Cobbled street unearthed on London 2012 site

MOLA team

Archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology Service (MoLAS) and Pre-Construct Archaeology (PCA) have uncovered a 150-year-old cobbled street, building fragments and part of the Channelsea River. The discovery was made as the archaeologists investigated the site of a 12th Century Knights Templar mill on the edge of the London 2012 Velopark site.

The archaeological investigations are part of the work being undertaken by the Olympic Delivery Authority and managed by Capita Symonds to clear and clean the 2.5 square kilometres of the Olympic Park, prior to construction of venues and parklands for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and legacy. 

The MoLAS-PCA team were invited by the ODA to look for evidence on the Olympic Park site of activity from prehistory through to relatively recent industrial and military activities. Archaeological research is interlinked with work preparing for construction.

Temple Mills and Industrialisation

The cobbled street, which may be part of the original Temple Mills Lane, was located in the western area of a more modern mill complex demolished in 1854. Fragments of a brick-built structure to the west of the trench may represent vestiges of the later mill buildings.

The archaeological trench was located so as to allow investigation of the buildings (and their antecedents), and also of the two water courses which pass along the east and west sides of the trench. These rivers were crucial in the mill’s developmental history, providing water power, and in the industrial age, water for steam-generated power. In all eras, the rivers were important for the transport of materials and finished goods.

Over the 150 years since the mill complex was demolished, the site had been covered by thousands of tonnes of rubbish and rubble. The cobbled street surface is seven metres below the contemporary ground surface. The MoLAS-PCA team will now dig deeper, hoping to find evidence of the original Knights Templar mill, known as Temple Mill.

It was Temple Mill which kicked off the industrialisation of the Lea Valley. Between 1185 and 1287, the Knights Templar built a water mill at Temple Mills. In 1208, a second mill was built on the opposite side of the mills stream, with the mills described as being under the same roof. Local activity increased when further mills were constructed at Temple Mills in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Once recorded by the MoLAS-PCA archaeologists, the cobbles will be carefully dug up and stockpiled so they can be reused by parkland designers in the 100 hectare Olympic Park being created for the Games and legacy


Archaeology at the Olympic Park

Over 100 trenches have been dug and investigated, and archaeological work has been completed on the areas of the “Big Five” permanent venues. An extensive Late Bronze Age to Middle Iron Age settlement has been recorded at the location of the Aquatics Centre. More prehistoric activity has been uncovered in the vicinity of the Main Arena, along with Roman and late Medieval findings. Interesting remains have either been photographed and recorded, or removed to form part of the Museum of London’s collection.

Archaeologists have also been charting the topography of the site to build a picture of how the land and waterways have developed and how climate change has affected the area. Above ground, important industrial buildings, World War 2 defensive structures, landscapes and waterways have been recorded in detail prior to their demolition or transformation.

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