TIMES may seem tough in the current economic squeeze but a city centre dig suggests that our Tyneside ancestors had rather more to bleat about.
Two arches of the High Level Bridge, opposite the Bridge Hotel in Newcastle, have been investigated by archaeologists.
They were called in after preliminary boreholes in advance of renovation work on the arches produced finds of sheep bones.
The dig uncovered more sheep remains, plus the bones of cows, pigs, fallow and roe deer, birds, fish and small animals.
The arches stand near what was known as Sheep’s Head Alley, the remnants of which still run behind the beer garden of the Bridge Hotel.
“The name of Sheep’s Head Alley may have been given due to poor post-medieval residents boiling up sheep heads, discarded by the butcher, to eat,” said Jon Welsh of AAG Archaeology, which carried out the dig. One of the deer bones had knife marks from skinning and filleting.
“They could have been hunting deer in medieval times outside the town walls,” said Jon.
The dig also revealed the remains of the workshop of Robert Beall, a monumental sculptor and marble mason, which occupied the area from 1861.
Sculptural work in the region known to have been produced by Bealls includes carvings on the clock tower and drinking fountain in Front Street, Tynemouth, the 1896 restoration of the Grace Darling memorial in Bamburgh Churchyard and 22 carved heads above the first floor windows of the 1900 building Worswick House and Chambers in Newcastle.
The heads on the building at the junction of Worswick Street and Pilgrim Street were carved by J Rogers, many based on faces from his family photograph album.
He worked for the Beall business for 55 years.