THEY came in cloaks, crowns and crucifixes to salute Winchester’s most famous son.
A crowd of around 250 last Saturday recreated the arrival of the remains of King Alfred the Great and his wife and their son at Hyde Abbey.
Many wore historical dress for the 900th anniversary of the abbey’s foundation and reburial of Alfred.
The procession formed outside Winchester Cathedral to retrace the path from the Saxon king’s initial resting place. They followed three coffins draped in red that signified the royal reburial party.
Leaving the cathedral they headed up the High Street into Parchment Street, where the crowd faced a new obstacle that was not present in the 12th century — crossing Winchester’s one-way system!
They regrouped in St Peter’s car park before winding through Hyde to the remains of the abbey, which was demolished after the dissolution of the monasteries in the 1530s.
Under bright sunshine, all three coffins were laid on the spot beneath where the altar once stood.
The arrival was greeted with horns, beating drums and shouts of “Heads up — Alfred!”, led by Edward Fennell, one of the Hyde900 organisers, who was dressed as a friar for the day.
Also in historic dress was local businessman Jonathan Greatrix as the Bishop of Winchester, and Prof Christopher Mulvey, from Winchester University, as the Abbot of Hyde. The mayor, Cllr Dominic Hiscock, himself a resident of Hyde, took the starring role as King Henry I.
Martin Tod, the Lib Dem prospective parliamentary candidate for Winchester, who also lives in Hyde, played Robert de Beaumont, keeper of the castle.
Paul Williams, chief executive of Winchester Area Community Action, dressed as a monk to carry one of the coffins.
Many costumes were lent by Hampshire Wardrobe in Bar End, while other residents made their own outfits.
At the end of the procession, Canon Cliff Bannister of St Bartholomew’s Church, Hyde, led a short service.
Organiser, Professor Bill Lucas — Brother Bill for the day — then thanked everyone who worked to put on the event.
He gave special thanks to the pupils of St Bede Primary School and its head teacher, Louise Fitzpatrick. Along with hosting the procession after the event, the pupils also made nearly 50 models of Hyde Abbey.
Afterwards, Cllr Hiscock said: “It’s been an excellent community experience and so many people have come here to support it, which is wonderful.
“It’s been the most inspiring community event that I’ve done so far in my mayoral year.”
Ron Allison, who chairs Hyde900, was also “delighted” at how the event turned out.
He said: “I think what impressed me most of all was the very good feeling that there was right through Winchester.
“There was no problem with the cars letting us across North Walls, and I was very impressed by the community spirit and how many people turned up.”
For more details about Hyde900 and the other events that are planned visit www.hyde900.co.uk.