RESEARCH FRAMEWORKIntroductionLondon’s ‘longest’ archaeological site is still a largely untapped resource with newdiscoveries being revealed by the dynamic riverine regime, and the discoveries ofprevious investigations awaiting further assessment, analysis and publication. Thispresent document has been produced to outline avenues of research for thearchaeological study of the River Thames foreshore within the Greater London area. Itaims to provide guidance regarding thematic studies, and is arranged to encompass awide range of potential research interests from methods and techniques, geology andtopography, and cultural heritage. It is presented as a series of ‘research questions’which we hope will inspire interdisciplinary research, collaboration and dissemination.The document is divided into the following sections:Part 1: Previous InvestigationsPart 2: The Physical ThamesPart 3: Liquid HistoryThis Research Framework has also been designed to encourage contribution to theRiverpedia project; a community research initiative supported by the PublicEngagement Unit at University College London.Nathalie CohenTeam Leader, Thames Discovery ProgrammeMarch 2010
Part 1: Previous InvestigationsThe Thames Discovery Programme (TDP) follows in the footsteps of a large number of distinguishedantiquarians, collectors, archaeologists and historians. Understanding the context of this research is animportant aspect of assessing our current knowledge of the Thames and its use. We need to assess boththe ideas previous scholars have had about the Thames and the records that they produced of thearchaeology of the foreshore. As the TDP provides a high-precision base-line survey of selected areas ofthe foreshore, river wall and related structures, features and finds scatters at a known date, we can thencompare and contrast the results with both earlier and later surveys, noting the changes.Research Questions: 1.1 What plans exist of the archaeology of the Thames foreshore, and can these be compared / contrasted with the current Thames Discovery programme of recording? 1.2 What can we learn through studying the artefact collections of Thomas Layton, Charles Roach Smith, GF Lawrence and others, such as the Society of Thames Mudlarks and the Thames and Field Metal Detecting Society? 1.3 How can we use the data collected by the Portable Antiquities Scheme? 1.4 What records survive from foreshore investigations undertaken by Sir Mortimer Wheeler and Ivor Noel Hume? 1.5 What can we learn from the archives of local archaeological and historical societies, such as the Wandsworth Historical Society, the Richmond Archaeological Society and the City of London Archaeological Society, among many others? 1.6 How far did the Thames Archaeological Survey achieve their aims of systematically recording the foreshore, and raising the profile of inter-tidal archaeology? 1.7 What new methodologies and techniques were developed by commercial archaeological units working on the foreshore? Foreshore survey, 1949, by Ivor Noel Hume
Part 2: The Physical ThamesThe TDP seeks to increase our understanding of the physical evolution of the Thames through the last10,000 years, as well as explore some of the strategies adopted by humans in relation to changes in theenvironment and climate. The rate of erosion of the Thames estuary coast by stormy seas, and of coastaland inland features by landslips and wind action, are significantly affected by climatic variation. Ourforeshore survey produces data of direct relevance to issues of environmental change, such as assessingchanges in prevailing winds and wind direction, ocean currents, prevailing sea temperatures, theoccurrence of ice on rivers, lakes and seas, river levels and river mechanics. Specific questions we hope toaddress are:Research questions: 2.1 Where was the tidal head of the Thames at different times? 2.2 What was the shape of the riverbank at different times in the past? What is the size of the floodplain, or inter-tidal zone? Where are the islands of the Thames today, and where might they have been in the past? 2.3 What was the evolution of the Thames drainage system at different times? Where were the tributaries of the Thames? When were different tributaries buried / canalised? 2.4 What is the change in river-levels? What is the evidence for the tidal range; the high and low tides at different times? Is there evidence for rises and falls in the relative river level through time? 2.5 What is the stratigraphic sequence of the Thames foreshore? Can we map the evidence for clay, silt and peat to determine the horizontal sequences of deposition and erosion? Where were the marshes, beaches, woodlands and meadows of the Thames? 2.6 What is the impact of infrastructure development such as embanking, bridge and pontoon construction on the river mechanics? 2.7 What could assessment of geological samples from the foreshore tell us? 2.8 What is the evidence for flood events? Satellite view of the Thames
Part 3: Liquid HistoryThe Thames foreshore provides a variety of evidence for past maritime connections, and the lives ofpeople who lived and worked on the Thames. There are a range of questions the TDP hope to addressaround the following topics: • Groups, organisations, and institutions • Technology, transport and working lives • Food, clothing and housing • The Thames in war • RecreationLiquid History – groups, organisations and institutionsResearch questions: 3.1 What can the foreshore tell us about the people and groups that lived and used the Thames in the past? 3.2 What evidence is there for pre-Christian ritual activity (prehistoric, Roman, pagan Anglo- Saxon)? What could different kinds of studies, such as examination of artefacts, tell us? 3.3 Burial and deposition in riverine contexts – what is its significance and meaning? 3.4 Where are the Thames-side churches and from when do they date? Do we have evidence for bridge chapels? What could an examination of the dedications of churches and chapels tell us? What materials are the church buildings constructed of? Battersea church, photo by N. Cohen 3.5 Where did the merchantmen and seamen of London worship, and where were they buried and commemorated?
3.6 How was the medieval port of London organised and administered; what material evidence survives? Where were the Customs Houses, Customs Lookouts, reeves and bailiffs of the historic port? Where do we find the seals and tokens?3.7 What neighbourhoods existed along the Thames?3.8 Can we see evidence for zones of activity along the waterfront? Can the study of documentary sources, place names / field names and artefacts help us to plot these zones?3.9 What evidence is there for Hanseatic trade? What can we draw from place name studies, timber analysis, artefact studies (eg luxury goods) etc?3.10 Where are the naval colleges and from when do they date?3.11 What can we learn from a study of guilds and livery companies associated with riverine occupations?3.12 What evidence exists for the use of the river and Port of London as part of the Transatlantic Slave Trade?3.13 What can we learn of crime and punishment along the river?3.14 What is the evidence for Thames tragedies, such drowning or ship wreck?3.15 How can we use the archaeological evidence of the foreshore to compare and contrast the experience of Thames-side communities between 1930 and 1955, a time of dynamic and fast moving change?3.16 How can we use the history & archaeology of the Thames to explore the evidence for Black and Ethnic Minority communities in London?3.17 What can we learn of modern day use of the river as ritual focus – Hindu & Sikh activity? Statue from Bermondsey, photo by A. Chopping
Liquid History – technology, working lives and transportLondon’s story is inexorably linked to the River Thames. Whether as a Roman provincial port, seventh-century riverside settlement, or a major European and global city, the Thames has played a significant rolein London’s rise to prominence. Many questions can be asked about the physical structure of the port ofLondon and its transport links, as well as the network of commerce which flowed in and out of thesettlement. A particular interest is to understand the social and economic role of the Thames throughtime.Research questions: 3.18 How did past peoples make a living from the Thames? 3.19 What industrial processes took place? Did mineral or gravel extraction take place, or salt making? 3.20 What were the impacts on economy and society of local maritime industries, harbour design, port facilities, and the existence of Thames-side communities? 3.21 How was the river channel improved or developed through time? 3.22 How was the river used to generate power? 3.23 What is the earliest bridge / ford / ferry, etc? 3.24 What was the lowest point at which the Thames was fordable? 3.25 Where did Julius Caesar cross the Thames? 3.26 What materials are used to build the crossings of London? 3.27 How many bridges are there today, what still survives of the old crossing places of the Thames? th 3.28 The 19 century revolution in shipbuilding meant that wind-powered wooden ships were replaced by steam-powered steel-hulled vessels. This is turn had a great impact in terms of vessel size; shipbuilding and breaking yards, along with slipways would have had to be significantly enlarged. Can this development be traced on the foreshore? 3.29 Similarly, the technologies required to build and break-up steel and iron vessels were significantly different to those required for wooden vessels. Can evidence for this technological revolution be recorded? 3.30 The change in propulsion from sail to steam may have had an effect in the location of docks and wharves, in that parts of the riverfront which may have been difficult to access under sail with the generally prevailing winds would be easily accessible under steam-power. Is there any evidence for this? 3.31 Who built and broke up these vessels? Can we use evidence from photographs, paintings, orals histories for the people involved in shipbuilding & breaking on the Thames? This could include family history research and local area studies using census data. The timber stack at Charlton, photos by N. Cohen
Liquid History – the Thames at warThe Thames could serve as both a conduit and boundary.Research Questions: 3.44 What evidence is there for defensive networks in the tidal Thames area at different periods? 3.45 Can we use prehistoric artifacts to consider warfare and conflict in the past? 3.46 How can place-name recording of beacon sites or watch towers provide evidence for the location of networks of communications and signaling? 3.47 What riverside earthworks existed; can they be traced in street patterns and village topography? 3.48 Is there any evidence for destruction relating to wartime activity at different periods? 3.49 What evidence exists for Black & Ethnic Minority involvement in the defence of the river and Port during the 1st & 2nd World Wars? Plane over Docklands, 1940s