Tuesday 28 April 2015

Beyond Bedlam

As Crossrail progresses, so does its archaeology programme. The dig at Liverpool Street has been featured in the news recently, thanks to its discovery of the Bedlam burial ground. (This was not for residents of the notorious hospital, but being unattached to any particular church attracted a diverse range of Londoners). Attention-grabbing they might be, but those three thousand bodies aren't its only finds of interest. 

2nd century Roman pot
Glass fragments
The excavation has continued down into the mediaeval and Roman levels, and when I visited with London Historians last week, we were lucky enough to see some of the most recent finds. They might not have quite the impact of all those skeletons, but they are pretty wonderful in their own right. 

Roman pottery head
Roman fascinum charm
With a railway to build, the time for excavation is strictly limited. At Liverpool Street, archaeologists are working in shifts until 11pm at night, so there was still plenty of activity during our early-evening visit. Viewing windows in the hoardings, and regular opening times, allow the public to follow the work - and a lecture programme starts next month.


Hels said...

There should be a fixed time for archaeologists to dig and record, before the history is lost forever under any new building project. Not an open-ended period of time, but one guaranteed by legislation.

Imagine if the 3,000 skeletons from the Great Plague in 1665 were lost forever. And the Roman pottery etc would never have been found.

Katharine A said...

I saw the crossrail exhibition last year, near Tottenham Court Rd. As much as I love museums, it would be amazing if they could leave some of the dig exposed forever. Something special about seeing where objects have been found.

Stephen Barker said...

Hels, the only reason that the archaeology is being recorded is because of legislation. All planning applications have to have an assessment of what impact it will have on the archaeology of the site and a watching brief has to be kept when work starts. Obviously on sites within cities such as London where there is a long history of human settlement and activity the excavation of the site will be part of the development process.

Just think what was swept away in earlier periods when the only protection was the interest of the developer in saving any material uncovered.