ARCHAEOLOGISTS digging in Newton Abbot town centre are excited after unearthing an ancient child's shoe and other everyday artefacts which could date back to the 1400s.
The finds are remarkably intact thanks to South Devon's claggy red mud, which has helped to preserve rare wood and leather objects which would otherwise have rotted centuries ago.
'It's this day-to-day stuff which is exciting,' said Simon Sworn, of Cotswold Archaeology and the site's senior archaeological project officer.
'The job is not all about kings under car parks,' he added.
Along with the shoe, a number of other artefacts have been unearthed at the site. And because of the Devon mud there is hope that even older finds are also going to be found as the dig delves into even deeper layers, possibly back to the 6th century.
Other historic treasures include an iron spur from a child's boot, three wooden barrel bases and a 27 inch (70 cm) diameter Dartmoor granite millstone, used to grind wheat into flour.
The experts say: "Wolborough Street was the medieval town's main thoroughfare. The site covers the rear parts of former medieval burgage plots which fronted onto the street. The front parts of these plots were heavily disturbed by the construction of two large town houses in the late 17th/18th centuries.
"Over the next few weeks, we will gradually peel away the medieval layers and go deeper. As the name suggests, Newton Abbot was essentially founded as a medieval new town, but there is some evidence for 6th/7th-century activity in the immediate vicinity of the site so we may find earlier remains lurking below the medieval burgage plots."
Wolborough Street Open Morning, Wednesday October 19 from 10am to 12.30pm.
There will be a unique opportunity for the public to view the site, talk to the archaeologists and see a selection of artefacts recovered from the dig. The site will be open from 10am to 12:30pm and is accessed directly from Wolborough Street. Free entry.
'We will keep going down until we hit natural geology - or water at the site makes it unsafe,' added Mr Sworn.
The team is hoping to uncover more household artefacts dating back to the 13th century, when Newton Abbot was a hastily-built 'new town' as its name suggests.
Mr Sworn explained: 'Newton Abbot was essentially founded as a medieval new town but there is some evidence for 6th/7th-century activity in the immediate vicinity of the site so we may find earlier remains lurking below the medieval burgage plots.'
A burgage is the old word for borough as in Wolborough Street.
The team are digging trenches in Wolborough Street, Bank Street and East Street. They started work on the old Pascoe and Gill site in Wolborough Street, due to be redeveloped as shops and living accommodation.
He added: 'We've been learning a lot about how the town developed and how it came to be the place we live in - and who the people were who made Newton Abbot what it is today.'
Conditions at the site have enabled artefacts to be so well preserved due to a lack of oxygen in the soil.
Conditions at the site (pictured) have enabled artefacts to be so well preserved due to a lack of oxygen in the soil
The waterlogged conditions have enabled organic materials such as leather and wood, which would have rotted long ago, to last for centuries.
'I've never worked on a site where so much local interest has been shown,' added Mr Sworn.
He added: 'A lot of perceptive questions have been asked - and we've been happy to answer them.
'Over the next few weeks, we will gradually peel away the medieval layers and go deeper.'
The waterlogged conditions have enabled organic materials such as leather and wood, which would have rotted long ago, to last for centuries
The archaeological team say that due to evidence of other historical activity in the area, it is hoping to uncover more artefacts which could predate the leather shoe by hundreds of years.