Barker Street, Shrewsbury
In 2016 and 2017 a series of archaeological investigations were undertaken by the Clwyd‐Powys Archaeological Trust in connection with the development of new student accommodation for University Centre Shrewsbury. The site, which lies opposite Rowleys House, was developed by Morris Property on behalf of Shropshire Council. It was formerly occupied by buildings associated with the sixth form college, which itself stood on the site of a 19th-century tannery.
The initial phase of work involved a watching brief and during the demolition of existing buildings, which included elements of the tannery. This was followed by excavations within the footprint of the new residential buildings.
The results revealed a concentration of rubbish pits and tanning pits, dating from the 13th to 18th centuries, with most features being 15th- or 16th-century in date. The distribution of pits suggested the division of the site into a number of medieval burgage plots. Residual sherds of late Saxon Stafford ware were identified within the fills of later features. Large quantities of horn cores, predominantly cattle, but also sheep or goat were present in many features, as were partial or complete skulls. Animal bones from a wide range of taxa were retrieved from most features. Tools associated with leather working were recovered including possible blades, a bone leather needle and several palm guards, suggesting that a range of industries relating to hide tanning may have been taking place on the site.
Hide tanning during this period appears to have taken place within a domestic rather than a purely industrial setting, with a large assemblage of pottery retrieved from many features. The recovery of a considerable number of glazed and decorated floor tiles and glazed ridges tiles indicate the presence of a high status building in the area, possibly with ecclesiastical associations. The area appears to have undergone a decline in status and fortunes during the 17th and 18th centuries, although small-scale industrial activity continued until the construction of the Victorian tannery at the site.
The demolition of the former Victorian tannery revealed parts of the original brick floor. Subdivisions for tanning tanks were also visible across most of the area, suggesting that the entirety of the ground floor had at one stage housed tanning tanks. The construction of the 19th-century tannery building and subsequent piling associated with the sixth form college had completely removed any earlier archaeological features that may have been present, in the north-western part of the development.
An assessment of paleoenvironmental evidence from the medieval pits has shown that they contained domestic waste, with dietary evidence indicating the use of a range of food sources including domestic animals, fish, legumes, imported dried fruits, wild-gathered fruits/nuts and cereal crops. A programme of post-excavation analysis and report will be undertaken, leading to publication of the results in the Transactions of the Shropshire Archaeological and Historical Society.