Phase 8: mid to late 14th century  
 
Building R and new timber-framed Buildings S and T Matrix Diagram

Building Q (see Phase 7) was substantially rebuilt as Building S and subsequently went through a large number of renovations. Building P (see Phase 7) was rebuilt as Building T but no appreciable occupation deposits built up within it. Building R (see Phase 7) also underwent a number of alterations. The backyard area was used for dumping and pit digging. Some of the pits were used as latrines while other pits had clear connections with metalworking.

 
 

To the west of a Phase 9 robbing trench (2139) two buildings, Buildings P and Q underwent considerable modification. They are therefore renamed Buildings T and S respectively. To the east of 2139, Building R remained structurally unchanged.

The western side of Building Q was dismantled and the ground levelled (2713). The possible structures to the south of Building Q within the backyard area were also dismantled and the resultant holes infilled. Building S was then constructed. It was roughly square in plan and measured c.6.5m long and c.6m wide. Its northern wall re-used boundary wall 4005 (see Phase 7), and its eastern wall re-used the boundary wall that existed within the later Phase 9 robbing trench 2139. It was more difficult to identify the southern and eastern walls. A single post-hole (1986) was identified as part of the southern wall and two heavily truncated post-holes (2393 and 2461) represented the western wall. It is possible therefore that these simply helped prop up the respective walls of the building, the sill beams being placed directly on the existing ground surface (as in Phase 7).

Internally a number of post- and stake-holes were inserted during the construction phase including (2376, 2396 and 33943397), perhaps as part of an internal scaffold. These were subsequently removed, backfilled and sealed by levelling deposits.

A north-east to south-west internal partition wall consisting of limestone post-pads (3831 and 3832), and stake-hole clusters (33323335 and 33833393), which probably supported further post-pads, was inserted within Building S. This partition divided Building S into two rooms, the eastern room being 2.3m and the western 3.7m wide.

A central hearth (2274) was constructed within the western room and occupation deposits built up around it. These deposits contained 14th century pottery and also an English coin (SF00866) which dates from the 1290s. They also contained artefacts including an iron key attached to a copper alloy chain (SF00865), a bone pin beater (SF01000) for use with a loom, and a pair of stone spindle whorls (SF01014). These suggest that Building S was used as a domestic structure with textile manufacture as a craft activity. One of the floors was sampled for environmental analysis. The deposit suggested that conditions within the building were unhygienic, with straw flooring material mixed with food waste and dog faeces. The animal bone assemblage suggests that fish (including herring, haddock, whiting, flat fish and eel), cattle, sheep/goat and pig were all eaten.

A second hearth (not shown on the plan) was then inserted in an alteration to the western room, to the north of central hearth 2274. It contained a copper alloy annular brooch (SF00999) dating from the 13th or 14th century. This hearth went out of use rapidly and was sealed by a spread of charcoal. The charcoal covered almost the entire floor area of the western room and was interpreted as a purifying layer. A levelling deposit of tiles and crushed mould fragments was laid down at its south end.

The subsequent alterations to Building S could be phased either here or as part of Phase 9.1. Two rough rubble post-pads were added to the internal partition wall, suggesting it was rebuilt at this point. Within the western room further alterations were made. Levelling deposits including 17591760 (see Plan 9.1) were laid down before further occupation deposits including 2037 (see Plan 9.1) built up. A shallow depression of unknown function truncated 1760, and was backfilled. On top of this, another hearth (1755 and 1771, see Plan 9.1) was built at the centre of the western room. A small patch of burnt clay and tiles (1758, see Plan 9.1) to the north may be interpreted as a setting for hot objects, and a second rubble setting to the south may have been inserted to support a post-pad.

The eastern room contained little in the way of occupation deposits, suggesting that it was used as a storage area. The whole of the interior of Building S was then re-arranged. The partition wall was removed and a series of levelling deposits including 1873, 1977, 1985, 2115 and 40164017 (see Plan 9.1) was laid down. One of the deposits contained a copper alloy book clasp (SF01038), as well as a fragment of unfinished copper alloy cast vessel (SF01112). A possible large hone, made from metamorphic rock, and a chamfered architectural fragment were also recovered. Layers of crushed mould fragments from the manufacture of copper alloy vessels (2005 and 2394, see Plan 9.1) were then used to even off the floor within the eastern portion of Building S. These industrial deposits, which were probably brought in from close by (see the metalworking report), contained pottery of the 15th century.

On the eastern side of the building a new post-pad (3830, see Plan 9.1) was inserted. As the only remaining post-pad, 3832 was positioned to the north-west of 3830, it is difficult to know how these two internal post-pads functioned structurally within the building. A post-hole (1716, see Plan 9.1) may also have been inserted in the western room. Building S may have been falling into disrepair by the end of the 14th century and these post-pad and post-hole additions may have been an attempt to shore the building up. The building may have been used for storage or some industrial process rather than for domestic purposes. On the southern side of Building S two further post-holes (1847 and 1849, see Plan 9.1) were inserted through the levelling deposits. These may have been an attempt to rebuild the back wall or to prop it.

Building P from Phase 7 was shortened when Building S was constructed. In Phase 8 it measured c.4.5m x 4.5m and was renamed Building T. The northern wall of the building was altered and a slot (4059) was inserted, within which a length of limestone walling was built. This was interpreted as either a repair or the deliberate blocking of a doorway. Directly above this was a levelling deposit (4057, see Plan 9.1) for a short section of brick wall (4056, see Plan 9.1). No occupation deposits were located within Building T; the flooring may have been removed before the construction of the later Building U (see Phase 9.1).

Within Building R, a series of structural alterations were made to the Walmgate frontage wall. These included cobbles (4023), which may have supported a short length of wall or door sill, and a post-hole (4022) for a major timber upright in the north-western corner of the building.

The subsequent alterations to Building R could equally be assigned to Phase 9.1. At the southern end of Building R a cluster of levelling deposits including 2070, 2107, 2145 and 2163 were laid down to deal with subsidence in this part of the building. These deposits contained 15th century pottery and also demolition materials (including a tile with a dog paw print) and mould fragments from the casting of copper alloy vessels. Post- and stake-holes (2043, 20492052) were inserted after the levelling activity. These may represent piling for a post-pad. In the northern half of Building R a large number of post- and stake-holes (including 2098, 2125, 2141, 2162, 22962300, 2254, 2560, 2562), levelling and dump deposits (including 2557, see Plan 9.1), a post-pad and a possible beam slot (1850) were inserted. These may represent multiple attempts at internal partitioning and levelling within the northern room of Building R.

In the backyard area to the south of Buildings S and T, a new piled hole to support a post-pad (1820) was inserted. The post-pad would have supported a timber upright or part of a sill beam for a timber-framed structure behind Building S. Post-holes 1894 and 1889 identified in Phase 7 may relate to this post-pad rather than to the earlier structure. A cobbled spread (1807) was laid down to the west of the structure, perhaps as a path or as a levelling spread. The timber structure was then dismantled (possibly in Phase 9.1) and several levelling deposits including 18051806 (see Plan 9.1) were laid down. These contained iron smithing waste (SF01024) which indicates that smithing was undertaken close by, as well as a bone identified as crane. The hunting and consumption of this bird in the later medieval period is considered to be an important symbol of wealth and status (Dobney and Jaques in press). This may suggest a degree of affluence for the inhabitants of this part of Walmgate at this time.

On the western side of the backyard area a series of rubbish pits were dug (including 2935, 35493550, 3553 and 3560). To the east a bath-shaped pit (2886), aligned north-west to south-east, was dug and lined with timber. A stake-built structure (a tight cluster of stake-holes including 2991 and 3042) was built to the east, possibly to support an associated sluice. The possible sluice support rapidly went out of use and was sealed by dumps including 2954, which contained a horn core. This may suggest an industrial function, such as horn working, for the pit. A second pit (3022) of similar shape and alignment to 2886 was located to the north. Both pits were subsequently infilled, deposits from pit 2886 containing some iron smithing waste (SF01551 and SF01546). One of the contexts was environmentally sampled; it consisted mostly of human faeces and may indicate a secondary use of the pits as latrines.

A series of dumps including 2809, 2851 and 2918 then sealed the backyard area. These contained domestic and demolition waste as well as pottery dating to the 14th century. Some of the animal bone had been butchered and also gnawed by dogs. A considerable amount of metalworking waste was also recovered from these deposits, including an iron smithing punch.

To the south of pit 2886 a further shallow pit (2288) was dug. This was backfilled with rubbish including metalworking debris (SF01250). A second pair of bath-shaped pits (1692 and 2675) aligned north-east to south-west, as was 2288, then truncated the backyard deposits. These both contained timber linings, use deposits and backfills, similar in character to pit 2886. One of the use deposits was environmentally sampled, and was made up mostly of stable manure with a component of human food waste. Both pits may have been used for a similar industrial process to the earlier bath-shaped pit, being later infilled with manure and cess. The pit backfill also revealed that wool was being cleaned or processed close by, and further evidence for high-status food waste including crane and a ling over 1m in length. The latter was interpreted as stored or stock fish which would have been dried, salted or smoked.

Three intercutting pits (2626, 2709 and 2739) were located at the southern edge of the excavation area. The two earliest pits were dug for the disposal of domestic rubbish whereas the most recent, 2626, was backfilled with concreted lumps of sand, perhaps associated with casting, as well as food waste including fallow deer. Venison is considered an indicator of affluence. A number of post-holes (2017, 2752, 2785, 2788, 2850, 2952, 3019 and 3053) were inserted within the backyard area but do not appear to form any coherent structure or fence line.

To the south of Building R, a large pit (2318) with an associated gully (2415) was dug. This contained an industrial use deposit or lining identified as smithing slag (SF01445 and SF01453), which suggests that iron smithing was undertaken close by. The pit was later infilled and contained pottery dated to the late 14th or early 15th century. Some of the fill may have derived from the demolition of a nearby metalworking furnace. A sequence of stake- and post-holes (including 2305, 2356, 2365, 2367 and 33763377) of unknown function were then inserted and several levelling deposits laid down.

The environmental evidence for this phase shows the broadest range of diet in any phase so far considered. This included sheep or goat, cow, pig, fallow deer, chicken, goose, crane, fish (cod, ling, haddock, herring, whiting, flat fish and eel), crab, shellfish, wheat and rye bran, fig, apple and blackberry. Although conditions within the buildings were not particularly hygienic, the inhabitants appear to have had a varied and interesting diet.



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Building S under excavation

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Coin (SF00866) dating to the 1290s

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Key and chain (SF00865)

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Spindle whorls and pin beater used in textile working (SF01000 and SF01014)

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Book clasp (SF01038)

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Tile with paw print impressions

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Ling © Jón Baldur Hlíðberg (www.fauna.is)
© Copyright York Archaeological Trust 2003