Project Director, Graeme Young, gives us an insight into the little discussed investigation conducted around Bamburgh Village.
It is perhaps no surprise that our blog concentrates on our recent or current excavation projects within the castle, Bowl Hole and Kaims, but we have also undertaken work to investigate Bamburgh Village too.
Our report on the geophysical survey undertaken in 2004, mostly on the south and west sides of the village, is available to download on our website, but we have also undertaken some research using maps, documentary records and shovel pitting within the village itself. Click to take a look at the report
The village interests us because it has been occupied for a long time and has provided services to the fortress, as well as being a settlement and trading emporia important in its own right. The earliest records we have of the village tells us of the presence of a church used by St Aidan, almost certainly the predecessor of today’s St Aidan’s Church. It also tells of a civil settlement demolished by a Midlands king, Penda, who stripped it of timber to build a giant pile of firewood in an effort to burn the timber fortress, which surmounted the castle rock in the 7th century.
We have very little evidence of this Anglo-Saxon village, which must surely lie somewhere beneath the modern village awaiting discovery, but by the later middle ages we find increasing records of the borough of Bamburgh. These give us a number of street names and the names of many of the townspeople too. The modern village street plan almost certainly preserves some of the medieval streets, but its quite likely that not all will be ancient. One thing is clear, we have more names of medieval streets than we have streets in the modern village, meaning that we have lost some! So, the question is, can we make sense of the medieval records and rebuild a plan of the medieval borough?
I will cover our current state of knowledge over the next few weeks, including Bamburgh’s ecclesiastical sites, which includes the search for the elusive hospital. Just now we will start with a photo that seems to offer us a possible candidate for a lost medieval street.
Extending broadly east to west and lying between the modern car park and the southern side of the village, lies what appears to be a hollow-way, an old and overgrown road. It can be traced on aerial photographs over two fields before being lost in the garden plots of the village. Though its line continues to be respected by garden walls, which suggests that they are respecting quite an ancient boundary. As we will see in future instalments it is just possible we can put a name to this lost street.