City Council archaeologists excavated the holes for 13 new trees in Above Bar in central Southampton. They dug the site in February and March 2000. Although small, the excavated trenches provided a valuable insight into life in this part of the town in the Middle Ages.
Above Bar has existed as a street for at least 1000 years. It was the main route into the town and went through the Bargate. Speed's map published in 1611 shows houses on both sides of the street. The area was known in the Middle Ages as Alhal without, after the parish of All Saints.
At the recent dig on the shopping centre site, City Council archaeologists found remains from the 10th century AD onwards. Evidence for industries there included several hearths and a mould for casting shoe buckles. There were also remains of an 11th century building next to Spa Road.
What did we find?
The archaeologists excavated through the old street. There were many layers of gravel with deep wheel-ruts. The street originally wore down into a deep hollow-way, but then the level was built up over time, as the surface would have been very muddy and dangerous. All sorts of rubbish was thrown on to the street and was buried in the ruts. The team found broken pottery, oyster shells, iron nails, a large iron key, part of a scabbard, horseshoes and even a horse's skull. There may have been a cobbler nearby because many scraps of leather and parts of several 500 year old shoes were found. A particularly nice find was a small gold pin, perhaps it held a medieval lady's veil in place. Part of a long bow made of yew was another exciting find
The team enjoyed digging in the middle of the precinct, and could explain to the passers-by what they were finding.
A full report can be consulted in the Special Collections section of Southampton Central Library in the Civic Centre.