Riverside Structures and a Well in Skeldergate and Buildings in Bishophill


list of authors
M. O. H. Carver
S. Donaghey
A. B. Sumpter
list of contributors
P. C. Buckland
R. Morgan
J. A. Spriggs
Is Part Of
The Archaeology of York [Series]
The Colonia [Volume]
Council for British Archaeology for York Archaeological Trust
Date Copyrighted
Date Available
Digitally available on 1 September 2023
Excavations took place in Skeldergate and Bishophill in advance of the construction of an electricity substation and a car park. The sites lie within the area of the Roman colonia at the foot and the top of a terrace overlooking the River Ouse.

At Skeldergate a section was cut by machine through the long axis of the site within which various Roman features were observed but not excavated. An old ground surface was located and there was evidence that the land had been terraced in the late 1st or early 2nd century. At the north-east end of this trench excavation revealed a sequence of seven Roman roads occupying a time span of the late 1st to the late 4th centuries. These probably represented a riverside road. There was no evidence for a river retaining wall before the construction of the fourth road in the early 3rd century.

A trial trench produced evidence substantiating Roman occupation in the western area of the site and there was some investigation of various other Roman features. The limited areas of the excavation prevented definitive interpretations. The features ranged in date from the 2nd to the 4th century. Amongst them was a timber-lined well. The well back-fill deposits were excavated and the well lining and shoring partially dismantled. There was also a limited investigation of associated features within the area surrounding the well top. The well was constructed some time in the late 2nd or 3rd centuries and continued in use until the latter part of the 4th century. It was back-filled at some time in the 4th and perhaps subsequent centuries, and was eventually covered by the levels associated with the construction of an Anglian timber building.

At Bishophill, Roman remains were found to have been devastated by stone-robbing, medieval pit-digging, and post-medieval building. Three broad periods of Roman activity were identified. In Period 1, boundary ditches and post-holes suggested the beginnings of settlement along the hillside during the 2nd century AD. In Period 2, a massive artificial terrace was formed by dumping clay and cobbles down the slope about AD 200 or soon after. In Period 3, this building platform supported the development of three large masonry ranges, which were subsequently robbed completely and therefore could not be related chronologically. The apsidal-ended Range 1 was probably the ca/dan·um of a bath suite with adjacent drainage system, possibly replacing a similar building. It was not apparent whether Ranges 2 and 3 had been entirely roofed; both may have had slab-laid and opus signinum floors. Range 3 might have been a portico, perhaps fronting a building to the south-east; this would be consistent with the possibility of a paved court between Ranges 1 and 3. An irregularly-built furnace flue may have post-dated the use of Range 2. Whilst the structures may have been private undertakings, the scale of both terracing and building raises the possibility that they represent the town-planning of public buildings, conceivably coincident with the granting of colonia status, which might have been under Severus. Occupation continued to the end of the Roman period, though the major buildings may not have remained standing. Finds included quantities of painted wall-plaster, and the largest stratified group of York legionary-type ware to have been excavated in association with other ceramic types; usage of this ware into the late 2nd century was confirmed. Little post-Roman material occurred before the late Saxon period.
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York Archaeological Trust
CC BY 4.0
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