Fulford battlefied under threat

July 2014 dig

The Fulford Tapestry

Non ferrous

Summary of published report

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Non-ferrous finds

Areas 1&2

Several bronze artefacts and scrap, suggested that some metal working took place. Assorted lead musket balls (80) of different calibres suggested that this was a hunting area, although the calibre of most balls was higher than one would expect for water fowling. There was no concentration or standard type of shot that would suggest any military action.

There were some ‘concentrated scatters’ of material from recent centuries that suggested bonfire debris. This source for the material was surmised as there were a number of locks, hinges and other fixings.

There were a number of cloth seals, spindle-whorls and shield weights in one area suggestive of an open market about 500m west of the possible site mentioned earlier. The limited evidence suggests this activity relates to the centuries after the battle.

Area 3

There was a significant amount of lead ‘scrap’ in this area. The scrap can be divided into two groups, amorphous and shaped.

The amorphous lead was in small molten pieces, as well as small off-cuts. This suggests some lead-related activity in the area and speculation ranged from an early scrap metal dealership to roof-robbers making their haul untraceable!

The presence of several cloth and sac seals has led to the suggestion that these were either being applied or removed in this area. The cloth seals were sent to the British Museum but the sack seals, believed to be for flax bales, were retained.

Four of the 8 shield weights found during the project came from this small area, plus two purse clasps which might suggest the area was used as a trading place although there was nothing really to date or test this idea beyond placing it in the later medieval period. Good road and river access to this area make this a reasonable interpretation.

There were also a number of domestic items indicative of activity in the 17th and 18th centuries but so few, diverse and broken that the easy option is to assume they were dumped here as rubbish.

However, the landscape study indicated that this area had been occupied for many centuries and this could be traced in the quantity of domestic pottery.  No domestic non-ferrous metal objects which could be identified as coming from the 13th to 16th centuries, other than the shield weights. So it was pottery, rather than metal detecting, which located the later medieval settlement of Water Fulford. (But see area 11)

Area 4

This area yielded a miscellany of items and the pattern reflected the disturbance of the land which is subject to flooding. One section, which old maps indicates was used as a landing place for boats but which has been disturbed during recent landscaping, did reveal a few items that might suggest trading or boat repair, but the evidence from this was very limited. Regular deposition of alluvium had probably put most items beyond range of detection.

Area 5

Two tracks of coins, ranging in time from a long cross penny[i] to modern coins, suggests that this area had ancient paths that are still in use.[ii] There was also some indication of bronze working close to the eastern boundary of this field.

40 Acre field

The preliminary survey yielded an unusual quantity of modern, domestic debris. In a few cases this could be ascribed to bonfires but there is a suggestion that some of the debris was left when shoddy[iii] was spread on the land as nearly 40 buttons and dress-studs were found. The experienced metal detectorists associate the application of shoddy with the soil improvement technique from the 19th century. The east end of the field appears to have been used around the time of WWI as a training area for infantry and cavalry since various insignia from local mounted and foot regiments were found which could be dated to that time.

Area 8 (part of 40 Acre field)

Six Georgian coins were recovered along with a number of other coins with dates up to the present time, suggesting this was a used-track until recent times. There were a number of other items that might be classed as ‘casual losses’ and more scrap lead than we recognised as normal (see also area 3).

The search of this area was motivated by our desire to identify putative roads leading from the south towards Fulford. But, with the exception of a small shield weight, nothing was found to indicate any early (e.g. Roman) or continuous use. The edge of the golf course aligns with the route to Pool Bridge but no finds identify this as a route relevant to the events of 1066. However, it is possible that any pattern of evidence was lost when the golf course was constructed and topsoil was moved.

Area 9 (part of 40 Acre field)

This area yielded one of the significant ferrous-metal working zones. The ferrous material was concentrated in a small portion within this area among what we recognise as a typical, low-density scatter of 19th and 20th century domestic non-ferrous items that we found throughout the area. The type and density of non-ferrous items in this area appears to be uncorrelated with the large number of ferrous finds that were located in a few of the searched areas. The finds were modern debris and this would suggest that they are not related to the ferrous concentration.

Area 10

There was evidence that some lead was being cast, as tokens associated with sprue were found, but nothing else to suggest that this was a long-term metal production site. Two parts of a small bronze bell were found. The other non-ferrous material was mainly 20th with some 19th century objects. The scatter and type of finds at the western edge suggest that this was the result of rubbish tipping. Part of this land has clearly been built up and rubbish tipping might have been one method used. The land was hard to access from the north and east but such tipping would have been possible from the west (the present Fulford Cemetery), which is where the non-ferrous material was concentrated. Similar, contemporary tips are known to have existed nearby. This area contained the first of the ferrous hearth areas to be identified and it was well away from the non-ferrous material so, as with area 9, they are probably unrelated.

Area 11

This area yielded two collections of spindle whorls. The landscape study suggested that this area was grazed as no ridge and furrow can be detected. The land was part of Water Fulford and south of the settlement.

Walmgate Stray

The metal survey revealed over 60 blank and drill rounds (shaped like bullets but without any propellant). The dates on the rim of the rounds indicated that this material was lost shortly after WWII. There were also the remnants of 2 inch, illuminating mortar rounds. The survey covered about 2% of the area of the Stray.

The many practice rounds and spent munitions support the idea that the area was used for tactical, military training. We were told that a tracked vehicle had been placed on the Stray and used for anti tank practice. No trace was found nor was any spent anti-armour munitions found to support this contention. There was no evidence of any form of live munitions being employed by the military on the Stray which is in keeping with the extensive size and shape of safety area required for any firing range. The evidence suggests that the area was often used for night exercises which would account for the use of illumination and the loss of so much practice and unfired, blank ammunition.

There was a substantial haul of the old style ring pulls from drinks cans suggesting extensive recreational use at some time in the past. The modern design does not allow the pull-tab to be separated from the lid when the can is opened. The evolution in the design of drinks-can could be traced through the finds.[iv]

Non-ferrous summary

The non-ferrous material did not provide any insight into the battle but gave some indications of land use. A single example of a broken strap-end was found that might be dated to the 11th century, providing one tenuous link to the period of the battle. There were a small number of coins, all dated to the centuries after the time of the battle, many musket balls and some fragments of household items.

The scatter of all non-ferrous material was too sparse to enable any sensible interpretation that this area was the focus for any metal manufacturing activity. The non-ferrous material suggests that the area has not supported the sort of human activity such as dwellings, which might be expected to produce a body of finds. Apart from the few trackways and bonfires noted, there were no finds concentrations.

The non-ferrous material supports the various conclusions reached by a study of the landscape archaeology that this has been agricultural land without any settlements until the 13th century. The assemblage would, however, provide valuable material for a future study on the land use and development around Fulford.

An alarming scatter of live ammunition dated to WWII was found[v]. Most appears to have come from weapons that were common in aircraft and it has been suggested that the weapons of bombers were ‘made safe’ by clearing live rounds from the breach, prior to landing. These rounds were disposed of by the local police.

There was also a scatter of lead scrap in all the areas that were searched, with some particular concentrations (areas 3 and 10) and no satisfactory explanation for the prevalence of this material has been found.


[i] Dated to around 1280

[ii] An impromptu calculation of the number of coins lost per century provided an average of less than one per century with the recent increase explained by the increase in population. This suggests that people were careful with their money or that lost money was subsequently found by others using the route. An analysis of coins along old tracks could probably reveal more information.

[iii] Shoddy was recycled wool made from grinding old cloths into a fibrous state that could be re-spun or felted. The shoddy industry was centred in West Yorkshire and it seems a long way to have hauled the debris to spread on the land. There are many Internet forums advocating the use of recycled wool as a soil improver. 

[iv] First there are the aluminium lids and the separate ring pulls where the steel body of the can had corroded. These arrived during the mid 1960s. Next came the aluminium lids with the retained opening (‘stay-on’) with the steel body. These were introduced in the early 1980s. Finally there are the cans made entirely of aluminium which survive in the environment but these were very few in number, suggesting an increase in recycling.

[v] The date of manufacture was always stamped on the rim - .5” and some .303” were found.

 

 

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There is a site devoted to saving the battlesite: The site has the story of the process that has allowed the site to be designated an access road to a Green Belt, floodplain housing estate.

And another website for the Fulford Tapestry that tells the story of the September 1066: This tells the story embroidered into the panels.

The author of the content is Chas Jones - fulfordthing@gmail.com  last updated February 2015

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