Above: Diagram of archaeological levels for finds in the City of London.
We all need helpful diagrams and maps to enable us to make better sense of London’s archaeology. The history of London is such an enormous subject that when you find a simple explanation it can make all the difference to understanding the capital’s past. Passing the hoardings at Liverpool Street Station the other day, there was a large diagram explaining the situation with regard to the depths at which the new Crossrail railway line will pass under the road surface. It also had a useful explanation of the levels at which the archaeological finds were situated. While the drawing is related to the immediate area around Bishopsgate, the depths at which archaeological finds are discovered are pretty much the same across the whole of Central London.
Working from road level in and around Finsbury Circus – where one of the shafts has been built to aid construction under the ground – the diagram shows depths in metres. For those who prefer their measurements in feet, this works out that any Victorian remains are about 5 feet below the surface. The thousands of skeletons buried in the graveyard at Bedlam Hospital were about 10 feet below the road surface. The name Bedlam is a corruption of ‘Bethlehem Hospital’. It was the world’s first hospital for the insane and continues today but at a different location. The medieval ground level of the nearby Moorfields Marsh is about 13 feet below the surface and below that is the level of any Roman remains – about 20 feet down.
As the diagram indicates the new Crossrail stations and track-beds are about 130 feet below today’s road level. Work is progressing well on the new east-west railway. All the tunnels have been completed, some of the stations are nearing completion and about half the track has been laid. Everything is on schedule and, of course, we all await the completion of the work and the eventual opening of the new line in 2018. It will be fully operational in 2019.
There have been teams of archaeologists working at the site of each new station across Greater London and around the access shafts where tunnelling has taken place. Thousands of finds have been carefully removed and stored so that further research can be carried out in the coming years. There have been two major exhibitions showing the many artefacts that have been discovered and a third exhibition will be mounted at the Museum of London in 2017.