BBC Four’s last installment of historic documentary King Alfred and the Anglo Saxons airs tonight (22.15pm, 22 August), concluding the story of the great Wessex king, who ruled between 871 and 899.
Residing in the historic city of Winchester, Alfred protected his people from the invading Danes and his opinions helped unify England. Winchester flourished under Alfred’s reign and although much of the evidence has been destroyed through time, visitors to Winchester can still retrace the King’s life through key landmarks in the area…
St Mary’s Abbey, Winchester
Beneath the Mayor’s official residence – Abbey House – you’ll find St Mary’s, known to the Saxon’s as The Nunnaminster. St Mary’s was founded by Alfred’s wife, Queen Ealhswith, during the 10th century, after Alfred’s death. The Nunnaminster and other religious buildings such as the Old Minster and New Minster became famous for teaching art, here they specialised in crafts including manuscript illumination, embroidery and jewelry making. Visitors can see the excavated remains along the abbey’s passage and learn more about the abbey’s history.
Athelney Abbey, Somerset
The area surrounding this site is popular among walkers, and it is not only a beautifully green spot, but a hugely significant one too. This is where Alfred launched the salvation of Wessex, and in effect the whole of England. Although Henry VIII demolished the original abbey, a monument was built in 1801 to mark its location in history.
In 1109, after Alfred had died, Edward the Elder (Alfred’s son and the next ruling king) was moved to Hyde Abbey by the order of Norman King Henry I. Sadly, during the 16th century, Henry VIII destroyed the building they lived in. In 2007, Hampshire Gardens Trust opened these gardens, in an effort to ensure the site was not forgotten. Three ledger stones have been placed marking the suspected royal graves of Alfred, his wife and his son, and the grounds make for a peaceful place to wander between historic sites.
St. Andrew’s Church, Aller, Somerset
King Guthrum, leader of the Danish Vikings, was baptised a Christian here, after Alfred’s brutal battle brutal battle of Edington in 878. Here visitors can see a Saxon font, where the ceremony is believed to have taken place. There’s also an effigy of Sir John de Clevedon and beautiful stained glass windows inside the building.
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