TIME TEAM VISIT SALISBURY
The Time Team has spent this week digging at one of England’s best known and most beautiful locations as Salisbury Cathedral played the host for a programme to be screened during the sixteenth series of the popular archaeology show, early in the new year. And it was a very special dig for one local boy, Salisbury resident and Time Team archaeologist Phil Harding.
“When I was younger I would see Salisbury Cathedral everyday and always looked at it with total awe, so to do a dig here was a once in a lifetime experience”, said Phil. “Our trench was right up against the walls and what we found underlines what incredible engineers and geologists those original builders were, especially when you’re just four feet down in the trench when you come across the underlying gravel!”
The finds of the last week have emphasised that the Cathedral landscape, made famous in paintings by Constable and now known throughout the world, is perhaps not quite as constant as many would expect. The Team opened a trench right next to the Cathedral to uncover the Beauchamp Chapel, built for one of Salisbury’s most colourful Bishops, Richard Beauchamp, but demolished hundreds of years ago. A trench was also opened up to explore the site north of the Cathedral where the original Bell Tower and spire once stood, also now long since disappeared.
Following their usual action-packed three day schedule the team digging the Beauchamp Chapel trench uncovered a mystery skeleton, as well as other finds which help shed light on the Cathedral in Beauchamp’s time and the actions of subsequent generations. There was disappointment though as the Bishop’s own tomb was discovered and found to be empty – robbed centuries ago with the Bishop’s bones probably moved to the Cathedral’s main Nave in 1789.
The bell tower site, one of the largest trenches dug by the Time Team in recent years, reached the tower’s foundations which shed light on the construction methods used in the Cathedral. There was also a surprise when they uncovered even older foundations below, almost certainly the Mason’s Yard from when the Cathedral was first built.
Tim Tatton-Brown, the Cathedral’s archaeologist, is delighted with the Time Team’s visit: “Both the main excavations were very successful and uncovered everything we’d hoped we might find. We’ve found out more about the burial of Bishop Beauchamp as well as this other body, most likely a member of the Bishop’s family from the 16th Century. On the Bell Tower site we uncovered the whole of the top of the foundation of the South East corner as well as the old workshop site with many shards of Purbeck Marble. The Team has achieved a great deal, including plenty of geophysical work around other parts of the Cathedral grounds.”
Phil Harding agreed: “We’ve discovered some very exciting and important stuff and I’d say this was one of the best things I’ve ever done for Time Team. Although having seen what I’ve seen underneath the Cathedral it defies logic that the thing stands up!”
Cathedral spokesperson David Coulthard said it had been an exciting few days: “It’s been great to have the Time Team, they’ve been great company and it’s been wonderful to see some of the Cathedral’s history uncovered. Many people who have been on our tower tours will be familiar with the shape of the old bell tower – you can still see it etched in the grass from up there – but to see it laid bare and learn more about how it was used later was fantastic.”
Return to Events Archive Listings