With construction work continuing during the lockdown, the York Archaeological Trust (YAT) has remained busy. Since last September, they have been excavating and monitoring the North Annexe area of the city’s Guildhall during redevelopment of the site by VINCI Construction UK.
During the medieval period, this site north of the 14th-century Guildhall was the location of York’s Augustinian friary, known to have hosted Richard III when he was the Duke of Gloucester. The YAT team uncovered several structures linked with the friary, including a series of large ovens, which may have been part of the kitchens.
When the friary was closed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries, its buildings appear to have been repurposed. As Tom Coates, Project Supervisor for YAT, commented: ‘Two large, later walls cut through the friary remains and appear to have reused a lot of the friary stonework. We’ve also uncovered a single phase of graves which may date to the later use of the friary, or even after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 16th century. Unfortunately, these were badly disturbed by a later phase of demolition works a few hundred years ago’.
Digging deeper, the team found that the friary may have been built atop a Roman building, having uncovered a significant number of finds from this period. These deposits consisted of large quantities of fragmentary Roman painted plaster and mortar, as well as a number of near-complete roof tiles and plain tesserae. They also found a nicely carved Roman bone hairpin. While the function of the building is not currently known, it would have been prominently located between the riverfront and the walls of the Eboracum fortress, close to what is likely to have been the main Roman crossing for the River Ouse.
Commenting on the significance of the finds, Councillor Nigel Ayre of City of York Council said: ‘The site’s rich history and significance in the life of the city makes this a truly unique project. These latest findings have uncovered yet another layer of history in our city centre and taught us more about the site prior to the Guildhall which stands here today.’