Thames Discovery Programme

Date: 
2008-ongoing

One of the UK’s most successful community archaeology projects.

What is the Thames Discovery Programme (TDP)?

Twice every day, the largest open air archaeological site in the UK is exposed. The parts of the Thames riverbank that are revealed at low tide contain clues about the history of London. But every high tide, these pieces of archaeology are in danger of being damaged or washed away.

The Thames Discovery Programme therefore has two crucial aims:

  • To record and monitor the archaeology on the Thames foreshore
  • To get Londoners involved and hands on with their heritage

Since 2008, we’ve won three awards and shared our discoveries with hundreds of thousands of people. These discoveries include finding the oldest structure in central London, and the remains of an 150 year-old warship.

In the same time, our team has trained over 700 volunteers, known as FROGs (The Foreshore Recording and Observation Group).

These FROGs join us on the foreshore to carefully record the remains of London’s past. So far, they’ve recorded 60 archaeological sites at risk of damage or disappearing into the river.

“I’ve learned more about history and archaeology within a few months of being a FROG than in a lifetime of visiting museums.”  
Thames Discovery Programme volunteer

We’ve also led school trips onto the foreshore, given talks and run other sessions to share our discoveries with local communities.

TDP is hosted by MOLA and generously supported by the National Lottery Heritage FundTideway and the City Bridge Trust.

Get involved

Check out the Thames Discovery Programme website for the latest news and to get involved in their work.

Follow @ThamesDiscovery and @MOLArchaeology on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date with TDP and the River Recoveries project. You can also keep an eye on the hashtag #RiverRecoveries.

River Recoveries

In 2021, we started our ‘River Recoveries’ project which aims to help the Thames Discovery Programme succeed long into the future. It is also designed to support London’s communities in their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Among other things, the River Recoveries project will:

  • create a new TDP Young Archaeologists Club 
  • develop a new TDP website  
  • digitise thousands of records of foreshore archaeology to create an online archive 
  • fundraise and plan for the long-term future of the programme 
  • make the TDP volunteer training programme more flexible and inclusive

This project is generously supported by funding from the National Lottery Heritage FundHistoric England, the City of London Archaeological Trust (COLAT), The John and Ruth Howard Charitable Trust and the Port of London Authority

You can read more information about the River Recoveries project on our website.

  • Josh Frost leads the Thames Discovery Programme Tadpoles session (c) MOLA.jpg

    Community Engagement

    We run community archaeology programmes that stimulate enquiry and promote active discovery.