Althorp Estate of Spencer Family on Secrets of the Dead

September 28, 2022
A man in casual suit and woman with had band and black leisure wear stand in front of brick estate. She holds axe pick over shoulder.

Charles Spencer and Cat Jarman outside Althorp House. Photo Credit: Spun Gold

The aristocratic Spencer family in England is best known today for its 20th century princess, the late Diana, Princess of Wales.  In recent decades, the aristocratic family was mostly seen through the lens of her all-too short life. Now, her brother Charles Spencer – 9th Earl, Spencer – directs the television camera to their ancestral home Althorp, a vast estate that has been in the Spencer family for more than 500 years. Ever since he was a child, the earl has been fascinated by the story of a lost village believed to lie somewhere in the grounds of Althorp. Now a bestselling author and historian, Spencer wants to find the lost village and learn about the people who lived there. And so, for the first time in Althorp’s history, he opens its gates to archaeologists.

The family legend of a lost Anglo Saxon village stems from mention of a village called Olletorp in the Domesday Book – a comprehensive record of land value and ownership in 11th century England – located somewhere on the family estate. As the archaeologists search for the village, they find artifacts from throughout history, going back at least as far the Roman occupation ending in 410 AD. But Spencer and the team find something on the archaeological dig that might be far older and far more important.

Secrets of the Dead: Archaeology at Althorp (Sunday, October 9, 8 p.m. on THIRTEEN) follows a team of archaeologists led by Dr. Cat Jarman and Professor Mark Horton from Oxford University as they reveal one of the most significant archaeological finds of the century to Spencer. The film, premiering on THIRTEEN, pbs.org/secrets, and the THIRTEEN app (thirteen.org/anywhere), kicks off the 20th season of the PBS series Secrets of the Dead, which includes new episodes airing in October and November. See the schedule for all Secrets of the Dead broadcasts.

Two men in cargo pants and button down shirts stand next to woman in tank top; the are in front of an archeological dig site on lawn.

L to R: Mark Horton, Charles Spencer and Cat Jarman on dig site at Althorp estate. Photo Credit: Spun Gold