Monday, 16 July 2012, 8:00PM – 8:30PM
Every day in Britain somebody somewhere unearths treasure. Artefacts, objects or treasures that have been left, lost or discarded by our ancestors, that reveal the remarkable story of how we once lived.
In this brand new series, ITV1 joins forces with the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme to unveil the 50 greatest treasures discovered by the British public, extraordinary items and historical artefacts discovered by ordinary people that have shed light and in some cases dramatically changed our understanding of British history.
Transmitting on ITV1 across six nights, Britain’s Secret Treasures is presented by award-winning journalist Michael Buerk in his broadcasting debut for ITV, alongside historian and author Bettany Hughes, winner of this year’s distinguished Medlicott Medal for History.
The series will map out the 50 key artefacts found by members of the public and recorded by the British Museum’s scheme in the past 15 years. Facing the daunting task of selecting which discoveries were included and determining their ranking on the list, was a panel of experts from the British Museum and The Council for British Archaeology. They have sifted through almost one million items to judge each one on its national importance, beauty and cultural and historic significance. From a human tool found in Norfolk dating back 700,000 years, to the Silverdale Hoard of Viking Treasure, these items hold incredible stories, many of which revolutionise our understanding of the past.
A host of guest presenters including John McCarthy, Michael Portillo, Myleene Klass, John Sergeant, Jon Culshaw, Brian Blessed, Gethin Jones and William Roache meet many of the members of the public who discovered the items, whilst ITV online will support the series during transmission with an appeal for people to send in photographs of new objects they may have found. These will be assessed by the British Museum throughout the week with a selection of new finds being revealed in the final episode.
John McCarthy visits the site where a 2000-year-old slave shackle was found by a landscape gardener near Silchester, part of a pair that once chained someone’s feet together. John explains “I know how devastating it is to lose your freedom….I was chained-up like an animal…that’s why this gruesome thing fascinates me. I want to know who might have worn it, why and when.”
We meet James Hyatt, who couldn’t believe his luck in 2010 when aged five he was playing with his father’s metal detector in a field near Essex and made a real-life treasure discovery, a pendant from before the time of King Henry VIII. James says “It went beep, beep, beep and I dug it up. It was gold.”
In 2009, 56-year-old Manuel Nicdao found an extremely rare medal in a Surrey field, a rare award for bravery second only to the Victoria Cross. With the help of a local newspaper, Manuel managed to trace the owner and return the medal to the grandson of Sgt George Humber, who was given the award for continued bravery during WW1. Grandson Mark visits the exact spot in Belgium where he grandfather set up his gun in 1918. Mark says: “Just to think of him as the little old man when I was a kid to think he was here doing that all those years ago…I’m incredibly proud…It’s fantastic that Manuel found it and got it back to me.”
Our passion for Royal memorabilia is nothing new and dates back centuries. In 2001 in a field in Rochester in Kent, Brian Wood noticed a silver cufflink, made to commemorate the marriage of Charles II to Catherine of Braganza in 1662. The marriage did not produce any children but that didn’t stop Charles II having 12 illegitimate children. Michael Portillo explains “One of those mistresses was Louise de Kerouille, Duchess of Portsmouth and if we follow their issue down through the ages through four Charles Lennox’s to John Spencer, the 8th Earl of Spencer, he was the father of the Princess of Wales and she of course was the mother of Prince William.” If Prince William is crowned King, he will be the first direct descendent of Charles II to occupy the throne.
Also making the top 50 treasure list, is an ancient Roman brothel token, with an erotic image on one side and Roman numeral on the other. Found on the side of the River Thames in Putney by Regis Curson, head pastry chef at exclusive restaurant Nobu, whilst mud-larking by the river. “I thought at first it was a Roman coin but I started to do research on the internet and apparently it was a brothel token.”
The series continues throughout the week at 7.30pm or 8pm.