Digging for Britain episode 3

Digging for Britain episode 3

Digging for Britain episode 3: A gatehouse riddled with Civil War bullets, a unique Iron Age shield made from bark and Roman burials with pots where the heads should be. As we delve into the tenth season of the beloved and well-respected program “Digging for Britain”, we arrive at a truly captivating episode – the third out of a six-part series.



This episode promises to deliver a rich blend of history and archaeology, unearthing tantalizing relics and revealing fascinating insights about the past. Immerse yourself in the exploration of a gatehouse, a historic site that resonates with the echoes of the Civil War, its aging timbers still bearing the scars of countless bullets from those tempestuous times. Each dent and puncture in the sturdy wood silently narrates the tales of fierce battles and resolute warriors.



Further, we embark on the discovery of an Iron Age artifact of unparalleled uniqueness – a meticulously crafted shield. But this is no ordinary shield. Constructed from the humble yet resilient bark, this artifact paints a vivid picture of the innovation and resourcefulness of our ancestors.

Lastly, prepare to delve into the enigma of Roman burials, a world that blurs the line between the ordinary and the bizarre. Amid the usual funerary items and burial rites, we find an unsettling yet intriguing practice – pottery pots positioned curiously where the heads of the departed should be. This peculiarity throws a curveball into our understanding of Roman burial customs, provoking questions and stimulating our curiosity for more archaeological secrets. Join us in this journey through time, as we dig into Britain’s rich history and uncover the tales that the land still whispers to those who are willing to listen.


Digging for Britain episode 3


Civil War in England

The Civil War in England was a series of armed conflicts and political upheavals that took place between 1642 and 1651. The main parties involved were the supporters of King Charles I, known as the Royalists or Cavaliers, and the supporters of the Long Parliament, known as the Parliamentarians or Roundheads. The war was fought over various issues, such as the role of the monarchy, the rights of Parliament, the power of the Church of England, and the religious freedoms of the people.

Causes of the Civil War

The causes of the Civil War can be traced back to the reign of King James I, who succeeded Queen Elizabeth I in 1603.

James I and the Divine Right of Kings

James was a firm believer in the divine right of kings, which meant that he claimed absolute authority over his subjects and did not recognize any limits to his power. He also faced opposition from the Puritans, a group of Protestants who wanted to reform the Church of England and make it more like the Calvinist churches in Europe. James clashed with Parliament over his attempts to raise taxes, impose religious uniformity, and interfere with the legal system.

Charles I and the Personal Rule

James’s son, Charles I, inherited his father’s views and policies when he became king in 1625. He married Henrietta Maria, a Catholic princess from France, which aroused suspicion among his Protestant subjects. He also appointed William Laud as the Archbishop of Canterbury, who tried to impose a more ceremonial and hierarchical form of worship on the Church of England. Many Puritans felt that this was a step towards restoring Catholicism in England. Charles also faced resistance from Parliament over his financial and foreign policies. He needed money to fund his wars with Spain and France, but Parliament refused to grant him subsidies unless he agreed to their demands for reforms. In 1629, Charles dissolved Parliament and decided to rule without it for the next 11 years. This period is known as the Personal Rule or the Eleven Years’ Tyranny.

The Scottish Rebellion and the Long Parliament

Charles’s Personal Rule came to an end in 1640, when he had to recall Parliament to deal with a rebellion in Scotland. The Scots were unhappy with Charles’s attempts to impose a new prayer book on their Presbyterian Church. They rose up in arms and invaded England, forcing Charles to negotiate with them. To pay for the army that he needed to fight the Scots, Charles had to ask Parliament for money. However, Parliament seized this opportunity to present him with a list of grievances and demands for reforms. This Parliament became known as the Long Parliament because it lasted until 1660.

The Conflict between King and Parliament

The Long Parliament passed several acts that limited Charles’s power and challenged his authority. For example, they abolished his prerogative courts, such as the Star Chamber and the High Commission, which he used to punish his opponents without due process. They also passed the Triennial Act, which required that Parliament should meet at least once every three years and could not be dissolved without its own consent. They also impeached some of Charles’s ministers and advisers, such as Laud and Thomas Wentworth, Earl of Strafford, who were executed for treason.

Charles tried to regain control by accusing five members of Parliament of treason and attempting to arrest them in January 1642. However, his plan failed as the members escaped and he was met with resistance from the Londoners who supported Parliament. This was seen as a breach of parliamentary privilege and a declaration of war by both sides. Charles left London and raised his standard at Nottingham in August 1642, calling on his loyal subjects to join him. Parliament also raised an army under the command of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. The stage was set for a civil war that would divide the nation.

Roman Burials in England

The Roman occupation of Britain lasted from 43 AD to 410 AD, and left behind a rich and diverse legacy of culture, architecture, and religion. One of the most fascinating aspects of Roman Britain is the way the Romans buried their dead, and how their burial practices changed over time and across regions. In this blog post, we will explore some of the main features and types of Roman burials in England, and what they can tell us about the beliefs and identities of the people who lived and died under Roman rule.

Inhumation and Cremation

The two main methods of disposing of the dead in Roman Britain were inhumation (burying the body intact) and cremation (burning the body and placing the ashes in a container). Both methods were used throughout the period of Roman occupation, but their popularity varied depending on several factors, such as social status, religious affiliation, cultural background, and local traditions. Generally speaking, cremation was more common in the early centuries of Roman Britain, especially among the military and the urban elite, while inhumation became more prevalent in the later centuries, especially among the rural population and the Christian converts.

Burial Goods

Another characteristic feature of Roman burials in England is the presence of burial goods: objects that were placed with the deceased either inside or outside the grave. These could include personal items, such as jewellery, clothing, coins, tools, and weapons; religious items, such as lamps, figurines, amulets, and inscriptions; and funerary items, such as pottery, glassware, food, and flowers. The type and quantity of burial goods varied depending on the wealth and status of the deceased, as well as their beliefs and preferences. For example, some people chose to be buried with items that reflected their occupation or hobbies in life, such as musical instruments or writing implements; others chose to be buried with items that symbolized their allegiance to a particular deity or cult, such as Mithras or Isis; and others chose to be buried with items that expressed their hope for a happy afterlife, such as lamps or coins.

Burial Sites

The location and arrangement of Roman burials in England also reveal a lot about the social and cultural diversity of Roman Britain. The Romans did not have a uniform or standardized way of burying their dead; rather, they adapted to the local customs and landscapes of the regions they occupied. Some of the most common types of burial sites in Roman Britain are:

– Cemeteries: These were designated areas for burying the dead outside the settlements or along the roads. They could be either public or private, depending on who owned or managed them. Cemeteries could contain a mixture of inhumations and cremations, sometimes arranged in rows or clusters according to family or social groups. Some cemeteries also had monumental structures, such as mausoleums or tombstones, that marked the graves of prominent individuals or families.
– Villas: These were large rural estates that belonged to wealthy landowners or officials. Some villas had their own private cemeteries within their grounds, where the owners and their household members were buried. Villas could also have shrines or temples dedicated to specific deities or ancestors, where offerings and rituals were performed for the benefit of the dead.
– Forts: These were military bases that housed soldiers and their families. Some forts had their own cemeteries within or near their walls, where the soldiers and their dependents were buried. Forts could also have altars or memorials dedicated to the emperor or to fallen comrades, where honors and sacrifices were paid to the dead.
– Settlements: These were towns or villages that housed civilians and traders. Some settlements had their own cemeteries within or near their boundaries, where the residents and visitors were buried. Settlements could also have public buildings or spaces dedicated to funerary activities, such as basilicas or amphitheaters, where ceremonies and spectacles were held for the dead.


Roman burials in England offer a rich and varied source of information about the people who lived and died in Roman Britain. By studying their burial practices, we can learn more about their social structures, cultural identities, religious beliefs, and personal choices. We can also appreciate their creativity and adaptability in dealing with death and commemorating their loved ones.

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