Tony Robinson and Time Team uncover horseshoe at Oakham Castle

Photo: SM270612-025ow
Time Team at Oakham Castle. Time Team archaeologist Dr Phil Harding.

Photo: SM270612-025ow Time Team at Oakham Castle. Time Team archaeologist Dr Phil Harding.

ARCHAEOLOGISTS working at Oakham Castle found the most important discovery of all in one of the trenches - a horseshoe.

The Channel 4 Time Team crew were excavating at the castle for three days from Tuesday to yesterday and have made some exciting discoveries.

Presenter Tony Robinson and archaeologist Dr Phil Harding were among those digging in the trenches in the castle grounds.

It is the first time an archaeological dig has been done there since the 1950s.

The horseshoe was found among 13th century pottery and could be from the same era.

Dr Harding said: “At the end of the day it’s an old horseshoe. Anywhere else it would not matter but if you come to Oakham what have you got to find? A horseshoe.

“If you look at the amount of space we are excavating what are the chances of finding a horseshoe? It’s one in a million.

“To the people of Oakham it’s a symbol.”

Other artefacts found include a musket ball, a jetton or merchant’s token from the reign of Edward I (1272-1307) and a post-Medieval merchant’s token belonging to a man called Richard from Uppingham.

By Wednesday afternoon four trenches had been dug in the grounds, some based on geo-physics which use radar to pick up patterns under the ground. Some were chosen because of the shape of the earth.

The team believe that some of the walls they had unearthed were for outbuildings, a chamber and even a chapel which date back as far at the 13th century.

Researcher Celyn Williams said: “All we have to work from at the moment is an old map of the castle grounds.

“We are starting to find bits and bobs from the 13th and 14th centuries but we want to go back even further to the Normans and the Anglo-Saxons.

“It is steaming ahead and the site itself has such a complex history.

“The hall itself is the best preserved Norman hall in the country. It doesn’t look like much of a castle now but it would have been.”

The team is also taking its time to learn as much about Oakham as it can in the time they are here.

Landscape architect Stewart Ainsworth first visited Oakham 26 years ago and says it is fascinating returning to the castle in a professional role.

He said: “My task has been to look at how the castle has evolved and how it has affected Oakham as a town. I have been using old maps and evidence that can be found above the ground.”

Mr Ainsworth and part of the team circled above Oakham in a helicopter on Wednesday afternoon to find out what the street patterns could tell them.

He said the original site spread much further than they had originally thought.

He added: “Their job [the archaeologists] is to dig at layers of earth to find out how Oakham has evolved. Mine is to dig at layers of the town above ground.”

One of Mr Ainsworth’s main discoveries was that Oakham’s “L” shaped market is probably in that shape because it is based around an old road which went out of the town past where the Buttercross stands now.

The show will be shown on Channel 4 between January and March next year.

Dr Harding said: “I have absolutely enjoyed it. It is the first time I have been up here and the hall here is a magnificent building.

“The building and the site deserve better attention and with a bit of exposure on the telly then hopefully it will encourage more people to visit.”




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