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Somerset Historic Environment Record

28131

Site Name: Excavation (2005), Priory Avenue, Taunton
Civil Parish: Taunton
Part of:
PRN 16739Monastic cemetery Taunton Priory
PRN 44434Priory of St Peter and St Paul, Taunton
Grid Ref: ST 230 248 (ST 22 SW)
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Public access:

It is unlikely that there is anything to see unless this event took place on a site (see link above) where there may be details of access. Otherwise please assume that the site is on private land. [Information last updated on 20 October 2008]

Details:

Context One Archaeological Services carried out an excavation on part of the Augustinian Priory (PRN 44434) of St Peter and St Paul and the adjacent lay cemetery (PRN 16739) from January to August 2005. An evaluation (PRN 17297) on the site in 2004 confirmed the presence of multiple burials and supported similar evidence gathered from an excavation carried out on an adjacent site in the 1970s (PRN 44436). As the exact location of the Priory complex was unknown, the discovery of the western end of the church and adjoining cloister was unexpected. Despite the Priory being extensively robbed in antiquity, a number of undisturbed stone-lined tombs were discovered beneath the nave floor containing either single individuals or groups of disarticulated bone. Excavation of the lay cemetery just outside the church has demonstrated an extraordinary intensity of burials that has included vertical sequences of up to 16 sets of remains. The excavation of the church and lay cemetery revealed the remains of 192 individuals. Of these, 121 are complete, articulated skeletons and 71 are partial, articulated skeletons. A further 78+ individuals of disarticulated remains and 78 disarticulated skulls were also recovered. Thirteen individuals came from within the church (12 adults and 1 child) and 179 individuals have been excavated from the lay cemetery (97 adults and 82 juveniles). Forty-nine pieces of medieval carved stone were recovered from the excavation including 38 architectural fragments and portions of 11 grave slabs. Of these, 40 pieces have been subject to an initial assessment. The architectural pieces comprise 9 columns/shafts of hamstone (7) and fine-grained quartzite (2); 15 mouldings of hamstone (12) and Beer stone (3); 2 elaborately carved pieces of hamstone; 2 blue lias pieces that possibly represent grave markers; and 1 ashlar of hamstone. The grave slabs consist of 6 carved pieces of hamstone (2) and purbeck marble (2); and 5 plain slabs of hamstone (2), fine-grained quartzite (2) and purbeck marble (1). Excavation of the cloister floor adjoining the north wall of the church revealed the fragmented remains of a hand-painted window. All the fragments were recovered and it is estimated that there are between 25-30,000 pieces. Most of the shards are very small although a number are large enough to identify a pattern. Hand-held and microscopic examination of various fragments showed the glass to be almost completely de-vitrified (reverting to its former crystalline constituents); because of this, the glass is virtually opaque. However, the larger pieces still show an identifiable pattern and comprises of two elements: a miniature "grid" overpainted with a geometric grisaille design. Stylistically, the window is probably 13th century in date and is similar to a surviving window in Salisbury Cathedral. A substantial quantity of ceramic objects was recovered as part of the excavation. This assemblage reflects two phases of activity: the first relating to the occupation of the medieval priory and the second with episodes of post-medieval/modern domestic and light industrial activity. Combined, the assemblage largely comprises pottery sherds although other ceramic artefacts include decorated floor tiles, clay tobacco pipes and structural items such as clay roof tiles and earthenware drainage pipes. The medieval ceramic assemblage (c. 500 pieces) largely comprises pottery, decorated floor and ridge tiles. A surprising quantity of pottery sherds have been found within grave fills of burials within the church and the lay cemetery. It is hoped that the dating of these will help to provide burial phasing and chronology of cemetery use. A number of decorated glazed floor tiles were recovered from the priory demolition deposits and although none of these were found in situ, they clearly relate to the church. An initial assessment has shown these to be closely dateable to the 13th and 14th centuries with comparable examples being found on sites as far away as Cornwall. A large quantity of metal objects was recovered from the excavation. This assemblage is dominated by a substantial quantity of iron coffin nails (c. 870) although an interesting range of copper alloy artefacts are also present; all have been provisionally ascribed to the medieval period. These include several coins, dress/shroud pins, a possible bracelet, a spur, a knife blade and a number of unidentified pieces. Sediment samples were collected from a number of key deposits in preparation for environmental analysis. This included the basal grave fills of several unusual burial types that either incorporated a layer of ash or charcoal that once lined the coffin or burials where the floor of the coffin was originally comprised of charred planks. In one instance, a single burnt plank running lengthways down the centre of the coffin lid was evident from staining on the skeleton within it. The ash and charcoal fills are likely to have preserved important environmental evidence such as plant macrofossils, pollen and spores. Similar environmental material is likely to have survived in sealed deposits from other features revealed during the excavation such as the primary fills of pits, medieval drains/water management features and the fills of undisturbed tombs found within the church. Full report awaited. {1}

References:

1 Description - McConnell R and Slator, J. Taunton, Priory Avenue. In Bagwell, TS and Webster, CJ. Somerset Archaeology, 2005. Somerset Archaeology and Natural History149 (2005), 159-190 at 174-6
2 Detailed records - Anon. Former County Garage, Priory Avenue, Taunton: Post-excavation Report.  Unpublished Context One Archaeological Services report (2007) Location: HER file. HER digital source: 18791.
3 Museum accession number - TTNCM 114/2004 in Somerset County Museum.

Record created on 20 October 2008

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