TWO Winchester pupils made an interesting discovery at Hyde Abbey as part of a project to turn the site into a learning resource.

While inspecting the boundary wall of Adam Architecture, which is constructed entirely of materials from the nearby abbey, St Bede School pupils Thomas Agombar and Ezra Holliday identified a medieval mason’s mark inscribed into stone.

“Mason’s marks were applied by the mason on stones they had carved, and were used as a method of calculating the payment due,” said Hyde900 trustee and tour guide David Spurling.

“This is a unique find and none have previously been found in the Hyde area.” The find was endorsed in its authenticity by Dr John Crook from Winchester Cathedral.

Deputy head of St Bede, David Metcalfe, was enthusiastic about the discovery: “This was a really exciting event for our pupils, who just loved making rubbings of the stone. We hope that they will be able to research the mark and its age, and even find out the name of the mason involved.”

The discovery gave a good start to the school’s first Archaeology Day last Friday.

A team from Hyde900 supported by members of Winchester Archaeology and Local History (WARG) introduced 90 children from Year 5 to the layout of the abbey and then provided the opportunity for them to hone their research skills in sorting out archaeological finds provided by the Winchester Museum Service.

Hyde900 is working on a range of initiatives to interpret the site of the abbey, including a major educational project to enable schools to learn more about the story of Hyde Abbey and King Alfred the Great, whose bones are believed to still remain buried somewhere on the site.

“The area of Hyde Abbey offers a tremendous resource to enable children to investigate the fantastic medieval heritage of where they live,” said Caroline Scott, a member of the Hyde900 committee.

In the course of a packed day of activity every child took part in a guided tour of the site and identified architecturally interesting stones.

which had been recycled from the original abbey building.

There was also the opportunity to take ‘stone rubbings’ and to participate in a workshop with local artist Kate Arnold to make ‘encaustic’ tiles similar to those which would have been found on the floor of the abbey.

The responses from the children were very positive.

“I liked going out on the archaeological walk and learning about the different types and shapes of stones and why they were there and what they told us about history,” said Matthew, while Atene said: “I didn’t realise finding out about the past could be so interesting and fun.”

Classmate Jack said: “I learned about whistle stones and that archaeologists need to draw the artefacts they find,” and Faith added: “I have really enjoyed looking at the bones and the archaeologists bag of tools. I really like archaeology and it was interesting to see what they actually use on a dig.”

Headteacher Sarah Duck said that she was delighted to be working with Hyde900 and to take advantage of the historically important site which lay adjacent to the school.

“It is an opportunity for immersive learning in a unique setting,” she said.

“The children have really enjoyed all the different activities and I hope that they will now be able to look at their home area and see beneath the surface as to what a very interesting story it has to tell. This is just the start of something which will grow in the life of the school.”

Among visitors to St. Bede’s was the mayor Jane Rutter. “I’ve had the pleasure of going to a number of Hyde900 activities recently but this Archaeology Day is perhaps the one which will have the greatest impact in introducing our local children to an important aspect of the fascinating history of Winchester,” she said.

“I hope that it will have a continuing effect.”

Arising out of St. Bede’s Archaeology Day ten free places are being offered to the school by Hyde900 for participation in the ‘Time Team’-style ‘Community Dig’ Excavation Project taking place in two gardens in King Alfred Terrace on April 27-30.

This project is open to people of all ages.

“For too long the educational potential of the Hyde Abbey site has been overlooked,” said Hyde900 Founder, Edward Fennell.

“We’re thrilled that St. Bede has been so positive about exploring the possibilities of what is available. But it is not just for children. Local people of all ages will find it very rewarding to look more closely at the remains of the abbey. It’s remarkable what you discover once you open your eyes and examine it with care.”

Caroline Scott: “What we are doing fits with Key Stages 1 and 2 of the National Curriculum and provides a great opportunity for children to develop a range of new insights and knowledge as well as extending their literacy skills though learning new technical terms.”