Other Crafts and Industry (non-metalworking)


Apart from metalworking, there is evidence of other craft on the site, some pre-dating the metalworking, and some which may have been contemporary, albeit most likely on a much smaller scale than the metal casting and smithing. These craft activities are discussed below.


Two iron tools associated with woodworking were recovered; SF01056 is a possible spoon bit from which the blade is missing. SF01514 is a small wedge which may have been used for splitting timbers, or to hold iron tools such as axes secure in their handles.


Six leather finds were recovered, comprising 25 fragments; all but one find was of leatherworking waste, specifically secondary offcuts and trimmings derived from shoe-making. SF01542, SF01543 and SF01544 are secondary offcuts and trimmings, all coming from Phase 1 deposits associated with Building B. SF01543 is of a triangular shape diagnostic of shoe-making, and SF01542 includes one large secondary offcut which appears to be waste from the clicking (cutting out) of the toe part of a shoe upper. This waste suggests possible shoe-making in the area, perhaps in Building B, where spinning and weaving also seemed to be undertaken (see below).

A Phase 8.2 pit fill produced two secondary offcut fragments (SF01052), and the remaining finds came from Phase 11 deposits; another secondary offcut (SF00618) probably derived from shoe-making, while SF00619 consists of seven sheet leather fragments of an unknown object or objects. These are badly torn, but there are some cut edges and one fragment has tunnel-stitching. In addition to the leather fragments, an iron leatherworking tool was also found; SF01272 is a small iron awl which was recovered from a Phase 9.3 level. Two possible awls were also found during the Time Team excavations (1999.941 sfs86, 128). These excavations also produced more leather offcuts and trimmings (1999.941 sfs15, 50, 66, 67, 83); parts of a 9th–11th century shoe (sfs19–20), and of a possibly contemporary scabbard (sf77), were also found. Three leather fragments (1990.26 sfs9–11) came from the 1990 evaluation. When the Anglo-Scandinavian material from the 1999 Time Team excavations is considered together with the Phase 1–11 material from the main excavation, it suggests that leatherworking, particularly shoe-making, may well have been going on on the site, perhaps during the 10th century; some or all of the remaining leather finds could be residual from this activity.

Textile Production

Phases 1–9 produced tools associated with fibre processing, spinning, weaving and sewing.

Fibre processing

Several probable fibre processing spikes of iron were found, including SF01231, SF01248 in Phase 8 deposits, and SF01210 from a Phase 9.8 level.

Spinning, weaving and sewing

Spindle whorls of bone (SF01330, SF01585, SF01048, SF00252) and of stone (SF01014, SF01012, SF00707) were recovered; apart from SF00252 which was found in a modern deposit, the bone whorls derive from Phase 1 (10th century) to Phase 6.3 (late 13th–early 14th century) levels. SF01330 was recovered from build up associated with timber Building B where wool processing was undertaken (see Environmental Evidence). As an allied activity, it is not surprising to find that spinning was also being carried out there. SF01585 and SF01048 both came from dumps, and both may be residual from Anglo-Scandinavian activity, a period in which they occur much more frequently than in the medieval period (AY 17/11, Table 146, pp.1732–33). Another bone spindle whorl was found during the Time Team excavations (1999.941 sf16).

All the stone whorls come from floor levels in later phases (Phases 8–9.8); all are of the predominantly medieval Form C as described by Walton Rogers (AY 17/11, p.1736), and all are of limestone. SF01014 comprises two whorls, which were found in the same deposit (a Phase 8 floor in passage house S) as a bone pin-beater (SF01000), a hand tool used in weaving. Single-ended pin-beaters such as SF01000 are typically found in late 9th/early 10th–14th century deposits (AY 17/11, p.1755), so this may be a late example of this type of tool. Taken together, these tools indicate that spinning and weaving, both characteristically domestic activities, may have been undertaken in Building S.

Of the other two stone whorls, SF01012 was found in a Phase 9.2 floor in a room in Building U, alongside other domestic-type finds, and SF00707 came from a Phase 9.8 tiled floor in Building V, in an area which also produced a copper alloy needle fragment (SF00588).

An iron needle with a large, crudely formed eye (SF01363), which may have been used in sewing sacking or other coarse materials, was found in a Phase 6.3 backyard rubbish dump.

Bone working

Horn working

Horn was not recovered from the site, but 13 horn cores were recovered from Phase 5 onwards (SF01189, SF01365, SF01513, SF01343, SF01505, SF01413, SF00583, SF01193, SF00726, SF00910, SF00312). Another horn core was recovered from an unstratified deposit during the Time Team excavations (1999.941 sf78). In the manufacture of horn objects, it was first necessary to remove the horn sheath from the bony core, and the cores found at Walmgate represent the discarded remains from this process. While the cores were found scattered through Phases 5–13, there is at least one small concentration which may suggest an area of working; this is Building M which produced three horn cores from Phases 6.1–6.2 (late 12th–13th century), one from within the building (SF01365), the other two from pits and dumps where Building M had formerly stood (SF01513, SF01343). Some of the horn cores recovered from later levels, particularly those found in dumps (e.g. SF01413, SF00910), may be redeposited from this earlier activity. If horn working had been carried out on site, then a pit or pits would have been necessary for soaking the horns to facilitate the removal of the horn sheath. Elsewhere in York, horn cores indicating possible 11th–13th century horn working were recovered from excavations at 44–5 Parliament Street (AY 17/12, p.1873), while Hornpot Lane off Low Petergate appears to have been the site of a horn manufactory from the 14th century at least, and possibly from as early as the mid-13th century (Wenham 1964, 26–9).

Other bone offcuts

Apart from the hornworking, there is little evidence of other working of bone on site; SF01372 is a worked distal end of a cattle right metatarsal, which appears unfinished, and was found in a Phase 5 dump. SF01506 is a worked fragment of a ?cattle transverse process which came from a Phase 6.1 deposit inside Building N.

Antler offcuts

Only three offcuts of worked antler were found during these excavations; a further three were found during the Time Team excavations (1999.941 sfs8, 104, 110). Even taking into account those found in 1999, there is not enough debris to indicate antler working on site. SF01508 is a tine with a hollowed out base from a Phase 5 backfilled robbing cut, which also produced pottery dated to the 11th century and with which the tine may be contemporary. SF01329 is an offcut of crown, that is the top area of the antler where two or more tines project, and it was found in a Phase 8 pit. SF00628 is a naturally shed burr from the backfill of a Phase 11 construction cut. As antler working was primarily an activity of the Anglian and Anglo-Scandinavian periods (AY 17/12, p.1906; AY 08/04), these offcuts are likely to be residual from earlier phases; the small numbers of offcuts suggest all may have been imported to the site, perhaps in soil for dumping/levelling.

Amber fragment

A small fragment of unworked amber (SF00617) was found in the same deposit as the antler burr (SF00628) (see above). A single unworked fragment may represent a piece picked up as a curiosity from a beach on the east coast (AY 17/14, p.2501), but it may have arrived in imported dumped soil from a site where amber was being worked. 16–22 Coppergate and the Quaker Meeting House site on Clifford Street have both produced evidence of amber working in York in the 10th and 11th centuries (AY 17/14, pp.2500–1; see also AY 08/04, forthcoming).


SF00737 is probably the tip of a sickle blade; it was found in a Phase 9.8 deposit of probable smithing waste, and may have been scrap destined for recycling.


There are thirteen knives in varying states of fragmentation (SF00522, SF00657, SF00956, SF00965, SF01005, SF01068, SF01263, SF01287, SF01382, SF01488, SF01517, SF01526, SF01590). SF01068 was found in the floor levels of the Phase 8 Building S, and has a blade which tapered sharply to the tip and had a near straight back; it is typical of small, late medieval knives. SF01287 is a knife tang bearing the remains of a wooden handle.


Seven hones were recovered from the site; all came from Phases 5–9.6 levels (SF01357, SF01385, SF01308, SF01430, SF01009, SF01572), apart from one which was unstratified (SF01597). All were identified as phyllite, a stone type which probably originates from the Scottish highlands, Shetland Islands or possibly Norway. Phyllite hones have been found previously on medieval sites in York (see for example AY 17/15, 10938–59), and it has been suggested that this fine stone type may have been selected for sharpening small blades and craftsmen's tools, while coarser local stones such as sandstones would have been used on agricultural and other large blades (Ellis and Moore 1990, 869). At least two of the hones come from deposits associated with metalworking: SF01430 was recovered from a mid–late 14th century hearth in the blacksmith's workshop, while SF01572 derived from a mid 15th–early 16th century dump of metalworking waste in Building Y, and it may be that many of the other hones were also used on craftsmen's tools, perhaps those used, or made, by the blacksmiths on the site.

In summary, the tools and debris from non-metalworking activities indicate shoe-making on site which pre-dates the main period of metalworking, and some earlier and some contemporary textile production, a domestic and female craft. Horn core debris suggests that hornworking might have been carried out on site, a small concentration occurring in the late 12th–early 13th centuries, but quantities are small and there is a lack of structural evidence. Many of the knives and hones could have been used by the metalworkers themselves; other tools are also likely to have been used on an occasional basis by the inhabitants of the site, and do not imply other trades at work here.

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An Anglo-Scandinavian period shoe from Coppergate, York (AY 17/16 forthcoming, 15354). This style of shoe could have been made at Walmgate

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Bone spindle whorl SF01048

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Bone spindle whorl SF01330

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Stone spindle whorls SF01014

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Stone spindle whorls SF01014 and bone pin-beater SF01000

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Stone spindle whorl SF00707

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Horn core fragments SF01513

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Horn core fragments SF01365

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Horn core fragment SF01505

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Antler tine tip SF01508

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Stone hone fragment with incomplete perforation SF01385

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Stone hone SF01009

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stone hone SF01430
© Copyright York Archaeological Trust 2003