WINCHESTER Cathedral has started preparatory work for the potentially groundbreaking research into the contents of its mortuary chests.

Historians believe the wooden boxes contain the bones of Anglo-Saxon kings, including ancestors of King Alfred and the Danes such as Canute.

The boxes were recently taken down from the presbytery screens and moved to the Lady Chapel at the eastern end of the cathedral where a wooden hut has been erected with a lockable door.

The cathedral is hoping for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

In a statement it said: “The renaissance mortuary chests and their contents are currently in the Lady Chapel, and investigations into the condition of the structure, ironwork and paintwork of the chests have been completed as part of our HLF Round 1 Development process.

“Recommendations for their conservation will be submitted with our Round 2 Application in the spring. While the contents of the Mortuary Chests are not part of our HLF bid, the Lady Chapel was selected as their temporary resting place to respect their integrity and to keep them on consecrated ground in a secure and controlled environment.”