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ST GUTHLACS CHURCH

ALTERNATIVE NAME:  ST GUTHLACS PRIORY
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Foundations of 12th century Benedictine monastic church or chapel, known in the Medieval period as St Guthlac's in the Castle. The Saxon and Medieval burial ground continued in use into the 19th century. Excavations of the cemetery in 1973 recovered, in all, the remains of 87 bodies. Some of the burials may be Medieval, but appear to be mainly of the Saxon period. The earlier burials are reasonably elaborate, over 50 per cent being in coffins of which only the nails remain. Later burials had no indication of coffins, and nearly all the latest burials on the site were of children and infants. Amongst the earlier burials eight were found with each of the bodies laid on a bed of charcoal, radio-carbon dating of charcoal from under two of these give the dates of AD 990+/-70 and AD 920+/-80. An inhumation stratigraphically earlier than these was radiocarbon dated to 770 +/-70. The monastery was rebuilt outside the town after it had been badly damaged in the Baron's War (see SO54SW12). There is good evidence that the original church had a pre-Conquest origin as a minster, and may have been extant as early as the 7th century. The church became Benedictine circa 1101 and remained so until its ruination circa 1143.

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