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

Buckinghamshire Advertiser - - LIFE & LEISURE -


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.mi­ liv­ing-and-dy­ing-at-great-mis­senden­abbey.

Vol­un­teers get ready to help at the ex­ca­va­tions at Mis­senden Abbey

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