Archaeology in the Environs of Roman York


list of authors
P. J. Ottaway
list of contributors
D. T. Evans
R. A. Hall
P. J. Ottaway
P. Scholefield
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 7 July 2023
The review of Roman archaeology in the environs of York presented in this fascicule, set in the context of what is known of the history and topography of Roman York as a whole, has allowed a more rounded picture of those two topics to emerge than has been available hitherto.

In brief, the story of Roman York probably began with some preliminary military activity north-east of the Ouse in the late Neronian period which was followed by the establishment of the fortress in c.71 and by the laying out and construction of most, if not all, of the main approach roads in the late 1st– early 2nd century. Activity outside the fortress was probably confined initially to the north-east bank of the Ouse and to areas close to the main approach roads on the north-east and south-west banks, and east of the Foss.

In the mid-2nd century the pace of settlement growth quickened to take in areas on all sides of the fortress, except, perhaps, the north-eastern, and on the south-west side of the Ouse it took in areas close to the bridgehead and the river bank. The expansion of what became a civilian settlement of urban character was accompanied by the erection of some monumental public buildings on both sides of the river. They may have included an example immediately outside the presumed town defences south-west of the Ouse (at 14–20 Blossom Street). Promotion of the civilian settlement to provincial capital and colonia status, probably during the reign of Caracalla (211–13), is one plausible context in which construction of defences around the main settled area south-west of the Ouse took place, thereby also creating a true extramural area on this bank of the river. From the mid-2nd century onwards the cemeteries expanded considerably within all extramural areas, along the approach roads to the fortress and settled areas. Otherwise, much of the land in the environs of Roman York was divided up by ditches in the mid-2nd–early 3rd century. These ditches may have served both to define ownership and to promote drainage as part of a change in the agricultural regime. The newly enclosed landscape extended as far to the south-west as Dringhouses where a small settlement appears to have developed, presumably to take advantage of the commercial opportunities presented by one of the main approach roads to York itself.

In the late 3rd and early 4th centuries the legionary fortress remained an important army base for the north of England and the civilian settlements on both sides of the Ouse continued to flourish. However, except in the cemeteries, most extramural areas produce relatively little evidence for activity of any description. This includes the Dringhouses settlement which, according to present evidence, was abandoned. In addition, the enclosed landscape created 100 years or so previously appears to have disappeared.

After the mid-4th century both the garrison in the fortress and the population in civilian settlements probably declined in size. In addition, the distinction between the fortress and town southwest of the Ouse, on the one hand, and the extramural areas, on the other, in terms of evidence for settlement and activity, becomes very marked. No certain burials of the last decades of the 4th century or early 5th have yet been identified.

The fortress and colonia, twin elements which had made York unique in later Roman Britain, may have survived as occupied sites until the early 5th century, but evidence for any human settlement thereafter in either is largely absent until the 7th–8th centuries (AY 7/2). After about 350 years the process of rise to become one the principal economic, political and social centres of the Roman empire had been followed by a fall which was probably complete before 450.
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York Archaeological Trust
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A0517 21-23 Bootham
A0784 45-57 Gillygate
A0787 26-28 Marygate
P1092 108-110 Bootham
P0176 3 Clifton
P0192 The Grange Hotel, 5-9 Clifton
P0731 St Peter's School, Clifton
P0589 Wentworth House, The Avenue, Clifton
P0820 Land at 12-13 The Avenue, Clifton
P0795 Gas Trench, 21-23 Avenue Terrace
P0504 Water Lane, Clifton
A0248 County Hospital/Fossbank
A0251 County Hospital, Monkgate
A0491 Monkgate/St Maurice's Road
A0788 2 St Maurice's Road
P1313 40-48 Monkgate
A0676 Adams Hydraulics, Peasholme Green
A0084 16-22 Coppergate
A0509 22 Piccadilly (ABC Cinema)
A0780 38 Piccadilly, Simpsons Yard
A0794 41 Piccadilly
A0786 50 Piccadilly
P0274 York Castle Car Park
A0515 Barbican Leisure Centre
P0858 City Arms, Fawcett Street
P0601 School Canteen, Fawcett Street
A0620 Escrick Street
A0613 Foss Islands Road / Lawrence Street
P0174 Belle Vue Street
P0473 A19/A64 Interchange, Fulford
A0442 Terry Avenue
A0544 Cherry Hill Lane/Clementhorpe
A0618 Cherry Hill Lane Clementhorpe
P0585 292 Bishopthorpe Road
P1229 Terry's Factory
A0732 14-20 Blossom Street
A0624 35-41 Blossom Street
A0215 The Crescent
A0846 All Saints School, Nunnery Lane
P0354 32a Dale Street
P0591 39 Holgate Road
A0742 47 Blossom Street
P1213 Land at 3 Driffield Terrace
A0231 7 Driffield Terrace
A0851 The Mount School
A0725 89 The Mount
A0256 St George's Place, Tadcaster Road
A0819 Pulleyn Drive cable trench
A0792 Holgate Dock, Watson Street
P0645 St Paul's Green, Holgate
A0813 129 Holgate Road
P0305/P0424 52-62 Tadcaster Road
P0529 26-30 Regency Mews
P0386 The Starting Gate, Tadcaster Road
P1135 The Starting Gate, Tadcaster Road
P0489 The Fox
P0526 27 St Helen's Road
147 Mount Vale

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