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The zone is approximately 600m long and 70m wide. Since the 1940s, houseboats have been permanently moored on the upper part of the foreshore, connected to land by a series of pontoons. At present the only safe permanent access from the waterfront to the foreshore is via a set of stairs located on the Embankment, downstream of Battersea Bridge (over 1km away). Once upstream of the bridge, the only safe passage to the site is across a narrow area in front of the moored houseboats which means it is easy to become cut off, especially as the tide comes in very quickly. It is also possible to access the foreshore directly from the houseboat pontoons via moored vessels or temporary ladders . Both of these routes are somewhat unsatisfactory and the amount of both personnel and equipment that can safely be brought to the site is limited. The unstable nature of parts of the foreshore surface suggests that some areas have been scoured in the past (possibly due to the movement of vessels across the foreshore), although it seems unlikely that any large scale dredging has occurred on the site. The presence of ‘soft’ areas, masked by silts, makes the site very dangerous for those unfamiliar with it.
archaeological and historical background
prehistoric There are a range of finds from the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Iron Age periods recovered from the area around the site, from both controlled excavation and as the result of chance finds. For example, small number of residual prehistoric struck flints and potsherds were found during excavations at 61-62 Cheyne Walk and 6-16 Old Church Street. Most recently, two pits, possibly of Mesolithic date, were recorded at 2-4 Old Church Street. Artefacts of Palaeolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic date were collected by antiquarians from the Thames ‘off Chelsea’, as was an assemblage of Iron Age material. Most significantly, a concentration of artefacts from stratified Neolithic contexts has been recovered from this zone during foreshore survey. A well-preserved paleoenvironmental deposit consists of peats with organic inclusions in the form of waterlogged tree branches and logs and from this widespread feature, a variety of artefacts have been retrieved, both as surface finds and in stratified contexts. These include burnt and worked flints, animal bone, ceramics and a wooden club or beater, which is c 0.7m in length and dates to 36303350 cal BC. This artefact is presently on display at the Museum of London. Human remains have also been retrieved from the peats and include two femurs (one dated to the Neolithic 2910–2770 cal BC and one to the Bronze Age 1620–1440 cal BC) and a fragment of a Bronze Age skull (1750-1610 cal BC). This adult male skull is the first dated example from the London area showing evidence for trepanation roman There is very little evidence for use of the area during this period. Evidence from excavation at the three ‘dry land’ sites mentioned above suggests a small scale rural settlement during the Roman period. early medieval The changing shape of the river over time is further evidenced by place-name evidence for eyots, or islands, such as those discovered at north Southwark. It is known that Westminster Abbey was established on Thorney by the late Anglo-Saxon period and it has been suggested that similar islands may have existed further west at Chelsea and Battersea during this period. Chelsea [Cealchythe] is first mentioned in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which records that a church synod was held there in AD 785; this was followed by a number of other councils. This fits well with the recently discovered archaeological evidence for Middle Saxon settlement at 6-16 Old Church Street, and with the discovery of two Middle Saxon fishtraps on the Thames foreshore. The first discovered is a V-shaped trap with 84 posts so far recorded (dated to 730-900 cal AD), and the second is of 10 posts and may be a barrier trap ((650 to 890 cal AD).
late medieval The community at Chelsea was probably well established during this period and in 1086 Domesday Book provides the first definite documentary evidence of settlement. After the Conquest the manor was granted to Edward of Salisbury, and it is described in Domesday Book as comprising two hides with enough arable land to support five plough teams and nine tenants. Archaeology again supports the documentary material, with structural and artefactual evidence recorded at a number of sites, and demonstrating that the settlement was well established by the th 13 century. There is documentary evidence for a church at Chelsea in 1157, but the first specific record of the church is in 1290. The Old Church was originally dedicated to All Saints but became St Luke’s in the 17th century. The eastern half of the chancel was constructed in the 13th century, whilst the north chapel was built in the 14th century Old Church Street was a medieval road, as was Milmans Road to the east of the site, where the rectory was originally located. The importance of the relationship between the settlements at Chelsea and Battersea on the opposite bank of the river is demonstrated by the establishment of a ferry during this period (or possibly earlier). post medieval During the 16th century Chelsea became known as the ‘Village of Palaces’. Notable home owners included Sir Thomas More and later Henry VIII, the Duke of Norfolk and the Earl of Shrewsbury. Elizabeth I spent part of her childhood here, as did Lady Jane Grey. The Old Church was added to and modified several times during the post-medieval period. Sir Thomas More rebuilt the chapel in 1538, and in 1667-68 the nave and the tower were rebuilt. Work in the 18th and 19th century culminated in a restoration by H.H Burnell in 1857-8. Unfortunately the church was severely damaged by bombing in 1941, and it was subsequently rebuilt between 1949 and 1958 by W. H. Godfrey as a precise recreation of the original. By the Georgian period, Chelsea had grown into a ‘garden suburb’, and by the middle of the 18th century, there were around 3,000 inhabitants. The main occupations of the area were connected with market gardening, the river or the shops and inns. Construction of Battersea Bridge began in 1771, the original timber bridge was demolished in 1881 and replaced by the present bridge (designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette) in 1886-90. The building of the first bridge led to increased urbanisation of the area, a process which was continued by the construction of the Embankment, which was opened in 1874. This feature somewhat divorced the suburb from the river and the focus of commerce turned landwards towards the Kings Road. The Embankment extended only as far as the bridge, leaving a small ‘bay’ (in the area of the site) to the west. A range of post-medieval and modern features, representing the remains of maritime activity (probably associated with the Victorian boatyard and the present day use of the site for moorings for houseboats) have been recorded, including barge fragments, an anchor and the remains of possible jetty structures and causeways.
A101 A102 A103 A104 A105 A106 A107 A108 A109 A110 A111 A112 A113 A114 A115 A116 A117 A118 A119 A120 A121 A122 A123 A124 A125 A126 A127 A128 A129 A130
Watercraft Agradation Agradation Forest Structure (unclassified) Fish trap Structure (unclassified) Structure (unclassified) Watercraft Riverfront defence Riverfront defence Riverfront defence Riverfront defence VOID Watercraft Artefact scatter Artefact scatter Artefact scatter Artefact scatter Artefact scatter Artefact Deposit Deposit Deposit Watercrafts Anchor Fish trap Deposit Structure? (unclassified) Structure? (unclassified)
Barge. ? Fragment Gravel Mud. Deep over much of the zone Trees and smaller remains. At lowest tide. Jetty/Causeway? Two lines of vertical timbers Mid Saxon fish trap Jetty? Vertical timber posts below modern jetty. Small, vertical stakes, (round-wood and squared) Barge. ? Two timbers Chelsea Creek to Chelsea Wharf Chelsea Wharf to Chelsea Harbour Straight, upstream end of Chelsea Harbour Curved, downstream end of Chelsea Harbour Boat. Rudder Burnt flint Flint. Surface finds Flint. Stratified Animal and human bone from A104 Ceramics Beater. Wood. Not described Not described Not described Moored houseboats Metal Mid Saxon fish trap Hard standing (brick rubble, chalk) Group of small stakes Group of small stakes
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