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Update: PDAS - Summer excavation of St. Richards Dominican Friary, Pontefract

posted 11 Aug 2011, 05:18 by Paul Brayford   [ updated 1 Feb 2016, 15:16 ]
Update from David Wandless, Chair of Pontefract and District Archaeology Society (PontArch), on the excavations being carried out on the site of Pontefract General Infirmary.

"We are now half way through week 3 of our 10 week excavation of the north aspect of the friary site.

In the photograph you can see our Site Director Simon Tomson in discussion with the digger driver as we clear approx. 30 m in length by 7m in width and about 1m in depth. 

  Simon believes that the first level that we will reach, having removed the C18th/C19th improved agricultural land [which we are now clear was used for growing liquorice], will be the demolition layer of the friary buildings after the dissolution of the monasteries.

We have stepped the site to ensure stability of the soil and are digging down to expose the first level. You can clearly see a change in the soil with clear indications of heating of limestone/sandstone and mortar is also evident.

There is an increasing range of finds including only medieval pottery from the C12th to the C15th.

Human remains i.e. skull fragments and human bone are also present in this layer. These may be Civil War burials dated to 1648 of casualties who have got into the line of fire. These burials may well be cut into the friary demolition layers.

There are also indications of rubble from the friary demolition. Cut into this rubble are the remains of trenches on a north to south alignment which were used for the harvesting of liquorice roots which continued to be harvested in the Friarwood area of Pontefract until 1910.

As I am sure many of you will have seen and heard Calendar went out on Tuesday 9th and on Wednesday morning Radio Leeds did a good slot which is available on BBC iplayer. On Thursday there will also be a piece on the BBC web site along with photos of the dig courtesy of Jim Goodwin.

During the next two weeks we anticipate beginning to expose this demolition layer and have a clearer view as to whether this does represent a Civil War burial ground or not.

So this is proving to be a very interesting site and we look forward to some less back breaking archaeology."


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