Augustinian Friary and Roman material uncovered at York Guidhall Complex

Investigations by York Archaeological Trust (YAT) in York, UK, at the City of York Council’s Guildhall site have found materials from across the eras of the city’s rich history.

Groundworks for the redevelopment of the North Annexe area of the Guildhall complex have revealed a sequence of archaeological deposits dating from the modern period to the Roman period. The Guildhall is being restored and redeveloped as part of a project to restore the 14th century landmark to the heart of York’s civic life, after a storied history including entertaining the medieval King Richard III and being the site of counting the ransom for King Charles I during the English Civil War.

YAT has uncovered structures linked with the medieval Augustianian friary, including a sequence of large ovens that may have been part of the kitchen area. Tom Coates, Project Supervisor for YAT, comments: “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.”

The medieval and post-medieval phases of archaeology have disturbed earlier significant Roman deposits underneath. These later deposits contained an abundance of residual Roman material, including large quantities of fragmentary Roman painted plaster, mortar (Opus Signinum), an abundance of almost complete Roman roof tiles (tegulae) and a small number of plain Roman mosaic tiles (tesserae). It is therefore possible to suggest that the medieval friary was built over the ruins of a Roman building that once occupied the space between the riverfront and the fortress of Eboracum.

A Selection of the deposits unearthed

Tom Coates continues, “This was a rare and exciting opportunity to understand the archaeology of the area, and we thank CYC and VINCI Construction UK for their cooperation during the works as YAT continues to monitor the redevelopment.”

Cllr Nigel Ayre, Executive Member for Finance and Performance, 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. These findings demonstrate the importance of improving public access to this fascinating part of York’s history and we’re pleased that this redevelopment will provide just that.”

Rob Henderson, Project Manager, VINCI Construction UK said: “Supporting the archaeologists during this phase of the project has been of real interest to our team whilst we have managed to continue with the critical works to the tower adjacent to the investigations.

“We will soon be able to protect and preserve the finds below the new structure to be built in collaboration with York Archaeological Trust and City of York Council.”

The finds are now with YAT’s Conservation team who will start the process of conserving them.

Video Courtesy of City of York Council