Tyne and Wear HER(13313): Newcastle, vicus - Details
Evidence for Roman activity before the construction of Pons Aelius Fort - an early north-south route on the line of the Great North Road has been suggested by Bidwell and Snape (2002). This route linked to the river crossing, guarded by an unlocated fort at Gateshead. A number of pre-Hadrianic (i.e pre-fort) finds have been found in Newcastle. Roman pottery was found beneath the fort including a sherd of 1st century cooking pot and a Samian base sherd of Antonine date. Excavations at the Black Gate in 1972-3 produced three 1st century coins AD 68-79. A 1st century denarius of Vitellius (AD 69) was found west of the Keep in 1929. Remains postdating Pons Aelius Fort: In 1843 a Roman altar, pottery and coins were found when White Friar Tower was being demolished (G.B Richardson 1844). A second altar was found less than two weeks later. These may indicate the site of a temple. In 1898 an amphora was found at Cooper's Auction House on Westgate Road. Also around 1929 Roman occupation earth and pottery was found south of the railway and in the Yard of Clavering House by Spain and Simpson. Roman occupation deposits and roof tiles were found in 1929 at the junction of Westgate Road and the railway arch leading to Clavering Place (Spain and Simpson). Similar remains were found in 1951-2 between St. Nicholas Street and the same railway arch. In 1965 and 1967 Barbara Harbottle recorded Roman remains beneath the medieval Carmelite Friary. Post holes were associated with C2 and C3 pottery. There was a north-south construction trench and an area of cobbles. The pottery was from kitchen use (cooking pots, bowls, beakers, a coander, mortaria, jars, amphorae and samian ware). In 1993 Roman pottery and roof tile were found at the town wall between Clavering Place, Hanover Square and Orchard Street (Nolan et al). In 2007 evaluation trenching within railway arches on Westgate Road found Roman layers as little as 0.30m below modern ground level. A substantial wall and a metalled surface and C3 pottery were recorded. Further evidence of two carriageways were located here in 2009 (Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd). Archaeological excavations in 2008 on the BEMCO site in Clavering Place recorded Roman gullies on a north-south alignment under the medieval friary church (HER 1427 and 1428). A Roman road was found which probably led from the Roman bridge up the slope to the west gate of Pons Aelius fort. There were wide ditches to either side and on one side two layers of cobbles forming a narrow raised footpath. The fill of the ditch next to the road contained pottery dating from the beginning of the 2nd century to 270 AD. A pot containing a cremation was found along with some empty pots. A Samian pot had been used as a lid for the cremation. A stone lined pit and crude drains were recorded. A circular well had a lower lining of timber. One oak plank was curved and had a peg hole to fix it to the well. Another well had a timber lined shaft. Finds included a seal, pottery and a glass bead. Two stone coffins were found alongside the road, with room for a third. The coffins would have been above ground so were sealed with waterproof cement. The first coffin seal had failed which had led to water ingress and poor bone preservation. An adult knee and child molars were all that survived. The second coffin lid was still held on by iron pegs held in place by molton lead. This was the coffin of a wealthy lady as shown by the jet hair pin found next to the pillow. The two coffins were different sizes and of different manufacture. A lead filligree, some mineralised textile and a collection of jet tube beads were recovered from the coffins. What did the vicus look like? Hadrian's Wall formed a major boundary to the north edge. Metalled surfacing around St. Nicholas Buildings a
Richard Annis, Archaeological Services Durham University, 2009, lecture to Northumberland Archaeological Group; C.P Graves and D.H. Heslop, 2013, Newcastle upon Tyne - the Eye of the North, an archaeological assessment, pp 56-60; Nolan et al, 1993, The town wall, Newcastle upon Tyne: excavations at Orchard Street and Croft Street, 1987-89, Archaeologia Aeliana, Series 5, Vol 21, p 107; Spain and Simpson, 1930, The Roman Wall from Wallsend to Rudchester Burn, p 505 in Dodds, MH (ed), Northumberland County History, Vol 13; Harbottle, B, 1968, Excavations at the Carmelite Friary, Newcastle upon Tyne, 1965 and 1967, Archaeologia Aeliana, Series 4, Vol 46, p 178; White, R, 1865, Roman stone found at the White Friars, Newcastle, Archaeologia Aeliana, Series 2, Vol 6, p 231; Richardson, G.B, 1844, Account of the discovery of some Roman relics in the western suburbs of Pons Aelii, Archaeologia Aeliana, Series 1, Vol 3, pp 148-9; Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, 1898, Series 2, Vol. 8, p 256; North Pennines Archaeology, 2007, Parcels Office, Westgate Road - evaluation report; Pre-Construct Archaeology Ltd, 2007, 1-8 Westgate Road - evaluation report; Archaeological Services Durham University, 2009, BEMCO, Clavering Place - post excavation assessment; Journal of Roman Studies, Vol 43, p 110; Bidwell and Snape, 2002, The Roman Fort at Newcastle upon Tyne, Archaeologia Aeliana, Series 5, Vol 31, pp 261-2, 278, 280; PCA, 2009, Archaeological investigations at Westgate Rd 1-7 and arches 23-24 Queens Lane, Newcastle.