Search This Blog

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Lyndhurst community unearths churchyard secrets from the past

People of all ages from Lyndhurst helped to unearth the past at an archaeological excavation of their parish churchyard dubbed ‘the community big dig’.

The New Forest National Park Authority working with Wessex Archaeology helped them excavate three areas outside the west end of St Michael and All Angels Church, Lyndhurst. They were also joined by students and staff from Southampton University.

Now people can see photos and an explanation of the project on display panels in the church, revealing the truth about the hill the church is built on and evidence of medieval Lyndhurst residents.

The Parish, in partnership with Hampshire County Council, was improving vehicle access and building a new footpath, which gave the chance for an archaeological exploration during the preparatory works in the churchyard this summer. The work had to meet the requirements of the archaeological planning condition and standards for working on consecrated land.

St Michael and All Angels Church was built between 1858 and 1869 and overlies the site of a Georgian church of 1741, which itself replaced a medieval chapel - the precise location of which remains unknown.

Several headstones lay within the excavation areas at the west end of the church, none of which appear to have been in their original locations, and these headstones were recorded and moved to another position within the churchyard.

Excavations also revealed four burial vaults, three of which were damaged and apparently in-filled earlier, but the fourth was that of Admiral Sir Charles Burrard, (1793 - 1870) which was intact and has now been preserved beneath the new access. Sir Charles was the second and last Baronet of Lymington, and at one point served on HMS Victory. He was also an accomplished marine and landscape painter.

New Forest National Park Authority Archaeologist Frank Green said: ‘We didn’t expect to find the remains of the early church as it is most likely below the present building. However there were over 350 shards of pottery found – jars and rims of jugs - and nearly a quarter were medieval. We also found stone roofing slates which were frequently used on medieval sites and usually implied social status. While the archaeological evidence from the excavation was relatively small, it is a very significant range of material for Lyndhurst and reflects the history of the Queen’s House site as a Royal Hunting Lodge as early as the 11th and 12th century.

‘This has been a really useful piece of work demonstrating that community archaeological projects can add significantly to our local knowledge and at the same time assisting community organisations to be actively involved in discovering their heritage.’

Sue Farr, Project Manager for Wessex Archaeology, said: ‘From the human bone identified, our osteoarchaeologist was able to determine there was a minimum of 20 people represented, and these are likely to have derived from 18th and 19th century graves within this area of the churchyard.

‘The overlying soil also contained metal coffin fittings such as grips and handles, plus other finds including ceramic and stone roof-tiles, brick, vessel glass and pottery, some of which was medieval.

‘The excavations also revealed that the church is built upon a natural rather than man-made hill, with some evidence of sand quarrying on the site.’

The church’s vicar, the Reverend Dr James Bruce said: ‘The people of St Michael's are hugely grateful for the hard work of the organisers Paul Trend and Ann Rogers, and all the volunteers, and for the helpfulness of the professional archaeologists involved in this project.

‘It opens the way to making the church building more accessible, and will relieve some congestion from the High Street in the future, as well as revealing more information about our heritage as a site where Jesus Christ has been worshipped since medieval times.’

People are invited to find out more about the project at a talk by archaeologist Phil Andrews in the church on Friday 10 February at 7pm.


No comments:

Post a Comment