3.2.1 Medieval buried soil

Along the northern edge of the substation trench, a buried soil horizon (100) was preserved beneath later wall footings [102] associated with the boundary wall between the graveyard and the former course of Pepper Alley to the north (Fig. 7). This buried soil consisted of pale brown silt clay lying directly above undisturbed natural (103), up to 0.30m thick at the northern edge of the trench and thinning out to the south for 1.20m, at which point it no longer survived. A significant quantity of medieval pottery was recovered from the buried soil, with no later finds. The soil was observed to grade in colour downwards into the undisturbed natural clay, suggesting that it formed the very bottom of a soil profile that had been truncated when the graveyard was laid out.

Figure 7

Figure 7: South-facing section of evaluation trench

It is unfortunate that during machining it was not possible to detect the narrowing of the buried soil as it became progressively more affected by the later terracing to the south of the boundary wall. This resulted in a considerable amount of the medieval pottery recovered being classed as unstratified. It can be assumed that this medieval pottery is probably derived from the narrowing buried soil, as it was collected from the northern edge of the site.

From the buried soil/unstratified, 73 sherds of medieval pottery were recovered. The largest quantities were of Oxidised Gritty ware (43 sherds) and Reduced Gritty ware (19 sherds), with other types including Reduced Sandy ware, Oxidised Sandy ware, York Gritty ware and Brackenfield, all represented by between one and four sherds (see Pottery Analysis and Pottery Characterisation). The pottery ranged in date from between the late 12th or early 13th centuries to the 15th century, although some of the pottery could date from the mid-11th to mid-13th century, and included at least 15 sherds described as over-fired and distorted, typical of kiln wasters or misfired vessels, as well as four fragments of stone and fired clay which appeared to be part of kiln fittings and furniture. The majority of the over-fired pottery was Reduced Gritty ware (15 sherds), with three sherds of Oxidised Gritty ware described as being 'fired to a higher temperature' than other examples in the assemblage (Table 5).

No in situ structural evidence survived from this period, and the buried soil (100) was only present where it was preserved beneath the later boundary wall. The western end of the buried soil contained frequent inclusions of sandstone rubble. The later wall footings did not sit directly above the sandstone rubble, however, suggesting that this rubble was not part of the wall footings, but may have been the remnant of an earlier wall footing along the boundary. The presence of the wall footings above the buried soil suggests that the boundary wall was constructed shortly after the 15th century, and this is confirmed by the lack of any pottery later than the 15th century within the buried soil.

The sherds relating to pottery production contained within the assemblage provide a rare insight into medieval activity in Sheffield. There is no archaeological evidence for the kiln itself on this or any of the previously excavated sites in the area. It is likely that this is due to the removal of evidence through later truncation, although it is possible that the pottery could have been moved and dumped from the place of manufacture. The presence of the kiln fragments as well as the waste sherds suggest that the material is unlikely to have been moved far from its point of manufacture, and almost certainly relates to pottery manufacture within Sheffield. The location of the site on the outskirts of the medieval town also suggests that this would be a suitable position for industrial activity.

Characterisation studies of the medieval pottery have demonstrated that a proportion of the medieval pottery assemblage, although part of a broader tradition of the manufacture of Northern Gritty ware, is unique to Sheffield, and is therefore likely to have been produced locally. Though the pottery is not associated with a cut or structural feature, the sherds provide rare excavated evidence for medieval industrial activity in the town. The presence of York Gritty ware and Brackenfield ware, the latter hitherto not identified outside north-east Derbyshire, indicates that, contrary to the (admittedly sparse) evidence from other sites in the city, the Don Valley was not the only source of medieval pottery available to the inhabitants. This means that the medieval pottery assemblage from Sheffield as a whole is beginning to resemble typical assemblages from medieval towns in the wider area, which generally include a variety of regional wares as well as those of local manufacture.

The area around the Upper Chapel was part of the medieval town of Sheffield and is therefore likely to have been developed from an early date. Excavations along the course of Pepper Alley concluded that terracing and truncation of the original ground surface had taken place before road surfaces associated with the redevelopment of Norfolk Row were laid during the mid-19th century (Bell 2005). Excavations on the neighbouring Carmel House site showed that further truncation of the original ground surface probably took place in the context of terracing during the construction of Carmel House and its associated buildings at the end of the 19th century (Baker 2006). As the whole area was subject to several episodes of redevelopment during the 18th and 19th centuries it is not possible to date the terracing and truncation securely to any particular phase of activity. Indeed, it is likely that the truncated profile seen over the area is the cumulative result of numerous phases of levelling and redevelopment, beginning around 1700 with the construction of the Upper Chapel and ending in the early years of the 20th century with the construction of Carmel House.

Pre-construction levelling has, for the most part, removed archaeological evidence from earlier periods, with only a handful of exceptions. On the Carmel House site the lower portion of a medieval well had survived later truncation owing to the depth of the feature (Baker 2006). A depth of 2.25m, sunk into the underlying sandstone bedrock, had been preserved beneath the only portion of the 19th-century building to have been constructed without cellars. An important assemblage of medieval pottery was recovered from the well, demonstrating that it was in use by the 13th century and continued in use until the 16th century.


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