Search for Alfred the Great exhibition opens in Saint Bartholomew’s Church
Curated by the community-based cultural group Hyde900, with support from the University of Winchester, the exhibition tells the story of King Alfred; from the burial of his remains at Hyde Abbey in 1110 to the modern day search for his final resting place.
The latest findings were revealed in a BBC2 documentary The Search for Alfred the Great broadcast last week (21 January).
In 2013, the BBC film crew joined Hyde900 and University archaeologists for the exhumation of the Unmarked Grave in St Bartholomew’s churchyard. However, radiocarbon dating revealed the remains were not old enough to belong to the West Saxon royal family.
In an unexpected twist, further research by archaeologist Dr Katie Tucker, Researcher in Human Osteology at the University of Winchester, into remains uncovered in the late 1990s from a community excavation at the Hyde Abbey site, led to the discovery of a pelvic bone most likely to belong to either King Alfred the Great or his son King Edward the Elder.
“The story of the bones is complicated and includes the dissolution of the monastery of Hyde, the construction of a Bridewell in 1778 – when the royal graves were first discovered – and the somewhat infamous involvement of John Mellor, an amateur archaeologist in the 1860s,” said Edward Fennell, Founder and Trustee of Hyde900. “As in the TV programme, the exhibition at St Bartholomew’s Church pieces together the story so that, we hope, its many twists and turns can be understood.”
Alys Blakeway, churchwarden of St Bartholomew’s, says that the opening of the Unmarked Grave was important regardless of its occupants: “These were our predecessors living here in Hyde back in medieval times. We are pleased to know a little more about them and are now looking forward to the chance to give them an appropriately dignified re-burial later this year.”
Professor Joy Carter, Vice-Chancellor at University of Winchester, said: “The exciting and important discovery of a pelvic bone belonging to either King Alfred or his son Edward is testament both to the power of academic research to reach across centuries, and to the commitment of the local community.
“This discovery was very much the result of a partnership with which the University is proud to be associated. Our thanks go to all those involved in the project, including the committed members of Hyde900, Winchester City Council, the Diocese, and of course all our academic colleagues at the university. Their commitment and tenacity have enabled us to reach this historic stage in the search for Alfred.”
The exhibition In Search of Alfred the Great is open from 10am to 3.30pm Monday to Saturday and at times when services are not being held on Sundays.