In March this year developers started clearing the site at 40 Silver Street, Reading, ready for new student accommodation. The activity uncovered some interesting evidence of past usage. At this point Berkshire Archaeology called for an archaeological investigation before further demolition occurred.
CFA Archaeology and Thames Valley Archaeological Services (TVAS) were brought in to carry out the work on this site, and they uncovered the remains of two mediaeval tile kilns, a suspected 16th century domestic oven and two nineteenth century wells. The two tile kilns are thought to date from between AD 1250-1500, and are presumed to be remnants of a medieval tile production industry that was known to be in the Reading area.
TVAS Director, Steve Ford, said that the tile kilns add to evidence of a ’tiling quarter’ on the edge of mediaeval Reading. The 1552 Amyce Map of Reading refers to a ‘Tylecroft’ on the site of the current excavation with a ‘Tyle Crosse’ nearby on Southampton Street, and another tile kiln which was found under the Jubilee Square development near London Road in 2001. In the wider area we have more evidence for a tiling industry for in Old English Tilehurst means ‘a wooded hill where tiles were made’.
The discovered kilns included mediaeval material and also a few tiles. Those tiles are very similar to those found in Reading Abbey. One of the kilns is of a rectangular brick and tile construction with small arches and a tiled floor; the other is in not such a good condition.
Decorated floor tiles have also been uncovered at the site and there have been several other interesting finds on the site including a post-medieval oven.
The excavation of two medieval rubbish pits revealed a range of finds including animal bones, oyster shells, pottery, tiles and bricks. An exciting find was a complete, yet broken, medieval pot and an iron knife. The knife is in poor condition and will be x-rayed at a later stage to see if there is any additional data that can be gleaned from it.
Although the Silver Street site should fall within the boundaries of Civil War earthworks according to historical records nothing has been uncovered. However, the excavation is still continuing so fingers crossed.
BIAG would like to extend our thanks to Thames Valley Archaeological Services for letting us use their resources in this article.