“A skeleton found beneath a Leicester car park has been confirmed as that of English king Richard III.”
This is a really cool joint project by the Univ. of Nottingham, the British Geological Survey, a contracted archaeology firm, and the city of Nottingham to explore and map the cave systems under the medieval town. In addition to excavation, they will use 3D imaging to create virtual, explorable models of the various caves.
From the website:
“Nottingham’s sandstone outcrops played a significant role in the town’s growth and development. In the 6th century the Saxons settled on a large sandstone outcrop to the east of the city centre in the area we now know as the Lace Market. This outcrop’s elevated position overlooking the River Trent made it an ideal defensive location. The Saxon town continued to grow, spreading out across the sandstone plateau. Snotengaham, as it was then known, is the Old English name for the town meaning ‘the ham’ (or dwelling) of Snot’s people. The earliest written record of Nottingham’s caves comes from a Welsh monk called Asser who when writing about Nottingham in 868 referred to the town as Tig Guocobauc, meaning house or place of caves in British. In the same year the Danes invaded Nottingham, they held the city until 918 when King Edward the elder captured the town.
The next phase of settlement in Nottingham occurred with the arrival of the Normans who in 1067 built a castle on an outcrop of sandstone to the west of the Saxon settlement. The Norman’s built their own town around the castle with streets radiating out from it towards what is now the market square. Eventually the Norman and Saxon boroughs merged, and by about 1300 the Norman wall and ditch encircled the entire site, excluding the side overlooking the River Leen and River Trent.
The softness of Nottingham’s sandstone makes it easy to excavate with hand tools, and the structural stability means that excavated caves are safe to use, even with buildings above them. The exposed cliff of the sandstone outcrop made this an obvious place for the early citizens of Nottingham to make their home. Some of Nottingham’s ‘rock dwellings’ or cave houses have been dated back to 1250, any earlier caves were probably destroyed through modification. Records from visitors to Nottingham during the 1600s suggest that the occupants of these cave houses were generally poor and the caves were known as pauper holes. The main groups of rock houses in Nottingham are Sneinton Hermitage and those visible around Castle Rock, however there were others along Derby and Mansfield Road.
Throughout the medieval period Nottingham continued to grow and prosper becoming a centre for trades such as wool manufacture, tanning, malting, alabaster carving and pottery production. A number of these activities were undertaken in Nottingham’s caves. The town’s location on the main route between London and York and its proximity to the River Trent meant goods could to be exported with ease to other parts of the country.”