Medieval finds unearthed during city improvements scheme

03.12.2018

Work to smarten up a busy city centre location has unearthed a glimpse into life in the 14th century.

And it appears that fashion, business and overseas trade were as big a part of life in Newcastle back then as they are now.

Archaeologists investigated the site around Stephenson’s Monument, on Westgate Road near Central Station, before the new paving, seating and planted beds were put in place.

The improvements were made as part of an £800,000 project led by Newcastle City Council and NE1 Ltd.

Mis-matched paving stones and patches of tarmac have been replaced with new paving and an old Northumbrian Water cabinet has been relocated.

Seating and raised planted beds have also been installed. Bulbs have already been planted, which will grow and come into bloom in the spring, and further planting will be taking place after the winter when the temperatures warm up.

Cllr Arlene Ainsley, cabinet member for transport and air quality at Newcastle City Council, said: “The area around Stephenson’s Monument is one of the first parts of the city that people see when they step off a train in Newcastle.

“These improvements have transformed what was an unattractive and tired-looking space into somewhere much more pleasant and welcoming.

“It gives people a much better first impression of the city.”

Adrian Waddell, chief executive at NE1 Ltd, said: “We are delighted that the Stephenson’s Monument pocket park is now ready for people to enjoy. This area outside the Central Station is a real suntrap and I anticipate this important new public space will be very popular when we start to see the finer weather again.

“Although small, the park is a great addition to the city’s green space and shows what can be achieved through collaborative effort, in this instance by Newcastle City Council, NE1 and Northumbrian Water.”

Before the work was completed, an archaeological investigation of the site was carried out.This uncovered a number of unexpected finds which give an insight into how the area was used at the end of the 14th century and beginning of the 15th century.

Analysis of the finds suggest that this area was waste ground or used as a garden or allotment area.

As well as pieces of pottery, animal bone and seeds – which would have been traded in the nearby Bigg Market or possibly imported from overseas – archaeologists also found parts of preserved 600-year-old leather shoes.

The shoes, which had clearly been worn and repaired, had leather soles with an outward pointed toe, which was a popular style at the end of the 14th and beginning of the 15th century.

Chris Scott, senior archaeologist at Solstice Heritage, said: “We are delighted to have been part of this exciting scheme to redevelop an important public area at the heart of the city.

“As well as providing a new place for people to enjoy today, the project has provided a chance to investigate the history of our vibrant city.

“The finds show that even 600 years ago, people in Newcastle were fashionable, busy in business and linked closely with our continental neighbours through trade."

The plans and designs for the site’s transformation were developed by local landscape company Southern Green and the project has also received significant support from Northumbrian Water.

The project was funded through the Regional Growth Fund, which is focused on supporting economic growth.

The pocket park is the next element in the ongoing redevelopment of Newcastle Central Station, a project that has seen millions of pounds invested in the Grade 1 listed building and the adjacent area.

Adrian Waddell, from NE1 added: “Our goal was to create a real sense of arrival in Newcastle to give an impressive welcome to the 7.5 million people who pass through the station every year. This project shows how, by pooling resources and working to a high quality design, something of real and lasting value can be created in an important gateway to the city.”

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