The nation’s favourite history programme Time Team is back on digital platforms - and the first dig will be an enormous Roman villa on the Broughton Estate near Banbury.

The hands-on team of expert archaeologists will be unearthing a building thought to be as large as Buckingham Palace.

There may be mosaics, a bath house and even temples. It is thought it could be one of the biggest discovered in recent times.

The Broughton Estate is owned by Martin Fiennes – a cousin of actors Joseph and Ralph – who coincidentally played archaeologist Basil Brown in the recent Netflix movie The Dig.

The film was based on the excavation of an Anglo Saxon ship burial at Sutton Hoo in 1939 which is thought to be one of the most important archaeological discoveries of all time.

Mr Fiennes is also a cousin of explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

The Broughton villa was discovered by Keith Westcott, a Banbury detectorist, after years of research.

Historian Mr Westcott previously discovered the Broughton Castle Hoard of sixteen 16th and 17th century coins. He then developed a theory that a high-status Roman residence lay close to a sarcophagus burial.

In October 2016, he set out to search for archaeological signs within the landscape and found an interesting series of terraces.

Convinced he had found the Roman site he returned again and found a hypocaust flue tile of the sort used carry hot pipes up the walls of high-status Roman buildings.

He immediately informed Lord and Lady Saye and Sele and their son, Mr Fiennes.

Time Team creator and producer Tim Taylor said: “As our first dig back, we were keen on a site that would produce amazing evidence, showcase the very best that Time Team can offer, and allows us to demonstrate to the full the latest technology.”

The diggers will make use of LiDAR - mapping sensors that allow 3D images to be made underground - and GPR (ground penetrating radar).

He added: “With a fantastic team backed by Keith Westcott and Martin Fiennes, local community support, the possibility of an ongoing legacy, and the guarantee of great archaeology, Broughton Castle ticks all the boxes!”

As well as a new generation of archaeologists, many of the original team - Carenza Lewis, Stewart Ainsworth, Helen Geake and geophysics genius John Gater - will be involved.

Former presenter Sir Tony Robinson will not be taking part but has become honorary patron of the Time Team project.

He said: “It makes me chief superfan and supporter – all armoury in our shared desire to inspire and stimulate interest in archaeology at all levels.”

Time Team ran on Channel 4 from 1994 to 2014 and investigated over 220 archaeological sites from Buckingham Palace and Ancient Scheduled Monuments to back gardens and allotments. Up to 80,000 people a day currently watch classic episodes on You Tube.

Praise for the programme has come from celebrity fans including Sir Michael Morpurgo, and writers Kate Mosse and Ken Follett.

Mr Taylor said: “Our investigation of the villa and the landscape it occupies will aim to preserve and enrich our understanding of the past and the people who inhabited it."

He added:  “Our goal is to create a legacy for these sites, building ongoing relationships with local communities and archaeologists that continue to yield fresh insights.

You can watch Time Team’s new digs, including Broughton, as well as classic episodes, on YouTube.

Subscription channel Patreon allows access to additional behind-the-scenes content, including interviews with the team, masterclasses, and the opportunity to take part in the process through polls and Q&As.