Community Dig group

After the dig

datePosted on 15:03, May 1st, 2018 by Rebecca Horsfall

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.


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April 30 – Day Four

datePosted on 10:34, April 30th, 2018 by Website Admin

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…

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April 29 – Day Three

datePosted on 08:05, April 29th, 2018 by Website Admin

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  –


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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April 28 – Day Two

datePosted on 10:32, April 28th, 2018 by Website Admin

Day two highlights

Day two of the dig

Alan Lovell pays the dig a visit…

3.15pm We were delighted to welcome Alan Lovell, Chair of Hampshire Cultural Trust, when he paid us a visit this afternoon to see how we were getting on. While he toured the site and talked with the dig supervisors, Hyde900’s Rose Burns caught up with him for a chat.

Professor Martin Biddle tours the dig

Distinguished archaeologist Martin Biddle visited the site today and talked over each trench with the supervisors. He is enthusiastic about the potential of what we are finding, and thinks it likely we are in the area of the actual cloister buildings (such as the monks’ refectory) rather than just the general cloister area.

Professor Biddle will be returning to the dig tomorrow morning to see what progress we have made.

Members of the community hard at work…

Dad Jamie with Tilly and Flora sieving in No.15

2.30 pm Community participants of all ages have been working away in all the trenches. At No.15 sieving is hard going because the soil is wet after last night’s rain, but the team keep at it undaunted, examining each small find as they go.


Midday progress update

In the garden of No.15 a medieval surface is beginning to emerge

1.30 pm In the garden of No.15, in trench 13, where Signe Biddle was excavating yesterday, a surface, probably medieval is emerging. The next stage is to record and then dig the whole pit down to that level.

Here, in the adjacent Trench 9, supervisor Stuart Rippon digs down with two participants to see if they can find a continuation of that surface.


A medieval wall emerging in Trench 10

In Trench 10 at No.10, a foundation of medieval walling has been found. A tireless participant is excavating carefully around it to see what an intriguing feature at one end of it might be.

A few yards away in Trench 11, participants are still removing the upper layers but will soon be down to the layer where they can see if the Trench 10 walling continues here.


David Ashby cleaning in Trench 12 with a trowel

In adjacent Trench 12 David Ashby, the dig’s archaeological adviser from the University of Winchester, has found a mixture of medieval demolition rubble and walling, and also further walling from which traces of Roman plaster have emerged. It is not known yet whether we are looking at medieval walling here or something older.

Hopefully we will have more news about this exciting trench by the end of the day.

Dr John Crook recording and drawing the situation so far in Trench 8

In Trench 8, where we are extending the excavation of the area that revealed parts of the Norman arch last year, Dr John Crook is preparing to draw the layers that have been uncovered so far.

In this trench we already have a clear medieval wall, and what may be part of a medieval floor. There is also what seems to be another of the voussoirs that were found last year. Once Dr Crook has finished recording the current levels, he and participants from the community will extend the trench to get a bigger picture, and then go down further to the lower layers.


Expert archaeologist pitches in with a trowel…

We are lucky enough to have had the digging assistance of renowned archaeologist Signe Biddle for the start of the dig. She spent the day hard at work in Trench 13.

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April 27 – Day One

datePosted on 10:00, April 27th, 2018 by Website Admin

A successful first day…

6.30 pm It has been a marvellous start to the community dig. The rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm or prevent good progress being made in all the trenches. Trench 8, the continuation to last year’s Trench 7 (where parts of a Norman arch were found), has been the subject of much anticipation, and the first day’s discoveries have proven as exciting as we could have hoped.

We are lucky enough to have Dr John Crook, consultant archaeologist to Winchester Cathedral, with us on the dig. Here, he explains how things are looking so far in Trench 8…


Mark Mardell from Radio 4 jokes with householder Justine Field.

4.30 pm  The dig has its first visit from the media, with a visit from Mark Mardell from Radio 4 to record interviews for this Sunday’s “The World This Weekend.”

Luckily the weather cleared up in time for him to visit all the gardens and catch some sound effects of digging and sieving, as well as chatting to some of the diggers and supervisors. The programme goes out at 1pm on Sunday, and we’ll be looking forward to hearing it.

Children from St.Bede’s Primary School take part in the dig

3.50 pm This afternoon twelve children from the local primary school came to take part in the dig. Undaunted by the weather, they took turns sieving, digging and cleaning. Fantastic to give them a taste of a real archaeological dig in their own neighbourhood.

Keep an eye on the blog. We should have a video of their visit by tomorrow morning.

Rio and Ben

Rio and Ben have been working hard in Trench 11

12 children from St.Bede’s take turns digging, sieving and cleaning


Olaya, Lucien and Joey from St.Bede’s watch the digging

Isabella looks like a natural as she carefully removes a layer of soil

Olaya is beaming as she digs in Trench 11

Wet weather makes the going soggy

3.30pm Good progress is being made but the weather threatens to intervene.


Iain Rushbrook and Julian Dineen from Bellman’s Auction House examine today’s pottery finds


1 pm.  A number of pottery finds have already emerged from the top, mainly Victorian, layers of soil. Experts Julian Dineen and Iain Rushbrook from Bellman’s Auction House in Hyde Street dropped by to have a look and explain to Hyde900’s Janet what they are.

Digging is coming along well. There are already significant signs of what may prove to be a medieval wall in Trench 8 in the garden of No.14.


Mayor David McLean views Trench 8


11.40am  Digging is coming along well. Here, you can see John Crook, chief archeologist of Winchester Cathedral, showing Mayor David McLean signs of archaeology that have already come to light through the sterling digging efforts of Ben Goddard and Caroline Beasley (pictured).


Judy Gregory and Sarah Bianchi sieving in No.15


11am  Digging is underway. The top layers of each trench are being carefully excavated, with all the soil that comes out them being sieved for small finds.

All six new trenches are being dug by our first teams of participants.

The dig is declared open

John Leeson declares the 2018 Hyde900 dig open

9.30am The dig has begun! John Leeson from Belgarum Estates, who have sponsored this year’s dig, officially opens the dig.

Here you can see him congratulating householder Justine Field as he announces that the dig is open and wishes us all a productive and enjoyable weekend.

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April 26 – Set Up Day

datePosted on 16:32, April 26th, 2018 by Website Admin

All set for the dig tomorrow

Last-minute preparations for the dig are now complete. Tools and equipment have been brought onto the sites, turf coverings are down, frames have been made to protect the gardens from the bags of heavy soil that come out of the ground and final decisions have been made about the locations of the trenches.

Get a taste of how things went on set-up day in this video:

Final preparations

David and the dig supervisors raise their teacups to the coming dig


3.50pm. Preparations are just about complete for the start of the dig tomorrow morning. David Spurling and the team from WARG who will be supervising the diggers talk over the plans for the weekend.



No.10 King Alfred Terrace – Positions of three trenches marked out with pegs

2.30pm. Last minute preparations for an early start tomorrow are underway. The probing and discussions are over and the final positions for tomorrow’s trenches are marked out, ready for the digging to start.


Shovels, buckets, bags, barrows have all been brought in, ready for the morning. Quiet reigns… for the moment.


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April 2018– Preparations for the dig

datePosted on 22:38, April 19th, 2018 by Website Admin

STOP PRESS! First finds of the dig

Even before the first trowel is inserted into the ground, several exciting finds have emerged during preparations. At No.10 householder Chris Scott found a piece of distinctive Romanesque carved stone while clearing his garden, and at Number 14, under the concrete slab that was removed for the dig, a number of fascinating artefacts have been revealed in the surface layer of the soil.

Here, dig organiser David Spurling takes a look at some of them…


Preparations on site at No.10 King Alfred Terrace

Protective covering for the turf at No.10


With two days to go before the start of the dig on Friday, intensive preparations are underway. Protective covering for the turf is brought in to the garden at No.10. Here you can see Scotty with her friend Julian taking a sheet of ply for a walk.

Meanwhile, as I write, David Spurling, David Sommerville and Richard Steedman are out there lugging gazebos and bulk bags in the pouring rain (I promise photos as soon as we have them!).



Another one bites the dust…

Shed at No.15 – now flat pack

The last shed to go. David Spurling removes the shed at No 15. Now all three dig sites have shed their sheds.

The sites below the ex-sheds open up exciting new areas for excavation this weekend.


Probing the site

Probing in the gardens of numbers 10 and 15 King Alfred Terrace has revealed the presence of buried mortar and chalk, which may indicate the possible location of an East-West wall in the garden of number 10, and both East-West and North-South walls in number 15. However, the proof of the pudding…

To see how the probing was done take a look at the video…


Preparing the gardens…

Removing the concrete slab in number 15


Serious preparations have been going on in the gardens of King Alfred Terrace, ready for the dig in a week’s time. At number 15 a concrete slab has been removed with the permission of householder Justine Field, in order to allow Hyde900 to excavate beneath it. Here you can see our own David Spurling with Justine’s neighbour Chris Prior getting stuck into the task of levering up the concrete.

Ben Holliday and David Spurling made short work of the shed at number 10.


Number 10 is an entirely new site for the Hyde900 community dig, and householder Chris Scott kindly allowed us to remove the shed at the bottom of his garden. Luckily, the shed was standing on a base of slabs, which were easy enough to remove.

Probing the soil beneath the site of the shed has yielded tantalising evidence of buried building materials.

Chris Prior heroically breaking up his shed base.


Down the road at number 14, as if moving his shed weren’t enough, householder Chris Prior had to take a jackhammer to the concrete base where his shed used to stand.

The removal of Chris’s shed base at number 14 will allow us to excavate a continuation from last year’s famous “Trench 7”, where the stunning voussoirs and abaci from a Norman cloister arch were discovered. This continued trench promises to be this year’s star attraction as we all wait in eager anticipation to see what has been buried for years beneath Chris’s garden tools.

A well-earned break from skip loading.


A team of noble volunteers from Hyde900 shifted all the concrete from number 14, along with the broken pieces of the slab from number 15, into a skip hired for the occasion.

Here you can see them all hard at work – Goodness, that teacup looks heavy, Susan.


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