A 360° look at an 18th Century Kiln from the Boar’s Head Excavation Site

MOLA team
28.10.2019

We are undertaking excavations of the Boar’s Head Playhouse in Whitechapel, London, ahead of construction of new student accommodation by Unite Students. The excavation of the site is exploring the remains of the Shakespearean-era playhouse which stood there, but has also led to some other fascinating discoveries, including an 18th Century kiln, which was used to make clay pipes.

Our Geomatics team have put together this 360° view of the kiln which you can see here:

3D photogrammetry involves taking a series of overlapping photographs, which can then be painstakingly digitally ‘stitched together’ into a 3D model. This model required around 60 photographs, taken from all possible angles after the kiln had been excavated and cleaned, to help the software stitch them together to provide a continuous 3D surface model. Our surveyors placed special targets onto the surfaces of the kiln and then precisely surveyed where they were with a total station to ensure that the resulting model is correctly located and scaled.

By making the model accessible online, more people will be able to view and analyse it, bringing their own knowledge and perspectives to the process of understanding this fascinating feature. It also means that even the fine details of the structure can be viewed and analysed long after excavations are complete.

A 360° look at an 18th Century Kiln from the Boar’s Head Excavation Site

The kiln in question is a special find as it is somewhat complete, giving great insight into the technology involved in pipe making at the time. The removal of backfill from inside the kiln revealed a lot of kiln furniture, including an intricate flue system, and a muffle (a circular chamber in which the pipes are fired) made of heat-resistant clay, with fired pipe stems embedded sideways in the walls to help conduct the heat.

Clay pipes that failed in the kiln, known as ‘wasters’, were also found around the site, as was some white clay used for making the pipes, which was still soft and squishy to the touch some 250 years later. Many of the pipes found were marked with the letters ‘W.W’. From these initials, our Finds Specialists hope to work out who the maker of the clay pipes was through post-excavation research.

The kiln’s location in Whitechapel, to the east of the City of London, is also significant, and the new information uncovered about it helps us to understand more about the role the area played in 17th and 18th century industry. It is thought that many industries emerged in London’s East End, where it was hoped that prevailing winds from the West would carry noxious industrial fumes away from the urban centre.

This site is being developed by Unite Students, with RPS Group acting as consultants. Work is being monitored by Historic England. Look out for updates on the progress of the dig on the Unite blog and Twitter, and the MOLA blog and Twitter.

  • Shakespeare
  • Post-medieval
  • Excavation
  • News

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