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London volunteers to join Charterhouse archaeological dig

By Krista Eleftheriou

London volunteers to join Charterhouse archaeological dig

The Charterhouse, one of London’s longest serving almshouses, has launched a competition with the winners becoming amateur archaeologists for the day on the Charterhouse archaeology site.

The dig is near where Crossrail archaeologists recently unearthed a Black Death emergency burial ground. The project will give locals the chance to dig deeper into their history to discover artefacts from the grounds of one of London’s best preserved examples of a Tudor mansion, built in the middle of a 14th Century emergency burial ground.

The Charterhouse is working in partnership with Crossrail, its contractors BFK and MOLA, and the Museum of London and the London Borough of Islington to host the community dig during the Festival of Archaeology from 18th to 25th July.

The Charterhouse will open the archaeology excavations to public viewing on 24 and 25 July and will include opportunities for children to take part in specially constructed archaeology dig boxes not associated with the burial ground (pre-booking of children’s dig boxes events required).

Charlie Hobson, The Master of the Charterhouse, said: “We’re delighted to give the public the chance to explore the hidden history of the Charterhouse which has been a charity at the heart of London for over 400 years. Our charitable mission continues to this day and the 40 brothers who live on site will be following the dig closely.”

The construction of Crossrail through the heart of London and under the grounds of the Charterhouse has resulted in one of the most extensive archaeological programmes ever undertaken in the UK.  In 2013, archaeologists uncovered 25 skeletons in Charterhouse Square, providing the first evidence of a hidden burial ground.

Crossrail’s Lead Archaeologist Jay Carver said: “The community dig is an opportunity for local people to get involved in the history of their local area. It will also provide an opportunity to follow up on the archaeology work undertaken last year when we used forensic geophysics techniques in collaboration with Keele University to survey the ground. The results suggest further burials extend across Charterhouse Square and a possible building structure in the middle of the square. It is a really exciting prospect that the community dig may be able to confirm the geophysics results and potentially locate the building structure and confirm the edge of the burial ground.”

BFK Farringdon Station Project Director Peter Bimson said: “We are delighted to be taking part in this great archaeological adventure right outside our Farringdon station worksite. Charterhouse Square has already proven to hide some of the most exciting historical treasures in the heart of London. This event is for Londoners, and we are proud to continue to leave a positive legacy for the communities in which we work.”

To celebrate this unique event, a series of public lectures will be held by leading historians and archaeologists, they include:

  • The Black Death by Barney Sloane,Friday 18th July 5:30pm at the Charterhouse
  • Charterhouse Square Discoveries by Jay Carver,Tuesday 22nd July 6:00pm at the Charterhouse.
  • London's Early Suburbs: Clerkenwell and Smithfield by Jiff Bayliss,Thursday 24th July 2014 6:30pm at the Charterhouse

To enter the competition, reserve places at events or for more information go to


*The Charterhouse Community Dig: Event Schedule

Big Dig for Families, Thursday 24 and 25 July, booking essential

Come and find out what it’s like to be an archaeologist with the Museum of London in this 45-minute digging session. You’ll discover what tools an archaeologist uses, find real artefacts and see if you can uncover the lost medieval building in your trench! For ages 5+ Please note: adult must be accompanied by a child. Two carers per child maximum. Tickets need only be booked for attending children as the dig boxes have limited space.

Public Talk and Tour, History of the Charterhouse

Sunday 20th July 3:00pm

Thursday 24 July at 2:30pm

The Charterhouse Archaeological Community Dig

Volunteer archaeologists will be trained by and work under the supervision of archaeologists from MOLA. The volunteers will not excavate skeletons, should they be uncovered.

About The Charterhouse

The Charterhouse, (Sutton’s Hospital in Charterhouse),* is an historic complex at the heart of Clerkenwell, London that continues to this day to operate as one of London’s longest serving almshouses. A hidden treasure that is open to the public, it unites a 14th Century priory with one of London’s best preserved examples of a Tudor mansion and garden square with attendant courtyard.

The Charterhouse preserves historic links with Charterhouse School in Godalming, which until 1872 operated as part of the same charity from the site. The house and grounds are of especial historic interest and in 1558 was occupied by Queen Elizabeth I in preparation for her coronation.

The Charterhouse is a registered charity and operates as an almshouse for 42 resident pensioners or ‘Brothers’ who are provided for by the original legacy of Thomas Sutton, with plans to be able to offer residence to 16 more brothers over the next two years. Thomas Sutton established the charitable foundation in 1611 to be overseen in perpetuity by at least one Royal Governor. That continues to this day with Her Majesty The Queen, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales supporting the 16 Governors of the charity.

Charterhouse currently welcomes over 1,000 visitors to its site each year, and has plans to grow this number by creating a new museum in partnership with the Museum of London.  This has been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and other generous donors.

The Revealing the Charterhouse project has a fundraising target of £3.4million and is well on the way to achieving this.   The Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a development grant of £145,300 to the project and, subject to a successful Stage 2 pass, a further grant of £1,345,700.  Other donations and pledges are contributing a further £1,214,630.

For more information, visit

About Crossrail

The total funding available to deliver Crossrail is £14.8bn. The Crossrail route will pass through 40 stations and run more than 118 km (73 miles) from Reading and Heathrow in the west, through new twin-bore 21 km (13 miles) tunnels to Shenfield and Abbey Wood in the east.

When Crossrail opens it will increase London's rail-based transport network capacity by 10%, supporting regeneration and cutting journey times across the city. Crossrail services are due to commence through central London in 2018.

Crossrail is being delivered by Crossrail Limited (CRL). CRL is a wholly owned subsidiary of Transport for London. Crossrail is jointly sponsored by the Department for Transport and Transport for London.