Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Regis House

In a previous session for 'Digging the Dirt' I described the site of Regis House, next to London Bridge, dug in 1995-6. This was my first introduction to deep stratigraphy and very scary it was, but also one of the best sites I have worked on.

The original crossing point for the Romans at the Thames was at Westminster and Watling Street heads in that direction. But they diverted north to cross at what is now London Bridge. Was there an Iron Age settlement at Westminster? 

Roman revetment (my photo)
The most exciting part of working on this site was seeing what must have been the very first structures to be built for the very first London. These timbers are set into the bank of the Thames (c.80m from the present river) and date to c.AD 52. This is the start of London's first port. 

Timber quay
Later, around AD 63, a massive timber quay was constructed supporting warehouses divided into 6 bays with open fronted entrances. The space was filled with mostly oyster shells, indicating a substantial processing industry. 

Keying for plaster
The walls of the warehouses were executed in mudbrick with a daub covering keyed for a plaster finish, probably applied by a wooden roller. 

Lead ingots of Vespasian
  In Bay 3 three lead ingots were found beneath an early floor. They weighed 170lbs and were stamped on the upper surface IMP VESPASIAN AUG and on the side BRIT EX ARG VEB or 'Britainia, from the silver mines'. They came from the Mendip Hills and lead is often found with silver. 

Bay 4 produced glass and may have been a workshop.

Mark & I recording floorboards
The Hadrianic in the 2nd century left its mark on the site. Many of the buildings were destroyed with fire debris being spread over the site. 

The Thames at this point would have seen traded goods from all over the Roman Empire and linked Britain with it. Goods would have been wine from the Med, pottery from Gaul (France), lamps from Italy with fish sauce and olive oil from France and Spain. In exchange lead, tin, wool, corn and slaves would have been sent across the channel and south across the sea. 

This truly remarkable site had to be destroyed by machines after we had dug it and it was heartbreaking to see. If enough money had been put up it could have been presented to Londoners and tourists as much as the Rose Theatre on the south bank is still. The very early date demonstrates the importance of the riverfront from the very beginning of London as well as the first London Bridge crossing. 

Other pictures from MoLAS 96: Annual Review     

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