by Joe Earp
This photo recently found in our archive has thrown up some great interest. The above photo shows archaeological excavations led by the then City Council’s Assistant Archaeologist Graham Black in 1979/80. The site of excavations was under a Victorian Warehouse in Halifax Place in Nottingham’s Lace Market. In the photo postholes stand out clearly in the sandstone revealed by the excavations. It is in that area that the archaeologists found one of the deep cesspits dating from Viking Age Nottingham.
Other finds were a large Viking building, post holes for one incomplete wall show it was over 40 feet long. A building as long as this must have been a very high status building with some very important owners. A bronze end decoration for a belt and the head of a staff also in bronze were found, both dating from the time of Viking occupation in Nottingham.
Scott Lomax is a current researcher and archaeologist who has been studying the archaeology of Halifax Place for the last seven years. He has worked for Trent and Peak Archaeology as well as for Nottingham City Council. Mr Lomax commented “There is a lot of interesting archaeology from the site from the Saxon, high medieval and post medieval periods. Substantial buildings, which I believe to be of high status, covered several phases of occupation. There were 8 or 9 medieval corn drying ovens, and a probable iron smelting furnace found. There was also evidence of pottery production on the site with never before seen pottery found. The kiln itself is unexcavated to this day – it was seen in section and lies just outside the excavated area. From the pottery found adjacent to it, which came from the kiln, it was believed to date to c. 940. Of the post medieval period a large pit was found containing nationally significant pottery of the 18th century and a gold ring inscribed with a simple message was thought to be a christening present for a baby during the 17th century. The site was certainly very important and I have a lot of theories about it”.
Nottingham is rich in Anglo-Saxon and Viking history. Many incidents happened here such as Snott and his Angles founding the site of Nottingham. The Great Heathen Army capturing Nottingham in 867. Alfred, who would later become King Alfred, tried to besiege Nottingham with his Brother Aethelred who was King of Wessex at the time. Aethelred and Alfred were unable to recapture Nottingham. Nottingham became part of the Viking Danelaw. Eventually Nottingham was recaptured by King Alfred’s children- Edward and Aethelflaed. They captured the East Midlands and East Anglia from the Danes in 917, and Edward, following his sister’s death, became King Edward the Elder. He recovered the five boroughs of the Danelaw- Lincoln, Derby, Nottingham, Stamford and Leicester. In Nottingham he strengthened the town’s defensive walls and built a bridge over the River Trent.
Earlier excavations of Halifax Place have shown evidence for possible Iron Age occupation. Cyclindrical pits were discovered, cut into the rock. A small amount of Late Iron Age pottery sherds were found within the fills of one of the pits, suggesting to the excavators that the periods dated to that period. One interpretation is that they were part of a Late Iron Age farmstead and were used for the storage of grain. If there was Iron Age occupation on the site, then this means that Halifax Place was a important site with constant occupation right up until 1350 when the site became a garden and remained so until the eighteenth century.
The excavations at the time gave a good insight into what Anglo-Saxon/Viking Nottingham was like. However much more research and archaeological work is needed for us to get a greater understanding of the site of Halifax Place and it’s history in general.