Coney Street, Aldwark and Clementhorpe, Minor Sites and Roman Roads


list of authors
D. Brinklow
R. A. Hall
J. R. Magilton
S. Donaghey
list of contributors
J. Hinchliffe
O. Beazley
S. Coll
P. J. Ottaway
M. Redmond
Is Part Of
The Archaeology of York [Series]
Roman Extra-mural Settlement and Roads [Volume]
Council for British Archaeology for York Archaeological Trust
Date Copyrighted
Date Available
Digitally available on 8 September 2023
Evidence of Roman settlement outside the legionary fortress and the civil town or colonia has been examined in three major excavations and in a series of minor excavations and watching briefs between 1972 and 1984.

North-east of the River Ouse, at 39-41 Coney Street in 197 4, Roman remains of 1st to 4th century date were examined at a riverside site just outside the south corner of the fortress. The investigation demonstrated that, despite its limitations, small-scale trenching can still yield a wealth of information, and also stressed the value of close co-operation between palaeobiologist and archaeologist.

Above an undated, but presumably Roman, ditch two superimposed timber storage buildings of later 1st to early 2nd century date were discovered. The earlier had been deliberately dismantled and buried, probably because of a virulent infestation of grain beetles, whilst the latter produced important botanical evidence for early Roman cereal cultivation (this evidence is fully discussed in AY 14/2). Despite their propinquity to the fortress, neither store's construction conforms to that of normal military granaries, the lower having side walls resting on a timber sill-beam, and the upper having its floor supports at unusually close intervals; it is possible that they were built for civilian merchants supplying the legion's needs. Both buildings were used for storing grain, though not necessarily exclusively.

Above these there was slight evidence for a series of structures of later 2nd to mid 3rd century date, and fragments of other 1st to 2nd century timber and stone structures were also recorded nearby. In a replanning of the area in the mid 3rd century, a roadway with side gutters of channelled stone was laid down on a line approximately parallel to the south-west side of the fortress. This was resurfaced on several occasions, and one of these operations involved a slight realignment of the road. The gutter channels were also removed and replaced as the road surface was heightened, and there was a relatively insubstantial structure at the roadside. Later 4th century pottery was recovered from the uppermost road surface, but there is no firm evidence for how long the road remained in use.

About 100Om to the east, at 8 High Ousegate, remains of two stone walls confirmed the evidence of earlier finds that monumental Roman buildings were sited on the higher ground between the rivers. To the north-east a Roman altar and fragmentary walls on the south side of Parliament Street (Midland Bank) were further evidence of Roman buildings, but limited observations of walls and ditches in a sewer trench along Parliament Street did not suggest that Roman settlement was continuous over the area.

Excavations outside the fortress on the north-east side of Aldwark in 197 4 revealed Roman occupation from the mid 2nd century onwards beneath the medieval church of St Helen-on-the-Walls, demolished c.l550. The earliest feature was a road, aligned north-west/south-east, composed of crushed tile and kiln debris with a gravel surface and flanking ditches. Its make-up was probably derived from the Borthwick kilns lOOm away. In the late 2nd or early 3rd century, after a period of abandonment during which the body of a young woman was buried on the site, a new cobbled road was built on roughly the same alignment but a little to the north-east of the original road. There was a Sm wide cobbled surface south-west of the roadside ditch, and beyond it a scatter of building debris comprising tile, limestone and cobbles. The road was then re-surfaced, probably after a second period of abandonment, but its ditch was not re-cut, and a new road was built at right-angles to it. This was probably part of a new system of roads or streets by-passing the south-east side of the fortress. In the 4th century, a timber-framed building, probably a town house, with walls of painted plaster and a polychrome mosaic floor, was erected at the road junction, and associated with it was a circular oven and two hearths. After the collapse of the building, the edges of both roads were defined by a ditch. The mosaic floor had been badly worn and cut through by several small pits before the first church was built, perhaps in the 10th century. This archaeological evidence suggests that there was no direct connection between the Roman house and the medieval church.

On the opposite side of the fortress in Gillygate, in a small excavation, a timber building and cobbled surface, possibly of the early 2nd century, were found on the old land surface, but no later Roman structures were identified.

On the south-west side of the River Ouse, south of the colonia, a Roman house was excavated at Clementhorpe beneath the remains of a medieval nunnery. A mosaic pavement had been discovered here in the 19th century, and its remains were fully excavated in 1976-77. The earliest Roman feature was a terrace, constructed in the second half of the 2nd century, on which was a series of buildings, probably domestic in character. The first was represented only by the remains of a stokehole and a fragmentary stone wall. It was succeeded, in the 3rd century, by a stone-built house of which parts of three rooms and a probable corridor were excavated. This survived until the 4th century when one room was extended and new floors, including the mosaic pavement, were laid down. The house, in either phase, may have been a villa, or the residence of a merchant associated with the colonia, as an inscribed stone from the site suggests. It went out of use in the later 4th century, apparently superseded by a timber building further to the west. The Roman walls, and the remains of an Anglo-Scandinavian building on the site, were almost completely robbed in the medieval period.

Other minor sites in the extra-mural area are also discussed.

More than a dozen investigations into Roman roads serving York were carried out from 1972 to 1984 by the Trust and by the York Excavation Group. Generally these have confirmed the layout of roads described by the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments in 1962, but they have also suggested some alternative alignments and one possible new road to the south. The evidence, from small trenches or watching briefs, was however too limited to throw much light on the chronological development of the system.
Rights Holder
York Archaeological Trust
CC BY 4.0
Portable Document Format (PDF)
Is Format Of
Paper publication
page start
page end
number of pages

Position: 116 (33 views)