Film ID:
YFA 446



Visitor Tabs


Produced by the Film Unit and Television Service at Leeds University, this film documents four archaeological dig sites in York. Work on these sites took place during the summer of 1973 and yielded a number of historic findings.


Title - Digging for History: A record of one summer of Rescue Archaeology in York


The film opens with scenes of the city walls, looking on towards York Minster. Following this are shots of some of York's historic landmarks such as St. William's College, the Shambles, the bridges which cross the Ouse, and the city wall. There is a model of the Forum Hotel located on Museum Street on site of the old museum chambers. The archaeologists believe that it is a possible site of Roman barracks. The narrator comments that there are still traces of the Roman wall in the city, and this is contrasted with shots of the modern buildings in York constructed in the 1960s.


Next there is a map which shows the development of York over the centuries. Floods effected the early settlements as well as the shape of the modern city.


The York Archaeology Trust was set up in 1972, and Peter Addyman, Director of the York Archaeological Trust, introduces the four detailed surveys undertaken by the Trust during the summer of 1973. These include: The cattle market (where medieval suburbs were thought to have been), the Ebor Brewery site, a site by the river where Roman and medieval docklands were anticipated, a site within the colony where continuous habitation from Roman lives, and a special case at the Bedern area - intended as an extended survey over 2 or 3 seasons.


David Palliser, the York Archaeological Trust's Historian, introduces the first site. There is a model of the city centre followed by footage of the excavation taking place on the cattle market site. The first part excavated will be the site of a new swimming pool. Site supervisor, Martin Redmund, explains some of the artefacts which have been found thus far. These include: Saxon building, 8th century coins, a 9th century brooch, 15th and 16th century drainage ditches, and field ditches. These findings have led the archaeologists to conclude that this site was predominantly open agricultural land, and the church which they expected to find on site was not found.


The next site is that of the Ebor Brewery which was demolished 1920. There is footage of the excavation during which human bones were found. Additionally, the archaeologists uncovered the foundations of church/chapel which is thought to be St. Helen's-on-the-wall. This was an unexpected find. Mrs. Dawes, a bone analyst, explains that the evidence suggests that this site was a place of continuous occupation throughout the centuries. There are shots of the storeroom to where the bones have been relocated, and tests are carried out on the bones to determine whether they are male or female and from which time period they date.


The next site is the Bedern Area which is introduced by Professor Maurice Barley of the Archaeological Trust. There are shots of this area of York including many of the houses and rundown buildings surrounding the site. Following this is footage of the excavation which takes place. Here the archaeologists have found the remains of the medieval college, the remains of the vicar's choral, a Saxon church, and extensive Roman remains of a legion fortress. Peter Mills, the site supervisor, explains the unearthed foundations by which he stands. They are the remains of a house and kitchen. Barley then carries out some research in the Minster Library. Here he looks at property deeds which describe the site and its inhabitants.


The final site is the River Front site. Here river walls which were built in the middle ages have been uncovered. There are stills of previous excavation followed by footage of current excavation taking place on that site. One of men then explains some general archaeological techniques which are used when beginning a project such as this one. Different workmen and women are shown surveying the site and sifting through rubble pulled from the dig. Skeldergate is the first point of survey, and Bishops Hill is the second. Here, layers in the ground are shown, and the factory which previously lay in this site is evident. Martin Carver, site supervisor, then explains some of the artefacts found on site.


The film closes with a summary given by Peter Addyman who explains the importance of excavating different sites in York. While some may not yield any results, it is still important to examine the sites.


Title - This film was produced for the School of History University of Leeds

Adviser: Dr. Lawrence Butler

In co-operation with the York Archaeological Trust

Director P.V. Addyman

Produced by the Film Unit of Television Service

University of Leeds (copyright) 1974