Battling the Elements!

This week the Thames Discovery Programme and members of the FROG have been working on the foreshore in Wapping during the second week of our Summer Season fieldwork. It’s been an exciting week, although somewhat challenging due to the vagaries of the English summer! We have experimented with working during an evening tide for the first time, been rained off site early for the first time during the lifetime of the project, and investigated some very interesting and unusual foreshore features.

Our week began with a session at twilight; not exactly the long summer evening I was hoping for but warm enough to end the day with a drink in the conveniently located Town of Ramsgate. A very early start the next morning saw us back on the foreshore ready to investigate the remains of Gun Dock, recorded during the 1990s by the City of London Archaeological Society unfortunately this session was cut short by a torrential downpour but – with very many thanks to the River Police (Marine Support Unit) for taking pity on a group of rain soaked FROGs at short notice! – we were able to explore the Police Museum. Undeterred, the team were back in action again on Friday, and over the weekend to clean and record a range of structures and features on the foreshore, some of which have us rather puzzled (not for the first time). During the tours of the site, led by Rose Baillie and Guy Taylor from CoLAS, we noted the ‘very big timber’ lying at right angles to the foreshore, close to the remains of Wapping New Stairs. Theories abounded as to its possible origin and function but Eliott may have hit the nail on the head with his explanation – perhaps this large fir tree, which has been roughly hewn, had been washed in from nearby Greenland Dock and recycled as a foreshore surface or for access?

Other features recorded included a fragmentary ship’s rudder (widespread scatters of ships nails were noted nearby), the unusual double stair at Wapping Old Stairs and a very odd brick feature lying parallel to the river wall, close to Pierhead. It certainly looks like part of a culvert (although it does taper to the west) but it appears to be running the ‘wrong way’ for a drainage feature. It could be recycled from elsewhere to form a foreshore surface or to retain the river wall behind it, but it seems a lot of effort to go to to bring such a solid chunk of masonry down to the foreshore? Anyway, have a look at the photos from the site above and if you have any ideas about what these mystery features might be, please do let us know!