Project Summaries 2002
1. Dere Street
In February & March 2001, the Archaeological Practice carried out an archaeological evaluation on a stretch of Dere Street, specifically in the area of grid reference NT079009. Three trenches were excavated in accordance with the specification for work supplied by the Northumberland National Park Archaeologist, to test for the positioning and preservation of Dere Street, the line of which is part of the Pennine Way National Trail and currently suffering badly from erosion caused by motor-bikes and four-wheel drive vehicles.
An archaeological assessment was carried out on the proposed site of the The National Railway Museum Reserve Collection Centre at Shildon on disused land (once a major area of rail sidings) immediately to the south of the operational Bishop Auckland to Darlington Railway, formerly part of the Stockton and Darlington Railway. The assessment showed that site is of considerable significance for railway history and archaeology, lying along the Stockton and Darlington Railway, and within the vicinity of a range of associated structures (many of which are listed), including the remains of the engineer Timothy Hackworth’s Soho Works and the Timothy Hackworth Museum, beyond, which lie within a conservation area. It was concluded that there was little of early archaeological significance in the vicinity which would be impacted by the proposed development scheme.
3. Fisher Street, Carlisle
An assessment carried out at 7-9 Fisher Street, Carlisle summarised the Roman military and civil history of the area and noted that the assessment area lies within the medieval town upon one of its main thoroughfares. It was concluded that there is overwhelming evidence for the presence of deep archaeological deposits surviving over most of the site, and the survival of organic remains, particularly in early Roman deposits, is very likely. However, while there is no evidence of cellaring on the site, this can not be discounted, and it is likely that the three successive chapels and likely associated burials along the Fisher Street frontage will have caused some disturbance to underlying, medieval and Roman deposits, although the precise depth of this disturbance can not be determined without further investigation. Recommendations provided here included the retention of number 9 Fisher Street and mitigation by avoidance, through the careful design of foundations and other works, to minimise the impact of development upon archaeological deposits.
4. St Mary’s Chantry
In 2001 and 2002 a programme of structural recording, backed-up with a documentary survey of historical sources, was undertaken for Northumberland Estates by the Archaeological Practice, to inform and contextualise a structural consolidation project undertaken by Robin Kent, Architecture and Conservation.
The structural survey shows that the building was much altered over the course of almost four centuries of use. By the early seventeenth century it had become a private residence and was later sub-divided into tenements to provide low-quality accommodation in what was by then a run-down part of the town. Although still thatched and occupied up to at least the second quarter of the nineteenth century, its condition had deteriorated by the middle of that century to such a degree that it was abandoned. Thereafter it was saved from demolition by the desire of the estate to preserve it, and because Walkergate became increasingly peripheral in the process of urban expansion that developed from Alnwick’s medieval core and transformed other fringe areas of the town.
5. Bedlington Church
Archaeological investigation in advance of the construction of a gallery at the western end of the Church of St Cuthbert, Bedlington, located evidence for components of an earlier gallery which had occupied the same position over much of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Investigations beneath these structural remains revealed human burials, including a multiple grave. No evidence was located for the west wall of a postulated tower or porch, previously identified in a dowsing survey of the church.
6. Dalton Watching Brief
A watching brief was requested by the Northumberland County Council Conservation Team in order to examine and record the character of any remains discovered during development works in the grounds of The Cottage, Dalton, south-east Northumberland. No archaeological features, deposits or finds of any significance were encountered during these works, which were carried out using a mechanical excavator under archaeological supervision. No firm conclusions could be derived from this work with regard to the position and character of the medieval and early post-medieval village of Dalton.
7. Falstone Watching Brief
An archaeological watching brief was carried out on the site of the Old Garage, Falstone, North Northumberland during the excavation of foundation trenches for a residential development and ancillary drainage works in the vicinity. No archaeological features, deposits or finds of any significance were encountered during these works. The remains of the garage, including building foundations, floors and a sump or inspection pit, were found to occupy much of the site. No firm conclusions could be derived from this work with regard to the position and character of the putative medieval and early post-medieval village of Falstone.
8. Fisher Street Evaluation
An archaeological evaluation carried out by the Archaeological Practice involved the excavation of two trenches on the site of the United Reform Church at 7 Fisher Street, Carlisle. In Trench A, to the rear of the site, significant archaeological layers containing Roman finds and deposits were encountered at a depth of c.200mm and in Trench B, at the front of the site, they lay at 300-500mm below the present surface. No deposits of certain medieval origin were encountered, although a series of three post holes, linked by a continuous slot, running parallel to Fisher Street in Trench B may be considered, on morphological grounds, as possibly Anglian or medieval in date, although there was no stratigraphic or artefactual dating evidence for them.
The base of walls from the 1894 church are visible around north, west and south sides of the site.
9. Linnels Assessment
An archaeological assessment was undertaken on a section of the U8077 road and its immediate environs between Linnels and Lamb Shield, south of Hexham, Northumberland, centred on NGR NY 9510 6155. The main finding of the assessment was that the area contained few monuments or features of cultural heritage significance and exhibited low potential for the survival of previously unknown monuments, features or deposits of significance.
10. Pegswood Assessment
An archaeological assessment formed the cultural heritage component of an Environmental Impact Assessment for the construction of a bypass at Pegswood, Northumberland. The assessment demonstrated that the area south of Pegswood has been the focus of intensive human activity, including settlement and agricultural cultivation and coal mining, since later prehistory. Particularly well-represented in the surrounding area are remains of Iron Age/Romano-British settlements and medieval cultivation systems and more recent coal mining. The assessment concluded that several sites would be impacted by construction of the bypass, including two features of probable Iron Age date, comprising a ditch containing Iron Age ceramic material and a group of pits; a complex group of features north of Whitefield Farm, comprising a small reservoir, and a palimpsest of possible ridge and furrow, drainage ditches and trackways, perhaps associated with the medieval township settlement of 'Whetworth'; and various features of lesser archaeological significance, including the remnants of a grubbed-out early enclosure hedge (16th-17th century?), a suggested pre-medieval fenceline and a possible mine adit. A programme of evaluation was recommended.
11. Pegswood Evaluation
A programme of archaeological evaluation trenching was carried out to the south of Pegswood on behalf of Northumberland County Council. The trenching investigated features previously identified by a programme of geophysical evaluation. 16 trenches were excavated during May-June 2002, and an additional trench was excavated during September 2002 to further investigate one feature revealed by the previous stages of evaluation. In conclusion, it appeared that most traces of pre-medieval cultural heritage within the corridor of the Pegswood Bypass had been removed by the creation and prolonged use of the medieval agricultural field systems, which have in their turn been levelled by modern ploughing. However, scattered remnants of Iron Age cultivation patterns do survive in the form of field boundary ditches and evidence of clearance activity. The latter is represented by shallow, irregular depressions where trees had been uprooted. If the interpretation of these features is correct, the C14 date obtained from their charcoal-rich fill would suggest that Iron Age farmers made began to make inroads into uncultivated woodland in the area south of Pegswood early in the 4th century BC. This tentative finding is of some interest and may in due course be compared with the dates obtained from the Pegswood Moor settlement site.
12. St.Cuthbert’s Evaluation
Two evaluation trenches were excavated in the grounds of St Cuthbert’s House on the south side of the West Road north of Benwell, Newcastle upon Tyne. In Trench 1 the remains of modern structures and earlier surfaces were uncovered, the latter probably, but not definitively, related to quarrying activities of the nineteenth century or earlier. In Trench 2 the southern edge of a quarry was located which appears on nineteenth century maps of the area but may have much earlier origins. In view of the probable post-medieval or modern origin of apparent surface features uncovered in Trench 1, it was recommended that consideration should be given to recording these remains by archaeological watching brief if any are to be excavated as part of the proposed development works.
13. Warkworth Evaluation
This evaluation was undertaken to test for the presence or absence of archaeological deposits within any areas disturbed by the relaying of a road through Warkworth. Three evaluation trenches, each 6m long by 1m to 1.5m wide were opened along the main thoroughfare of the village in Castle Street and Bridge Street. A substantial road surface formed of whinstone penning, directly below the current tarmac road surface, was seen in trenches 1 and 2. Deposits beneath the whinstone surface in trench 2 were badly disturbed by service trenches, but within trench 1, a truncated sandstone wall was revealed, which ran parallel with the current frontages but some 2.3m further into the thoroughfare. A probable foundation cut in front of this wall contained three sherds of pottery dateable from the twelfth to mid thirteenth century. The interpretation of the sandstone wall in trench 1 as a possible component of the high medieval frontage of the road running through at least the northern portion of the village of Warkworth is of considerable historical and archaeological significance for the understanding of the development of the village. The discovery adds to the present body of historical knowledge suggesting the antiquity of the street pattern through the settlement, and suggests that a considerable archaeological resource may be preserved beneath modern and nineteenth century road deposits.
14. Dame Margarets Hall, Washington Assessment
An archaeological assessment was carried out on a proposed development site on the south side of the historic core of Washington Village, Tyne and Wear. Its position in relation to the medieval church and Old Hall, in particular, suggests that it is likely to have been subject to medieval land use. However, historic map evidence suggest that medieval settlement did not extend significantly south of the Old Hall, indicating that the assessment site was outside the occupied part of the village prior to its expansion in the twentieth century. Furthermore, no evidence for specific settlement or other activities within the site is available prior to the first half of the nineteenth century, when map evidence shows it to be located in farmland. Due to the appearance on a mid-19th century map of a building of cruciform plan, tentatively suggested as a tithe barn, evaluation by trial trenching was recommended on any work carried out within 10m from the north wall of the Hall. Otherwise it was recommended that works within 40 metres should be monitored as a watching brief. In addition, it was recommended that detailed photographic recording should be carried out prior to any demolition or refurbishment works impacting upon previously unrecorded nineteenth-century architectural or decorative features.
15. Dame Margaret’s Hall, Washington, Watching Brief
An archaeological watching brief was carried out at Dame Margaret’s Hall on the south side of the historic core of Washington Village, Tyne and Wear. The clearance of overburden from the site revealed a shallow layer of dark, humic topsoil up to 10cm deep, beneath which was a deep, homogeneous natural deposit of well sorted, orange sand. It was concluded that intrusive works carried out during the development of the site did not disturb significant archaeological deposits. However, remains of the putative tithe barn under the adjacent nursing home site may yet survive there and any proposals to develop that site should trigger a requirement for further archaeological investigation
16. A1-192 Assessment
This report represented the cultural heritage component of an Environmental Impact Assessment which accompanied a planning application to construct a Link Road between the A1 and the A192 to the north east of Morpeth. The assessment resulted in the identification of a total of 26 sites and monuments within the defined assessment area, one of which is a scheduled ancient monument. The most prevalent archaeological features revealed within the corridor comprise extensive areas of ridge and furrow field systems, which survive either as upstanding earthworks or as infilled furrows in the subsoil, bearing witness to the intensive agricultural cultivation carried out by the surrounding township communities during the medieval and early modern eras. In the wider environs, traces of late prehistoric and Romano-British settlements are well-represented as cropmarks. Evidence of post-medieval, brick and tile production, including clay extraction also exist immediately to the south of the corridor, whilst the well-preserved pillboxes of the Wansbeck defence line testify to the impact of 20th-century conflict.
The assessment made a number of recommendations for archaeological work including: trial trench excavation, topographic survey of earthworks, excavation of a section through the headland bank and archaeological monitoring during construction operations on the A192.
17. Burnside Recording
This report provides a brief summary of sources available for charting the history of the Burnside School complex at Wallsend. The report also gives details of photographs provided as a permanent record of school buildings earmarked for imminent demolition. Finally, attention is drawn to a number of interesting or unusual internal and external features of the buildings, including moulded brickwork and a commemorative plaque at the former Central School. A number of recommendations were made with respect to salvaging some of these features during demolition works.
18. Harehaugh excavation
An excavation was carried out in 2002 as part of a three year initiative called Discovering our Hill-fort Heritage, which had been initiated in 1999 in response to concerns expressed abut the state of hill-forts in Northumberland National Park. Proposals were drawn up in the context of DoHH for a programme of fieldwork, the fundamental aim of which was to carry out evaluative fieldwork in order to meaningfully inform future interpretation and management work. A total of 11 trenches were excavated following geophysical work, with various other studies, including soils and environmental studies being carried out at the same time. The excavation uncovered evidence for different kinds of rampart construction, including some drystone wall construction, in various phases. The excavations yielded a relatively low quantity, but wide variety of artifactual finds, including stone pot-boilers and sharpening tools, pottery, flint tools and part of a shale armlet, all suggesting a date in the late iron age. Much evidence was found for the damaging impact of burrowing rabbits.
19. Mitford Structural and Historical Survey
A programme of recording work was carried out by The Archaeological Practice at Mitford Castle, Northumberland, in advance of works to consolidate part of the structure. The work included a structural survey of Mitford castle, backed-up with a brief history of the site derived largely from a synthesis of published documentary sources. This written record supplemented building elevation drawings produced from rectified photography work carried out by Thompson Multimedia of Ripon.
The survey of the structure indicated that while much of the surviving masonry is in good condition, parts of the standing remains are in poor condition; in particular, the shell keep wall topping the motte has long-standing structural problems evidenced bycrude attempts at repair, probably from the 19th century.