A 'lost' York church and evidence of the Civil War siege of the city.

Just some of the things archaeologists are hoping to find in an on-going dig beside the city walls near Walmgate Bar.

Archaeologists have been excavating in the garden of the former Willow House care home for two years. And they've already found plenty.

One of the oldest finds was a flint arrowhead dating from well before Roman times.

Back then, this area would probably have been marshy land used for hunting, says site manager Christina Henzel of York Archaeology - hence the arrowhead.

Other finds include Roman pottery, medieval coins and glassware - and a round lead bullet from the 18th century. It had never been fired, Christina said. "It wasn't squashed!"

York Press: The Walmgate dig site seen from the York city wallsThe Walmgate dig site seen from the York city walls (Image: Stephen Lewis)

All this is mixed up with more recent material from Victorian times - oyster shells (oysters were a staple part of the diet back then); fragments of beer bottles; and, deep in one trench, the basement of the end house on Victorian Willow Street. The street was demolished in the 1950s - and the community which once once lived there was dispersed, including to Tang Hall.

All of this archaeology has been jumbled up because, following the slum clearances before the building of Willow House in 1972, the land was levelled and flattened.

But as they dig deeper, archaeologists still hope to make more finds.

Somewhere around here was the medieval church of St-Peter-le-Willows, demolished in 1549 it would mbe great to find evidence of that, says Christina.

And then there's the Civil War.

Walmgate Bar came under heavy bombardment during the Siege of York in 1644. Medieval buildings would have suffered heavy damage - and there may be other evidence of the siege, such as cannon balls or musket bullets.

York Press: Walmgate Bar, which came under heavy bombardment during the 1644 Civil War Siege of YorkWalmgate Bar, which came under heavy bombardment during the 1644 Civil War Siege of York (Image: Stephen Lewis)

Nothing has been found yet, admits Christina. "But it would be nice if we could find something!"

Walmgate, of course, was well known for its Victorian 'slums'.

That's a pejorative term, says Ian Milsted, York Archaeology's head of community engagement - the people living there wouldn't have thought of them as slums. "It was just home'.

Nevertheless, this was a poor area.

York Press: Archaeologists Ian Milsted, left, and Christina Henzel at the Walmgate digArchaeologists Ian Milsted, left, and Christina Henzel at the Walmgate dig (Image: Stephen Lewis)

A wave of Irish immigrants arrived in the 1840s - and soon Walmgate and the surrounding streets were home to half the city's population.

Overcrowding and poverty were rife, and there wasn't even any fresh running water.

One of the few sources of water were the public conveniences in Walmgate Bar. "People would queue down the street with their pans," Ian said.

The dig - which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the NHS and others - is an 'Archaeology on Prescription' project.

Many of those taking part under the supervision of trained archaeologists are people with mental health problems referred by their GP or local charities to learn news skills and join in activities.

Some come from families who once lived in Walmgate.

So finding out about Victorian Walmgate has helped them reconnect with their own history, Ian says. "We've had people saying things like 'I have found myself again'."

There will be an open day at the site from 10am-4pm on Saturday September 16 for anyone who wants to find out more.