Beyond the Castle: 21 Oct 2016

This up to the minute address was given to us by Jason Wood who is the heritage consultant to “Beyond the Castle” an archaeological investigation of areas including Vicarage Fields West and Quay Meadow East which lie beyond Lancaster Castle.
This project started roughly three years ago and is funded by Lancashire County Council; Lancaster City Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund. From the outset this was a community  focused investigation with accessible information and interaction with the investigators. A vacant unit was utilised in the local shopping centre where over a 1000 people visited to find out about the investigation and much financial support was garnered.
The area to be examined  had been somewhat neglected’ archaeologically speaking’ in the past. Youth offenders and the unemployed were encouraged to take part by clearing the environment and by alerting the archaeologists to potential ecological problems; one such being Japanese Knotweed. A number of students were also engaged to come up with innovative ways of utilising digital media for people to access and interact with the excavations.
The excavations were based first of all on documentary research.Then a drone survey was commissioned to take multiple plots of the site which were then synthesised to make maps of the features. This showed possible mediaeval re-use of the Roman fort site and ridge and furrow , the church glebe land. This site had always been church land or council owned since the end of the Roman period and thus had not been built on.
Magnetometry was utilised which showed more ridge and furrow but also in Quay Meadow ditches and walls etc. resistivity was another geophysical  technique used and this revealed more feat, walls and possible robber trenches.
Two forts are known at Lancaster. This investigation appears to reveal the traces of a later fort bigger than the previous two and probably of 4thc. date. of a similar type to the known forts at Cardiff and Holyhead. A shore fort.
In Quay Meadow the traces of a Roman aisled building were found which  has been conjectured is a warehouse building associated with the fort.It is 10m wide and is probably of two storey construction. A Roman road was found but with no drainage ditches possibly because it is on a hill ?Perhaps going from the fort to the river.
This year they found a base course of a wall of massive construction that supports the theory that this is a Roman fort-they also found a probable road within the line of the wall with a drain under. Just two days before the end of the proposed digging period a stone constructed well was found which they believe to be Roman but with evidence of a Victorian recut. Roman coins of most periods have been found with some of the 4thc.They are still digging and a metal detector survey is ongoing. Lancaster City Council is to fund the dig in future. One of our members Mr. Chris Birkett took part in the dig as a volunteer and showed us his photos of the coins which have been found.

Posted by Jeanette Dobson


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