Community Dig 2020 – Press Release

November 2020

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

The annual King Alfred Service at St Bartholomew’s Church, in King Alfred Place (, 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.