The Sidbury Barrel: A Fifteenth Century Barrel Latrine from Worcester

Sidbury Barrel during reconstruction

This fifteenth century barrel latrine was excavated in Sidbury in the 1970s during the construction of City Walls Road.

Museum staff excavating the barrel in the 1970s

The barrel had been sunk into a pit in a city backyard and used as the base of a latrine.The seeds, insects and parasite eggs that were discovered within it provide a valuable insight into life in medieval Worcester. Much of the material within the barrel must have survived digestion but it is likely that some kitchen scraps and environmental remains are also represented.

Twenty edible plants were identified including fruit such as gooseberry, apple, pear, bilberry and strawberry, and fig and grape which may have been imported. Evidence of herbs were also found such as chervil, coriander and fennel along with other foods like broad beans and bran. The bones of chicken, eel and herring were probably thrown into the latrine as scraps, perhaps along with the stones of damsons and sloes. From the local environment of the time were found, seeds and pollen representing the presence of straw, hay and sedge. Weld and linseed used in the clothing industry were also found along with a sample of cloth.

The wooden staves of the barrel were conserved and reconstructed with great care following its excavation by the staff of Worcester City Museums Service. The barrel has been in the museum store for a number of years. In 2010, the barrel was cleaned and placed in a new purpose-built display case. Since mid 2010 it has been on display at The Commandery, Worcester as part of the ‘Echoes of Old Sidbury’ exhibition and, more recently, the ‘Wicked Worcester’ exhibition which runs until 30th January 2011. It is hoped that the barrel will remain on display beyond the end of the exhibition.

For more information regarding the Sidbury barrel please contact Deborah Fox at  museumcollections@worcestershire.gov.uk

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