Archaeologists from the Hyde900 community archaeology project – begun in 2016 following events organised to celebrate the 900th anniversary of Hyde Abbey’s consecration c.1110 (CA 380) – have located the Benedictine monastery’s 80m-long nave in a garden belonging to local residents.
All that remains of the abbey above ground since its demolition at the Dissolution of the Monasteries is an arched stone gatehouse. A small prison was then built over the site in 1793, and today the abbey’s footprint lies beneath housing. Building on Graham Scobie’s 1995-1999 investigations, which located the east end of the abbey church, previous Hyde900 excavations have gone on to locate the southern and eastern ranges. The position of the church nave, though, has proved harder to pin down.
Local residents Paul and Kat McCulloch had a trench dug in their garden in 2020 that had missed the nave’s north wall by just 2-3m, according to later research. ‘When we put together the new information from previous digs and the results from the University of Winchester’s ground-penetrating radar survey done by David Ashby, we talked it over with Paul and Kat who jumped at the offer that we could once again dig the garden – but we had to avoid Kat’s peony,’ said Hyde900 dig organiser David Spurling.
The team therefore opened another trench in the McCullochs’ garden earlier this year (pictured above), locating the core of a medieval wall 80cm below ground level. Further excavation then revealed a 2.7m-wide foundation, in-situ stonework, the sub-floor of the nave, fragments of decorated tile, and an ornamental beakhead.
The nave was previously thought to be aligned true east–west, but the results of this latest excavation will be used to revise the plan of the abbey. ‘We had an image of the abbey which was used for some time, and we had the abbey church in a particular position,’ David told CA. ‘We can now say that this is reorientated, and we have a different view of the outline of the abbey – only by about two or three degrees.’
The annual Hyde900 community excavation will run from 18 to 21 August 2022. See www.hyde900.org.uk for more details.