York is one of England’s most historic cities and has been an important settlement from the Roman period to present day. During the construction work to deliver York Central, consultants Tetra Tech and On-Site Archaeology have undertaken work to ensure that the rich history of York is preserved for future generations.

Engagement events were held at York Central to show artefacts found on site to the public. In addition to these events, we have made the following information available for those who couldn’t join us.

Where has archeology taken place so far?

Map of York archaeology

What has been found so far?

1. Railways dumping close to Millennium Green

The excavations next to Millennium Green revealed a dump of pottery and other rubbish from the late 1800s that were associated with the railway.

Near this was a barrel buried in the ground that was used as a toilet.

A ‘barrel toilet’

Excavations at Millennium Green revealed a buried barrel near a rubbish dump. At first, it was unclear if this was a medieval barrel well, but initial cleaning showed it was from a later period.

Further excavation then showed two upright timbers. These would typically support a plank to sit on if it was being used as a toilet, and the fill was ‘crispy’ in the same way that cess deposits often are. The feature is thought to date from the late 1800s.

These images show:

  • Barrel feature before excavation
  • Upright timbers that probably supported a seat
  • The barrel fully emptied out
  • A name label for Tischler & Cie Bordeaux who operated in the late 1800’s

Railways landscaping deposits

Where the ground levels across the site were raised, from c.1830-c.1930, it was completed using two main sources of material, including the top of adjacent hills that were reduced and introduced industrial waste.

There was some limited evidence of how this was completed at the base of one of the attenuation tanks in the form of wooden platforms. The deposits also sometimes have interesting finds.

These images show:

  • 1oz Marmite pot from c.1920
  • Cheesebrough NY Vaseline c.1920
  • Benedictine (herbal liqueur) from c.1890

2. Attenuation tank evacuations

During the excavation of the massive attenuation tanks the site team uncovered two wooden bases on the old ground level. We think these were used as platforms for landscaping machinery.

What is an attenuation tank?

An attenuation tank is a large container/detention tank acting as a buffer to store excess rainwater and remove the risk of flooding of a residential area. Excess rainwater collected and detained in a stormwater tank is then released at a controlled rate.

3. Early dumping at the former Timber Dock

Beneath the old Concrete Works, we found a dump of rubbish, including pottery and bottles. This was from the late 1800s and may have been linked with the Timber Dock buildings which stood at that time.

Timber Dock rubbish dump

Cutting the road box for Foundry Way disturbed a later 1800s or early 1900s

rubbish dump.

The source of this was unclear because of the later use of the site as the Concrete

Works. It is likely it was linked with the Timber Dock, which first appeared

on mapping in the late 1800s.

These images show:

  • Photograph of the dumping layer. The deposit below is not natural, it is railway landscaping
  • German stoneware mineral/seltzer water bottle from the late 1800s
  • North Eastern Railways Darlington pottery from the late 1800s

4. Turntables

There were two wagon turntables outside the former Goods Station. Tetra Tech exposed the wooden base, capstan remains and pulley foundation for each.

Turntable bases

Evaluation excavations in 2020 revealed the base of wagon turntables outside the doors of the former Goods Station (now part of the National Railway Museum)

These had a turntable above that allowed access through the doors adjacent. The capstan mechanism was powered hydraulics.

These images show:

  • West turntable
  • East turntable

5. Roman Cemetery and World War II bomb site

The excavations by On-Site Archaeology have revealed more of the York Station Roman Cemetery, which extended beneath the railway station and National Railway Museum. These works exposed burials, cremations and other funerary features. It was active from c.150 AD – c.350 AD.

The Baedeker Raid on April 29th 1942 hit the site and its surrounds.

Roman Cemetery pottery 

There is a lot of pottery from the Roman Cemetery, with vessels buried holding cremations, as well as grave goods, and votive deposits, possibly linked with ‘libations’.

The pottery specialist is yet to examine these finds in detail, but there appear to be various types including: Ebor Ware, Grey Ware, Dales Ware, Colour Coated, Black Burnished and Oxidised Ware.

These images show:

  • Indented Beakers, possibly Oxidized Ware (up to c.250 AD)
  • Flagon, Ebor Ware (c.100-150 AD)
  • Beaker/Jug, Colour Coated
  • Jar, possibly Black Burnished or Grey Ware
  • Votive deposits of Lamps and Beakers, Colour Coated (c.175-200 AD)

World War II bomb crater

Whilst digging in the vicinity of the Roman Cemetery, we located a bomb crater. During the World War II  Baedeker Raids by Germany on April 29th 1942, one of the bombs targeting York and the Railway Station hit the tracks leading to the Coal Drops. It also hit the remains surviving in the Roman Cemetery.

These images show:

  • Bomb crater from above and in section

6. Wagon Works

Building work has been taking place at the former Wagon Works. Work was undertaken by the contractors, Sirius Group (working on behalf of John Sisk & Son), who broke up the concrete to go in a crusher.

Wagon plates

During excavations to remove below-ground obstructions around the former Wagon Works, some wagon plates were found by the contractors. They were breaking up the concrete to go in the crusher, so the plates were almost disposed of as ‘rubbish’.

The wagon plates identified individual wagons and also indicate weight capacity.

These images show:

  • Weight and identification plates as found


Archaeology was led by engineering firm Tetra Tech who worked with York archaeology firm On-Site Archaeology

York has a wealth of historic artefacts buried underground. To help protect the history of the site York Central Partnership employed specialist archeological contractors to dig the ground where major infrastructure was scheduled to be built. New infrastructure is being built on the York Central site to help deliver the 45 hectare mixed-use development bringing new jobs and homes to the city. To learn more about York Central visit out About York Central page

For more of your questions answered visit the York Central FAQ page.

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