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[FTH 01] Interim archaeological foreshore assessment report  MOLA/TDP 2015

Tower of London
London Borough of Tower Hamlets
An archaeological foreshore assessment report
Site code: FTH 01
Author: Eliott Wragg

October 2015

[FTH 01] Interim archaeological foreshore assessment report  MOLA/TDP 2015

SUMMARY (non technical)
The Thames Discovery Programme (TDP) and Museum of London Archaeology
(MOLA) have been commissioned by Tony King of Historic Royal Palaces (HRP) to
undertake a series of archaeological surveys of the eastern foreshore in front of
Tower Wharf, London Borough of Tower Hamlets in advance of and during remedial
work to stabilise the fast-eroding foreshore and protect the base of the river wall.
Previous interim archaeological assessment reports have been written1 which
summarised five seasons of volunteer work carried out on the site between 2010 and
2014 along with further MOLA/TDP surveys, and a watching brief undertaken in 2013
and 2014. The original reports have been incorporated within this present document
which replaces them and is also concerned with the geomatics and walkover survey
undertaken on the 4th of August 2015. The site code is FTH01 and the Ordnance
Survey National Grid Reference is TQ 3364 8033.
A number of roundwood piles were recorded which were originally interpreted as two
phases of Early Saxon fish-trap. It now seems more likely, due to the results of radiocarbon dating of samples, that there are more structures, one of which dates to the
late Romano-British period. Interpretation, therefore, is problematic, although it
seems most likely that the earliest may represent evidence of a Saxon settlement
east of the Roman City during the 4th century AD. One possible large jetty of elm
construction was recorded towards the bottom of the foreshore, it is possible that this
may be of relatively early (pre 1295) date and may be associated with a construction
phase of the Tower. Two possible stair bases were recorded on a different alignment
to the current 14th century river wall and may be of similarly early date. The
foundations of this river wall were recorded as being exposed from the cofferdam
installed for the construction of Tower Bridge for a length of 31.60m westwards, up to
a maximum depth of 0.85m. Cracks in the river wall were noted, and in one area the
construction cut for the wall was recorded, sealed by c.17th century dumped deposits.
The day before remedial works commenced a hole was observed where the
foundations were starting to wash out. The foundation was repaired prior to remedial
work being carried out. Six phases of campshed or barge bed revetment were
recorded, their surviving height suggesting that they were of late medieval or early
post-medieval date. A series of braces and re-used base-plates which had been
previously interpreted as the bases of river stairs were re-interpreted as emergency
revetments to protect the base of the river wall. A probable baseplate structure of
probably post-medieval date was also recorded which may represent the remains of
a much later river stair. A further structure was recorded to the east which appears to
have been truncated by the cofferdam for the building of Tower Bridge and thus it
was not feasible to attempt an interpretation.
The most recent survey identified two new timbers which were not dated and did not
appear to relate to those already identified, along with three areas of consolidation;
one of 19th/20th century date, one probably dating to the 17th century, and one
comprising undated redeposited alluvium.

1

Wragg 2013A, Wragg 2013D, Wragg 2014.

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[FTH 01] Interim archaeological foreshore assessment report  MOLA/TDP 2015

CONTENTS
1

INTRODUCTION ..................................................................................................1

1.1

Site background ..............................................................................................1

1.2

Origin and scope of this report ......................................................................1

1.3

Original research aims, objectives and methodology .................................1

1.4

Organisation of this report and conventions used ......................................2

2

ARCHAEOLOGICAL AND HISTORICAL BACKGROUND ................................3

2.1

Introduction .....................................................................................................3

2.2

Archaeological and historical summary .......................................................3

3

THE FORESHORE SURVEY ...............................................................................7

3.1

Introduction .....................................................................................................7

3.2

The Alpha Survey ............................................................................................8

3.3

The Erosion Regime......................................................................................11

3.4

The Archaeology of the foreshore ...............................................................12

4

POTENTIAL OF THE ARCHAEOLOGY ............................................................20

4.1

Original research questions .........................................................................20

4.2

Further Research Questions ........................................................................22

5

PUBLICATION AND ARCHIVING .....................................................................24

6

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ..................................................................................25

7

BIBLIOGRAPHY AND REFERENCES ..............................................................26

8 APPENDIX 1: RADIO-CARBON DATING REPORT .............................................62
9 APPENDIX 2: NMR OASIS ARCHAEOLOGICAL REPORT FORM .....................64
5.1

OASIS ID: thamesdi1-227593 .......................................................................64

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[FTH 01] Interim archaeological foreshore assessment report  MOLA/TDP 2015

List of Figures
Fig 1 Site location.......................................................................................................67 
Fig 2 Site map showing location of Alpha numbers ...................................................68 
Fig 3 Contour plan of the foreshore June 2010 shown at 400mm .............................69 
Fig 4 Contour plan of the foreshore May 2012 shown at 400mm ..............................70 
Fig 5 Contour plan of the foreshore July 2013 shown at 400mm ...............................71 
Fig 6 Contour plan of the foreshore at the east end of site, April ...............................72 
Fig 7 Contour plan of the foreshore at the east end of site, July 2010 shown at
400mm intervals ...............................................................................................73 
Fig 8 Contour plan of the foreshore at the east end of site, May 2012 shown at
400mm intervals ...............................................................................................74 
Fig 9 Contour plan of the foreshore at the east end of site, 2013 shown at 400mm
intervals ............................................................................................................75 
Fig 10 Contour plan of the foreshore at the east end of site, February 2014 shown at
400mm intervals ...............................................................................................76 
Fig 11 River wall elevation showing drops in foreshore levels in 2014 ......................78 
Fig 12 Contour plan of the foreshore at the east end of site, August 2015 shown at
400mm intervals. Also showing new features and deposits recorded ..............79 
Fig 13 Features at the east end of site 2010..............................................................80 
Fig 14 Features at the east end of site 2011..............................................................81 
Fig 15 Features at the east end of site 2012..............................................................82 
Fig 16 Features at the east end of site 2013/14.........................................................83 
Fig 17 A323A .............................................................................................................84 
Fig 18 A323B .............................................................................................................85 
Fig 19 A312 ................................................................................................................86 
Fig 20 A321 and A322 ...............................................................................................87 
Fig 21 A111 River wall elevation ................................................................................88 
Fig 22 A111 Plan of river wall foundations and construction cut................................89 
Fig 23 A325 and A326 ...............................................................................................90 
Fig 24 A316 ................................................................................................................91 
Fig 25 A314 ................................................................................................................92 
Fig 26 A315 and A301 Lower levels ..........................................................................93 
Fig 27 A315 and A301 Intermediate levels ................................................................94 
Fig 28 A315 and A301 Upper levels ..........................................................................95 
Fig 29 A319 ................................................................................................................96 
Fig 30 A320 ................................................................................................................97 
Fig 31 A311 ................................................................................................................98 

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[FTH 01] Interim archaeological foreshore assessment report  MOLA/TDP 2015

Fig 32 A317 ................................................................................................................99 
Fig 33 Unallocated timbers ......................................................................................100 
Fig 34 Mooring features ...........................................................................................101 
Fig 35 Conjectured pre-1295 riverbank....................................................................102 

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[FTH 01] Interim archaeological foreshore assessment report  MOLA/TDP 2015

1 Introduction
1.1

Site background

The archaeological foreshore survey took place at the Tower of London, London Borough
of Tower Hamlets, hereafter called ‘the site’ (Fig 1). The Ordnance Survey national grid
reference to the approximate centre of the site was NGR 53364 18033. The site was
allocated the code, by which the records are indexed and archived, FTH 01.
Under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 TDP/MOLA retains the copyright to
this document.
Note: within the limitations imposed by dealing with archaeological and documentary
evidence, the information in this document is, to the best knowledge of the author and
TDP/MOLA, correct at the time of writing. Further archaeological investigation, or
documentary analysis may require changes to all or parts of the document.

1.2

Origin and scope of this report

The archaeological work of analysis and recording, and the production of the original
report, has been undertaken by the Thames Discovery Programme (TDP) and Museum of
London Archaeology (MOLA), in association with the Society of Thames Mudlarks and the
Portable Antiquities Scheme, in order to inform our understanding of the erosion at the
site, to record the threatened and disappearing cultural resource, and in order that the site
may be monitored by TDP volunteers in the future. The first two years of fieldwork were
funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the 2012 fieldwork was funded by the Crown Estate,
whilst the 2013, 2014 and 2015 work and this report have been funded by Historic Royal
Palaces. The scope of works was agreed in advance with representatives of Historic
England (previously English Heritage), the Crown Estates, Historic Royal Palaces, the
Port of London Authority and the Museum of London, and Written Schemes of
Investigation (WSI) prepared2. All archaeological analysis and recording during the
investigation on site was done in accordance with the Museum of London Archaeological
Site Manual (1994) and MOLA Health and safety policy operational procedures (2011).
The report has been prepared within the terms of the relevant standards specified by the
Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA 2008).
The report presents the results of an archaeological assessment of part of the foreshore at
the Tower of London, the work being carried out between the 12th and 16th of July 2010,
the 20th and 22nd of July 2011, the 5th and 11th of May 2012, 23rd and 29th July 2013, the
23rd of August 2013, the 4th of February 2014, between the 19th of February and 20th of
March 2014 and the 14th and 18th of July 2014, and on the 4th of August 2015.

1.3

Original research aims, objectives and methodology

The original aims and objectives were defined as:

2

Cohen 2012, Wragg 2013B, C and Wragg 2015)
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[FTH 01] Interim archaeological foreshore assessment report  MOLA/TDP 2015



To establish and locate the various archaeologically significant features and
deposits on the site recorded by Thames Archaeological Survey (the Alpha survey)
and establish the presence of any new features.
To record (describe, draw, sketch, photograph) the threatened archaeological
features at the eastern end of the site.
To recover, record and plot finds from the eroding eastern end of the site.

An archaeological foreshore survey was carried out over a six year period which identified
a number of features including a series of piles, braces and baseplates. The features were
located by a geomatics team from Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) using Global
Positioning System (GPS) and Total Station Theodolite (TST). The features were recorded
using TDP Alpha Survey Recording Sheets, and planned at a scale of 1: 20. Where
possible, the individual timbers were recorded on pro forma timber sheets. A photographic
survey was also carried out.
Further aims and objectives were identified for the last foreshore assessment visit and
were outlined in the final WSI3 as:



1.4

Record any further features which have emerged in the Eastern area of the
foreshore since the February and March 2014 fieldwork.
Undertake a further topographic survey of the Eastern area of the foreshore.
Undertake a further finds survey of the Eastern area of the foreshore.
Observe and record any further archaeological features, finds or deposits exposed
since the remedial works completed in March 2014.

Organisation of this report and conventions used

The archaeological and historical background to the site is briefly discussed, the results
presented of the foreshore survey, along with a comparison to previous years’ results. The
potential of the archaeology is then discussed.
All dimensions are given in metres or millimetres. In the text features are referred to by
their TDP alpha numbers, while individual contexts are indicated by square brackets thus
[25].

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Wragg 2015
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[FTH 01] Interim archaeological foreshore assessment report  MOLA/TDP 2015

2 Archaeological and historical background
2.1

Introduction

The time-scales used in this report are as follows.
Palaeolithic
Mesolithic
Neolithic
Bronze Age
Iron Age
Roman
Early medieval
Later medieval
Post-medieval–modern (including
industrial)

2.2
2.2.1

c 450,000–12,000 BC
c 12,000–4000 BC
c 4000–2000 BC
c 2000–600 BC
c 600 BC–AD 43
AD 43–410
AD 410–c 1000
c AD 1000–1500
c 1500–present

Archaeological and historical summary4
Prehistoric

Excavations both within the Tower itself and nearby at Tower Hill have revealed evidence
for prehistoric activity in the vicinity. Prehistoric pottery and lithic material were found
within the SE corner of the Inmost Ward, and a large pit and an inhumation burial were
both dated to the late Iron Age. Nearby, at All Hallows’ Barking churchyard, the discovery
of Bronze Age material indicated limited activity in that area.
2.2.2

Roman

Evidence for Roman activity has also been revealed at All Hallows; during antiquarian
observations (in the form of a tessellated pavement) and during the more recent
excavations, consisting of a sequence of external surfaces, covered by a probable
Boudican destruction layer (AD 60-61). Within the Tower itself, the riverside area was
reclaimed by the end of the 1st century, and evidence has been found for timber and
masonry buildings, probably representative of ribbon development along a road. Around
200 AD the City wall was constructed, and the riverside wall was added in the second half
of the third century, probably to protect against seaborne attacks. The Lanthorn, Wakefield
and Bell Towers may be sited on the remnants of Roman bastions along this riverside
wall. Coins from the reign of Honorius (395-410) were found during excavations near the
Lanthorn Tower in 1777, indicating that the Tower site remained in occupation up until the
very last years of Roman control.

4

This section is largely reproduced from the TDP Tower of London Key Site Information sheet. Extra
information is referenced separately.
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[FTH 01] Interim archaeological foreshore assessment report  MOLA/TDP 2015

2.2.3 Early Medieval
Very little evidence has been found to demonstrate early medieval activity in the area until
the late Saxon period; it seems likely that this was marginal land, with the foci of
settlement lying further to the west, initially in Westminster and later along the waterfront in
the central part of the City. However, All Hallows Barking probably dates to the 10th
century, and two graves containing Saxon material have been found in the churchyard.
Excavations in 1845 to the south of the Waterloo Barracks, within the Tower, found a large
ditch with ‘Anglo-Norman’ ceramics, indicating a possible enclosure on the site.
2.2.4

Later Medieval

After the Battle of Hastings, William the Conqueror took a circuitous approach to London
in the autumn and winter of 1066; a series of Norman victories along the route intimidated
the City leaders into submitting London without a fight. The fortification that would later
become known as the Tower of London was built in the south-east corner of the Roman
town walls, using them as prefabricated defences. This earliest phase of the castle would
have been enclosed by a ditch and defended by a timber palisade, and probably had
accommodation suitable for the new king. Two other castles in London – Baynard's Castle
and Montfichet's Castle – were established at the same time. Work on the White Tower
(the earliest stone keep in England), which gives the whole castle its name, is usually
considered to have begun in 1078, however the exact date is unknown. Further defences
were added in 1097, and the White Tower was probably finished by 1100 when Bishop
Ranulf Flambard, the Tower’s first recorded prisoner, and first escapee, was imprisoned
there.
In 1270 a short length of quay was constructed from the area of the Lion Tower running
east to the Byward Tower. It was not an initial success as it is documented that 300 alder
piles were brought in for its repair in 1312 and further repair was required in 1335 5. In
1336, Edward III ordered that the castle should be repaired; most of his building works
were associated with improvements to the river frontage, including heightening and
widening the wall from St Thomas’s Tower west to the Byward Tower. An earth and timber
wall was constructed and 111s paid for this work in 1338 which is believed to have been
carried out between St Thomas’ Tower and the Byward Postern, while work was also
being carried out on the ‘wall before the watergate’ suggesting further extension of the
wharf6. The embankment incorporated a tunnel in front of the river entrance. Chalk, lime
and Kentish Rag ashlar were bought in 1365-6 to extend the wharf, while elm piles were
purchased in 1369 and ditchers were paid for ‘making a certain ditch for the wharf’7.
Finally a contract was made with three masons in 1389 to construct ‘a wharf with two side
walls’ in stone which would extend ‘from the corner of the east end of the wall of the Tower
facing St Katherine’s as far as the Watergate of the said Tower’8. Throughout the 14th
century warehousing was accumulating on the wharf as it was extended eastwards while
three stairs led to the river; the Iron Gate, now under Tower Bridge, Tower Stairs at the
western end of Tower Wharf, east of the now filled in 13th/14th century Tower Dock, and
the present day Queen’s Stairs9.
During the 15th century, there was little building work at the Tower, but the castle
continued to be used as a royal ceremonial site (as the starting point for coronation
processions to Westminster), an armoury, a place of refuge and as a prison; becoming

5

HRP and OAU 1998, Parnell 1993, Pearson 1986.
Ibid.
7
Ibid.
8
Ibid.
9
Ibid.
6

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[FTH 01] Interim archaeological foreshore assessment report  MOLA/TDP 2015

notorious as the location of the murders of Henry VI, and Edward V (one of the ‘Princes in
the Tower’).
2.2.5

Post-Medieval

The beginning of the Tudor period marked the decline of the Tower's use as a royal
residence, becoming more commonly used as an armoury and munitions store. During the
reign of Henry VIII, considerable funds were spent on the defences, however, this was not
sufficient to bring the castle up to the standard of contemporary fortifications. The palace
buildings were left in a state of neglect and their condition was so poor that they were
virtually uninhabitable. From 1553 onwards, the Tower of London was only used as a royal
residence when its political and historic symbolism was considered useful and during the
16th century, the Tower acquired an enduring reputation as a grim, forbidding prison, with
many religious and political undesirables locked away. Executions were usually carried out
on Tower Hill rather than in the Tower of London itself; there were only seven executions
actually within the castle. Haiward and Gasgoyne’s 1597 Survey of the Tower and its
Liberties showed a large number of buildings/warehouses at the east end of the wharf10
Further modifications were made to the frontage during the 17th century, with sections of
the Wharf rebuilt 1632-3, the installation of campsheds and fenders, and piling for an
apron at the watergate (beneath the Traitors’ Bridge). In 1680, there were developments
at the east end of the wharf, with the demolition of the medieval causeway leading from
the Iron Gate to the Develin Tower, and refurbishment / rebuilding of parts of the south
curtain wall and ramparts. A survey of 1681 showed few buildings on the wharf but a
causeway was shown leading from the river, while Holcroft Blood’s 1688 survey showed a
large building at the eastern end of the wharf11.
The buildings of the castle were also remodelled, mostly under the auspices of the Office
of Ordnance and over the 18th and into the 19th centuries (see below), the palatial
buildings were slowly adapted for other uses and demolished. A survey of 1742 depicted a
large number of structures at the eastern end of the wharf including warehouses, a forge
and shops, stables, a proof yard and a wheelwright’s shed12. For the most part, the 18th
century work on the defences was spasmodic and piecemeal, although a new gateway in
the southern curtain wall permitting access from the wharf to the outer ward was added in
1774. The moat surrounding the castle had become silted over the centuries and although
large scale clearance was attempted in 1830, it was eventually decided to drain the moat
and fill it in: this was completed by 1845. The last major programme of fortification at the
castle dates from 1828-1858 (including the construction of the Waterloo Barracks begun in
1845), and most of the surviving installations for the use of artillery and firearms date from
this period. At the same time, there was great interest in the history of the Tower, strongly
influenced by contemporary writers and architects. Parts of the castle were opened to the
public, such as the Beauchamp Tower, and many post-medieval buildings were
demolished in the name of Victorian restoration. By the end of the 19th century, more than
half a million people per year visited the Tower. Sections of the riverside defences behind
the Wharf were also restored.
In July 1934, the Tower Beach was opened to the public – it was estimated that during the
summer season of 1935 over 100,000 adults and children visited. The beach was
accessed by ladder, and in 1936, 200 cubic yards of sand were added to the foreshore

10

Ibid.
Ibid.
12
Ibid.
11

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surface. The beach was closed when war was declared in 1939, and the castle suffered
damage during the Blitz, including the destruction of the beach access ladders by a flying
bomb. After the war, the damage was repaired and the Tower of London was reopened to
the public. It became one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country. The Tower
Beach, however, although it also reopened after the war, eventually closed again in 1971,
amid declining popularity and the threat of terrorism. It is currently only accessible to the
public on the annual Open Foreshore event in July, as part of the Festival of British
Archaeology and on a weekend in September as part of the Totally Thames event; both
events facilitated by Historic Royal Palaces, the TDP and the environmental charity
Thames 21.
The Tower of London is cared for by an independent charity, Historic Royal Palaces In
1988 the Tower of London was inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites, and
it is also a Scheduled Ancient Monument and a Grade 1 listed building.

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[FTH 01] Interim archaeological foreshore assessment report  MOLA/TDP 2015

3 The Foreshore Survey
3.1

Introduction

The site had been initially recorded in 1999 by the Thames Archaeological Survey (TAS).
Subsequent phases of work were intended to establish which of the previously recorded
features surveyed were visible, along with recording the presence of features since
revealed. NB. Features recorded by the TAS begin at A101, features recorded by TDP
from 2010 begin at A301). It was also intended to institute a monitoring survey of the
surviving/newly visible features This chapter will first list a summary of all the features
found in 1999 and whether they were visble in 2010-13, before looking at the erosion
regime at the eastern end of the site and some of features recorded there in more detail.

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3.2

The Alpha Survey

NB. The blanks in the table indicate that that feature was not seen, but that may have
been because the relevant area of foreshore was not visited, or that the tide may not have
been low enough.
Alpha
no.

Designation

Description

Visible
2010 Y/N

Visible
2011 Y/N

101

Dock

Y

102

Dock

Y

103

Bargebed

104
105

Degradation
Deposit

106

Furniture

107

Unclassified
structure
Artefact
scatter

Curved brick
dock entrance
Infilled with
modern brick
Timber
revetted, chalk
and rubble
Disturbed area
Carvel-built
stern with
rudder
Ward
boundary
marker on
A101
Single squared
post
Animal bone,
with a
concentration
of pig? Jaw
bones
Stone stair.
Queen’s Stair
Stone, single
phase
Stone capped
with concrete.
At least three
phases
Hand crane on
A111
Metal pipe
Line of small
square timber
stakes at slight
angle to river
wall
Two lines of
large
rectangular
timber posts
Line of large
square timber
posts at an
angle to the
river wall
Timber

108

109

Access

110

Riverfront
defence
Riverfront
defence

111

112

Furniture

113
114

Drain
Unclassified
structure

115

Unclassified
structure

116

Unclassified
structure

117

Drain

Y

Visible
2012 Y/N
Y

Visible
2013 Y/N
Y

Y

Y

Y
Y

N

N

N

N
Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N
Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N
N

N

Y

Y
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118

Unclassified
structure

119

Bargebed

120
121

Drain
Artefact
scatter

122

Riverfront
defence

123
124

Unclassified
structure
Drain

125

Agradation

126

Furniture

127

Riverfront
defence

128

Access

129

Drain

130

Access

131

Unclassified
structure
Degradation
Degradation
Bargebed

132
133
134
135
136
137

Bargebed
Mooring
feature
Unclassified
structure

shuttered
metal drain.
Possible
causeway?
Line of three
timber posts.
Goes under
A103
Vertical timber
posts with
horizontals on
either side.
Earlier than
A103
Metal pipe
Animal bone,
including
working or
butchery
waste
Stone. Straight
jointed to
earliest phase
of A111
Single vertical
feature
Metal pipe in
rubble and
concrete
Single and
sand
Ward
boundary
marker. Cu
alloy?
Brick. Predates Tower
Bridge
Causeway.
Pre-dates
Tower Bridge
Outfall below
A128. Metal
pipe
Stone stair,
Tower Bridge
Cofferdam for
Tower Bridge
Disturbance
Disturbance
Timber, double
plank revetted

N

N

N

Y

N
Y

N
Y

N
Y

N
Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N
N

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Not
accesssible

Not
accesssible

Not
accesssible

Not
accesssible

Not
accesssible

Not
accesssible

Not
accesssible

Not
accesssible

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y
N

Y
N

Y
N

Y

Y

Y

Y
N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Two large
drilled timber
posts and two

N

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138

Furniture

139
140

Access
Bargebed

141

Structure

301

Baseplates

302

Bargebed

303

Unclassified
structure

304

Unclassified
structure

305

Consolidation

306

Structure

307

Mooring
feature

308

Bargebed

309

Access

310

Unclassified
structure
Unclassified
structure

311

312

Access

313

Access

314

Access

315

Access

smaller stakes
Metal hand
crane
Stairs
Earlier than
A103
Timber piles
supporting
modern
walkways
River stairs.
Number of
phases
Timber piled
revetment
Timber &
masonry. Pier
base?
Two wooden
blocks. Pier
base?
Compacted
deposit of
chalk and brick
Three
fragments of
masonry.
Foundation
pad?
Large stone
block with
chain
Squared
timbers with
metal bolts.
Same as
A119?
Concrete
platform for
stair. 20th
century?
Square brick
structure
Numerous
timber piles,
no obvious
alignments
Elm
roundwood
piles, possible
jetty?
Tower Pier
stairs
Wharf
revetment?
Brace for river
stair?

N

N

Y

Only one
visible

Y

Y

(New
baseplates)

(New
baseplates)

Y

Y
N

Y

N

Y

N

Y

N

Y

N

Y

N

Y

N

Y

N

Y

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

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316

Access

317

Unclassified
structure

318

Bargebed

319

Access

320

Access

321
322
323
324
325

Access
Access
Fish trap?
Consolidation
Campshed

326

Camppshed

3.3

Wharf
revetment?
Pile and
planks next to
Tower Bridge
cofferdam
Truncated
remains of
bargebed
(formerly
A312)
Wharf
revetment?
Wharf
revetment?
Stair?
Stair?
Mid-Saxon?
17th century
Two piles
parallel to river
wall
Three piles
parallel to river
wall

N

N

Y

Y

Y

Y

Y

N

Y

N

Y

N

N

N

Y

N

N

Y
Y

Y
N

N
N

Y

Y

Y

N
N
Y
Y
Y
Y

The Erosion Regime

In 1998 Museum of London Archaeology Service (MOLAS), now MOLA, carried out a
topographic survey of the eastern end of the site (Fig. 6). This showed the foreshore
sloping down from approximately 0.00 to -0.60m OD to the low water mark at around 3.00m OD in front of the cofferdam constructed during the building of Tower Bridge. In line
with the southern edge of the cofferdam, the foreshore was recorded at around -2.20m
OD. The TDP survey of 2010 (Fig. 7) showed the foreshore sloping down from
approximately 0.40 to -0.80m at the top of the foreshore down to around -2.80m OD
broadly in line with the edge of the cofferdam. The formerly visible foreshore to the south
had disappeared. While the 2012 TDP survey (Fig. 8) showed the top of the foreshore at
between 0.40 and -1.60m, and the low water mark again at around -2.80m OD, although
the contours were higher up the foreshore. The 2013 TDP survey (Fig. 9) showed the top
of the foreshore at between -0.80 and -1.80m and the low water mark at around -2.80m,
again the low water mark had further encroached upon the foreshore. The TDP survey
carried out in 2014 (Fig.10) demonstrated that the top of the foreshore had now eroded
down to almost -2.00m at its deepest, while the low water mark was now below -2.80m
OD. This suggests that between 1998 and 2014, there has been some deposition in the
western part of this area, while there has been significant erosion of up to 1.40m in the
eastern part, this is borne out by the fact that the features discussed below were recorded
neither by MOLAS in 1998 nor the TAS in 1999. Figure 11 demonstrates how the
foreshore has dropped directly in front of the river wall over the four years to 2014 prior to
the temporary remedial works being inserted. Figure 12 shows that in 2015 that the low
water mark remained at approximately -2.80m OD but had encroached northwards and
that the temporary remedial works appear to have stabilised the foreshore beneath them
but that the scouring has been pushed westward, the top of the foreshore having dropped
by approximately 0.40m since 2012.

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The TAS survey recorded the Tower Bridge cofferdam as protruding from the foreshore
approximately 0.10-0.20m, by 2014 it was standing proud up to approximately 1.50m from
the foreshore surface. Working on the assumption that the cofferdam was cut off close to
the foreshore surface on the bridge’s completion in 1894, it would seem that the foreshore
eroded by some 0.20m in the 105 years up to the TAS survey in 1999, and has eroded by
as much as 1.40m in the 15 years since.

3.4

The Archaeology of the foreshore

A large number of features and deposits were surveyed in each year of survey (Figs. 12,
13, 14, 15 & 16). The dynamic nature of the foreshore is such that while some features
survived for five years before being obscured by the temporary remedial works, most
eroded out and were washed away, and new ones revealed each year. By amalgamating
the results of each year’s survey up to 2014 it has been possible to identify a number of
discrete structures. The 2015 survey revealed further deposits and structural elements in
the area not obscured by the temporary works.
3.4.1

α323 Possible fish traps (Figs. 16 & 17)

This feature only became visible in 2013 and comprised 18 small roundwood piles
complete with bark, [129], [148], [150], [151], [152], [153], [154], [155], [156], [157], [158],
[159], [164], [165], [166], [167], [168] and [169] ranging in diameter from 0.05m to 0.12m.
A further small roundwood pile [170] was recorded during the 2014 survey. Similar piles
have been encountered elsewhere on the Thames foreshore and have generally
comprised Early or Mid- Saxon (5th-8th century) fish-traps. In this case it is likely that there
are at least two phases: α323A comprising three paired piles- [150] and [151], [153] and
[154], and [155] and [156] and the single piles [165], [166], [167] and [168] and taking the
form of a ‘v’ shape 10.90m long (Fig. 16); and α323B [129], [164], [148], [152], [157],
[158], [159], [169] and [170] which was 34.80m long and was linear (Fig. 17). It is possible
that [157], [158], [159], [169] and [170] might represent another phase of use.
Samples were taken from timbers [148] and [152] for radio-carbon dating, one of which
returned surprising results (see Appendix 1). [148] was dated most probably to AD329386, or AD314-398, while the most likely date range for [152] was AD487-533. This raises
new questions which will be discussed in 4.2.2 below.
3.4.2

α312 Possible jetty (Fig. 18)

This feature was identified by the TDP as four vertical probable elm piles in 2010 and as
six piles ([19], [20], [23], [24], [25], [26]) in 2011. By the 2012 survey the foreshore had
dropped further, exposing two more piles [21] and [22]. With the emergence of the latter,
the structure now appears to be the remains of an elm pier, approximately 3.30m wide and
surviving to length of approximately 4.00m. A multi-context plan of the structure was
drawn at a scale of 1:20. The individual timbers are discussed below.
Timber [19] was sub-circular in plan, measured 220mm by 160mm, and had been squared
off on two sides, while bark survived on the other sides. Pile [20] was box quartered and
measured 220mm by 220mm. Pile [21] appeared to be a whole timber minus the bark and
some sapwood and measured 250mm by 220mm. Timber [22] seemed to be a whole
timber including sapwood and bark, and had a maximum diameter of 260mm. Pile [23]
appeared to be virtually a whole tree, minus sapwood and bark and having been
tangentially faced on one side. It measured 220mm by 200mm. Timber [24] appeared to
be a whole tree minus bark and some sapwood, seeming to be a top timber in the area of
a branch, it measured 230mm by 180mm. Pile [25] was a whole timber without bark and
had a maximum diameter of 230mm. Timber [26] appeared to have been tangentially
faced on two sides and had no bark. It measured 200mm by 240mm.
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This structure was not aligned to the current river wall and, therefore, probably pre-dates
it. All eight of the piles were still visible in 2015 although their tapers were very visible
suggesting that the foreshore is eroding around them and they will be soon washed away.
A sample was taken for radio-carbon dating from pile [22] but unfortunately did not return
a useable date (see Appendix 1).

3.4.3

α321 and α322 Possible river stairs (Fig. 19)

A large number of piles and baseplates were surveyed in 2010 and 2011; only after a
number of the more obvious features (see below) were extracted during the postexcavation process was it possible to define two further features within the previous
jumble of timbers:
α321 comprised twelve piles ([96], [97], [98], [100], [107], [108], [106], [105], [104], [103],
[102] and [119]) forming a rectangular structure measuring approximately 5.50m
northwest-southeast and 3.50m southwest-northeast. To the east of and immediately
adjacent to α321 lay structure α322 comprising ten piles ([114], [113], [112], [115], [116],
[117], [118], [111], [110] and [109]). This formed a rectangular structure measuring
approximately 5.60m northwest-southeast by 4.70m southwest-northeast. These
structures probably represent river stairs.
Again, these two features did not respect the line of the late 14th century river wall and
thus presumably predate it. No remnant of these structures was visible in 2013.
3.4.4

α111 River wall (Figs. 20 & 21)

The lower courses of the 14th century river wall were drawn in elevation for a length of
49.60m westwards from the Tower Bridge cofferdam. The wall was formed of ashlar
blocks of Kentish Rag with maximum stone dimensions of 1.34m by 0.30m. For 31.60m
westwards of the cofferdam, the foundation was exposed up to a maximum depth of
0.76mm and extended out away from the river wall by a maximum of 0.64m, although it
was more generally approximately 0.30 to 0.50m wide for most of its exposed length. The
upper 0.06 to 0.08m, encountered at between -0.57 and -0.87m OD, comprised small
pieces of tile and stone, where it survived, while the lower foundation was constructed
from irregular un-faced stones with a maximum size of approximately 0.40 by 0.30m. It
appeared that the foundation had originally been mortared although most of this has been
eroded away in the visible part of the foundation. The construction cut [161] for the
foundation was visible for a short length on the 27th of July 2013, extended up to 0.40m
out from the exposed foundation and was filled with re-deposited alluvium [160]. Two
possible pieces of elm were recorded at the base of the exposed foundations which may
possibly be the tops of timber piles on which the foundations stand, although this seems
unlikely as will be discussed in 4.1.5 below. There was evidence of concretion on the
upper parts of the foundation and lower ashlar courses which probably represents 19th
and/or 20th century attempts to consolidate the foreshore.
Immediately prior to the remedial works being enacted in 2014, part of the foundation was
seen to have washed out creating a hole some 7.00m long and up to 0.50m deep. This
was repaired during the subsequent works.
3.4.5

α325 Possible campshed (Fig. 22)

This possible feature which only became visible in 2013 comprises two rectangular piles
which appeared to be on a parallel alignment to the river wall. [125] measured 0.18m by
0.12m, while [126] was 0.14m by 0.11m. It is possible that they could form part of a
revetment of a barge bed or of a campshed to protect the river wall.
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3.4.6

α326 Possible campshed (Fig. 22)

This similarly aligned feature was also only exposed in 2013 and comprised three
rectangular piles. [130] measured 0.19m by 0.10m, [131] was 0.16m by 0.12m and [132]
0.12m by 0.09m. This feature was again interpreted as part of a protective campshed or
barge bed.
3.4.7

α316 Possible campshed (Fig. 23)

This structure, comprising a line of piles, was plotted along with the other timbers at the
eastern end of the site in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Only in 2012 was it possible to identify it
as a discrete feature which now appears to run some 19.70m east-west. It was interpreted
as the remains of a campshed or barge bed revetment. The individual timbers are
discussed below.
Probable oak timber [30] was box quartered with some sapwood remaining and measured
150mm by 100mm. A possible augur hole was recorded in the southern face. Probable
oak pile [31] was rectangular and box halved. Measuring 150mm by 85mm, some
sapwood was present and a possible augur hole with a diameter of 11mm was recorded.
Probable oak pile [28] was box quartered with some sapwood remaining and measured
160mm by 120mm. A sample was taken from this timber for dendrochronological dating
but unfortunately returned no date13. Probable oak timber [35] was rectangular and box
halved. No sapwood was recorded and it measured 130mm by 100mm and was observed
to a height of 240mm. Probable oak pile [36] was box quartered with some sapwood
visible. It measured 130mm by 100mm and survived to a height of 300mm. Probable oak
timber [38] was box quartered, measured 95mm by 65mm and survived to a height of
360mm. Piles [76] and [77] were recorded on the plan but eroded out before detailed
recording could be undertaken. Piles [101] and [149] were not recorded in detail but were
rectangular and measured 0.12m by 0.08m and 0.22m by 0.08m respectively.
By 2013 timbers [101] and [149] had emerged, not previously being visible, while the
remainder of the previously identified structure survived with the exception of piles [76]
and [77].
3.4.8

α314 Possible campshed (Fig. 24)

A similar structure to α316 was located approximately 1m behind it on a slightly different
alignment, and comprised four probable oak piles ([80], [49], [51] and [53]). Two probable
oak piles ([50] and [52]) may have comprised a back line to the feature. This feature was
approximately 12.80m long and 0.50m wide. It was interpreted as the remains of a
revetment or wharf. A multi-context plan of the structure was drawn at a scale of 1:20. The
individual timbers are discussed below.
Probable oak pile [49] was box halved and rectangular. It measured 120mm by 60mm and
was 380mm high. Probable oak timber [50] was a whole tree with some bark present and
had a diameter of 120mm. Probable oak pile [51] was box quartered and rectangular with
some sapwood present. It measured 120mm by 80mm and survived to a height of
510mm. Probable oak timber [52] was a whole tree with sapwood observed. With a
maximum diameter of 160mm it survived to a height of 780mm. Probable oak piles [53]
and [80] were not recorded in detail.
By 2013, nothing survived of this feature.

13

Ian Tyers pers.comm.
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3.4.9

α315/ α301/ α324 Consolidation/revetment (Figs. 25, 26, 27)

This structure, just north of α314 was originally interpreted as two structures- α315
comprising one base-plate, a brace and three piles and appearing to function as a northsouth orientated bracing element of a river stair; and α301 comprising a series of baseplates, along with a possible post-pad. As they were not exactly on the same alignments
and varied in size it was not initially possible to ascertain their relationship to one another.
In 2013, however, it was realised that these features were sitting within a deliberately
dumped deposit containing 17th century material α324 which sealed the construction cut of
the river wall, and they were re-interpreted as bracing and revetting to retain consolidation
deposits to protect the base of the river wall.
Base-plate [27] measured 590mm by 330mm and contained a rectangular mortise
measuring 80mm by at least 270mm. A degraded possible marking-out line was visible
along with some possible axe marks. Possible brace [41], located 0.61m north of the
base-plate was angled at approximately 55º to the horizontal in a northerly direction and
measured 260mm east-west by 500mm north-south and was 760mm high. An iron nail
was recorded as being still in place in the top of this timber. Brace [41] was held in place
by three smaller piles, [42], [43] and [44], indeed [42] and [43] were attached to it by iron
nails. Vertical pile [42], on the western side of the brace, measured 130mm by 100mm,
was 490mm high and was box quartered. Vertical pile [43], on the eastern side of the
brace, measured 120mm by 80mm, had a maximum height of 350mm and was box
quartered. Vertical pile [44] to the south of brace [41], was box quartered, had three
possible axe marks on its eastern side and measured 60mm by 150mm with a maximum
height of 490mm.
The remains of four possible brace structures were recorded to the west, the first
comprising piles [64], [65] and [66] with brace [83] which was surveyed in 2011 but had
disappeared by 2012, the second pile [14] and baseplate [138], the third piles [32], [33]
and [34], along with two parts of a split baseplate [139] and [140], and the fourth baseplate
[137].
Pile [64] was rectangular and box quartered with some bark surviving. It measured 60mm
by 100mm and survived to a height of 440mm. Pile [65] was rectangular and box
quartered with some sapwood recorded. It measured 100mm by 120mm and was 330mm
high. Pile [66] was semi-circular and the conversion was not visible. It measured 120mm
by 60mm and survived to a height of 370mm. A sample was taken from this timber for
dendrochronological dating but unfortunately did not return a date14. Brace [83] was 0.62m
long and 0.24m wide and appeared to be a re-used building timber with a broken mortise
in one end.
Baseplate [138] was 0.68m long and 0.24m wide and had a mortise measuring 0.36m by
0.08m. A sample was taken from this timber for dendrochronological dating but
unfortunately did not return a date15. Rectangular pile [141] measured 0.17m by 0.08m.
Pile [32], rectangular and box halved, measured 70mm by 140mm and survived to a
height of 230mm. Pile [33], rectangular and tangentially faced with some sapwood visible,
measured 100mm by 80mm and survived to a height of 210mm. Pile [34], rectangular and
tangentially faced with some sapwood visible, measured 120mm by 50mm and was 330m
high. Two possible axe marks were recorded on the western face. A broken baseplate
was recorded as timbers [139] and [140]. It would originally have been 0.44m wide and
0.68m long and contained an extremely damaged mortise.

14
15

Ian Tyers pers. comm.
Ian Tyers pers. comm.
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Baseplate [137] was 1.30m long and 0.34m wide and had a mortise measuring 0.24m by
0.12m.
The lowest baseplates, and piles, surveyed but not fully recorded in 2013, were as follows:
Square pile [127] measured 0.10m by 0.10m and it served to hold baseplate [128] below
in place.
Baseplate [128] was 4.70m long and 0.30m and contained six mortises up to 0.10m wide
and ranging in length from 0.23m to 1.00m. The largest mortise had four differing depths;
from left to right, 0.05m, 0.11m, 0.05m and 0.17m, and two lateral dowel holes were
recorded in the sides. The next mortise to the east was 0.13m deep, and had a sloping
eastern end and a lateral dowel hole. The next two to the east had depths of 0.05m and
the most easterly was 0.13m deep.
Baseplate [134] was 0.72m by 0.28m wide and had a mortise which was 0.54m by 0.10m.
It appears to have been part of an originally larger building timber and been re-used. A
sample was taken from this timber for dendrochronological dating but unfortunately did not
return a date16.
Timber pile [163] may have originally been square but was heavily degraded. Its maximum
dimensions were 0.20m by 0.19m and its location suggests that its purpose was to hold
baseplate [135]/[136] below in place.
The next baseplate to the east had split in two and was recorded as timbers [135] and
[136]. It would originally have been 5.46m long with a maximum width of 0.25m. It
contained four mortises ranging from 0.40m to 0.60m in length and with a maximum width
of 0.10m. The three eastern mortises each contained two lateral dowel holes and the most
easterly contained tenon [143] which measured 0.47m by 0.08m.
Its eastern end was held in place by two rectangular piles; [144] measuring 0.12m by
0.07m and [145] which was 0.11m by 0.08m.
Higher courses of baseplates, recorded in 2011 and 2012, comprised the following:
Baseplate [95] was surveyed but not fully recorded. It was 0.65m long and 0.20m wide
with a distinctive rectangular section missing in the north-western corner; this may suggest
that it is a fragment of a larger baseplate, the corner being the remains of a mortise.
Degraded base-plate [14] measured 0.82m by 0.44m had a series of axe marks in its
upper surface suggesting that it had been used as a chopping block for new piles. It had a
mortise measuring 0.38m by 0.09m which contained a fragment of a tenon [29] which
measured 0.07m by 0.080m.
0.20m east of [14] was base-plate [15]. Measuring 0.76m by 0.23m, it had a number of
marks in its upper face which may be the remains of tool marks. One in particular may
have indicated the presence of a horizontal nail or, more likely, wooden peg. The mortise
in this base-plate measured 0.20m by 0.08m.
Approximately 1.2m to the east lay base-plate [16]. This measured 0.77m x 0.26m and
had a mortise which was 0.35m by 0.06m, a peg hole with a diameter of 0.04m was
recorded passing through both sides of the mortise on a north-south orientation. It had a
rebate in its north-east corner which measured 0.11m by 0.24m.
Some 1.2m to the east of base-plate [16] was a further one [17] which appeared to have a
similar rebate in its north-west corner measuring 0.25m by 0.09m. It is possible that these
two base-plates are associated. [17] measured 1.20m by 0.20m ad had a mortise
measuring 0.21m by 0.09m. Seven nails were recorded in its upper face.

16

Ian Tyers pers. comm.
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Immediately north of [17] was yet another base-plate [18]. This was 4.44m long and 0.25m
wide. It had two mortises, one of which measured 0.43m by 0.07m, the other 0.62m by
0.07m and had two lateral 0.03m diameter peg holes. It had a further mortise at its eastern
end measuring 0.35m by 0.07m. There is likely to have been a matching mortise at the
western end but this end was heavily damaged and split by later pile [47].
Situated between α315 and base-plate [17] was a possible post-pad [67]. This was a
square timber measuring 0.30m by 0.30m and may have functioned as a support to one of
the river stair phases represented by the base-plates.
The highest recorded courses, surveyed in 2010 and 2011 comprised the following:
Baseplate [1] was 3.76m long and 0.28m wide, while baseplate [3] was 0.66m long and
0.22m wide with a mortise in its southern edge suggesting that it was actually half of a
wider former baseplate. Baseplate [5] was 0.56m long and 0.22m wide and was situated
on top of baseplate [4] which was 3.96m long and 0.22m wide. Baseplate [6] was 3.50m
long and 0.22m wide with mortises in either end. Surveyed in 2011, baseplate [95] was
located between [4] and [6], and was 0.66m long and 0.20m wide. It may have had the
remains of a mortise in the north-eastern corner, and thus may be a quarter of an
originally larger baseplate.
To the west, against the river wall, another set of higher baseplates was surveyed but not
fully recorded in 2013:
Baseplate [121] was not fully exposed but had a visible length of 0.76m and was 0.24m
wide. It contained a rectangular mortise which measured 0.40m by 0.11m. Baseplate [122]
was 1.12m long and 0.26m wide and contained a mortise measuring 0.10m by 0.24m.
Baseplate [123] was 3.00m long and 0.33m wide. It had a mortise measuring 0.27m by
0.10m, and had a 0.03m diameter vertical dowel hole and a 0.015m diameter iron nail in
its upper face. [124] was 5.02m long and 0.23m wide. A 0.03m diameter iron nail head
was recorded in its upper face while two nails were recorded protruding from its riverfacing face. Just to the south lay possible baseplate [162] which was 0.60m long and
0.12m wide.
3.4.10 α329 Consolidation deposit (Fig. 12)
The 2015 survey recorded an area of redeposited alluvium containing frequent charcoal.
Visibly measuring approximately 1.50m by 1.00m it appeared to underlay consolidation
α328 (see below 3.4.11). No artefacts suitable for dating were observed within this
deposit,
3.4.11 α328 Consolidation deposit (Fig. 12)
Again, the 2015 survey revealed an area of consolidation comprising red bricks, animal
bone and 17th century pottery within a chalk/mortar matrix with moderate charcoal
inclusions. Quite clearly an attempt at consolidation rather than random deposition (bricks,
pottery and bone were frequently seen to be on edge), this deposit measured
approximately 12.00m by 5.00m and may well represent an extension of consolidation
α324 discussed in 3.4.9 above.
3.4.12 α319 Possible campshed (Fig. 28)
The remains of another possible barge bed campshed frontage was surveyed in 2010/11,
and was no longer visible in 2012. This comprised a line of four piles [87], [88], [89] and
[90] which was 9.60m long.
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3.4.13 α320 Possible campshed (Fig. 29)
A further possible campshed or barge bed revetment was surveyed in 2010/11, and again
was no longer visible in 2012. This comprised another line of four piles [91], [92], [93] and
[94] and was 2.30m long.
3.4.14 α311 Possible river stair (Fig. 30)
This feature stretched north from the area of the base-plates to the river wall and eastwest for approximately 13m. It appears to have originally comprised 5 groups each of 5
piles, some of which had iron nails or nail holes pointing diagonally down towards the
centre of each group. It is suggested that these structures were originally intended to hold
base-plates, probably for a river stair. The groups were spaced equally apart at a distance
of approximately 2.10m, while piles were square or rectangular with maximum dimensions
of 0.12m by 0.16m and a maximum visible height of 1.09m. This suggests a much later,
probably post-medieval, feature, the contemporary foreshore being supposed to be at a
similar height to the tops of the piles.
From east to west, the first group comprised piles [39], [40]; the second piles [45], [46],
[47], [48] and [84] (recorded 2011, not visible 2012); the third piles [58], [59], and [60], the
fourth piles [54], [55], [56], [57] and [79], the last of which eroded out during the week’s
fieldwork; the fifth piles [68], [85] and [86].
3.4.15 α327 Consolidation (Fig. 12)
This deposit, measuring approximately 13.00m by 4.00m was only recorded during the
2015 survey and comprised redeposited material, particularly ceramic building material
(CBM) comprising a mixture of red brick and London Stock Brick, suggesting a post1840’s date for this consolidation.
3.4.16 α317 Unclassified Structure (Fig. 31)
This feature was located next to the cofferdam installed for the construction of Tower
Bridge. While not fully recorded, it was planned and comprised a pile [71], a board or pad
[72], and two planks [73] and [74]. This structure was truncated by the later cofferdam and
probably extended further east, as a result its function cannot be defined, although there is
a possibility that it may comprise a mooring feature. This feature was surveyed but not
fully recorded.
3.4.18 Unallocated Timbers (Fig. 32)
A number of timbers were left unallocated to structures as no plausible alignments could
be found for them. Two timbers ([171] and [172]) were observed in 2015 (Fig 12) and,
having no apparent relationship to the features described above, have been included
within this group.
3.4.19 Mooring Features (Fig. 33)
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A number of mooring features have been recorded on the site over the four years of
survey up to 2014 ranging from large concrete blocks and stone blocks to timber features.
Given the associated deposits, it would seem most likely that they date from the 17th
century onwards- the concrete ones would certainly date from, at least, the mid- 19th
century.

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4 Potential of the archaeology
4.1
4.1.1

Original research questions
Establish and locate the various archaeologically significant features and
deposits recorded by Thames Archaeological Survey (the Alpha survey) and
establish the presence of any new features.

The results of this monitoring exercise have been summarised in the table in 3.2 above.
4.1.2

Record (describe, draw, sketch, photograph) the threatened archaeological
features at the eastern end of the site.

Two possible fish traps were recorded in 2013, one extra pile being recorded in 2014. Two
samples were taken from one of the supposed features which returned probable date
ranges of AD314-398 and AD487-533 which has implications for the interpretation both of
the number of structures and their wider significance. This will be discussed further below
in 4.2.2. One possible large jetty of elm construction was recorded towards the bottom of
the foreshore, while two phases of river stair were also recorded. These features were not
aligned to the current river wall and, therefore, probably pre-date it. The lower courses of
the 14th century river wall, along with its foundation and construction cut were recorded
where visible. Four phases of campshed or barge bed revetment were recorded, their
surviving height and associated finds suggesting that they were of late medieval/ early
post-medieval date. One of them may be associated with the campsheds built in 1595-7,
which may have been repaired in 1623, while another may be associated with those
constructed in 1632-317. A structure comprising a large number of re-used baseplates and
braces held in place by piles was associated with a 17th century dumped deposit and
probably represents remedial work to restore the level of the foreshore and protect the
foundation of the river wall. In 2015, a further deposit which may correlate to this was
recorded overlying redeposited alluvium. A probable baseplate structure of later postmedieval date was also recorded which may represent the remains of a much later river
stair. A further structure was recorded to the east which appears to have been truncated
by the cofferdam for the building of Tower Bridge and which may possibly represent a
mooring feature. A 19th/20th century consolidation deposit was also recorded in 2015.
4.1.3

Recover, record and plot finds from the eroding eastern end of the site.

Several finds surveys have been carried out by the Society of Thames Mudlarks in
conjunction with the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS). As yet, no final report has been
received from the PAS.
4.1.4

In conjunction with examination of previous investigations of Tower Wharf
and foreshore, can we establish the depth and width of the river wall
foundations?

The river wall foundations extended out from the wall itself by on average 0.30-0.50m with
a maximum width of 0.64m, and a top height of between -0.57 and
-0.87m OD. It was visible to a depth of up to 0.78m. Previous investigations on the
northern side of the wharf wall appear to have had the base of their masonry foundations
much higher, between 0.40m to 1.00m OD, with one exception being the base of a

17

Keay 2001 48, Colvin 1975 275-6
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masonry foundation just west of St Thomas’s Tower, but the near contemporary Iron Gate
causeway had a top height of -0.10m OD and the masonry foundation was up to 1.25m
thick; its lower 0.30m butting up to a horizontal oak timber and sitting on earlier 13th
century beech piles18. This may give us some indication as to the likely depth of the
masonry. There is no current indication as to its width.
4.1.5

Is there any evidence of mortaring of the foundations?

Fragments of lime mortar survive on the foundation but this mortar appears to have been
severely eroded by wave action.
4.1.6

Is there any evidence of elm piling beneath the foundations?

Three timbers of possible elm were recorded but there is no definitive evidence that they
are piles; the only one which looks like it may possibly have been driven into the foreshore
(although not vertically) has a diameter of 0.10m and the masonry does not appear to be
sitting upon its upper face. Oak piles recorded elsewhere on the inner side of the wharf
had diameters of typically 0.50m, while the beech piles of the Iron Gate causeway
discussed above in 4.1.4 ranged from between 0.20m and 0.45m in diameter19.The other
two, on closer inspection appear to be lying on their sides. It seems more likely, therefore,
that they are part of the backfill of the construction cut for the wall, while in all likelihood
the piles supporting the foundation are still uncovered below the existing foreshore level.
4.1.7

4.1.7 Have any new features or deposits emerged since the 2014 work? If
so what is their nature, date and extent?

Two timbers which did not appear to have any relationship to any previously identified
structures were recorded, along with a probable 17th century consolidation overlying
redeposited alluvium, and a 19th/20th century consolidation deposit were added to the
2014 survey data.

18
19

Keevil 2004: 116-9
Ibid.
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4.2

4.2.1

Further Research Questions

Can we determine the nature of the river wall foundations

The river wall foundations comprise a thin (0.06 to 0.08m) upper layer of small pieces of
tile and stone where it survives, overlying randomly coursed unfaced masonry. The top of
the foundation varies between -0.57 and -0.87m OD and it is visible at a height of up to
0.90m, while it extends out from the river wall to a maximum extent of 0.64m with an
average of 0.30-0.50m. Previous excavations and documentary evidence (see 2.2.4
above) suggest that this foundation would be sat on wooden piles, which were not visible
in 2014. If this section of river wall is similar to the near contemporary Iron Gate causeway
then there may be a further 0.45m of masonry currently below foreshore level at its lowest
part20. Given the nature of the remedial works to protect the river wall, it is unlikely that any
further evidence will be forthcoming in the near future.
4.2.2

4.2.2 What are the implications of the radio-carbon dates returned from
samples taken from supposed fish-trap α323b?

Samples were taken and dated from two timbers from the supposed structure α323b. The
likely date range for timber [148] was AD314-398, while that for timber [152] was AD487533.
From our knowledge of other Thames fish-traps it seems unlikely that such a structure
would be in use for over a century (although the later timber may possibly indicate a
repair), suggesting that α323b represents at least two structures. It still seems likely that
these structures represent fish-traps; there are no similar small roundwood structures
recorded on the Thames in the Greater London Area of similar date which have not been
so interpreted.
While the date range of AD487-533 for timber [152] is of Early Saxon date and fits within
the current date range for most Thames fish-traps, the date range returned for timber [148]
of AD314-398 does not. The two earliest hitherto known fish-traps have been recorded in
the Putney area dating to AD410-610 and AD420-640 suggesting very early Saxon
settlement21. It is, therefore, possible that the date-range returned from timber [148], being
not so far away from these dates, indicates even earlier Saxon occupation close around
the eastern walls of the Roman city.
Further analysis of the feature currently known as α323b, along with comparisons with
other recorded Thames fish-traps, may allow us to separate it into its differing components
and give more idea of possible function(s), while research into evidence of 4th century
Saxon settlement around the east of the Roman city may indicate that this probably earlier
structure is consistent with such settlement.

20
21

Ibid.
Cowie, R. & Blackmore, L. 2008: 116-8
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4.2.3

Significance of the data

These various structures are significant in that they inform us as to the nature of activity on
the foreshore and its relationship to the Tower and also to much earlier, hitherto unknown,
late Roman/Early Saxon activity.
At least three possible fish-traps or similar structures have been recorded, all other fishtraps found on the Thames which have been dated have come from the Early or Mid
Saxon period (5th-8th centuries AD). The dates returned from radio-carbon dating suggest
that one of the previously identified structures is in fact at least two; one of which was in
use before the collapse of Roman Britain. There appear, therefore, to be at least three
similar structures indicating occupation over a period of at least some 200 years; whether
this represents continuous usage is not clear. During the Early Saxon period the main
settlement of Lundenwic was located in the area of the Strand, there being little previous
evidence of activity in the vicinity of the Tower. The 5th/6th century date indicates Saxon
settlement in the area, possibly related to a previously unknown settlement; while the
earlier 4th century date suggests the possibility of Saxon settlement in and around the
eastern part of the city whilst Roman governance infrastructure was still in effect.
The large, possibly early, jetty is of such size, construction and location that it would have
been able to service large sea-going vessels, and may well have been used to offload the
stone for one of the construction phases of the Tower.
The two phases of possibly early river stair may well have complimented the jetty, allowing
small craft to be accessed at low tides. Moreover, their alignment suggests a possible river
bank alignment pre-dating the late 14th century river wall. Given that the White Tower was
built close up to the Roman wall, it may be that any accompanying ditch outflow may have
created an inlet in the river bank at a slightly different alignment, and as this ditch appears
to have been blocked during the building of the curtain wall to the Inner Bailey (completed
c.1295), this conjectured river bank location may pre-date 1295 (Fig. 34).
These features appear to have become redundant and were replaced by a series of
campsheds or barge beds aligned to the late 14th century river wall. This may reflect a
change in the role of this area of foreshore, up to the late 13th century this part of the
riverfront was outside the Tower precinct (see above 2.2.4); or a change in shipping- flat
bottomed cogs being more suited to sit on the foreshore at low tide than round-bottomed
knarrs which would ideally use a jetty. Or indeed, they may represent revetting to protect
the base of the riverwall, for there is evidence of large deposition of made ground onto the
foreshore in the 17th century and beyond, associated with structures comprising piles,
braces and re-used baseplates.

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5 Publication and archiving
Information on the results of this work will be made publicly available to permit inclusion of
the site data in any future academic researches into the development and use of the
Thames estuary. This will be achieved by incorporating the results of this work into a
journal article, as agreed with Historic Royal Palaces and Historic England (formerly
English Heritage).
The site archive containing original and ongoing records will continue to be held by the
Thames Discovery Programme under agreement with the Museum of London’s London
Archaeological Archive and Research Centre.

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6

Acknowledgements

The Thames Discovery Programme would like to thank the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF),
the Thames Estuary Partnership, the Thames Explorer Trust, the Museum of London,
University College London, Historic England (formerly English Heritage) and Museum of
London Archaeology for their support. In particular they would like to thank the Crown
Estate and Historic Royal Palaces for generously funding the post- HLF work and this
report.
The author would like to thank Nathalie Cohen, Gustav Milne, Courtney Nimura and Tony
Baxter for their assistance in running the site, Mark Burch, Raoul Bull, Neville Constantine,
Katherine Drew, Moises Hernandez and Sarah Jones of Museum of London Archaeology
for the surveying, along with Ian Tyers of the Dendrochronological Consultancy Ltd. and
Stephen Hoper of the Chrono Centre, Queen’s University Belfast for the dating. He would
also like to thank Tony King and Fiona Keith-Lucas of Historic Royal Palaces and Jane
Sidell of Historic England (formerly English Heritage) for their support and advice. Equally
the hard work of the following TDP volunteers is gratefully acknowledged; Jonathon
Aldridge, Reg Amin, Marian Andrews, Alan Aris, Martin Baker, Muriel Bailey, Peter
Baistow, Lyn Baldwin, Andy Becker, Guy Bloom, Andrew Brown, Samantha Buchanan,
Hannah Bullmore, Roxanne Burke, Cathy Butler, Glen Calderwood, Anne-Marie Causer,
Jasmina Cenan, Chris Chadwick, Roger Chapman, Andrea Choate, Lucie Commans,
Marianne Cook, Jill Cook, Leanne Corps, Rebecca Costello, Susan Cottee, Henry Creed,
Jan Drew, Tanya Donnelly, Jo Dubiel, Hugh Dulley, Vanita Eden, Lynn Fergusson, Jeremy
Fielden, Jenny Fisher, Nicola Fyfe, Justin Fox, Steve French, Brigid Geist, Alice Gibbs,
Alice Gomer, Suzie Gretz, Christopher Gunstone, Alan Haigh, Michael Hargrave, Alan
Harris, Keith Harmon, Barbara Harvey, Sheila Harvey, Peter Henderson, Martin Hatton,
Mick Hodges, Sybil Hunot, Ruthy Isadore, Neil Jacobson, Arwen James, Helene Jean
Venturoli, Mark Jennings, Helen Johnston, Bryan Jones, Tanya Jones, John Joyce, Paula
Keyhoe, Fabri Kramer, Peter Kyte, Liam Lannigan, Solange LaRose, Gavin Latin, John
Layt, Maurice Lewis, John Lingford, Fiona Lissauer, Claire Lowe, Sarah Lucas, Peter
Marchant, John Marshall, Yvonne Masson, Becca McHugh, Charlotte Meynell, Graeme
Mitchell, Miriam Molnarova, Deborah Nadal, Odette Nelson, Lesley O’Connor, Jerry
O’Mahony, Theresa O’Mahony, Damon Ortega, Sigrid Padel, Jill Reese, Olga Retka, Tom
Robinson, Sue Rowell, Rachel Sawczyc, Maryon Shaddock, Una Shanahan, Collette
Sheehan, Ged Shipp, Toni Simms, Margaret Sparks, Selina Springbett, Brian Stanley,
Sarah Stanley, Karen Stevens, Sally Stott, Iain Sutherland, Ann Sydney, Marizio Tarzia,
Guy Taylor, Elizabeth Tearle, Sophie Thring, Thais Torra, Pat Wakeham, Jo Warren,
Hugh Wang, Marion Watson, Shamayim Watson, Ann Watkins, Jean Whiting and Tim
Wilkins.

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7

Bibliography and references
Cohen, N. 2012, A Written Scheme of Investigation for Archaeological Survey at
the Tower of London Foreshore. Unpublished MOLA/TDP document.
Colvin, H. 1975, The History of the King’s Works. HMSO
Cowie, R. & Blackmore, L. 2008, Early and Middle Saxon Settlement in the London
Region, MOLAS Monograph No. 41.
Historic Royal Palaces and Oxford Archaeological Unit (HRP and OAU) 1998, The
Tower of London Moat: A Summary History of the Tower Moat, Based on Historical
and Archaeological Research Undertaken for the Tower Environs Scheme.
Keay, A. 2001, The Elizabethan Tower of London, London Topographical Society.
Keevil, G. 2004, The Tower of London Moat, Historic Royal Palaces Monograph
No. 1.
Parnell, G. 1993, The Tower of London. English Heritage.
Pearson, N. 1986, Excavations at the Tower of London Foreshore Site, Site Code
TLF86. Unpublished OAU report.
Thames Discovery Programme (TDP) Tower Key Site Information:
http://www.thamesdiscovery.org/riverpedia/tower-of-london-riverpedia
Wragg E. 2013A, Tower of London. An Interim Archaeological Foreshore
Assessment Report. Unpublished MOLA/TDP document.
Wragg, E. 2013B, A Written Scheme of Investigation for Archaeological Survey at
the Tower of London Foreshore. Unpublished MOLA/TDP document.
Wragg, E. 2013C, Tower of London Foreshore, London EC3. Written Scheme of
Investigation for an Archaeological Foreshore Survey. Unpublished MOLA/TDP
document.
Wragg. E. 2013D.Tower of London Foreshore, London EC3. An Archaeological
Foreshore Assessment Report. Unpublished MOLA/TDP document.
Wragg, E. 2013E.Tower of London Foreshore. Written Scheme of investigation for
an Archaeological Foreshore Survey and Watching Brief. Unpublished MOLA/TDP
document.
Wragg, E. 2014.Tower of London Foreshore, London EC3. An Archaeological
Foreshore Assessment Report. Unpublished MOLA/TDP document.
Wragg, E. 2015.Tower of London Foreshore. Written Scheme of investigation for
an Archaeological Foreshore Survey and Watching Brief. Unpublished MOLA/TDP
document.

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8 Appendix 1: Radio-carbon Dating Report
Information about radiocarbon calibration
RADIOCARBON CALIBRATION PROGRAM*
CALIB REV7.0.0
Copyright 1986-2013 M Stuiver and PJ Reimer
*To be used in conjunction with:
Stuiver, M., and Reimer, P.J., 1993, Radiocarbon, 35, 215-230.
Annotated results (text) - Export file - c14res.csv
FTH01_148
UBA-24425
Radiocarbon Age BP 1706 +/- 26
Calibration data set: intcal13.14c # Reimer et al. 2013
% area enclosed cal AD age ranges relative area under
probability distribution
68.3 (1 sigma) cal AD 263- 275 0.162
329- 386 0.838
95.4 (2 sigma) cal AD 254- 303 0.272
314- 398 0.728
FTH01_152
UBA-24427
Radiocarbon Age BP 1594 +/- 25
Calibration data set: intcal13.14c # Reimer et al. 2013
% area enclosed cal AD age ranges relative area under
probability distribution
68.3 (1 sigma) cal AD 418- 434 0.208
455- 469 0.150
487- 533 0.642
95.4 (2 sigma) cal AD 409- 538 1.000
FTH01_22
UBA-24428
Radiocarbon Age BP 63 +/- 23
Calibration data set: intcal13.14c # Reimer et al. 2013
*Invalid age* for this calibration curve
References for calibration datasets:
Reimer PJ, Bard E, Bayliss A, Beck JW, Blackwell PG, Bronk Ramsey C, Buck CE
Cheng H, Edwards RL, Friedrich M, Grootes PM, Guilderson TP, Haflidason H,
Hajdas I, Hatté C, Heaton TJ, Hogg AG, Hughen KA, Kaiser KF, Kromer B,
Manning SW, Niu M, Reimer RW, Richards DA, Scott EM, Southon JR, Turney CSM,
van der Plicht J.
IntCal13 and MARINE13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0-50000 years calBP
Radiocarbon 55(4). DOI: 10.2458/azu_js_rc.55.16947
Comments:
* This standard deviation (error) includes a lab error multiplier.
** 1 sigma = square root of (sample std. dev.^2 + curve std. dev.^2)
** 2 sigma = 2 x square root of (sample std. dev.^2 + curve std. dev.^2)
where ^2 = quantity squared.
[ ] = calibrated range impinges on end of calibration data set
0* represents a "negative" age BP
1955* or 1960* denote influence of nuclear testing C-14
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NOTE: Cal ages and ranges are rounded to the nearest year which
may be too precise in many instances. Users are advised to
round results to the nearest 10 yr for samples with standard
deviation in the radiocarbon age greater than 50 yr.

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9 Appendix 2: NMR OASIS archaeological report form
5.1

OASIS ID: thamesdi1-227593

Project details
Project name

An archaeological foreshore assessment report. Tower of London,
London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Short description of A number of roundwood piles were recorded which may represent at
the project
least two phases of an Anglo-Saxon fish trap. One possible large jetty of
elm construction was recorded towards the bottom of the foreshore, it is
possible that this may be of relatively early (pre 1295) date and may be
associated with a construction phase of the Tower. Two possible stair
bases were recorded on a different alignment to the current 14th century
river wall and may be of similarly early date. The foundations of this river
wall were recorded as being exposed from the cofferdam installed for the
construction of Tower Bridge for a length of 31.60m westwards, up to a
maximum depth of 0.76m. Cracks in the river wall were noted, and in
one area the construction cut for the wall was recorded, sealed by c.17th
century dumped deposits. Six phases of campshed or barge bed
revetment were recorded, their surviving height suggesting that they
were of late medieval or early post-medieval date A series of braces and
re-used base-plates which had been previously interpreted as the bases
of river stairs were re-interpreted as emergency revetments to protect
the base of the river wall. A probable baseplate structure of probably
post-medieval date was also recorded which may represent the remains
of a much later river stair. A further structure was recorded to the east
which appears to have been truncated by the cofferdam for the building
of Tower Bridge and thus it was not feasible to attempt an interpretation.
Project dates

Start: 12-07-2010 End: 04-08-2015

Previous/future
work

Yes / Yes

Any associated
project reference
codes

FTH01 - Sitecode

Type of project

Field evaluation

Site status

Conservation Area

Current Land use

Coastland 2 - Inter-tidal

Monument type

FLOOD DEFENCE Medieval

Monument type

FLOOD DEFENCE Post Medieval

Monument type

FISH TRAP Early Medieval

Monument type

JETTY Medieval

Monument type

HARD Medieval

Monument type

HARD Post Medieval

Monument type

LANDING STEPS Medieval

Monument type

LANDING STEPS Post Medieval

Significant Finds

N/A None
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Methods &
techniques

''Fieldwalking'',''Measured Survey'',''Photographic Survey''

Development type

Estate management (i.e. maintenance of existing structures and
landscape by capital works and on-going maintenance)

Prompt

Environmental (unspecified schedule)

Position in the
planning process

Not known / Not recorded

Project location
Country

England

Site location

GREATER LONDON TOWER HAMLETS TOWER HAMLETS Tower of
London Foreshore

Postcode

EC3N 4AB

Study area

900 Square metres

Site coordinates

TQ 3364 8033 51.50558035202 -0.074202410139 51 30 20 N 000 04 27
W Point

Project creators
Name of
Organisation

Thames Discovery Programme/Museum of London Archaeology

Project brief
originator

Thames Discovery Programme

Project design
originator

Eliott Wragg

Project
director/manager

Stewart Hoad

Project supervisor

Eliott Wragg

Type of
sponsor/funding
body

Historic Royal Palaces

Type of
sponsor/funding
body

Crown Estate

Type of
sponsor/funding
body

Heritage Lottery Fund

Project archives
Physical Archive
Exists?

No

Digital Archive
recipient

LAARC

Digital Contents

''Survey''

Digital Media
available

''GIS'',''Survey'',''Text''

Paper Archive
recipient

LAARC

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Paper Contents

''Survey''

Paper Media
available

''Context sheet'',''Photograph'',''Plan'',''Report'',''Section'',''Survey
'',''Unpublished Text''

Project
bibliography 1
Grey literature (unpublished document/manuscript)
Publication type
Title

An archaeological foreshore assessment report. Tower of London,
London Borough of Tower Hamlets

Author(s)/Editor(s)

Wragg, E.

Date

2015

Issuer or publisher

Thames Discovery Programme/Museum of London Archaeology

Place of issue or
publication

London

Description

A4 Document

Entered by

Eliott Wragg (e.wragg@thamesdiscovery.org)

Entered on

23 October 2015

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© MOLA / TDP

FTH01

Based upon the Ordnance Survey mapping with the permission of
the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office © Crown Copyright.
Unauthorised reproduction infringes Crown copyright and may lead
to prosecution or civil proceedings. City of London 100023243 2011
0 250 500

Fig 1 Site location

1:60,000
1,000

1,500

2,000
Meters

MULTI/1146

A106
A102

A313

A110
A318

A101

A141

A105
A117

A140

A104
A107

A108
A118

A103

A114
A109

A138

A303

A304

A116
A115

A112

A119
A134

A113

A310

A122

A111

A121
A309

A120

A321
A123

A135
A124

A305

A306

A325A326
A316

A125
A302
A308

A315

A311

A320

A319

A314

A317

A136

A301 A323
A307
A312

A131

A130
A139

A132

A133

A137

A127

A128
A129

A126

0 5 10

Fig 2 Site map showing location of Alpha numbers

1:1,500
20

30

40
Meters

© MOLA / TDP

MULTI/1146

Based upon the Ordnance Survey mapping with the permission of
the Controller of Her Majesty's Stationery Office © Crown Copyright.
Unauthorised reproduction infringes Crown copyright and may lead
to prosecution or civil proceedings. City of London 100023243 2011

Related Interests