The Lost Centuries

The Gefrin Trust has been fortunate in securing rights to offer here, episode five from the Lost Centuries series that draws most heavily upon Brian Hope-Taylor’s own major contribution to our understanding of the period and documents his return to the site of the excavations inexorably linked to his name.

We are grateful to ITV Broadcasting Limited, and especially to Allan Smith and Sarah Guerin, Rights Administrator, for making this possible. In 2020 we were able to digitally enhance over 37,000 frames of the video to increase the resolution, remove noise and enhance sharpness.


In 1964 Dr Glyn Daniel brought Brian Hope-Taylor and Forbes Taylor, Head of Films at Anglia Television together in a collaboration that was to result in the television series, ‘Who Were the British?’. 

Its success prompted a sequel, and filming of what came to be titled, ‘The Lost Centuries’ took place in 1968. The fifth programme in the series focussed upon Northumbria, its Golden Age, and in particular allowed Hope-Taylor to offer a rare public revelation of the results of his brilliant excavation of the Northumbrian royal palace site of Ad Gefrin (Yeavering).

Modestly eschewing his primal role in uncovering the story of this site, his presence nevertheless remains intertwined with his story. From the unforgettable contemporary rendering of the Sutton Hoo burial which the programme opens, his originality in realisation is compelling and sustained. 

Our guide is clearly a master storyteller, versed in the tradition of his subject matter, – a modern Caedmon, whose sonorous authorative prose so tightly gathers the period and the halls of Yeavering around his own personality as to be a visible demonstration as to why half a century later his presence remains indivisible from discussion of the early Anglo-Saxon settlement and the subject of a conference in 2004.