City centre dig unearths secrets of medieval Sheffield
Archaeologists from ARCUS, the University of Sheffield’s archaeological consultancy, have made an unexpected discovery in Sheffield’s city centre. The team have unearthed a medieval well over three metres deep, which had been dug down into sandstone bedrock without the aid of modern machinery. The discovery was made during the team’s excavation at Carmel House on Fargate in Sheffield city centre, as part of the redevelopment of the site by Hermes Property Unit Trust.
This discovery represents unprecedented evidence relating to the medieval town of Sheffield, which was a small market town until its massive growth during the Industrial Revolution. The dating of the well suggests that it is contemporary with the rebuilding of Sheffield Castle in stone in 1270 and the granting of Sheffield’s Market Charter by Edward I in 1296.
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collection of pottery was also recovered during the dig, further suggesting that the well was in use by 1300 AD, and had been filled in during the seventeenth century around the time of the English Civil War. The medieval pots included a number of impressive jugs made in the Hallgate area of Doncaster and other vessels from the Humber estuary.
As well as the collection of medieval pottery, the waterlogged conditions in the well allowed the survival of animal bones, plant remains and possibly microscopic pollen grains. Analysis of the finds and the environmental samples will now take place in the University’s Department of Archaeology laboratories. It is hoped that this work will provide important insights into the everyday lives of ordinary Sheffield people at an important stage in the early history of the town.
Steve Baker, ARCUS Project Archaeologist, said: “It’s fantastic to find this evidence which has lain undisturbed beneath the town for eight hundred years. This represents a gold mine of information relating to medieval Sheffield.”
Director of ARCUS, Jim Symonds, added: “Sheffield is world famous for its achievements during the industrial age. However, this important discovery reminds us that Sheffield was also a thriving medieval town.”.