York Archaeological Trust Investigates York’s Famous City Walls

Archaeologists from York Archaeological Trust were given the opportunity to discover more about the history of the city’s walls thanks to plans to remove Queen Street Bridge, under City of York Council proposals to update the front of York Train Station.

John Oxley, the council’s city archaeologist, said the work could also help the team learn more about the buttresses against the walls, how deep the foundations are and when different sections of the structure were built.

He said: “We are digging a series of small trenches right up against the city wall. The work is needed so we can understand what impact the demolition of the bridge might have on the wall itself.

“There are two shards of Roman pottery that have popped out already – a Roman Samian ware which is orange red glazed and a piece of Roman mortaria.

“York Archaeological Trust are actually doing the excavation work and they have found a little piece of clay pipe here that is one of the pipes manufactured by Louis Fiolet in Saint-Omer and it looks like these clay pipes were produced and sold in England between the 1850s and the early 1900s. So this clay pipe might have been smoked by one of the workmen repointing the stonework on the wall here or it might have been a visitor to York who was leaning over the wall looking out over the city and perhaps dropped their clay pipe on to the rampart below.”

He added that the archaeologists have not dug in the area before and that Roman objects have been found in the surrounding area, so there is the possibility of discovering more items.

The bridge will be taken down in sections to enable the team to monitor any movement in the walls as a result of the works.

Mr Oxley said: “The overriding consideration is preservation and conservation. Practically all archaeological work happens because of development work taking place – it’s an opportunity.”