London is forever being rebuilt. Everywhere you look in the city there seems to be a crane and building site. And where there’s building works, there’s usually been some archaeology.
Now archaeological work doesn’t always involve teams of archaeologists digging away for days. Sometimes an archaeological investigation may simply involve one person observing developer work and recording any features that appear. This is usually referred to as a watching brief and was the situation with our first site. In November 1980, a Mr Lea, archaeologist for the Department of Urban Archaeology, recorded the remains exposed in a small square trench. Taken from the site report, this is what he had to say:
“A brick structure, probably a seventeenth century burial vault was found in a trench which had been dug for the purpose of planting a tree. Three sides of the the trench were drawn in section and part of the brick burial vault was recorded in plan and elevation. The recording took place on 20/11/80″
Alongside this there is a plan of the area (the trench is the small black square at the bottom)
But can you guess what this building is and where this watching brief took place?
Our next site was excavated in 1995. Before any excavation takes place a desk based assessment is produced by the non-digging archaeologists. When preparing the project design for this excavation they looked at all the potential periods the excavation might come across and this is what they had to say:
“The area has produced a limited amount of material dating to the prehistoric period; the site lies some 1.50km to the west of the Roman city of London (Londinium), in an area of little known Roman activity. It lies between two major Roman roads: c. 400m to the north-west is the line of the road from Silchester to Londinium; The reassessment of the evidence for a post-Roman London, known from documentary sources, gathered pace in the late 1970’s when major excavations within the City of London failed to locate it; This settlement seems to have thrived as a major market with the Venerable Bede writing of it as a “mart of many nations” with a port on the river embankment”
Several clues there then, but can you guess which building lies on top of this excavation and whereabouts it took place?
Our final site took place in March 1972. One of the photographs from the site reveals remains of a medieval cellar running through the section (horizontal side of the trench)
The excavation quite aptly uncovered remains from across almost all of London’s historic periods, including at its lowest levels, natural London clay, roman and medieval road surfaces, possible use of the road during the Saxon period, fourteenth century stone housing, and 19th Century brick foundations for cellars. Admittedly, this information could relate to roundabout anywhere in the city, so here’s one last clue: it’s been said that the men on site liked to have a little dance every now and then…
Have a guess and leave your answers in a comment below. (But if you really want to find out the answers, follow these links to discover where these excavations took place)
Discover more about Hidden London at the Museum’s Archaeological Archive – Book your behind the scenes tour