NEW light has been shed on medieval life in Acomb, with the discovery of a granary which could date back to the 1300s.

Work to construct 40 new homes off Garden House Road has uncovered the remains of three corn drying kilns, with on-site archaeologists suggesting the structures may have belonged to a granary in the 14th or 15th century.

While a map of the village from 1810 suggests Acomb was populated during medieval times, the discovery is the first piece of structural evidence to back up the claims.

National firm Pre-Construct Archaeology (PCA), which has been digging up the site since before Christmas, unearthed the remains of two timbered kilns. But it was a well-preserved, stone-lined structure which attracted the most attention.

Bywell-based Jennifer Proctor, PCA’s regional manager for the north, said: “All villages would have had these, but there aren’t many excavated, and it is very rare to find one in such good condition.

“The fields would have subsequently been used for agriculture and been ploughed, and the structures demolished.

“However, this field has been a pasture field, because it is steep, and it has survived.

“Basically, it was really necessary for farmers, in damp conditions, to artificially dry the grain, particularly oats and barley.

“Before the grains were milled, they would have to dry them so they could then be milled and ground into flour.

“It was important to dry corn and seeds for the following season too, because if it was stored wet, then it would have fungal infections.”

Jennifer said PCA was delighted with the discovery, which will be fully recorded in a journal when contractors for Avant Homes start work on the new housing estate.

She said: “The discovery is really significant for the medieval and early post-medieval history of Acomb because we know nothing about it.

“All we have is a map, but there is no evidence of agricultural activity within the village to back that up.

“This find will tell us all about what crops they were growing, and also what pottery they were using.”

In addition to the kilns, shards of pottery dating back to the same time have been unearthed.

There is also evidence of an earlier ditch running through the field which may have existed during the Iron Age, as it doesn’t run in line with the medieval land boundary. Flakes of flint, possibly from that period, were also discovered.

The finds have caused a stir in the village, and Acomb Local History Society was delighted the items had been unearthed.

It had already been in touch with the first school about relaying the results of the dig, and many villagers had expressed an interest in the discovery.

Society secretary Gordon Scorer said: “We were aware of the watching brief, and we are very pleased the developers have made the land available for the dig.

“It wasn’t expected to be found where it was, and it shows the village has an even stronger history than it had experienced.”

Gina Holmes, sales and marketing director for Avant Homes North East, saidd: “We are very excited to learn about the discoveries that Jenny and her team from Pre-Construct Archaeology have made at our Acomb development.

"We are looking forward to working with Jenny closely to find out more about the local archaeology and will be liaising with the local authority to document the findings.

“At Avant Homes, we are committed to celebrating the local history and heritage that surrounds our developments, and we will work alongside the archaeology team sensitively and practically to ensure their findings are properly protected.”