ARCHAEOLOGISTS working on Carlisle Cathedral’s Grade I-listed Fratry site have discovered 50 coins and some animal bones in the first few weeks of digging.

They are painstakingly using a trowel and brush to work their way down in the area where a lift pit is being dug.

Dave Bell is site manager for Cubby Construction, which is carrying out work on the cathedral’s new £1.9m heritage and education centre.

He said: “Everything they find has to be documented. The work they’re doing is important. They record it and put it in bags.

“The recent dry spell has helped as it’s better when the soil is dry rather than wet.

“We’ve got about five members of staff working on the site. It’s quite a small team but we’re making good progress.”

Musket balls - a basic type of bullet used as ammunition by guns - have also been found on the site.

And underneath a water culvert has been discovered.

Colin Graham, contract manager for Cubby Construction, said: “The site is quite tight and access is restricted especially for deliveries.

“Until we dig down we don’t know what we are going to find.”

Sourcing materials for the project has not been too difficult. Some glass and bronze will travel to the UK from Germany for the project.

Mr Graham said: “It will be another few months before we start to see a building rising up.

“A lot of work is still going on underground.

“The next stage will be to get the steel and concrete in place for the new building and make sure the structure is dry at all times.

Mr Bell said: “The tricky bit is making old and new tie in.”

Kevin Thistlethwaite, of Cubby Construction, said: “We are a local family firm, delighted to have been selected to carry to complete the important work on the Fratry which is at the heart of our community.”

Since redevelopment began before Christmas, construction workers have removed the Victorian stone porch, which has uncovered the former entrance.

Cash for the project has come from the Heritage Lottery Fund, together with a determined fundraising effort, including the Friends of Carlisle Cathedral, grant-making trusts, donations by members of the public, and activity at the cathedral.

The project is expected to be complete by Christmas, and will create a new café, along with a dedicated space for arts and events.

A lightweight, fully-glazed bronze structure will connect the pavilion to the split levels of the refurbished existing Fratry building where exhibitions, performances and events will take place.

The Fratry was built in the 1500s as the Abbey refectory, and is home to the cathedral’s collection of 17th and 18th century books, all of which have been carefully boxed up and placed into storage.