A fragment of a comb from Viking times, a wig curler from the 1700s and the wall an even older building than the Guildhall are among the finds from this summer’s York 800 dig to be revealed by Dr Mark Whyman of York Archaeological Trust (YAT) at his lecture during City of York Council’s Local Democracy Week.
The council commissioned the dig from York Archeological Trust as an element of the York 800 celebrations which would literally delve into the foundations of the home of democracy and its civic origins. Few digs had been carried out in this area and they had not been thoroughly documented so this was an excellent opportunity to learn more about the seat of local democracy .
The Trust dug three trenches: one in the cellar beneath the arch of the Mansion House, another in the Guildhall Yard and the third beneath the Guildhall in the underground Common Hall Lane. Besides finding fragments of Roman pottery, the dig revealed a finely-built wall which may have been part of a Common Hall pre-dating the present Guildhall, itself built in the 1440s. It also unearthed evidence of domestic waste that suggested the area was being lived in before the Common Hall became a civic building.
In keeping with the participatory ethos of York 800 and the Medieval Festival which ran this summer, as well as being spurred on by a visit from Professor Mick Aston, formerly of Channel 4′s Time Team, members of the public watched, talked about and even got into the Guildhall Yard trench to help.
Dr Whyman said: “These three small excavations have produced results far exceeding their size. As well as the significance of the archaeological evidence, the work has aroused a great deal of public, official and media interest, and highlighted the importance of the history of the Guildhall in the development of civic society in York.”
Councillor Sonja Crisp, City of York Council’s cabinet member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism said: “Mark’s talk will indicate the importance of this summer’s excavations, not only in terms of our understanding of medieval society but also in terms of York’s evolution into a democratic society. I’m so pleased that the dig has gone so well and am looking forward to finding out more from him.”