Excavations at Drapers’ Hall have revealed details of how Coventry’s historic centre was used through its long history.
The Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) has excavated the site between Draper’s Hall and the former Browns Bar ahead of the transformation of Draper’s Hall into a new music venue. MOLA staff say that finds from the site have provided a ‘tantalising insight’ into what the artefacts uncovered may have been used for.
Finds include a ‘bird bone pen’, medieval glass and even bone fragments. Negotiations are taking place with the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum to display the finds there.
A MOLA spokesperson said: “These observations are just the beginning. Our specialists will analyse the finds from the site in detail to tell us even more about the medieval industrial processes, production and craft activities taking place in the area.
“It is hoped that the artefacts found from the dig will be displayed at the Medieval Gallery at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, alongside those from the 1989-89 dig, and that the artefacts will also form the basis of a major exhibition on Coventry’s textiles history.”
Among the finds during the excavation were 18th or 19th century ladle bowls, with the heraldic arms of the Drapers Company – active from 1613 onwards. Also a 16th or 17th century bird bone pen has a tapering ‘nib’ at its distal end which would have been dipped in ink.
It also uncovered stone moulds that would have been used for casting metals in the 14th or 15th century. Two similar broken examples have been found in Coventry in antiquity.
MOLA says it is thought that the fragment of painted medieval glass may have once been part of the nearby Benedictine Priory and Cathedral of St. Mary. This is due to similarities with other glass fragments found on the priory site.
A set of 16th century beads was found in a rectangular stone-lined pit, thought to have been used for fulling, together with the remains of a bone used to create buttons.
The Grade-II listed building was built in the classical style in phases from 1832 and follows other buildings on the site. It was the headquarters of the city’s Worshipful Company of Drapers and has also been a magistrate’s court, church centre and even an air raid shelter. It has lain empty since the early 1990s.
The Historic Coventry Trust, in collaboration with the Princes Foundation, aims to have the restored hall opened in 2020, in time for the city’s tenure as UK City of Culture the following year.
There is more information on the Museum of London Archaelogy blog. All photos courtesy of MOLA.