Thirty-one days of the Time Team continues for March. Today the Time Team is at Westminster Abbey. Restoration work done in the 19th Century uncovered some interesting finds. Now Time Team is set to look at those finds to help complete Westminster Abbey’s history. The Time Team searches for the lost sacristy during this episode. Will the Time Team find this building in three days?
Westminster Abbey was the vision of King Henry VIII. It was the place where coronations were held. King, Queens, Princes, and Princesses were buried there. Prime Ministers too were buried there as well. Royal weddings took place in the Abbey as well. Westminster Abbey played a significant role in British History. There is one piece of the abbey that is missing: a sacristy. The sacristy allegedly held the biggest hoard of treasure this side of the Alps. This building vanished without a trace.
King Henry III began to build the abbey in 1245 and it was the most expensive building project for its time. Westminster would eventually be the political center of London. In the past, Time Team stayed away from London, however, this dig brought them around to digging in London. Mick discusses with Tony what a sacristy would look like. Warwick Rodwell is the consultant archeologist on the Westminster Abbey Site. He discusses with Tony and Mick how the possible location of the sacristy was discovered. It was discovered as part of a renovation project at the Abbey. As a result, a plan of the sacristy was developed.
Rodwell is hopeful that the sacristy is found under the grass. Tony is feeling doubtful because another building was constructed on the site. Mick is hopeful. He believes they did not dig everything out when this new building was constructed and demolished. Geophysics takes over the site and maps the location. Tony touches on the history of the Abbey. Some additional workshops and buildings were built on the site and in the footprint of the sacristy. Is there anything left of the sacristy?
Mick and Tony discuss the importance of finding the sacristy and how it would change the history of the Abbey. Changing the history of the Abbey will be a challenge though. The geophysics results are in. They are finding the presence of the wall. However, there are problems, pipes and other issues are showing in the geophysics results. The Time Team will have to plan this dig carefully and “dodge the services,” as Tony so aptly puts it. The first trench goes in.
Bettany Hughes joins the Time Team and she discusses the history of the Abbey. King Henry III was inspired by Edward the Confessor. Westminster Abbey would be known as a shrine for Edward the Confessor. It is also a grand political statement. Henry III returned from France inspired by the cathedral construction there. In France, one cathedral was for a coronation, another for royal burials, and a third for religious services. King Henry III decided to have one cathedral for all three and Westminster Abbey was born. So the sacristy would have been an important place to assist in these ceremonies.
The Time Team is finding a wall, however, it is not part of the sacristy or even a later building. What was it a part of? Continue to watch Time Team find out more about Westminster Abbey.
This is an amazing episode of Time Team: they get to explore a place not normally explored before. This would be a good episode for a sub to show in a history classroom. If you have an independent study student interested in architecture, you can recommend this episode for them.
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