Boar's Head site excavation

Reigate stone found on the site of the Boar’s Head to be recycled to help conserve the Tower of London

MOLA team

They may not look like much, but these large, green-tinged blocks of Reigate stone – found during our recent excavations for Unite Students in Whitechapel – are highly valued by the conservators of London’s historic buildings.

Reigate stone was once a popular building material during the medieval period, however it is no longer mined, and very difficult to source, as the mines have been closed since the 1960s and will never re-open. Today, as part of an agreement set up by Historic England, salvaged Reigate Stone found on archaeological sites is logged and collected before being reused to make repairs to historic buildings. Its location of reuse is also recorded. The precious supply of building material from the Boar’s Head site will therefore be donated to the Tower of London to help with the conservation of the buildings which incorporate Reigate stone.

Reigate stone was previously favoured as it was one of the few building stones found close to London, therefore it was relatively easy to transport. It was also considered to be suitable for carving. However, as a type of sandstone, it was soft and porous, making it extremely prone to weathering. Today, there are almost no examples of Reigate stone left on the outside of surviving historic buildings. More hard-wearing stone, like Bath stone, was typically favoured in buildings in the 19th century.

The stone from the Boar’s Head site was found used in the construction of 17th century buildings, likely reused from older medieval buildings in the area, which would have been torn down when Henry VIII ordered the dissolution of the monasteries from 1536 onwards. We are thrilled to be able to help continue this cycle of re-use by ensuring the stone finds a new home at the Tower of London, several hundred years after it was originally mined from the hills of Surrey.

MOLA are working with RPS Group for Unite Students, who are redeveloping the site. Look out for updates on the progress of the dig on the Unite blog and Twitter, and the MOLA blog and Twitter.

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