Thames Discovery Programme on the foreshore at Charlton (c) Thames Discovery Programme

Ten years of archaeological discovery on the Thames explored in first ever book by the Thames Discovery Programme

MOLA team

Ahead of their 10 year anniversary, Thames Discovery Programme, the award-winning community archaeology project, have released their first ever book.

Entitled ‘The River’s Tale’, it is the first book on the archaeology of the River Thames since the late Ivor Noël Hume’s 1956 publication, ‘Treasure in the Thames’

It is a celebration of 10 years of archaeological discovery and includes fascinating information on some key foreshore sites including evidence of royal feasting and lost palaces at Greenwich, naval shipbreaking in Rotherhithe and the oldest structure so far recorded in Greater London in Vauxhall.

The River Thames is London’s longest archaeological site and its foreshore holds tantalising evidence of the human history that has shaped it. In their race against time and tide to discover and understand the archaeology before it is washed away or covered by shifting sands and silts, TDP have made some fascinating discoveries and continue to record and monitor significant sites with their huge network of dedicated volunteers, the Foreshore Recording and Observation Group (FROGs).

‘The River’s Tale’ explores how London has been defined by the Thames from prehistory to the present day. It tells the story of the river as an ever-changing landscape, an artery of communication and lifeblood of the city, adopted and utilised by the communities that live along it and protected by the Port of London Authority.

Here’s a little taste of what to expect in the book from three of the most magnificent sites along the foreshore:

Royal feasting and lost palaces at Greenwich

The archaeology on the foreshore at the foot of the Old Royal Naval College features the remains of Tudor / Stuart jetties one of which is believed to have led directly to the lost Tudor Greenwich Palace; the birthplace of a number of Tudor monarchs including King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth I. The vast quantities of animal bone, pottery and shellfish on the foreshore hint at a vast, palatial kitchen operating on an unprecedented scale.

Rotherhithe: final resting place of warships

The Thames foreshore has the largest concentration of broken nautical timbers anywhere in the UK. The discovery of extraordinarily well preserved remains of broken-up Napoleonic era warships: two Danish, one Dutch, one British at Rotherhithe has made for a remarkable study site and Thames Discovery Programme volunteers have worked hard to clean and examine the timbers to deduce more information about them. The rare survival of gun carriages and nautical remains paints a vivid picture of London’s colourful mercantile history and naval might.

Prehistoric structures in Vauxhall

It’s rare to find prehistoric evidence in central London, but down on the foreshore just metres from the MI6 building at Vauxhall, Thames Discovery Programme found the oldest structure recorded in Greater London so far. Made of 6 timber piles, the structure is thought to be a platform or jetty and is believed to be 6000 years old. The structure a fascinating insight into prehistoric London and one of the most significant foreshore finds ever.

This book would not have been possible to produce without the support of MBNA Thames ClippersPort of London Authority and Tower Bridge.

 ‘The river’s tale’: archaeology on the Thames foreshore in Greater London’ is now available to buy from priced £15.00.

  • Publications
  • Community project
  • News

Related blogs