n 1109, Henry I ordered the Winchester New Minster to be removed to the suburb of Hyde Mead, to the north of the city walls, just outside the gate. When the new abbey church of Hyde was consecrated in 1110, the bodies of Alfred the GReat, his wife Ealhswith, and his son Edward the Elder, were carried in state through Winchester to be interred once more before the high altar. Their royal presence made Hyde Abbey a popular pilgrimage destination.
In 1141, the church suffered damage when Winchester was burned during The Anarchy between supporters of King Stephen and Matilda, and it had to be substantially rebuilt. Henceforward the abbey prospered and acquired considerable land in the area, until it was dissolved in 1539, by Henry VIII. So thoroughly did Henry's men deal with the abbey property that within a year it was said that no trace of the church remained above ground.
For 250 years, from 1538 until 1788, the choir end of Hyde Abbey, where Alfred and his family members were buried, was gradually forgotten about. Other parts of the abbey precinct were developed, notably the south west corner which became a grand house. The lower eastern area, adjacent to the stream, seems to have been largely turned over to rough grazing although there are indications that it was also heaped with mounds of rubble.
In 1788, the land was taken over by the county authorities as the site of a small local prison. The convicts themselves were put to work digging the foundations and in doing so, they started to come across a number of subterranean graves from across the abbey site. One observer was the local Catholic priest Dr. Milner who wrote:
“Miscreants couch amidst the ashes of our Alfreds and Edwards…..In digging for the foundations of that mournful edifice [the bridewell] at almost every stroke of the mattock or spade some ancient sepulchre was violated, the venerable contents of which were treated with marked indignity, A great number of stone coffins were dug up, with a variety of curious articles, such as chalices, patens, rings, buckles, the leather of shoes and boots, velvet and gold belonging to chasubles and other vestments as also the crook, rims and joints of a beautiful crozier, double gilt.”
The only remaining building today is the 15th century gatehouse, which stood between the inner and outer courts of the abbey precincts. Adjoining the gateway is a medieval barn containing 12th century stonework. Across grass-covered lawns there are mouldering traces of an arch that used to span the abbey millstream. Stones from the abbey were used to rebuild St Bartholomew’s church nearby, and were scavenged for farm buildings in the area. It is worth visiting St Barts to see 5 nicely carved capitals from the abbey church. Other stones from the abbey were used to build the church tower.
GPS Coordinates: 51.06853, -1.314
- Added: 22 Jul 2001
- Find A Grave Cemetery: #638794
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