Archaeological Units

2017 An Augustinian friary cloister at Cambridge

Change of use for the Cambridge University Art School required archaeological excavation, because the School overlies an Augustinian Friary.  A group of architectural fragments formed a cesspit tank. They originally had a more dignified use parts of the Friary’s 14C cloister arcade. This is a highly unusual discovery because no example of a friary cloister arcade survives in England. A ‘substitute archive’ was created on the site to record other less important fragments that could be subsequently re-buried on site (avoiding long-term-storage problems). The cloister elements will be fully published with the remainder of the site in due course.

Augustinian Friary
The buildings of the Augustinian Friary (mid-left) long survived the Dissolution

2016 A new Travelodge in Cambridge throws light on Burwell Abbey

Development by the Newmarket road in Cambridge led to the discovery of several hundred architectural fragments from a long-destroyed (if well-documented) Cluniac Priory. Mark carried out initial site selection for Oxford Archaeology East - Statistical assessment, recording, analysis and publication drawing. Massive lancet windows can be directly associated to the documented building of the Abbot’s chapel (c.1254 – 1265). The obscure architectural period between 1295 and the Dissolution is seen to be much more ‘busy’ than might otherwise have been appreciated.  A completed specialist chapter was submitted as part of an OAE monograph (forthcoming).

Dr Samuel
Dr Samuel recording architectural fragments at Bourn airfield outside Cambridge


2016 Luxury flats reveal a lost nunnery at Shoreditch.

Mark has been involved in ongoing excavation of the site of Holywell Priory since 2005. Current excavations in advance of groundworks for a major Shoreditch residential development have revealed standing pier bases in the nave (such survival is exceptional in the London area). Exact measurements of the nave superstructure and mouldings were obtained in situ prior to dismantling (an example of the importance of specialist attendance on site). Initial assessment of nearly a hundred-odd architectural fragments should permit an accurate digital reconstruction of the late 12C church; combining data from the nave with that measured from the loose fragments.

Holywell Priory
A portal base at Holywell Priory - a remarkable survival (© PCA ltd)

2015 Cambridge’s Roman town gate?

Archaeological monitoring (CAU) of the vast NWC development (North-West Cambridge) continues. Many building stone fragments have been found; most probably deriving from mausoleums along the Huntingdon road. One unprepossessing block of stone was identified by Mark as the voussoir of a plain arch on a monumental scale.  The Roman town (under Shire Hall) was surrounded by a substantial wall built after 200 AD and the voussoir may derive from a gatehouse in these defences. This provides a rare insight into a defensive circuit about which little is known. Roman town gatehouses such as the Lincoln East Gate (demolished but recorded 1763) illustrate the role of such a voussoir.

Roman gatehouse
Cambridge may once have had a Roman gatehouse
(Lincoln E. Gate destroyed 1763)