A 19th-century inkwell found on a MOLA archaeological excavation

An Inkwell at Allen Gardens

Simon Webb

Simon Webb is one of 12 trainees excavating Allen Gardens for the Archaeology Traineeship. Over the six week training dig the trainees are honing their field archaeology skills. Along their journey they have discovered some intriguing objects, as Simon explains.

Allen Gardens sits just east of Brick Lane. The dig is located on the site of the former All Saints School that first opened in 1813 and operated until the 1950s. However the site was used as far back as the 1500s when it was used for brick quarrying.

Whilst excavating within the school we came across a complete inkwell. This inkwell was made between 1870 and 1880 and supplied by George M Hammer and Company, a school and church furnishers. They had a workshop at the Crown Works, St James Road, Bermondsey, and a showroom at 370 Strand.

The education act of 1870, which made schooling compulsory for all children up to the age of 10 years, led to a significant increase in literacy levels in the late Victorian period. As a result of the increase in literacy, demand for mass produced writing materials increased. Firms like George M Hammer and Company were one of the many companies who stepped in to meet this new demand.          

As the dig progresses, we will be bringing the finds from Allen Gardens together to give us a better understanding of the site and the activities of the school.


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