4.2 Community Archaeology

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4.2.1 The Search for the South Transept (2016)

A pilot community dig project in a garden in Hyde, which was thought to contain the robbed out elements of the south transept of the abbey church took place in April 2016. The dig was supported by WARG, the local archaeology and history society, who provided the equipment and supervisory expertise. David Ashby, ARCA, University of Winchester was Advisor to the project.

The purpose of the dig, in the form of two test pits, was as much about involvement of local people of all ages in the process of archaeology as it was to establish the remains of the church.

The event provided an introduction to the dig process for 37 participants (ages ranging from 5 to 75) through 2 hour time slots separated between digging, sieving and finds processing and recording. Feedback from participants showed that the project had been highly successful both in terms of their experience of the dig and the wish of all of them to take part in another dig within 6 to 12 months. This stimulated a second, more extensive project which took place in April 2017.

The project was successful in identifying a N-S wall within the garden. Due to the limited size of the test pit the width of the wall could not be established. Based upon the results of the extensive excavations of the 1995-99 Community Dig (unpublished) there is a strong possibility that the find was of the east wall of the south transept or a cloister building.

4.2.1.1 Brief History

Alfred the Great initiated the establishment of a monastery in Winchester intended as his burial place together that of the remains of his relatives. The abbey was called New Minster and was immediately adjacent to an existing monastery, Old Minster. Due to its location there was a move to Hyde, on the northern outskirts of Winchester, which occurred in 1110. In 1142 the abbey was to suffer grievously during the battle between Stephen and Matilda, and is reported as being in ruinous condition following the conflict. Reconstruction only commenced in earnest in 1182. (Milner J Antiquities of Winchester 1798 p232)

In 1285 the abbey acquired additional land to the north of the precinct, which included the parish church of St Bartholomews. The next major recorded event affecting the buildings of the abbey was the destruction by fire of the church belfry in 1445. (Doubleday HA Victoria County History Hampshire Vol 2  1903  pps 116-122)

The abbey was dissolved in 1539, and such was its importance that Thomas Wriothesley was personally in Winchester to supervise the destruction of the church. It was apparent that is was speedily achieved as Leyland reported the scene as one of desolation in early 1540’s (Wall JC Alfred the Great: his abbeys of Hyde, Athelney and Shaftesbury 1900  p75 ).

In 1788 the area was cleared by local prisoners for the construction of a bridewell, or prison. A recording was made at the time of the clay raft that was revealed, which was the foundation of the monastic church. (Howard H Archaeologia  Journal  Society of Antiquaries 1800  Vol XIII Enquiries regarding Tomb of King Alfred p310)

4.2.1.2 The Site

The community dig took place in a garden at the east end of Alswitha Terrace, Hyde, Winchester, which was predicted to contain the robbed out foundations of the south transept of the church. There had been some finds of non-local stone which may have come from the demolition of the abbey. From the design of the bridewell the area was known to have been the garden of the prison governor. Any archaeology was expected to be found approximately one metre below current ground level.

Research carried out into the area by Winchester City Council Museums Department (now Hampshire Cultural Trust) together with data from excavations and other interventions resulted in the production of a plan of the predicted abbey buildings. 4.2.1a shows these against the local road system ( Image courtesy of the Hampshire Cultural Trust)

 There has been no excavations to date in the predicted cloister area.

4.2.1.3 Methodology

This limited excavation took the form of two test pits, one metre square. The excavation would take place in accordance with guidelines set out Test Pitting Methodology (Test Pitting Methodology David Ashby, Project Director, Stanford in the Vale Archaeology Research Project) The pits would be dug in 10cm spits, and contexts allocated on the same basis. All spoil would be sieved through 1cm square sieves.

4.2.1.4 Result

The dig revealed the existence in Trench 1 of the robbed out foundations of a substantial N-S wall located about 1.5 metres to the west of the predicted wall of the south transept, at a depth of about 1 metre below ground level. This was the inner packing to the core of the wall, with its western edge exposed. Faced outer stones were not present, most probably robbed out following the Dissolution. The wall remains continued beyond the eastern edge of the trench.(4.2.1b , 4.2.1c)

Trench 2 was found to contain at a similar depth demolition mortar and what could be the base foundation of a wall or floor.

There were no significant finds, possibly due to the nature of the buildup of topsoil for the prison governor’s garden.

 

4.2.1.5 Acknowledgements

Chrissie and Martin Leyden for unstintingly allowing their garden to be destroyed, and for suppling the supervisors with copious tea and coffee.

David Ashby for the site planning and day to day advice

WARG for the provision of supervisors and equipment for the dig

Paul McCulloch West Office Manager Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd for timely assistance at the 11th hour.

My colleagues in Hyde900 for the support – in particular Susan Jones and Caroline Scott who assisted so ably with liaison with householders and with the booking and administration.

4.2.1.6 Proposal (coming soon)

coming soon

4.2.1.7 Blog (coming soon)

coming soon

4.2.1.8 Dig Report

Event organiser David Spurling, Westgate pupil Ben Holliday in the pit, with Steve Brine, and WARG supervisors Techer Jones and Don Bryan looking on

4.2.2 The Search for the Cloisters of Hyde Abbey (2017)

2017 Cloister Community Dig

2017 Community Dig Location


4.2.2.1 Proposal (coming soon)

coming soon

4.2.2.2 Blog (coming soon)

coming soon

4.2.2.2 Dig Report (coming soon)

coming soon

 

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