Medieval archaeology continues to surprise at Berwick dig

Medieval archaeological discoveries continue unabated at Berwick Infirmary, with lots of interesting finds and a few mysteries thrown in for good measure. Site Supervisor, Craig Parkinson blogs about recent discoveries.

Craig Parkinson
Written by:

Craig Parkinson

February 23, 2022

Northern Archaeological Associates (part of Ecus Archaeology) is collaborating with Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust as part of the redevelopment of Berwick-upon-Tweed Infirmary.

Our Northern Archaeological Associates team have now excavated an impressive total of eight wells, one of which contained the remains of a nearly complete pony or donkey along with one of its horseshoes. (It’s likely that this act was to dispose of the remains efficiently rather than an act of animal burial.)

Horse Skull
Ben Massey with pony/donkey skull.

The archaeology is providing insights into the activities of everyday people living in Berwick over 600 years ago. An interesting feature was found that may be an example of a malting oven, a small oven used to gently heat grains before being used in the beer making process. (Though more research is needed on this to confirm this theory.)

Malting Oven
Possible malting oven.

The pottery used by the residents of medieval Berwick have also been recovered in large quantities, a fine example of the type of pottery being recovered is this medieval green glaze jug handle decorated with a face.

Medieval Jug Handle
Decorative green glaze medieval jug handle.

Perhaps the most significant remains encountered so far however is new evidence relating to the medieval fortifications. These include the foundations of a four metre wide defensive wall alongside a deep ditch.

Archaeologists on site
Wall foundation exposed so far.

Berwick’s history of changing hands between England and Scotland is well known and the huge Elizabethan walls that remain a key feature in the town to this day are clearly understood based on their physical remains and historical records. However, the newly discovered wall and ditch have been described as ‘completely unexpected’.


"The walls seem similar in construction to the earlier town defences, but face the wrong direction to be obviously associated with them. The alignment makes more sense as part of an outer wall of the castle, but they are much further away than would be expected if that were the case. Are they part of either of these, do they relate somehow to the later fortifications or do they represent a phase of Berwick’s development that we were previously unaware of? Only a short section of wall has been uncovered so far, and unfortunately much of it seems to have been removed during earlier hospital development in the 1970s, a time when less concern was given to the preservation and recording of historic remains."

Craig Parkinson

Site Supervisor

It is hoped that further excavation work will reveal more and better-preserved sections of the wall, which will help answer some of the questions that have been raised so far.

Media coverage:


Northumberland Gazette

Ancient Origins