Anglo-Saxon grave found

Archaeologists Kevin Horsley and Steve Sherlock(right) pictured working in St Hildas Church.
Archaeologists Kevin Horsley and Steve Sherlock(right) pictured working in St Hildas Church.

THE discovery of an apparent Anglo-Saxon grave underneath a church could be proof of the siting of a Seventh Century monastery.

The find, which archaeologists are describing as “exciting”, was unearthed while work is being done to St Hilda’s Church, on Hartlepool’s Headland.

The floor has been taken up at the historic church to make way for a new heating system, and experts at Tees Archaeology have been at the church for recording purposes working on two areas measuring 27ft by 27ft.

As well as the Anglo-Saxon grave, another six, believed to date between the 1600s and 1900s, were also found, as well as various loose bones.

Dr Steve Sherlock, of Tees Archaeology, said: “It’s an exciting thing.

“We hope to do more work to understand it.

“It’s always presumed that there was a church here in Norman times in 1066.

“We note that the church is sited in the area of St Hilda’s Anglo-Saxon monastery, about 60ft north of the present church.

“It’s always been presumed that this church was the site of St Hilda’s Anglo-Saxon monastery.

“We haven’t found any trace of that, but this one burial may be one of the clues pointing towards that.”

Ninety to 120ft to the south of the church there were burials found in the 1970s similar to this Anglo-Saxon grave.

Dr Sherlock and fellow archaeologist Kevin Horsley have been at the church daily, after being commissioned by the church to see if there is anything of archaeological interest under the building prior to a new heating system being fitted.

He said: “There was a similar scheme in 2003, this is the second phase.

“We found nothing as exciting as this last time.”

He said most of the burials in the church are aligned east to west. However, the one believed to be Anglo-Saxon is lying north-east to south-west, and is also a slightly different shape.

The outlines of the graves can be seen in the limestone under the church, though none are being dug up.

Around 60 small pieces of bones found were disturbed by work in the past, and a special commemorative ceremony will be held to re-bury them and mark the completion of the church refurbishment.

Work was due to continue on the fitting of the heating system next week, after the archaeologists have concluded their work.

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