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Excavations at Forehill, Ely, Cambridgeshire: Post-Excavation Assessment: Final Report



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Alexander, Mary 


Two evaluation excavations took place within the area marked for development on the corner of Lisle Lane and Forehill, Ely. This was followed by full excavation of a strip of land 750 metres square along the Forehill street frontage, prior to the development of the area for housing. The earliest features to be revealed were a sequence of major ditches beginning in the 10th century, running parallel to the existing road. This evidence for early roadside activity was an unexpected discovery. The consolidation of a route from the river to the hilltop had been previously associated with the transportation of building materials and other provisions for the post-Conquest cathedral and monastic buildings. The earliest structural evidence on site dated to the 13th century and was followed by a full sequence of occupation into the 19th century. The site was divided into tenements running north from the street frontage, and excavation showed that the property divisions preserved in the buildings demolished in the 19th century were essentially those of the seven tenements listed on the area in the 1415 survey. Some of the property boundaries, including an alleyway to the east of Number 47 showed continuity from the earliest occupation phase in the 13th century. Analysis of the standing building at Number 47 suggests that during the 16th century the property occupied the tenement plot to the west and possibly to the east of Number 47 and included a shop front and relatively well-to-do living quarters. The presence of a merchant class in the properties in this area of Forehill reflects the development of this important route between the riverside wharves, market and monastic centre. The early tenement buildings stretched back a long way and only a limited amount of associated backyard activity was found within the excavated area. However waterlogged lower levels had preserved a full range of organic remains, including structural timbers and a large collection of cobbling and shoe-making waste dating from the 12th to the 14th centuries. Pollen and seed evidence has the potential to provide a wealth of environmental information concerning the diet and resources available to the individual properties, and the range of local habitats exploited. The early timber-built structures were replaced by brick and stone buildings. A complex of 16th/17th century brick-built structures indicates some small scale industrial process, possibly baking, took place behind one of these properties. The excavation produced a great range of inorganic finds, including a particularly large and important pottery assemblage, a copper alloy purse fitting decorated with a two-headed beast and a carved bone tool dated to the 10th century. This assessment report follows the guidelines set out in 'The Management of Archaeology Projects' (English Heritage 1991) and was prepared with the aim of guiding subsequent work on the project data towards full publication.



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Cambridge Archaeological Unit, Department of Archaeology, University of Cambridge

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