Left: Detail of fourteenth century timber revetments at Trig Lane. The stave wall to the left advanced the waterfront by 3 m in about 1360.
Photo: J. Bailey
The Making of the London Waterfront by Gustav and Chrissie Milne
FOR much of its long history, London was the nation's principal port, prospering by its rich river- borne trade. Today it is difficult to appreciate the overriding importance of the Thames to the City during the first 1,750 years of its life, when its citizens would have drawn their drinking water from it, washed in it, watered their livestock in it and fished in it. But above all, the river was THE means of transport for men and merchandise until at least 1760 when the construction of Blackfriars Bridge symbolised the gradual ascendancy of road over river traffic. The waterfront is therefore a crucial area for archaeologists intent on studying the origins and growth of the City, for a period of development or decline on the waterfront may be an important economic indicator for the prosperity of its hinterland.
Since 1972 the Guildhall Museum and its successor the Museum of London's Department of Urban Archaeology have excavated several deeply stratified sites south of Thames Street in advance of the large scale redevelopment of the waterfront (see opposite). Running from west t o eas t th e mai n excavations have been Baynard's Castle (BC), site of the Medieval fortress in the extreme western corner of the City; Trig Lane (TL) with its well-preserved Medieval revetments; Seal House (SH), a long narrow trench with an impressive stratified sequence; New Fresh Wharf (NFW) right beside the site of the Medieval London Bridge, the heart of the most active area; and finally the Custom House (CH) not far from the Tower of London at the eastern end of the City waterfront. As a result of this