Thames Discovery Programme: discovering the archaeology of the Thames foreshore

Eliott Wragg, Project Officer for the Thames Discovery Programme, explores the longest archaeological site in London - the Thames foreshore. 

When the tide goes out, the Thames foreshore is the longest archaeological site in London. Many of the exposed archaeological sites go unrecognised and almost all are vulnerable to the twice–daily scouring of the tidal river, and thus require close monitoring. The Thames Discovery Programme (TDP) communicates the archaeology of the River Thames foreshore within Greater London to the widest possible audience, through our volunteer training and outreach programmes.
Hanover Stairs by Thames Discovery Programme
Hanover Stairs. 18th century warship timbers at a ship breaking site © Thames Discovery Programme
The TDP equips Londoners to monitor eroding archaeological features before they get washed away by the river. Working against the tide, our volunteers first clean the features using river water and then make detailed plans, written records and a photographic record. To date the project has recorded over 1,000 archaeological features in what is a hugely dynamic and fast-changing intertidal zone. 
Discoveries include: prehistoric archaeological remains at sites from Greenwich to Putney; Anglo-Saxon fish traps, the remains of Medieval, Tudor and Stuart jetties , re-used warship timbers, river defences, stairs, causeways, slipways, wharves, crane bases, bargebeds, drains and vessels, from throughout Greater London.
Archaeological dig on the banks of the Thames
Burrells Wharf. Great Eastern slipway showing impact area of V1 flying bomb strike © Thames Discovery Programme
The foreshore is also full of interesting artefacts, ranging from clay pipes and pottery fragments dating as far back as the Roman and prehistoric periods to flint tools, animal (and occasionally human!) bone, trading tokens and coins.
19th century clay pipe bowl found at Canon Street
19th century clay pipe bowl found at Canon Street © Thames Discovery Programme
If you would like to see more of these amazing discoveries before then come along to one of our guided foreshore walks from the 7-9 July, followed by a talk at the National Maritime Museum given by their curators. 
 Custom House. Gridiron for customs launches, Thames Discovery Programme
Custom House. Gridiron for customs launches © Thames Discovery Programme