Helen Johnston has been following the work of the Greenwich Foreshore Recording and Observation Group, on the foreshore by the site of the lost Tudor royal Greenwich Palace.

The River Thames has played a pivotal role in the development of London, and the city’s long history is evident at low tide in the archaeological remains on the Thames foreshore. This is nowhere more so than at Greenwich, the location of the Tudor royal Greenwich Palace. However, the foreshore is a very vulnerable environment, at threat from damage and erosion due to sea level changes, boat wash and storm surges.

A view of the jetty at Greenwich in 2011
A view of the jetty at Greenwich in 2011 by N Cohen

The Greenwich Foreshore Recording and Observation Group, volunteers with the Thames Discovery Programme, have been monitoring at the foreshore near Greenwich Palace for over five years. During that time we have witnessed the dramatic changes that have taken place on the foreshore due to erosion.

TDP volunteers recording the jetty at Greenwich
TDP volunteers recording the jetty at Greenwich by N Cohen

In one of the most vulnerable areas, where the foreshore has dropped 50cm in the last five years, an impressive structure of timber piles and baseplates has been revealed. These are part of a post-medieval jetty, one of the last surviving elements of Greenwich Palace, and one of the largest archaeological features on the river foreshore anywhere in London.

A view of the jetty at Greenwich in 2016
A view of the jetty at Greenwich in 2016 by H Johnston

At a time when London’s roads were dangerous and dirty, the river was the city’s highway, and the jetty was one of the main access points to the Palace. It was designed to provide access to the Palace at all levels of tide, as well as the disposal point for kitchen waste.

Butchered animal bone kitchen waste
Butchered animal bone kitchen waste by H Johnston

The palace jetty is just one of many features on the Greenwich foreshore, sitting alongside it are remains from prehistory right up until the present day. The foreshore here has seen significant erosion and it can be heart-breaking to see fragile and unique archaeology lost to the sea. However, through the work of our volunteers, we’ve been able to record these features and add to our understanding of the history of Greenwich and the Tudor palace.

View of the jetty at Greenwich, looking up the foreshore
View of the jetty at Greenwich, looking up the foreshore by H Johnston

Explore the archaeology of the Thames at our Maritime Lecture Series

Find out more about the Foreshore Recording & Observation Group

More about the Thames Discovery programme