New evidence of ‘lost’ church found at Bradford on Avon
Recent renovation work at Holy Trinity Church, Bradford on Avon, has led to the discovery of some of the town’s Anglo-Saxon inhabitants and the possible location of a lost church.
|Excavation of a lead coffin [Credit: Wessex Archaeology]|
‘Our team instantly knew that this individual pre-dated Holy Trinity and must be associated with an earlier church building on this site’, said Bruce Eaton, Project Manager.
|Aerial view of the excavation site [Credit: Wessex Archaeology]|
St Aldhelm, a bishop, scholar and contemporary of Bede (who praised Aldhelm’s treatise on the correct observance of Easter), is credited with establishing a monasterium at Bradford on Avon in c. 705 AD on land granted to him by King Ine of Wessex. Known as mynsters in Old English, these were missionary churches on the frontline of converting the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity. The minster churches held sway over large jurisdictions and, as Christianity developed into the state religion, became wealthy institutions, receiving the tithe payments of all the surrounding parish churches.
|Finely carved stone slab dating to the late 7th or early 8th century discovered in the church grounds |
[Credit: Wessex Archaeology]
Two radiocarbon samples taken from the lowest burials confirmed that the burials were indeed Anglo-Saxons, broadly 9th century and 10th century respectively. To put this in to context, Alfred the Great was on the throne of Wessex during the latter half of the 9th century and his grandson Athelstan ruled as the first ‘King of the English’ during the first half of the 10th century. The burials probably relate to an earlier church on this site from at least the 9th century and strongly suggest that Holy Trinity occupies the same space as the original Anglo-Saxon minster.
|9th century burial found in Holy Trinity Church |
[Credit: Wessex Archaeology]
Volunteers from the Wiltshire Archaeology Field Group and Bradford on Avon Museum have been assisting cleaning the remains prior to them being studied. We have been delighted to be able to offer this opportunity for volunteers to get involved with this project and I would like to thank them for all their hard work. Wessex Archaeology is committed to engaging with local communities and sharing our discoveries with the wider public.
Joanna Abecassis, Rector of Holy Trinity, commented, ‘These finds which the Wessex team have been uncovering have been the cause of great excitement at Holy Trinity – not only on our own behalf, but on behalf of the whole town! It fills you with a real sense of wonder – and also humility – to think that Christians may have been worshipping on this site for over 1300 years... and, what’s more, only 700 years after the life and death of Christ. And it is quite extraordinary how we have come full circle, in that one of the major aims of our regeneration project is to be able to play our full part as a Parish Church at the heart of our community. The Wessex team have done a great and very professional job – thank you!’
Source: Wessex Archaeology [September 03, 2016]