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Award-winning journalist Michael Buerk and leading historian and broadcaster Bettany Hughes return to ITV for a brand new series of Britain’s Secret Treasures. Following its success last year, Michael, Bettany and a host of guest presenters uncover a fresh hoard of extraordinary objects found by ordinary people that have changed our understanding of British history.
Continuing its successful partnership with the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, which is responsible for all finds in England and Wales, the new series of Britain’s Secret Treasures also joins forces with Treasure Trove Scotland and the Ulster Museum to include stories of outstanding artefacts discovered by members of the public in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Each and every artefact included in the new eight-part series has been selected due to its national importance, beauty and cultural or historic significance. All are artefacts, objects or treasures that have been left, lost or discarded by our ancestors, which reveal the remarkable story of how we once lived.
Once again Michael and Bettany are joined by a host of guest presenters including Kevin Whately, Mariella Frostrup, Katherine Jenkins and Vic Reeves, to find out more about the stories behind each item and to meet many of the members of the public who discovered them.
In episode eight, Katherine Jenkins travels to Wales to find out about a 2000-year-old jewellery set and Mary-Ann Ochota dives for treasure off the Isles of Scilly.
First, presenter Bettany Hughes visits the Isle of Wight to meet a nine-year-old schoolgirl who discovered treasure whilst on a school trip. Imogen Rickman was visiting Mersley Garlic Farm in Newchurch in 2012 when she noticed a stone with distinct markings in a muddy field. The finding was passed on to experts to be identified and found to be thousands of years old. Imogen tells Bettany: “The archaeologist then phoned school and said it was a Neolithic axe handle and apparently it’s about 5000 years old.”
The flint axe head and other findings in the area show that the land has been used for farming for the last 5000 years. The Neolithic flint axe would have been used to cut down trees and clear the area for farming crops.
Bettany said: “The work of those pioneers who developed these simple but rather beautiful little tools meant that at last men and women didn’t have to live off their wits or by chance in wooded environments like this but they could settle down they could farm.”
Guest presenter Katherine Jenkins visits Boverton in Wales where a 2000 year-old jewellery set was discovered in 2005.
Katherine says: “You may think that the non-stop celebrity circus and dressing to impress are very modern ideas but a stunning and unique treasure shows that my Welsh ancestors knew a thing about style, PR and power dressing.”
French polisher Brian Gibbinson was walking in fields in Boverton when he found some metal hoops in the ground. He contacted experts who revealed the hoops were a jewellery set that was thousands of years old. Part of the set was missing but several years later treasure hunter Peter Halford found the missing piece.
The Boverton hoard is made up of a necklace and two bangles that were crafted during the Iron Age. The necklace is made out of bronze, with mirrored plates on the back and front and is decorated with red and yellow enamel squares. It would have been worn by someone with immense power and wealth, a Welsh princess or warlord’s wife and been worn as a symbol of her status. The style of the Boverton hoard is associated with the Iron Age but its decoration is very Roman like. It shows the Welsh tribes co-operated with the Romans after they invaded, sharing ideas as well as technology.
Finally this week, Mary-Ann Ochota takes a dive at the site of the sunken HMS Colossus just off the coast of the Isles of Scilly. In 1796, Sir William Hamilton, a British diplomat living in Italy, needed to transport his collection of priceless artefacts back to England. His friend Admiral Horatio Nelson agreed to take the collection on one of his warships so the priceless hoard was loaded onto the HMS Colossus. Despite being a huge Royal Navy warship, on its journey to England in 1798 it sank in shallow waters off the Isles of Scilly during a fierce storm. In the 1970s, the front section of the ship was found and divers found parts of ancient Greek vases from 440BC. The vases were just a small part of the treasure on board. Diver Tom Stephens has searched the area for years and in 1999 he found a whole new section of the ship surrounded by artefacts half a kilometre away from the original site.
Mary-Ann says: “You can actually see it’s like a ship laid flat onto the seabed. It’s incredible to think that this timber is 200 years old and has survived in just 15 metres of seawater.
“It’s incredible to think that a ship the size of HMS Colossus, from the time of Napoleon and Nelson lay there for over 200 years undiscovered. It reminds me that Britain is awash with treasure and the treasures under the sea are the most secret of all.”