EYO610 - Blue Bridge Lane, Fishergate, York

Type

EXCAVATION

Location

Location Land to north and south of Blue Bridge Lane: Mecca Bingo site and Fishergate House.
Grid reference Centred SE 6067 5098 (143m by 116m)
Map sheet SE65SW
Unitary Authority City of York, North Yorkshire

Technique(s)

Organisation

Field Archaeology Specialists

Date

July - 2004

Map

Description

Two open area archaeological excavations, in the grounds of Fishergate House and at Blue Bridge Lane, were undertaken by Field Archaeology Specialists Ltd between July 2000 and July 2002 (NGR SE 6060 5100). Fieldwork was carried out on behalf of Mike Griffiths and Associates, for Shepherd Homes (Fishergate House) and Rank Leisure (Blue Bridge Lane Mecca Bingo Hall) respectively. The excavations were undertaken as part of two separate archaeological mitigation strategies, designed following the implementation of two schemes of archaeological evaluation in response to residential and commercial developments. For Blue Bridge Lane, the mitigation strategy also required the targeted excavation of pile cap locations. On both sites, monitoring of all concomitant construction work, including new services and road infrastructure, was carried out by watching brief, which concluded in August 2004. Archaeological remains dating from the prehistoric to early modern period were encountered, including Anglian archaeology of national, arguably international, significance and medieval archaeology of regional significance. Prehistoric activity was manifest only as scattered lithic material in an area thought to have been a prehistoric route, which became formalised by the late 1st century as a main Roman road. This was accompanied by an inhumation and cremation cemetery of the late 1st to 3rd century, Roman field systems and evidence for a possible mooring point. Trace evidence for Romanised building in the vicinity was also detected through residual building material. Elements of the Roman landscape may have been reused in the late 7th to mid-9th century when the site was reoccupied, although the Roman cemetery was badly damaged. Reoccupation consisted of Anglian settlement, and while no domestic structures were detected, the presence of rubbish pits and cess pits containing rich material evidence from the period were encountered. The remains belong to a wider settlement encountered during excavations at the former Redfearns Glassworks by York Archaeological Trust, which has been equated with the documented place-name Eoforwic. Evidence for craft-working activity, including bone-, antler- and horn-working, textile-working, metal-working, and possible leather- and glass working was encountered, alongside evidence for the low status of the inhabitants and low intensity, possibly intermittent, occupation. Anglo-Scandinavian occupation of the late 9th to 11th century followed, and was best attested at the Fishergate House site, where a sunken-featured building and associated rubbish pits were encountered. The century prior to the Norman Conquest witnessed the true birth of the Fishergate suburb and this was followed by continuous occupation from the post-Conquest to post-Dissolution periods. During the high medieval period, organisation and planning within the precinct of St Andrew's Priory was detected and hinted at in animal bone assemblages. Late medieval activity included investment in industry at the periphery of the monastic precinct. To the south of St Andrew's precinct, the medieval cemetery was laid out, consecrated and used intensively for burial. Reliable dating material within the graves was scarce, but some evidence for late 11th to 13th century burial exists in the form of an iron slide key included as a grave good, as well as a handful of potentially reliable pottery dates; the cemetery awaits radiocarbon results. Little by way of activity later than the early 16th century is suggested, and a clear hiatus between 1650 and 1750, as suggested by pottery, may be related to the use of the priory land as an orchard or as arable land during the post-Dissolution period. The cemetery fell into disuse, although the lack of occupation on this site before the 19th century might indicate that the sanctity of the consecrated ground was respected for some time. From the late 18th century, Fishergate emerged as a fashionable residential area; Freshfield Cottage and Fishergate Villa were constructed to the north of Blue Bridge Lane before 1852, and Fishergate House was constructed to the design of Atkinson and Atkinson c.1837. Brick-built remains associated with Freshfield Cottage were encountered during excavation, including its icehouse, stable block and courtyard. The construction of Fishergate House, with a stable block, cellars and retaining wall, included the formalisation of Blue Bridge Lane, damaging the medieval cemetery, which is itself conspicuous by its absence from historical or antiquarian documents. During the later 19th century, Fishergate developed further as a main suburb of York, and a number of terraced houses were constructed on the Fishergate frontage; structural remains were contacted which represent the walls, cellars and floors of these buildings. A cinema was constructed to the north of the site, which showed films from the 1910s through to the 1960s, then being converted to the Mecca Bingo which occupied the site at the onset of this project. Along Blue Bridge Lane, commercial development saw the replacement of Freshfield Cottage with larger buildings; concrete and brick-built surfaces, walls and below-ground features attest to the scale of these buildings, and their destructive influence on the earlier remains.

Sources/Archives (2)

  • --- Unpublished document: FAS. 2005. Blue Bridge Lane & Fishergate House.
  • --- Website: Mike Griffiths & Associates. 2005. Blue Bridge Lane & Fishergate House, York Report on Excavations; July 2000 to July 2002.

Related Monuments/Buildings (2)

  • Cemetery of St Helen Fishergate (Monument)
  • St Helen Fishergate (Monument)

Record last edited

Apr 2 2020 1:40PM

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