Sewer Repair Works at Toft Green

Project Profile

Project Title :

Emergency Sewer Repair Works at Toft Green

Client :

JN Bentley

Type of Work :

Archaeological Monitoring

Project Gallery 

Sewage works underway   Mosaic during excavation  
Cleaned section of mosaic   Roman pin found during excavations  
Preparation for lifting the mosaic   Lifting the mosaic  


Emergency Sewer Repair Works at Toft Green

York's hidden roman past - mosiac found at toft green

NAA were commissioned in July 2012 to conduct archaeological monitoring of emergency repair works on a 120m length of a collapsed Victorian sewer along Tanner Row and Toft Green, in the centre of York. The works allowed a keyhole into York's Roman past, with the first modern, scientific archaeological recording in this important part of the city.

The area used to be within the heart of the Roman colonia, or civilian town on the southern bank of the River Ouse, which grew up around the legionary fortress of Eboracum.

Two buildings were discovered during construction works in the Victorian period, which contained rooms decorated with richly detailed mosaic pavements. One building was described as a Temple of Serapis, with a mosaic depicting a "sea bull" or ophiotaurus. The other building was interpreted as a private townhouse with a mosaic showing the "Four Seasons" surrounding a Medusa's head. Both mosaics are now displayed in the Yorkshire Museum.

The repair works revealed significant, deeply stratified layers of Romano-British date below Tanner Row and Toft Green, up to 4m below the present road surface.

The most impressive find was a previously unrecorded mosaic pavement, which consisted of two thick blue stripes crossing a yellow background. This proved incredibly challenging to lift, as it was located in a very narrow trench about 2m below the road surface.

Other building elements were also uncovered, including walls, concrete (opus signinum) floors, painted wall plaster fragments, and a possible garden area. These were mostly in the area of the Temple of Serapis, which suggested that it might have been a single room in a much larger, multi-phased building.

Finds included a range of Roman pottery, a bone pin, painted wall plaster, oyster shell and animal bone, and a large quantity of roof tile fragments from collapsed buildings.

Work is currently under way to conserve the mosaic pavement and painted wall plaster for possible future display in the Yorkshire museum. Further analysis of the finds and deposits from the sewer trench is also being conducted in order to determine how they relate to Victorian discoveries in the area.