Yourthurrock meets “Time Team”
By Lisa Chapman
Twenty five miles east of Central London on the Thames Estuary is the site for the new London Gateway Port which will become a national centre for the UK accommodating the world’s largest container ships ensuring that the nation’s goods are handled and transported in a more efficient and environmentally friendly way.
As part of the environmental compensation required by the Government Inspector following the Planning Enquiry for the above project in 2003, a new protected habitat for wildlife and rare birds was to be created nearby and the site chosen was near Stanford-le-Hope, four miles away. This area, around 30 times larger than Trafalgar Square, was already known to be a potential “hotspot” of archeological interest and further investigations here in February indeed uncovered Iron Age and Roman salt-making sites, thought to be some of the earliest pieces of evidence of industrial activity in Britain.
Yourthurrock were very excited to be given the chance to tour the excavations and braved the elements so that you could share the experience with us. After a short briefing and issuance of safety clothing we were taken by minibus to the site and shown some of the artifacts discovered including pottery, ceramics, coins, brooches and roof tiles followed by a walkabout. Katrina Anker from Oxford Archaeology, the company commissioned to carry out the dig, was our guide for the tour and explained that the 1,800-year-old Roman roundhouse that they now knew from their findings to have occupied the site would have been used as an industrial building as part of the salt-making process. Other wooden structures discovered include a boathouse and pair of channel holding walls which have been radiocarbon dated to between 40BC and AD240. She told us that the peak of the Roman salt industry in the 1st and 2nd century AD coincides with the early development of London as a city so this particular site provides a unique insight into this industry and the area’s development.
The work here is being fully recorded and any items of interest are being made available to local museums. We understand that the dig is now in its final stages and when satisfied that no stones have been left unturned, so to speak, the area will be flooded and once again returned to the capable hands of Mother Nature.