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Archaeological dig at £7m car park suggests hats were made from cats in medieval Norwich

13:30 30 December 2014

An artist

An artist's impression of the proposed £7m car park in Rose Lane/Mountergate. Pic: Submitted.

Archant

Fresh light has been shone on Norwich’s grisly medieval history, after archaeologists uncovered evidence suggesting the site of a proposed £7m car park was once a 13th Century leather workshop.

More digs on the way?

At the planning committee meeting on January 8, councillors could choose to impose conditions that further archaeological work be carried out if the

application is approved.

This may result in further digs, but could involve a “watching brief” only – allowing building work to progress as normal, and only halt if workmen stumble upon something of interest.

The site of the proposed multi-storey is currently occupied by the former UK Fire premises and the Fishmarket, which is a locally listed building.

Archaeologists have already dug seven trials trenches, each four metres by four metres, to investigate the low-lying site near to the River Wensum.

An eighth trench is set to be dug and evaluated after planned demolition works have taken place, with analysis of any finds to feed into a new report in early 2015.

Evaluation of the site to date has identified activity from the prehistoric period to the modern era.

And, from animal bones discovered at the city centre site, it seems our medieval ancestors knew of at least one way to skin a cat - possibly so they could make hats or gloves.

Archaeologists have been studying the site between Rose Lane and Mountergate, ahead of a decision on whether a 595-space multi-storey car park should be given planning permission.

They found so many goat horncores - the bones at the centre of horns - that archaeologists think the site may have been a high-quality leather tanning works, with animal corpses brought to the area to be processed.

And, with the site close to the river and near two friary sites, archaeologists are wondering whether the site might have served monks, producing high-quality leather items and vellum - a parchment used for scrolls and books.

The report by archeologists speculates: “One interesting aspect is whether the name of this activity, the manufacture of vellum being carried out by parchmenters, is in some way retained as the derivation of Parmentergate and the church of St Peter Parmentergate on King Street.”

But it was not only goats and cattle skinned at the site. Cat bones, including one from a kitten showing evidence of knife cuts, suggests other animals were also used.

The archeologists’ report states: “The cat bones in the assemblage are of interest, especially the cut juvenile bone. It is quite possible that cats were also providing skins and fur at this site – a common practice in medieval Britain and one that has been seen in Norwich.

“There is the possibility that the cat fur could have made small items or contributed to other garments being produced eg fur trims to leather gloves or hats.”

David Gurney, county archaeologist, said: “It is a very interesting site. By this time there are lots of people living within the city walls, but you still get places like this being used for quite unpleasant activities.

“These activities would have been very smelly, noxious and quote dangerous, with urine or lime used to remove the hair or allowing it to rot for several months. You wouldn’t have wanted to live next door to it!

“We know that from the late 13th century there were more than 120 different crafts and trades going on in Norwich and leather working gets mentioned quite a lot.”

Plans for the car park have been lodged with Norwich City Council and further archaeological work could be a condition if permission is approved.

• Have you made a remarkable discovery about Norfolk’s past? Call reporter Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk

22 comments

  • P&R is pointless, it is to expensive to make it worthwhile plus the main shopping days ie the weekends when it would be handy at the right price they are closed and used as car boot sites. easiest way to sort out traffic in the city centre would be to get rid of the clown that keeps shutting off the roads within it and do away with the traffic lights on roundabouts such as the top of grapes hill you never see holdups here when the lights are not working

    Report this comment

    BNP4GB

    Friday, January 2, 2015

  • Very irresponsible reporting by the EDP, for today we read 'cat shot in head in Rackheath' as milliners desperately chase the latest trend revival. Lock up your pussies!

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Spork-Pies

    Wednesday, December 31, 2014

  • Promoting pollution, congestion, respiratory diseases directly linked to traffic and single car occupancy is what this new car park will do. Add to that the refusal by bus and train companies to trickle down the massive oil price collapse by reducing fares and you will see once green commuters buying cars to benefit and cut their travel costs, what a pathetic show, we're going backwards.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, December 31, 2014

  • £7m on a car park when the city is choked with cars. Even the Americans realise that traffic expands to fill space, every new road is promised to relieve congestion, none does. £7m wasted on promoting more congestion, more pollution, more drivers fiddling with phones and smashing into pubs. Drivers have smashed into three pubs, an old peoples' home and seven houses around Norwich in the last six months and it's not even icy yet. You could catch fifty drivers on mobiles a day just standing by the ring road, but the cops don't have the resources.

    Report this comment

    harry smith

    Wednesday, December 31, 2014

  • Well said " Heading for Squalor"

    Report this comment

    Roots

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

  • Only answer to cutting traffic is P&R and it's far too expensive to be worth the extra hassle of using it. Buses in general are far too expensive.

    Report this comment

    James Worth

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

  • Poor people ate cats in the middle ages because the Robber Barons hanged them if they killed deer to feed their hungry families. They could not afford to waste the skins and freeze to death. We have food banks now to help feed our poor citizens since the Robber Barons destroyed our economy. Things don't change much. What happened to Robin Hood ?

    Report this comment

    Grey Fox

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

  • .....it's also a lot cheaper for a man to queue for an hour trying to get onto a car park..'than finding a parking space, and spend that hour walking around the shops!.....

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

  • P&R in the city has become a joke, after years of chronic under-funding by the toxic Tories at county hall. P&R should have flourished, but as usual the Tories wanted to do everything on the cheap and screw the maximum out of beleaguered users, so now people are choosing to drive into the city instead, hence recent traffic mayhem.

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Spork-Pies

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

  • I had a Davy Crockett hat when i was a kid and a cat.Come to think of it,I had a cat then a Davy Crockett hat mmm

    Report this comment

    PaulH

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

  • To all the car haters, if you car to look at Postwick park and ride, it is usually just about full. Then look at the cost of a family of 4 on park & ride! Try walking 5 miles plus with a couple of under tens. Put aside your prejudice and look at the reality. Meanwhile Amazon and others continue to go from strength to strength.

    Report this comment

    andy

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

  • Maybe archaeologists will also find evidence that people were once capable of walking in to the city, whereas now they just sit idly in their cars for an hour waiting to get in to a car park rather than using one of the perfectly good and quicker park and ride services, which they probably think they're above using, no doubt moaning about all the traffic while they wait. I thought all the lazy motorists were going to stop coming in to the city when St Stephens closed to cars, apparently not, there's a surprise!

    Report this comment

    DocScott

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

  • well said Dragonfly, Mountergate is a cul de sac, effectively, and the traffic will have some 3 to 500 cars added morning and evenings, creating more log jam. Really interested in the archaeological work, keep digging, there most likely was more to Norwich before the middle ages, especially so close to the river.

    Report this comment

    ingo wagenknecht

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

  • So that author chappy got it wrong. It wasn't The Cat in the Hat. It was The Cat is the Hat.

    Report this comment

    alecto

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

  • Perhaps a return to making hats from cats is a good idea as there are far too many cats about causing problems killing wildlife and so on, yes it gets my vote, is it in UKIPs manifesto yet?

    Report this comment

    Heading for Squalor

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

  • @Dragonfly. Like many car haters I think you missed the point. The article was about historic activitie. And for anyone asking why they should build more car parks in Norwich, then simply look around you at the number of cars waiting to get into full car parks. If they weren't waiting in their cars, they'd be spending money helping the economy to recover.

    Report this comment

    Andy T

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

  • Rose Lane and Mountergate, hardly City centre is it.

    Report this comment

    Derek McDonald

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

  • Why build another car park in Norwich? Surely to help Park & Rides work well stop building car parks. I am not surprised Norwich City Council is not responsible for P&R. They would cut of their noses to spite their faces.

    Report this comment

    NchNthMan

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

  • About time the hated motorist is provided for as they come to the city to spend thier cash....oh yes the greenies still want the money, but not the car that brings it.

    Report this comment

    KeithS

    Monday, December 29, 2014

  • .....Dragonfly!.,.It is just possible that this car park is intended for residents already living in the city!...to take the cars OFF of the roads that they clog up at present!!....It will cost More than the £31 annual permit price currently paid though!.....

    Report this comment

    Stew Pydsodd

    Monday, December 29, 2014

  • It's ridiculous building this car park in the city, when we are trying to rid the place of traffic.

    Report this comment

    Heading for Squalor

    Monday, December 29, 2014

  • People should use Park n Ride , not clog up the city using car parks .

    Report this comment

    dragonfly

    Monday, December 29, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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