Crossrail: one of the most extensive archaeological programmes ever undertaken in the UK


The construction of Crossrail through the heart of London is resulting in one of the most extensive archaeological programmes ever undertaken in the UK.

Crossrail currently operates over 40 worksites and archaeological investigations will be carried out at each site ahead of main construction works to build the central stations.

Archaeology is the study of past cultures and the way people lived based on the artefacts that they leave behind.

The project gives archaeologists an exceptional opportunity to reveal the layer cake of history that is hidden below the city’s streets. We are now over half-way through our planned archaeological programme and these pages bring together some of the key discoveries to-date.

A project spanning over 100 kilometres with more than 40 construction sites has the potential to uncover many finds. The finds uncovered from our work sites include prehistoric animal bones, Roman remains, human remains from the infamous ‘Bedlam’ psychiatric hospital and remnants of Britain’s industrial past. An extremely rare piece of UK amber, estimated to be 55 million years old, is also on display.

Years of research have been carried out to understand the impact that construction will have on the archaeology along the route.  Not only is Crossrail the most ambitious engineering project in Europe, it is also a catalyst for learning about our past.

Sharing our finds

One of the core objectives of the Crossrail archaeology programme is the dissemination of archaeology information to the wider archaeological community, together with a focused education and outreach programme for local communities. 

Crossrail’s archaeological team will be producing detailed reports on their findings. All the significant artefacts will be provided to the Museum of London and the Natural History Museum for Londoners to study and enjoy in the future.

The new railway passes through the heart of the West End of London and along the north edge of the Roman and Medieval city and has the potential to encounter important and interesting remains including prehistoric, Roman and Medieval artefacts.

To communicate information to local communities on works taking place at each major construction site Crossrail provides regular updates through community newsletters and site hoardings, as well as engagement with local schools as part of our wider Young Crossrail programme.

School visits to archaeological excavations have been organised to provide a mixture of hands on educational activities, such as the Museum of London Dig Box project in Stepney Green, and public tours of excavations provided by our lead archaeologists.

Portals to the Past

A selection of recent finds go on display with a new exhibition at the Crossrail Visitor Information Centre at Tottenham Court Road between 15 February - 15 March 2014.

Following an exceptional year of discoveries on Britain’s largest archaeology programme, our team of archaeologists are running a month-long exhibition where visitors will be able to see a selection of recent finds from across the project during our Portals to the Past exhibition.

We will be displaying more than 50 archaeological finds for the first time, including skulls from Roman London, a Roman cremation pot (which contained remains when discovered), flint used by Londoners 9,000 years ago and items found in a suspected Black Death Plague burial ground are just some of the finds that will be on display.

Find out more about our Portals to the Past exhibition.

Bison to Bedlam: Crossrail's archaeology story so far...

Our Bison to Bedlam public exhibition was held during July and October 2012 to celebrate the half-way point in our archaeology programme.  Over 3000 people attended the exhibition where they were able to get up close and personal with over 100 different finds from across the route, as well as enjoy a host of talks by members of our archaeology team working across the project.  

If you missed out on the exhibition itself why not take an online tour of our finds to discover more about London's rich and fascinating past.  

As construction progresses throughout the route Crossrail will continue to engage with local communities to share the important and exciting finds at each location.  Information will be published here on the Crossrail website. 

In addition to this, wherever possible we are retaining and reusing historic assets within the final design of the scheme and carefully looking for opportunities to incorporate presentation of archaeological finds in the finished station areas. Dedicated teams within the Crossrail project are working to identify where the rich history of the project sites revealed by archaeological and historical research can be permanently celebrated in the finished railway.

You can browse through the case studies in this section to discover more about archaeology projects which have already taken place at our worksites.

Key points

  • An archaeological strategy (known as the generic Written Scheme of Investigation or WSI) has been prepared in consultation with English Heritage and relevant County and local authority archaeologists to ensure a consistent approach across the route and throughout the life of the project;
  • Crossrail is employing a team of archaeological specialists to investigate and record archaeology and to archive and report on findings;
  • Only one of the more than 350 listed buildings along Crossrail’s route will be demolished;
  • Crossrail has entered into agreements with local authorities where works affect listed buildings.

Explore Crossrail

85% Materials Moved By Rail Or Water

85% of the transport for excavated material from Crossrail is by rail or water