Archaeologists in England believe they have located a tunnel that was once part of Hyde Abbey, a monastery located in Winchester which is the burial place of Alfred the Great.
A community dig was organized last month by Hyde900, a local organization that commemorates the abbey and its history. Over 140 diggers took part, this year focusing on the remains of the buildings in three gardens on the site of the abbey. Previous excavations had uncovered the remains of a two-storey building with five kilograms of medieval window glass currently being evaluated by Historic England. The third garden was the likely site of part of the monks’ refectory.
In this year’s event the diggers uncovered a tunnel, which was likely to have been the main culvert for the medieval water supply to the refectory, kitchens and infirmary of the abbey, as well as the latrines associated with the monks’ dormitory. Another important find was an additional wall in the large two-storey building, with a huge hearth possibly associated with a kitchen, or to provide warmth to the building. A major wall was found in the third garden, adding to the understanding of the layout of the monks’ refectory.
All three gardens yielded large numbers of finds including Roman pottery, medieval tiles and other building materials, as well as a large number of oyster shells and bones.
Professor Martin Biddle, who has taken a keen interest in the progress of the Hyde900 digs over the years, was also at the site. “The discovery of a sophisticated example of a medieval vaulted culvert is extraordinary,” he commented. “The culvert would have distributed water from the mill dam to the abbey’s inner precinct buildings.”
The trench revealing the entrance to the culvert contained Victorian and later debris, as well as demolition material from the abbey. John Crook, an independent architectural historian and the dig’s archaeological consultant was particularly interested, having explored a similar structure servicing Winchester’s cathedral and Winchester College.
Hyde Abbey was a medieval Benedictine monastery founded in the late ninth century just outside the walls of medieval Winchester. Along with being the burial ground of Alfred the Great, it was here that the remains of his son, King Edward the Elder, and his wife, Ealswitha, were placed. Hyde Abbey was dissolved and demolished in 1538 along with other English monasteries, with only its gatehouse and church surviving to this day. Much archaeological research has been conducted here in recent years.
This year’s dig was supported by a grant from local estate agents Belgarum, with graphic design from Adam Architecture and the loan of equipment from WARG. The digs could not have taken place without the enthusiastic loan of gardens by householders of King Alfred Terrace. Further details and information about the dig, including a presentation on the find of medieval glass, will be a part of the forthcoming King Alfred Weekend which takes place from October 20th – 23rd.
For more details, please visit the Hyde900 website.
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