VOLUNTEERS have been digging deep to find the missing Saxon monastery thought to have once stood in Kidderminster.

Kidderminster Civic Society’s archaeological dig, funded by £50,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, began on Tuesday at St Mary’s churchyard.

More than 100 volunteers will spend four weeks trying to find the Saxon church or monastery which many academics believe to be in Kidderminster.

The first group of 20 volunteers will be doing most of the manual labour by moving soil, grass and tree trunks from the site.

Volunteer George Blakeway, 45, of Kidderminster said: “I’ve always had an interest in archaeology. When this came up, it was a chance to get some archaeological experience instead of just reading about it in books.

“My great-grandfather was a mayor of Kidderminster. It’s quite exciting. If there’s something here it’s a connection to our heritage.”

Twenty-one-year-old student Simon Steele, of South Wales, said he had got involved the project for more experience as he was looking for a job in the field.

He said: “It’s fantastic. We’ve already found an iron block and a memorial stone with the letters EME engraved. The first day is always the hardest day.”

Worcestershire County Council archaeology team are leading the dig and teaching volunteers.

Project officer Richard Bradley said: “We should be able to tell what they’ve found in two weeks. It’s a community dig so it’s up to the volunteers to do the work. It’s up to them to discover the building.

“Once we get beyond the shovelling stage, it’ll get more technical. What we’re doing at first is taking off the top soil and the volunteers will take it down in layers.”

The dig is the second stage in the society’s Historic Kidderminster Project after a radar survey of the churchyard in 2006 found evidence of a structure several feet underground.

Two open days will take place at the site on Saturday, September 7 and September 14 for people to see what has been found.