Archaeology

London Mapping Project

The London History Group was launched mid 2014 as a community engagement project, building on local knowledge to promote the less known historical sites of London and create an exciting story that can be traced on the ground.

A partnership between HeritageDaily and Historvius,  the project is run by community archaeologists and historians who are working with an active social audience to advise on the history on their doorsteps.

These sites are explored, photographed and their positions mapped within the platform, enabling tourists and Londoners alike to discover these monuments for themselves.

Unlike most sites that feature places to visit in London, The London History Group is searching for those locations that slip through being featured in the usual tourism guides. From the city walls, roman fort, ruined priories and underground crypts.

Some of the sites:

London Wall – Coopers Row

The London Wall is a defensive wall that encircled the City of London.

London Wall – Credit : London History Group

The wall was built between 190 and 225 AD, it continued to be developed by the Romans until at least the end of the 4th century, making it among the last major building projects undertaken by the Romans before Britannia looked to its own defences in AD 410.

     

Along with Hadrian’s Wall and the road network, the London Wall was one of the largest construction projects carried out in Roman Britain. Once built, the wall was 2 miles long and about 6 m high, encircling the entire Roman city.

Despite Londinium being abandoned and left to ruin by the Romans, the wall remained in active use as a fortification for more than another 1,000 years. It was repaired when Anglo Saxon rule was returned to London by Afred the Great during a period of Viking sieges and raids, where he carried out building projects to rebuild crumbling defences, recut the defensive ditch (Roman fossa that encircled the walls of Londinium) and found the re-settlement of Lundenburg within the walls.

The wall was further modified in the medieval period, with the addition of crenellations, gates and bastion towers. This formed part of a defensive line that incorporated The Tower of London, Baynard’s Castle and Montfichet’s Tower.

It was not until as late as the 18th and 19th centuries that the wall underwent substantial demolition, although even then large portions of it survived by being incorporated into other structures. Amid the devastation of the Blitz in WW2, some of the tallest ruins in the bomb-damaged city centre were actually remnants of the Roman wall.

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Saxon Barrow Cemetary

Greenwich Park contains a large Saxon barrow cemetery of approximately 50 round barrows.

Saxon Barrow Cemetary – Credit : London History Group

At their simplest, round barrows are hemispherical mounds of earth and/or stone raised over a burial placed in the middle, whether inhumation burials or cremations.

They were originally investigated in 1784 by Rev. James Douglas who’s discoveries included inhumations (some in coffins), with grave goods that included a spearhead (Swanton Type H3), a shield boss, a knife and four beads. Fragments of hair and cloth were also recorded.

Twenty barrows are still visually identifiable today, and up to 5m in diameter with slight elevation over the surrounding topology.

An RCHME survey, topographically and using geophysical methods as part of the Greenwich Park Survey (Sep-1993 to Feb-1994) identified a total of thirty-one barrows surviving, with the remainder having been destroyed or flattened in 1844.

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Magpie Alley (Whitefriar’s Crypt)

Tucked away in a tiny alley near Fleet Street lies the remains of the Whitefriar’s Crypt.

Magpie Alley (Whitefriar’s Crypt) – Credit : London History Group

Only a crypt remains today of what was once a late 14th century priory belonging to a Carmelite order known as the White Friars. During its heyday, the priory sprawled the area from Fleet Street to the Thames. At its western end was the Temple and to its east was Water Lane (now called Whitefriars Street). A church, cloisters, garden and cemetery were housed in the ground.

The roots of the Carmelite order go back to its founding on Mount Carmel, which was situated in what is today Israel, in 1150. The order had to flee Mount Carmel to escape the wrath of the Saracens in 1238.

Like many Catholic sites, the friary was dissolved by Henry VIII during the reformation in 1538, with the site gifted to the King’s Armourer.

They crypt itself was discovered in 1896 in Britton’s Court, where it was used as a cellar. Supposedly a similar crypt was also discovered in proximity but was destroyed during the rapid expansion of London.

During the 1980′s, the crypt was meticulously removed in order to allow the redevelopment of the area. It was lifted across the road to a new resting site by crane, where it now resides behind a glass screen for public viewing.

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Lesnes Abbey

Lesnes Abbey is a ruined abbey in the London Borough of Bexley which is classed as an ancient scheduled monument.

Lesnes Abbey – Credit : London History Group

After the Norman Conquest in 1066, the area of Lesnes passed into ownership of Bishop Odo, as mentioned in the Domesday Survey. The year 1178 saw the foundation of the Abbey of St Mary and St Thomas the Martyr at Lesnes by Richard de Luci, Chief Justiciar of England.

In 1381 Abel Ker of Erith led an uprising linked to the famous Peasants’ Revolt and forced the abbot of the abbey to swear an oath to support them. After this they marched to Maidstone to join the main body of men led by Wat Tyler.

It was one of the first monasteries to be closed after the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1524, and the monastic buildings were all pulled down, except for the Abbott’s Lodging.

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London Lighthouse

Located deep within the Docklands at Trinity Buoy Wharf, where the River Lee meets the River Thames, lies London’s only lighthouse.

London Lighthouse – Credit : London History Group

In 1803, the site came to be used by The Elder Brethren of Trinity House which is now known as Corporation of Trinity House, and the seawall here was reconstructed in 1822, built by George Mundy of Old Ford.

The site was used as a maintenance depot, and storage facility for the many buoys that aided navigation on the Thames; and the wharf for docking and repair of lightships. The original lighthouse was built by the engineer of Trinity House, James Walker, in 1852, and was demolished in the late 1920s.

The surviving lighthouse was built in 1864-6 by James Douglass for Trinity House. It was used for lighting trials for Trinity House’s lights around England & Wales. Michael Faraday also carried out experiments there.

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How you can help?

Part of the LHG project involves scouting historical sites for accuracy of research and image content. We are reaching out to Londoners, to pass on their local knowledge and help us to uncover the past on their doorsteps.

To inform us of any local historical sites, or to submit any content to the website and images.. Please contact us

Alternatively, join our facebook group and post a site on the wall for investigation by our historians. Facebook Group

Visit The London History Group

     

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