April 30 – Day Four

datePosted on 10:34, April 30th, 2018

The end of the dig – the outcome..?

Remember when Trench 8, in the garden of No14, looked like this?

So it’s all over, as far as the excavating goes. There’s still the task of back filling and clearing up the sites, as well as stones to recover from No.14 and more finds to clean and document. And then there will be months ahead of interpreting what we’ve found, with further information from carbon dating.

So what are the provisional outcomes of the dig? There’s no question the dig has been a resounding success, as well as tremendous fun for all involved. Here is an interim summary. We’ll add information from the experts as we get it –

    • The big news is that we have finally located the position of the south range of the cloister: the domestic buildings at the south side of the cloister, such as the monk’s refectory. The excavation in the garden of No14 King Alfred Terrace appears to show that it lies at the eastern end of the range in an area where there were smaller rooms off the refectory. The refectory would have been huge – big enough for 70 or more monks to sit down to eat at once. These rooms may have included pantries, a buttery, a lavatorium where the monks washed their hands before eating etc. Other indications of former walls and structures have emerged in the trenches of Nos. 15 and 10 King Alfred Terrace, and these will no doubt add to our knowledge of the layout of this part of the abbey.
    • The same excavation has also revealed detail of the structure of the wall that greatly increases our knowledge of how these buildings were built. The foundations excavated in No.10 are so substantial it may indicate a building of more than one story. We’ll put a video up on the website later explaining more.
    • What we’ve also learned from the trench in No.14 is that there was a major rebuild, not just of the cloisters but also of the principle buildings associated with it, in the early thirteen hundreds, which previously we knew little about. There had been a fire in the thirteenth century that damaged the cloister area, and much of the stone from the original cloisters was reused in the huge 14th Century rebuild. A great deal of money must have been raised for the rebuild at the time.
    • In this trench we have found more than a dozen wonderful stones (voussoirs) from one of the original Norman cloister arches. These are being lifted as I write to preserve them from future damage. Photos will, of course follow.
    • Another discovery, this time in the garden of No.10, was a wall feature, of a different composition to the abbey walls we have seen, running at an oblique angle to the abbey building walls we have seen. A deep rubble-filled trench (where presumably building material from the abbey wall was robbed out after the destruction of the abbey in the 16th Century) cuts through this oblique wall feature, indicating that the latter pre-dates the abbey. Roman plaster was found above the feature. Perhaps more usefully, a layer of charcoal from a fire of some kind, maybe just a bonfire, lies beneath this shallow wall. It will date from the same time as the wall (within a year or so) because it would have been degraded by the weather if it were not quickly covered by the building of the wall. We have recovered some of this charcoal for carbon dating, which should give us the age of this feature.
    • Many small but significant finds have come out of all the trenches. Parts of tiles have been found along with pottery fragments and carved ecclesiastical stone.
    • A major outcome of the dig – and one of it’s great successes – has been the hands-on involvement of more than 150 members of the community, many of them children, who have all worked incredibly hard digging, sieving, cleaning and recording with the experienced guidance of the incredible team of WARG supervisors, and people clearly found it fascinating and enjoyable. Bringing the history of Hyde to life for the local community – and perhaps inspiring some budding archaeologists of the future – is a huge part of what the Hyde900 community dig is all about.


More information emerging about the walls in Trench 8

Dr John Crook (centre) records developments in Trench 8 with Chris Prior and Ben Goddard

In Trench 8 it just keeps getting better and better. Dr John Crook, with householder Chris Prior and participant Ben Goddard, have now extended the trench to the East and have uncovered the other side of the wall feature. Dr Crook believes this now gives us vastly more information about how the 14th Century walls were built.

What seems to be becoming quite clear is that we are actually in the south range of the cloister, not in the cloister walk as previously thought. This means we are in the buildings on the south side of the cloister, which would have been domestic buildings such as the refectory. This particular area at the East end of the south range had two rooms that would have been smaller than the refectory, which would have been huge, needing to accommodate some 70 monks per meal as it did. So these rooms may have been the kitchen, pantry, buttery, or something of that kind. The implication of this shift in our thinking about the position of the cloisters is that the cloisters would have, in fact, been smaller than has always been believed. So it seems the plans of the presumed position of the cloisters of Hyde Abbey will now have to be redrawn!


Karen Kousseff, associate priest at St Bartholomew’s church in Hyde, finds an encaustic tile fragment in Trench 9

1.30 pm The work never stops. Volunteers are still hard at work digging, sieving and cleaning as we race to learn everything we can from these trenches.

Karen Kousseff, assoociate priest at the local church, St Bartholomew’s, had never been on an archaeological dig before. She loved it so much she volunteered to stay for an extra hour!


Morning update from the dig…

It’s all go here in King Alfred Terrace on the last full day of the dig. So far the weather has not delivered the promised gales and deluge… but I don’t want to speak too soon. The race is on to expand Trench 8 before carefully digging down and rescuing the row of “voussoirs”, or carved Norman stones from the cloister arch. In archaeology, the situation can change dramatically from hour to hour. Here, Dr John Crook explains what had emerged by the end of yesterday…

Good morning from Day 4 of the dig.

As well as walls and building stones from the abbey, some wonderful small finds have been turning up under the watchful eyes of the dig supervisors. In this video David Spurling and Dave Stewart examine a wonderful piece of tile that has been dug up by enthusiastic digger Ben Holliday…

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