Community Dig 2020 – Press Release

February 2021

Spectacular finds revealed in the Hyde900 2020 Community Dig.

An amazing and nationally important cache of medieval glass was found during the fourth Hyde900 Community dig, held in October, just prior to the current lockdown. The event, involving over 200 archaeologists, volunteers and diggers of all ages from the community, took place amidst strict COVID-19 precautions in the gardens of householders in the area previously occupied by Hyde Abbey.

Over 400 fragments of medieval painted window glass were discovered amongst the demolition rubble alongside the robbed out foundations of a medieval wall. The dimensions of the foundations showed that there had been a major two storied building on the site, located close to, but not in, the cloister area. The cache of glass is now being cleaned and recorded by the dig’s Archaeological Consultant, David Ashby, at the University of Winchester. On being told of the find, Professor Martin Biddle commented “Year by year Hyde900 is adding to our knowledge of Hyde Abbey, first walls (and we need more of them to get a real grasp of the abbey’s plan!) and now these finds of window glass which will give us a better idea of the splendour of the domestic buildings.” Further analysis will be carried out to piece together the appearance of the window and its date.

The glass showed that this had come from a high status building located in the inner precinct of the abbey, possibly the abbot’s lodging recorded in the grant of the site after the Dissolution. The dig’s Architectural Consultant, Dr John Crook, stated “Hyde Abbey was one of England’s premier royal monasteries, but was almost completely obliterated under Henry VIII. The discovery of decorated glass is highly significant. Now we are gaining insights into the decoration of those buildings, adding to the architectural knowledge gained in the past few years.”

Also discovered alongside the wall was a large deposit of food waste, largely oysters, but including mussels, whelks, and periwinkles together with rabbit and other bones. Analysis is being coordinated by Dr Ruth Pelling, Senior Archaeobotanist of Historic England. It is hoped to be able to reconstruct the menu of the inhabitants of the building.

Other discoveries of the dig revealed demolition material from the nave of the large abbey church, and, visible for the first time since its demolition in the 1850’s, the floor of the Bridewell (prison) built over the site of the church in the late 1700’s.

Hyde900 gratefully acknowledge the financial support provided by CBA Wessex and the Hampshire Field Club, and the generosity of the four householders who donated their gardens for the event. Further information on the dig and a preview of Hyde900’s  programme of events for 2021 can found on the Hyde900 website  https://www.hyde900.org.uk/

For those interested in taking part in future digs, or  the other exciting Hyde900 events, please do join via the website https://www.hyde900.org.uk/join/