archaeological and historical background
There are a range of finds from the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Iron Age periodsrecovered from the area around the site, from both controlled excavation and as the result ofchance finds. For example, small number of residual prehistoric struck flints and potsherds werefound during excavations at 61-62 Cheyne Walk and 6-16 Old Church Street. Most recently, twopits, possibly of Mesolithic date, were recorded at 2-4 Old Church Street. Artefacts of Palaeolithic,Me
solithic and Neolithic date were collected by antiquarians from the Thames ‘off Chelsea’, as was
an assemblage of Iron Age material. Most significantly, a concentration of artefacts from stratifiedNeolithic contexts has been recovered from this zone during foreshore survey. A well-preservedpaleoenvironmental deposit consists of peats with organic inclusions in the form of waterloggedtree branches and logs and from this widespread feature, a variety of artefacts have beenretrieved, both as surface finds and in stratified contexts. These include burnt and worked flints,animal bone, ceramics and a wooden club or beater, which is c 0.7m in length and dates to 3630-3350 cal BC. This artefact is presently on display at the Museum of London. Human remains havealso been retrieved from the peats and include two femurs (one dated to the Neolithic 2910
2770cal BC and one to the Bronze Age 1620
1440 cal BC) and a fragment of a Bronze Age skull(1750-1610 cal BC). This adult male skull is the first dated example from the London area showingevidence for trepanation
There is very little evidence for use of the area during this period. Evidence from excavation at the
three ‘dry land’ sites mentioned above
suggests a small scale rural settlement during the Romanperiod.
The changing shape of the river over time is further evidenced by place-name evidence for eyots,or islands, such as those discovered at north Southwark. It is known that Westminster Abbey wasestablished on
by the late Anglo-Saxon period and it has been suggested that similarislands may have existed further west at Chelsea and Battersea during this period. Chelsea[
] is first mentioned in the
, which records that a church synodwas held there in AD 785; this was followed by a number of other councils. This fits well with therecently discovered archaeological evidence for Middle Saxon settlement at 6-16 Old ChurchStreet, and with the discovery of two Middle Saxon fishtraps on the Thames foreshore. The firstdiscovered is a V-shaped trap with 84 posts so far recorded (dated to 730-900 cal AD), and thesecond is of 10 posts and may be a barrier trap ((650 to 890 cal AD).
thames discovery programme
The zone is approximately 600m long and 70m wide. Since the 1940s,houseboats have been permanently moored on the upper part of theforeshore, connected to land by a series of pontoons. At present the onlysafe permanent access from the waterfront to the foreshore is via a set ofstairs located on the Embankment, downstream of Battersea Bridge (over1km away). Once upstream of the bridge, the only safe passage to the site isacross a narrow area in front of the moored houseboats which means it iseasy to become cut off, especially as the tide comes in very quickly. It is also possible to access theforeshore directly from the houseboat pontoons via moored vessels or temporary ladders . Both of theseroutes are somewhat unsatisfactory and the amount of both personnel and equipment that can safely bebrought to the site is limited. The unstable nature of parts of the foreshore surface suggests that someareas have been scoured in the past (possibly due to the movement of vessels across the foreshore),
although it seems unlikely that any large scale dredging has occurred on the site. The presence of ‘soft’
areas, masked by silts, makes the site very dangerous for those unfamiliar with it.