The fishing industry was an important aspect of the local economy and diet in coastal areas from at least the medieval period until the later 20th century. The archaeological record comprises both onshore features (both harbour- and fish-processing-related), structures and deposits (including faunal remains), fixed intertidal, marine, and riverine installations, and mobile equipment such as boats and nets, now found in inland, intertidal, and marine contexts. The industry has received little archaeological attention either regionally or nationally, and the work that has been done has tended to separate rather than integrate onshore, intertidal, and marine evidence. These developments had a profound impact on technology, as larger ships were needed for the longer voyages. Any information about medieval fishing boat construction, whether derived from wrecks, ship’s timbers preserved in other contexts (for example, re-used in quays and staithes), visual images or textual information is of great importance. Archaeological evidence for these developments can be plotted through detailed analysis of marine faunal assemblages, but further specialist training in this field is vital. Excavation on Holy Island and the kitchen of Durham Priory provide important comparative assemblages of fishbone. The growth of the offshore industry would have had an impact on the settlement patterns and morphology of coastal villages, but there has been no work on fishing villages of the North-East to compare with research elsewhere (for example, Fox 2001). Basic map work might profitably be combined with small-scale excavation (both development-control and research-based). There are also important documentary resources including account rolls, and the Calendar of Border papers which have information about fishing and coastal resource exploitation. In addition, investigation of standing structures should be undertaken to increase both our understanding of the chronological development of these settlements and specialist building types related to the fishing industry. In addition, there is a need to better understand freshwater fishing practices- often better documented than offshore fishing. Victor Watts has carried out important research on the place-name evidence for fishing-weirs, and there is potential for the survival of fish-traps and weirs in both surviving river channels and palaeochannels.
Although at its peak in the post-medieval period, coal was being extracted at some scale in the medieval period. However, later workings and open cast extraction has generally destroyed the above ground remains of this industry. This means that any surviving archaeology related to this must be given a high priority. There is also wider work to be done on understanding the medieval exploitation of the region’s coal resources. How do we identify colliery sites? Can a combination of fieldwork, field names and documentary sources provide a potential methodology? Once sites have been located there are wider issues to be addressed: how were they managed? Were they seasonal? Where did the workers live?
Further research on other extractive industries is vital. It is important to locate and examine the field archaeology of the 12th-century ‘silver mines of Carlisle’ (which probably extended into the region, for example, Shildon/Blanchland), including smelting and extraction of silver from lead. The development of the North Pennine lead industry from the 12th century onwards is also a priority for further study, with more research into boles, ‘smeltings’ and waterpowered sites.
Research on the early iron industry should include fieldwork to identify bloomeries and the possible remains of waterpower. Blast furnaces and iron-working workshops might also be located.
There is a need to identify other industries, such as glass manufacture, leather-working, quarrying, timber and milling. The wider issue of the relationship between individual production sites (for any/all industries) and tenurial factors (for example, monastic/ecclesiastical estates, major lay magnates, smaller manors, open-field/enclosed/waste) should be explored.
The North-East did not operate in isolation. The region had widespread political and economic links with other parts of England, Scotland and across the North Sea. We need to find ways of recognising these links, and of exploring the infrastructure through which trade and communication flowed. Long-distance trade links must be identified and explored, apart from considering the ceramic evidence for trade. Possible avenues for new research include characterisation studies of medieval ballast (cf. Hoare et al 2002; De Clerq et al. 2017) and attempts to identify the use of Baltic timber. The North Sea was an important element in the regional economy, both as a conduit for national and international trade and as an important source of food, but its role is understudied as yet. Work on the Durham River Wear Assemblage has shown the potential for small finds in identifying patterns of trade and production; there is need for more work on material derived from the Portable Antiquities Scheme, including on coins to compliment the current work by Carl Savage at the University of York.
There are questions to be asked about the movements of animals and produce. What dates are the cross-dykes and other remains related to droving routes in the Cheviots? Are they all post-medieval? How far can the distribution of magnate holdings help us to understand the communication routes in the region, especially between England and Scotland?
Ceramic evidence is crucially important, it can be used as a chronological indicator and tells us about patterns of economic exchange and consumption. The role of pottery in gaining a further understanding of trade links (especially northwards to Scotland) needs to be progressed urgently. Are there local traditions of decoration and form? Local pottery chronologies exist, but it is necessary to synthesise and link them. The tight chronologies for pottery from urban assemblages should now be linked to rural assemblages. There is a need to locate and publish more pottery production workshops, without placing undue emphasis on the kilns themselves and recognising the contribution of associated structures, such as waster dumps, drying and potting sheds. Viewed at a national level our knowledge of pottery production is thin, and north-eastern case studies are rarely cited further afield. A start has been made on the identification of pottery imports, and comparisons could usefully be drawn with Hull, York and other better studied assemblages, as well as those across the North Sea. By what mechanisms did such pottery arrive and to what extent did it contribute to national and international identities? Existing assemblages need reconsideration and analysis to refine and enhance regional comparative reference collections and shed more light on legacy data.
These themes might also be addressed through the study of other medieval artefacts, such as metalwork. What transformations were brought about by the Reformation? How did displays of artefacts in households and on the body change? The study of dress accessories, for example, leans towards questions of dating and provenance and tends to divorce artefacts from any social meaning they may have held. Questions of regionality, customs of status, symbolic meaning and belief have all yet to be addressed and might usefully be combined with a study of contemporary artistic media, such as paintings and monumental effigies.
The discovery of several cemeteries with skeletal material opens up the possibility of extensive research programmes to explore the medieval population, although this is not without its challenges. There is a need for more precise research questions on medieval skeletal assemblages to be developed due to the increased pressure for reburial. The retention of assemblages will require in-depth justification.
Are there regional sculptural traditions recognisable in the cross-slabs and other funerary monuments? How is their production organised? Where is the stone coming from? More work needed on wayside and churchyard crosses, as well as other commemorative monuments, such as those related to battlefields (cf. Flodden; Neville’s Cross).
Although there is only limited evidence for the survival of wall painting and stained glass in the region’s churches, there are more surviving examples of effigies, cross-slabs and other burial memorials, as well as some wooden church fittings. There is also increased appreciation of the value of studying early graffiti, drawing on church graffiti projects outside the region, and work on the graffiti in the Prior’s residence at Durham. A better understanding of this material has the potential to answer questions about the role of patronage in the design and use of churches and church furnishings.
A tighter chronology for the architecture of Saxo-Norman churches is needed. This might include detailed structural survey at selected churches, such as Norton and Billingham. This needs to be combined with a better understanding of the development of the parish and the pastoral responsibilities of the church is required. What is the origin of churchyard burial and how did it relate to the emergence of the parochial system? How do parish churches related to the design and use of non-parochial chapels. The reports by Peter Ryder for the Durham Diocese are a valuable resource and need wider dissemination. Wider application of such techniques as digital photogrammetric survey, rectified photograph, mortar and stone analysis and dendrochronological and thermoluminescence dating is also important.
Traditionally, much work on castles has focused on their role as defensive structures, however, recent work has emphasised the need for a more holistic approaches, asking questions about their position in the social, economic and ideological landscape of the region. There is still much research to be done on the function of castles in the landscape and their role as consumers also needs to be investigated. What was their economic impact, and how did they interact with their hinterlands? Castles would have had to negotiate with a regular flux in household size, with often transient populations. While it is important not to neglect the defensive function of castles, wider questions also need to be asked. What are the range of responses to unrest and the threat of violence in region, and what other responses, beyond the construction of castles, were deployed? How does the functional and symbolic dimension of castle architecture relate to other structures, such as fortified churches and city walls?
Our understanding of the ultimate decline and afterlife of castles remains limited. How important was the advent of artillery in their disappearance, or were other social factors implicated? What do we know about the transition from castle to country house?
There are many forms of lesser fortified site across the region, including moated sites and defended tower houses. These show a great deal of regional variation. Some may have been response to regional unrest due to the proximity of the Anglo-Scottish border, but others may be reacting to other real and perceived military or social pressures.
The landscape and settlement hierarchy of the region in the 11th century is still poorly understood. While the notion of a 1066 Conquest may be valid elsewhere in the country, the extent to which these political developments held influence in the North-East, particularly in Northumberland, is uncertain. To what extent can material cultures across the region be identified as recognisably ‘English’ (or indeed ‘Scottish’) in the 11th and 12th centuries? There is potential to explore the pattern of 11th century place-names as an indicator of new patterns of settlement (Watts 2002). Although the Atlas of rural settlement in England has been crucial in delineating the morphology of settlements across the region, more detailed study is required at a sub-regional level. The processes behind the formation of the variety of settlement forms need investigation, and should be linked into economic factors and tenurial patterns. Can the conventional association of planned village layouts with the ‘Harrying of the North’ and other 11th-century destructions be supported, or disproved, by archaeological dating? If these layouts are genuinely relatively late, what settlement forms preceded them?
Environmental evidence from rural sites should be a priority. A large proportion of pollen samples from the region is derived from upland contexts and could be balanced by further evidence from lowland areas. Research to identify lowland peat deposits is essential, as is an increase in the recovery and full analysis of faunal remains and plant macrofossils. There is a particular need for more datasets from rural sites.
In order to develop further our understanding of medieval vernacular architecture, particular priority should be given to the chronological development of building types, including evidence for the origins of building forms. There is likely to be limited opportunity for the archaeological study of medieval vernacular buildings through the development-control process, but the development of a major field-research project could provide opportunities for their investigation. Continued work by groups such as the North-East Vernacular Architectural Group should be encouraged, and funding made available for increased use of dendrochronological dating. Although research into medieval vernacular architecture in the region has included both standing building recording and archaeological investigation, there has not been sufficient communication between these two research communities. Wider application of such techniques as digital photogrammetric survey, rectified photograph, mortar and stone analysis and dendrochronological and thermoluminescence dating is also important.Although little upstanding vernacular architecture survives, there is the potential to find out more about local building traditions through archaeology. This may help answer some important questions. Where does the long-house form of structure come from? Why was it adopted? What does the ‘terraced’ house tradition found at Thrislington and other sites tell us about social organisation?
Development-driven archaeology has had relatively little impact on our understanding of medieval landscapes due to limited development in the region’s villages and the small size of those interventions. Medieval villages are fluid entities and it is clear that, for any real archaeological insight into their growth, large-scale excavation and multiple interventions are essential and should be combined with fieldwork such as shovel pitting and fieldwalking. Only at this scale of investigation is an understanding of the evolution of the historic cores of the region’s villages possible together with an appreciation of the way in which they relate to their hinterlands.
There is extensive evidence for medieval field systems in the region, including well-preserved areas of ridge and furrow and upland terracing and lynchets, although there has never been a major inventory of all surviving examples and many are not recorded on the region’s HERs/SMR. The increasingly easy access to Lidar data will allow the rapid identification of upstanding ridge and furrow earthworks, whilst aerial photographs, including those on Google Earth will facilitate identification of such fieldsystems surviving only as cropmarks and many are not recorded on the region’s HERs/SMRs. In addition simply to mapping the surviving resource, a series of more detailed questions needs researching. First, their chronology: do they have a pre-Conquest origin and did the creation of ridge and furrow continue into the postmedieval period? Indeed, there is still much basic work to be done in understanding the process of the formation of ridge and furrow. Second, patterns of regional variation could be recognised and relationships mapped out between fields and other elements of the medieval agrarian landscape, such as access tracks and ponds.
Many place-names in the region are of late medieval date (rather than early medieval), including those with Norman French derivations (for example, Bearpark in Co. Durham = Beaurepaire) and combined Norman-English names (for example, Frosterley in Co. Durham = ‘forester’s clearing’). A more detailed study of their distribution, building on the work of Victor Watts (2002), and a consideration of their wider social and political context is essential. Research into field-names also has the potential for informing the archaeologist of possible settlement sites, now lost, as well as to provide important insights into medieval land-use. On-going work to digitise the Northumberland Ordnance Survey namebooks, led by Diana Whaley will add a crucial resource to the existing stock of regional toponyms.
Despite the well-preserved remains of shielings in the North Pennines and the Cheviots the chronology of upland transhumance is still not adequately understood. More excavation is perhaps the only way to develop a better. understanding of their chronology; is it possible to find a way to date these sites morphologically? The complex relationship between shielings and permanent farms requires investigation, both spatially and chronologically.
Deerparks and forests were important elements of the seigneurial landscape of the region. They have the potential to leave important traces on the historic environment, including park pales and boundaries, as well as hunting and foresters lodges. These remains have the potential to help understand the extent of such parks, as well as appreciate the investment in their infrastructure. Faunal assemblages from high status sites also have the potential to improve our understanding of the use of such wild resources.
The medieval period saw the foundation of the North-East’s urban network. There has been archaeological excavation in some of the region’s larger towns such as Newcastle and Hartlepool, but intervention has been less extensive in smaller towns and administrative centres. Once more there has been relatively little synthetic research on medieval urbanism. There is a particular need for work on the ceramic assemblages from small towns and rural sites to tie them into type series developed for larger urban centres. For larger towns, such as Newcastle, deposit models could unite archaeological and geotechnical data. Any development on the back lots of urban properties should be the focus of adequate evaluation and, where necessary, full excavation. It is possible that some structures of medieval date may still stand, and a pilot project could usefully explore this possibility. Recently, there has been an increase in infill development in smaller towns and larger villages, which provides the opportunity for development-control work to feed into this research theme. Equally, any output would help inform development-control decisions in such contexts.
Basic issues such as patterns of urban-rural interdependence and urban consumption still require investigation (cf. Perring et al 2002). There is scope here for comparative work looking at both urban and rural finds assemblages and complimentary environmental material.
Patterns of social identity within the region’s urban centres, are also under-researched. Many towns have an extensive stock of urban buildings. They should be the focus for a range of archaeological, architectural and historical approaches. Patterns of economic exchange, production and trade could usefully be explored through the artefactual record especially in conjunction with documentary evidence. The potential exists to exploit the large assemblages of material culture recovered from archaeological excavation, including faunal remains, as well as to research suites of environmental remains. Exploration of links such as these moves beyond site-specific studies and should expand our knowledge of regional economic and social interactions. The multicultural and international nature of medieval Newcastle makes it an ideal context for investigating the construction and maintenance of social identities. Through an exploration of the notion of a Hanseatic identity, this theme has the possibility to create research of international importance.
There is growing evidence for the survival of medieval structures masked behind more recent facades. This should be synthesised and a typology created. In particular, there is greater potential than has hitherto been recognised for the survival of urban domestic structures, and there is still a need to understand the architecture of non-domestic buildings. They have the potential to inform us about the impact of urbanism on vernacular architectural traditions while their layout and organisation also has implications for the use of space in medieval towns, particularly the role of back lots as foci for small-scale industrial activity. Early engravings and photographs may preserve images of structures like these that have now been lost. Their potential should be explored further.