What goes around comes around!

Written by Ian Blair

 

The face, and most of the faces, of urban archaeology in the City of London has changed over the past 40 years, as the care-free days of recognisable diggers clad in skimpy digging gear (in the summer, and often beyond!), has given way to an army of hard-to-recognise archaeologists identically clad and masked by PPE (personal protective equipment).

80 Fenchurch Street excavation group photo80 Fenchurch Street (FES15) 2016 ©MOLA

From front to back and left to right in rough rows: Lesley Dunwoodie, Claire Cogar (PM), Tony Baxter, Rob Tutt, Stephen McLeod, Alice Marconi, Bonnie Knapp, Emily Dennis, Silvia Barlassina, Natalie Wood, Sean Russell, Jose Lopez, William Brittain, Fergal Nevin, Jorge Parreira, Kalliopi Themeli, Ethan Bradley, William Budd, Annalisa Rivoli, Sarah Trehy, Stefano Ricchi & Gabriele Domenico Impiombato

It has struck me on a number of occasions in recent years, that one of the most dramatic changes in the sites now being excavated across the City of London is their massive size, encompassing multiple buildings within their footprint. Although, there were a number of large DUA sites, by far the majority, were of a much smaller more modest size, often consisting of individual trenches excavated in basements prior to demolition of a single building.
The recently started MOLA excavation on a site in Fenchurch Street is just such a ‘Gas Giant’, and its footprint encompasses three earlier DUA excavations: FCH79, NHA86, and the appropriately named PUB80, supervised by Annie Upson. The first site, and I use the term loosely, as it consisted of an already excavated test pit, was undertaken by Lez Watson. I have scanned the short Archive Report that he produced, and it makes for sobering and fascinating reading: with sections ‘drawn in muddy, cramped conditions by torchlight in the unlit basement’ after the developer allowed ‘one hour’ to undertake this work.
I have to confess, that anyone who ‘lived’ through that period, would have experienced similar working conditions on multiple occasions, but oddly enough, I don’t know that anyone complained that much, it was just the way it was, and I guess that we just made the best of it. Post-script to all of this, is that I am happy to report that Lez & Annie’s trenches have been relocated, a good example of what goes around comes around, and never say never in archaeology!

 

Watching Brief at 78 79 Fenchurch Street EC3 FCH79

Watching Brief at 78 79 Fenchurch Street EC3 FCH79

Watching Brief at 78 79 Fenchurch Street EC3 FCH79

Watching Brief at 78 79 Fenchurch Street EC3 FCH79

Watching Brief at 78 79 Fenchurch Street EC3 FCH79

Watching Brief at 78 79 Fenchurch Street EC3 FCH79

 

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