Over the years there have been many archaeological investigations around Tadcaster. These have taken various forms. They can range from follow ups to chance discoveries through to planned excavations ahead of construction work. Increasingly, non-destructive archaeology in the form of geophysical investigations is an important means of determining what lies below the ground.
One of the earliest recorded archaeological investigations in the area took place around 1711 when the remains of a Roman villa was discovered at Kirkby Wharfe. This led to a more recent investigation follow-up in 1974.
In the immediate area of the town of Tadcaster, some notable digs have taken place including High Street (1993 and 1995), Chapel Street (1993 and 1995), at the Swimming Pool (1996), St Joseph’s Street (2013) and the Norman motte on the riverbank (2015). In addition to these there have been many smaller investigations associated with planned building construction.
Archaeological investigations do not necessarily involve digging. There are means of investigating what lies below the surface without a full scale dig. Some of these alternative techniques are described on the non-destructive archaeology page of this website.
What have these investigations told us about the history of Tadcaster?
Many will be familiar with what has been found at Pompeii, but this is not typical of what remains for an archaeologists to find. At Pompeii a single event, a volcanic eruption, preserved material at a moment in time. In most cases, buildings and other material are left to decay or burn. Anything made of wood is unlikely to survive except in special conditions. The one thing that survives well is ceramics such as pottery, bricks and tiles. By studying this material, its age can usually be determined.
At any particular site, remains of items covering a long period of time may be found. Sorting this into a coherent story of events can be an interesting challenge. A key finding about Tadcaster is that the Roman town was between the church and weir but in Anglo-Saxon times, the town moved south to be centred on the site of the present bridge.
Finds have dated from the Stone Age (flints), the Bronze Age (an axe), the Iron Age (field boundaries), Roman, Anglo-Saxon, Viking and Norman times.
For details of archaeological digs search the Archaeological Database. Search by selecting “Archsearch” and then entering a keyword such as “Tadcaster”.