Activity 1 – Boroughgate archaeology

LATEST NEWS! – 7th June 2018 – LATEST NEWS!

Just two and a half weeks to go, and the excitement and anticipation is rising!

Between June 25th and July 6th, 2018, Tees Archaeology will be working with local people and volunteers to explore the lost medieval town of Skelton. This community was developed as a major medieval centre by the Brus family. A junior branch of this family is better known for one of its descendants: Robert the Bruce.

The Bruses built a great castle at Skelton and this was served by a village which has developed into the modern town. However, the medieval town was in a completely different location. It was opposite the southern entrance to the castle in an area now known as Boroughgate ( which means “town street”).

For the past two years, Tees Archaeology has been working with volunteers to record and investigate this lost town, surveying the earthworks and carrying out a geophysical survey. We are now going to carry out archaeological excavations.

These will explore some of the buildings of the town and try to establish when they were abandoned. We know that in 1301 there was a merchant, fuller, weaver, potter, tanner, baker, smith, butcher, carpenter & 3 carriers and later records mention an innkeeper and goldbeater and we will be looking for evidence of these activities

There will be an Open Day for people to visit the excavation on Sunday 1st July between 10 am and 3.30pm, when there will be an opportunity to view finds from the excavations and to handle a variety of archaeological finds. You can also have your finds identified by the Finds Liaison Officer from the Portable Antiquities Scheme .

More details about the Open Day can be found here. A poster can be found here. If you have any questions about any of the above, please contact the Project Office or contact Robin Daniels at Tees Archaeology.

Tees Archaeology’s report, combining information from 2017’s earthwork survey with that from 2016’s geophysical survey, is available for inspection in the Project Office.

The medieval borough of Skelton

Creating a medieval borough was a way to try to establish a town. The intention was that people would earn money from crafts and commercial activity, rather than work the land. This would generate cash in the form of taxes for the lord of the borough (de Brus).

sth-img-006-activity-1The borough of Skelton was established at the gates of the castle with the intention of providing a range of services for the castle inhabitants. At least sixteen properties were all laid out along the west side of a routeway that led away from the castle up to Skelton Green.

In 1301 a merchant, fuller, weaver, potter, tanner, baker, smith, butcher, carpenter and three carriers lived in the borough. Later records include an innkeeper and goldbeater.

This attempt to found a borough at Skelton was ultimately unsuccessful, and the site was slowly abandoned. The area reverted to farmland and now shows the ridge and furrow of medieval ploughing. However, the earthwork remains of houses and property boundaries can still be clearly seen. The Skelton Townscape Heritage project will be working with Tees Archaeology and volunteers better to understand how these earlier inhabitants of Skelton lived.

Earthwork survey (2017)

In May 2017, Tees Archaeology led a two week long survey of the earthworks that are visible in these fields. Each day, staff from Tees Archaeology worked with volunteers from the community, to produce a formal, detailed survey of the “humps and bumps”. This information will then be combined with the geophysical survey data from 2016 (see below), plus aerial photographs and other relevant sources, to allow a better interpretation of these earthworks, and to help with the selection of the locations for excavation activity next year.

The site cabin was delivered, with some difficulty; the activity being overseen by a four-legged health & safety inspector! The first morning’s survey work took place in bitterly cold conditions. But what a change 24 hours made!


This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Geophysical survey (2016)

A geophysical survey of the area was carried out in November 2016 by a team from the Archaeological Services unit at Durham University. Two techniques were used: geomagnetic and electrical resistance. The images below show some of the activities that were undertaken during the survey work. A copy of the report produced from the survey work is available for inspection in the Project Office.