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Vauxhall Key Site Information

Vauxhall Key Site Information

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Background information on the history and archaeology of the Thames Discovery Programme key site at Vauxhall
Background information on the history and archaeology of the Thames Discovery Programme key site at Vauxhall

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categoriesTypes, Research, History
Published by: Thames Discovery Programme on Feb 15, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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thames discovery programme
Vauxhall FLM01
The zone is approximately 640m long and up to 80m wide at its greatest extent;it is bounded by Camelford House and the borough boundary withWandsworth. There is a single access point, via the boat slipway, downstreamof Vauxhall Bridge. The ground conditions on the site are generally firm(gravels), however there is a large area of scoured foreshore immediately infront of the MI6 building. Due to the high security presence in the area, it isvery important to inform the relevant authorities prior to visiting the site.
archaeological and historical background
Of note with regard to the topography of the area is the presence of the River Effra, a majortributary, comparable in size to the Fleet. The stream rises in Norwood, runs through Dulwich andBrixton, past the Oval, and enters the Thames just upstream of Vauxhall Bridge. Cartographicresearch suggests that, until the late 19
century the Effra flowed into the Thames furtherupstream than it does today, and that originally the tributary (also known as Vauxhall Creek) ranin two separate streams from Oval to meet the Thames. The topography of the area may givefurther clues as to the nature of any activity during the prehistoric period. The location of the sitenear the mouth of the Effra may mean that the area was prone to flooding and thereforeunsuitable for permanent settlement. The construction of a bridge, as mentioned below, maytherefore represent a form of ritual activity near the river (for example, a platform for disposal ofitems, or access to a now vanished island), rather than a crossing point of the main channel.This zone is one of the most archaeologically significant stretches of foreshore along the Thames.In addition to a range of post-medieval features it is the location of a number of prehistoricstructures: upstream of Vauxhall Bridge is a Middle Bronze Age structure, interpreted as theremains of a bridge, elevated trackway or jetty-type structure. This structure consists of 22roundwood oak timbers set in two irregular lines, standing approximately 4m apart. Even at thelowest tides the tops of the furthest timbers are rarely exposed and the structure probablycontinues further out into the river. Also nearby was an Iron Age fish trap, (two staggered lines of13 small stakes of oak/alder) and peat and tree exposures, representing the remains of a landsurface. Artefacts eroding from these deposits include animal bone, lithics and sherds of MiddleBronze Age Deverel-Rimbury type pottery. Recent survey has recorded further evidence forprehistoric activity, downstream of the bridge: sherds of early Neolithic pottery and a possiblestructure of six timbers, samples of which have been radiocarbon dated to the Mesolithic period.
The area immediately around Vauxhall is not well-known. There are no examples of excavatedRoman structures in the immediate area, and artefactual evidence is limited to a single sherd of(possible) Roman glass. The Roman routeway in the area, Stane Street (the London toChichester road) runs to the south of the site, along the line now traced by Clapham Road.
early medieval
Limited evidence for activity has been found further to the north on the Albert Embankment,where ditches dating from the 10th century onwards have been excavated. Artefacts are alsorare; a single 9th century spearhead has been noted from Vauxhall. The dyke known as theBattersea ditch originally marked the boundary between the parishes of Lambeth and Battersea;the modern day borough boundary between Wandsworth and Lambeth follows its course. Thisfeature is believed to be Saxon in origin and was originally known as the
) and later as the Heath Brook sewer. An early Saxon fish trap has recently beenrecorded on the foreshore at Nine Elms, upstream of the site.
later medieval
The manor of Vauxhall was a sub-manor of South Lambeth and is not mentioned in
;the name is derived from Fawkes Hall, the seat of Falkes di Breauté, who held the manor ofSouth Lambeth in the early 13th century. As mentioned above the area lies at the border of theparishes of Lambeth and Battersea, and it is probable that the many watercourses in the vicinity(i.e. the mouths of the Effra and the
), prevented any settlement activity, instead beingused as a water meadow or for growing osiers. By the medieval period, the road infrastructurewas extending from the more suburban areas to the east of the site with the development ofWandsworth Road (known by 1340) and South Lambeth Road. A bridge over the Effra on thelatter route (called
, or Cox’s Bridge) is also
known from 1340. The Thames wasalso used as a transport route; a timber wharf (its precise location is unknown) was constructed inVauxhall in 1476-7 for loading building stone to be used in works at Westminster Abbey.
post medieval
Further west, at locations such as Chelsea and Putney, riverside settlements were popular asrural retreats for wealthier members of society, and during the 17th century, a similar trend can benoted in the Vauxhall area, with the construction of Carroone House for the Dutch ambassadorand the development of the Spring Gardens, a pleasure garden which had opened by 1661 andremained in use until 1859. Utilization of the Thames continued with the construction of abargehouse in the mid 17th century for three City Livery Companies (the Fishmongers, theMercers and the Clothworkers). The site probably lay just outside the Civil War defensive ditch,dug c1642 to 1646 and it was in 1645 that the hamlet of Nine Elms was so named, after a row of
trees bordering the road. Thomas Hill’s 1681 map of the Manor of Vauxhall depicts a largely
undeveloped agricultural district, with light industry in the area in the form of a glasshouse,distillery and a timber yard.
Vauxhall’s proximity to the urban hubs of London and Westminster 
eventually led to the area developing a more industrial nature during the later 17th and early 18
 centuries. There was another glasshouse, a brewery, a gunhouse, mills for processing marbleand corn, pothouses and a soapworks, with the waterfront dominated by manufacturing industry,such as a vinegar factory and distillery and a timber yard.With the exception of Belmont House (also known as Brunswick House), housing in the areabecame increasingly suburban in nature, although market gardening and dairy farming remainedpopular (and profitable) occupations. The construction of the cast-iron Vauxhall Bridge began in1813 and it was opened in 1816. This development clearly made the suburb more accessible,and rapidly accelerated the industrialisation of the area. By 1824 the Roman Cement and Plasterof Paris Factory was established while the timber yard continued in use to the west, and historicprints
show Randall’s tide mill at the water’s edge, together with working wharves. T
heconstruction and opening in May 1840 of the London to Southampton Railway
later the Londonand South Western Railway Company, radically changed the area. In 1848 the line was extendedfrom Nine Elms to Waterloo Bridge in 1848; prior to the extension, steam ferryboats tookpassengers to Westminster and the City. A goods depot was constructed, and a jetty, Railway orNine Elms Pier, was built out onto the foreshore. A dock is also shown on the 1862 map,presumably continuing to exploit the inlet created by the
dyke. The cement factoryappears to remain in use through the 1860s, probably as part of the London and South WesternRailway Company (LSWR) site eventually becoming
derelict during the early 1870’s. The site
remained in use by the railway throughout the 19th century. Some embankment seems to havebeen undertaken at the centre of the site and the pier was removed (and appears to have beenrebuilt further west), and replaced by a wharf by 1894. Vauxhall Bridge was replaced with a newstructure by 1906.In 1941, Nine Elms was damaged in an air raid and after World War II, the area becamesomewhat neglected. By the mid 20
century, the Railway Dock entrance had been infilled, andthe original goods shed or depot demolished and the railway tracks were extended over its formerarea. The railway station and yards were demolished in the 1960s and by 1976, Nine Elms Lanehad been re-routed further north across the area of the site to allow for construction of the NewCovent Garden Market building to the south.
Agradation Sand and shingleA102 Deposit Dump. Large concrete boulders scatter.A103 Deposit Dump. Concrete boulders scatter, smaller lumps than A102.A104 Consolidation Concrete, old.A105 Agradation Mud.A106 Deposit Dump. Concrete debris.A107 Timber Vertical. Plank?A108 Timber Timber. Vertical. Small.A109 Structure (unclassified) Timber. Row of 3 verticals, parallel to shore. Associated with Gunhouse Stair?A110 Furniture Cranebase?. Timber. 5 vertical planks surrounding base of concrete/gravel.A111 Timber Timber. Vertical.A112 Structure (unclassified) Timber. Large square timber vertical with unusual timbers going across the top at diagonals and middle.A113 Timber Timber. Horizontal plank and chain.A114 Timber Timber. Squared.A115 Agradation Mud.A116 Deposit Dump. Concrete, brick, large pebbles, pottery, litter, metal debris.A117 Consolidation Clay. Orange clayA118 Consolidation Concrete, pottery.A119 Agradation Mud. Dip in foreshore.A120 Agradation Erosion line.A121 Agradation Gravel. Raised foreshore.A122 Consolidation Brick.A123 Consolidation Stone. Semi-consolidated boulders.A124 Consolidation Concrete, old.A125 Fenders TimberA126 Agradation Gravel. Raised area.A127 Agradation Significantly raised area.A128 Vessel Barge. Lee board.A129 Degradation Drop in foreshore. Softer, less pebbles.A130 Timber Timber. Vertical, halved.A131 Timber Timber. Vertical, small, rectangular.A132 Structure (unclassified) Causeway? Crane base?A133 Structure (unclassified) Causeway? Crane base?A134 Structure (unclassified) Crane base? Dolphin? Timber. Two timber boxes close together.A135 Timbers. Two, long, horizontal, paralell to shore.A136 Structure (unclassified) Crane base? Dolphin? TimberA137 Agradation Shingle.A138 Structure Bridge? Jetty? Timber. Two rows. Bronze AgeA139 Structure Fishtrap? Two rows of timber stakes. Some evidence for wattles between.

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