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Alderman's Stairs Key Site Information

Alderman's Stairs Key Site Information

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Key site information for the foreshore site at Alderman's Stairs, Wapping, London
Key site information for the foreshore site at Alderman's Stairs, Wapping, London

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Thames Discovery Programme on Apr 06, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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08/15/2014

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thames discovery programme
Alderman Stairs FTH02
The zone is approximately 470m long and 30m wide. The only access to thesite is via Alderman Stairs in the centre of the zone; the stairs can be slipperyand lack a handrail. The eastern and western extents of the site are definedby dock entrances. The ground conditions on the site are generally firm atthe top of the foreshore area however the lower part of the foreshore belowthe jetty is deeper mud. There are some trip hazards in the form ofabandoned metalwork and the foreshore surface beneath the jetty is veryuneven.
archaeological and historical background
prehistoric
Very few artefacts of prehistoric date have been found in the local area. Recent work suggests that in thewest of the borough, Bronze Age activity was present on the high ground in the vicinity of modernBishopsgate. A hoard of bronze artefacts for smelting and re-use was found in the 19th century
500m tothe west of the site at Lower Thames Street, and flint flakes and pottery of similar date have beenrecovered from the environs of Tower Hill. An Iron Age inhumation burial was recovered from the Tower
of London during excavations in the 1960’s.
 
roman
 
The area lay outside of the probable limits of the early Roman settlement and was certainly divided fromthe urban area by the construction of the city wall
AD180. To the east of the
Londinium 
lay an extensivecemetery stretching as far north as Bishopsgate and at least 1km to the east of the city walls. The earliestburials in the cemetery can be dated to the late 1st century and interments continued to be made until theend of the 4th century. The closest excavated sites are at Hooper Street and Prescot Street, approximately500m to the north of the site. Residual Roman artefacts were discovered during excavations at the RoyalMint site, immediately north of St Katharine
’s Docks
.
early medieval
 The main focus of mid-Saxon settlement was a busy trading port around Covent Garden, in an area knownas
Lundenwic 
. Re-occupation of the walled area of the Roman city only took place in the late 9th century,and was initially focused on a relatively small area of the riverfront. Some churches do however seem tohave been established in the more sparsely settled areas. One of these was All Hallows Barking by theTower. The church lay on land owned by Barking Abbey (founded 675) and its construction can be datedto
1000. Settlement within the walls thrived and by the late 11th century space within the walls was atsuch a premium that suburbs were already growing up along the principal arterial roads leading out of thecity. A late Saxon institution - the Knights Guild - was given a charter by King Edgar in the late 10th
century granting it a portion of land outside the walls ‘... left desolate and forsaken by the inhabitants...’.
This portion of land stretched from Bishopsgate to the Thames and included all of East Smithfield.
later medieval
The Hospital of St Katharine was founded by Matilda, wife of King Stephen, in the early 12th century. Theconventual buildings of the hospital lay in the St Katharine
’s Dock area and were arranged around a
cloister which lay on the north side of the church. To the east of the conventual buildings lay a dock and
the riverside to the south became the site of St Katharine’
s Wharf. Further to the north the Cistercianabbey of St Mary Graces was founded by Edward III in 1350. The land on which it was established wasagricultural, confirmation of this is provided by the selection of part of the precinct as an emergency burialground during the Black Death (1348-9).
post medieval
The Dissolution of the Monasteries (1538-40) resulted in the Abbey of St Mary Graces being surrenderedto the crown in 1539. The Hospital of St Katharine escaped the Dissolution, and the Great Fire butgradually fell into disrepair after the Plague decimated the area. The Hospital and church survived until theadvent of the Docks in the 19th century.
By the end of the 18th century various schemes to expand London’s dock capacity had lighted on t
he area
of St Katharine’s as a promising location for a new wet dock. Promoters of the dock scheme portrayed the
area as being filled with hovels occupied by the lowest sections of society. An Act to establish the St
Katharine’s Dock was passed in 1825 and
work commenced to clear the 23 acre site, dispossessing
 
without compensation 11,300 of the local inhabitants who did not hold the freehold or leasehold of theirhomes. Construction took two and a half years and the new docks were opened in 1828.The new docks were designed by Thomas Telford, and the architect was Philip Hardwick. A large basin(one and a half acres) led to two docks, the East and West, each of four acres. Each Dock wassurrounded by warehouses of yellow brickwork, six floors high including two levels of vaults supported oniron columns providing a total of 1.25 million square feet of storage. The warehouses lay close to the quayfront in order to facilitate the direct transfer of goods - which included tea, rubber, wool marble, wool,tallow, matches and live turtles. The entrance lock to the basin proved to have been insufficiently large tocope with the increasing size of merchant vessels. As a result goods had first to be transferred to lighters,adding time and expense and reducing the financial viability of the docks.The docks were heavily damaged during the Second World War. The commercial docks were finallyclosed in 1968, the docks and basin subsequently being reused as a marina for leisure craft. Only a single19
th
century warehouse survived the 1980s redevelopment of the dock area.A101 Structure (unclassified) Wharf? Timbers beneath standing structure. Several phases.A102 Timber Small vertical stake.A103 Timber Timber. Part of ship working scatter?A104 Timber Timber. Vertical roundwood post. Mooring post?A105 Structure (unclassified) Bargebed? Timber. Extending at an angle into foreshore.A106 Timber Timbers. Seven or more. Part of ship working scatter?A107 Artefact scatter Industrial. Slag. 20.0mA108 Timber Vertical, rectangular post. Mooring post?A109 Timber Horizontal extending under standing jetty at 90' to it. Jetty? Hard?A110 Artefact scatter Building material. Building debris/timbers/iron. Dumping?A111 Timber Timber. Part of ship working scatter?A112 Artefact scatter Industrial. Slag.A113 Jetty Timber. Two rows following line of standing jetty.A114 Shopping trolleyA115 Consolidation? Industrial waste.A116 Drain Pipe. Stone/concrete 0.75m diam. Cut by standing structure.A117 Structure (unclassified?) Metal structure. Recent.A118 Drain? Stone trough. Semi-circular, 0.60 x 0.40m, with apparent gully.A119 Artefact scatter Nails. Rivets.A119 Jetty? Timber. Beneath standing structure. Several phases.A120 Structure (unclassified) Crane base? Stone/Timber. Associated with A124A121 Watercraft Boat. Clinker-built. Built into A124A122 Consolidation Chalk.A123 Structure (unclassified) Wharf? Timber platform with massive roundwood posts at corners.A124 Structure (unclassified)Wharf? Two parallel rows of squared timbers. 25m long. Appears to be ofseveral phases.A125 Structure (unclassified) Wharf? Two phases of vertical timbers. Standing 3.0m high, with crane base

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