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This ancient door stood the test of time...


London - It has been in continuous use for almost 1 000 years, and for a long time people believed - wrongly - that it was covered in flayed human skin.

On Thursday, a battered door inside London's famous Westminster Abbey was officially named as the oldest door in Britain.

Research on the innocuous-looking door, funded by historic preservation body English Heritage, was completed last week and concluded that the door had survived so long because it is indoors and has been used constantly.

A spokesperson for the Abbey, the grand, ancient church near the Houses of Parliament in central London, said the door had been dated back to the 1050s, during the reign of the Abbey's founder, English king Edward the Confessor.

This makes it the only remaining Anglo-Saxon era door in Britain, an archaeologist who took part in the study said.

"It has long been obvious that the battered and insignificant-looking wooden door must be ancient but its true age has eluded discovery," the spokesperson said.

"In the 19th century it was noticed that there were fragments of hide adhering to the door and a legend grew up suggesting that these were human.

"It was supposed that somebody in the Middle Ages had been caught committing sacrilege in the Abbey, had been flayed and his skin nailed to the door as a deterrent to other would-be felons."

However, modern analysis had identified the skin as cow hide, she added.

According to archaeologist Warwick Rodwell, the door was the only one in Britain which could be assigned to the Anglo-Saxon period.

The 1,98 metre by 1,20 metre door was made from one tree, rings from which suggested it grew from 924 to 1030.

It opens into the Abbey's octagonal Chapter House, where monks met every day for prayers in the 13th century, and parliament was temporarily based in the 14th century. It is now used to store religious documents.

"It is incredible to think that when the door was made the Norman Conquest had not yet happened and William of Normandy was still a young man of about 20 years old," said Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage.

"William was later crowned King of England on Christmas Day 1066, just a hundred feet away from the door.

William, better known as William the Conqueror, invaded England from France in 1066, routing King Harold's forces at the Battle of Hastings, the most recent invasion of the British Isles.


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