As the autumn leaves start to fall on the foundations of Ethelburga’s church, we are slowly beginning the process of restoring the churchyard following the end of the dig and the start of the next phase of the project. The viewing platform has now been dismantled. Our contractors, Astral, will return to site on Monday and will commence the process of back-filling the archaeology, removing the remaining tarmac paths, and levelling the paths in order to lay a new resin-bound aggregate surface throughout the church yard. The walls we have discovered will be marked out in the surface of the path so it will remain possible to see where the 7th Century church was, as well as the Archbishops’ residence up by the War Memorial.
It is interesting at this point to contrast the view we have today with the one in this postcard taken around 115 years ago from close to the same spot.
The path going across the middle of the Anglo-Saxon church obscures some of the archaeology, but you can still pick out features that are exactly the same as they were. The right hand pier of the chancel arcade is visible at the side of the path (in line with the front of the porch), and its exposure explains why it is in such poor condition now. The left hand pier is just visible, forming part of the step beyond the second grill. It is largely buried and thus survived in much better condition. The wall of the chancel is surviving to exactly the height that we found, and if Canon Jenkins did find dressed stones from the superstructure as he suggests in one of the accounts of his excavation, they had disappeared by this date.
One of the greatest changes between then and now is found in the porch, which was unglazed in 1905. The brick support for the timber frame has since been replaced by concrete lintels, and the wall beneath has been completely rebuilt, as it is apparent that none of the stonework is the same. The hole beneath the porch visible in 1905 has now been blocked with brickwork to retain over 3 tons of sand that have been poured over the archaeology under the porch to protect it. This sand also provides a solid base to support the flagstones that have been relaid over the top and repointed with lime mortar.
A further change over the past century is the extent to which trees have grown up around the church. It wasn’t always as leafy in the churchyard as it is now.