Tuesday, 31 March 2015

The doctor calls

Hilary Burton recalls her father-in-law Dr John Burton, a GP in a practice in the building now occupied by Zizzi's restaurant at the end of the High Street, making perilous night visits to Lich Street in the late 1940s.

The condition of the stairs made visits in the dark hazardous, and some of the houses had no electric lighting. Here are the remains of one of the staircases leading down into the cellar of the buildings.
Remains of staircase into cellar, Lich Street
If you have any memories of the area, please do get in touch using the contact form . We'd love to hear your stories.

Sunday, 29 March 2015

A view from above

This week, we've been up to the top of the Travelodge to get some photos of the work in progress.
Cathedral roundabout from the northeast
Lich Street itself can be seen running from the centre right to the bottom left of the picture. Either side, you can see the foundations of the buildings that once lined the street, many of which had deep cellars.

Lich Street revealed
In the foregound at the bottom of the picture, you can see the remains of a yard surface and circular well. The yards served the rear of the properties along the north edge of Lich Street and the south end of the High Street. The well would have been the only source of fresh water for many of the surrounding buildings. A small 'P' on the 1886 Ordnance Survey map marks the existence of a pump to draw water from the well.

Friday, 27 March 2015

A tale of two pots

People often think that archaeology is all about finding artefacts - precious things, rare things, old things. It's not - it's about people. How they lived, where they lived, what their concerns, hopes and fears might have been, and how those people shaped the landscape in ways that still influence our settlements and behaviour today.
But often, the window into those lives lived long ago is through the artefacts they left behind. And today's post is a tale of two pots: one local, one international, that tell us about economy, industry and trade in Worcester hundreds of years ago.
The first piece of pottery is a tiny fragment of a vase made 400 miles away, in the South Netherlands. It's a piece of 'South Netherlands Tin-glazed Maiolica', one of a group of wares commonly called 'Delft ware'. It was made in the 16th or early 17th century, as Worcester was thriving on the profits of the cloth trade, and before the turmoil of the Civil War. The picture on the right shows what the complete vessel would have looked like, based on an example found in Exeter. These imports are rarely found in Worcester. They would have been treasured possessions, and show that over 400 years ago, trade links to the continent were far-reaching.
South Netherlands Tin-glazed Maiolica, 16th/early 17th century
The second piece has travelled less than 400 metres from its place of manufacture, and is evidence of the success of home-grown industry and innovation. In 1751, the Worcester Porcelain Company began production at a factory on the site of the Copenhagen Street car park. The company quickly gained a reputation for producing the finest English porcelain available, and were a fixture of Worcester industry for over 250 years.
The example below is unusual: haphazard splodges of red, black and gold are smeared across both faces. We think it was probably a 'test piece', to check the colour of the glaze after firing or to test a new decoration technique. It may then have been either discarded or sold cheaply as a 'second'.
Worcester Porcelain 'test piece'
These two pots, one local and one international, take us back to the processes of trade and industry that laid the foundations for the city we know today, and ultimately to the people who made, imported, bought and enjoyed them.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Dig Lich Street

Welcome to the Dig Lich Street blog, which will provide information on progress, events and opportunities to find out more during the archaeological work on Worcester's Cathedral Plaza roundabout.
Worcestershire Archive and Archaeology Service are conducting the excavations, which are the first investigation works to support the Worcester Cathedral square improvement scheme.
Removing the topsoil using a mechanical excavator

Work began on the site earlier this month, with a mechanical excavator removing the topsoil down to the level of the archaeological remains preserved beneath the roundabout, under the watchful eye of Project Officer Richard Bradley. Our archaeologists are now in the process of clearing material away by hand to reveal the footings of the buildings that once fronted Lich Street, whilst the excavator continues to remove the remaining topsoil. Once the machinery is off-site and the archaeology has been fully exposed, there'll be chances for members of the public to take a closer look
The redevelopment work will only affect the upper levels of the archaeological deposits, but we've encountered a number of cellars, which need to be excavated fully as they contain loose, unstable rubble deposits. Most of the rubble is removed using the excavator, before final careful cleaning by hand.
Removing rubble from an infilled cellar.
Already, the finds are giving us glimpses into the earlier history of the site. One of the most common and informative types of artefact found on archaeological sites is pottery: hard-fired ceramics can survive in the ground for thousands of years, and tell us much about the fashions, technology, trade and economy of Worcester in the past.
The two examples below span 1000 years of Worcester's history. On the left is a piece of the rim of a 2nd-4th century A.D. Roman Severn Valley Ware storage jar, probably made locally: we know that there was a kiln nearby. The distorted shape and patches of grey colouration are due to mis-firing, so it's likely that this was either a 'waster', discarded from the nearby kiln, or possibly used as a 'second'. The brightly-glazed piece on the right is from a 13th-14th century Malvernian medieval jug, probably manufactured in the kilns at Hanley Swan in South Worcestershire.
Early finds from the excavation: Roman (left) and medieval (right) pottery
There'll be regular updates, and news of opportunities to find out more, on this blog. You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook. There'll be opportunities to share memories of the area at drop-in sessions, and via the online form.
Got any questions? We'll be adding Frequently Asked Questions to this page as the project progresses. You can also contact us directly.