Just published – Medieval and post-medieval occupation at Glebe House, Abbey Foregate, Shrewsbury

We’ve just published a summary account of an excavation we undertook in 2015 at Glebe House, Shrewsbury. The site is located to the east of Shrewsbury town centre and the River Severn, approximately 50m north of Abbey Foregate, which lies immediately to the north of the remains of the medieval Shrewsbury Abbey.

Glebe House view of the siteThe excavation was carried out at the request of Morris Property Limited, ahead of residential development, and identified elements of Shrewsbury’s early development dating back to the 11th century AD. Residual Early Medieval pottery hinted at even earlier activity, although the only archaeological features recognised dated from after the Norman Conquest.

The earliest features identified, which dated from the 11th to 13th centuries, were quarry pits for the extraction of coarse sand and gravel aggregates, along with a trackway, perhaps used to transport the quarried material.  This material may have been used in the development of medieval Shrewsbury.

Evidence for later medieval activity included a well, cess pits and general waste pits, suggesting that the area was on the periphery of domestic settlement during the 13th to 15th centuries. Some features, including ditches and postholes, may have formed elements of property boundaries, perhaps for burgage plots, fronting Horsefair, located to the south.

Features relating to the post-medieval period predominantly related to ephemeral timber structures, mostly defined by postholes, although it was difficult to define their nature or extent. However, documentary evidence indicates the industrial nature of the Foregate suburb of the town in the post-medieval period, with metal and leather-working recorded from the 16th century. One of the most distinctive features from the earlier post-medieval period was a barrel base (see below), found within a clay-lined pit. This was probably associated with the leather industry, with a deposit of lime probably having been used in the preparation of animal hides as part of the tanning process. It is possible that other contemporary ephemeral features and building remains were also associated with industrial activity on the site.

Base of a barrel in a pit, containing a lime mixture probably used during leather tanning base of a barrel in a pit, containing a lime mixture probably used during leather tanning - section

Later features included late 18th century pits, probably from the time when late medieval/early post-medieval structures had been demolished and prior to the 19th-century urban expansion of the town. From the 19th century onwards the site was occupied by a semi-detached residential building, which had been demolished prior to the establishment of the car park which occupied the site prior to the archaeological investigations.

Finds from the site included medieval to early modern cooking pots, pitchers and jugs, floor tile fragments, iron nails, a possible container for storing needles, clay tobacco pipe fragments and fragments of wine/spirits bottle glass.

Examples of pottery found on site

The summary account is published in the Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society, Vol. 92, 2017. Our full report on the excavation is available to download from our Reports Online webpage.