Category Archives: Uncategorized

CBA London Summer 2021 Events

Hello to all our CBA London members!

We’ve been planning for many months to bring members and others together again this summer by organising a new programme of events through CBA London.

Since the last event we organised – the very memorable visit to archaeology and stores at Hampton Court in February  last year – it’s been quite a struggle. As you may well have been experiencing yourselves, the ground – and ground rules – have been shifting frequently. We’ve had dates for events and rescheduled several times, but wanted to update you on the current status of three outstanding opportunities coming up.

Friday, 6 August, c 18.30 tba: Thames Foreshore at Wapping with Thames Discovery Programme – to take advantage of the best low tide and still light evenings, we’ll be taking a trip East London to discover what a long maritime history has left behind on the ever changing foreshore. As usual we’ll finish the evening in a pub to discuss what we’ve found. Booking likely to open around 19th July.

Saturday or Sunday, 21or 22 August, date and time tba: Curator’s tour of Havering Hoard exhibition, Museum of London Docklands – this fantastic exhibition has been in our sites since it opened. As it is one of the most atmospheric, informative and evocative presentations of a prehistoric site you can imagine, we’re really hoping that Kate Sumnall will be able to give this guided tour on the last weekend of opening. MOL will only be take bookings for groups once all social-distancing restrictions are lifted, so do watch this space, and cross all your fingers. If all goes well we’ll open booking by early August.

Saturday, 9 October, 11am: Fulham Palace: archaeology, historic restoration and a new museum – on our third attempt in a year, we’re determined to get back to Fulham Palace this time, where Community Archaeologist Alexis Haslam will take us through some brilliant finds and revelations resulting from programmes over the past few years in the grounds and the Tudor Palace itself. There’s also a completely new museum, highlighting evidence for use of the site since the prehistoric period through the centuries-long residence of Bishops of London. Look out for booking from mid September.

Festival of Archaeology, 17th July – 1st August 2021

As we hope you will have noticed, CBA has been putting a lot of energy into this year’s Festival of Archaeology, which is very community oriented, and will again have both on the ground and virtual/online aspects. Given the circumstances, the dates are seen as rather fluid as many organisations, including ours, have had to move events and activities around to observe restrictions. Last year more than 2 million people accessed Festival activities and resources.

You can keep up to date with local and national events on the CBA’s FoA page here: . Highlights will include A Day in Archaeology on 29 July, where blogs from all manner of people will demonstrate ways to get involved: , and resources for self-led tours, games and competitions.

Likewise, if you or your group are running activities, probably any time around the ‘official’ festival period during July or August, do register them on the directory on this site.

CBA London AGM and Spring 2021 London Archaeological Forum – 27th May 2021

We are pleased to announce that we are holding our AGM and LAF on Thursday 27th May at 18:00 via Zoom! All the members should have received an email update regarding the meeting – please remember to check your Spam email box if it hasn’t arrived!

You can register to join us via Eventbrite. Booking is free, and open from Thursday 13th May at 12:00.

The short AGM will be followed by the usual LAF meeting. Please click on the following links to download a copy of the AGM Agenda, Trustees Report and Treasurers Report 2020-21. Minutes for approval from the AGM & LAF meeting in November 2020:

If you are interested in joining the CBA London committee or taking one of the Officer
posts, please let us know! We’d be happy to discuss what’s involved before the
meeting – just contact Becky Wallower at

LAF Agenda

Nathalie Cohen – Becket and London – As the new exhibition at the British Museum on Thomas Becket: Murder and the Making of a Saint opens, Nathalie will be considering how Becket’s links to London are evident in history and archaeology. Nathalie led many events for CBA London during her time with Thames Discovery Programme and MOLA, and as Cathedral Archaeologist at Southwark. She’s now archaeologist for Canterbury Cathedral and National Trust South East.

Caroline Raynor – HS2 Euston station – Caroline is a Project Manager and Principal Archaeologist at Costain Skanska who was responsible for the design and delivery of the HS2 Euston Cemetery archaeological excavations. She spoke to an earlier LAF and now the excavations are complete, and the post-excavation works started, she will now be giving us an initial insight into the results of the investigations.
Alistair Douglas – Bermondsey Abbey excavations – Alistair is the H&S Manager at Pre-Construct Archaeology who has worked on and supervised excavations across London for 30 years. These have included some of those undertaken at Bermondsey Abbey in Southwark. Now that he is close to completing the publication of the monograph on these investigations he is going to talk about an aspect of his research.

We look forward to seeing you there!

AGM and LAF – 23rd November 2020

Hi everyone,

It’s been a long time since we have had an update to give. CBA London hopes you all have been well during this difficult and challenging time for the world

On a more positive note:

We are pleased to announce that we are holding our AGM and LAF on the 23rd of November via Zoom! All the members should have received an email update regarding the meeting – please remeber to check your Spam email box if it hasn’t arrived! Below information for the LAF! See you there!

LAF Agenda
Presentation of the London Archaeological Prize 2020 by Alison Telfer and one
of the judges. Since its inception in 2004, this biennial prize has encouraged and
recognised the highest standards in writing about London’s Archaeology. Topics
covered in winning publications have included Tabard Square, the Rose and Globe
theatres, King’s Cross Goods Yard and Medieval London.

Joe Brooks on Westminster Abbey: the Sacristy –  The 2020 excavation on the
North Green of Westminster Abbey revealed the remains of the Great Sacristy,
constructed as part of Henry III’s rebuilding of the Abbey. The work shed light on the
construction of the Abbey nave as well as uncovering earlier graves of monks.

Heather Knight on the Boar’s Head: London’s forgotten playhouse – The Boar’s
Head was a late 16 th  century playhouse in Whitechapel. It didn’t have that connection
to Shakespeare that has been so central to what most people think of as a London
playhouse and over the following centuries it became an overlooked performance
space. Thanks to archaeology the Boar’s Head will no longer be London’s forgotten
playhouse and hopefully the role of women in the management and ownership of
performance spaces will also once more take centre stage. 

Our additional future events:
Our planned visit to Fulham Palace in November is currently on hold because of
the uprating of Covid precautions to tier 2, but we hope to reinstate it before too long.
Fulham Palace has been part of the Bishop of London’s Estate since AD 704, and
was a residence of the Bishop until 1973. The history of the site goes back much
further however, with evidence for Late Mesolithic to Early Neolithic, Bronze Age,
Iron Age and late Roman activity. A recent £3.8 million restoration project has
restored the Henry VII era Tudor court, brought key rooms such as the great hall
back to life and to restored historic varieties of plants in what is London’s second
oldest botanic garden. An impressive new museum space has also been completed.
We’ll have a fully compliant risk-assessed visit as soon as it is safe to do so.

London Archaeological Forum-meeting

The next London Archaeological Forum-meeting will be held on

Monday  the 18th November at 6pm.

The venue is as usual the Museum of London. Address for the museum is 150 London Wall, Barbican, London, EC2Y 5HN.

CBA London has organised the following talks for the next twice yearly LAF.

  • Update on Museum of London’s move to Smithfield: Roy Stephenson, MOL
  • Westminster Abbey – the Great Drain: Joe Brookes, PCA
  • Portable Antiquity Scheme – recent finds and looking forward: Stuart Wyatt, Finds Liaison Officer
  • Saving the Havering bronze age hoard, plus research for spring exhibition: Roy Stephenson, MOL

We will also have news of a project associated with HS2, and CBA London’s future events and activities.

Suggestions for talks at the next LAF in May 2020 would be welcome, as always. Looking forward to seeing you there!



Festival of Archaeology Launch Event – 13th July 2019

The Festival of Archaeology is a UK-wide annual two-week event, coordinated by the Council for British Archaeology. The Festival showcases the work of archaeologists and encourages people of all ages and abilities to engage with their own locality and heritage through archaeology.  This year’s Festival will take place from 13-28 July 2019 and features special events hosted by hundreds of organisations across the UK. It will start with a launch event at the British Museum on Saturday 13th July, which also celebrates the Council for British Archaeology’s 75th birthday.

CBA London will have a table at the launch event, so feel free to come and say hello!
There will also be activities and events for all ages during the day, just some of which are:

Ask an Archaeologist-11.00-13:00 & 14:00-16.00
Handle historical artefacts, find out what archaeologists dig up & take the opportunity to ask any questions you have about the wonderful world of archaeology

Little Feet – dig up the past -11.00-13:00 & 14:00-16.00
There’s so much archaeology to discover under your little feet. Explore sensory treasures, feel an array of natural materials, find some ancient British animals and make an archaeological momento to take home. Suitable for under 5s, their parents & carers

Legio II Roman Encampment Gladiator & Military Performances 11:00, 12:30, 14.00
Since its inception, over 15 years ago, LEG II AVG’s military and civilian section has grown from strength to strength to become one of Europe’s pre-eminent Roman re-enactment groups. Suitable for all ages, limited capacity

Prehistory Demonstrations with Ancientcraft Bronze Casting & Flint knapping- 11.00, 12:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00
2019 is Ancientcraft’s tenth year dedicated to the archaeology of primitive crafts and technologies that encompass three prehistoric ages: Stone; Bronze and Iron.Suitable for all ages, limited capacity

Time Team Special event: The future of archaeology-13.30–14.30
Join members of Time Team including Carenza Lewis, Stewart Ainsworth, John Gater and Francis Pryor for a lunchtime talk as they share their favourite Time Team moments. To book your free tickets for the talk see the booking information below.

For a full list of activities and more information about the launch event, click here.

Westminster Abbey’s new Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries – CBA London visit 9th February

Places booked up for this visit within just a couple of days, filled by CBA London members and resulting in an overspill waiting list. It was good to see some members who hadn’t been along to visits before, and, as interest was so high, we intend to run the event again later in the year.

We were able to put the new galleries in context as we proceeded around Westminster Abbey’s cloisters – first looking at some of the oldest surviving bits of the original Benedictine monastery, dating back to Edward the Confessor in 1065. The Abbey’s museum used to be housed in cramped conditions in the undercroft along the dark passage leading from the south east corner of the cloisters. The undercroft was the area under the dorter – the dormitory accommodation for the monks – and the only place where they had heating. The Pyx Chamber, a section of the undercroft which has served many purposes over its lifetime, retains the medieval vaulting and floor tiles. Next, along the east side of the cloisters, a vestibule contains the oldest door in Britain, dendrochronologically dated to c. 1050, and leads up some stairs to the Chapter House. Part of the second major building programme for the Abbey, it is the work of Henry III, who added a Lady Chapel to the Confessor’s church, and began rebuilding the Abbey in the style of the new gothic cathedrals in France, at Chartres, Amiens and Rouen. The Chapter House, built to serve as the daily gathering place for the 30 to 60 monks of Westminster for almost 500 years, eventually had a variety of other functions over its lifetime: as the Parliamentary chamber, for instance, and as the national archives. It was cleared of documents in the Victorian period and restored and refurbished by George Gilbert Scott. Fortunately, Scott retained the original medieval wall paintings and floor tiles, although he did replace windows and some stonework.

Leaving the cloisters at the north east corner, we crossed Poets’ Corner in the Abbey’s south transept to reach the new Weston Tower – the first new structure to be added to the Abbey since Hawksmoor’s west front in 1745. Here Peter Moore, Director of Pre-Construct Archaeology described the archaeological works that had preceded the new building works. A section of the excavation has been left exposed in the foyer of the tower, showing the construction of the south transept of Henry III’s rebuilding of the church in the 13th century, using a vast stone raft to stabilise the foundation. Outside, in Poets’ Corner Yard, Peter described the archaeological discoveries, from prehistoric flints, through Roman building materials, to various medieval phases of construction of the Henry III ambulatory and Lady Chapel, and the Henry VII Lady Chapel that replaced it. At the edges of the monastic burial ground, the site also yielded a number of medieval and slightly later burials, including rare examples of decorated lead coffins in anthropomorphic form, with a rounded extension to contain the head. One stone coffin had been reused as part of the foundations of the Lady Chapel: this was excavated as part of the archaeological works and retained on display in the tower foyer. Also seen during excavations were brick foundations of some of the commercial properties that had been constructed against the south wall of the Henry VII Lady Chapel. Lessees of shops and houses along that wall had included Geoffrey Chaucer and William Caxton.

Peter also described the most unexpected and spectacular finds from the project: those discovered under the floorboards of the triforium itself. As the space had been used only for storage and occasional seating for coronations and royal funerals, the amount of material found between vaults of chapels below and floorboards installed by Christopher Wren was a complete surprise. Some 3,500 building material bags of dust and other materials was extracted, to be sifted and sorted by PCA’s conservators. The items retained included pottery, glass, clay pipes, animal bones, human bones, shoes, tools and – most surprising perhaps – paper and parchment fragments ranging from 17th century tobacco wrappers and [possibly] 16th century playing cards, to medieval letters and handwritten coronation tickets, all preserved thanks to the dry conditions. In addition, three lancet windows, retaining most of their glass panels were extracted, along with some 30,000 fragments of coloured and/or painted glass. Two composite windows containing a selection of these fragments had been inserted into the walls of the bridge between the new access tower and the triforium galleries. CBA London’s visitors, it’s fair to say, were enchanted by these eclectic and very beautiful new creations.

The Weston Tower, which provides access to the new triforium galleries is a work of art in its own right. Designed by the Abbey’s Surveyor of the Fabric (ie Architect) Ptolemy Dean, the standard of finish is exceptional, and it is designed so that each of the 108 steps offers a new perspective. In addition, the lift shaft around which the stairs wind, is faced with bands of stone representing all 17 varieties used in the past 1000 years in the construction of Westminster Abbey. The ascent provides previously rare views of the construction of both the 13th century Chapter House to the south and ambulatory chapels to the north.

The first impression of most seeing the triforium space for the first time seemed to be overwhelming delight. The layout is spacious, and the medieval construction and 17th century re-roofing features are very much part of the experience. Displays in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Galleries are set out in four thematic sections, but it is very much a space to explore, to circle round and rediscover. Distinctive views from the galleries over other parts of the Abbey – such as the Confessor’s shrine, the Cosmati pavement in front of the High Altar, Poets’ Corner and the Muniment [ie records] Room – provide glimpses of yet more history, architecture and archaeological heritage. And externally, surprising perspectives appear – of Parliament, St Margaret’s Church, Parliament Square, the rooftops of the Henry VII Lady Chapel and beyond.

There are so many ‘oldest’, ‘earliest’, ‘best preserved’, ‘only’, ‘largest’ or ‘finest’ artefacts displayed it is almost unthinkable to single any out, but these four objects give something of a flavour: The Westminster Retable – oldest surviving altarpiece in Britain; the Litlyington Missal – containing the earliest known coronation services; the little medieval tapestry seal bag embroidered with three lions – the only known example; the funeral effigy of Henry VII – carved from his death mask and said to reflect the character of the creator of the new Tudor dynasty.

Those of us who retired to the Westminster Arms afterwards had much to talk about…

Historic Bevis Marks with CBA London


Street entrance to Bevis Marks Synagogue

Last month, CBA London members were given the opportunity to visit Bevis Marks Synagogue; the oldest synagogue in continuous use the UK. Due to past laws prohibiting the Jewish people building on public thoroughfares, the building cannot be seen at all from Bevis Marks. The only indicator of its presence is an entrance sign (written in Hebrew) above a brick archway built into the surrounding office building. Upon entering the iron gates just beyond the brick arch, we were able to see the building itself for the first time. The fairly unassuming appearance of the red brick exterior made the reveal of the stunning interior all the more impressive.

BM ext

Bevis Marks Synagogue exterior

The first half of the visit consisted of a lecture by the synagogue’s curator, Maurice Bitton, about the history of Judaism in the UK, how Bevis Marks Synagogue came to be built, some notable historic members of the congregation, and the Jewish community at Bevis Marks today.

Jewish people were first brought to the UK by William the Conqueror in 1070 to work as bankers/money lenders, as the Catholic Normans did not deal directly with money. After facing much anti-Semitism for over two centuries, the Jews were expelled from Britain by Edward I in 1290. They did not return to Britain until after the Civil War, when Sephardi Jews living in Amsterdam arranged a meeting with Oliver Cromwell. Cromwell agreed to let Jewish people return to Britain, and after arriving in 1656 they settled in the Bevis Marks area. Their first place of worship, on Creechurch Lane, was just a room in a house. The foundations of the Bevis Marks Synagogue were laid in 1699 by Joseph Avis (which was around the time much of East London was rebuilt after the Great Fire) and it was completed in 1701.

BM inner ent

Bevis Marks Synagogue entrance

The main inspiration for the synagogue’s design was the Portuguese Synagogue in Amsterdam, where the original worshippers came from. Although the layout is similar – the Bevis Marks synagogue is half the size. As the synagogue was situated near a large number of churches, it was specifically designed to blend in and keep a low profile. It is the only place of worship in London from this period with the interior still intact. The wooden benches have rarely been repaired since the opening of the synagogue, and some wooden benches from the Creechurch Lane room predating the synagogue still remain. The seven chandeliers were given as gifts from Amsterdam, representing the seven days of the week (with the largest chandelier representing the Sabbath). The Holy Arc, where the scrolls of the Torah are kept, has wooden carvings typical of the period (similar to those in churches of the same period), and the Ten Commandments written at the top. It is placed against the east wall, so when worshippers face it, they also face Jerusalem. The twelve columns supporting the gallery represent the twelve tribes of Israel. The only major addition to the building since its completion is the choir stall – in roughly 1800. This was due to an increasingly anglicised community wishing to have sung melodies during services. It is still used in services today, to lead chants and for the addition of different melodies.

BM int

Bevis Marks Synagogue interior (As photography is not permitted inside the synagogue, this photo is of a postcard purchased from the synagogue’s gift shop.)

Some notable congregation members include 19th century philanthropist Sir Moses Montefiore; still a legendary figure among London’s Jewish community. His 100th birthday (24 October 1884) was declared a Jewish holiday, with a much celebration at Bevis Marks Synagogue on the day. His seat at the synagogue is now cordoned off, and reserved for special guests only. Another notable member was Benjamin Disraeli, a former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. Although his family was converted to Christianity after his father fell out with the synagogue, he was proud of his Jewish heritage, and was faced with anti-Semitism throughout his career.

Today, the synagogue is still a traditional Sephardi one, with men and women worshipping separately. The congregation is not as large today as it was 300 years ago, however it serves an important role for Jewish people working and living in this area of London. Most attend on the Saturday morning services, however the Friday evening services has become increasingly popular for younger people in the community. The synagogue plans extend the undercroft, to display their priceless historic artefacts. The courtyard will also be refurbished, as well as the addition of a new visitor centre, kitchen and toilets. (To read more about this project, click here.)

For the second half of the visit, the visitors were given the opportunity to look around the synagogue, and look at some of the items on display. On the ground floor, these included the Lord Mayors’ Silver Cup, the Montefiore Silver Xiddish Cup and an 18th century silver pointer. Upstairs in the gallery there were several Torah mantles dating from the 18th and 19th century. On the walls surrounding the gallery there were several wooden plaques listing “Gentlemen who have served (or fined) the offices of Parnassim or Gabay Commencing of Rosh Ashana”, dating from the opening of the synagogue up to the present day.

To learn more about Bevis Marks Synagogue, visit their website.

To become a CBA London member, follow this link.

Investigating Clerkenwell’s medieval roots with CBA London

On Saturday 1st December 2018, CBA London trustee Rob Whytehead led a fascinating walk around Clerkenwell. After the group met outside a local pub, the first point of call was the Clerks’ Well; a feature dating back to the 1500s that gave Clerkenwell its name.

We then walked back up Clerkenwell Green and around to the modern entrance to St James’ Church, which has been a parish church since 1176. Excavations and the examination of historic maps have provided insight into the floor plan of the church, and locations of features such as the cloister, gatehouse, kitchen and nun’s hall. An Iron Age ditch had also been excavated just across the road from the church, possibly indicating a fort or other man-made structure. The only remnants of the cloister at St James’ are the church garden, and the original cloister wall still visible underneath the more modern church boundary walls.

After a walk around the immediate area surrounding the church (which had previously contained buildings such as prison, workhouses, factories and workshops), we walked down to Clerkenwell Green; a road famous for its political activism. Over the years this has included protests, demonstrations, and the founding of the Marx Memorial Library & Workers’ School in the 1930s.

The next port of call was the Priory Church of the order of St John, where the group took shelter from the rain underneath the gatehouse!. The original building had been destroyed after the dissolution, but the original curved wall of the nave is still marked on the pavement today. We then walked around the gate of the inner precinct, taking note of the former clockmakers building on St John’s name and the many plaques of clockmakers that worked in the area from the 17th century onwards.

The last location we travelled to was the Charterhouse Square. Several human bodies have been excavated here, that had been buried in the 14th century after the outbreak of the black death. The Charterhouse, built in 1371, was once home to a strict order of Carthusian monks. It is now a museum, which you can learn more about here. The walk ended at the entrance of the Queen Mary University of London Charterhouse Square campus. Several of the buildings now owned by the university were also once part of the original Charterhouse.

If you are interested in attending CBA London events in the future including fascinating walks and tours, be sure to check the events section of our site, and our Eventbrite page.