THE Kassam Stadium is no stranger to the prayers of pleading football fans.
But for hundreds of years, the site was actually the home of a more dedicated place of worship – a priory.
The murky history of the building, along with tales of the Knights’ Templar and “naughty nuns”, will be explored in a major excavation project starting next week.
The Archaeology of East Oxford project (Archeox) is running its biggest excavation to date right next to the Kassam Stadium and volunteers are being urged to get involved.
Project officer Jane Harrison said: “We are going to be excavating Minchery Farm Paddock, just to the west of the Priory pub.
“We believe the 12th century priory on the site of the pub extended into the paddock. We are also hopeful there could be Roman finds, or artefacts from even earlier.”
Archeox has been going for two years and previously ran smaller digs in and around Blackbird Leys.
The bodies of two children, hastily buried, were discovered during another excavation in the grounds of Bartlemas Chapel, off Cowley Road, last year.
Ms Harrison said: “This is another exciting project. The priory was built in the 12th century and run by the Knights Templar, who were based in Cowley, around the Templars Square shopping centre.
“Then when they were disbanded in 1312, the nuns there were subject to a great deal of scandal.
“They were running the place on a shoestring and there was a lot of juicy gossip about naughty nuns and money being misappropriated.
“In the end, it was dissolved years before Henry VIII started the dissolution of the monasteries.”
Work begins on Tuesday and will take place every day except Mondays for the next five weeks.
Volunteers will also take breaks this Saturday and Saturday, October 20, when Oxford United play at home.
Ms Harrison said: “We have got more than 500 volunteers and they are such a diverse and dedicated bunch of people.
“But we would always love to have more people involved for as long as they like. This is all about finding out about the fascinating past of the Leys.”
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