Excavations at Deansway, Worcester 1988-89: Romano-British small town to late medieval city

Hal Dalwood

Excavations in a large block of land adjacent to Deansway, Worcester, revealed a deep sequence of deposits dating between the early Roman period and the late post-medieval period.

The excavation produced a substantial assemblage of artefactual and ecofactual material. There was some evidence for pre-Roman Iron Age occupation, including a horse burial. The excavation lay within the Roman settlement at Worcester; the first- to mid-second-century occupation evidence was dispersed and although some military equipment was recovered, no evidence was found to confirm the existence of a fort at Worcester.

From the later second century onwards, occupation was more intensive and there was evidence for intensive animal penning and for ironworking. From the early fourth century excavated area was used as agricultural land and for a small cemetery; there was limited occupation evidence between the fifth and eighth centuries. A substantial rampart was recorded to the north of the main excavated area, constructed in the late ninth to early tenth centuries and identified as the defences of the burh of Worcester. Domestic buildings, yards and pits were recorded in the area inside the defences and the evidence suggested that the area was occupied by urban craftsmen. A single sherd of samian pottery with a fragmentary runic inscription was recovered from a later medieval deposit. Parts of the Anglo-Saxon defences were slighted in the post-conquest period and subsequently the entire excavation area lay within blocks of tenement plots aligned on two principal streets. Although structural remains of buildings along the street frontages did not survive well, the complete plan of an eleventh- or twelfth-century stone first-floor hall was recorded. By the mid-thirteenth century the entire area was densely occupied and a wide range of urban crafts was identified.

Part of the area became disused at this time, and subsequently a substantial bronze foundry was established in this area. The report contains extensive analyses of the artefactual, animal bone and plant macrofossil assemblages, and includes thematic discussions on aspects of the evidence; site narratives; and numerous separately authored specialist reports on artefacts, ecofacts, soils, and dating (including radiocarbon dates). Includes French and German summaries.