Archaeologists uncover evidence of Northumberland fishing community dating back 900 years

Archaeologists have uncovered evidence of how everyday people in Berwick lived some 900 years ago.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 4:25 pm

Fish bones and pottery have been found during a dig carried out as part of the redevelopment of the Berwick Infirmary site where a new £30m hospital is being built.

Archaeologists who are still in the very early stages of the excavation work, have also discovered walls and stone yards associated with The Greenses, an area of the town which developed as a fishing community.

Steve Collison, lead archaeologist from Northern Archaeological Associates, said: “The potential here to tell a story of the everyday people of Berwick is huge.

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Work on a new £30m hospital has been put on hold while archaeologists complete their work.

"History is good at telling you about kings and queens and the rich people who were good at getting their names in the history books but archaeology is really about the normal everyday people and that’s what this site can give us.

"We’ve found the remains of medieval Berwick which is really exciting because we don’t really know a lot about this part of it. We’re finding remains associated with people’s everyday lives, such as the surfaces they are working on, the buildings they are working next to and lots of waste material such as animal bones and pottery.

"The historic core of the town is further south than where we are and the castle is to the north west so we don’t rally know a huge amount about these people. They were just normal people trying to make a living.

"One of the things we have found is quite a large quantity of fish bone. It’s in such quantities that we don’t think it was for people’s individual use, we think it was for processing and selling it on and so it’s a story of people trying to make a living in their everyday lives.

Some of the archaeological finds made at Berwick Infirmary date back to the 12th and 13th centuries.

"What is interesting is that even in the post-medieval period in the Greenses people here were doing exactly the same thing, taking fish from the harbour, smoking it and selling it on and there is evidence here that the same thing was happening in the medieval period 800-900 years ago.”

The greenglaze pottery they have found helps to date it to the 12th and 13th century.

The archaeological work will result in the new-build taking longer than initially anticipated.

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Pottery and fish bones found on the site.

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Steve Collison, lead archaeologist from Northern Archaeological Associates, at a stone wall uncovered during a dig at Berwick Infirmary.