n 1999 and 2001, the Channel 4 Television programme - Time Team, fronted by Tony Robinson (better known by many as "Baldrick" in the TV comedy, Blackadder) came to Coventry to do an historic archaeological dig in search of further evidence of our cathedral of St. Mary's. Although they could only carry out a limited amount of excavation in such a short stay, the publicity generated by this TV appearance, and another by the BBC's "Meet the Ancestors" programme, enormously raised the profile of Coventry's hidden gem.
The team would normally strictly adhere to making a single three-day visit to any archaeological site, but they were astonished by the quality of what they found in Coventry, so not only did they break their own rules by staying for four days on their first visit, but they subsequently made an unprecedented second visit to see the progress made by local archaeologists who continued the work. The project was ably overseen by Margaret Rylatt; Chief Archaeologist for Coventry, and Iain Soden who led the larger Northamptonshire Archaeology team which was brought in to help due to the enormity of the task.
The dig revealed many fascinating artifacts from as far back as the Saxon and Early English periods which had remained buried for over 400 years since King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. One such piece was the fragment of an Apocalypse Painting which was discovered between the time team's two visits and astounded them when presented.
All the original information on these two visits is available on the Channel 4 web-site including 360 degree panoramas and computer generated reconstructions. You can access their pages directly by clicking on the relevant dates above.
The two photographs above and one below were all taken in March 2001 around the time that the Time Team were making their second visit. They show the freshly uncovered courtyard and two adjacent undercrofts on the north side of the Chapter House. (See the top right hand side of the plan view.)
The photos were all taken from the little lane called 'Hill Top' that runs down the steep hill from Priory Row to Fairfax Street opposite Pool Meadow.
By 2004, new office buildings had been built over the site of this courtyard dig, but at great expense the engineers incorporated "bridging" technology into the foundations of the new structure and the photo on the right demonstrates how the archaeology of St. Mary's undercrofts has been preserved in a mini museum for visitors to enjoy this aspect of our lost heritage. The photo above shows how the fine views of the undercrofs have been lovingly preserved for all to see.
To the right of this museum you can pass through to the water feature at the top of Millennium Walk and continue back up to the Visitor Centre.
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