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Archaeological investigations at Tottenham Court Road

By Juliet Whitcombe

Archaeological investigations at Tottenham Court Road

Archaeological investigations have been undertaken at Crossrail and London Underground worksites at Tottenham Court Road to better understand how west London has developed over the centuries.

On the western site at Dean Street, excavations revealed fragments of Roman pottery and 17th century artefacts, including a clay pipe, some pottery and bricks. The remains of a brick building were also found; this building might have been one of the original structures lining Great Chapel Street – believe to have been an earlier thoroughfare called Parkers Lane.

A second major phase of brick building was discovered dating from the mid-late 18th century. Two structures were identified as the possible remains of the cellars. The position of these demonstrates that the ground level was raised in the area as a result of soils cleared for buildings being redeposited in roadways and backyards.

Today, the ground level in Great Chapel Street is approximately three metres higher than it was in the 17th century. Examples of domestic waste were found on the site; these will be studied to understand the lifestyle and social status of the occupants who lived on the site hundreds of years ago. 

On the eastern site at Goslett Yard, the investigations found evidence of 17th century structures, with further phases of building development in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Of particular interest was a vaulted chamber; this was believed to be a cistern which had been filled with a significant collection of ceramic and glass vessels (approx 2.7 tonnes of ceramics) when the structure went out of use. These are associated with the Victorian company, Crosse and Blackwell, which is known to have occupied the site until the 1920s.

Some of the adjacent historic buildings that have been recorded can be shown to have originated as part of the Crosse and Blackwell industrial complex on the site. Other artefacts and structures found include a circular brick-lined pit and a brass plate for J&E Hall Ltd, a company established in Dartford inthe 18th century who were pioneers of early refrigeration equipment.

Everything found during the investigation has been recorded and some articles preserved to increase the wealth of knowledge of London’s history.