What was so ‘great’ about King Alfred? BBC One programme explores Alfred the Great’s legacy

King Alfred, the iconic figure who made Winchester his ancient capital of England, will be the subject of a BBC One documentary to be shown on Monday 17th May at 7.30pm. BBC South’s King Alfred - the Great? is part of the BBC’s A History of the World series and gathers evidence about King Alfred’s reign to establish why he is accorded the epithet ‘the Great’.


Presenter Dr Lucy Worsley, Curator of the Royal Palaces, will discover the man behind the name, and bring the Anglo-Saxon world to life by looking at artefacts from the period, exploring Anglo Saxon battle strategy, medical knowledge, lifestyle, diet, cooking, dress, and education.


During the half-hour programme, viewers will embark on a journey of discovery, taking in the famous sites of Winchester, from his famous statue on Broadway, through the streets to Winchester Cathedral, and his final resting place at Hyde. The programme will feature interviews with curatorial experts from Winchester Museums.


Graham Scobie, Historic Information Officer at Winchester City Council, said: “Alfred inherited the throne during troubled times. With the Viking incursions, the Kingdom of Wessex was on the verge of collapse. The centers of learning and the arts had been destroyed. To rebuild his kingdom, he invited scholars and artisans to his court in Winchester. From this arose a renewed Wessex, the origins of the Kingdom of England. From the collections of the Winchester Museum Service we chose the Winchester Reliquary, a container holding the remains of a saint, to highlight this renewal and we are thrilled to see that it is featured in this BBC series.”


The programme also coincides with the Hyde900 festival, marking the 900th anniversary of the founding of Hyde Abbey – King Alfred’s resting place. A series of year-long celebrations have been arranged throughout 2010 as part of Hyde900, visit www.hyde900.co.uk to find out more.


Today’s visitors to Winchester can still follow in the footsteps of the “The Great King” thanks to Winchester Tourism’s self-guided trail –The Winchester Walk: a Tour of King Alfred’s City. The life and times of King Alfred are also bought to life with regular guided tours provided by Winchester’s official Blue Badge Guides.


The city’s development under Alfred the Great as capital of Wessex and of the Anglo-Norman kingdom can also be traced by looking at Winchester City Museum’s display of extensive archaeological and local history collections.