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The Story Museum, Pembroke Street, Oxford Archaeological Evaluation Report & The Story Museum, Pembroke Street, Oxford Archaeological Excavation and Watching Brief Report

Bashford, Robin and Teague, Steve The Story Museum, Pembroke Street, Oxford Archaeological Evaluation Report & The Story Museum, Pembroke Street, Oxford Archaeological Excavation and Watching Brief Report. [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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The evaluation targeted areas of future impacts from the proposals and
therefore acts not only as an evaluation to inform on the survival, nature and
date of archaeological deposits at the site, but also as a mitigation of those
future impacts in the areas of the trenches – this included two manholes within
the courtyard (one entirely and one partially), plus a partial mitigation of the
lift shaft area. Excavations were conducted in such a way as to not only provide
a basis to decide on further mitigation procedures for other proposed impacts,
but also to allow the results for any future mitigation to be matched with the
existing archive to form a unified record.
In situ brickearth survives at the site, at 60.08mOD, albeit heavily truncated by
later features, this has preserved the true upper horizon of the natural gravel
terrace deposits, at 59.88m OD. This is some 0.8‐0.9m lower than observations
on untruncated gravels further to the west (St Ebbes Church, and Church St –
Site A), and 1.8m lower than observed further to the north on the Queens St
frontage. This suggests that the site sits on land that originally sloped gently
down both to the east and to the south.
No in‐situ or residual prehistoric, Roman or Late Saxon material was found at
the site, and only a relatively small amount of residual 11th – 12th century
material was recovered; the principal period represented from recovered
material at the site focussed on the 13th – 14th century. That said, there must
have been a build‐up of deposits above the level of the natural brickearth to
the level at which the 13th‐14th century pits were seen to be cut from (see
below), and this build up presumably predates the 13th century and alludes to
an accumulation of material, at least 0.6m in depth, possibly dating from the
Late Saxon period.
The 13th‐14th century horizon is likely to be at c 60.90‐61.00m OD (c 1.00‐
1.10m b.g.l), the level at which the surfaces sealing the pits was first
encountered. This is also the horizon at which the 14th‐16th century drain
construction (and associated surface) were encountered.
The recovery of significant quantities of glazed roofing and flooring tiles
attests to the presence of a high status building on the site during the 13th‐
14th century, although no definitive structural remains of such a building were
found with the only in situ structural evidence reserved for a very small piece
of limestone wall. Medieval cess pits are usually positioned near and towards
the rear of contemporary buildings this would suggest that such a building
would have been positioned to the south of Trench 1, and probably on the
Pembroke St frontage. Certainly such a pattern can be seen on Agas (Figure 9),
however, although these frontage structures could represent the survival of
these high status buildings they could equally be later rebuilds.
A demolition or construction horizon dating to the late 14th – 16th centuries
overlies the earlier archaeological sequence, this was encountered at c 60.50m OD (c 0.50m b.g.l), immediately above this a phase of 18th‐19th century
construction was present (suggesting a hiatus of activity). These remains
relate to some of the extant buildings on at the site, and lie immediately below
the existing courtyard slab.
The area under the northern half of existing courtyard is covered by a preexisting
basement from a now demolished 20th century building which
adjoined the now southern façade of the extant building that forms the
northern range of the courtyard (Figure 11). The floor of the basement was
not reached during excavation, but its’ rubble infill was recorded to at least ‐
1.2m b.g.l. It is likely the upper surface of the basement floor would be at c
59.5m OD (assuming 1.80m of headroom below the observed reinforced slab
ceiling to the basement), and the formation of that floor would be at between
c 59.0 – 59.3m OD. The construction of the basement would have truncated all
pre‐existing archaeological deposits (such as those recorded in Trench 1) to the
depth of its’ formation horizon. If the assumptions of the basements depths
are correct the only surviving archaeology below this truncation would be
restricted to the base of negative features such as those identified in that
No known basement exists below the building forming the north range of the
existing courtyard, therefore beyond areas, and below levels affected by the
truncation associated with modern construction, archaeological deposits
(perhaps similar to those observed in Trench 1) are likely to survive at, or
around, the horizons detailed above.

Excavation & Watching brief
Refurbishment of the Story Museum, Pembroke Street, Oxford led to a stage d
programme of archaeological work in 2015 and again during 2018 and early
2019 in mitigation of the development. This comprised an initial watching brief
and trench evaluation, followed by a limited excavation on the site of a new
lift pit and a watching brief for new drainage. The earliest features comprise d
several pits dated to the 13th or early 14th century, the earliest of which may
have been stone-lined and was perhaps a latrine. Building material from the
pits included early examples of glazed ridge tiles that may have derived from
a contemporary building of some status. Later during the 14th century, a
gravelled surface supported upon thick bedding deposits was laid over the pits,
later flanked by a north–south drain. It is suggested that the surface may have
formed part of a lane leading to the south door of Dokelinton’s Inn,
documented to exist on the north side of the site during the 14th century. The
lane appears to have continued in use until at the least the 15th century, afte r
which the site seems to have been transformed into gardens. A possible
cultivation bed containing 16th century pottery cut through the putative lane.
Brick-built walls of 19th century and later date were recorded. The earliest
were probably associated with structures occupying a yard behind Leden Hall
Inn, as depicted on the 1876 Ordnance Survey map. Later walls on concrete
foundations formed part of demolished buildings associated with the Post
Office sorting office and/or telephone exchange, built between 1921–34. Part
of a basement within the retained building on the north side of the site was
also recorded.

Item Type: Client Report
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > Oxfordshire
Period > UK Periods > Medieval 1066 - 1540 AD
Divisions: Oxford Archaeology South > Fieldwork
Depositing User: Scott
Date Deposited: 20 Aug 2021 08:24
Last Modified: 09 Dec 2021 09:37
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/6108

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