Roman find in Ouseburn Valley beneath new affordable housing site

Evidence of the Roman presence in the Lower Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle has been uncovered by archaeologists

The Roman carved stone basin unearthed in the Lower Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle
The Roman carved stone basin unearthed in the Lower Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle

A dig has peeled back the layers in a valley which was at the centre of the Industrial Revolution on Tyneside.

AAG Archaeology carried out the excavation on a steep bankside in the Lower Ouseburn Valley in Newcastle.

The dig in the shadow of Byker Bridge was in advance of the building of 42 social housing flats by Tyne Housing, a registered social landlord, which took completion of the development last week.

The first discovery by archaeologists was of the entrance to a drift mine or quarry workings.

“It could date to the coal mines that were known in the area from the medieval period to the 18th Century,” said Jon Welsh, AAG project manager.

In 1763 the Ouseburn was described as “a large village occasioned by the coal-works of Richard Ridley and Matthew White.”

Next, the dig uncovered a large vertical stone-lined shaft, which may have been a well.

Jon said: “Industrial growth in the Lower Ouseburn Valley is thought to have begun in the 16th or 17th Century. Glass production was one of the first major industries but this started to give way to earthenware pottery manufacturing.”

The dig unearthed sandstone block remains of what is thought to have been the Ouseburn Pottery, which was established in the 18th Century and taken over by the Maling pottery in 1844.

Evidence of a flint mill was also found, together with what was left of a brick settlling tank containing the white paste used in the manufacture of earthenware pottery.

“Flint is added to the clay used to make earthenware pottery to make the finished pots strong and white,” said Jon.

The dig site is near what Jon believes is the line taken by Hadrian’s Wall when it crossed the valley.

And evidence of the Roman presence was discovered when a carved stone basin was found fixed to the side of the clay settling tank when the pottery had been built.

Experts from Newcastle University and the city’s Great North Museum were called in and the stone basin was identified as Roman and either a sarcophagus for a child or part of a feature which allowed water to run off at one side.

“It may have been part of a temple or shrine on the Roman frontier,” said Jon.

The basin will go on display either at the new housing development or the Ouseburn farm opposite, which is managed by Tyne Housing.

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