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Chapel Street Car Park and the Common Staithe, King’s Lynn, Norfolk

Stafford, Elizabeth and Howsam, Charlotte (2022) Chapel Street Car Park and the Common Staithe, King’s Lynn, Norfolk. [Client Report] (Unpublished)

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Oxford Archaeology was commissioned by Norfolk County Council on behalf of Historic England to undertake a programme of archaeological borehole surveys at the sites of the Chapel Street Car Park and the Common Staithe in King’s Lynn, Norfolk.
The work was funded by Historic England. King’s Lynn has been designated as a Heritage Action Zone by Historic England. The results of the borehole surveys will feed into the production of a deposit model element of an Urban Archaeological Database that has been commissioned by Historic England to inform future development proposals.
Following initial ground penetrating radar survey of the two sites, a total of 15 borehole cores were collected from the Chapel Street site, with a further 17 borehole cores collected from the Common Staithe site.
At the Chapel Street site, organic waterlogged medieval occupation deposits were identified at c.1–2m below ground level, beneath thick deposits of make‐ up and demolition rubble. Radiocarbon dating combined with artefactual evidence suggests occupation occurred from the 11th–13th centuries on marshy ground marginal to the main core of settlement. Preservation of plant remains was found to be very good. Waterlogged food plants occur, often in samples with other environmental indicators, suggesting that the material derives from mixed domestic waste. These include apple pips and seeds of fig. Charred plant remains occur in low quantities but include grain of wheat, barley and oats alongside arable weeds. Overall, the finds assemblages were quite small, probably due to the very limited size of the samples from the boreholes. Fragmented ceramic building material (mainly bricks and roof tiles) were most common and difficult to date accurately. Only two sherds of pottery of Grimston‐type ware were recovered, along with a small number of bone fragments, shell and fish bone.
At Chapel Street, the organic occupation deposits overlie a thick sequence of tidal/estuarine deposits to at least 8m depth. Preserved pollen and foraminifera assemblages indicate that these deposits formed in environments of brackish creeks and mudflats. Thin peat deposits recorded at depth have been radiocarbon dated to the Early Bronze Age and Early Iron Age and preserve palaeoenvironmental remains indicating saltmarsh environments in the vicinity.
At the Common Staithe, the sediment sequences appear more complex, reflecting the waterfront history of the site fronting the River Great Ouse. Significantly, radiocarbon dating combined with artefactual evidence suggests that the tidal foreshore sequences – overlying Glacial Till and reaching depths of c.9.50–10m – date no earlier than the Saxo‐Norman period, and probably the latter end of this range. This is consistent with the conclusions of the desk‐based assessment which, based on previous work, suggested much of the site was likely to have been located in the intertidal zone during the early period of the town’s development, with dryland located on the western side of the Tuesday Market (Kewley 2018, 15).
However, evidence was found for utilisation of the foreshore and perhaps dumping of rubbish, which increased during the late 12th–14th centuries prior to major ground raising and reclamation. The intercalation of tidal sands between episodes of dumping/activity suggests the foreshore was open to the river at this time. The deposits appear quite complex with mixed dark brown to black organic deposits containing frequent artefactual material (tile, pottery, shell, bone, leather and fragments of wood). These organic occupation deposits occur within c.1.5–4.8m depth and extend westwards as far as BH07 in the central area, and to BH12 and BH13 in the north.
The recovery of leather fragments indicates good waterlogged preservation. Although fragile with few diagnostic features, the leather is likely to represent shoemaking or cobbling waste. The bulk of the finds assemblage comprised brick and tile fragments; however, a small assemblage of pottery was recovered from the organic deposits, almost exclusively Grimston‐type ware (late 12th–14th centuries). Notable finds include a possible lava quern fragment from BH07 which may be from the Mayen‐Niedermendig quarries in the Eifel region of Germany.
Overall, the bulk samples from the organic deposits at Common Staithe produced a diverse range of waterlogged plant remains. Seeds and nuts of possible food remains include grape, fig, sloe, cherry, damson/bullace and hazelnut. There were a number of plants represented that are likely to have been arable weeds, although these could conceivably have arrived on site mixed with straw. Similarly, there were weed species commonly associated with grassland and ruderal plants that grow on waste ground. Wetland plants were well‐represented and include several species of sedge. Estuarine/saltmarsh plants are represented by seablite and possibly by black bog‐rush. Charred remains included cereal grains – oats, barley, free‐threshing wheat and rye. Foraminifera indicating tidal conditions appeared to be well‐preserved, but ostracods less so. Small but quite diverse assemblages of fish bone (cod, herring, flatfish, ling, mackerel, haddock, salmon and eel) and crustacean remains (crab claws) were recovered that are likely to be both naturally occurring, as well as probable food remains/refuse, along with shells of oyster, whelk, cockle and mussel.
The dry make‐up deposits overlying the organic deposits at Common Staithe were quite variable, ranging from mixed sandy soil with gravel, brick, mortar and tile, to coarse brick rubble. The only evidence found for possible cellarage is in the eastern part of the site, to a depth of 4m below ground level (BH17). It is possible that this relates to a cellar or subterranean vault backfilled with rubble in the vicinity of Smethan’s House (Kewley 2018, 25).

Item Type: Client Report
Uncontrolled Keywords: Norfolk, norfolk, Kings Lynn, kings lynn, borehole, bore hole, borehole survey, Medieval, medieval, Early Medieval, early medieval, Iron Age, iron age, Bronze Age, bronze age, sediment, tidal zone, tidal wash, borehole sampling, HAZ, Heritage Action Zone, English Heritage, medieval pottery, CBM, cbm, ceramic building material, ecofacts, seeds, pollen, pollen analysis, CPR, cpr, charred plant remains, ostrocods, shells, shell, non-marine mollusca, marine mollusca, 2576, report 2576, Report 2576, OAE report 2576
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > Norfolk
Period > UK Periods > Bronze Age 2500 - 700 BC
Period > UK Periods > Early Medieval 410 - 1066 AD
Period > UK Periods > Iron Age 800 BC - 43 AD
Period > UK Periods > Medieval 1066 - 1540 AD
Period > UK Periods > Post Medieval 1540 - 1901 AD
Depositing User: Hamilton
Date Deposited: 26 Sep 2023 07:22
Last Modified: 26 Sep 2023 07:22
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/7238

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