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.

The 2020 King Alfred Lecture was given on 23rd October as part of Hyde900’s “King Alfred weekend” of community activities.  This was an absorbing talk by Patrick Ottaway, an academic peculiarly well-acquainted with Winchester’s archaeological history. His professional career began in Winchester where he was Assistant City Archaeologist from 1976 to 1981. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London and a Member of the Institute for Archaeologists. He is Manager of PJO Archaeology, an archaeological and heritage consultancy based in York.

He has a keen interest in archaeology and education and has written all sorts of fascinating publications including the intriguingly named Archaeology in British Towns: From the Emperor Claudius to the Black Death. He has been involved with the Time Team from time to time and took part in the BBC Timewatch programme ‘The Mystery of the Headless Romans’ screened in April 2006.

There are several publications of interest to Winchester archaeology enthusiasts including, The Roman Cemeteries and Suburbs of Winchester, Anglo-Saxon and Medieval Suburbs of Winchester (Hampshire Cultural Trust, 2018) and in 2019 an excellent archaeological study of Winchester’s City defences and areas adjacent to them entitled Winchester’s Roman and Medieval Defences: A Report on Excavations 1974 – 86 and a Gazetteer.

Most excitingly, PJO Archaeology is working with Hampshire Cultural Trust on a new volume in the Winchester Museums Service series of reports on excavations in the 1970s – 1990s which is concerned with Hyde Abbey. The report will cover re-excavation of the burial site in the church and examination of human bones which may come from the royal graves. Publication is anticipated in late 2020.

Press Release

After months of preparation for the provision of COVID-19 secure events over the King Alfred Weekend, the Hyde900 2020 Community Dig took place over four days on the site of Hyde Abbey in the now traditional (for Hyde900) downpours of rain. For a time, gazebos erected over the trench positions provided some cover for hardy participants of the Dig. However, the winds on Friday put paid to a couple of them! 

The Dig sites were in no fewer than four separate gardens made available by householders, making this the largest and most ambitious Dig put on by Hyde900. The project was run with the help of members of Hyde900, local experts and WARG, a Winchester archaeology and history group. Hundreds of hours of planning were put in by a dedicated team to ensure the Dig met all government guidelines, so as to provide as safe an environment as possible for those taking part. Dig organiser and Hyde900 trustee, David Spurling, said “The level of enthusiasm of those participating – over 200 in total – was extraordinary, especially given the amount of wind and water thrown at them as they dug.”

In the ‘finds’ tent, the items discovered were processed. Here there was excitement aplenty as muddy finds were cleaned to reveal priceless artefacts, all adding to the understanding of the history of this important Abbey which was commissioned by Henry 1 in 1110 as the final resting place of Alfred the Great. As well as fragments of stone, columns and an abacus from the Abbey, this year we were delighted to discover part of a Neolithic flint, a Roman pot and some pieces of Mediaeval encaustic tiles with a pattern not hitherto seen.

In the gardens were uncovered the remains of ‘robbed out’ Hyde Abbey walls and also part of the Bridewell floor and walls – the prison built over the remains of the Abbey in 1788 to serve the county.

Steve Brine MP came with his son to help dig. They were thrilled to find an oyster shell – one of a collection of shells discovered from what must have been the remains of the Abbey kitchens. Steve said, “Well done the volunteers of Winchester’s Hyde900 for organising another Community Dig today. A huge amount of work given the COVID-safe requirement and the elements.”

The Mayor, Councillor Patrick Cunningham, arrived with his family on Sunday to take a tour of the Dig sites. They were fascinated to learn what lay beneath these Hyde gardens and intrigued to be able to handle such ancient artefacts. Dr John Crook, consultant archaeologist to Winchester Cathedral, St George’s Windsor and St Cross Hospital Winchester, was on hand to explain the importance of the finds in one of the gardens, where we discovered the continuation of an Abbey wall and pavement found in an adjoining garden during the Community Digs in 2017 and 2018. Some of those discoveries are now exhibited in the City Museum, courtesy of the Hampshire Cultural Trust, in two display stands: part of a cloistral arch and fascinating finds from the two Digs.

Other notable events during the Hyde900 King Alfred Weekend were:

An absorbing lecture by Dr Patrick Ottaway on the subject “King Alfred of Wessex: England’s greatest town planner?” Link to the recording at www.hyde900.org.uk

The annual King Alfred Service at St Bartholomew’s Church, in King Alfred Place (www.threesaints.org.uk), the only remaining Abbey building still in use; followed by a blessing and laying of flowers on the gravestones in Hyde Abbey Garden, marking the putative burial place of Alfred, Aelswitha and their son Edward the Elder.

Guided walks around the area of the Abbey and visits to Hyde Abbey Garden.

Community Dig 2020 Gallery

To see an enlarged version please click on the image

16 item(s)

To see an enlarged version please click on the image

Hyde900 has over the past 10 years staged many events related to Hyde, a small area to the north of Winchester, just outside the city wall. Many of these have been focussed on the abbey of Hyde, renowned as the final burial place of Alfred the Great. The events have catered for a broad cross section of local residents and others interested in the history of the area. In conjunction with the local primary school, St Bede’s, several events were staged for the pupils, and form the basis for the first of a series of Activity packs in response the limitations imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

We have put together a range of free online resources and downloadable activities for adults and children to enjoy at home. More activities will be added regularly, for example, educational worksheets, jigsaws, stories, quizzes and craft activities. We hope you enjoy them.   

More details of the programme will be available shortly. To receive regular updates on these and other Hyde900 activities do register here.

One of the major excavations of the abbey site was the 1995-99 Community dig  exploring areas adjacent to the abbey church. The trenches included those in the vicinity of the abbey gatehouse, the abbey mill and the abbey guesthouse. However the major excavations were located at the east end of the abbey church. The results of these are shortly to be published by the Hampshire Cultural Trust through a grant from Historic England.

A local resident, Barbara Hall, took a series of photographs of these digs, together with a set which recorded the design and construction of a garden, designed by renowned garden designer Kim Wilkie, which reflected the design of the east end of the church as revealed in the community digs. Through her generosity, and courtesy of a grant from Hampshire Archives Trust the photographs have now been digitised by Hampsire Record Office .

The photographs can be accessed from the gallery below.

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