Craft, Industry and Everyday Life: Wood and Woodworking in Anglo-Scandinavian and Medieval York


list of authors
Carole A. Morris
list of contributors
J. A. Spriggs
D. M. Goodburn
P. Walton Rogers
S. Vaughan
Is Part Of
The Archaeology of York [Series]
The Small Finds [Volume]
Council for British Archaeology for York Archaeological Trust
Date Copyrighted
Date Available
Digitally available on 18 August 2023
This report presents over 1,500 domestic and utilitarian artefacts made of wood, including complete objects as well as woodworking waste, unfinished products, woodworking tools and boat timbers, from six locations in the city of York. The date range covered by the assemblage is c.850–post-medieval. The bulk of the material is of Anglo-Scandinavian date (c.850–late 11th century) and was recovered from excavations of well-preserved structures and associated features at 16–22 Coppergate, the Coppergate watching brief site and a site excavated in 1906 at the corner of Castlegate/Coppergate. Medieval material from those sites and from the College of the Vicars Choral at Bedern, the Bedern Foundry site and 22 Piccadilly is also included, as is a small amount of late/ post-medieval material from some of the sites. Taken together, these sites provide a very detailed picture of the production processes of many different types of wooden artefact, but especially those produced by lathe-turning, and the many uses of different forms and species of wood in the daily life of the people of York over a period of almost a millennium.

The report includes a brief description of the sites from which the material was recovered, and the material itself. This is followed by a discussion of the particular conservation techniques used to preserve these wooden assemblages, and of the specially prepared wet wood laboratory and equipment developed to cope with the conservation of waterlogged wooden objects varying from a few centimetres to several metres in length. On-site retrieval, temporary storage, conservation, reconstruction and permanent archive storage of the artefacts are all discussed.

The rest of the report presents the material in two main sections. The first section, ‘Craft and Industry’, describes and evaluates the evidence for the production of wooden objects. This involves not only the exploitation of local woodland, various types of woodworking tools and general woodworking techniques, but also the two major vessel-producing crafts of lathe-turning and coopering. Most of the excavated evidence is for the manufacture of lathe-turned wooden bowls and cups during the Anglo-Scandinavian period at 16–22 Coppergate in the form of part of a lathe, roughouts, unfinished discarded vessels, waste products and an iron turning tool. Possible locations of turners’ workshops in Copper-gate are discussed and their craft linked with the street name ‘Coppergate’ — ‘the street of the cup-turners’. Coopering is mainly represented by finished products.

The second section, ‘Everyday Life’, presents the extremely wide range of wooden artefact types which were not necessarily made on the sites under discussion, but which were used (and discarded) there for a variety of functions. These include domestic equipment and utensils; boxes and other enclosed containers of various sizes and shapes; furniture such as garderobes and stools; personal items such as pins, combs and wooden-handled knives; manual and agricultural implements from spades, shovels and mattocks to parts of a plough; implements used in the manufacture and handling of fibres and textiles, artefacts used in other non-woodworking crafts such as leatherworking, riding, the handling of rope and cord etc.; wooden components of games and pastimes such as gaming boards and parts of musical instruments; small wooden components of internal or external structures such as roof shingles, window openings, door latches and panels; pegs of various kinds and re-used boat timbers; and miscellaneous wooden artefacts whose uses are as yet unidentifed.

Finally, a short discussion attempts to bring together various general conclusions from the study of this material. A catalogue of all the wooden artefactual material recovered from the sites and a provenance concordance completes the report.
Rights Holder
York Archaeological Trust
CC BY 4.0
Portable Document Format (PDF)
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Paper publication
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