Remains of 13th century home discovered in Weymouth
Remains of one of the very earliest homes to have been built in what was to become Weymouth have been unearthed.
Experts describe the discovery of the back wall, yard and well of the late 13th century medieval house as 'particularly significant'.
They were found during an archaeological dig of a car park at former bowling alley MFA Bowl. The dig was carried out ahead of any future redevelopment of the site.
A team from specialists Context One Heritage & Archaeology, which carried out the dig, also found the back wall of an early 19th century chapel, along with foundations to support a balcony when the building was the Theatre Royal in the mid 1800s, part of the grand entrance to the theatre and a theatre wall to support tiered seating for the cheap seats
And if that wasn't enough, in the final couple of days of the excavation the team found a wall that may have have been part of the early three cottages built there.
Context One director Richard McConnell said: "Taken together, the evidence suggests an almost unbroken use of the site spanning over 700 years and a very colourful history. The remains of the medieval house is particularly significant as we have very little archaeological information on the very genesis of the Weymouth in its formative years."
The MFA Bowl site is in the very heart of what used to be the town of Melcombe Regis in the medieval period and despite the demolition and clearance of buildings on the site in the 1960s, remains from this early period below the car park had seemingly miraculously evaded the bulldozer.
Working in a trench near St Nicholas Street, archaeologists concluded that the 13th century house was a a wooden building built on a stone foundation slab and probably had a slate roof with decorated ridge tiles. The house would have had a long back garden gently leading down to the shoreline.
Mr McConnell said: "We didn’t quite reach the bottom of the well but we got to 1.3m and were probably close."
The walls from the chapel and theatre provide further information, Mr McConnell said.
"By the 16th century, the back garden of our medieval house was built on, and old records show that this included three cottages that were known for holding religious meetings.
"These were eventually replaced by a purpose built meeting house in 1705 which, in turn, was knocked down to build a chapel with a school in the early 19th century.
"The chapel building actually survived until the 1960s but during its life it was converted to a theatre in the mid-1800s. The theatre was known as the Theatre Royal and had a grand entrance on St Nicholas Street and we found part of this in our trench on the street frontage."
Mr McConnell said he wishes to thank all the volunteers involved, Mark Vine from Dig the Street community group for co-ordinating and digging most of the well and Graham Perry from Weymouth Museum for providing historical information.
The site will now be returned to a car park and the dig team will preparing a report for Dorset Council, including recommendations for further archaeological work.