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.

The project gives archaeologists an exceptional opportunity to reveal the layer cake of history that is hidden below the city’s streets.

A project spanning over 100 kilometres with more than 40 construction sites has the potential to uncover many finds. The finds uncovered so far 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.

Crossrail archaeology route map

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.

Route to the past: Major excavation underway at Liverpool Street

Archaeologists begin main excavation of Broadgate ticket hall_ March 2015_188472

In early March, a team of sixty archaeologists began excavating around 3,000 skeletons from the Bedlam burial ground at Liverpool Street in the City of London, working in shifts, six days a week to excavate the site and carefully record evidence of the finds.

Our team of archaeologists revealed a number of interesting finds including over 1,000 individual artefacts spanning 2,000 years of history and, most recently, a fascinating selection of Roman burials. The excavation is being undertaken by MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) on behalf of Crossrail.

Find out more about the Liverpool Street archaeological dig.

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.

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;
  • More than 10,000 finds have been uncovered so far, spanning 55 million years of London's history
  • 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

Archaeology at Farringdon

Archaeology at Farringdon

During the excavation of a compensation grout shaft in Charterhouse Square in March 2013, Crossrail uncovered firm... Read more

Archaeology at Liverpool Street

Archaeology at Liverpool Street

Crossrail is undertaking a large-scale excavation at Liverpool Street. Archaeologists are working to unearth up to... Read more

Archaeology at Stepney Green

Archaeology at Stepney Green

In January 2011 Crossrail opened up an archaeological dig at a future construction site for the new project at Stepney... Read more

In pictures: Explore the artefacts

In pictures: Explore the artefacts

Explore some of our archaeological finds in our online image gallery. We hope you enjoy this gallery, and this window... Read more