Following the recent archaeological and bioarchaeological research by Dr Cat Jarman (Bristol University) and her team, exploring material traces of the Great Heathen Army’s presence in and around Repton, Derbyshire in AD 873/874, last night on Channel 4 aired Britain’s Viking Graveyard for the first time. A longer version will appear on PBS in May.
Dr Cat Jarman’s Twitter thread summarises the main new findings here.
Her recent published research is open access as part of the Antiquity journal’s ‘The Vikings’ collection.
I’ve curated a Twitter Moment of a selection of the responses and comments here.
Professor Judith Jesch (University of Nottingham) has written a very fair review of the programme here.
A review by Going Viking is here.
During a very enjoyable day’s filming in October 2018, I talked to camera about Viking-period mortuary practices, the evidence found by Martin Biddle and Birte Kjolbye-Biddle’s excavations, and the significance of Repton to the Mercian kingdom. I also sneaked in quick visit to Heath Wood, Ingleby, and briefly got to see the dig site at Foremark, just east of Repton, which features on the programme. Oh yes, and while I waited for filming to start, I explored the famous Anglo-Saxon crypt.
See my earlier blog-post about Repton here.
I was pleased to see a bit of my filming made the final cut. I walked through the churchyard, I navigated the spiral staircase to the roof of the 14th-century church tower, I hauled myself through the tiny door onto the roof, I looked around a bit, and then I talked on the roof the church tower about Repton’s political and religious significance to the Mercians, and why this made it significance for the Danes to fortify and over-winter here. Then, I talk about how the charnel deposit (the Viking mass grave) found in the Vicarage Garden, and how it was part of a prominent monument that might have been a claim to the future, asserting a claim over land and to power. Finally, I was seen peering out at the landscape from the tower.
This isn’t the time or place to evaluate the show and the inevitable restrictions of what can be said in a 44-minute show. However, I would like to take this opportunity to point out that I had presented ‘blind’ to the new and ongoing researches that would constitute the focus of the programme, which limited very much what I could say and what fitted into the programme’s story.
I want to thank Windfall’s Peter Gauvain and Terry Black for their support and professionalism. Thanks also to University of Chester doctoral researcher Brian Costello who joined me on the road trip and visited Repton for the first time; Brian helped make a day’s filming even more entertaining with is incessant Schwarzenegger impersonations and Spider-Man film quotes.
It was also lovely to meet up with archaeologist and media personality Professor Mark Horton yet again.
Finally, thanks to Cat for supporting my participation.
For my reflections on why this all matters, see this earlier post: V for Vikings.