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Archaeological investigations were undertaken in the grounds of Fishergate House and at Blue Bridge Lane between 2000 and 2002, as a result of two separate schemes of residential and commercial development, by Shepherd Homes and Rank Leisure respectively. Based on the results of previous archaeological evaluation programmes carried out by the York Archaeological Trust (YAT) in 1994, and Field Archaeology Specialists (FAS) Ltd in 2001, two main schemes of archaeological mitigation were designed, with the aim of preserving by record the archaeological remains that were threatened by these developments, where preservation in situ was not possible. A third mitigation strategy was designed for development at Marlborough Grove.
Figure 1. Location of area of investigation (right click to zoom)
The strategy for Fishergate House informed by the evaluation programme consisted of two principal areas of excavation, for a new road and stair access from Blue Bridge Lane. In addition, the construction of new service infrastructure was placed under a watching brief condition. A burial licence was issued by the Coroner's Office for the duration of fieldwork; where a burial was threatened by development, it was fully exposed and lifted; in situations where a grave was exposed, but not threatened, the remains were recorded as appropriate and left in situ. Construction of new apartments at the frontage of Fishergate House necessitated the demolition of pre-fabricated World War II structures which were recorded photographically prior to their removal.
The strategy for Blue Bridge Lane consisted of a principal area of excavation flanking Blue Bridge Lane in an area where levels of construction would have threatened the archaeology within the footprint of Intervention 15. The Fishergate frontage was known to have been the site of cellared buildings and substantial truncation and no mitigation was necessary in this area. The westernmost area of Blue Bridge Lane was known to be a site of recently made ground and beyond the medieval riverline and was subject to deposit modelling borehole surveys and a watching brief condition. The northern area of the Blue Bridge Lane site was covered by a thick overburden of post-medieval soils and excavation of the footprint of pilecap locations and in some cases the footprint of beams was undertaken. Concomitant service infrastructure consisting of a new access from Blue Bridge Lane and drainage was the subject of targeted evaluation, area excavation where appropriate and monitored under a watching brief condition.
A third development at the site of Marlborough Grove was preceded by a programme of archaeological evaluation. This encountered medieval burials close to the route of Blue Bridge Lane and the rear of the Fishergate House site. The mitigation strategy consisted almost entirely of design solution whereby the area of burials was to be overlain by open surfaces not buildings. Accordingly archaeological monitoring was undertaken during landscaping to achieve levels of construction that would not impact on the burials. The remainder of construction work focussed on the rebuilding boundary wall and construction of boatsheds under a watching brief condition.
The City of York Council archaeological planning policy allows for a maximum of 5% of archaeological remains to be affected by a proposed development. For the Blue Bridge Lane site, however, the needs of the development coincided with the opportunity for high-priority archaeological research, and subsequently, an open area excavation mitigation strategy was agreed. The archaeology of these sites was so closely related, post-excavation work and reporting was undertaken as a combined venture, in order to present a fuller picture of the area.