Croydon BCE – Life’s A Ditch

By adam corsini on 8 Oct 2014

Found at Beddington Sewage Works in 1982Found at Beddington Excavations

The Museum’s Unearthing programme has taken us all across the Capital, from Hounslow to Havering, Bromley to Barnet. This autumn, we’re focusing on South-South London, and the boroughs of Croydon & Sutton. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing what was found when archaeologists dug up Beddington in the 1980s, taking in 10000 years of history and revealing how you can be part of this story.

10000 years ago, London was… well, it wasn’t. Where London would later be, the mighty Thames still flowed and from the parent river sprung several offshoots including South London’s River Wandle. The Wandle still flows today, though back then, it too would have had several channels, one of which ran right through the area making up today’s border between Sutton & Croydon.

Plan of the water channel running through Beddington



When archaeologists dug up the area of Beddington in the 1980s evidence of this periglacial water channel provided them with the earliest feature in this area. Admittedly it didn’t look like much, just a big ditch, but to the archaeologist, ditches are incredibly important: Whilst excavating, Beddington’s archaeologists discovered long straight ditches cut into the soil, evidence that the first settlers in the area (we’re talking late Bronze Age, around 3500 years ago) were defining their land and create a field system. Take this evidence and place it along some of the artefacts uncovered, such as the amazing fragment of an antler mattock pictured below, and an abundance of sheep and cattle bone and suddenly one can imagine the prehistoric people, settling down, making a life for themselves here.

Found at Beddington Excavations



Plan of the Iron Age features at Beddington

And it must have been a good spot. For a natural transition from the Bronze Age to the Iron Age ensued. Once again it’s a series of ditches that provide us with evidence of Iron Age Beddington. Long straight ditches meeting at almost a right angle seem to define an enclosure, as seen in the image above. Within that enclosure we find… more ditches! Only this time, they’re ringed shaped and within these are round holes, aka post-holes, which as any discerning archaeologist knows, is a good indication of a wooden round house. Artefact wise, we start to get spindle whorls, loom weights, beads and brooches (see below) alongside the ever present handmade pottery. Again an image of domestic life can be imagined.

Found at Beddington Sewage Works in 1982

As we move from BCE to AD, a change is afoot. For across the sea, them there Romans be coming…

Discover more about the area at our Unearthing South London events at the Whitgift Centre, Croydon, Fri 24 Oct – Sun 26 Oct.

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