Help unearth Abbey’s history
Archaeologists and volunteers are set to uncover the secrets of medieval Missenden Abbey. Lorcan Lovett reports on the project’s crowd funding approach and how previous excavations will help the team with their finds
NEXCAVATION at the medieval Missenden uncovered some interesting objects more than 30 years ago. Among the finds were pottery, glass, coins, animal bones and several complete human skeletons.
These were taken from the abbey in London Road, Great Missenden, and stored at the Museum Resource Centre in Aylesbury but the majority were neither formally identified nor documented.
Now archaeologists museum staff and enthusiastic volunteers have joined to create a Community Archaeolo Project which aims to digitise all the written records and plans made at the time of the 1980’s excavations.
The team is using crowd funding and crowd sourcing to gain support and discover how people once lived in the historic grounds.
In an online video appealing for support, the project’s lead archaeologist Dr Yvonne Edwards of University College London gives a glimpse of the intriguing history of the abbey, which was founded in 1113.
In the clip she reveals: “We plan to document the history of the medieval abbey which once stood in this beautiful river valley of the Chiltern hills.
“By supporting this project you will learn about life and death in one of the early monasteries of southern England.”
Visitors to the site will see a large manor which was built in the 16th century in what remained of the abbey after the church was demolished.
The abbots played a significant part in the community, no doubt helped by wealthy landowners who wanted to secure themselves a place in heaven, says Dr Edwards.
At its height, the abbey would have been a complex of gardens and courtyards.
As abbots fell into debt and neglected their land and animal stock, it was taken into the care of King Edward I for four years.
By the 1200s and 1300s, the abbey was once more thriving under the control of abbots from reputable families.
Along with many other monastic foundations this way of life came to an end with the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII.
The team will identify and document many of the finds from the 1980’s evacuations.
In the online appeal, Dr Edwards said: “Our plan is to remedy these omissions and use the finds to build a picture of life at the medieval abbey.
“Our team with support from specialists will identify and record the numerous finds which include quantities of domestic items like pottery, glass, stone, coins and metal objects together with animal bones and several complete human skeletons.”
Some of the old finds which are currently on display at Missenden Abbey include decorated floors tiles, massive sculptures of stone work and stained glass.
The team will use diagrams from the previous excavation to visualise and document parts of the old Abbey’s layout.
People can keep up with the finds through a series of blog posts and there will also be public open days.
The project will take about a year and the team hope to raise up to £4,000 through crowd funding and crowd sourcing, which is asking people with skill sets, such as photographers, for help.
You can support the project at crowdfunded.micropasts.org/projects/ living-and-dying-at-great-missendenabbey.
Volunteers get ready to help at the excavations at Missenden Abbey