Time Team mysteries at Blythburgh priory

CHANNEL Four's Time Team will unravel the mysteries of Blythburgh priory during the programme on Sunday evening.After enlisting the help of Suffolk's Record Office and Archaeological Service, Tony Robinson, Mick Aston, Phil Harding and Helen Geake held a three-day dig in the ancient grounds.

CHANNEL Four's Time Team will unravel the mysteries of Blythburgh priory during the programme on Sunday evening.

After enlisting the help of Suffolk's Record Office and Archaeological Service, Tony Robinson, Mick Aston, Phil Harding and Helen Geake held a three-day dig in the ancient grounds.

It was filmed in October last year, and following permission by English Heritage, excavations took place in the garden of local residents Nick and Susan Haward.

Although there are some ruins in the garden - a long wall, the remains of a decorated column and flint rubble, no previous exploration had been done.


You may also want to watch:


They decided to contact Time Team after Mr Haward discovered some bones while laying a new patio.

The programme, titled Skeletons in the Shed saw Thomas Scott, Time Team's researcher visit the Ipswich branch of the Suffolk Record Office to carry out some preliminary research.

Most Read

Staff helped him find information, including the tithe map and apportionment for the village dated 1841.

They also found old maps, photographs, prints, and reference books that could be used by the archaeologists to painstakingly piece together the history of the site.

Suffolk's Archaeological Service was able to provide Mr Scott with information from The Historic Environment Record for entries in the area of the site. The main inventory is held in a database and on maps. The Historic Environment record officer was also able to give Time Team extra background information, such as plans and photographs.

Philip Clarke, Time Team's executive producer, said: 'It was quite a difficult dig, much more complicated than we had first thought it was going to be, but finally as the light was failing on Thursday evening we managed to find the east wall - the east end being the most important, business end of a church - and from that we were able to map the rest of the site.'

Lisa Chambers, Suffolk county councillor and portfolio holder for culture and economic development added: 'The popularity of programmes like Time Team show there is a real hunger for local and social history. I am delighted that our Record Office was able to provide some useful clues to help Time Team solve some of the mysteries of what's beneath the ground at Blythburgh.'

During the programme Time Team discovered that the Priory of the Blessed Virgin Mary was established at Blythburgh by the Black or Austin Canons in about 1125.

It became clear that the priory was much bigger than anticipated and had therefore been wealthy before the value of its property deteriorated following the ravages of the Black Death in 1349. It also lost income due the erosion of its lands in Dunwich and elsewhere.

During the 15th century the number of canons living at the priory fell from seven to four due to this loss of income and by the 16th century it was in debt. When it was dissolved and seized by Henry VIII on February 12, 1537, he took all the lead from its roofs and had it taken to Westhorpe to repair his manor house, before he granted the priory to Sir Arthur Hopton of Westwood Lodge in 1538.

Following the dissolution the Prior was given a pension of �6, but the three remaining canons were turned out penniless.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter