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Burgage Plots and Leather Tanning in Digbeth

Excavation from above

Just over the road from Selfridges in the Bullring, on the north side of Digbeth, existing property boundaries follow the lines of divisions between “burgage plots”, long narrow land units that were first laid out in the 12th century, and a lane follows the line of a boundary ditch.

Excavations showed that the boundary ditch was 7 metres wide and 2.4 meters deep had been dug through waterlain layers. In addition to pottery of 12th to 13th century date these layers contained pollen and beetles which will provide information on the landscape when the town of Birmingham was founded in the middle of the 12th century.

eorma Section Through Ditch

The boundary ditch went out of use and was filled in towards the end of the 13th century. The site was subsequently used for leather tanning, an important industry in Birmingham. Pits, some of them lined with timber, were dug into the infilled ditch. Some of them contained lime which was used to remove hair and fat from the hides, and in others the hides were soaked in water and crushed bark to absorb tannin, a preservative. One tanning pit contained pottery of 16th to 17th cent date.
The brick and sandstone footings of a small building of 17th or 18th century date included sandstone architectural details such as window mouldings that had been reused from other buildings nearby, probably either the manor house or St Martin’s church. An 18th century cultivation soil spread across part of the site
Further, more extensive excavations will take place before development starts.

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Last Updated : 4th September 2013