Archaeological dig underway on Live Theatre’s LiveWorks site

By Nina Berry

When asked whether I would be able to attend a tour of the LiveWorks archaeological excavation which is currently underway, I was more than happy to spend a gloriously sunny afternoon of discovery on Newcastle’s Quayside.

With the necessary planning permission having been granted on Friday 13 June, for Live Theatre to proceed with their development of a commercial office space, performance space, public park and a writing centre for children, already archaeologists (Pre-Construct Archaeology Limited) have made a huge amount of progress in their excavations in two trenches on the site behind Live Theatre.

Last Friday (Friday 20 June) I had the absolute pleasure of meeting with Robin Taylor-Wilson, one of the archaeologists involved in the project and spent the afternoon discussing what the rest of the team had discovered thus far. Hardhat at the ready I was raring to go although, my choice of not so sensible shoes for the occasion prevented me from physically investigating the trenches personally (gosh darn it! In all honesty it wouldn’t be the first time…) I found it particularly interesting learning a little bit about the history of the site.

Robin spoke of how the plot itself lies in an area within the medieval town walls of Newcastle which had been reclaimed from the river Tyne by 1400 and how as evidence from previous excavations close by have indicated that land on the edge of the Tyne, west of Lort Burn, was progressively reclaimed from the river during the 13th-14th centuries by the use of piers, wicker and stone revetments and terrace. This is further confirmed by the unearthing of man-made structures on site, which had been put in place in order to establish successive new river frontages pushing the river further back in its place.

Robin informed me of how towards the street frontage in the second of the trenches his team of archaeologists have discovered well-preserved cellars of post-medieval date which, conceivably incorporated some earlier (possibly medieval) fabric. In the first trench at the rear of the plot, they have also uncovered a substantial north-south sandstone medieval wall which they believe to have been a property boundary or a pier constructed during the process of reclaiming the land. I also learned of how excavation of medieval industrial waste deposits to the west of the wall and land reclamation deposits to the east is currently underway and that a great deal of pottery from the late 14th to early 15th century has been recovered typical of the period.

It will be fascinating to see how the project progresses over the next few months and I wish everyone involved the very best of luck with it. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even be lucky enough to be invited back for another tour of the LiveWorks site once construction is underway – hint, hint! (I promise I’ll wear my most sensible of shoes…)

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