Medieval Chapel in Harmony with Nature
The site of a medieval chapel in the water meadows of Winnall Moors to the north of Winchester is now set to be better understood and protected. The mysteries of the site are being uncovered and its future safeguarded thanks to a partnership between Winchester City Council, The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, English Heritage, Natural England and the Environment Agency.
The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust approached Winchester City Council’s heritage services team back in 2007, following their purchase of additional land to expand Winnall Moors Wildlife Reserve. As they set out to prepare a grant application to the Heritage Lottery Fund to support conservation and access works to the reserve.
The newly purchased land included the site of a medieval chapel (thought to be 12th or 13th century in origin), which is designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument. However, apart from a few records relating to some excavations carried out in 1921 and some idea that the site was related to Hyde Abbey, very little was known about the site or even its precise location.
The Wildlife Trust was keen to implement a more positive management regime to protect this important archaeological site and also benefit the extremely sensitive ecology of the water meadows and rivers, which are designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Tracy Matthews, Winchester City Council’s archaeology expert, said, “We were only too delighted to help and were fortunate to be able to commission a geophysical survey and earthwork survey of the site from ARCA, a contracting arm of the University of Winchester’s Archaeology Department. The survey results were fantastic and have confirmed the location and suggested layout of the medieval chapel, and even the possible locations of the 1921 trenches.”
David Mallard, the Winnall Moors Project Officer for The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said, “The survey results have allowed the partners to plan the management of the site with confidence. We can now be sure that grazing using sheep or cattle will protect the archaeology as well as enhancing the wildlife interest of the meadow. This complements the rest of the plans for improving the reserve contained in our application to the Heritage Lottery Fund.”
Cllr Patricia Stallard, the City Council’s portfolio holder for culture, heritage and sport, commented, “This partnership has ensured a ‘win win’ situation, just as we might have expected from a responsible land owner like The Wildlife Trust. It demonstrates what a relatively small amount of funding and commitment from all sides can achieve. “
The Trust hopes to learn the result of its application to the Heritage Lottery Fund this summer. For more information on Winnall Moors, the Trust’s application or volunteering on the reserve contact:
For more information on St Gertrude’s Chapel or other archaeological sites in Winchester district contact Tracy Matthews at Winchester City Council on tel 01962 848 380 or email firstname.lastname@example.org