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An Anglo-Saxon Watermill at Tamworth: Excavations in the Bolebridge Street area of Tamworth, Staffordshire in 1971 and 1978

Philip Rahtz and Robert Meeson (Eds.)

CBA Research Report No 83 (1992)

ISBN 0 906780 94 2


Title page of report 83

This report describes rescue excavations in 1971 and 1978 in the south-east corner of Tamworth, outside the Saxon defences, but just inside (and incorporating part of) the medieval town ditch. The first substantial activity in the area was the construction of a horizontal-wheeled watermill in the mid 9th century AD or earlier, powered by a leat which drew water from the River Anker. This first mill fell into disuse, either because it was destroyed or more probably because it developed water leakage. The second mill was built on the residues of the first, and is dated by dendrochronology to the mid 9th century or possibly a little later. It also was of the horizontal-wheeled type, with a millpool at a higher level, fed by a reconstructed new leat. Substantial remains survived of this mill, including the foundations of the millpool, wheelhouse, and outfall revetment; Bolebridge Street was carried across the leat by a wooden bridge. The remains are notable not only for their contribution to molinology but also for their contribution to our knowledge of major Anglo-Saxon carpentry techniques. Among the finds were the sole-tree of the mill, with its steel bearing; one of the wheel-paddles; many fragments of millstones, of local stone and imported lava; fragments of the clay bed in which the lower millstone was set; and the residues of lead window-cames. Grain and grain impressions include oats and possibly barley. The second mill was destroyed by fire. After some lapse of time, the area it had occupied was sealed by metalling, many of the timbers were robbed, and timber and stone roads were laid down, possibly leading to the river bank. Other areas of gravel spread are associated with Stamford ware and other pottery of the later 11th-13th centuries. The leat area was filled in, and a bank or causeway carried Bolebridge Street across it. An associated ditch, draining eastwards, helped to keep this from becoming waterlogged. The medieval town ditch was dug across the southern part of the site, in more than one phase. Medieval occupation in the area included a possible jetty close to the then bank of the River Anker. The ditch filled with silt and rubbish in the 13th century and later. From the later medieval period onwards, following land reclamation there was considerable industrial activity, principally of metal-working, and the processing of animal products. In post-medieval times, metal-working is represented by a series of hearths and furnaces. Buildings were erected over the area, as 70-74 Bolebridge Street, which survived until 1971. Apart from the Saxon finds, there is a useful series of medieval and later pottery and a valuable range of environmental data from post-mill contexts.


  • Title pages
    • Contents (pp i-iv)
    • List of figures (pp iv-vi)
    • List of plates (pp vi)
    • List of tables (pp vii)
    • Microfiche (pp vii-viii)
    • List of contributors (pp viii-ix)
    • Acknowledgements (pp x)
    • Summary (pp xi)
    • Preface (pp xiii)
  • Introduction (pp 1-8)
    • 1.1 A summary of the history and archaeology of Tamworth with special reference to the Anglo-Saxon period (pp 1-5) by Robert Meeson
    • 1.2 The topography of Tamworth and its area, with special reference to Bolebridge Street (pp 5-7) by Robert Meeson
    • 1.3 The topography of the excavated areas (pp 7-8) by Philip Rahtz
    • 1.4 Circumstances of excavations (p 8)
    • 1.5 Methods of excavation, recording and analysis (p 8)
  • The Excavations (1971 and 1978) (pp 9-69)
    • 2.1   Introduction (pp 9-13) by Philip Rahtz
    • 1971 Mill and millpool area by Philip Rahtz
    • 2.2   Phases 0-1: prehistoric, Roman and pre-mill (p 13)
    • 2.3   Phase 2: the first mill (pp 13-14)
    • 2.4   Phases 3-4: late Saxon (pp 14-33)
    • 2.5   Phase 5: late Saxon-early post-Conquest (pp 33-36)
    • 2.6   Phases 6-9: medieval (pp 36-42)
    • 2.7   Phase 10: post-medieval (pp 42-47)
    • 1978 Millpool and leat area by Robert Meeson
    • 2.8   Objectives of the excavation (pp 48)
    • 2.9   The chronological sequence: summary of phases (p 48)
    • 2.10 Phase 0: intrusions into the Keuper (Triassic) Marl (p 48)
    • 2.11 Phase 2: the first leat (pp 48-52)
    • 2.12 Phase 3: the second leat and its revetments, and a possible bridge (pp 53-57)
    • 2.13 Phases 2-5: deposition and erosion of silts in the leat (p 57)
    • 2.14 Phase 7:erosion channel A264 (pp 57)
    • 2.15 Phases 7-8: the medieval bank or causeway, and the associated ditch A145 (pp 57-62)
    • 2.16 Phase 8: the medieval town ditch A266 (p 63)
    • 2.17 Phases 8-9: land reclamation (p 63)
    • 2.18 Phase 10: industrial activity (pp 63-67)
    • 2.19 Phase 10: later features and standing buildings (p 67)
    • 2.20 Collation of 1971 and 1978 evidence (pp 68-69) by Philip Rahtz and Robert Meeson
  • The Finds (1971 and 1978) (pp 70-124)
    • 3.1   Stone (pp 70-79)
    • 3.2   Fired clay (p 79)
    • 3.3   Burnt clay (pp 79-80)
    • 3.4   Mortar (p 80)
    • 3.5   Plaster (p 80)
    • 3.6   Glass (p 80)
    • 3.7   Metal-working residues (p 80)
    • 3.8   Iron (pp 80-87)
    • 3.9   Copper alloy (p 87)
    • 3.10 Other metals (pp 87-88)
    • 3.11 Coins (p 88)
    • 3.12 Organic residues (other than botanical) (pp 88-89)
    • 3.13 Botanical residues (1971) (pp 89-100)
    • 3.14 Carved wood (pp 100-107)
    • 3.15 Animal bone and animal fibre (textile) (pp 107-108)
    • 3.16 Leather (pp 108-109)
    • 3.17 Pottery (pp 110-122)
    • 3.18 Dendrochronology (p 122)
    • 3.20 Radiocarbon determinations (pp 122-124)
  • The Mill: Construction and Reconstruction (pp 125-144)
  • The Functioning of the Mill (pp 145-154)
  • The Environment (p 155)
  • Conclusion (pp 156-159)
  • Glossary (pp 160-161)
  • Bibliography (pp 161-164)
  • Index (pp 165-167)

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An Anglo-Saxon Watermill at Tamworth: Excavations in the Bolebridge Street area of Tamworth, Staffordshire in 1971 and 1978 (microfiche) PDF 12 Mb