Toft Green : York
Engineering specialists, Mott Macdonald Bentley, found more than they bargained for whilst carrying out emergency repairs to a sewer in the Toft Green area, in the heart of York. The work, which started early July involved replacing a 120 metre section of damaged Victorian sewer and was originally scheduled to take around 12 weeks.
However, several weeks into the project, workers came across something that caught their eye. Immediately work stopped and a team from Northern Archaeological Associates (NAA), who were on hand throughout the project, swooped in to carry out a detailed study of the site and confirmed the engineers had stumbled upon a Roman mosaic floor, dating back to the 3rd to 4th centuries AD.
It has taken two weeks to remove the section of floor; however, Yorkshire Water, has been closely liaising with York Council to try and minimise disruption to local residents, commuters and businesses as much as possible. Lee Laherty, Yorkshire Water Project Manager comments “Although we knew that the site could have historical significance, this find was a huge stroke of luck and we’re delighted that we’ve been able to remove such a significant artifact. Our work to replace the sewer will now continue and we would like to apologise for any delays to commuters and local businesses”.
Richard Fraser, archaeologist at NAA, said: “Once the tell-tale signs of the Roman tiles began to appear, Yorkshire Water stopped work so that we could fully excavate the site and record the remains. It’s a very interesting site, helping us to understand the extent of Roman activity in the area. Part of a mosaic showing a bull with a fish tail was discovered in this area of Toft Green during construction work in the 19th century.
“This newly discovered section may be part of the same mosaic and the excavation will provide important new information about the earlier find, which is now in the Yorkshire Museum. It had been thought that the Victorian sewer had largely removed the earlier Roman remains here, but the work has demonstrated that some sections were tunnelled and pockets of archaeology survive above these sections. If it wasn’t for Yorkshire Water’s responsible approach to its work in historic areas, this important evidence could easily have been missed”.
City of York Council archaeologist John Oxley said, “It’s not surprising that there has been a find like this due to the rich history this city is steeped in. I am very pleased that workman had the foresight to stop work and that everyone has worked together to ensure the safe removal of the floor. Yorkshire Water, Mott Macdonald Bentley and NAA deserve praise for their swift and creative actions”.