Friday, 10 August 2012

Time Team 'finds' warm welcome on the Norfolk Coast

10 August 2012

Time Team ‘finds’ warm welcome on the Norfolk Coast

Over the past three days, the Time Team crew have been investigating the National Trust managed Branodunum roman fort near Brancaster on the north Norfolk coast.

The National Trust has looked after the site which nestles next to the internationally important coastal reserve since 1967. The last archaeological dig took place in the 1930s and Time Team’s visit has revealed more about the site than anyone thought possible.

Although the fort area and neighbouring civilian settlement (vicus) have been well documented before, the combination of ground imaging and exploratory trenches has painted a clear picture of not only the layout of the fort but also brought to life some of the stories of the people who lived here nearly two thousand years ago.

Francis Pryor, archaeologist and site director said; “In three days we’ve achieved as much as many archaeological teams could in a month. We’ve undertaken a complete survey of the fort and large areas of surrounding land.  We’ve gained unparalleled and unexpected insights into the way that communities lived here in the Roman period.”

John Gator, Time Team ‘geophys’ expert said; “I haven’t enough superlatives to describe this site. Because the site has been protected for so long we have had amazingly clear results. Not many buildings showed physically so ground radar has revealed the site in all its glory. We have had the best results of any Time Team dig I’ve been involved with.”

Phil Harding, one of Time Team’s most famous members was excited by some of the finds; “I have to say I’ve been blown away with the sheer impressiveness of this site; from the really big stuff to the small personal ‘finds’. The two disciplines of ground radar and digging have enabled us to bring this place to life again.  We’ve had masses of finds, more than we could have anticipated and some of them hugely exciting.”

David Gurney, Historic Environment Manager at Norfolk County Council who has been monitoring the excavations said; “Once all the results are processed, our understanding of this important Roman site will be significantly enhanced, and the story of Branodunum will probably have to be rewritten.”

Victoria Francis, Countryside Manager for the National Trust on the North Norfolk coast invited them along.  She said; “It’s been an amazing few days and we had to keep a lot of it secret in case the excavation site became too crowded.  What’s been really gratifying though is how many people and organisations worked together to make this happen on a protected and fragile site.  English Heritage, Norfolk County Council, Natural England, Kings Lynn Archaeological Society and the local community all came together to enable us to dig into the history of this stunning part of Norfolk.

“Our understanding of this site has grown hugely and it’s been gratifying to hear from the Time Team archaeologists that the main reason it’s such a good site to explore is that it’s been protected from disturbance for 40 years or so. By working with the local parish council and common rights holders we’ve managed to ensure that the history of this stretch of the Norfolk Coast can be understood more clearly and help us tell the story to local people and visitors.”

Although the dig was kept a closely guarded secret, Time Team agreed that the National Trust could offer limited access to the local community for them to be able to see the excavations happening and chat to some of the Time Team.

Victoria concluded; “I can’t wait for the show to be aired in the spring as there are some amazing finds that we can’t say anything about just yet. I’ve loved every minute of it, as have all of our team helping out. I overheard Tony Robinson, the presenter, saying ‘this is what archaeology is all about’ and I’m so pleased Branodunum surpassed all of our expectations.”

Photos: Victoria Francis, Nick Champion

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For further press information please contact Nick Champion on 07702 640758 or e-mail

Notes to editors:
The National Trust cares for 300 inspiring historic houses and gardens across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. From former workers' cottages to the most iconic stately homes, and from mines and mills to theatres and inns, the stories of people and their heritage are at the heart of everything it does. People of all ages, individuals, schools and communities get involved each year with its projects, events and working holidays and over 61,000 volunteers help to bring the properties alive for the Trust's 4.2 million members. Find out more at:

Branodunum Roman fort is bounded by the modern village of Brancaster to the west, and the A149 road to the south. The site is maintained by the National Trust. The fort, built in the 230s, became later part of the Saxon Shore fortification system. It was built to guard the Wash approaches and is of a typical rectangular ‘castrum’ layout. According to the 4th-century document Notitia Dignitatum the fort was garrisoned by the Equites Dalmatae Brandodunenses (Dalmatian cavalry of Bran[d]odunum) although a tile found on the site stamped Cohors 1 Aquitanorum suggests that its original garrison was the First cohort from Aquitania.

In Roman times, the fort's northern wall lay directly on the seashore, which served as a harbour. Since then, the shoreline has receded, and the fort now lies inland. The fort was of a rectangular shape with rounded corners, with a 10 ft (2.9 m) wide wall with internal turrets at the corners and backed by an earthen rampart, which increased the wall's strength and gave easy access to the battlements. In front of the wall there was a V-shaped single ditch. The wall thus enclosed an area of 2.56 ha. In typical castrum fashion, the fort had four gates, one on each side.

Evidence of the eastern and western gates and of flanking towers survives. Aerial survey has revealed the existence of several buildings in the fort's interior, including the principia.  A civilian settlement (vicus) existed on the eastern and northern sides of the fort, which has been dated to the 2nd century AD. Its size would make it one of the largest settlements in the territory of the Iceni tribe. Because the streets of the settlement are not aligned with the layout of the fort, it has been hypothesised that an earlier fort, built of timber, existed at the site, possibly from as early as the revolt of Queen Boudicca in the mid-1st century AD.

The walls still stood up to 12 feet tall (4 metres) in the seventeenth century, but robbing of materials during following centuries means that only the site and the earthworks now remain.


  1. Stuart Warrington13 August 2012 at 10:24

    What a splendid event, well done everyone. Cant wait to see the programme on the TV - (any idea when?)

    1. spring 2013 date to be confirmed by channel 4