Thousand-year-old skeletons found in hotel garden

A large pit in the ground with a man in hi-vis looking at a skeleton
The remains have been found in the garden [Old Bell Hotel]

Human bones dated to be more than 1,000 years old have been discovered in the garden of a hotel, with 24 skeletons found alongside bones belonging to a number of others.

The Anglo-Saxon remains of men, women and children were found in the grounds of The Old Bell Hotel in Malmesbury, which is next door to Malmesbury Abbey, in Wiltshire.

The remains are from 670 to 940 AD, so include the very earliest days of the abbey, when it was a monastery.

Malmesbury Abbey historian Tony McAleavy said the results are significant, especially because the place "at this time was one of the leading centres of scholarship in western Europe".

Tony McAleavy looks at the camera wearing  black rain jacket
Tony McAleavy, local resident and Malmesbury Abbey historian, said he is very excited by the discovery [BBC]

Malmesbury Abbey historian and local resident Tony McAleavy said he "was off the scale excited".

"What we've got here is not a collection of the bodies of monks - it's men, women and children," he added.

Cotswold Archaeology was called in last year to excavate as part of planning conditions for some building work and now details have been revealed.

'Off the scale excited'

From written sources, the area is believed to have been part of the monastic development.

Mr McAleavy added: "It looks like we've found traces of the community of people to helped the monks here.

"It's going to shed new light on the way Malmesbury Abbey worked in its golden age."

Hotel garden with lawn and building made from cotswold stone and glass
The bones were found when doing archaeological work before the extension now there could be built [BBC]
A load of old bones in the mud
The bones were carefully unearthed [Cotswold Archaeology ]

While there is writing discussing the town's Saxon past, experts say this find has finally provided physical evidence.

Paulo Guarino from Cotswold Archaeology said: "We knew from historical sources that the monastery was founded in that period but we never had solid evidence before this excavation.

"We use maximum respect.

"We knew from the very beginning how important it was."

Paulo Guarino wearing glasses and high-vis vest looks into the camera
Archaeologist Paulo Guarino said they use "maximum respect" when handling human remains [BBC]
Front of the Old Bell Hotel, with lots of Ivy
The Old Bell Hotel in Malmesbury is centuries old itself, with parts of the building being medieval [BBC]

Kim and Whit Hanks own the hotel and are from Texas. they said they had been learning more about the history over time.

"Living in a community with so much history is so exciting to us.

"This town is so open and wants the story to be told," said Ms Hanks.

The announcement comes as Malmesbury celebrates Athelstan 1100, a series of events marking the reign of Anglo-Saxon King Athelstan, the first King of all England, who chose to be buried in the town.

Kim and Whit Hanks look at the camera.
Kim and Whit Hanks own the hotel and have been learning more about the history [BBC]
Malmesbury Abbey under a grey sky
Malmesbury Abbey is right next to the hotel [BBC]

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