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Bridging the Past: Life in Medieval and Post-Medieval Southwark Excavations along the route of Thameslink Borough Viaduct and at London Bridge Station

Fairman, Amelia and Teague, Steven and Butler, Jon and Allison, Enid and Boardman, Sheila and Cameron, Nigel G and Champness, Carl and Cotter, John and Flammer, Patrik and Gaimster, Marit and Goodburn, Damian M and Green, Chris and Hayward, Kevin and Hunter, Kathryn and Jarrett, Chris and Keys, Lynne and Loe, Louise and Moore, Peter and Morgan, Graham and Nicholson, Rebecca and Peglar, Sylvia and Poore, Daniel and Rielly, Kevin and Rutherford, Mairead and Scott, Ian and Shaffrey, Ruth and Smith, Adrian and Smith, David and Stafford, Elizabeth and Trott, Kevin and Brown, Josephine and Davies, Cate and Lamb, Sophie and Rousseaux, Charles and Wachnik, Magdalena Bridging the Past: Life in Medieval and Post-Medieval Southwark Excavations along the route of Thameslink Borough Viaduct and at London Bridge Station. Project Report. OAPCA.

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The part of the Thameslink project reported here
concerns excavations undertaken in 2009–13 spread
over a distance of some 780m in Southwark, associated
with the construction of the new Borough Viaduct and
the improvement of London Bridge Station. The focus
is entirely on the post-Roman phases of occupation;
earlier activity in this area (and the post-medieval burial
ground at Cure’s College) is reported elsewhere. The
nature of the construction work meant that individual
excavation areas were small and correlation of results
across these areas was challenging, although, where
possible, interpretation was informed by reference to
Martha Carlin’s documentary work on medieval
Southwark and to the substantial body of post-medieval
panoramic views and maps which show the rapidly
evolving plan of the borough. The investigations
covered seven distinct geographic areas, from west to
east: Park Street, Stoney Street, Borough Market, Green
Dragon Court, Borough High Street and Railway
Approach, all within the general area of Borough
Viaduct, and London Bridge Station, itself with multiple
component areas. Topographical variation means that
there were significant differences in the occupation
sequences of the western and eastern halves of the
project area. Parts of the lower lying ground at London
Bridge Station remained subject to flooding through
much of the medieval period, and management of
drainage involving maintenance of a multiplicity of
channels and drains, often on changing alignments, was
a significant preoccupation in this area.There was limited evidence for late Saxon activity in
the western part of the area. A substantial recut ditch at
Borough Market (Bedale Street) might have related to
the defences of the Saxon burh. A north–south aligned
ditch at the western margin of London Bridge Station
was also possibly related to the burh, but its earliest fills
could not be examined, so its dating is uncertain. Other
late Saxon features, principally pits, mainly lay within
the probable line of the burh defences. Subsequent early
medieval activity was also confined to the western part of
the project area. The Borough Market ditch might have
defined the southern boundary of the priory precinct of
St Mary Overy. After a fire in 1212 the infirmary of the
priory was relocated to the east side of Borough High
Street, where excavation located the west end of successive
buildings of St Thomas’s Hospital, dominated by
structures from the post-medieval phases.At Stoney Street, stone foundations of one or more
buildings probably related to tenements documented
here. Elsewhere in the western half of the project area,
substantial structural evidence was scarce or fragmentary
before the mid to late 15th century, but pit groups
and other deposits indicate fairly intensive activity from
at least the 13th century onwards. Further east, later
medieval buildings were also few in number and most
lay relatively close to the lines of Tooley Street and
Bermondsey Street. More concerted work on drainage
channels led to increased availability of land for building
in this area from the later 15th century onwards.
By the mid 16th century the Stoney Street buildings
had been robbed and replaced by less substantial
structures and extensive pitting. Pits indicative of the
location of excavated areas in yards or gardens associated
with a range of properties were also encountered at Park
Street, Borough Market and Green Dragon Court at
different times in the 17th century. By this time a range of
buildings abutted the long-established boundary wall on
the south-west side of the Stoney Street site, an alignment
that then defined the northern side of the 18th-century
almshouses surrounding College Yard (eventually
containing the substantial cemetery already reported).
Like these buildings, further structures to the west and
east at Park Street, Stoney Street and Borough Market can
be correlated approximately with buildings and yards
shown on 18th-century maps. At Green Dragon Court
walls and floors of later 17th-century and later date
belonged to buildings fronting onto Borough High Street
almost opposite St Thomas’s Hospital.At London Bridge Station intensification of building
density was evident from the 17th century onwards
although, even now, management of drainage systems
and water channels required more attention than
further west. Throughout this period there was dynamic
development of the network of streets and alleys south
and west of Tooley Street and Bermondsey Street
respectively, reflected in the rapid evolution of
individual buildings, mostly seen as small portions of
structures, although some individual buildings were
long lived. By the 19th century disuse and demolition of
some of these buildings is clearly associated with successive
phases of construction and expansion of London
Bridge Station itself.
The majority of the excavated buildings were modest
structures, many with timber-framed elements, some of which could be partly reconstructed from the evidence of
timbers reused in revetments for drains and channels at
London Bridge Station. Evidence for a degree of variation
in the status of households is seen more clearly in the
pottery and small finds assemblages than in the structures
themselves. This evidence also indicates considerable
diversity of economic activity. From the later medieval
period onwards, butchery/bone working, tanning and
leather working were well represented at London Bridge
Station. Small-scale iron working is indicated at a number
of locations here, including one within the precinct of St
Thomas’s Hospital, and also further west at Stoney Street.
Smithing at most of these locations continued into the
post-medieval period, and at Stoney Street included
evidence for a possible armourer in the early 17th century.
A further activity, particularly at London Bridge Station,
was pin making, evidence for which occurred more
widely in the post-medieval period. In the post-medieval
period glass-making waste was found at Stoney Street and
St Thomas Street, although production was not
necessarily located at these sites. Clay pipe manufacture
was more certainly indicated, again at Stoney Street, and
also at a number of locations in London Bridge Station,
some correlated with documented pipe makers.
The finds assemblages recovered from across the
archaeological interventions are among the largest to be
published to date in the borough and have provided
important evidence of life in medieval and postmedieval
Southwark. The large collections of reused timbers utilised in the
revetments of watercourses and ditches beneath London
Bridge Station provided evidence of woodwork
technologies used in timber-framed housing from the
12th/13th centuries to the 18th century, including
baseplates, cladding, a possible window shutter and most
of a timber garret. They also provided numerous
fragments of medieval and post-medieval boats,
including carvel-built ships and boats with roundbottomed
ancient ‘clinker’ construction in a similar style
to that used for smaller fishing boats, as well as a distinct,
smooth-hulled ‘western barge’ style of construction.
The large building materials assemblage includes not
only medieval architectural stone mouldings from
Borough High Street, some of it originating from St
Thomas’s Hospital, but also a stoup and reused architectural
stone from Stoney Street that may have belonged to
the Abbot of Waverley’s town house. The assemblage
also contained early ceramic roofing materials such as
ridge and bat tiles together with collections associated
with high-status buildings, including early medieval
bricks and Westminster and Penn floor tiles alongside
the more usual assemblages of Flemish and other plain
floor tiles. These items help to determine the changing
aspects of buildings constructed in Southwark during
the medieval and post-medieval periods.
The large assemblage of pottery related to the late
Saxon burh, medieval high-status properties, inns and
drinking establishments and domestic households. The
distribution of the pottery helped to demonstrate the of the bridgehead encompassing Borough Market and
Borough High Street to the south, and the increased
development from the medieval period beyond this strip
to the roads behind such as Stoney Street and Park Street.
Late medieval and post-medieval pottery illustrates the
development of the area beneath London Bridge Station.
The collection is one of the few large pottery assemblages
from Southwark to be published and allowed comparisons
to be made between the pottery recovered from
Southwark and the City, suggesting different supply
routes and markets. The distribution of the better quality
medieval and post-medieval ceramics supported the
docu mentary evidence for the location of the higher
socio-economic households. The chemical analysis of
crucibles, although derived from off-site sources, pro -
vided new information on the development of the
Southwark glass house and metallurgical industries.
The clay tobacco pipe assemblages include groups
from domestic households of high and low socioeconomic
status, entertainment premises such as inns,
public houses and an eating house, along with institutions
such as St Thomas’s Hospital and the Cure’s
College almshouses. Pipes connected with two kilns of
late 17th- and early 19th-century date, and wasters and
other production material were found in small quantities
as well. The kilns are important additions to the
eight other known sites that have produced these
structures in the Greater London area. The production
waste demonstrates the range produced by pipe makers,
the technology employed, and failures in manufacturing
and firing, the latter previously little researched.
Chemical analysis on the sources of clay used by
London pipe makers was innovatively undertaken on
the clay tobacco pipe wasters and showed that both
kilns were supplied with Dorset Ball Clay. The makermarked
pipes provide important insights into the
Southwark industry and the marketing strategies of the
master pipe makers. The report includes the results of
extensive research undertaken on the Southwark pipe
makers, adding new individuals and master pipe makers
to those previously documented. The glass assemblage reflects an increase in the use of
this material across time. The medieval and early postmedieval
glass consisted of high-status finds from only
a few locations associated with the town houses of
wealthy clerics and secular properties. By the 18th
century glass was more commonplace and represented
by a larger range of forms and by the 19th century it was
an everyday material frequently used as containers for
mercantile goods. A large number of vessels found at
Stoney Street from the late 18th century onwards were
most likely associated with the Wheatsheaf public
house. Additionally, a sizeable group of mid 18th to
early 19th-century alcohol consumption vessels and
associated items recovered from the area of the Cure’s
College almshouse, may relate to the collection of a
connoisseur of glass drinking vessels or have been used
in the institution on formal occasions. Metal and small finds contributed to the discussions of
social status and character of small-scale production, in
particular pin manufacture in the early modern period.
Unique or unusual objects are represented by a late Saxon
or Norman period comb of elephant ivory reworked into
a textile implement and a copper alloy cross-staff head of
similar date. Social status could be seen in spurs and small
assemblages of candle holders or candlesticks, security
equipment and writing utensils, which illustrate the
presence of large houses and comfortable households
across the area in the later medieval and early modern
periods. In the later post-medieval period, the decline in
social status of the area around London Bridge Station
was reflected in the finds assemblages, contrasting with
the Victorian ‘signature’ assemblages excavated in the
Park Street area to the south-west, which included silver
and silver-plated spoons, numerous buttons of varying
materials, play things, and objects for personal hygiene
such as combs and toothbrushes.
Leather recovered from London Bridge Station
consisted of both primary and secondary waste and
showed that the area was home to shoemakers. Objects
recovered included large numbers of turnshoes with
pieces of associated ‘silk’ lining together with patten
shoes, a thigh boot, a scabbard and several harness straps.
The large faunal assemblage provides evidence of not
only animal husbandry, butchery practices and changing
diets, but also important information regarding the
crafts and industries occurring in Southwark. Notably
among these were tanning and tawing, which would
have produced noxious waste, particularly in the case of
the tanyards working skins for both the light and heavy
leather industries sited within or adjacent to the London
Bridge area. Away from this locality, there is some
evidence of species which could be regarded as high
status or at least relatively expensive, some of which were
probably associated with the medieval clerical town
houses. In the post-medieval period, birds including
swan, pheasant and partridge, as well as an early example
of turkey, are indicative of affluent dining The fish remains also provide evidence of the diet of
the people of Southwark but showed surprising consistency
between assemblages dating from the post-
Roman period right up to the early modern period.
Typically for sites in London and Southwark the main
fish consumed were gadids, particularly cod and
whiting, as well as flatfish such as plaice and flounder,
and also herring and eel. Small numbers of freshwater
and estuarine fish, particularly cyprinids but also
including smelt and shad, were also consistently
present, probably caught fairly locally upstream of the
tidal Thames or in its tributaries. All these fish, in all gadids including cod, saithe and ling are likely to have
been fished in more northerly waters, particularly in the
post-medieval period, and brought into London and
Southwark dried and possibly salted. Herring too are
likely to have been imported in quantity and sold fairly
cheaply as salted, pickled and smoked fish.
Analysis of environmental samples provided other
important evidence of diet, as well as of landscape and
fuel uses in Southwark. Charred, waterlogged and
mineralised plant remains included grain from several
cereals including wheat, barley and rye, and there is
some evidence that suggests that cereals may have been
grown locally and processed in medieval Southwark.
Evidence of hedgerow fruits including blackberry,
raspberry, sloe and elder were found within late Saxon
and medieval pit and ditch fills across the sites, as well
as possible orchard crops such as apple/pear, plum and
cherry, while seeds of grape and fig may have been
imported as dried fruit. An 18th- to 19th-century
deposit at Borough Viaduct produced seeds from a
particularly diverse range of fruits including black or
red currant, grape, apple/pear, cultivated strawberry,
raspberry, blackberry and mulberry, as well as sweet
pepper or paprika and caraway, which would have been
used as flavourings. Similarly, seeds from black or red
currants, grapes, apple/pear, gooseberry and possibly
quince and a variety of plums and cherries were found
at London Bridge Station, indicating a relatively diverse
and prosperous diet for at least some of the inhabitants
of these areas in early modern times.Pollen identified from the large ditches at Borough
Market and London Bridge Station provided some
evidence of the medieval landscape in these areas. Low
levels of arboreal pollen and very high levels of
herbaceous pollen, particularly grasses, suggest a largely
open landscape dominated by pasture suitable for
animal grazing. If not grown locally, high values for
cereal pollen may derive from animal fodder or deposition
of human waste. Much of the fuel wood used in
Southwark probably came from its immediate hinterland
and analysis of the charcoal has provided some
evidence for local woodland and allowed fuel use
practices to be investigated in this part of the Saxon,
medieval and post-medieval settlement. Oak seems to
have been the preferred fuel throughout these periods; a
small shrubby component in the Saxon to postmedieval
assemblages suggests that only limited fuel
wood was available from local hedgerows and scrub.
Some wood may have been collected from areas of
marshy ground, as alder and willow/poplar were
present throughout the samples.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Subjects: Geographical Areas > English Counties > Greater London
Depositing User: Scott
Date Deposited: 29 Jan 2020 13:03
Last Modified: 09 Nov 2020 14:37
URI: http://eprints.oxfordarchaeology.com/id/eprint/5684

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