Decorative photo of an archaeologist excavating a pot

Bringing archaeology to life in Southwark

Shantol Campbell
27.04.2022

We’ve found all sorts of things at the site of the new Liberty of Southwark. From mosaics to delicate fans, Victorians, Georgians and Romans flourished here on the edge of London.

For several months during the dig we worked closely with five Southwark residents, who were able to bring our finds to life. Drawing on their own experience of modern-day Southwark, they created poetry, short films and more.

Check out our playlist of all their short films or see some more content below.

Layers – Past, Present, Future

Rudie Masukume

I’m exploring the theme of ‘layers’, pertaining to people and places. The archaeology team have provided names of past people that lived in Red Cross Street. With the limited information I have focused on one Julia Twigg and am gradually creating a story of her life.

Julia lived at 74 Red Cross Street in 1911. She was a mat maker, and this forms the foundation of the mixture of poem and prose. The archaeological find I linked to Julia is the remnants of a fan found at 72 Red Cross Street. I imagined that Julia was able to make a variety of things and one of her fans was owned by a neighbour! The images of mosaic flooring and the grounds where the digs are taking place provided inspiration.

 

I crawl, I kneel, I sit. This is my life's work. From birth, my position at the bottom has been most natural. My hands weave yarn at temperate speed, while my heart beats at the same tempo, but with subtle yearning. All this labour, in the confines of my workstation, Who or what will receive this piece from me. Detached from the craft, through years of routine, but ever longing to know its destination. I have delicately adorned fans fit for the Queen. My handswork has been handled by characters I have never seen, laid before merchants on shores that I have never been.

Bustling noises from the street, filled with yells from sellers of fish and squeals from ladies easily pleased. Narrow streets so I can hear chatter pass by my window, these qualities of my life keep me grounded. Smiling as I labour but still yearning. An unseen creator; the finality is sure but my story will be unearthed, and I will be birthed once more.

Museums, what is their objective?

Michael Hume

Inspiration came for this poem was generated by simply  taking interest in something new. Challenging ones creative writing abilities by using each letter from MOLA as the first letter of each line of the poem. The musical interlude is reminding oneself to have fun whatever task one is undertaking. 

 

Understanding artistic, cultural perspective Storehouse, gallery and library connected

Escape to one, go on ‘be open minded’

Unequivocal learning, interest, objects on display from

Mummies’ to ‘The Mary Rose’ That’s Tudor ok!

Oi!..Yes? ‘Wot about ‘Daddies’?

For?...an equal rights, perspective...No no, that’s mummification ok!

 

Musical interlude:

mummification, oh mummification

Is what you need

Egyptians did it best,

Put your bandages to the test

mummification is what you need...(embarrassed silence) Moving on....

 

Location London Southwark, a new development for TFL

On hold for a dig it’s going well

Notable foundations, trenches explored

Duration age time can’t be ignored

Organisational tracing and data provide Nostalgia of this South London SE1 divide

Archeology that’s it’s name, it entails Researching human society in fine detail Chronologically dating mans progression Home life work and life long possessions

Existing finds on forgotten 74 Red Cross Street

Original wallpaper samples found - pretty neat

Looking deeper into this open well

Offering builders plaster, it’s ‘Roman’ can’t you tell Generating insight including terrazzo flooring

Y can anyone say ‘Museums are rather boring!’

 

Why are these excavations taking place?

Excavations at the site are taking place ahead of the construction of The Liberty of Southwark, a new mixed-use development by Transport for London and specialist regeneration developer and investor U+I. Sitting between Southwark Street, Redcross Way and Union Street, The Liberty of Southwark will provide 36 new homes, including 50% affordable housing, along with 200,000 sq. ft of commercial space. The scheme will also create new pedestrian routes, reinstating some of the medieval yards and lanes of historic Southwark.

Find out more about the excavations on The Dig at the Liberty website.