Winchester residents mark King Alfred anniversary

(L-r) Volunteer Wendy Lane, James Moreton, 11, and artist Sophie Cunningham Dawe at the King Alfred celebration

(L-r) Volunteer Wendy Lane, James Moreton, 11, and artist Sophie Cunningham Dawe at the King Alfred celebration

First published in Winchester

Winchester residents helped mark the anniversary of King Alfred the Great’s death last Friday with an activity day at the church where he could be buried.

There was dressing up for children in Anglo-Saxon costume, an art exhibition and a walk around the site of long-lost medieval Hyde Abbey.

Last week the Hampshire Chronicle revealed how St Bartholomew’s church is preparing to apply for permission to exhume and analyse bones from the grave where Alfred could lie.

It is a complicated process and needs to show public support for the potentially controversial exhumation. But there was widespread support on Saturday for the project.

A local community group Hyde 900 was formed to celebrate the 900th anniversary of the reburial of Alfred at Hyde Abbey in 1100. Steve Marper, its chairman, said: “We support this because our raison d’etre is to celebrate Hyde; it is central to our mission.”

Edward Fennell, whose initial idea Hyde 900 was in the mid-noughties, said: “We will be solving the puzzle. The grave is the last great unanswered question about the history of Hyde Abbey.

“Some people may be unhappy. But those bones in the grave have already been moved a lot. What we are trying to do is resolve the identities in there.”

Hyde 900 has said it will help with fund-raising to pay for the cost of the work.

Dr Simon Roffey, an archaeologist at the University of Winchester, said: “I like the idea of a community project like this getting a whole range of people involved.

“If the bones are not Alfred it could be monks from the monastery. It would be excellent to investigate that as a fitting memorial.”

Rev Cliff Bannister, the rector of St Bartholomew’s, does not expect to be ready to apply until well into 2013.

Hyde 900 has also launched a ‘Hidden in Hyde’ project which aims to highlight the use of stones from the abbey in the construction of many local buildings.

When the abbey was closed and then demolished in the 1530s stones were re-used including Old Hyde House, the tower of St Bartholomew’s and numerous walls.

The project aims to discover and highlight the stones. A website is planned as well as a photographic record, historic analysis of the stones and heritage trails such as an imaginary journey from Hyde Abbey Gate to the High Altar, now the site of Hyde Abbey Garden.

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