The London Guildhall: an archaeological history of a neighbourhood from early medieval to modern times

2007

Isca Howell, David Bowsher, Tony Dyson, Nick Holder

£65.00

Evidence from archaeological excavations between 1985 and 1999 is combined with historical and architectural analysis to create a major integrated history of the London Guildhall, the home of the City of London’s government. Beginning with the first hall of the 12th century, the book describes later halls and precinct buildings from the 14th to the 20th centuries. Good organic survival preserved evidence in an 11th- and 12th-century parish churchyard and for a number of adjacent timber houses. This wide-ranging volume highlights other themes from the medieval and later periods, including evidence for medieval Jewish occupation, the cloth market of Blackwell Hall, inns, craft activity and two parish churches.

Online resources are available.

Won 'Highly Commended' in the BEST SCHOLARLY ARCHAEOLOGICAL BOOK section of the British Archaeological Book Awards 2008.

Monograph Series 36

MoLAS 2007. ISBN 978-1-901992-72-4. Hb536 pp + CD-ROM. 427 bl/wh and col ills (2-part set).

Reviews

"One reason these MOLA monographs are so successful is their tripartite organisation, first a brief phased, archaeological narrative, where stratigraphic and structural evidence is presented and illustrated. This is followed by thematic essays on topics like ‘tree righting’ and woodland management…, urban topography and the Guildhall itself. The third, more by experts for experts, describes and analyses finds, burials and architectural; fragments. But perhaps the greatest success is the illustrations: line drawings, reconstructions, and especially colour photographs. These, set on pages next to the relevant text, are blindingly good and really show what excavation is all about and how archaeologists work out what’s going on, whether it’s a wattle-lined pit cut through by a stone wall, or a section through successive Guildhall yard surfaces. These monographs are a world away from the off-putting, grey, quasi-scientific unfiltered data sets which all too many excavation reports comprised in the not too distant past. Thank goodness for it."
‘Editors Choice’ by Paul Stamper in British Archaeology 2010

"Both volumes are a model of clarity, as we have come to expect of this series. The illustrations are particularly clear in this publication with a generous use of colour photography. This is particularly useful for demonstrating decorative pottery and painted ashlar alongside line drawings and brings a clarity to the treatment of small finds that is rarely seen. This publication has had the opportunity of being able to synthesise the results of excavation to recreate the development of a whole neighbourhood with its people, industries, and civic government. While elements can be paralleled elsewhere, the whole is peculiar to the City of London. MoLAS and the City of London Corporation are to be congratulated for the production of such a fine publication, which is both authoritative and a pleasure to read. Behind it is a massive piece of post-excavation analysis that has made excellent sense of often fragmentary and never completely seen structures so typical of medieval and post-medieval urban archaeology."
Glyn Coppack in Journal of the British Archaeological Association 2009

"…this splendidly produced and richly illustrated set of two fine quarto volumes should appeal to the specialist and the more general reader in equal measure. … in view of the richness of its contents the two-volume set does represent excellent value for money, and is certain to become standard reading for any student of London history."
Hannes Kleineke Ricardian 2009

"Overall this study is unquestionably comprehensive in both its archaeological and historical interpretation; even though it’s concluding remarks describe it as ‘inevitably partial and selective’. There is no doubt that it serves extremely well as an updated de-facto reference on the London Guildhall. The team of authors have been successful in combining their respective specialist fields to yield a book that remains readable throughout for the reader whose knowledge may cover only certain aspects of its remit, or indeed the non-specialist willing to take the time to get used to archaeological conventions and terminology (which are well explained in a comprehensive glossary). Both volumes are lavishly illustrated throughout, not only with copious maps, architectural reconstructions and photographs, often in colour, but also with numerous fold-out A3 watercolours depicting the site at numerous intervals throughout its development. Organisation, while sometimes, probably inevitably, repetitive, is always logical, allowing the reader to both follow the narrative, and to access specialist data in a coherent manner. The tension between the genres of the technical reference and the narrative history that I have alluded to does not, however, detract from the value of the publication. Fundamentally it lives up to its title of An Archaeological History of a Neighbourhood and is relevant not only to historians and archaeologists with interest in the City of London and its government, but to all students of medieval ecclesiastical, economic and social history."
Justin Colson Institute of historical research on-line review, 2009

"One reason these MOLAS monographs are so successful is their tripartite organisation, the first part a brief, phased, archaeological narrative, where stratigraphic and structural evidence is presented and illustrated. This is followed by thematic essays on topics like ‘tree righting’ and woodland management (there were still 300-year old wildwood oaks available to London’s early medieval carpenters), urban topography, and the Guildhall itself. The third, more by experts for experts, describes and analyses finds, burials (including another example of successful medieval trepanation) and architectural fragments. Catalogues of seeds, bones and whatnot are (thankfully for most of us) relegated to a CD. But perhaps the greatest success is the illustrations: line drawings, reconstructions, and especially the colour photographs. These, set on pages next to the relevant text, are blindingly good and really show what excavation is all about and how archaeologists work out what’s going on, whether it’s a wattle-lined pit cut through by a stone wall, or a section through successive Guildhall yard surfaces. These monographs are a world away from the off-putting, grey, quasi-scientific unfiltered data sets which all too many excavation reports comprised in the not too distant past. Thank goodness for it."
Paul Stamper in British Archaeology 2009

"This is much more than an excavation report. It is a multi-disciplinary synthesis of one the largest excavation campaigns mounted in the City. With great clarity the authors set out a range of elements that contributed to the evolution of the townscape, but without the detail that inevitably clutters conventional excavation reports. Indeed, the complexity of the project was such that the conventional approach to reporting of detailed site-by-site stratigraphic presentations followed by endless catalogues would perhaps have obscured important links…This is a very accessible study that should be read by all students of urbanisation…"
Mike McCarthy in Medieval Archaeology 2009

"This is a sumptuously produced report…. clear-sighted research design of the excavations and publication programme, the model integration of archaeological and documentary sources, and the clarity of the writing and illustrative material. These volumes tell the long and complex story of one of London’s most important building complexes, and they tell it very well."
Canon Terry Slater in The Archaeological Journal 2009

"[this volume] is relevant not only to historians and archaeologists with an interest in the development of urban spaces, but to all researchers of medieval to post-medieval ecclesiastical economic and social history. [This volume] represents a welcome addition in new methods of approaching social and economic research and shed light on a more diverse and complex view of communities which will be required reading for specialists and enthusiasts alike."
Staphanie Duensing in Post-medieval Archaeology 2012