A surprise find on Mason St

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The area of our dig, showing the Urinals on the left and the Brick Arch. Note the very large stone slab…

In the last few weeks, we have been digging down from ground level near to the hatch that takes us down the long ladder into the Sandstone Arch and Banqueting Hall. We did this for a few reasons, but mainly to find a suspected staircase in the area and to explore the possibility of getting a better entrance down into the Sandstone Arch. Well, this area has proved to be most interesting and also quite challenging too.

As we dug down, we discovered the tops of a couple of walls complete with nice rendering and a rather large York stone slab, that had been dumped. This was extremely difficult to remove due to its size and weight. We eventually had to smash it into smaller pieces to remove it, only to reveal another huge block of similar stone beneath. Then we uncovered a lovely brick arch, closely followed by the tops of what looked like a set of four Gents urinals.

As we cleared more of the area, the arch was revealed in its glory and so were the urinals, which are made of slate and still in very good condition.

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The Slate Urinals in all their glory

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The Urinals now empty.

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A few of the Team, looking at the floor and the drains that have just been uncovered

Whilst trying to find easier access into the Sandstone arch, we worked out a possible route – from within the new arch which would involve the removal of a section of wall, which would have been added after Williamson’s Time.

Our researcher, Don, found a new previously unseen Plan of the Drill Hall on the former Magnets site. The plan dated 1928 showed the exact area that we were digging in. It confirmed the that there was once a staircase where we thought a staircase should be, even though we suspect that staircase has now long gone. But it also showed where there was another staircase, in exactly the same location we plan on fitting a fixed ladder into the Sandstone Arch. The plan also shows the location of the urinals too.

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The Newly descovered plan, dated 1928. Is the area where we are currently digging and shows the Sandstone Arch, the Staircase we plan to reinstate and the walls we have found with Urinals in place. Note what looks loke a bay window of Williamson’s house too to the right

We also now have a small team of diggers down in the Banqueting Hall, where we have started to prepare for the major job of removing that large bank of infill. A job we have wanted to do for many years. We are digging down to floor level just by the Gothic Arch in the side of the Banqueting Hall where we will install a scaffolding staircase, this will make the removal of the many Tonnes of infill much easier. So look out for updates on progress here in the coming weeks.

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The dig in the Banqueting Hall, we aim to dig down to the floor here to erect a staircase

One other job we have had done is the repair of the fireplace in the Wine Bins too, it was clear that there was once an arch here, so we have had it reinstated and it looks great.

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The newly repaired fireplace in the Wine Bins

So what now? We plan on making the entrance down to the Sandstone Arch, but also re-creating what we suspect to be a corridor that we feel will run from the original Wine Bins Staircase at the other end of the House.

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