Southwark Cathedral and Bankside Foreshore

I am sorry to have to admit that although I have walked past Southwark Cathedral many times, I have never been inside to have a look. On Saturday 23 January 2010I I had the chance to visit and was amazed at what I was missing.

Just glancing at the outside, the cathedral has a very Victorian look. However, on the inside it is anything but. As an archaeologist I was particularly interested in the excavation results that had been left open for visitors to see. Of course the older phases of use are fascinating but the thing that caught my eye was the 17th century delft pottery kiln. Not so much the construction but the fact that it abutted the cathedral building. This speaks volumes about the state of use of the building in that period and that people thought it was ok to put a kiln adjoining the wall!

I was also very interested to see a rare wooden effigy of a knight with a very impressive carved moustache.

The second part of the morning was spent on the foreshore at Bankside.


Before I became a FROG I only ever considered the Thames and its environment from dry land, on the riverside paths. Actually going down on to the foreshore, and being on the same level as the river, gives one a whole new perspective, on the river, its users and the structures on its banks.

As a finds specialist being let loose on an area so rich in artefacts is like winning the lottery! Large areas of discarded ships nails; barge beds made out of blocks of chalk;


peat eroding out with evidence of prehistoric woodland; stoneware ink pots; clay pipes; the ubiquitous blue and white china; masses of animal bone; the list goes on and on. Where else would you find such an eclectic mix of artefacts. For me the most exciting find of the day was an anchor which we were able to record and add to the Big Anchor Project.


The other thing that has impressed me about the foreshore is that it is an environment balanced on a knife edge. It is fantastic that the river is being used more but that has to be balanced by the damage that is being caused by this increase in use – something that was brought home to me on Saturday when I saw the damage to the lower levels of the access stairs at Bankside, caused by erosion.


Whilst we were walking around we saw the effects of the wash created by the pleasure boats, which were exposing peat layers containing prehistoric wood.

Aside from the very cold weather we had a very interesting and rewarding morning. I am now FROG champion for two sites in West London, Isleworth and Strand on the Green. We will be running an exciting programme of work to record these areas.