As part of Gloucester’s Aethelflaed 1100th anniversary celebrations, members of the public are invited to take part in a geophysical survey on Saturday 26 May to search for the remains of the late Anglo-Saxon palace in Kingsholm. The site was partially excavated in 1972 (the Kingsholm Court area). Aethelflaed is thought to have ruled Mercia from the palace and it would continue to be used by royalty right up to the Norman era. Aethelstan, Aethelflaed’s nephew, the first true king of England would later pass away at the royal palace in 939. It would also have been used by Kings Edmund Ironside, Harthacnut, Edward the Confessor and William the Conqueror.
This year marks the 1100th anniversary of the death of Aethelflaed, one of the most pivotal women in English history, who ruled from and was buried in Gloucester. As the ruler of the Anglo-Saxon kingdom of Mercia, she laid the foundations of the England we know today. Gloucester’s connection to Aethelflaed is indeed a strong one as she refortified the former Roman settlement and defended it from the Vikings, she ruled from the Anglo Saxon Palace in Kingsholm, she built St Oswald’s Priory to house the sacred relics of one of England’s most devoutly Christian kings and she was buried beneath the same building.
There will be another opportunity to try your hand at archaeology at the Anglo-Saxon encampment at St Oswald’s Priory on Saturday 9 June. Members of the public will have the chance see what life was like in the tenth century and the encampment will host specially commissioned music, drama and spoken word performances inspired by Aethelflaed.
Members of the public can enjoy free Saxon Tours of Gloucester to help set the scene and a special exhibition will be held at the Museum of Gloucester over the summer. Gloucester Cathedral will hold a special Evensong dedicated to Aethelflaed on the actual anniversary, Tuesday 12 June.
Andrew Armstrong, city archaeologist at Gloucester City Council, said: “Excavations in 1972 found fascinating evidence for late Saxon halls which we think formed part of a large palace complex extending throughout the northwest of Kingsholm. We don’t know for sure, but it seems likely that the palace was in use during Aethelflaed’s time. We’re hoping as part of this survey to identify the location of the 1972 excavation and to plot the locations of any further buildings in the surrounding area. Volunteers will learn about how geophysical survey works in theory and will then help undertake the survey.”
Cllr Paul James, leader of Gloucester City Council, said: “This is a wonderful, hands-on opportunity for people of Gloucester to get involved with our rich history. It would be very exciting if members of the public can help us find the layout of the royal palace complex this weekend.”
It’s free to participate but you do need to book tickets from the Gloucester ticket shop website: https://www.gloucesterticketshop.co.uk/en-GB/shows/kingsholm%20volunteer%20geophysical%20survey/events
The entire programme of events can be found at www.aethelflaed2018.co.uk.
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