TV’s Time Team unveil palace’s secrets

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KINGS Clipstone again played host to history in the making last week as television show Time Team finally uncovered some of the secrets of King John’s Palace.

The Channel 4 crew arrived last Monday to conduct the first major excavation of the medieval site in some 50 years.

Producers largely managed to keep the dig under wraps to deter treasure hunters but organised tours were laid on for around 100 lucky locals.

Chad was also allowed access to the site in exchange for agreeing not to publish details about the show’s presence until the dig was complete.

Key finds included the foundations of a possible chapel near the standing structure and evidence the building was much larger and grander than the ruined walls suggest.

Running since 1994, the show features a team of archaeologists visiting sites of historical importance across the country and attempting to solve some of their mysteries in three days.

The visit was a coup for landowners Mickie and Martin Bradley, who had first approached producers in 1998.

Said Mrs Bradley: “We would not have been able to do this any other way than with the programme and now they are here they have been brilliant.

“What they have found will give us the evidence to get the site under the surface archaeologically scheduled.”

A 12th century royal residence, the palace was used as a hunting and networking base and played host to a meeting between Richard I and William, King of Scotland.

But it was ruined by 1568 and in 2009 needed £100,000 of repair work to stave off the risk of collapse.

Several trenches were filled with dozens of experts over the week, including the show’s archaeological front man, Phil Harding.

“It’s been a fabulous week,” he said. “I think we’ve made a very positive contribution to the story of the monument.

“Being able to come to a site like this, that no-one has really looked at to this extent before, and which hasn’t been excavated for 50 or 60 years, with new technology at our disposal and learn new things and develop new ideas is brilliant.

“This trench (revealing the foundations of the possible chapel) has got most of the early history.

“Earlier in the week we were rather fishing but here we’ve found pottery from the late 12th early 13th century.

“Everybody knows all about the lords and kings but it’s also about finding out about the ordinary people of that era.”

The site is private land open to the public on a few set days a year, but a ‘delighted’ Mrs Bradley added the dig will prompt talks with Nottinghamshire County Council and English Heritage about regular opening hours in future.

“This will raise its profile and give it more recognition,” she said.

“Hopefully people can come and see it more often; I might own the site on paper but I’m only its keeper.”

Campaigners also said the week would help raise the area’s profile, with local artist Matthew Palmer invited to paint the dig in action.

“It will help our efforts to get over the real history of Sherwood Forest,” said Stephen Parkhouse of the Celebration of King’s Clipstone Group.

“A geophysical survey last autumn suggested it was going to be an extensive complex.”

Stephen helps organise a pageant-style community event for the village and surrounding areas, which will next appear at the palace on 24th July and will focus on its history.

Channel 4 expects to screen the episode from the dig in the autumn or next spring, with the finds due to be exhibited at Mansfield Museum.

Community groups wanting to get involved in the July event at the palace with games and stalls are asked to contact Mansfield 822321 or email stephen.parkhouse@talktalk.net.