Recent findings


25 Jan 2021

Our 70-strong team of archaeologists working in Trinity Burial Ground have started piecing together intriguing clues from the past.

We’ll be documenting some of the interesting artefacts found while working on site so why not take a look below at our recent findings.

Glass bottle

A tall cylindrical phial made of very pale green glass. A pontil scar on the base indicates it was free-blown, inflating the glass using a blowpipe and then manipulated using tools. It dates from the early nineteenth century and may have been a perfume or medicine bottle. It was found on the right-hand side of a burial by the pelvis.

     Glass bottle

Have you found anything similar during an excavation you were part of? Tell us your thoughts and stories at

Ceramic marble

Earthenware clay marbles have been in use for hundreds of years and began to be mass manufactured in the nineteenth century. This example is made from a buff-coloured clay, with a swirl of red dye. It has a chip missing and a slightly uneven surface, so it must have been well used!

Ceramic marble

Interested in archaeology? We’ll be taking people behind the scenes at the labs and talking you through some of their latest archaeological finds in a webinar on Wednesday 14 July at 5pm. Join us by clicking this webinar link a few minutes before it is due to start.

Please watch this video which explains how to set up the webinar session and how it works.

Bone needle case lid

This is the lid of a turned bone needle case with a needle push top, made of iron with punched squares in the manner of a thimble top. The lower half of the case would have attached with a screw thread. It’s likely to date from the late 18th to mid 19th Centuries, and was found by the left shoulder of a burial. This is a fairly plain example but some Georgian and Victorian needle cases were elaborately decorated.

     Bone case needle lid

Interested in archaeology? We’ll be taking people behind the scenes at the labs and talking you through some of their latest archaeological finds in a webinar on Wednesday 14 July at 5pm. Join us by logging on to the webinar a few minutes before it is due to start. Please watch our guidance video which explains how to set up the session and how it works.

Lead bale seal

Lead seals displaying information on place of origin, quantity, quality and taxation were attached to bales of trade goods at their source, as a means of identifying what they were and to aid customs decisions.

     Lead bale seal

This lead seal would have been affixed to a parcel or bale, and is stamped on one side with the date 1845 arranged around a possible five-pointed star and cyrillic lettering round the edge. Hull was a leading importer of flax and yam for linen cloth, used to make clothes and sail cloths, and of hemp, for rope making, from the Eastern Baltic in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Have you found anything similar during an excavation you were part of? Tell us your thoughts and stories at

Lead pipe tamper

This surprising little lead figurine was found when sieving soil.

It is pipe tamper, which was used  for packing tobacco into the bowl of a clay smoking pipe, and putting out and breaking up the ash when extinguishing a pipe. This bawdy representation possibly dates from the latter half of the 18th Century, and is very typical of the period. Smoking was just as popular amongst women as it was men, and given the subject of this pipe tamper, it’s plausibly a lady’s smoking accessory.

Lead pipe tamper


This funny little artefact is very interesting. Have you found anything similar during an excavation you were part of? Tell us your stories at  

Gold Guinea

Even for field archaeologists digging day in day out, striking gold is an extremely rare occurrence!

Here we have a gold third guinea, issued in 1804 during the reign of George III. It was found in loose soil and not associated with a burial.

Gold guinea (reverse)     Gold guinea (obverse)

The Latin legend on the front of the coin reads ‘George III by the grace of God’ and the back of the coin reads ‘King of the Britons, Defender of the Faith’. As the name suggests, it was worth a third of a guinea but was known as a seven shilling piece. This coin was produced exclusively during the reign of George III between 1797 and 1813. It was introduced to address a shortage of gold as a result of the French revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.

Why do you find this artefact interesting? Do you have similar findings from an excavation you were part of or any research you would like to share? Tell us your thoughts and stories at


Leather shoes

The remains of leather shoes were found in one of the tombs. The burial was sealed beneath sandstone slabs so it seems likely that these were worn by the occupant, rather than being a stray later find. Unlike another shoe we also found at Trinity Burial Ground probably left around the twentieth century. Sadly, the skeleton was very poorly preserved and largely absent, but their shoes give us a precious insight into the life of this individual.

Tomb shoe

Why do you find this artefact interesting? Do you have similar findings from an excavation you were part of or any research you would like to share? Tell us your thoughts and stories at

Ivory finial

This object was found during sieving of the soil above the burial layer, so it is not clear whether it was originally associated with one of the graves or has been lost at another point in time. It appears to be made from ivory. It could be one of what would have originally been two matching decorative end pieces, finials, for a personal item such as a purse. Many post-medieval purses had a horizontal metal bar, from which the leather or fabric purse hung from.

Ivory finial

Do we still see items like these in trends today? Maybe you have a similar finding from an excavation you were part of. Share your thoughts and stories with us at

Sheep bone scoop

Along the northern edge of the excavation area, we have found archaeological deposits which pre-date the graveyard and may be medieval.

This scoop was found very close by and may date from this period. It has been carved from a sheep metacarpal, one of the front upper foot bones. They have little flesh on the outside and only a little marrow on the inside, but are straight, long and strong for carving into items as varied as handles, spoons, needle cases, hair pins and whistles throughout different periods of history.

Sheep bone scoop

There were probably numerous ways of using this type of object but they are often referred to as ‘apple corers’, used not only to core fruit but scoop out the flesh to eat rather than biting into them. It was considered more polite to eat fruit this way, and was particularly useful when a person was lacking in teeth!

What do you think this artefact was made for? Email us at to share your ideas.

Mother of pearl knife handle

Mother of pearl is a smooth iridescent substance which forms the inner layer of mollusc shells, particularly pearl oysters. Mother of pearl was very fashionable in the nineteenth century and was used to make a wide range of items including buttons, inkwells, fans, snuff boxes, jewellery and this small engraved knife small. It has a line of circles down the centre which is bordered by a fanned shell design.

Mother of pearl was harvested and transported all around the world, and especially western Australia during the Victorian period.

The handle is most likely to have been attached to a button hook, for fastening gloves or boots closed with small buttons or a sewing tool. These often were bought in sets containing both tools. An alternative use may have been as the handle of a small pickle fork.

Do you have any memories or photos of tools made from Mother of pearl you want to share? Maybe you have similar family heirlooms or conducted in depth research in to Mother of pearl artefacts from this period. Email us at to share your stories with Highways England.

Mother of pearl knife handle example 1. . . Mother of pearl knife handle example 2

Beardman or bellarmine jug sherd

This is a sherd, or fragment, of a salt-glazed stoneware pottery vessel with a glossy textured surface formed by throwing salt into the kiln during the firing process.

This sherd is decorated with an open-mouthed bearded face, typical of bellarmine jugs manufactured in the 16th and 17th centuries, which was usually on the neck of the vessel. The jugs were usually used for storing and serving beer and wine. The bearded faces are thought to represent the ‘wild man’ found in European folklore of the time.

Bellarmine sherd front      Beardman sherd back

Shroud pin

We’ve found bronze pins in many of the graves. These would have been used to fasten shrouds or clothing. During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, pins were made by hand by drawing brass wire to reduce the diameter, cutting to the desired length, and grinding both ends to sharpen. The pin heads were created by winding a short length of thinner wire and clamping it to one end. After manufacture, brass pins were usually tinned to create a more attractive and smoother surface finish.

The first pin-making machines were introduced in about 1830, and for the first time the pins were made in one piece with dies shaping one end of the shank into the head.

Shroud pin

Whale bone

Whaling was a prosperous industry in Hull in the early 19th century.

Whaling voyages from Hull produced nearly 5,000 tonnes of oil a year, which was used to light lamps and make soap.

Whale baleen, the mouth bristles used to filter plankton, was in high demand for its strength and flexibility. It was used to produce corset stays, crinoline petticoats, umbrella ribs, fishing rods and riding crops. Larger bones were used as gateposts and arches, or ground into fertiliser.

We’ve found several fragments of whale bone at Trinity Burial Ground as well as this polished whalebone tool, although we’re not sure of its purpose. 

Fragments of whale bone      polished whale bone tool

Napoleon III coin

This bronze five centimes coin was issued by the French Second Empire in 1855. The front or obverse features the portrait of Napoleon III, facing left, and the reverse shows an eagle.

This pattern with Napoleon appears on bronze French coins from 1852 to 1865. The letter ‘B’ also appears on the reverse and indicates that this coin was minted in Dieppe. At the time this coin was produced, Britain was allied with France against Russia during the Crimean War (1853 - 1856).

Napoleon III coin

Shell hair comb

This comb was found in-situ underneath the skull of a skeleton. The comb looks to be made of ‘tortoise’ shell, which was more usually sea turtle shell. Horn was cheaper and was often used to achieve a similar mottled effect, and poorer women would have used wooden combs to hold their hair in place.

Our finds team report it was hard to clean because it’s so fragile, and mud had to be carefully cleaned out from between the teeth.

shell hair comb      shell hair comb

A sight of beauty

A conch is a sea snail and their spiral-shaped shells have long been prized for their beauty and use as a wind instrument.

Conchology, the study of mollusc shells, was very popular in the 19th century among natural history enthusiasts and merchants imported shells to meet the growing demand.

At the moment, we’re not sure where this shell has come from but it is not native to the UK. We wonder whether someone brought it to Hull from their travels as a present or souvenir.

Do you have one at home? Does it have a special significance to you?

Conch shell      Conch shell

Hair comb found

This hair comb was found by the head of a woman, indicating she was buried with it holding up her hair.

Victorian women usually start wearing their hair up after marrying. Initially, the comb was thought to have been made from tortoiseshell, but we now think it may be made from sheep’s horn which was commonly used for many purposes as a hard malleable material before plastic replaced it.

The horn would have been soaked, flattened out, cut to shape and the comb teeth sawn. This woman’s burial was found at the eastern end of the burial ground, where we appear to have the graves of the more well-off middle classes.

The working class women seem to be buried at the western end and were likely to have worn wooden combs in their hair, which haven’t survived in the ground.

Do you recall any family members wearing their hair up with combs like these? Do you have any photos of Victorian relatives showing how hair was styled in the 19th century?

Tortoise shell hair comb with some sections broken      Hair comb with some sections broken, lying on soil

Plates found in burials

These plates are typical of the everyday tableware people would have used in their homes in the 19th century. However, these examples were found alongside burials at Trinity Burial Ground. They would have held salt, commonly believed to offer protection from the devil. The plates would usually have been removed after the funeral service so it is unusual to find them in the ground. At Trinity Burial Ground we have found four with different designs. 

These are two close ups of the plates, one has a floral motif and the second is a willow pattern plate.

Do you recognise the patterns on these plates? Do you have any examples of similar tableware at home?

Plate found at Trinity Burial Ground

Plate found at Trinity Burial Ground

Do you remember shoes like this?

This shoe was found by one of the tombs. It has a well worn sole and there would have been a heel - there are nail holes where it would have been.

There has been some debate about how old this shoe is as we’re fairly confident it isn’t contemporary with the Victorian burial ground. We suspect it is 20th Century because the sole looks to be rubber - perhaps dating to the 1950s/60s.

Can anyone help us with dating this shoe? Do you recall shoes like this?


Sealed bottle

A sealed bottle has been found containing a brown liquid. The bottle is glass, and says ‘Hull Infirmary’ on the side. It looks to have been deliberately buried within a grave. We’re looking into whether the contents can be tested to find out what it is.

Have you come across chemist paraphernalia dispensed by Hull Infirmary? Perhaps you’ve uncovered a glass bottle like this from your garden or you’ve spotted an earthenware ointment jars on a shelf of antiques?

Jewellery and coins found

We’ve found a pair of coins, issued in the Netherlands, from a burial. They were found where a trouser pocket might once have been.

Do you have Dutch connections and live in Hull today? Can you tell us anything more about Willelm I?

Two coins found in a burial, on a man's palm

This collection of small purple beads were found with one of the graves. And we found this gold wedding band with hallmarks. Do you recognise the hallmarks?

Small purple beads, some whole and some broken      Gold wedding band

This copper-alloy chain-linked cufflink has been found. It has a design still slightly visible which was worn by navy officers.

Do you or anyone else you know have cufflinks with naval associations?

Old-looking copper-alloy cufflinks in a man's hand

Studded coffin plate

A preserved coffin inscription, with the name and age of the buried individual picked out on the surface of the coffin lid in copper studs.

It recorded 79-year-old Jane Griswood (died 2 November 1834). The use of studwork for recording the biographical information (rather than condensed information, such as initials) seems both unusual and a little outdated for the time of burial, as was the use of ‘obt’ rather than ‘died’ as seen more commonly on the painted coffin plates.

We’ve been able to match the data to a burial register record, where the surname is actually spelled incorrectly as Griswold rather than Griswood!

Is your surname Griswood? And are your family from Hull? If so, let us know if you think you may be a relation of Jane Griswood.

Studded coffin plate

Floral tribute

We found this collection of plant remains preserved on top of a coffin from one of the tombs excavated this week. The floral tribute was laid on top of the coffin plate. The consensus is that it is a variety of bilberry, probably cowberry (or lingonberry).

Have you spotted any growing locally in Hull?

Floral tribute

Brick-lined grave built in the shape of a coffin

We have excavated our first shaft grave, which was brick-lined and capped by stone. The coffin plate had largely disintegrated but the coffin grips, each with a plate depicting cherubs, were well preserved.

This is an ornate grip plate from the brick-lined grave. The design includes two winged cherubs a cartouche and foliage.

Have you spotted images of cherubs like this in and around Hull? On grave stones, building façades, church carvings? If you have, share your photos with us. Tell us where you took them and we’ll share them next week.


This floral brooch was found within a grave, and has been expertly cleaned in our finds department. It doesn’t appear to have a pin or hinge, but it could have been attached to clothing by a ribbon. The central stone is probably agate polished into a cabochon.

Clay pipe

This clay pipe features running footballers. It was common for pipe makers in the latter half of the nineteenth century to including sporting motifs, coinciding with the rise of amateur and professional sports. Football and cricket were commonly featured.


We found this small domino while sieving the excavated topsoil, barely an inch long and made from animal bone.

We’re not sure how it came to be in the graveyard, but it's tempting to imagine a game being played out on the flat slab capping one of the high-status tombs. Others have suggested that sailors used dominoes as a form of personal accounting among their ship mates. 

Small domino piece

Clay pipe bowl

We also found this in the topsoil, a substantially complete clay pipe bowl.

The headdress and moustachios would suggest that this represented a Turk's head, a popular design in the later 19th and early 20th century.

Such pipes were made in moulds and this example retains some hand-painted details. In this case there is no evidence for sooting in the bowl, indicating that it may have suffered a mishap before it could be used.

Clay pipe bowl in the shape of a face with a headdress

Medieval floor tile fragments

These are fragments of medieval floor tiles. They have been decorated with stamp leave impressions into which very runny clay has been poured. The one on the right seems to preserve the rear end of a heraldic beast, perhaps a lion. Such tiles would have been set to form geometric patterns in parts of high status and religious buildings.

These ones may have originated from Holy Trinity Church (Hull Minster): it is said that some of the arisings from the excavation of the crypt in the 19th century were deposited at Castle Street.

Fragments of medieval floor tiles

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