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Beneath the Bullring - the origins of Birmingham



Archaeological excavations as part of the Bullring development and other developments on the city centre have revealed important new information about the city history from the 12th century onwards, including evidence of the growth of industries. A large ditch was found in excavations where Selfridges and the Park Street car park now stand. It formed the rear boundary of properties along the main road opposite St Martin in the 12th century and divided them from a deer park in the area around Moor Street Station- a rather different landscape from today!

Rubbish thrown into the ditch included fragments of pottery which had been misfired, showing that there were pottery kilns here in the 13th century. More waste pottery found in excavations behind the Old Crown in Deritend showed that there was a pottery kiln on this site about 200 years before the Old Crown itself was built. The pottery included distinctive vessels decorated with a criss-cross pattern of white clay.

Excavations on Edgbaston Street, where the Indoor Market now stands, revealed several leather tanning pits dating from the 13th century. Hides from cattle bought and sold in the market by St Martin church would have been immersed in water and crushed oak bark in these pits, which acted as a preservative. Many pits dating to the 17th and 18th centuries were found on the Park Street car park site. These contained fragments of crucibles, pottery vessels in which metal was melted for alloying and casting. The residues in these were alloys of copper with zinc, lead and tin.

The excavations also included St Martin's Churchyard. Study of the burials revealed information on lifestyles in 18th and 19th century Birmingham. Where individuals could be identified, written records provide information about them and their families. A detailed report has now been published by Oxbow Books.Four interpretation panels explain the results of the excavations to 21st century shoppers.

The panels are in St Martin Square, Edgbaston Street, Park Street and High Street. Detailed reports have been published by Oxbow Books.

Some of the finds from the excavations, and a model of the area in medieval times, are displayed in Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.
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Last Updated : 30th August 2013