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Time Team in Cornwall
For all of its ancient and archaeological sites, you might be surprised to learn that Time Team, the TV programme, have only visited Cornwall six times to carry out digs.
On the other hand, it's not that surprising as Time Team work mostly on hints and rumours - whereas Cornwall's ancient landscape is quite well documented. Although there are several hundred more sites that could be excavated and explored in Cornwall, other counties have less interesting digs to be done.... well, that's my thought anyway!
Now that Time Team has been brought to an end, let's take a look back at the Time Team digs in Cornwall and see what they were after and what they found:
RIP Mick Aston of Time Team
On 24 June 2013 Archaeologist and broadcaster Mick Aston, who found fame with TV programme Time Team, died aged 66. Living in Somerset, Mick Aston continued to take part in archaeology projects after leaving Time Team acrimoniously in 2012.
RIP Mick Aston - we enjoyed your Time Team programmes.
Time Team Digs in Cornwall:
7 January 1996
3 / 10
12 January 1997
4 / 2
Iron Age Market
17 February 2002
9 / 7
Bodmin Moor, Cornwall
In the Shadow of the Tor
8 April 2007
14 / 13
From Constantinople to Cornwall
9 March 2008
15 / 10
1 March 2009
16 / 9
Boleigh, a Prehistoric Fogou
In March 1995 a Time Team dig was carried out on a prehistoric fogou near Boleigh, Cornwall, this episode was then first aired in January 1996.
Fogou is the Cornish word for cave. There are a number of these underground stone chambers around - they are man-made. Although their purpose is not known, it is believed that they were built as shelters, or protection, for people and their goods. Several fogous were used when soldiers were being chased during the Civil War. Other people believe they were of a more spiritual nature and possibly used for rituals.
Boleigh Fogou is near Lamorna Cove, close to Land's End and The Pipers standing stones. The site is on the B3315, four miles from Penzance between Trewoofe and Boleigh in the Lamorna Valley
This fogou is also known locally as Bollett Fogue, Fogie Hole or Fugoe Hole, and fogie, fugoe.
Having two entrances, which is unusual for a fogou, some iron age pottery was found, along with carvings that might have been brought from elsewhere.
Boleigh Fogue is one of the largest fogous in Cornwall and is part of a 3-acre iron age site.
The fogou was already known about, with several authors including it in their books, including Hugh O'Neill Hencken (1932) and Charles Lewis Hind (1907) found and entered it.
In 1946 a book was published that said: "The Boleigh fogou, near Lamorna Cove, was said to have been the haunt of witches. On one occasion, Squire Lovel of Trewoofe, who had been out hunting, stantine. Smelted most of pursued a hare into the fogou. He chased it for more than a mile underground" - although, in my opinion, what's said in the next sentence means that we should ignore all but the facts: that a fogou was known about and entered in the past.
Hals (1655–1737) a local historian, wrote about it being used as a hideout during the 1640s when he wrote:
" ...., in the midst of which is a hole leading to a vault underground. How far it extends no man now living can tell, by reason of the damps or thick vapours that are in it; for as soon as you go an arrow flight in it or less, your candles will go out, or extinguish of themselves, for want of air. .... the royal party, pursued in the West by the Parliament troops .... were privately conveyed into this vault as far as they could proceed with safety, where Mr Leveale fed and secured them till they found opportunity to make their escapes to the king's friends and party"
The Boleigh Fogou has a main passage, 36' long and about 6'6" high. There is a 13' long creep passage that starts close to the entrance. The creep originally had another entrance, but that's become blocked. The creep entrance is low and tight. The end of the main passage is also blocked as a part of the roof has collapsed.
Location: The Boleigh fogou is on private land, at Rosemerryn House. Rosemerryn House is a B&B and holiday cottage and they say that people who are not staying with them are welcome to visit the fogou, but they'd like you to phone ahead to visit at a convenient time (01736 810530). 50.0715°N 5.5829°W Google Maps: 50.0715,-5.5829 Postcode: TR19 6BN
Notes if Visiting: Fogous are very dark, pitch black, so take a torch. They also tend to be wet and a bit muddy, so dress appropriately. This isn't something for a summer dress and flip-flops.
The episode from Launceston, Cornwall, was filmed on 22-24 March 1996. The objective was to discover why a local landowner discovered some bones at the site and if there was a link or connection to a nearby leper hospital.
They set out to uncover the secret history of a female skeleton found in Launceston, Cornwall.
The weather was against them in this episode as the team tried to establish if the skeleton was a leper from a 13th century colony, or was she a casualty of the Civil War or had she been put to death after being tried at the Launceston Assizes in the late I6th or early 17th century.
After a thorough investigation, the team decided and then reburied the body in the consecrated ground of Launceston church.
The area excavated was the South West Water site to the left of Launceston Rugby Club.
Notes if Visiting: There's nothing to see at the dig site, the only thing to visit would be the grave of the woman in the churchyard.
Helford: An Iron Age Market
In this episode, a farmer shows his house full of Iron Age finds, that he's gathered from a huge fiield overlooking the Helston River.
This was a fortified Iron Age enclosure, but a lot larger than would normally be found. The Time Team visited to try to establish why it was so large and why it was so close to a 2,000-year-old fortified underground chamber in a nearby field. These two large, impressive enclosures, or earthworks, can be seen at Gear and Caer Vallack
What they found was amphorae, which are ancient vessels used to carry goods around - proving that the area had been importing a lot of goods from abroad years ago, probably as part of the St Michael's Mount trade routes along the coast.
There was also a treasure trove containing medieval rings and a collection of Iron Age bowls.
The field excavated was 18 acres in size and surrounded by a bank and ditch. It is the oval-shaped large field directly south of, and adjoining, the Gear Farm Shop. The second area investigated was nearby Mawgan. Another couple of fields were excavated, adjoining The Kiln at TR12 6DF.
Location: TR12 6DE TR12 6DF and Mawgan.
Three Digs for an Iron Age Fort at Helston, Cornwall:
Rough Tor, near the summit:
Bodmin: Shadow of a Tor
Time Team investigated a 500 metre cairn and the site of a Bronze Age village on the slopes of Rough Tor.
It was on the slopes of Bodmin Tor that the famous murder of Charlotte Dymond happened in 1844. Rough Tor is also close to the infamous Jamaica Inn.
The people who used to live in this area moved about quite a bit, meaning that there are lots of temporary shelters, small villages and evidence of hunting activity and areas of knapping. At one time the whole area was covered in trees, but these were cleared hundreds of years ago.
Time Team investigated a site on the western slope of Rough Tor, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall to investigate the remains of a Bronze Age roundhouse settlement and a structure known as "The Bank Cairn", which was a possible Neolithic ritual monument.
In the 1950s this settlement had been investigated, with some trenches being placed across the structures. The settlement had initially been dated as Bronze Age by comparison to other excavated sites on Bodmin Moor and Dartmoor, and the main aim of the Time Team project was to confirm, or deny, the date of the structures.
The Bank Cairn had initially been linked with other stones nearby, but an extensive Bodmin Moor Survey in the early 1990s, gave it significance as a separate monument.
Padstow: From Constantinople to Cornwall
The Padstow episode of Time Team featured on Lellizzick, Padstow, The team set out to investigate some circular anomalies, which had been identified by aerial photography and a geophysical survey, following extensive metal detecting. The aim was to ascertain their date, characters, condition and extent.
What they discovered was a roundhouse settlement dating from Romano-British through into the post-Roman period, with evidence of occupation over perhaps five or six centuries.
The Site under investigation was a series of fields between Hawker’s Cove and Harbour Cove in Lellizzick, by the tidal inlet of the River Camel and overlooking the Doom Bar sand bank
The Site is approximately a mile north of Padstow, close to where the coastguard station of Stepper Point is - the land is part of the Prideaux Place estate, owned by Peter Prideux-Brune and farmed by tenant farmer Charlie Watson-Smyth.
A lot of Bronze Age artefacts were discovered, including pottery and some Trevisker Ware. Copper alloy finds were also made and some cast metals, including a fragment of cast gold.
It was decided that the circular features seen in aerial photographs are related to a prehistoric settlement and are not burial mounds.
Notes if Visiting: The coastal footpath goes all round this area and the views are great. Lellizzick Farm might be open and selling cream teas in their secluded garden if you're lucky. To get onto the path, go to the end of Padstow harbour and there are some steps up to the coastal footpath.
A Poldark Film Location
In 2014 this area was used for the Poldark 2015 TV series filming, so that's two reasons to visit Lellizzick.
Footage from Time Team on Looe:
Looe: Hermit Harbour
Time Team visited Looe Island, off the coast of Looe, Cornwall, to look into early Christian history. This island, previously known as St George's Island among other names, already has a truly fascinating history.
It's said Jesus went to Looe Island, it was the home of smugglers, there are smugglers' caves under the island (the entrances to which have been forgotten, so await future discovery).
Looe Island was left to a charity, Cornwall Wildlife Trust, when the two previous owners, two sisters who lived there since 1965, died.
Time Team's objective was to excavate the sites of Christian chapels built on the island and on the mainland opposite. They discovered found the remains of a Benedictine chapel, built about 1139 by monks from Glastonbury as well as remains of much earlier Romano-British chapels built of wood.
They looked at the site of the old Lammana Chapel and a potential neolithic settlement. They investigated chapel ruins and found various skeletons.They even managed to grab a secret peek into the Island House itself.