COVID failed to disrupt the traditional archaeological dig over King Alfred Weekend.

After months of preparation, the Hyde900 2020 Community Dig took place over four days on the site of Hyde Abbey.

This year the dig sites were in four separate gardens, making this the largest and most ambitious dig by the group.

The project was run with the help of members of Hyde900, local experts and WARG, a Winchester archaeology and history group.

Hundreds of hours of planning were put in by a dedicated team to ensure the event met all government guidelines to provide as safe an environment as possible for those taking part.

Dig organiser David Spurling said: “The level of enthusiasm of those participating – over 200 in total – was extraordinary, especially given the amount of wind and water thrown at them as they dug.”

In the ‘finds’ tent, the items discovered were processed.

Here there was excitement aplenty as muddy finds were cleaned to reveal artefacts that all add to the understanding of the history of this important monastery which was commissioned by Henry I in 1110 as the final resting place of Alfred the Great.

As well as fragments of stone, columns and an abacus from the Abbey, this year Hyde 900 members were delighted to discover part of a Neolithic flint, a Roman pot and pieces of Medieval encaustic tiles with a pattern not hitherto seen.

In the gardens the remains of ‘robbed out’ Hyde Abbey walls were uncovered and also part of the Bridewell floor and walls – the prison built over the remains of the abbey in 1788 to serve the county.

Steve Brine MP came with his son to help. They found an oyster shell – one of a collection of shells discovered from what must have been the remains of the abbey kitchens. Mr Brine said: “Well done the volunteers of Winchester’s Hyde900 for organising another Community Dig today.

“A huge amount of work given the Covid-safe requirement and the elements.”

The Mayor of Winchester, Patrick Cunningham, arrived with his family on Sunday to take a tour.

They were fascinated to learn what lay beneath these Hyde gardens and intrigued to be able to handle such ancient artefacts.

Dr John Crook, consultant archaeologist to Winchester Cathedral, was on hand to explain the importance of the finds in one of the gardens, where diggers discovered the continuation of an abbey wall and pavement found in an adjoining garden during the digs in 2017 and 2018.

Some of those discoveries are now exhibited in the City Museum, courtesy of the Hampshire Cultural Trust, in two display stands: part of a cloistral arch and fascinating finds from the two digs.

Other events over the weekend included a lecture by Dr Patrick Ottaway on the subject King Alfred of Wessex: England’s greatest town planner?, and a church service.