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A pub crawl back in time, really far back

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TO pub dig

THE locals in every country have their favourite watering hole. In Pub Dig on the History Channel, the focus shifts to Britain, with presenter Rory McGrath – a respected British comedian, writer and actor – and field archaeologist Paul Blinkhorn traversing the nation’s oldest alehouses and unveiling the hundreds of years of history behind them.

The series looks at how some of the taverns have borne witness to centuries of change from uprisings to interesting nuggets of truth that shaped British history.

On Sunday, the show kicked off at The Six Bells in St Albans, Hertfordshire, where the team, during an excavation, stumbled upon a large Roman building, which was once a hotel – the Ritz of Roman Britain. And this discovery took them back to the 16th century when it was referred to as the Roman town of Verulamium.

This week’s episode features The Command House, which is close to the Chatham Docks in Kent. The guys revisit its key role in the British naval history about 400 years back. Interestingly enough, it was a favourite haunt of Samuel Pepys, the famous diarist.

While digging up the grass banks close to the pub, the team uncovered a buried building dating back to 1719.

Among the finds is a brick from Henry VIII’s era, a medieval church tile, smoking pipes, pottery as well as an ancient ship hook.

Pub manager Keith Stephen, 27, said: “The pub is sited where the original dockyards started, so it is a really historic location. The dig has been absolutely brilliant – a lot of locals came along to see what was happening and they were really interested to see what might be discovered.

“I have always wanted to find out more about the history of the place and this has given me the chance to do that.”

The third instalment is centred on Ye Old Smugglers Inne in Alfriston, Sussex. The team stumbled upon a “hidey hole” on the top floor of the establishment, which was formerly owned by a smuggler.

Other discoveries include pottery from every century going back 1 000 years.

Ye Olde Reindeer in Banbury, Oxfordshire, is the final stopover. The duo learn that this place was once frequented by Oliver Cromwell, an English military and political leader.

Proprietor Mark Sylvester, 29, admitted: “It is a pretty exciting opportunity to learn more about the history of the pub. We have found some really interesting bits and bobs that are worth talking about as opposed to just digging up a few old beer bottles. It has been great to watch genuine history being discovered.”

Digging into the past has certainly turned up some interesting nuggets of history, making this one pub hop that viewers who are fascinated by the subject matter will enjoy.

• Pub Digs airs on the History Channel (DStv channel 254) at 9.25pm on Sundays.


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