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UK: Archaeological dig in York searches for royal clues

Archaeologists have started excavating a large site in York which could hide significant remains relating to the city's Roman and medieval past.

Archaeological dig in York searches for royal clues
University of York archaeological student, Paul Durdin at work on the Hidden Guildhall
archaeological dig in York [Credit: York Press]

The Hidden Guildhall investigation will focus on river-side land next to the Guildhall, once home to a friary where Richard III famously stayed.

AOC Archaeology Group have spoken of how unique the undisturbed site it and the possibility of the secrets it could hold.

Mitch Pollington, operations manager for AOC, said: "Opportunities like this don't often come up in a city like York.

"For a large site in the city centre - and on land which hasn't been disturbed for 500 years - to come up, is very exciting for us."

Members of the community will work together with professional archaeologists from AOC to excavate the site which had housed a recently demolished prefabricated building used by the Royal Observation Corps in the Second World War.

Despite this the land has been largely unused for centuries, leaving it almost completely undisturbed.

From 1257 to 1538, the site housed medieval friary which was home to around 35 friars in the 14th Century.

The Duke of Gloucester - who later became King Richard III - stayed in the friary in the 1480s and many local dignitaries were buried at the friary's church.

It was dissolved in 1538 by Henry VIII and the land then remained unused partly due to its unsanitary nature - stinking waste was being fed into the river close by.

It is hoped that the excavation will shed new light on the lives of the friars, the location of the friary buildings and possibly the identities of those who were buried here.

But as it is also located just upstream of the probable location of York’s Roman bridge, it is possible that the remains of Roman river front structures could survive, preserved in the waterlogged ground and sealed beneath the layers of later medieval occupation, archaeologists have said.

As well as excavating the site, AOC will be using state of the art ground penetrating radar equipment to build up a digital plan of the remains beneath the adjacent Guildhall buildings.

The team was called to excavate the site as City of York Council hopes the land can be redeveloped in the long term.

It is hoped that should the archaeology team make significant finds, the dig will be extended beyond its current completion date of August 31.

Author: Kate Liptrot | Source: The York Press [August 18, 2014]