West Street, Old Market, Part 1

From July to September 2004 an archaeological excavation and Standing Building Recording was carried out at the site of nos. 22-30 West St, Old Market, Bristol. Four trenches were excavated between the backs of these properties and Waterloo Road. The results of the excavation show cultivation taking place on the site from at least the 13th century, followed by numerous rubbish-pits, cess-pits and many other pits, one of which was up to 2m deep and may have been associated with clay extraction.

In one of the trenches a keyhole-shaped structure was revealed, the function of which is still unproven. This structure has a provisional date of the late 18th to early 19th century. Although it appeared at first to be part of a kiln or oven, there were no traces of heat or industry in the area. It had no lining or base that would indicate usage as a pond. The most fitting explanation would seem to be that of a decorative garden feature, such as a raised planting bed, with a statue or similar object resting on the plinth at the southern end. It had been constructed in stages but evidently to a deliberate design. There is also the possibility that it was never finished and may have been intended as a grotto-like feature, the presence of the contemporary plinth limits interpretation.

the keyhole-shaped structure at west street

The keyhole-shaped structure at West Street, a possible garden feature.

The structure was surrounded by imported garden soil that in one place contained a short row of long bones, possibly of calves, placed vertically so that the proximal ends would have protruded above ground forming a decorative border. Parallels for the use of animal bone in this way exist in Bristol and other cities.

The building recording revealed that later 17th century elements survived within the fabric of nos. 22 and 24 West Street. The property of no.22 was found to contain substantial remains of a half-timbered building of this period that had been hidden within later brickwork in the 19th century. Timbers from this building are undergoing specialist analysis.

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