Project Summaries 2005
During the summer of 2001, an archaeological watching brief took place on land adjacent to Corbridge Roman site at the request of English Heritage. The purpose of the archaeological work was to monitor the excavation of a trench by mechanical excavator to replace the existing cast iron water pipe, running from the mains supply to the museum, with a new pipe at a frost resistant depth. The trench followed the line of the previous cast iron pipe which ran alongside the hedge/field boundary that divides the Roman museum site from cultivated land, and was kept to the minimum frost resistant depth (0.90m) and a minimum width (1m) to limit the damage caused to sensitive deposits. Archaeological monitoring was undertaken at all times during the excavation of the trench, and all deposits of archaeological importance were excavated by hand, with recording in plan, section and by photography where necessary. The depth of plough soil was also noted to examine possible damage caused to archaeological deposits by arable farming.
This document sets out in detail the findings of a study of the historical and archaeological background to cattle droving activities in the area of what is now the Northumberland National Park. The Drover’s Project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Nature, the Countryside Agency and the National Trust, was commissioned to highlight the value of native breeds of cattle in the management of conservation sites and to research the culture and traditions associated with such cattle.
The term ‘droving’, in its most specific and commonly accepted sense, denotes the practice of moving cattle over very great distances from Scottish Highlands and Islands, Galloway and even Ireland to the growing towns of England, as far south as London. This reached its zenith between the late 17th and mid 19th century. More generally, however, droving might be defined as any practice which involved the driving of livestock over significant distances. The report encompasses all these aspects to provide a broad overview of the part played by this distinctive practice in the development of traditional farming systems within the National Park.
Cattle were the most important livestock for farmers residing in the area of the National Park, in valleys such as Redesdale and North Tynedale, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Although the role of sheep was not negligible, cattle were distributed more widely. Records suggest the origins of the long-distance cattle droving trade from Scotland to England stretch back to the late medieval period if not earlier. However it was only after Anglo-Scottish economic relations had been placed on a permanently stable and peaceful footing, at the beginning of the eighteenth century, that the droving trade could fully develop to meet the growing demand for meat from the expanding urban centres of England. As a result of this growth, by the end of the eighteenth century, 100,000 cattle were being driven south across the border each year.
A multiplicity of routes through the Northumbrian hills were accessible as driveways for this traffic. The pattern of usage probably significantly shifted over time, as the progress of turnpiking and enclosure restricted movement and access to pasture and increased the costs of droving along some of the routes. The crucial hubs in the network were annual fairs held at places like Stagshaw Bank north of Corbridge, where all manner of livestock exchange might take place.
By the mid nineteenth century the long-distance, cross-border droving was being supplanted by the growth of the railways, whilst the historic fairs were gradually replaced by auction marts located beside railway stations. From the 1920s or 1930s road haulage gradually began to replace rail transport, although the latter remained important right up until the closure of Northumberland’s rural branch lines to freight traffic in the 1950s and 60s.
46. Eldon Square Assessment- Cellar Report
This document reports on an assessment of archaeological potential within the site of the Eldon Square Redevelopment scheme.
The investigation revealed that the north and west sides of Old Eldon Square and the north side of Blackett Street have been extensively cellared, and that the Newgate Street frontage appears to be relatively free from cellaring.
The results suggest that there is very little chance that any deposits of archaeological significance survive within the footprint of the Old Eldon Square and Blackett street frontages. However, the apparent absence of cellaring over much of the Newgate Street frontage, and in the area behind Newgate Street towards Clayton Street, suggests that there is a good chance that significant archaeological remains survived there at least until the development of the modern Eldon Square complex in the 1970s.
It is recommended that development works in the north part of the site, at Prudhoe Street and Percy Street, should be monitored by means of archaeological watching brief to ensure that, in the unlikely event of archaeological deposits being disturbed, they are properly recorded.
Where archaeological remains are considered more likely to survive, specifically on the Newgate Street frontage, a programme of archaeological evaluation by the excavation of trial trenches is recommended.
47. Frenchmans Row Bus Shelter Watching Brief (introduction)
This report is on an archaeological watching brief, imposed by the English Heritage Hadrian’s Wall Archaeologist as a condition for planning consent, carried out at Throckley. The works involved the opening of four slots to hold the supporting legs of the bus stop. Of these slots, two measured 1.5m by 0.30m, and two were 0.80m by 0.30 m, all at a maximum depth of 0.30m. The proposed location for the placement of a new bus stop on Frenchman’s Row, Throckley, is situated on the line of Hexham Road, the main road running from Throckley towards Heddon and Hexham. Given the location of the site within the Hadrian’s Wall corridor it was considered possible that the excavation of the slots to accommodate the bus stop might reveal deposits of archaeological importance.
48. The Gap Gilsland Evaluation
This document reports on archaeological evaluation trenching conducted to inform a proposal for the conversion of a stone-built farmbuilding for residential use at The Gap, on the southern edge of Gilsland village. Though excluded from the scheduled area itself, the site is located between the curtain wall and vallum of Hadrian’s Wall frontier complex, and is thought likely to be on the line of the Roman Military Way.
The investigation of the site by archaeological trenching revealed no structural or other remains below the present ground surface, which appeared to have been truncated, perhaps as a result of terracing or levelling works to create the present farm complex.
The nature of remains found upon the site does not support a recommendation for further archaeological evaluation or mitigation by excavation. However, since the site is known to be on the site of Hadrian’s Wall frontier complex, mitigation by archaeological watching brief is recommended as an appropriate strategy to record features of possible archaeological significance disturbed during the development works
49. Alnham Castle Hills and Middleton Dene Hillforts Erosion Study
A survey of the damage caused by erosion at Castle Hills, Alnham and Middleton Dene was carried out in 2004-5 within the context of ‘Discovering our Hillfort Heritage’ (DoHH), a three year initiative undertaken by Northumberland National Park Authority (NNPA) in order to address key issues of conservation, research and interpretation (Frodsham 2000).
DoHH was initiated in response to the findings of a conservation assessment of all hill-forts in the National Park commissioned by NNPA (Speak 1996), itself based on earlier work (Frodsham 1993). This study highlighted the hill-forts at Castle Hills, Alnham (henceforth: Castle Hills), Middleton Dene and Harehaugh in Coquetdale as amongst the sites most vulnerable to erosion. Subsequently, as part of DoHH and in line with the findings of the conservation assessment, Harehaugh became the focus of a detailed investigation into erosional processes and their impact on archaeological remains. Following the completion of the Harehaugh pilot study in 2004, Castle Hills and Middleton Dene were chosen for comparative study.
50. Link House Evaluation
This report describes a programme of archaeological evaluation trenching conducted to further inform a proposal for an extension to the Link House Farm chalets development at High Newton-by-the-Sea.
The trenching, carried out in July 2005, was devised to determine the precise impact of the proposed development scheme on the cultural heritage remains of the site. A total of 4 evaluation trenches (2 conjoining) were mechanically excavated and hand cleaned to a maximum depth of 0.95 metres in the proposed development area. In addition, twelve 1m2 test pits were excavated and their contents sieved in order to test for the presence of flints and other artefacts within the top-soil and upper sub-soil deposits.
The investigation of the site by archaeological trenching found no archaeological evidence indicative of medieval or earlier settlement or industrial activity. None of the remains uncovered by trench excavation are demonstrably older than 20th century. Most of the trenches revealed deposits of industrial and domestic waste materials dumped upon thin top-soils or sub-soil, within which were cut various waste pits and drains. The only features of possible earlier activity were the possible remains of furrows associated with medieval or later rig & furrow cultivation features. No finds of any note were made as a result of sieving the contents of test pits. The nature of archaeological remains found upon the site and the depth of overburden does not support a recommendation for further archaeological work.
51. Railtrack Building, Mirk Lane, Gateshead, Recording
A photographic record and associated background research was carried out in relation to a building, latterly owned by Railtrack, standing adjacent to the railway arches between Waterloo Street and Mirk Lane, Gateshead in November 2005. This was undertaken as a mitigation exercise in advance of the demolition of this surviving part of a larger building, the greater part of which has already been demolished.
The report concludes that the building is of some architectural merit and interest in the context of its historic setting, and displays a number of phases of construction and adaptation which reflect its changing function. The Mirk Lane frontage was probably a pre-existing structure cut through by the 1845-1849 viaduct, while the block facing north-west towards Bankwell Lane seems to post-date the viaduct, and was probably built in the 1850s and later modified.
No mention of a tannery on the site has been found prior to the 1830s, and no structural trace or documentary reference has been found to indicate that there were buildings on the site prior to the later 18th century, but given the proximity of the site to Bottle Bank and Pipewellgate, it remains possible that it could have been the site of medieval or earlier occupation.
No recommendations for additional recording work were made.
52. Mitford Castle Consolidation Report 1
A programme of archaeological monitoring, involving on-site inspection, advice and photographic recording, was carried out as part of consolidation works commissioned by Shepherd Offshore Ltd at Mitford Castle, Northumberland.
The programme of consolidation and repair was initiated in response to the evident deteriorating condition of parts of the structure. The following report covers the first stage of the conservation work, involving the central and northern sections of the west curtain wall, which was carried out between late August and early November 2004. It is envisaged that future stages will embrace the keep and the remaining stretches of curtain walling.
The conservation work involved clearing vegetation from wall tops, core and facing, including the removal of some deep rooted trees and bushes an dwall face repointing. The most deeply rooted trees were cut back in stages and then treated with biocide. In a number of areas facing stones had to be removed and then reset, notably the uppermost two courses of the central section, several blocks located above the postern gate towards the northern end of the north section and at the slight change in the curtain’s alignment midway along the north section. The monitoring work was conducted by regular site visits, periodic project meetings with accompanying site inspections and a presence on site whenever the work schedule required. A comprehensive photographic record of the structural fabric before, during and after consolidation was produced during the site visits. Particular attention was focussed areas where facing stones had to be removed and reset.
53. Mitford Steads recording
The report aims to inform the planning process with regard to a complex of farmbuildings associated with Mitford Steads farm, near Mitford in Northumberland. A listed building application was made during the process of applying for planning consent for the alteration of the farmbuildings to form 5 three-bedroomed houses. The Council for British Archaeology responded to the listed building application by expressing its concern about likely impacts upon the complex and the absence of an archaeological evaluation of the buildings. It was recommended that such an evaluation should take place in order to provide sufficient information about the character, former function and present state of the buildings.
54. Scons Park Assessment
This report is an assessment for the proposed Scon’s Park open-cast coal mine at Byermoor Farm, Tyne and Wear.
The assessment has concluded that the first known activity within the development area dates to the early-18th century, when the documentary evidence shows the presence of early railways, or wagonways across the site. These were built (and abandoned) in the first third of the 18th century in order to transport coal from mine shafts, the position of which are also shown on early maps. Various earthworks surviving in the centre of the assessment area, including the remains of at least two horse-driven winding engines and various trackways are also associated with early modern mining activities. In the same area is a stone wall which now serves as a boundary but may once have formed part of a small complex of built structures, shown on an estate plan of c.1805, perhaps a small mining or agricultural settlement.
Recommendations call for the evaluation of significant features by archaeological topographic survey, followed by selective trenching to evaluate their significance.
55. Smiths Dock evaluation
This report describes a programme of archaeological evaluation trenching conducted to further inform a proposal for the regeneration of the former Smith’s Docks for residential and related uses.
An assessment carried out in 2000 provided background information on the development of the area, suggesting that, in addition to its modern industrial focus the site may have bounded medieval settlement at North Shields.
The trenching, carried out in May 2005, was devised to determine the precise impact of the proposed development scheme on the cultural heritage remains of the site, and was focussed on the investigation of the area considered most likely to contain remains of medieval or early post-medieval origin. Accordingly, a total of nine evaluation trenches were excavated to a maximum depth of 3 metres in the area adjacent to the Bull Ring in the northern part of the site closest to North Shields.
The investigation of the site by trenching found no archaeological evidence indicative of medieval or earlier settlement or industrial activity. None of the remains uncovered by excavation are demonstrably older than 19th century. Most of the trenches revealed deep deposits of industrial waste materials, notably ash and cinder which it is believed relate to a local ironworks, itself linked to the shipbuilding industry. No conclusions can be drawn with regard to the presence of medieval or earlier remains on the site. Although no such remains were encountered, it is possible that they may be masked by the depth of overburden particularly around the foot of the hill which defines the Bull Ring. The nature of archaeological remains found upon the site and the depth of overburden does not support a recommendation for further archaeological evaluation. However, the results from excavations around the Bull Ring support a recommendation for recording of masonry features and retrieval of worked stones of possible earlier origin during the proposed development works which include levelling of the hill. Mitigation by archaeological watching brief is also recommended in the area between the hill and the present shoreline in order to record elements of the 18th-20 century dock construction, including revetment walls, wooden piling and superstructures, as well as underlying features of archaeological significance relating to earlier periods of activity.
56. Stannington Watching Brief
This document provides a report on archaeological recording work carried out by means of photography and topographic survey in April 2003 on the west side of the A1 corridor north of Stannington in south-east Northumberland. The work was undertaken in advance of road improvements being carried out for Northumberland County Council.
The recording work focused on two main groups of features: a system of agricultural earthworks of medieval or early post-medieval origin which will be damaged by the provision of a farm access track across it, and a Cold War period subterranean listening post which may be marginally impacted by road widening.
It is concluded that the various components documented during the assessment and recording phases of cultural heritage work at Stannington Junction form part of a closely interrelated, well-preserved historic rural landscape. The partial damage caused to this landscape by the present scheme of works has been successfully mitigated by the combination of avoidance and recording recommended during the assessment phase.
57. Stockton Riverside Assessment
This assessment identifies cultural heritage constraints within the proposed scheme’s corridor of easement.
This provided contextual information regarding the development of the area to the south of historic centre of Stockton, demonstrating that the proposed improvement lay a short distance to the south of the built-up area of medieval Stockton, which did not expand southward to envelop the assessment site until the 19th century. Only three pre-19th century sites or findspots have been identified in the immediate vicinity of the proposed scheme and much of the assessment area was not built over until the early 20th century. Particularly well-represented in the surrounding area are remains of buildings and other features associated with the Stockton and Darlington Railway and its successors.
The assessment concludes that nothing in the assessment findings to indicate that the area of the proposed junction improvement contains archaeological remains of sufficient significance to warrant mitigation by avoidance and preservation in situ.
58. Walbottle School Evaluation
This document reports on archaeological evaluation trenching conducted in advance of the provision of a new playground on the west side of the school buildings complex at St Cuthbert’s RC Primary School in Walbottle. Previous documentary work has demonstrated the likelihood that it was the focus of intensive human activity as part of the Hadrian’s Wall frontier complex in the Roman period.
The investigation of the site by archaeological trenching revealed the existence of some structural remains below the present ground surface. None of the structural remains were directly associated with finds of any kind and neither their date nor precise function could be determined. However, the arrangement of stones found at the northern end of the trench was in the opinion of the excavators and other observers consistent with the fragmentary remains of a Roman road or surface. In view of the nature of the proposed development work, the character and depth of remains found upon the site does not support a recommendation for further archaeological evaluation or mitigation by excavation. However, since the site demonstrably preserves features which are likely to be associated with the Roman military frontier, it is recommended that a program of mitigation should be implemented. First, partial relocation of the proposed playground should be considered; second, archaeological watching brief is recommended as an appropriate strategy to record features of possible archaeological significance disturbed during the development works.
59. Walbottle School Watching Brief
No finds of archaeological significance were made during the watching brief. In the parts of the site considered to be potentially most archaeologically sensitive – i.e. adjacent to the line of the Hadrian’s wall curtain – the depth of excavation did not reach that at which significant remains were encountered during archaeological evaluation, so it is possible that remains still survive below the level of disturbance. Elsewhere it appears that much of the south-eastern part of the development site, has been truncated at some stage in the past and is unlikely to contain any remains of significance.
Despite the negative findings of the watching brief, it is recommended that since this site lies on the line of the Hadrian’s Wall frontier system and demonstrably preserves enigmatic features of potential importance, further archaeological evaluation and, if necessary, mitigation works should be carried out in advance of any further development work within the Hadrian’s Wall corridor in the vicinity.
60. Whitburn Church Lane Assessment
This document provides an assessment for the proposed development of a large residential property on land latterly occupied by a modern bungalow in Church Lane, Whitburn.
The main findings of the assessment are that while prehistoric, Roman and early medieval settlement sites are well attested in the vicinity, particularly along the coast, there is no specific evidence for such within or in the immediate vicinity of the present assessment site. The first record of Whitburn dates from the 12th century, while the origins of the church, north-west of the assessment site, appears from structural evidence to be 13th century, but could be rather earlier.
Recommendations based on these findings call for the recording, preservation and consolidation of a surviving tithe barn wall of likely medieval origin, and evaluation of the site by trenching to determine the character, extent, significance and state of preservation of any buried remains found to survive there, including remains of the tithe barn and associated structures. Should sub-surface remains of archaeological significance be found to survive as a result of the evaluation exercise, further investigative and recording works may be required in order to mitigate the impact of development.
61. 30-34 Gallowgate Building Survey
A photographic record of the existing building at 30-34 Gallowgate was undertaken as part of the mitigation strategy in advance of the demolition of the building.
The building was constructed in two main phases. The initial building, was first constructed c. 1891, and stood three storeys high with a further attic level. This in turn underwent substantial remodelling in 1924, when it was raised to its current height.
The building’s principal occupants were Dixon, Blair & Co. (originally S & C.W. Dixon & Co.), boot and shoe manufacturers, who were present throughout the majority of the structure’s history, and, during the first three decades of the twentieth century, the General Electric Co., which was responsible for the construction of the adjacent office block, Magnet and Andrews Houses, in the 1930s.
No further recording work is recommended.
62. Elsdon Pinfold Evaluation
This document reports on archaeological evaluation trenching conducted as part of the planning process for a residential development to the rear of The Pinfolds, on the south-eastern edge of Elsdon village, Northumberland. Although no archaeological remains or finds of importance are known to exist in or originate from the site, archaeological trenching was requested by the NNPA archaeologist because the site falls on the edge of the area of the village regarded as of potential archaeological interest.
Two trenches, each measuring 10m x 1.5m were excavated to the depth of the subsoil within the site. In both trenches the investigation encountered linear cuts which probably originated as drainage features associated with the modern use of the area as a garden and tennis courts, or with its earlier use as farmland. Artifactual finds were extremely sparse and restricted almost entirely to modern potter and a single clay pipe stem within top soil deposits. Trench 2 also provided a single sherd of medieval green-glazed pottery. None of these structural and artifactual discoveries amounted to remains of archaeological significance. It was concluded that the nature of remains found upon the site did not support a recommendation for further archaeological evaluation or mitigation work.
63. Morpeth Back Riggs Assessment
This document provides an assessment undertaken in advance of the proposed development of the Black Riggs area of Morpeth. The report concludes that there is no evidence for intensive human activity within the assessment site prior to the medieval period. It is known that Bridge Street developed during the medieval period, it is supposed that the area behind these two street frontages, which comprises the bulk of the proposed development site, was occupied by the rear parts of burgage plots - narrow medieval property divisions which may have contained gardens, wells, cesspits and sites of small scale industrial activity.
Between the 17th and mid-20th centuries, a wide range of residential, commercial and industrial buildings and premises are known to have existed in the Back Riggs area. The potential for the survival of archaeological deposits is reasonably good, since there appears to be no reason to suggest that the impact upon sub-surface deposits caused by the clearance of the area in the later 20th century was particularly severe. The greatest impact on the archaeology of the area is likely to have been the development of the Sanderson Arcade/Back Riggs Centre, which would have required significant foundation works in that part of the site.
With regard to the visual impact of any development on the townscape of Morpeth, any redevelopment of the Back Riggs area will have a major impact on the surrounding built environment, and should be carefully considered.
63A Carville road assessment
This report presents an assessment undertaken in advance of development on land at and adjacent to 52 Carville Road, Wallsend.
The assessment reveals that the area of the proposed development lies opposite the north-west angle of Segedunum Roman fort and just to the north of the line of Hadrian’s Wall. The area formed part of the outlying fields of the medieval and early modern township of Wallsend and is situated immediately to the north of the remains of Wallsend B Pit one of the earliest shafts sunk as part of the Wallsend colliery complex in the late 18th century.
The assessment concludes that there is considerable potential for the survival of the following archaeological remains within the development site:
- The west ditches of the Roman fort.
- Cultivation features of various dates: pre Roman and Roman period field boundary gulleys; medieval ridge and furrow.
- Colliery period feature
It is noted that the presence of cellaring can only be substantiated over a limited proportion of the development site. There is also evidence that archaeological remains may be covered by a substantial layer of overburden raising the ground surface to the present level. A programme of evaluation would be required to determine degree and extent of preservation of archaeological remains more precisely.
It is recommended that a programme of trenching be undertaken to determine the archaeological potential of the site.
Davidson’s Garage Morpeth Assessment
This document provides a report on land currently occupied by Davidson’s Garage, Morpeth in advance of redevelopment. The main findings of the assessment are that while prehistoric and early medieval settlement at Morpeth is possible, there is no record of settlement there until the 11th century. It is possible that the assessment site sat adjacent to an early crossing point on the Wansbeck before the construction of the medieval bridge a short distance to the west, but whether that was the case or not, it seems likely to have been subject to settlement on its south and west sides from an early period. Recommendations based on these findings call for the evaluation of the site by trenching to determine the character, extent, significance and state of preservation of any archaeological remains found to survive there.