Construction of the new Hostry offered a rare opportunity for large-scale archaeology as it occupies the site of the medieval buildings that defined the western side of the monastic cloister. From the early 14th century, and possibly from its construction in the early to mid-12th century, this part of the west range functioned as the Hostry, or guest hall. The Hostry was largely demolished at the Dissolution and the area was given over to prebendary houses and gardens. In the 19th century these were cleared, creating an open space.
NAU Archaeology was contracted to undertake an archaeological excavation in advance of the new building work on the Hostry site: excavation began in March 2007 and was completed in the autumn, with a team of up to 10 archaeologists working on site. Meanwhile, the Cathedral Archaeologist recorded the existing buildings prior to the works and undertook further recording during the minor interventions that were necessary to link the new Hostry to the surrounding medieval buildings.
The medieval Hostry
Although remains of Saxon pits and one possible sunken hut have been discovered, the excavation was dominated by the archaeology of the monastic period. Remains were found of the west wall of the 12th-century west range, confirming that the first building was narrower than its replacement of c.1300. The entire west wall of the latter was exposed north and south of the upstanding fragment of the Hostry arch, or doorway, and to the west the lower parts of the walls of the medieval porch were discovered. Cross-walls were excavated that marked the limit of the medieval Hostry hall, showing the position of two-storey chambers at either end.
Other monastic buildings
The archaeological investigations discovered evidence that helps us to understand more about the monastic buildings adjacent to the Hostry. Excavation within the Hostry-Cloister doorway showed that the present Cloister is at a lower level than the 12th-century original, and a piped connection between the guest hall basins and the Cloister lavatorium has been discovered. At the southern end of the excavation, the west wall of the 12th-century Refectory has been exposed and there are foundations of further medieval buildings to the south-west of the Hostry.
Post-excavation analysis and publication
Post-excavation analysis – which includes specialist reports on the numerous finds – is currently in progress for this important monastic site. This will be summarized in a technical report, which will be followed by publication that will present the archaeology of the Hostry to a wider audience. Equally important, the main walls discovered by excavation have been incorporated into the new Hostry and remain exposed to view.