Dr Warwick Rodwell carried out an archeological investigation of Hadstock Church in 1974. Dedicated to St Botolph, the church is a well-known building discussed by many scholars because of (i) its architectural interest as a late Anglo-Saxon transeptal church (ii) its possible connection with the Battle of Assandun in 1016 AD. The results of Dr Rodwell’s study were published in The Antiquaries Journal, March 1976, 56 Part 1.
The abstract of the paper is reproduced below:
Total excavation of the nave, crossing, and transepts of Hadstock church in 1974, together with a detailed examination of parts of the upstanding fabric, revealed that this well-known Anglo-Saxon building is not a single-period structure, as has long been assumed. Three periods of Anglo-Saxon work are now known, the earliest of which probably belongs to the pre-Danish era: it comprised a large, five-cell cruciform church which, it is suggested, may be part of the seventh-century monastery founded by St. Botolph, at Icanho. Rebuilding on a monumental scale took place in the early eleventh century and the possibility is discussed that this was Canute’s minster, dedicated in 1020. The church was extensively repaired in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, following the collapse of the central tower. Subsequently the decline in the size and importance of Hadstock as a village saved the church from further extensive alteration.
A Local Heritage Initiative grant funded an archaeological dig in 2005 to investigate the early history of Hadstock. Information on this project can be found on The Recorders of Uttlesford History website:
Search for the Site of the Battle of Assandun 1016AD
In 2015, The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded the Hadstock Society a grant of £7,300 to carry out a geophysical survey of Red Field where numerous skeletons had been uncovered in 1863 and which may have been the site of this crucial battle, which led to Cnut being crowned King of England. The infill of the old railway line interfered badly with the results but two possible burial pits were found. These were excavated but no burial remains were found.
Carbon 14 dating of mortar samples from St Botolph’s church
In 2018, two samples taken during church repairs were sent to the USA for mortar analysis, one from the South wall taken from within the first 11 regular courses of flint herring-bone from the floor, and the second from the North wall on the West side of the uncovered blocked up door, about 1 meter from the floor level.
With advice from the Cambridge University Department of Archaeology, the North wall mortar sample was dated with a 95% probability to 993-1154 AD, whereas the South wall sample indicated there was a 95% probability that the mortar dated to 676AD-870AD with a 75% probability that it was between 676AD-770AD.
This South wall result is significant and provides evidence supporting the conclusion of Dr Rodwell’s 1974 investigation of a pre-Danish stone church in Hadstock.