At a site in East Yorkshire, an archaeological dig has been underway for three weeks to uncover the secrets of a medieval village. Today, archaeologists believe they have uncovered a centuries-old tavern. The remains of this site are buried under a pasture at High Hunsley, near Beverly, where pottery goblets, jugs and the bones of sheep and cattle have been unearthed. The presence of the former also suggests that an inn coexisted alongside the tavern, or was the only settlement in the area.
Other items of interest discovered include a knife, scissors and jewelry dating from the 7th to 13th centuries. Among these jewels were a small clasp for attaching a shirt, a hairpin and a cooper brooch of possible Celtic origin. There were also shards of pottery dated between the 12th and 15th centuries, and “a good number of objects of which they don’t have much idea”. Images of these articles were shared on Instagram.
Members of the community had the chance to play amateur archaeologists and participate in the excavations. (Courtesy of Ethos Heritage )
A pub or an inn? Let’s have another drink and see…
“From their design, we know that the goblets date from around the 13th century. The site could well have been a pub or some sort of large house, possibly even a hostelry. The bones, belonging to sheep and cows “, were carefully cut down. Perhaps people gathered here to eat? There may have been an inn here,” said Emma Samuel, of Ethos Heritage, deputy director of the excavation site, quoted by BBC.
She explained that horses in medieval times, just like today, were very expensive. This is pure myth-making that encourages people to imagine those in medieval times traveling only on horseback, a powerful image from popular history. As traveling at night was both tiring and dangerous, this site could have been a place where weary travelers could seek night’s rest and shelter, especially for those making long journeys.
Geophysical surveys carried out before the excavations, carried out by groups of volunteers, showed that a dozen buried dwellings lay under the fields, potentially suggesting an abandoned medieval village. The origins of this settlement may have their roots in the 7th century or earlier, although further work is needed to confirm this.
Interestingly, this excavation was carried out with the intention of involving people not usually associated with archeology in the heritage project. In fact, Samuel estimates that of the 150 volunteers who participated in the excavations, 90% had no previous experience in archeology or excavation. Among the students involved were those from a specialist school, and local Brownies and Rainbows earning their archeology badges on the spot, The Guardian reported.
Speaking of these abandoned medieval villages, Ms Samuel said: “There are many on the [Yorkshire] Wolds but finding one that hasn’t been cleared is quite rare… This gives us the perfect opportunity to investigate an almost pristine archaeological site. Being able to walk up the main street of an abandoned medieval village that has not been excavated is a rarity. It is incredibly well preserved. He still has a lot to tell us, we still have a lot of investigations to do,” added Ms. Samuel.
She added that it was an “important place in the landscape” with a long history of human habitation. She also sees it as a magical place with a deep history just waiting to be explored.
An aerial view of the dig site topography. The objects found will help determine the destination of the building. (Courtesy of Ethos Heritage )
What did the Tavern, Pub or Medieval Tavern look like?
A pub, short for public house, is an inescapable part of everyday English life and is part of a dying breed of medieval English landscape that was fundamentally altered by the social movements created by the Industrial Revolution (from the 17th century). Some estimates say hundreds of these drinking places are closing every week, with the devastation wrought by the pandemic’s economic downturn proving to be the final nail in the coffin.
Representation of a medieval tavern. ( IG Digital Arts /Adobe Stock)
The terms tavern, tavern and inn have long been used interchangeably, although their origins tell us otherwise. While a tavern was a space where beer (and later beer) was brewed and served, a tavern was where wine was served, and an inn provided shelter and stables. While the tavern had largely ceased to exist by the 1800s, the pub entered common parlance during the Georgian era (between the early 1700s and early 1800s).
In fact, the true “golden age” of the pub was the 18th century, when traditionally all the things one associates with a pub were found in non-standardized form – hospitality, good camaraderie, friendliness, comfort and friendliness . Britain’s greatest writers wrote about pubs in the 18th century, a testament to the growing culture that brought people of all social classes to small “watering holes” in the English countryside.
A tavern could have been the humble home of a neighbor who had just brewed a batch of cheap beer and put a sign outside the door. There could be several neighbors who had done this around the same time, making drinking a popular recreational activity for both men and women. In the growing separation of public and private, where women were expected to occupy the home, brewing became an exclusively female activity.
This is not to say that leisure was plentiful; industrial activity caused the “old way of life” to disappear in favor of the new regimented work. Nonetheless, people from the community and surrounding areas would gather and pay for the beer they drank, socialize with one another, and sometimes gamble with dice or cards. Court records from this period describe gruesome fights induced by alcoholism.
Taverns, on the other hand, catered to the social elite who had time for leisure and wine, sometimes tied to a vineyard. Simple food was offered alongside, but there was rarely any accommodation offered. Even in these establishments, gambling and fighting were quite common, as well as prostitution and criminal activity. There’s a lot to these medieval inns and taverns that can be recognized in today’s bar establishments!
Top image: Medieval taverns were often a communal gathering space. Source: Studio Eco-Pim /Adobe Stock
By Sahir Pandey