‘Exeter: A Place in Time’ Project

Cotswold Archaeology, in collaboration with the Universities of Exeter and Reading, Exeter City Council, and the Royal Albert Memorial Museum (RAMM), have been busy undertaking a major project to explore the archaeology of the city of Exeter and its wider hinterland, dating between AD 50 – 1550. The project, funded by the Arts Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and Historic England, will run from 2016 to 2020 and includes a programme of radiocarbon and tree-ring dating, isotope analysis of animal bones, and further research into the pottery and metallurgical debris. CA’s involvement focuses on the stratigraphic analysis of four key sites from Exeter that were excavated in the 1970s and 80s, including sites at Trichay Street, Rack Street and 196 High Street. These sites are to be published in one of the project monographs, due to be released in around 2022. This research has followed an archival project that digitized the records associated with 63 excavations across Exeter and made grey literature reports, plans and archival lists available online via the Archaeology Data Service (ADS) website.

Civitas-Exoniae-medieval-Exeter

Map of medieval Exeter

The initial stage of project work has involved examining the original archives in detail, which include context sheets, detailed notes, stratigraphic phasing, some photography, sites plans and sections. As part of the project much of this information has now been digitized, producing a context list, database and a detailed stratigraphic matrix for the first two of our four excavations, Trichay Street and 196 High Street. Furthermore, all of the relevant site drawings have been digitized and put together in ArcGIS to aid the analysis of the site. This part of the project has allowed us an opportunity to train some of our junior members of staff in the digitization and collation of site drawings, in both AutoCAD and ArcGIS, to produce the first fully digitized plan of each of these excavations.

Photographs from Trichay Street excavations

Photographs from Trichay Street excavations

Drawing from published accounts of the Roman and medieval finds in Exeter, and the detailed notes left by the original excavators, it has been possible to finish the process of stratigraphic analysis for the first of our sites, which was started by staff at Exeter Archaeology but never fully realised until now. The final publication text for the excavation at Trichay Street is in progress with preliminary results indicating a diverse sequence of activity and occupation in the Roman, early medieval and later medieval periods. The Roman military occupation at Trichay Street consisted of the construction of a number of Roman military barrack blocks and a legionary workshop. By the late 1st century AD the military occupation had been cleared and a succession of timber-built structures were constructed, which were replaced by a stone building (a town house) in the mid 3rd century AD. Although there were limited early medieval remains at the site, consisting of a series of pits, from the 11th century onwards a large number of cess and rubbish pits were dug in this area, probably forming the rear of a number of medieval plots facing onto Waterbeer Street. Industrial processes were also undertaken at the site from the 13th to 14th century onwards through the construction of a number of lime kilns, possibly associated with several wattle-lined troughs.

The post-excavation analysis of the four chosen sites is ongoing and due to be completed by early 2018, with final publication of all the sites due in 2022. More information about the project can be found on the Project website.