Archaeologists discover 8th century monastery on the banks of the River Thames

Report by ITV News Meridian's Mel Bloor

Archaeologists from the University of Reading have made a breakthrough discovery after finding the remains of an 8th century monastery on the banks of the River Thames.

The exact location of the site in the Berkshire village of Cookham had been a mystery until now.

Experts say its discovery could give them a unique insight into the life of its ruler Queen Cynethryth, one of the most powerful women of the Early Middle Ages.

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The monastery is believed to have played a key part in the rise of London as England's dominant political and economic centre.

Dr Gabor Thomas, Archaeologist, University of Reading said: "By the end of the 9th it was being ruled over by a very powerful royal widow called Queen Cynethryth who was the widow of one of the most powerful Kings of 8th century England - King Offa.

"So this place was placed under the control of one of the most powerful women from Anglo Saxon England at this period and it shows you that it's a really important and political strategic centre. We've really hit the jackpot here."

Queen Cynethryth is the only Anglo-Saxon queen known to be depicted on a coin, a rarity anywhere in Western Europe.

Archaeologists hope the discovery of the monastery she presided over will give them a unique insight into her life and times.

Among the artefacts found during the dig in the grounds of Holy Trinity Church are food remains, pottery, an axe, and a delicate bronze bracelet.

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Thomas Haynes, Archaeological Science student said: "People sometimes think archaeologists just dig a big whole in the ground and find what you've got but it's not.

"It's much more complicated, you have proper ways of doing things, proper ways of recording what you've and it can be quite hard to get your head around but that's certainly something I feel I've learnt a lot here."

The team hopes to return to the site for further excavation next summer.