The Site: St Hugh's
Over the past two summers the Archaeology Team at Bishop Grosseteste University (BGU) have been excavating the gardens of St Hugh’s; a property located on Newport, in the heart of historic Lincoln. The excavation is designed to enable undergraduates, visiting students, and volunteers to learn the key skills of archaeological fieldwork whilst contributing to an exciting research project. The site is rich in Roman, medieval, and later archaeology, revealing important insights in the growth of urban and suburban Lincoln.
St Hugh’s fronts onto the line of Ermine Street, and is situated only c.150m north of the Newport Arch, the northerly gate of the Roman town (Figure 1). Previous work has shown that during the Roman period this section of Ermine Street immediately north of the town became a focus for inhumation and cremation burials, as well as settlement. In the medieval period the suburb of Newport was served by an Augustinian friary, which documentary and cartographic sources suggest was located on the St Hugh’s site. The friary was situated on the edge of Newport Green, a long, narrow marketplace which formed the backbone of the suburb. Historic maps also show that, by at least the 18th century, Newport was surrounded by an enigmatic earthwork on three sides (Figure 2). Exactly when this bank and ditch was constructed has yet to be determined, but such features are rare for suburbs of historic towns and the purpose of the Lincoln example remains uncertain.
Figure 1: Newport Arch
Figure 2: Detail of William Stukeley’s 1722 map of Lincoln, showing the Newport suburb surrounded by its own earthwork enclosure. The site of the ‘Fryery’, on the junction of Newport and Rasen Lane is clearly marked.
The team have excavated two trenches thus far, one at the rear (westerly part) of the property and one at the front (easterly part). Excavations at the rear identified the foundations of substantial medieval and post-medieval walls, buried at a significant depth due to later landscaping (Figure 3). These remains represent elements of the Augustinian friary, and the later private residence that occupied the site following the Dissolution. In the front trench, an extensive metalled surface appears to be the remains of Newport Green, beneath which are several phases of Roman occupation. The 2018 excavation located a probable Roman trader’s tenement, comprising a shop at the front of the property, behind which lay a workshop and domestic space, and a yard at the rear (Figure 4). Excavations found an inhumation at the interface of the inside and outside space, interments often known as ‘eaves-drip burials’. These burials are closely connected the properties of traders and craftspeople, and may have brought good luck or protection to the building. Further excavation of the front trench in the summer of 2019 located more Roman structures, the most significant of which was a plastered circular floor, and a sub-oval wall partially covered and surrounded by significant demolition material. The function of both features is uncertain, although the prevalence of metal working slag and cut antler cores in dumped material again suggests production and craft activities. The presence of painted wall plaster and a high proportion of valuable small finds hint at higher-status activity on the site, however.
Figure 3: Excavating the walls of the medieval friary, and later building.
Figure 4: The Roman building under excavation
The past two summers of archaeology have proved both successful and hugely exciting, with the discovery of some wonderful finds and features allowing the excavation team to characterise the nature and quality of the archaeology at St Hugh’s. In the summer of 2020 the fieldschool will return to the St Hugh’s site to complete the excavation of the fascinating Roman and medieval sequence at the front trench, delving deeper into the urban lives of those that shaped historic Lincoln.
If you are interested in joining us for the 2020 season please visit the Apply page