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CHELMSFORD: Time Team in dig at historic school

By This is Essex  |  Posted: February 18, 2009

  • time team STARS: Tony Robinson with Phil Harding at New Hall.

  • EXCAVATION: The Time Team at work in the grounds of New Hall School in Springfield.

  • SPECIALIST: Time Team regular Dr Jonathan Foyle (right) is a specialist contributor on architecture and buildings archaeology.

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TONY Robinson and the Time Team were in Chelmsford this week hoping to discover long-lost secrets in the grounds of an historic school.

The crew of the hit Channel Four television series arrived at New Hall School, Springfield, on Monday to excavate what they hope they will find to be the second most prominent palace of King Henry VIII.

The team carried out a three day dig at the school before leaving yesterday (Wednesday).

Tony Robinson, who revealed himself to be an Essex boy born in Woodford, said: "It is great to be back in the county, there is a lot of fascinating history here to be discovered.

"The Middle Ages in particular were a very busy time for the county, there was so much activity in the eastern part of England because of its proximity to the continent, where all international trade came from."

In more recent history, Tony remembers visiting Chelmsford as a youth, to apply for funding to study at stage school.

He became a household name after appearing as Baldrick in the BBC comedy Blackadder, then went on to further success writing and starring in various shows including Maid Marion and her Merry Men and Time Team.

The Time Team programme featuring New Hall, to be broadcast at Easter, will be a one-off special focusing on the secrets of Henry VIII's two most prominent palaces – Beaulieu, the name he gave to the palace in Essex, and Hampton Court.

During filming, pupils from the private school gave up half-term time to come in and help the Time Team with washing down artifacts.

The Time Team were excavating three different sites at the school which they hope will reveal the chapel, gatehouse and living quarters of Henry VIII's palace, providing new insight into the architecture and layout of the building.

Also on site was an expert on Anglo-Saxon history just in case the dig revealed artifacts from a more distant period of history.

Architectural historian Dr Jonathan Foyle said: "We have only just started but have already made some great finds.

"This was certainly a big and prominent site in Henry's time, but there are a few puzzling elements.

"For example we know that a chapel in the grounds had a stained glass window depicting his marriage to Catherine of Aragon – the window is now in St Anne's at Westminster.

"But if this was where he lived with Anne Boleyn, why would he have a reminder of his previous marriage?

"My current theory is that he built this place for princess Catherine, his daughter by Catherine of Aragon.

"But we will have to see what other evidence we find."

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    JULIE KOBER, Springfield  |  April 14 2009, 8:37AM

    I live in Anvil Way, when it was being built it was known as Kings Oak, is this because it was built on the kings land. How far did his land go?

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    Alan, Shenfield  |  February 18 2009, 8:41PM

    Is it just my nerves that Tony Robinson gets on with all his frenetic charging about trying to meet some imaginery deadline. These blooming sites have been there for hundreds of years and he has to reveal them by the end of the third day. Is there some allegory here to do with Easter and the |Messiah? I do wish his rural friend would get a haircut. They do discretionary rates for pensioners these days. Where would Tony be without Gee whizz or whatever it's called?

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