Pathways to the Past: Exploring the legacy of Ethelburga was a multi-faceted project that began in 2018 and completed in 2021. We had a range of objectives and we aimed to create a lasting legacy for the village in a number of ways:
Excavating the Anglo-Saxon church in the churchyard. Though we didn’t know this for certain when we started the project, now the excavation is complete, we have clear evidence that the stone structure buried to the south of the present parish church is a very early church, possibly dating to the earliest phase of the conversion of England to Christianity in the mid 7th Century AD. If it is this early, it was almost certainly founded by Queen Ethelburga herself, and we can now reasonably conjecture the likely spot for her place of burial. Any early church is extremely rare and is a very important addition to the already unique array of Anglo-Saxon archaeology found in the village so far. This is now adding to our understanding of the interaction between royal and monastic sites and the development of settlement in this formative period when the foundations for England as a country were first being laid.
A visual re-creation of the church through time. We aim to create a legacy not just through the archaeological site report but also through commissioning 3D visualisations of how the church site developed over the past 1,400 years. You can read more about this important aspect of the project here and see some of the development work here. The 3D digital reconstructions are now available to view and experience in a new archaeological display in the north aisle of the parish church. The display also incorporates painted reconstructions of Ethelburga’s church created for us by an archaeological illustrator.
A programme of community activities. We involved local residents in the dig itself. We implemented a residency for an artist to work with community groups to develop an artwork inspired by the project, and Monument to Ethelburga is now installed in the churchyard. We commissioned two further artworks from local artists, and local textile art group Ethelburga quilters created a fourth piece. All four pieces were dedicated by the Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Bishop of Dover in a special service in 2021. Further information about the artworks is available here, and they are now available to view in and around the church. We are delighted that they were accepted as an installation within the Fringe programme of the Folkestone Triennial 2021. We have created a new pilgrimage route, the Royal Saxon Way from coast to coast across the North Downs to encourage people to explore the beauty of the natural environment and the 16 historic churches that they will encounter on the way. And within Lyminge itself, we have created a heritage trail, building on the information panel installed on Tayne Field in October 2018 to explain the complex of royal feasting halls found there. The new panels combined with new visitor information in the village car park and new written and on-line materials promote a better understanding for residents and visitors alike of the heritage of the area.
Long term protection of our historic environment. Our project is designed to protect the archaeology in the church yard. We now know that some of it was in poor condition when it was re-buried 90 years ago and it was subject to inappropriate consolidation and repair at that time. We have now stabilised the remains and covered them with materials to protect them for the longer term from further damage by the weather and by tree roots. Knowing the precise location of the archaeology will allow us to create an effective ground management plan that will help with protecting the remains in the future.
Improved access to the church and church yard. The dig created the opportunity for us to take up the existing tarmac paths throughout the church yard and replace them with a resin-bound aggregate surface material that will provide better drainage and be safer in bad weather. We have extended the area of hard surface into the churchyard extension as far as the war memorial where the paths have never been metalled. A new handrail has been installed, and the sometimes steep path has been graded to make the gradient more even and easier to manage. We have also laid a new path, providing for the first time step-free access to the church via the north door.
Our project is all about pathways. It has provided a way to explore further the archaeology of our community. It is providing a route to explore aspects of heritage through a range of activities. We are creating a heritage trail and have developed a walking route to explore the surrounding area. And we have already improved the physical paths in and around the church yard, to give better access for everyone but especially those with impaired mobility.
This project is about helping everyone to access better the historical environment that is all around us in Lyminge. Do come and explore for yourself.
If you support the aims of the project and would like to support our continuing aim to promote the important heritage of our small community, please consider giving us a donation. Find out more here