The FROG team at Trinity Buoy Wharf

All the highlights from this year’s Summer Season!

We’ve now completed our eleventh summer season of recording the archaeology of the Thames foreshore and, as ever, new discoveries have been made. At the same time 65 new FROG members have joined through training events at Greenwich Palace and Trinity Buoy Wharf. Many thanks to all of you who have joined us this year and to everyone who has continued to work with us, your help makes our work possible.


We began the fieldwork season at Greenwich Palace in March where we recorded the 17th century jetty to the Tudor Palace and the similarly dated riverfront structures outwith the palace to the west. While no new significant structural remains were observed, it was clear that pre-existing elements had been washed away and that the foreshore continues to erode, with increasing damage seen downstream of the Royal Stairs. Maybe next year earlier features will be revealed in this area?

Trinity Buoy Wharf

Our next fieldwork event took place in April at Trinity Buoy Wharf. This a new site for us, despite being the location of several 18th and 19th century shipbuilders, notably Thames Ironworks who launched the revolutionary HMS Warrior on the other bank of Bow Creek. Unsurprisingly we found evidence of launch slipways, although what was more surprising was that large timbers from broken ships were incorporated. So far, in London, all our large ship timbers have been from warships, yet there is no documentary evidence of Royal Navy ships being broken here; perhaps we are looking at the remains of an East Indiaman? We also recorded a probably late 19th/early 20th century causeway along with changes to the river wall and stairs.

Putney and Fulham

May found us in Putney and Fulham. On the Putney foreshore we continued to record the re-deposited masonry put down to reinforce the sagging river wall. On the Fulham foreshore we recorded more elements of the wattle hurdle previously dated to AD951 +/-26. We also found small roundwood stakes some 40m downstream, one of which has been dated to AD839 +/-24, possibly suggesting that fish traps were in use on the site for a considerable period of time.


New possible fish trap at Fulham, sampled timber in foreground

The City of London

The City foreshore upstream of Cannon Street Station was our focus for June. While the foreshore here comprises dumped deposits, behind the 19th/20th century wooden revetments we were able to find evidence of other activity. In front of the existing revetment, a series of oak piles suggest an earlier (pre-1800) version of the current foreshore structures, while two cruciform structures, similar to those we’ve recorded at Greenwich and one downstream towards London Bridge indicate the presence of Dolphins, mooring structures for vessels at high tide.

A large number of softwood piles were recorded from a jetty or pontoon of some sort, the softwood indicating a post 1800 date. On closer examination it was clear that some of the piles had been sawn off at the end of their use whilst others had been first drilled through to aid hand sawing. We looked into this and found that power drills came into use in 1895, while the first motorised (chain) saw was patented in 1905 in California but did not come into common use until around 1930. It would seem, therefore, that the earlier iteration of this jetty or pontoon was replaced in the period 1895-1930, the latter somewhat later.


In July we worked at Isleworth Ait on our unique WWI motor launch and Dunkirk little ship. As ever thanks are due to Steven Woods of BJ Woods and Son boatyard for giving us access to the site. Having previously recorded much of the outboard profile of the vessel, this year we plunged into the depths of the interior. A gruelling week in the mud enabled us to record the anchor winch, plan some of the interior hull and realise just how cheaply these boats had been built.


Happy FROGs in the Isleworth mud!


We finished the summer season in August at Rotherhithe looking once more at the barge beds just downstream of the Mayflower pub, an area of considerable erosion featuring a number of rudder elements and ships’ windlasses. We also undertook a photogrammatic survey of the gridiron by Hanover Stairs, and planned a previously unrecorded series of structures, possibly parts of a causeway and bargebed, upstream of the Mayflower.

Overall 88 FROG members took part in fieldwork this summer and including staff and visitor participation 497 person days of work was carried out. A huge thank you to all of you for contributing so much.