Video: Major medieval discovery halts work on Beverley's Saturday Market
A MAJOR archaeological discovery is threatening to delay work on the £2.5m revamp of Beverley's Saturday Market.
Workmen have uncovered a section of ancient wall, which could be medieval shop foundations or part of the 12th century Archbishop's Hall.
Work has halted while archaeologists excavate a trench running across Saturday Market.
It is the latest setback to the work, which sparked a protest, forcing the council to back down over plans to remove stone cobbles.
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Barbara English, of Beverley and District Civic Society, who led the successful campaign against the removal of the setts, says a full archaeological dig should have been done before work started.
She said: "Had the plan been done as a planning application, instead of as maintenance, they would have had to have a full dig, which would have been very expensive. Now, they might have to do that anyway, which risks derailing their own processes."
Nigel Leighton, director of environment and neighbourhood services at East Riding Council, said: "As the maintenance scheme in Saturday Market is within the historic core of the medieval and post-medieval part of Beverley, there was always the possibility that items of archaeological interest may be found.
"The council appointed a contractor to keep an archaeological brief, including observation, investigation and recording.
"Following this discovery, the council has suspended work while the archaeologists carry out their inspection.
"In the meantime, the council's contractor has moved on to the section of pavement outside (menswear shop) Burton."
In the meantime, the archaeological work in Saturday Market centres on a 50m trench stretching across the front of Betfred, Caffè Nero and Joules clothing shop. Initial investigations suggest the row of shops might have been further forward in medieval times.
Kate Langley, field archaeologist with On-Site Archaeology, which is doing the work, said: "We have determined we have a wall foundation which is quite a big one for a two-storey building.
"We also have some possible internal flooring.
"A lot of the archaeology is truncated because of water and gas mains. In Victorian times, there was no requirement to do archaeological monitoring."
Despite the damage, and the fact work has only just begun, Miss Langley believes it is possible to draw some conclusions from what has already been found.
She said: "The wall foundation seems to show where the shop fronts were in medieval times.
"It is more likely that the Archbishop's Palace would have been where the Market Cross is now.
"The date of what we have found is late medieval but we need to find dateable artefacts."
Excavation work is likely to continue at least into next week.
After that, the significance of the discoveries will be gauged and a decision taken, with East Riding Council and the county archaeologist, on what should happen next.
The most exciting outcome would be if the discovery is linked to the Archbishop's Hall.
Mrs English said: "We thought the Archbishop's Hall would be nearer to the Market Cross.
"The Archbishop of York stayed in Beverley. He owned the market and owned huge chunks of land.
"After he left the hall in 1282, he let it to the merchants who made it their guildhall."
East Riding Council Leader Councillor Stephen Parnaby says he would like to see a plaque marking the spot when the work is finished.
Mr Parnaby said: "In a situation like this, the chances of finding something significant were pretty high.
"Maybe not on the scale of finding Richard III but it's fantastic when things like this are found.
"We all know it's an historic town but it's great when we get these historic finds. We wouldn't want to miss the opportunity, if anything is found, to record it forever.
"You can get blue signs for areas of historic significance and that is something that could be considered."