From the Worldwide Faith News archives

ACNS3560 Archaeological find may change history of faith in

From "Anglican Communion News Service" <>
Date Tue, 26 Aug 2003 15:29:31 +0100

ACNS 3560     |     ENGLAND	|     26 AUGUST 2003 

Archaeological find may change history of faith in Portsmouth

[ACNS source: Diocese of Portsmouth] Christianity in Portsmouth may be
500 years older than was first thought. A discovery at a city church may
persuade historians to re-write the story of how faith spread across the
south coast of England.

Preliminary archaeological investigations suggest there may be a Saxon
church dating from the seventh century under St Mary's Church in
Fratton. Experts already knew there was a Norman church from the 12th
century under the existing building - the earliest known church site in
the city. This latest find suggests the site could have been the cradle
for Christianity in Portsmouth 500 years earlier than that.

Church leaders now hope the find will help them develop the site for use
in the future. An ambitious four-year plan to provide better facilities
for the community has now been unveiled, including re-developing the
tower, organ and worship area.

The church will be holding an open day between 10am and 2pm on 13
September to show people the archaeological findings, give them a chance
to dig for themselves in a mock-archaeological display, and explain the
re-development work. Visitors can also climb the tower to enjoy views of
the city, and examine old marriage and other registers.

Archaeologist Kate Longcliffe, a member of the St Mary's congregation,
dug a trial trench at the north side of the church and then used
sophisticated radar equipment to find out what was under the existing
Victorian building.

Studies of the archives have shown previous churches on the site. Each
of these buildings has been confirmed by the ground radar equipment
including a mid-Victorian one 50cm below the existing floor and a
post-Norman church 90cm below the present floor level. To everyone's
surprise the radar found another structure at a depth of 1.5m below the
existing floor, which would indicate an earlier building on the site.

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