We DIG Willow House 2023

In 2022, we adventured into the history of the Walmgate area, finding an array of finds and features across two trenches ranging from Victorian brick structures to medieval butchery waste pits. We are back again for We DIG Willow House 2023 to see what else we can uncover.

This year, we will be returning to a trench that we opened midway through last season (Trench 6), with the hope of answering some of the questions raised last season. As we’ll only be working in a single trench, we’ll be keeping numbers down to just six trainees, which means you’ll have the full attention of the YA team running the project.

Located a stone’s throw from Walmgate Bar, the best-preserved of York’s medieval gateways, the site has the potential to illuminate a number of key periods in the history of the city.

Lives within the walls - Exploring 2000 years of work, war and worship on Walmgate!

  • Industrial Revolution – the arrival of new factories, foundries, cattle markets and the boom in population that followed in the 19th century led to an explosion of construction work. Open pasture and gardens were rapidly covered in densely occupied terraced houses with poor sanitation and few modern comforts. Exploring the lives of the people that called Walmgate home in this time of poverty and change will be a key aim of the excavation.
  • English Civil War – the Walmgate area was bombarded by cannon fire for almost four months during the siege of York in 1644. Will any evidence of this period of violence and bloodshed survive?
  • A medieval mystery – built before 1279, the church of St. Peter-in-the-Willows occupied part of the site until its demolition in 1549. Little is known about the history and development of this church. Other than brief glimpses of what may be wall footings, no conclusive evidence of its exact location has ever been found. Could our team finally put St. Peter’s back on the map? The full layout of the churchyard, the location of medieval buildings and yards around it are yet to be discovered. There’s a lot to learn!
  • Viking Age – many of the present-day plot boundaries along Walmgate were laid out in the 10th century and extensive evidence of Anglo-Scandinavian activity has been found in the area. We know that the area was a hotspot of trade and enterprise in the Viking Age, so we’re very excited to investigate these deposits.
  • Early origins – we believe that Walmgate was first laid out by the Romans, however, there have also been a number of prehistoric find spots in the locality. The origins of the area are poorly understood, could we add a valuable piece to the puzzle in 2022?