5. Construction


The abbey was constructed in the 12th century at a time of a massive surge in building in England, following the Norman Conquest. In addition to up to a hundred monastic site under construction, William I instigated a huge building programme of stout stone castles to consolidate his hold over the country. Such buildings utilised large amounts of stone, made possible in part by the Nprman masons who came over following the Conquest.

People who made the abbey

Whist many of the masons, in particular the master masons, were from Normandy, the Anglo Saxons had many skilled carpenters following the tradition of the mainly wooden structure of England at that time.


Because of the predominance of chalk throughout much of Hampshire, builders have had to rely on the importation of stone in order to create imposing, high status buildings. Flint was widely available, as can be seen in the construction of more modest buildings such as St. Bartholomew, Hyde (originally the chapel for local laity built within the precincts of the monastery). Moreover, flint could also be used for the core of walls and this was probably the case with Hyde Abbey. However, for the exposed surfaces of the abbey, as with the Cathedral, stone was necessary. The principal types of stone used in Winchester during the Norman period were:

QUARR STONE – from the Isle of Wight which also featured prominently in the cathedral

CAEN STONE – brought across from Normandy, which was particularly popular for fine carvings (such as the decorated capitals)

PURBECK MARBLE – From Purbeck in Dorset


The vast majority of timber used in the abbey construction would have been oak. By the 12th century this would have come mainly from managed forests, many owned by the king. Gifts of royal timber were a frequent source of timber, and in the case of Hyde this is likely to have come from forests within a 30 mile radius of Winchester.