Shropshire Star

Time Team reveals story of Shropshire's 'Mad Jack Mytton' in new show

Time Team archaeologists uncovered the story of Mad Jack Mytton, a Shropshire eccentric who was reputedly buried in the family crypt with his pet bear.

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John Mytton - notorious early 19th century debtor and some time MP for Shrewsbury

It was almost as if the popular 1990s three-day dig challenge had never gone away since the popular Sunday team time programme was dropped from Channel 4 back in the day.

But many of the old faces have got together again using a crowdfunding platform called Patreon and three episodes of the new series were aired on YouTube from Friday to Sunday.

Picture from Time Team

Among the newer faces were Peter Reavill, from Ludlow, who is a landscape and small finds archaeologist who used to be the Finds Liaison Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

The show revealed that Time Team landscape expert Professor Stewart Ainsworth had been at Whittington Castle last year. While exploring the nearby area at Halston Hall he had discovered the possible site of a preceptory for the Knights Hospitallers. They were disbanded by Queen Elizabeth I and the site now only contains the wooden chapel.

The programme revealed the history of the chapel in the grounds of the private Halston Hall estate, including that documents showed it had been used for weddings in the 1690s. It even has parts of the building which could be linked to the medieval period.

MYTTON 5 PICTURE BY SAM BAGNALL. Copy pics of John Mytton , from a book called' The Life and Times of John Mytton of Halston Hall', Story by Bob Haywood .PIC FOR SUNDAY MERCURY.

The experts had a look inside the Mytton family crypt by using a special camera. While they were not inside the crypt itself they looked at well-preserved coffins and reckoned one of them was of Mad Jack Mytton, a Shropshire character who died in prison.

He had been famed for feeding his dogs on champagne and cake, holding naked hunting parties in the grounds and and famously riding his pet bear. He was reputedly buried in the crypt with the animal and the archeaologists found what they thought might be the skin of the pet bear.

Also in the chapel was a stone sarcophagus that they postulated could have been a Knights Hospitaller coffin.

Pictures from Time Team

In typical Time Team style the archaeologists found many items during the last day of their 2022 dig. These included a piece of wood dated to the 1430s in the chapel, and part of what they believed was a Saxon font dated to 1119.

Presenter Dr Gus Casely Hayford said even though the preceptory had not been found, they had evidence for the site going back 900 years. It had been gifted to the Knights Hospitallers in the 12th century and had been a really important site in 1338.

The modern Halston Hall was built in 1690, they said.