Archaeological dig in Chippenham seeks to unearth King Alfred's line of defence

This Is Wiltshire: Marc Allum, Bob Nation, Tallulah Allum and Mike Stone Marc Allum, Bob Nation, Tallulah Allum and Mike Stone

Archaeologists are digging up a garden in Chippenham in the hope of finding a line of Saxon defence.

Antiques Roadshow experts Marc and Lisa Allum have offered their garden in St Mary’s Street to be excavated.

The team, headed by historian and author Mike Stone, had on Wednesday dug down half a metre and already unearthed finds from the medieval to Victorian.

These include the handle of a 14th-century jug from the kiln at Minety and clay pipes from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Everything found will go to Chippenham Museum.

Mr Stone said: “The wall that runs along on the north east side of the church in St Mary’s Street is highly likely to be the line of the Saxon defence.

“We are hoping to find a large earthen bank which was at the back of the wooden palisade. If this is found then, for the first time, we will have concrete evidence of the line of defences on one side of the town which saw the events that took place on January 6, 878.”

This was when Viking King Guthrum made a surprise night-time attack on Chippenham and ousted Alfred, King of the West Saxons.

The diggers will be there until next Wednesday and will be searching down a further two metres. Mr Allum said: “If we find the original line of that ditch it could be a pivotal discovery.

“The lawn is going to get totally ruined but it will be much more fun to see what’s down there. Lisa and I are both history addicts. It is all part of a drive to get Alfred’s place in Chippenham’s history over to a bigger audience. Ultimately we want to get a bronze statue of him in the town. I hope we find some skeletons, or a coin with his head on.”

So far the only bones found have belonged to chickens, cattle and sheep.

“The ribs have been sawn down so we can see signs of butchers,” said Mr Stone.

“And there are lots of oyster shells so we know they ate those.”

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