HYDE900’s four-day community archaeological dig at King Alfred’s last resting place has exceeded all expectations, say organisers.

“When we started digging on Friday,” says dig organiser David Spurling, “no one could have foreseen that we would uncover buried evidence that would completely change our understanding of the layout of the cloisters of Winchester’s lost Hyde Abbey”.

Undaunted by wind or rain, more than 150 local people, including children from St Bede primary school, have dug, sieved, cleaned and recorded finds. And Sunday’s open day brought a stream of visitors to the gardens of King Alfred Terrace.

Archaeologist Professor Martin Biddle said: “Hyde 900’s second year digging in private gardens on the site of Hyde Abbey has been a tremendous success thanks to the extraordinary enthusiasm and generosity of the owners of the gardens, whose huts have been moved and lawns and beds dug up

“The south range of the abbey’s cloister - probably the site of the monks’ refectory - has been located at last, a little further north than expected, helping to correct the outline ‘guess-plan’ of the abbey’s cloister. And it looks, at this last moment, that very important fragments of sculpture from the Norman cloister, recycled as building rubble in later alterations to the south range, are about to be found.”

These sculpted pieces appear to be more of the Norman “voussoirs”, or carved cloister arch stones, that were discovered last year. On Friday, at the start of the dig, archaeologists were hoping to uncover further examples of these incredibly significant stones. Towards the end of Day 4, they were certain to have found at least another nine. These have not been cleaned and lifted for preservation yet – that will happen later - but from what the experts can see, they seem to be in wonderful condition.

Over the weekend, the emergence of the detailed structure of one of the monastic walls has told a great dealthat we did not know, both about how these walls were constructed and also about the cloister’s history.

Dr John Crook, consultant archaeologist to Winchester Cathedral, said: “We’re now sure we’ve discovered the monastic refectory, and that there was a major reconstruction in the 14th century, which previously we didn’t know much about, not only of one of the most important communal buildings, but also of the cloister itself.”

House owner Chris Prior, whose garden has been dug up, said: “It’s worth it; you can always put your shed and your garden back together but you might not get the chance to see this again.”

Along the street, in a trench in the garden of number 10, Roman plaster has been found on a mysterious wall feature that seems to run at an angle to the abbey buildings.

David Ashby from Winchester University, archaeological adviser to the dig, has recovered part of a charcoal layer from beneath the wall for carbon dating to see whether we might be looking at a wall that pre-dates the abbey by many centuries.

It is likely that much more will be discovered when the magnificent carved stone pieces are carefully lifted over the coming days. For updates, you can check the website www.hyde900.org.uk for the latest news, or find Hyde900 on Facebook.