Friday, 9 October 2015

Vera and Christine's Memories

We first met Vera Hallett and her cousin Christine Rea when they came on one of the site tours on a very wet day in May. After visiting the exhibition at Tudor House, they came into the Hive to talk about some of their memories of Lich Street.
Vera was born at 15 Lich Street in the 1940s, later moving to 1 house No 2 Court where she lived until she moved from Lich Street in 1955. Christine moved from the area when she was three, but often visited her cousin and remembers the street well.
Number 15, opposite the Punch Bowl Inn, was a large house separated into rooms and occupied by several families who shared a kitchen and a toilet.  Vera's neighbours included Mrs Dalton, Mr and Mrs Perry, Mr and Mrs Butcher who ran a boarding house for homeless people as well as Mrs Butcher's brother Arthur Abbott, the chimney sweep who we found recorded in the archives and looked at in an earlier blog post.

Vera and Christine told us that there was no running hot water and they had to wash in cold water in a shared sink. They remembered that each family had an allocated wash day when their father would light the fire under a big boiler to heat the water, whites were always washed first, then the coloureds and the girls would come home from school at lunchtime to find lines of washing in the yard or, if it was wet hanging, in the kitchen steaming up the whole house. Across their backyard, where they had to go for a wash and to the toilet, was a flat roof and from here they could look into the back yard of Mr Holt the butcher who had his shop on the Shambles. Vera and Christine remembered that, like a lot of the butchers in the street, he used his backyard to slaughter the animals he sold in the shop.

Although the buildings were derelict and they remembered cockroaches in the houses, Vera and Christine felt there was a sense of community in the street and neighbours helped each other, particularly in times of trouble. 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Preserving the remains

If you've been past the site recently, you'll have seen that the engineers have filled in the area of the dig in preparation for the roadworks. Many people are surprised that the site is being filled in with concrete; in fact, although it may seem strange, it's the best way to protect the archaeology!
A special mix of low-density foam concrete is used, all of the archaeological structures and deposits are protected with impermeable sheeting and sensitive features are lined with protective foam boards. This is all to ensure that there's no damage caused by vibrations or compaction from the road surface and turning area above the site. When the area is redeveloped again in the future, the concrete can be easily removed to expose the archaeological remains beneath.
Our archaeologists record a fine cellar wall made from re-used stone and tile...

The walls are shielded with protective boards, then covered in sheeting before concrete is poured
There was lots of interest in the idea of a viewing area, leaving the remains exposed or visible beneath a glass panel. It's a great idea, and we're pleased that so many people have shown an interest. Although preserving exposed archaeological remains whilst ensuring they don't fall to pieces is costly and difficult, it is possible, and we always like to see imaginative ideas for presenting our city's history!
In this case, though, there was one major problem: the part of the site containing the walls, cellars and footings of old Lich Street will be underneath the road and turning area for buses/lorries. Without moving the road even closer to the cathedral (which would disturb more archaeological remains including part of the Cathedral cemetery), or bridging the area (which would raise the road surface and block the view of the cathedral), we can't avoid this. Sadly, it's just not safe or practical to have a viewing area or a void underneath the road itself.
However, everything has been safely preserved, and the dig has given us a fascinating glimpse into almost 2000 years of history in the heart of Worcester! It's not over yet, either: as the project continues, you'll see our archaeologists down there keeping a 'watching brief', recording and protecting any more archaeological remains exposed during the work.
If you didn't get a chance to come and see our exhibition at Tudor House Museum last week, some of the displays and photographs will be staying in the museum for a few more weeks.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Exhibition at Tudor House Museum

If you're interested in seeing and handling some of the finds, we'll be at Tudor House Museum on Friar Street, Worcester this Thursday 23rd July and Saturday 25th July, 10:00 - 16:00, as part of the annual nationwide Festival of Archaeology. As well as the finds, we'll have pictures from the dig and a collection of historic photographs and paintings of the area from our archives. Our specialists will be on hand to answer your questions. All ages welcome!
Bone spoon, Tudor glass and 400-year-old Dutch 'majolica' pottery from the dig

Friday, 10 July 2015

Once the digging is done

Now that we've finished excavating the site, what happens to all the things we've found? Our Supported Internship student, Claire, has been helping us to clean, record and photograph the finds from the dig:
Claire with finds from the Lich Street Dig
Hello, my name is Claire Tippins. I've been on the work placement for four months, from the Heart of Worcestershire College as part of my two year Supported Internship program; I will be giving you an insight in what the Archive and Archaeology service do once they've finished digging the site (because archaeology's not all about digging!) .
Site paperwork: hundreds of records all have to be checked and cross-referenced
Once the digging on the site is complete, all the artefacts go through processing where they are carefully cleaned to remove dirt, soil etc. They are dried, then marked with codes that identify the areas where they were found.
Small fragments of a medieval bowl (left) and cooking pot (right), carefully marked with site and context codes

Finds from the dig in our processing room
Then they are weighed, recorded and further inspected to identify their date and purpose.
Senior Finds Archaeologist Laura Griffin identifies and records the artefacts

Our palynologist Dr Suzi Richer inspecting pollen from soil samples
After inspection they will either show some of the artefacts in public events or they are wrapped up, or placed in a plastic bag and placed in a box.
The finds store, where the artefacts are kept cool and dry before they are transferred to the musem
If the artefacts are metal they are placed in a sealed plastic box with special (silica) gel that keeps them dry and helps prevent corrosion.
Another thing we do is a lot of research in trade directories, business records, wills, census records, images, books etc. We do this to know who was living there and what their occupation was, and we do come across some interesting information.
View of north side of Lich Street during demolition, looking east towards the junction with Friar Street

I enjoy all the work I do here, it's different every day and the staff are incredibly friendly and relaxed. They enjoy my company, I love working here!

...We didn't bribe her to say that, honest!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Punch Bowl Inventory

One significant location around Lich St was the Punch Bowl, just off the street through the Lich gate. It was one a number of pubs in the locality, including (confusingly) the New Punch Bowl opposite the Lich Gate. Plenty of people who could recall the area said they remembered the pub.

The Punch Bowl can be see through the Lich Gate

Within the archives last week we came across an inventory amongst an envelope of document which were passed to us from Birmingham Archives as the contents related to Worcestershire. The inventory was written in March 1958 by Phipps & Pritchard of Kidderminster, (Valuers, Auctioneers & Surveyors), probably when it closed as it appears to be a settlement and includes money for the remaining unexpired lease. The rest is an inventory room by room of the pub and living areas, going down to the level of each coat hook and mop & bucket. Unsurprisingly there was quite a bit of stock left both in the bar and in the cellar. In the bar this included half a bottle of Pimms, 4 bottle of Guinness, 1 bottle of Brown Ale, 990 woodbines and 20 packets of polos. In the cellar the stock included 38 gallons of beer, a vast array of bottles of spirits, 8 bottles of Baby Cham and 12 bottles of rum.

Inventory, part of BA 14380

When the Punch Bowl closed down the licensee went to Ronskwood, where he open a pub and named it the Punch Bowl after his former premises, which is still there today.

(Please note that this item is part of our uncatalogued archives, so we need a week's notice if you wanted to view it here)

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Dig Lich St Exhibition in July

Next month we will be at Tudor House Museum with finds from the Cathedral Roundabout dig for you to see and handle, along with historic photos and information about the excavation. We know lots of people have been asking whether we would repeat the pop up exhibition we did at St Helen's, and we are doing so at Tudor House, which is just round the corner from Lich St.


We'll bring along some of the more interesting finds, such as the glass vessel, late 16thC German Stoneware jar, WWII Military Police cap badge and other items which we've featured on the blog. We'll also have historic photos of the area and old maps, and there'll be photos, film information about the archaeology so if you missed the tours you'll be able to catch up on what we discovered.


We will be at Tudor House Museum, Friar St, on Thursday 23rd and Saturday 25th July 10am-4pm, coinciding with the Festival of British Archaeology. Some of the displays boards will then stay there for the following few weeks. Entry to the museum is free.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Journey down Sidbury & Lich St

We recently interviewed Pat Harbourne about her memories of growing up in Worcester. Pat told us about some of the shops in the Lich Street area and described her journey from the bottom of London Road past The Commandery, Clapton's Bakery, Lawley's and the Lych Gate up to the High Street.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Tours and Next Phase

The Lich St tours have now ended after three weeks, with over 700 people coming with us over to the roundabout to walk down the street, and others just coming to ask us about the dig and the history of the site. It was great to be able to chat to so many of you, especially all those who remembered Lich St and could share memories with us.

Thank you very much for all who have helped, both staff & volunteers, who have been down by the roundabout in the vagaries of the British weather – Rob, Su, Justin, Andie, Ben, Simon, Paul, Helen, Sarah, Roz, Luke, Steph, Mary, Carol & Rita. Thank you to Richard as well his assistance and answering lots of questions.

We are about to hand the site over to the construction team, for the next phase of the Cathedral Square redevelopment. We'd built in this three week period for public access when we could guarantee being able to take visitors down Lich St to see what was uncovered. Now works to start filling in the cellars are taking place.  If this changes we'll let you know, but current plans means we cannot bring people onto the site safely.  A final archaeological excavation will take place in the far south east corner of the site, where the cabin used to be, which will just take a few days. As the site is now closed we will keep you informed through the blog.

We are in the process of arranging another couple of open days when we can show you a wider range of finds and photos, as we did at St Helen's the other week. We may know a bit more about some of the artefacts and have answered some of the questions we've had so even if you came before there could be more to discover! This will be in around a month's time and when we have the dates and location fixed we'll let you know.

The blog will continue to be updated as we continue our work back in The Hive, working through the finds and the information be obtained.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Tony's memories - Dingy cellars, and the communal washhouse

We've interviewed a number of people already who remember Lich St, getting their memories of life here to add to the record. Clips from these interviews are already on the blog. When Tony Hoskins got in touch with us he told us he was born at No.9 Lich St in 1948. This corresponds with the north eastern edge of the excavation area. We thought this would be a great opportunity to do an interview on site whilst showing him round, to help jog his memory and enable him to point out features to us.

He only lived there a couple of years, but as his Grandparents lived in the house he was a regular visitor during the 1950s. He recalls the dark and dingy cellar, which terrified him, along with the layout at ground floor. He also recalls Court No.1 and the communal washhouse there

Thursday, 14 May 2015

A Guide to Lich St (South)

We continue the tour from the guide to the north side, turning to look at the south side. Just to the left off the site, where the road is, stood St Michael's Church. This was built in 1840 to replace the medieval church next to the Cathedral, and fronted onto College St with a yard and low wall at the rear. Although this is outside the dig area we did find some damaged masonry from the demolition of St Michael's, as mentioned in a previous blog post.

Going away further from the dig site there was a house next to St Michael's, and then the Lich Gate, under Knight Frank estate agents, which led into the Cathedral Precincts, and also the Punch Bowl Inn.

No.6 Lich St
In the excavation area itself the first property is No.6. This is lined with well finished sandstone and is very different to the other cellars. Medieval tool marks have been identified, along with post medieval, so these stones appear to have been reworked and brought here. It is possible that this stone was obtained from the city wall when much of it was dismantled after the Battle of Worcester, or perhaps the Monastery on the south side of the Cathedral. A piece of ecclesiastical masonry that is probably from a window frame has also been incorporated into the cellar wall which stands out. Although this building was not connected with the one to the east (St Michael's) there appears to be some link in the cellar wall, but we don't know why.
In 1910 it was occupied by a wood turner.

No.4 Lich St
This was part of the City Vaccination Office c1900, along with No.2, although they were separate buildings.

No.2 Lich St
Behind the cellar is a small yard area, which would have between No.2 and the building behind which fronted College St. The yard contains the base of a water pipe, and two square out buildings. One would probably be a toilet, and we see a waste pipe going from this property to the sewers which ran along Lich St (see previous post on sewers).
The yard has no cellar below it, and it is here that burials from the medieval cemetery which was on this site still remain. The current development should not impact upon the depth at which these burials occur, so we do not need to disturb the burials and they will be left alone and protected.
In this area there is also a foundation layer of green sandstone (under a couple of courses of red sandstone and an outbuilding) in amongst which we discovered 13th century pottery. This side of Lich St was laid out in the 13th century so perhaps this could relate to the buildings that were put up as part of this development. These would probably have been sandstone base, timber frame and bricks, but not much remains.

Cellar of No.2 Lich St, with yard behind

13th century remains (green sandstone) at the base of the second wall back

No.1 & 2 College St
This property fronted onto College St, but like No.1 High St it came back into Lich St. Although the 1886 Ordnance Survey map shows two buildings, the cellar appears to have been one large cellar, which was later divided up. No.1 was The Cathedral Tea & Coffee Warehouse c1910, run by Albert Mainwaring, who also had grocery stores at No.1 & 5 Lich St. Next door was the Cathedral Restaurant.

The building work we can see in the cellar is of a poor quality; for instance the fireplace isn't even keyed into the wall, and probably related to the later phases when little money was being spent and everything was as cheap as possible.

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Owen's Memories

We interviewed Owen Foster last week about his memories from when he visited Lich St and College St regularly in the 1950s and 1960s.


One story he had was about the pet shop, which we know from conversations down near the site lots of people remember. His uncle bred finches and sold them to the shop, where you were greeted by a minor bird, saying "Good morning, your name is?".


Another story was from an incident when St Michael's was demolished.

Monday, 11 May 2015

A Guide to Lich St (North)

We thought we'd give you a brief virtual tour of the site, starting with the North of Lich St.

One thing to notice about Lich St is how narrow it is, which is one reason why College St was later built. What remains are the street and the cellars of the buildings which ran alongside the eastern end. Although Lich St was laid out in medieval times most of what you see is from much later, as people rebuilt, refaced and repaired their properties numerous times.

The first building we come to is 1 High St. This property fronted onto High St, and like High St plots was long and narrow. The front is under the road, so the cellars are from the rear of the building. Many people remember this as being a shop called Redifusion.
The cellar hasn't been dug out as much as some, due to the tree roots which complicated digging. The top of a fireplace can be seen, along with the pot hook which was left when it was filled, which was a surprise. You can spot the coal chute on the 1886 Ordnance Survey map, showing how detailed these maps were.

Fireplace in No.1 High St

No.1 Lich St
This was a grocery/provisions store for many years, run by Mr Mainwaring c1900, and Mr Bell c1915. On the left hand side there is evidence of a staircase. The cellar seems to have been divided and even lowered, probably to create more liveable rooms in an already crowded property.  

No.1 Lich St, with remain of staircase shown in the lefthand wall

Behind Lich St was a yard shared by a number of properties. A well was discovered (plus an infilled and abandoned well), and on that spot on the OS map there is a 'P' indicating a water pump.

No.3 Lich St
Originally this was No.2, as the numbering went up one side and down the other, and in the 1890s changed to alternate numbers. In 1900 it was a tailors shop. This property didn't have a cellar, for whatever reason, so we have soil deposits and archaeological features that have survived undisturbed by later activity. Some of these are producing pottery dating between the 13th and 17th centuries, so it is likely that this area includes medieval activity, but do not need to go any deeper during the course of the redevelopment so this will be left. It does allow us to see a section at the side to give us an insight into the medieval layers.
No.3 Lich viewed from in from of No.1

No.3 Lich St

No.5 Lich St
This was also a provision store, run by Mr Mainwaring and later Mr Bell, so it must have been frustrating having another building in between. A staircase can be seen in the corner. It is faced in brick, although these seem reused so dating the brick won't date the construction. Most of the cellars seem to have used whatever material was to hand, and usually they wouldn't be seen by guests so may not use the best material.
No.5 Lich St

No.7 Lich St

In 1881 this was occupied by Mary Lloyd, a seamstress born in Prestigne. Twenty years later it was a cycle shop. This one looks very similar to No.5.
No.7 Lich St

Thursday, 7 May 2015

See finds this Saturday at St Helen's

This Saturday (9th May) we are having a pop up exhibition in St Helen's where we'll bring over a variety of finds from the dig, have up a wider selections of images of Lich St than we have been able to have at our portable base. We'll also have photos and information and the latest dig news and will try to answer your questions. We'd love to talk to anyone who lived on Lich St too.


St Helen's is just a short distance down the High St from the dig, on the corner of High St & Fish St, and we'll be there 9:30-3:30. We had planned to have a shop unit close by which we could use each day, but this has fallen through so we are having this day at St Helen's so we can get out a larger number of finds for you to see and handle. Lots of you have asked about this and we're looking forward to bringing them for you.

Tours will continue Thursday and Friday (over 350 have been so far) and will then resume next week Wednesday through to Saturday 9:30-3:30.

We'll continue to update the blog with photos of finds and the site.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

View from Cathedral Tower

A great place to view the dig is the Cathedral Tower and we know quite a few people have gone up to have a look, including some of our archaeologists.

The tower is open weekends and Bank Holidays , weather permitting form 11am – 5pm, last entry is 4.30pm. Visitors can pay at the shop in the cloister – Adults £4, school age children £2 and families £8.

Groups of 6 or more who want to go up the tower on days or at times other than Saturday or Sunday, Bank holiday or school holidays are best to email to enquire about a time and price.

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Lich St Sewers!

One of the stories the dig has been telling us is about the development of sanitation for Lich St. Like many streets in the centre of Worcester, sanitation was pretty poor, with poor drainage and no sewers. The 1840 Board of Health is pretty scathing. Things took a while to happen, but eventually action was taken. 

At one end of the excavated Lich St is a manhole cover. We put a camera down and confirmed it was an old sewer, one which wasn't used anymore!  A map was commissioned by the Board of Health in 1870, which we have been using as part of many other sources. On it we noticed that there was an annotated blue dot and a line. We then realised that these tally with the manhole and sewer, so these were probably added to the map when the sewer was added just after 1870. In 2 Lich St (originally 35 Lich St) we can see one of pipes which connected into the main sewer, and probably comes from a toilet built in the backyard which gives us evidence of the improvements.

Lich St - the sewer ran down the centre
Manhole cover
Pipe (in diagonal masonry) going to the sewer from No.2 (or No.35 depending on numbering system) Lich St

The Board of Health map is fascinating. We have two version of it, one of in book form, but the other is one sheet – so big that we've only uncovered it once, and it took up most of the downstairs floorspace of the Guildhall! Fortunately it has also been digitised so can be used on computer which makes it lot easier to browse or print and for us to use.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

St Michael's and the College for the Blind

Brendan Magill was another person who contacted us with information about St Michael's, which used to stand on Lich St. Brendan was born in Belfast in 1945 but came to Worcester to attend the Blind College from 1957 to 1965. In the clip he relates that the Reverend Blair, Vicar of St Michael's Church, founded the Blind College in 1866.