Phase 4: mid to late 11th century  
Timber Buildings H to L Matrix Diagram

A sequence of timber buildings, Buildings H, I, J, K and L, was constructed across the full width of the excavated area along the Walmgate street frontage.


Building H was situated in the north-eastern corner of the excavation area on top of the building platform created in Phase 3. The building measured over 3.8m long and over 2.4m wide, with the long axis orientated at right angles to Walmgate. Only its southern wall was located; it consisted of six stake-holes and a beam-slot that was removed by a later Phase 5 robbing cut (context 3067). A number of internal post-holes (2973, 2975, 3026 and 3076) held posts that supported the roof. Several internal stake-holes, including 31103111, 3548 and 3827, may indicate the presence of internal partitions within Building H or internal fixtures. Initially Building H had an internal hearth (3087) situated at its southern end adjacent to the beam slot. Surrounding the hearth on its northern and western sides were a number of stake-holes including (31123115, 3127, 3141 and 3149) which may have formed a smoke screen or smoke hood. The western side of the smoke hood or screen was replaced before hearth 3087 went out of use. A second hearth located further to the north-east was then built. The new hearth also had a smoke screen or hood associated with it. The rebuilding of the hearth was dated by pottery to the late 11th or early 12th century suggesting that the building may have originally been built in the mid to late 11th century. The building does not appear to have had an industrial function and may have been used for domestic purposes. The reason for the siting of Building H on top of the building platform (see Phase 3) is not completely understood. It may be linked with the rise in water table levels in the Walmgate area caused by the construction of the Foss dam in the 1080s. The dam was built to create the moat around Clifford's Tower and to flood the area known as the King's Fishpool.

To the south of Building H there were a number of structural features including 2592, 2594, 2982, 3155, 34723477 and 34813483. These formed stake- and post-built fence lines which appear to respect the alignment of Building H. Two rubbish pits (2546 and 2589) were also located within this area, one of which contained pottery of the 11th/12th century. The backfill of pit 2589 also contained a piece of probable fired clay furnace structure and a fragment of guillemot bone (see environmental report). The guillemot bone suggests trading links with the coast at this time.

In Area Q (the Walmgate street frontage) a series of timber buildings was recorded. Building G, from Phase 2, was demolished and a series of thick levelling dumps were laid down. These contained an iron fibre processing spike (see artefacts report) as well as tile and daub, suggesting that the levelling material consisted of domestic waste and demolition materials, probably generated close by. On top of these a new building, Building I, was constructed. This consisted of a stake-built wall parallel to Walmgate which measured 5.56m long, but it was unclear if this was an external front wall or an internal partition wall. An earlier property boundary observed in Phase 1 (between Buildings D and E), and respected by Building G (in Phase 2), went out of use when Building I was constructed, implying that two adjacent land properties had been unified into a single entity.

Building I was then demolished and replaced by a new structure, Building J, on exactly the same alignment but just slightly further north. The new building was post-built and measured c.5.7m wide; it was repaired at least once in its lifetime. To the east of and respecting Building J was a cobble surface, which may have acted as an alley between that building and Building H.

Following the demolition of Building J two adjacent post-built structures were constructed, implying the sub-division of the property into two separate plots. The first of these buildings, Building K, consisted of a slot or post-hole (4108) together with two post-pads (4110 and 4223) located at the western end of Area Q. These structural elements suggest that the new building was over 1.5m wide. To the east a wall of five post-holes (4081, 4088, 4090, 4092 and 4221), two of which contained retrievable wooden posts (4087 and 4212), formed a second building, Building L, which measured over 2.8m wide. The wooden posts suggest that Building L was a wattle-walled structure rather than a plank- or board-lined wall.

No floor, occupation or use deposits were found within this sequence of buildings, Building I, J, K and L, on the Walmgate street frontage. This suggests that ground clearance was carried out before each building was constructed or that the buildings were kept very clean during their lifetime. Their function therefore remains elusive and their interpretation is incomplete. The life span of these successive Walmgate frontage buildings must have been relatively short as they all existed during the second half of the 11th century.

To the south of the timber-built walls defined as Buildings I, J, K and L, partially excavated and unexcavated occupation deposits were exposed close to the lowest excavated level. These consisted of levelling material (2248, 3365 and 3741), structural elements which were subsequently robbed out (see robbing trench 2247 and robbing trench backfills 3363, 3685, 3691 and 3695, post-hole backfills 3684, 37013702), stake-holes (3795, 3809 and 3813), hearths (3197 and 3741), and floor deposits (3101, 31803181, 3192, 33503353, 33563357, 3360, 3364, 33663367, 3686, 36923694, 36973700, 3704, 3738, 3740, 37423743 and 3814). These deposits were interpretated as relating to Buildings K and L, which suggests that the back walls of these properties were situated between 6.7m and 7m behind the present day street frontage. It is possible there were further buildings attached to their rear walls. The construction techniques, using beam slots, some of which obviously intercut each other, correlates with the techniques utilised in Building H. The full width of the Building L property was exposed, measuring c.7.2m wide. The eastern part of this property may have been an alley between Buildings L and H, as no structural elements were recovered in this area. Buildings K and L were probably orientated at right angles to the street, but it is difficult to suggest their precise layout. The position of hearth 3197 may suggest that the southern part of Building L acted as a kitchen. Pottery from levelling deposit 2248 and hearth 3197 dates these building and occupation deposits to the late 11th century. Trampled or dumped material (33583359) to the south of Buildings K and L may indicate the presence of a path leading from these buildings, although it should be noted that these deposits were not excavated.

Further occupation deposits in the south-west corner of the excavation area including a cobble surface or standing (2966), a small dump (2967), two stake-holes (2969 and 3562) and a small pit (2947) show that occupation extended c.16.7m back from the Walmgate street frontage. This implies a densely occupied settlement dating to the 11bth century in this part of Walmgate.

Unexcavated backyard deposits were also exposed at the southern limit of the excavated area. These consisted of a complex series of dumps and possible pit backfills, none of which were excavated. A linear gully or trench, aligned north-west to south-east and situated c.16m back from the present Walmgate street frontage, and a post-hole alignment, orientated north-north-west to south-south-east to the north of it, were the only structural elements revealed at this level. These can be seen on a plan in the database. These backyard deposits probably relate to activity spanning Phase 4 (11th century) through to the end of Phase 6 (early 14th cenury). A silver penny (SF01304) which post-dates 1279 AD was recovered from one partially excavated dump deposit.

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Beam slot robbing cut 3067, ?post-hole 3047 and hearth 3087, looking north-west

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Guillemot © Jón Baldur Hlíðberg (

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Wattle structure

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Silver penny SF01304
© Copyright York Archaeological Trust 2003