smallhythe was once a port lying alongside the Rother, a river which was also known in the past as the Limen. The excavations revealed that during the medieval period, Smallhythe was a location for royal shipbuilding, with Henry V’s ships being built here. The excavation gives the team more information on where the dock was located and how the site would have functioned.

Chedworth – (West Programme)

Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire, is one of the largest and finest examples of a Roman villa in Britain, and the programme joins Martin Papworth, regional Archaeologist, investigating of the age of the important mosaics. Radiocarbon dating and optically stimulated luminescence (OLS) samples have indicated that a wealthy family continued to live there, in some style, well into the 5th-century - the first time that this has been convincingly demonstrated for any of the villas of Britain. Further research is now taking place to hunt down comparative dates from other Roman villas in the West Country.

Tom Dommett, National Trust Head of Historic Environment said:

“Archaeology at the National Trust spans an enormous range of sites, and our teams work with many other experts across a wide spectrum of built heritage and the natural environment. I am delighted that four of our places will be featured in this series of Digging for Britain, spanning the 5th century to the Second World War. I hope the series will inspire people of all ages to visit, discover more and get involved with archaeology events and projects across the country.”

‘Digging for Britain’ can be seen on BBC 2 at 8pm from Tuesday 2 January and with all episodes on iPlayer.