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Tyne and Wear HER(16107): Newcastle, The Close, tanning pits - Details

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Newcastle, The Close, tanning pits




Leather Industry Site

Tanning Pit



Physical Evidence

During excavations at 46-54 The Close in 2004 a vertical-sided and flat-bottomed pit was recorded, cut into the natural clay. It was 0.45m deep. In the base was a white lime-rich deposit containing organic matter. Two 13th century leather randed turnshoes with plaited grass insoles were recovered from this layer. The pit had periodically been cleaned out, leaving a rising lip of lime-rich material around the edges. The pit was then in-fiiled with dump deposits of various colour, which were rich in organic material such as hazelnut shell and bone. These deposits had been truncated by a later, more irregular pit, 0.25m deep and over 0.95m wide, lined with wattle. More wattle was present around a deposit of large tightly packed stones. The wattle was radiocarbon dated to 1030 to 1230 cal AD. Pot sherds dating from the 13th to early 14th centuries were found in both pits. A construction date towards the end of the radiocarbon range is the only plausible option. In the centre of the trench a possible post-pad, made up of four large flat stone slabs was cut into the natural subsoil. Around these was a dark brown sandy-silt containing a sherd of early 13th to mid 14th century pottery. Almost the whole trench was covered by a fribale red and black deposit made up of burnt sand and charcoal up to 60mm thick. Charred oat and wheat grains were found in this deposit. The excavators suggest that the large rectangular pit was a liming pit for a tannery. The shoes were finished products so do not necessarily imply that the tannery was for the production of shoe leather.




A.C. Platell from a draft by J.L. Mole, 2013, Excavations at 46-54 The Close, Newcastle upon Tyne, Archaeologia Aeliana, Fifth Series, Volume 42, pp181-206

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