Welcome to Hyde900

Hyde900 is a community project in Winchester, Hampshire, to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the founding of Hyde Abbey. For more details see the "What is Hyde900?" page.


So how did the dig go?

It’s all over at the Hyde900 community dig for another year, apart from the examination and interpretation which will go on for some months. The trenches are back-filled, the finds are cleaned and catalogued, and the data are being collated. Here, some members of the dig team give us their impressions of how the dig went and what we’ve learned from it so far…

In more detail…

We have been extremely lucky to have had the participation of Dr John Crook, archaeological consultant to Winchester Cathedral, in the dig. He has laboured tirelessly in Trench 8 throughout all four days, with the help of volunteers from the community and the owner of the garden, Chris Prior, who had so generously moved his shed to enable the dig to take place where it had stood.

Those who took part in the dig may well be wondering what, exactly, we have learned so far from our excavations of the wall in Trench 8. Dr Crook took time out from wrapping up the excavation to give us this wonderful explanation of what the dig has taught us…

The operation of lifting the stones begins…

The careful task of lifting the 12th Century stones in Trench 8 has begun. A dozen magnificent arch stones (voussoirs) from the original cloister have been found, reused as part of a wall in the great 14th Century rebuild of the cloister range, and they all need to be lifted to protect them.
Here, while Hyde900’s David Sommerville back fills trenches in No.10, you can see the moment when Chris Prior, the owner of No14, lifts the first of the row of voussoirs while onlookers watch expectantly.

The clear up is underway…

Chris Prior lifting the voussoirs to protect them from future damage

The task of carefully lifting the voussoirs in Trench 8 has begun. Because they are so close to the surface they need to be lifted to protect them, and it is slow, painstaking work.

Between and above the voussoirs there are many other fragments of important and informative stone from the Norman abbey, reused as rubble, which are being removed for cleaning and cataloguing before they can be studied.

 

Susan Jones back filling one of the Trenches in No 10

 

Meanwhile, in the garden of No.10, the backfilling team are shovelling the sieved soil and rubble into wheelbarrows and refilling the trenches. A heroic effort by all concerned. The plan is to make sure the top layer that is returned is topsoil and not the rubble removed from lower down, so the householder, Chris Scott, will be able to plant a lawn or make flower beds.

 

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…

Professor Martin Biddle comes back to see how things are going…

The Hyde900 dig has been extremely lucky to have the input of Professor Biddle. He returned to the dig this morning to see what has developed since his visit yesterday.
Here, he explains why what has emerged so far during the dig is so important for our knowledge of the layout of the Medieval Hyde Abbey…

Moments from day three…



St.Bede’s Primary School visit…

We were delighted to have a group of children from the local primary school visit the dig on Friday afternoon. A really important part of this dig is the opportunity it creates for young people and children to get hands-on experience of a real archaeological dig and watch history coming to life in front of them. The children from St Bede’s were a great bunch, and seemed to love taking part. I spoke to a few of them to find out what they made of it all…

Lunchtime archaeology update from the trenches…

Dr John Crook examines a line of reused Norman stone in Trench 8

1.30pm Things have really been developing in Trench 8, the continuation of the trench where last year’s extraordinary finds were made. The new trench has been extended lengthwise this morning, to try and get a clearer picture of the meaning of wall features that have emerged, and Dr John Crook plans to extend sideways as well.

What has become clear this morning is that we seem to be in the buildings of the Medieval rebuild (14th Century) of the Hyde Abbey south claustral range – the buildings to the south side of the cloister: possibly the large refectory where the monks had meals. Trench 8 has revealed a wall with a returning wall, which would have divided two interior rooms.

This looks as though it could be Quarr stone from the Isle of Wight, which was mainly used in the 12th Century

Equally excitingly, the 14th Century wall is clearly made up of beautifully preserved voussoirs – parts of arches from the original Norman Abbey that were reused in this wall after the original abbey was demolished, following a fire.

Some interesting finds have come from Trench 8 too. Here, Dr Crook examines a piece of carved Abbey stone.

 

David Ashby drawing in Trench 12

Meanwhile, in Trench 12, David Ashby has finally reached the bottom of the rubble in-fill where one of the Medieval Abbey walls has been robbed out. 1.2 meters down, he has finally hit the alluvial base.

Next job is to clean up the wall feature in the trench, which he believes may be pre-Medieval, ready for photographing and recording.

 

Hear about the dig on Radio 4

1.10pm  Just heard a great piece by Mark Mardell about the dig on Radio 4’s “The World This Weekend.”

You can hear it by following this link  –https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0b0lz4v

 

Diggers are still hard at work…

Kayra and Ezra busy in Trench 10 under the watchful eye of Alex.

Kayra examines a find in Trench 10

The open day attracts local visitors and tourists…

Open day visitors examine progress in Trench 8

11.30am. Visitors have been touring all three gardens during today’s open day, asking the supervisors about what’s being found in the trenches and watching the digging in process.

Things are changing rapidly in today’s excavations. Lots of questions are arising, which we hope this afternoon’s digging will answer.

 

Early visit from ITN

Mel from ITN asks David Spurling about the background to Hyde Abbey

9.15am This morning started with battening down the hatches in preparation for a breezy day promised by the forecast – we don’t want the gazebos blowing away. Next on the agenda was a visit from Mel at ITN Reading, who did several interviews and filmed the trenches.

Previous years’ digs have attracted plenty of media attention and this year is proving to be just as popular with the press.

 

Yesterday’s highlights…

Good morning! Here’s an an update on yesterday’s excitement and developments. We’re clearly in for a fascinating Day Three. We’ll keep you posted as the day progresses…

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