Couple looking at Temple of Mithras image from Bloomberg

Cream tea and oral history: the Temple of Mithras project

MOLA team
09.02.2015

“The possibilities of what lies beneath our feet as you wander through London connect us to the past.” Comment from a visitor to the Temple of Mithras in 1954.

The Temple of Mithras oral history project, collecting and celebrating the experiences of the people that went to marvel at the Temple of Mithras excavations in the 1950s, produced almost a hundred responses. People contributed not only their stories but the collections, photographs and newspaper clippings. In celebration and by way of a thank you for their unique input in to the history of London, MOLA and Bloomberg invited those who had contacted us throughout the project to a spot of cream tea at Bloomberg’s London offices.

The afternoon was also a chance for young citizen journalists from WORLDWrite, a Hackney-based educational charity dedicated to training young people in film making, to put together a piece chronicling the project.

Over 100 people turned out, coming from as far away as Devon and the USA. Several notable guests were in attendance, including Molly Grimes, the wife of the original site director, W.F. Grimes; Mithra, who was named after the site and 93 year-old Eileen Grey who paid sixpence to a nearby worker for the use of his ladder to peer over the fence surrounding the excavation.

During the course of the afternoon, people listened to some of their interview recordings and heard themselves and others retelling their stories. For some, the highlight of the evening was a showcase of finds from the 2012-13 excavations at Bloomberg London, ranging from Samian-ware ceramics and oil lamps to leather shoes and metal knives. There was also a chance for us to see some finds brought by our guests, including a collection of animal bones, ceramic tiles and pottery.

At the ‘Have Your Say’ station we asked our guests the question ‘What does the discovery of the Temple of Mithras mean to you?’ There were passionate responses from people whose lives have been affected by the discovery of the temple:

“The visit … led to a lifelong interest in archaeology.” Visitor to the Temple of Mithras in 1954

“My abiding memory is of a box of finds in our playroom which my mother marked, ‘Temple of Mithras Finds’.” Guest whose mother visited the Temple of Mithras in 1954

The festivities were capped-off by the poet in residence at the Canterbury Roman Museum, Dan Simpson, with his poem ‘Quick to Save, Quick to Help’, which he wrote specially for the project. We also received a generous donation to the project from the Worshipful Company of Innholders.

Great fun was had by all so thanks to Bloomberg, WORLDwrite and all of the people who contributed their memories to the growing history of the Temple of Mithras.

  • Mithras
  • From the experts
  • Roman
  • Research
  • Community project
  • Placemaking

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