Beneath the ground

Recent investigations (by the Channel 4 Time Team) provided a geophysical survey of the abbey site revealing the ground plan of the medieval building. Unlike at nearby Muchelney Abbey there was little original stonework,  above or below ground, so presumably once the abbey had been abandoned the stones were reused for other walls and buildings nearby, or further away.

Muchelney-AthelneyThe pale area on the geophysical plan is the Alfred Monument which was erected in 1801 on what was supposed to have been the site of Alfred’s abbey: it couldn’t have been much closer.

No signs were found of Alfred’s original Saxon church and no artefacts, other than some medieval floor tiles from the later abbey. But the archaeologists were surprised to find many skeletons within the abbey area itself, which from the position in which the bodies had been placed, suggested the site of a medieval  burial ground.

Manuscript documents survive recording that the monastery suffered an outbreak of plague (Black Death) in 1349; the abbot, Richard de Gothurst, was one of the victims and it seems many of the monks also died. Could these skeletons be connected with this event? Perhaps, but all this was long after the time of Alfred. It was the lower, fort site, which yielded a few clues to Saxon presence.


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