Exactly 900 years ago, the body of King Alfred the Great was carried with pomp and ceremony to the newly founded Hyde Abbey, on the edge of the city.It was reburied there some two hundred years after his death. On Saturday 13 March, hundreds of people from the Winchester area will gather to re-enact this historic procession as part of the year’s Hyde900 celebrations.
In the presence of King Henry 1st, son of William the Conqueror, the great procession accompanied the three royal coffins of Alfred, his wife, and his son.Carried by monks, the coffins left New Minster (adjacent to the site of Winchester Cathedral) and were transported to Hyde Abbey (marked out today by HydeAbbeyGarden).The monks also took with them their collection of precious saints’ relics, and other treasures including the immensely valuable great gold cross of King Cnut.
Once at Hyde, the King and his family were reburied, as the focal point of the newly constructed Hyde Abbey. Three large ledger stones now mark this spot in HydeAbbeyGarden, which was constructed in 2003 to celebrate the history of the site.
The modern day recreation of this extraordinary event will involve schools (especially the school closest to the Hyde Abbey site, St Bede’s Primary School), churches, the University of Winchester, the Mayor of Winchester (who will be playing the part of King Henry I) and many other well-known local people.
Procession Co-ordinator, Bill Lucas, said: "This is a wonderful opportunity for children and their families to use their imagination, dress up, and recreate a piece of local history. These days we tend to forget just how important Winchester once was as a city, a thriving religious and financial centre of national importance. Just turn up at on Saturday 13 March and join in. We have found music of the time for the marchers to sing and local children have been making models of Hyde Abbey to show the public. The procession promises to be a major component of the Hyde900 festival."
The Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Dominic Hiscock, who is also a Hyde resident, said: “This is a real community event dreamed up and led by people who live and work in Hyde. The way that Hyde900 has taken the lead in this unifying celebration is amazing. I am looking forward to being king for the day!
People wanting to find out more about the story of Hyde Abbey and the birth of one of Winchester’s first ‘suburbs’ at Hyde, should pop into Winchester Discovery Centre and enjoy the exhibition in The Gallery on the first floor.The exhibition has been designed for all the family, with plenty of hands-on activities: admission is free.