Church where ‘the first King of England’ coronation is unearthed in Bath   


Lost Anglo-Saxon abbey where Edgar the Peaceful was crowned ‘the first King of all England’ in 973AD is unearthed in Bath

  • King Edgar the Peaceful was crowned as King of all England in 973AD
  • He unified the nation before his death and is regarded as first king of all England
  • He was the father of Ethelred the Unready and Edward the Martyr, both future kings of England 

The long-lost Anglo-Saxon abbey where Edgar the Peaceful was crowned as King of England in 973AD may have finally been discovered by archaeologists in Bath. 

The monarch ascended to the throne following the death of his older brother in 959AD but was not crowned until 973AD — 14 years later. 

His coronation cemented his place as a divine ruler and made him the first king to be formally recognised by God. He was the first king to rule over all regions of Britain, from Scotland to Mercia and Wessex. 

The coronation set the blueprint for all future Kings and Queens.

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Semi-circular relics (pictured) were found by a team from Wessex Archaeology during renovation work at Bath Abbey

Semi-circular relics (pictured) were found by a team from Wessex Archaeology during renovation work at Bath Abbey

Bath Abbey's (pictured) site has long been thought to have been home to an Anglo-Saxon monastery but no evidence was ever found

Bath Abbey’s (pictured) site has long been thought to have been home to an Anglo-Saxon monastery but no evidence was ever found

WHO WAS EDGAR THE PEACEFUL?  

Pictured, Edgar the Peaceful who presided over a stable 14-year  period

Pictured, Edgar the Peaceful who presided over a stable 14-year  period 

King Edgar the Peaceful, son of Edmund I and Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury and brother of Eadwig, became monarch in 959AD and ruled for 16 years. 

He was just a teenager when he ascended to the throne following the death of his older brother an decided to have his coronation in Bath. 

He is also believed to have been slight of stature, according to surviving contemporary records. 

However, his rein was known for its stability. 

Following his famed coronation in Bath in 973AD.

The ceremony was devised by Edgar and his advisor St Dunstan, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and drew heavily on the West Frankish (Carolingian) imperial coronations and explicitly emphasised that Edgar was king by the will of God. 

He is said to marched to Chester and been met by six so-called kings of England. 

Edgar was the first crowned King of England, uniting the kingdoms of Wessex, Mercia and Northumbria into one political entity.

The kings, including the King of Scots, King of Strathclyde, Cumbria, , Gwynedd, Morgannwg and Norse-controlled York are said to have signalled their allegiance to Edgar by rowing him in his state barge across the River Dee.

He died two years later but is deemed to be the first King who united the many regions of Britain under one rule.  

Semi-circular relics were found by a team from Wessex Archaeology during renovation work at Bath Abbey.

They were dated to between the 8th and 10th century AD and experts believe it may well be the site of King Edgar’s coronation. 

The structures were found to the south of the modern-day Abbey, below street level but on top of Roman remains that pre-date the site.   

Plaster from the uncovered remains contained charcoal and were sent to Queen’s University, Belfast for radiocarbon analysis. 

The dates came back as AD 780-970 and AD 670-770, much to the delight of Wessex Archaeology Senior Project Officer Cai Mason.

He said: ‘The most likely place to find this type of structure is at the east end of an ecclesiastical building, such as a church or chapel, and given the fact that the excavated structures are surrounded by late Saxon burials, this is the most likely explanation for their use. 

‘This, together with the late Saxon stonework and burials found at the Abbey, provides increasingly strong evidence that we have indeed found part of Bath’s lost Anglo-Saxon monastery.’  

Bath Abbey’s site is long thought to have been home to an Anglo-Saxon monastery but no evidence was ever found. 

The two structures were discovered during excavations as part of Bath Abbey’s Footprint project.

It hopes to restore the Abbey’s collapsing floor, install an eco-friendly heating system utilising Bath’s famous thermal springs, and creating new facilities to improve its hospitality, worship and service to the city. 

King Edgar the Peaceful, son of Edmund I and Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury and brother of Eadwig, became monarch in 959AD and ruled for 16 years. 

He was just a teenager when he ascended to the throne following the death of his older brother and decided to have his coronation in Bath. 

It is believed the Anglo-Saxon monastery was the specific site. 

Findings of the building’s physical form add weight to this belief.   

The Reverend Canon Guy Bridgewater at Bath Abbey said: ‘This is a really exciting find.

‘While we’ve always known there once was an Anglo-Saxon monastery on this site, no trace of the building remains above ground today.

‘So it’s amazing that we now have an actual record of it and can get a real sense of it as it was.’

Pictured, Edgar the Peaceful's place in the ancestry of the British monarchy. His eldest son Edward was thought to be illegitimate and only became king briefly. He was deposed in favour of his younger brother, who was only ten, Ethelred the Unready

Pictured, Edgar the Peaceful’s place in the ancestry of the British monarchy. His eldest son Edward was thought to be illegitimate and only became king briefly. He was deposed in favour of his younger brother, who was only ten, Ethelred the Unready 

The Bath Abbey site has a complex history which features Romans, Anglo-Saxons and several renovations. Ongoing work has unearthed the latest relics

The Bath Abbey site has a complex history which features Romans, Anglo-Saxons and several renovations. Ongoing work has unearthed the latest relics 

Wessex Archaeology Senior Project Officer Cai Mason said the most likely place to find the relic structures is in an ecclesiastical building, such as a church or chapel

Wessex Archaeology Senior Project Officer Cai Mason said the most likely place to find the relic structures is in an ecclesiastical building, such as a church or chapel

King Edgar the Peaceful, son of Edmund I and Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury and brother of Eadwig, became monarch in 959AD and ruled for 16 years

King Edgar the Peaceful, son of Edmund I and Ælfgifu of Shaftesbury and brother of Eadwig, became monarch in 959AD and ruled for 16 years

The two structures were discovered during excavations below street level, south of the current Abbey church, as part of Bath Abbey’s Footprint project

The two structures were discovered during excavations below street level, south of the current Abbey church, as part of Bath Abbey’s Footprint project

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