EVIDENCE of a Christian burial dating back to the ninth century has been uncovered at Bradford on Avon’s Holy Trinity Church.

Wessex Archaeology made the discovery last month during a year-long, £2m renovation of the 12th century church to transform it into a versatile venue for the community.

Archaeologists recorded and excavated graves, predominantly from Georgian or Victorian times, after the floor of the old boiler house was removed.

Project manager for WA, Bruce Eaton, was thrilled at the discovery and said that the team believe this could be the site of the lost minster church established by the bishop and scholar St Aldhelm, in 710AD, around which Bradford developed.

“When we found out we were absolutely ecstatic. The team were all so happy to find something like this. It just makes the whole effort so worthwhile,” he said.

“Our team instantly knew that this individual pre-dated Holy Trinity and must be associated with an earlier church building on this site.

“The question was how much earlier the burial was? Might this be evidence for the site of Aldhelm’s minster church, around which the town developed?”

Two radiocarbon samples were taken from the lowest burials confirmed the burials were from Anglo-Saxon times. All the remains are being analysed before being reburied.

Joanna Abecassis, rector of the church said: “These findings have been the cause of great excitement at Holy Trinity – not only on our own behalf, but on behalf of the whole town.

“It fills you with a real sense of wonder – and also humility – to think that Christians may have been worshipping on this site for more than 1,300 years.

“It is quite extraordinary how we have come full circle, in that one of the major aims of our regeneration project is to be able to play our full part as a Parish Church at the heart of our community.

“The Wessex team have done a great and very professional job.”

Kirsten Egging Dinwiddy, who is working on the project, said that the earliest burial remains include men, women and children and were well-nourished, and fit and healthy.

Volunteers from the Wiltshire Archaeology Field Group and Bradford on Avon Museum have been assisting cleaning the remains prior to them being studied.