Barnard’s Inn

Notes taken from "Guide for Sites in the City of London Observed or Excavated 1907–91", published by the Museum of London

Barnard’s Inn, Holborn, 78–81 Fetter Lane, 7–13 Norwich Street, EC1 N J Elsden
NGR: TQ 31270 81510
SMR: 043731–40

Five trenches, both inside standing buildings and outside, were excavated between March and June 1988, in advance of demolition work, and funded by the Mercers’ Company.  An initial phase of gravel-pit digging in the S of the site was followed by a levelling of redeposited natural gravels, probably during the 1st and 2nd c. This was followed by three burials dating from the 2nd to possibly the 4th c; to the W a possible stake and wattle fence-line was separated from the burials by a N-S ditch. These features were covered by an accumulation representing disuse of the area until the gardens of the medieval and later periods. This deep layer of garden soil was cut by pits throughout its life, mostly for domestic rubbish, but including a large cesspit or soakaway.
In centre of the site the earliest features were two large gravel pits, or possibly E-W ditches, and smaller pits. These were later levelled with a clay dump, which was in turn cut by more pits and by a ditch or pit with a chalk lining used as a cesspit or a 350 sewer. These features were in turn levelled with the make-up for a chalk-walled building. A section of wall of similar construction was preserved to the N, within the basement of the hall of Barnard’s Inn

(early 15th c), where large and small postholes indicated internal features, possibly medieval. The modern wall line cut across a chalk-walled cesspit, probably lying originally half underneath and half outside the hall. A large circular pit may have been a robbed-out well, and later features included a post pad over the backfill of one of the large postholes, and the burial of a cat, or its skin, in a wooden box.  To the S of the medieval hall, a large gravel pit was cut through the garden soil, and post-medieval dumps and disturbed garden soil covered most of the site. Brick cellars were constructed in the 17th and 18th c, along with, in the 18th c, a bricklined well. Features were disturbed by the 19th c reconstruction of the hall and construction of other standing buildings, including the Mercers’ School in the 1892–4.
Excavations here produced a number of burials of Roman date. A complete Verulamium white-slipped face pot contained a cremation burial and a further cremation was enclosed within a cist formed of six complete lydion bricks. An inhumation burial was accompanied by a necklace of 66 jet beads, a jet finger-ring and a bone pin.

London Archaeol, 6, 1989, 50; Britannia, 20, 1989, 308; Medieval Archaeol, 33,1989, 182
Elsden, N, 1989 Excavations at Barnard’s Inn 78–81 Fetter Lane 7–13 Norwich Street EC1 (BAA87), Archive Report
Keily, J, 1989 Barnard’s Hall, Building Materials Appraisal
Keys, L, 1989 Barnard’s Inn, Holborn, Finds Appraisal
Ruddle, J, 1987 Environmental Appraisal Report (ASS/01/91), Archive Report
Schofield, J, 1995 Medieval London houses, 190–1
Spence, C (ed), 1989 Digging in the City: the Annual Review 1988 (DUA, MoL), 26–7