Our team working on the Bath Abbey Footprint Project recovered a rare and rather beautiful find this week: a piece of stonework carved in intricate knotwork and likely dating to the Late Saxon period.

The stonework discovered beneath Bath Abbey

Stylistically, the design is very similar to two standing cross fragments previously discovered in the vicinity, during the nineteenth century, and which are thought to date to the eighth century.

The stonework will need to be looked at by a specialist before we can confidently ascribe a date and function; so watch this space.

Late Saxon stone cross fragment from Bath discovered in the 19th century Stonework discovered beneath Bath Abbey's gift shop this week Late Saxon stone cross fragment from Bath discovered in the 19th century

Left and right: late Saxon stonework discovered in Bath during the nineteenth century, which is similar in style to the recently discovered stonework (centre).

The carved stone was found during the current reduction dig within the Jackson Extension, better known to visitors as the Abbey’s gift shop. This location was formerly occupied by No.2 Kingston Buildings, constructed between c. 1755-1762 and demolished in 1834 (see what we found down their drains here).

North East View of the Abbey Church from an eighteenth century engraving, showing Kingston Buildings (No.2)

The south-east view of the Abbey, shown in an engraving by James Gandon (after Thomas Malton the Younger), by kind permission of Victoria Art Gallery, Bath & North East Somerset Council. No. 2 Kingston Buildings can be seen on the left of the image.

The stone fragment was discovered within the rubble backfill of No. 2’s cellars, which are currently being cleared out by Emery Brothers and photogrammetrically recorded by Wessex Archaeology.

Members of the Wessex Archaeology West field team and Emery's digging crew

In what has been a tough week for everyone, this beautiful object has put a smile on the face of all our team involved with the Footprint Project, be they on site, in the office or self-isolating at home. We hope it has put a smile on yours.

By Bruce Eaton, Project Manager