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York Archaeological Trust excavates Guildhall yard and basement of Mansion House
York Archaeological Trust director of archaeology Peter Connelly with the top of an 18th century wine bottle found, in Common Hall Lane, under the Guildhall in York
BURIED deep beneath York’s historic Guildhall and Mansion House complex lie centuries of secrets from the city’s prosperous past.
Archaeologists have been excavating the Guildhall yard, the basements of the Mansion House, and an underground passageway leading to the River Ouse known as Common Hall Lane.
It’s the first-ever archaeological dig on the site and The Press joined director of archaeology at York Archaeological Trust, Pete Connelly and the trust’s assistant field officer Jim Williams, along with field archaeologist Paul Howlett, to take a peek at finds from beneath York’s corridors of power.
Work has been going on at the site over two weeks and expensive 18th century blue and white Delft tiles have been found in the Guildhall yard, as well as a clay pipe and fragments of pottery and glass dating back to the 1720s, when the current Mansion House was being built.
In Common Hall Lane medieval pottery and the neck of an 18th century wine bottle, amazingly well preserved in the soft soil, are among the finds the public will be able to see from Monday. Mr Howlett said: “We are trying to understand how this part of the landscape has changed since Roman times when there was a Roman gate in St Helen’s Square connecting what is now Stonegate to the river.
“It is quite possible that there was a sheer drop off and a cliff at the river side at that point as the land slopes from there down to the river – we just don’t know, and that’s what’s so exciting. It means we are on a medieval archaelogical voyage of discovery.” Mr Williams said: “It would be brilliant if we found remains of Roman pottery or even evidence of the Roman road going down to the river.”
The public won’t be allowed into the basement of the Mansion House, where there is a beer cellar where a one-metre deep hole has been dug beneath the foundations of the original building down to sandy deposits beneath.
The dig will be open to the public at set times from Monday to Friday next week, as part of York’s Medieval Summer, when the public will be able to meet members of the Trust meet the archaeologists and see recent finds. Visitors will also be able to see the recent vertical survey and imaging of the Guildhall which was carried out by the Trust.
To book, phone 01904 615505.
• Former Time Team presenter Prof Mick Aston is due to visit the site on Friday and the hope is that finds will eventually be displayed in the Mansion House.