Archaeological dig reveals secrets of Ilkley's history

Wharfedale Observer: All Saints Church in Ilkley All Saints Church in Ilkley

A dig by archaeologists on the site of Ilkley’s Roman fort has cleared the path for church redevelopment plans – and revealed more of the town’s history.

Shallow evaluation trenches dug in the grounds of All Saints Parish Church in November failed to uncover major archaeological features or deposits relating to the Roman fort of Olicana.

The survey concludes shallow groundworks on the site of a proposed glazed link building between the main church and Church House are unlikely to disturb sensitive archaeological deposits on the site.

The church’s redevelopment plan is awaiting a decision from Bradford Council.

But a report by contractor Archaeological Services WYAS has revealed late-Roman era pottery was found in the dig, suggesting the site was occupied in the final stages of the Roman period.

Finds included a fragment from a jar from around the 1st century AD, pieces of greyware bowls and jars from the Antonine occupation of the site, and pottery sherds including a piece of a Huntcliff jar, dating to the 4th or 5th century and probably brought to the site from the Vale of Pickering.

A previous dig in the 1960s did not find any evidence of this type of pottery, say the archaeologists.

“The sherd from this site therefore provides previously uncorroborated evidence for occupation continuing into the final stages of the Roman period,” says Archaeological Services WYAS in its report.

The test dig was required by planners before they determine the Parochial Church Council’s redevelopment plans.

West Yorkshire Archaeological Advisory Service (WYAAS) and English Heritage called for test trenches to be dug, as they believe the fort’s headquarters, or “principia” may have been in the southern part of the site.

Archaeologists also believe further groundworks may reveal the positions of graves, and possible human remains. Other small finds discovered in the dig included pieces of medieval and post-medieval pottery, pieces of post-1750 clay tobacco pipes, iron nails, a fragment of an 18th-century wine bottle, animal bone and an oyster shell.

Amended redevelopment plans and documents have now been submitted to Bradford Council.

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