York residents urged to join radar search for Roman and Medieval remains under Guildhall

By Ben Miller | 12 August 2014

York’s Guildhall, which once hosted Richard III during the 15th century and is thought to have been a burial ground for powerful victims of the War of the Roses, is about to witness excavations for the first time in 500 years

A photo of a workman inside a dilapidated building
Hidden Guildhall is about to begin in York© York Past and Present
Archaeologists expect to find “significant remains” from Roman and Medieval times during the Hidden Guildhall project, when the city’s community will be invited to join professionals in an investigation adjacent to the site.

Penetrating radar equipment will create a digital plan of any objects beneath the buildings. Unusually for a city known for revealing artefacts from across the past 2,000 years, the dig has been carefully planned to avoid disturbing the remains.

A black and white photo of a lake in front of a historic house with people rowing
How the Guildhall and riverside looked during the 19th century© Images of York
“During the medieval period, the site was occupied by an important friary founded in 1272,” says Mitchell Pollington, of the AOC Archaeology Group, which will work on behalf of York City Council.

“In the late 15th century the future King Richard III famously stayed at the friary when visiting the city, and many local nobles killed during the Wars of the Roses are thought to have been buried on the site.

“It is hoped that the excavation will shed new light on the lives of the friars, the location of the friary buildings and possibly the identities of those who were buried here.

“The site is also located just upstream of the probable location of York’s Roman bridge that provided access to the Roman legionary fortress, which was centred on the site now occupied by York Minster,between AD 71 and AD 410.

“It is possible that the remains of Roman river front structures could survive, preserved in the waterlogged ground and sealed beneath the layers of later medieval occupation.”

Volunteers can visit the site, talk to the experts involved or join in with free activities throughout the week between the start of the excavation and the end of August.

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