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MoLAS 2004: annual review

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Selected projects 2004: Desk-based assessment and field evaluation

Capability statement: Desk-based assessment and field evaluation

Union Works, 60 Park Street, Southwark (PSE02)

Cleaning the walls of the bear-baiting arena (walls in the foreground and to the right  are part of the later glassworks) (© MoLAS)

Clients: CgMs Consulting

Authors: David Saxby and Derek Seeley

During August 2004 MoLAS uncovered remains of a bear-baiting arena from the 1680s during an evaluation at Union Works, 60 Park Street, SE1. This may well be the last surviving evidence for any of the Restoration period so-called ‘bear gardens’ in Southwark. Known as ‘Davies´ Bear Gardens‘, the arena was the last one to be built at Bankside in Southwark and was in use from 1662 to 1682.

The evaluation has revealed the north and south inner walls of the arena. These were of brick, and survived to c 300mm in height. Tiles had been laid placed on top of these walls to form a ‘lacing course’, the base for a timber sill beam supporting the rest of the structure. The arena itself comprised a compacted pebbled surface. It appears to have been c 27.4m (c 90ft) in diameter and to have been six-sided.

Common throughout the Middle Ages, bear baiting grew to be particularly popular in the 16th and 17th centuries. Together with the many ‘stewes’ (brothels) and the earliest theatres like the Globe and the Rose, they formed a particularly colourful part of Southwark known as Bankside. Bear baiting was a gambling entertainment in which a bear was tied to a post and then forced to face packs of dogs. Spectators gambled on how many of the dogs the bear could kill.

The results of the evaluation will inform the client and the local planning authority about the degree of survival and extent of the remains of ‘Davies´ Bear Gardens’, and allow the design team to prepare a foundation design for submission to the planning authority for approval.

Woburn Safari Park, Bedfordshire (BE-WOB04)

Excavation of a slot through a ditch forming part of a Middle Iron Age enclosure (© MoLAS)

Clients: Centre for Conservation and Education, Woburn Safari Park

Author: Elizabeth Howe

Site supervisor: Simon Davis

Project ‘Raja’ at the Woburn Safari Park comprises the construction of new elephant houses, yards and paddocks, and a new Centre for Conservation and Education.

A large enclosure system, identified as a series of cropmarks from aerial photographs, was more clearly defined by a geophysical magnetometer survey, which covered an area of approximately 5 hectares. The survey and photographs combined showed a large, roughly square, enclosure of c 80 x 80m, with the southern boundary appearing as two ‘bowed’ ditches aligned east–west. The lower half of the ‘square’ was further subdivided by ditches. Extending north from the ‘square’ is another rectilinear enclosure, also divided into two, measuring approximately 80 x 50m. Within this, anomalies were identified which may represent burning or metalworking. A further, possibly rectilinear enclosure was recorded to the east, measuring c 200 x 30m, while a number of fragmented linear anomalies may represent former trackways or possibly larger field divisions.

The trial trench evaluation targeted the ditches and the internal areas of the enclosures including some of the larger anomalies. Trenches were also located in the area of the proposed new building complex and the new access road running north–south along the east side of the site.

The evaluation confirmed evidence of significant Middle Iron Age activity comprising the enclosures, along with pits, postholes and, importantly, evidence for ironworking. A significant pottery assemblage comprising 88 sherds dating to the Middle Iron Age was also recovered.

There appears to have been little horizontal truncation of the archaeological features. Small pits and postholes survive on the higher ground and the contemporary ground levels appear to respect the natural topography of the area. The large boundary ditches of enclosures 1 and 2 are 0.6–1.3m in depth. Internal ditches and other cut features were relatively shallow.

The mitigation strategy involved redesigning the elephant enclosures to minimise damage to the underlying archaeological deposits. A further phase of archaeological works is proposed over the winter of 2004–5, comprising a strip, map and record investigation.

Caxton Hall, Westminster (CXH04)

Inside Caxton Hall (© MoLAS)

Clients: Amberswift Ltd/Stanhope plc

Author: Elizabeth Howe

Site supervisor: Lindy Casson

MoLAS carried out an archaeological evaluation at Caxton Hall in March 2004. It comprised the excavation of test pits and one large trench in the former Great Hall, the scene of many political meetings (see below). Horizontal archaeological deposits up to 2m in depth were recorded, mainly relating to later post-medieval development. The site lies on a sandy eyot (ie, island of higher ground) and is located at the western end of the medieval suburb of Petty France, which grew up to serve Westminster Abbey and the Palace of Westminster. The area appears to have been largely unoccupied until the later 16th and 17th century. Further archaeological work will take place in January 2005, when an archaeological strip, map and record investigation will take place in order to record the post-medieval development of the site, prior to the excavations for the new basement.

Caxton Hall was constructed in 1878 as the Westminster City hall and Chapel Street was changed to Caxton Street after the printer William Caxton. The building has been an important location for political events as well as the scene of many celebrity marriages. The front part of the building complex was listed because of its associations with the suffragette movement. The Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) activities included the holding of a ‘Women's Parliament’ at Caxton Hall at the beginning of each parliamentary session, with a subsequent procession to the Houses of Parliament and the attempt (always unsuccessful) to deliver a petition to the prime minister in person. It has been the scene of many political meetings in the 20th century.

As the registry office for Westminster, many famous marriages took place there, including Sir Anthony Eden and Clarissa Churchill (niece of Sir Winston), the former Beatle Ringo Starr, Donald ‘Bluebird’ Campbell (two marriages), and actors Elizabeth Taylor, Roger Moore and Adam Faith. Winston Churchill is reputed to have made war-time speeches from Caxton Hall. More esoteric associations include the celebrating of the ‘Rites of Eleusius’ by Alister Crowley and friends.

St Marylebone School, Westminster (MBH04)

Cleaning 'coffin furniture' (© MoLAS)

Clients: Governors & Trustees of St Marylebone School

Author: George Dennis

Site supervisor: Adrian Miles

Commencing in 2002, MoLAS has undertaken desk-based study, field evaluation and further excavation on behalf of the Governors and Trustees of St Marylebone School, as part of a development for an underground sports hall. This is within the historic nucleus of Marylebone village and involves the removal of part of the former parish church (demolished after the Second World War) and most of its graveyard, both of medieval origin. The majority of the burials are thought likely to date from c 1750–1850, when Marylebone was a fashionable and wealthy suburb. The coffin plates and memorials with these higher-status burials offer the potential for correlating the archaeological and documentary record, and possibly to identify prominent individuals known to have been buried there, who include Charles Wesley and the painter George Stubbs. In 2004, excavation of the western end of the church was completed. Fieldwork was undertaken in conjunction with a specialist exhumation company and has demonstrated that the medieval church was completely removed during a reconstruction c 1740. The Georgian church was recorded, together with a number of burials inside it. Excavation of the churchyard is planned for late 2004.

120 Cheapside, City of London (CDP04)

Cheapside in 1638; drawing of Marie de Medici's visit (© MoLAS)

Clients: Land Securities plc

Author: Nick Bateman

Site supervisor: Lindy Casson

Following an initial desk-based assessment, an archaeological evaluation was carried out during the summer at 120 Cheapside, in support of an application for planning consent. The desk-based assessment had identified potential for quite deep Roman archaeology in the area, which is very close to the sites of excavations at 10 Gresham Street and 30 Gresham Street (see report) a couple of years ago. At both these sites, Roman sequences of some complexity and considerable interest were recorded.

The proposed building will have a new basement at the same level as the current one, although there will be one or two key areas where some ground reduction is unavoidable. The evaluation has shown Roman archaeology does survive that in these areas. This appears to comprise the same kind of ‘domestic’ archaeological sequence as found to the north but so far there has been no sign of any significant Roman masonry remains.

In the centre of the site one of the areas to be evaluated was the so-called ‘City Compter’, a pair of brick vaults, abandoned for over a decade now, which used to serve as an occasional party venue for a nearby bar and were reputed to be — and marketed as — the remains of the medieval and post-medieval Wood Street Compter. This building, effectively a small local prison, did indeed originally lie in the near locality — but unfortunately these brick vaults had never been part of it. They were almost certainly 18th-century cellars, which had later been used as wine vaults.

The desk-based assessment and field evaluation have enabled the client significantly to mitigate the impact of their proposals. Fieldwork proved that the highest deposits beneath the current slabs are low-grade archaeological dumped deposits, possibly post-medieval. New construction will not affect the more significant Roman deposits surviving beneath.

St Paul's Cathedral, City of London (SCP04)

Recording the remains of the pre-Wren cathedral cloister (© MoLAS)

Clients: Dean and Chapter of St Paul’s Cathedral

Author: Nick Bateman

Site supervisor: Robin Wroe-Brown

Between September and October 2004 MoLAS carried out a five-week evaluation at St Paul's Cathedral. Senior Archaeologist Robin Wroe-Brown led a team comprising three professional archaeologists. Because of the nature of the site, which was not subject to the usual hazards of City development with machinery and/or other contractors, the opportunity was taken to involve several volunteers in the excavation and recording process as part of a training exercise.

Access paths and gardens on the south side of the cathedral are to be re-landscaped in the near future, and the remains of the medieval chapter house and cloister which survive c 1m beneath current street and garden levels were uncovered for detailed survey, recording and photography, prior to decisions on the precise nature of future work. Remains included two of the massive central piers, parts of both the internal and external cloister walls, and quite a large stretch of the paved floor of the cloister. This was the first sizeable part of the pre-Wren cathedral to see the light of day for nearly 150 years.

The re-landscaped gardens will eventually incorporate the layout of the medieval remains, although it is likely that all surviving masonry will be reburied to avoid complications with long-term conservation in the open air.



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