Report of General Monthly Meeting

Hyde Abbey: Walking on History
A talk given by Ian Glenday and David Spurling on 9th May 2017

Ian and David gave a joint talk on the work of Hyde900 and WARG (originally Winchester Archaelogical Rescue Group), two local organisations concerned with materials that survive from Hyde Abbey in Winchester.

Hyde Abbey was a large well-established Benedictine monastery which dated back to the ninth century. The abbey church was consecrated in 1110 and the bodies of King Alfred, his wife and his son are thought to have been re-interred there at that time. The abbey prospered until the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII in 1539. The buildings were then quickly dismantled and the building materials taken away and reused. The land remained largely ignored for four hundred years until major archaeological excavations begun in 1999 established the main plan of the abbey. In 2010 a community organisation Hyde900 was set up to support research into the Hyde area and to track down timber, tiles and glass from Hyde Abbey. With support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, it has been possible to analyse the many materials found from Hyde Abbey and to discover where materials came from and how they were used.

More than one hundred samples of tiles of up to 30 different designs, dating from 1200 to 1500, have been found. Ian was able to tell us about the different types of clay used to make the tiles and whether the clay was found locally or had to be imported from further away. He showed us illustrations of different designs such as fleur de lys, gryphon, lions (white, black or green) and a tile showing the head of a prince, possibly Edward III. We learned about the wooden ‘stamps’ carved with reversed designs used in the stamping of the designs on the clay.

Ian and David had brought along samples of various replica tiles and tools used in the making. They were able to tell about the type of kilns used to fire the tiles in mediaeval times, and how the heat for the kilns could be gradually be increased. We heard about children’s events organised by Hyde900 to make large quantities of mediaeval-style tiles and the success (or otherwise) of these events.

David also told us about Little Woodham near Gosport, which as a living history village open to the public has, among other things, a mediaeval-style working kiln. Perhaps an idea for a Questor group visit?

Their joint informative talk, supported with slides and artefacts, enabled us to appreciate something of the valuable work being carried by Hyde900 and WARG.

Julia Whitburn