Time Team arrives in Banburyshire this week to begin excavating the site of a huge Roman Villa, discovered on the Broughton Castle estate

The infamous Time Team arrives in Banburyshire this week to begin a legacy project that will show us what a huge Roman villa, that existed on farmland near Broughton Castle, looked like.

By Roseanne Edwards
Tuesday, 21st September 2021, 4:53 pm

Ancient will meet the most modern of state-of-the-art equipment to produce a 3-dimensional image of the remains of the courtyard villa - almost the size of Buckingham Palace - using a technique called ground-penetrating radar (GPR).

Leading a group of well-loved and respected Time Team experts on site will be founder and producer Tim Taylor, accompanied by a group of about 90 archeologists and helpers. Among them will be Banbury historian and detectorist Keith Westcott, who unearthed the Broughton Hoard and discovered the Roman Villa and has been made an official member of the Time Team. The Broughton Hoard is a collection of silver European coins that was hidden at Broughton in the early years of the English Civil War, probably to prevent then from being looted.

The story of the discovery of the villa was broken by the Banbury Guardian in 2018 and can be found here.

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Some of the Time Team presenters with Tim Taylor at the centre

And the plans for the excavation were detailed in an interview with Mr Taylor about what the archaeologists hope to accomplish in this first modern excavation of a major Roman villa site - one with a distinctly 21st century, technological advantage.

Time Team - which became an iconic TV programme on Channel 4 - has been resurrected after pressure from a host of loyal fans worldwide who have been continuing to watch the classic excavations on YouTube. The new programme of investigations - of which the Broughton Roman Villa will be the team's legacy project - is being paid for through subscriptions on Patreon.

To join Time Team as a Patreon fan see https://www.patreon.com/TimeTeamOfficialThose supporting the projects in this way get preferential, live coverage of the action on site, while digest programmes will also be available on the Time Team YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/c/timeteamclassicsMr Taylor said: "We will be on site on Friday. It's going to be a long project lasting possibly three or four years. During this initial stage we will be collecting various kinds of data using photogrammetry, drones, GPR looking under the soil and magnetometry - all going through a processing system to enable us to get a digital model of the whole landscape. This is a very important part of this first visit.

"We will be doing a 3D magnetometry model of Broughton Castle and one of the villa and its surroundings, which will be built up over time by our team in New Zealand.

Banbury historian and detectorist Keith Westcott during the trial dig at the Broughton Roman villa site

"We're working with the county council archeologist Richard Oram and already we've had a lot of help from Keith Wescott and also the farmer, John Colegrave who is also a local councillor. Because of these contracts we do it's important to have support of farmers and the community and part of that is involving the local school. On Monday, pupils from the Bishop Carpenter CE Primary School in North Newington will come up the road for a unique history lesson on site."

Mr Taylor said the team had booked 50 rooms at a Banbury motel for the duration of the dig. The 90 members of the group and any visitors will have to be twice-vaccinated against Covid and taking daily lateral flow tests.

"Because of Covid we've got marshalls all around the site and we're responsible for everyone on the field. Entry to the field will be strictly controlled so people will not be able to just wander out to have a look," he said.

"We have a live dig watch programme while we're filming, primarily aimed at Patreon fans to let them know exclusively what we're up to."

Keith Westcott, historian and detectorist of Banbury, is now an official member of the Time Team

Time Team has 6,500 Patreon backers who make monthly donations and 150,000 people signed up to its YouTube channel from 40 countries all over the world. The YouTube classics attract 4m viewers a month.

"The audience for this worldwide will be massive," said Mr Taylor.

Keith Westcott said: "This is like a dream come true for me, having discovered the villa several years ago and now being part of Time Team about to unearth its secrets.

"What's fundamental to all of this now is that the Broughton villa and the estate is going to be Time Team's legacy project. They will keep returning not only to look at the villa but the wider landscape to include Swalcliffe and to trace the history from neolithic times to the bronze age and iron age through to the Romans and Anglo Saxons."

An aerial view of the outline of the Roman villa which is almost as large as Buckingham Palace

Martin Fiennes of Broughton Castle will be among those on site, watching one of his estate fields reveal some of its 2,000 year old secrets.

The Banbury Guardian will be on site on Saturday to bring some early coverage of the Time Team excavation to our readers.

A Roman coin found during the trial dig at the Roman villa site at Broughton
Tim Taylor, founder and producer of Time Team, who leads the excavation at Broughton