Regular readers will know that I am often intrigued by tunnels and have written about the Thames and Blackwall tunnels. Therefore it was with a great deal of anticipation that I attended the preview for the latest exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands. The exhibition is entitled Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail and explores the wide range of archaeological objects unearthed by Crossrail .
Many people may be aware of Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project, but few people will realise that since work began in 2009, the project has undertaken one of the most extensive archaeological programmes ever in the UK, with over 10,000 artefacts found covering almost every important period of the Capital’s history.
The construction of London’s newest railway, which will be known as the Elizabeth Line has sliced through London from East to West and gone through many layers of London’s history.
Some of the finds include:
Prehistoric flints found in North Woolwich, showing evidence for Mesolithic tool making 8,000 years ago
Tudor bowling ball found at the site of the Tudor King John’s Court manor house in Stepney Green
Roman iron horse shoes found near Liverpool Street Station
Medieval animal bone skates found near Liverpool Street Station
Late 19th century ginger and jam jars from the site of the Crosse & Blackwell bottling factory near Tottenham Court Road station
Human remains including one of the skeletons found near Liverpool Street Station from the 17th century Bedlam cemetery, which a DNA has shown died from the Plague.
Just before you enter the main part of the exhibition, there is a statue of St Barbara who is associated with explosives and lightning. She is the patron saint of miners and tunnellers and despite all the high tech equipment, the people on the Crossrail construction took the statue down one of the shafts for good luck.
The exhibition follows the trail of the Elizabeth Line and features highlights from each section. Of particular interest in our local area were the digs at Pudding Mill Lane that looked at some of the old industries on the River Lea, The old Thames Ironworks site near Canning Town was explored and a number of finds like iron chains and brickworks was found.
Digging under Canary Wharf, part of a woolly mammoth’s jaw bone was found and a fragment of amber that was estimated to be 55 million years old. Both items are currently being analysed at the Natural History Museum.
Some objects at Stepney Green are from the Tudor period when it was the location of many large mansions for the wealthy.
The exhibition illustrates some of the problems of archaeology with the mystery of the Walbrook skulls which are from different periods but were all found together.
As well as the archaeological finds, large screens show how the massive engineering project of Crossrail burrowed its way beneath the London city streets and beyond.
This fascinating exhibition is without doubt one of the biggest and most comprehensive exhibitions held at the Museum of Docklands and is well worth a visit. The exhibition is free and runs until September 2017.