Unusually Low Water at Twickenham

On Saturday Nov 7th a sizeable group comprised of volunteer archaeologists and environmentalists gathered at the footbridge over to Eel Pie Island in Twickenham to take advantage of the river’s draw down. During a draw down water is allowed to run out completely through Richmond Lock giving us a relatively rare opportunity to get onto the riverbed in this semi-tidal suburban stretch of the river.

Under the gaze of the ghosts of iconic rock stars who both played and recorded on the Island, and the gathering rugby fans, we cautiously made our way down the slippery causeway to see what we could find on this gloriously bright if crisp autumn morning. As the waters gradually receded features and objects began to emerge including an interesting ceramic sherd of local interest which was retrieved:


At least 3 very large anchors were seen but definitely not retrieved, a rapidly decaying upturned wooden hull of a possible sailing dinghy and several wooden stumps of indeterminate age. The delicate state of the sailing dinghy in particular brought home to me how ephemeral artefacts of organic origin can be. I shall be interested to see what condition the hull is in at next year’s draw down.

After this foreshore event but before publication I attended the TDP Forum at UCL where we learnt a lot more about anchors – see the Big Anchor Project website for more details. I have already submitted my photos of the anchors we found.

A complete skip full of junk was removed during the exercise including car batteries, mobile phones and the usual detritus and while the archaeologists weren’t expecting any major finds one never knows until one looks! I couldn’t help wondering that although much “rubbish” was being removed from the riverbed at what point does rubbish become archaeology?

There’s lots to see in this beautiful suburb and if you’re ever in the area…and why wouldn’t you be?….it’s well worth popping into the cosy Twickenham Museum literally a stone’s throw from the river in The Embankment.

See you at the next FROG event?…..I hope so.

Andy Longfellow Nov 2009