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Plumstead Fire Station

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We’ve been undertaking work at this magnificent Victorian Fire Station on the corner of Lakedale Road and Plumstead High Street. It’s due for expansion and improvement works  – one of the issues being addressed is that it was originally built to house horse-drawn fire engines – and therefore the interior ‘bays’ are too narrow for modern fire tenders! A new drill tower will also be built, to replace an early steel tower that occupied the site in the first half of the 20th century.

Plumstead Fire Station dates from the heyday of the LCC Fire Brigade Division architects. This view from circa 1910 shows the impressive fire station shortly after it was completed, to the left of the buses.
The fire station is a Grade II listed building. Its two street-facing elevations make the most of its prominent location, with Baroque giant order pilasters on the elevation to Plumstead High Street (above left) and tiles with period lettering and attractive Queen-Anne domestic style on the Lakedale Road frontage. ©Frankham

Over the course of five days, we opened three evaluation trenches, two in the current car park to the east of the yard and one in the fire station yard itself. In the car park, Trench 1 revealed the brick-built vestiges of the old shop frontages (below), which one fireman recognized as a former bakery upon whose first floor his mother had been born! The northern end had seen damage by later 20th century building but an old fireplace could be discerned whose hearth was still scorched from numerous hearth fires.

A carefully placed sondage in the south of the trench revealed the natural sand and gravel geology of the gravel terraces of the River Thames. This was sealed by a ‘mixed’ soil layer which we examined for human activity or waste in the form of post-glacial lithic tools, along with the gravels which have been known to contain Palaeolithic artefacts when exposed and examined in the past.

Trench 2 revealed a number of ‘cut’ features consisting of ditches, pits and postholes which had penetrated the natural geology of sand and gravel. Very little dating material was recovered from these so we are still awaiting dating confirmation from our specialists.

In Trench 3, within the fire station yard, there was a large pit containing fragmentary 19th century objects and pottery sherds hinted at a former domestic occupancy of the land, but unfortunately, no evidence for the former workhouse that once stood on the site came to light.

Again, the natural sand and gravel was encountered which enables us to create a topographic map of the gravel terraces which is important as it helps to create a ‘bigger picture’ of the Thames river terraces within which the dramas of our ancestors were once played out.

This architect’s drawing shows the existing Fire Station and the new Link and Annexe buildings from the intersection of Plumstead High Street and Lakedale Road. The creation of the new Fire Station annexe will help close a gap on the Plumstead High Street, and significantly enhance the operational capacity of one of south London’s busiest Fire Stations. © Benedict O’Looney Architects

Community excavation volunteering opportunity in County Durham

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PCA will be supervising a community excavation at Hardwick Park, Sedgefield, County Durham from 7th-23rd August 2022.

We’ll be investigating two of the Park’s principal 18th century buildings – the Bath and Banqueting Houses. The works have received generous financial support from the Sir James Knott Trust and National Heritage Lottery Grants for Heritage.

If you would like to join the excavations, please contact the Friends of Hardwick Chairman, Tony Smith on to arrange a spot on the induction day on Saturday 6th August.

Find of the week

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A great find from Joel this week! This unusual, decorated chalk spindle whorl came from an Iron Age ditch at St Neots, Cambridgeshire. Chalk objects like this are very fragile and rarely survive.

The Balsham Village Feast

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PCA would like to thank the organisers of the Balsham Feast ( particularly Richard and Debbie) for inviting us to participate in this event.

We were given a great space in the Village Hall for our display and PCA staff had a busy time answering questions and explaining what we had found in the village to local residents.

We enjoyed the day immensely; Mark was particularly impressed by the teddy bear parachuting from the church tower which looked terrifying, Tom and Judy liked the Owls, Tegan wanted a donkey ride but sadly missed her opportunity and Kat just overwhelmed by the whole spectacle!

The Balsham Village Feast – a reminder!

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Mark Hinman and a team from PCA’s Cambridge office  will be attending the Balsham Feast tomorrow, 2 July, to host a display of findings from excavations at The High Street, Balsham sponsored by Hill Group and Linton Road sponsored by Matthew Homes And RPS Consulting.

We found evidence of activity in Balsham from the Mesolithic to the Post-Medieval period, including the first Roman remains found in the village, most notably a previously unknown Roman road, associated long-lived settlement and a Late Roman coin hoard of 560 coins.

More details here:

Excavating the coin hoard.

Balsham Village Feast – an exhibition on 2 July

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On Saturday 2 July we’ll have a stall at the Balsham Village Feast in Cambridgeshire, with a display of finds from the two excavations we’ve undertaken in the village.

During the course of the excavations we identified activity dating from the Mesolithic to the Post-Medieval period. On the High Street we found evidence for the prehistoric and Saxon development of the village, while our excavation on Linton Road unearthed the Balsham’s first ever Roman remains.

The principal result of our excavation on Linton Road was the identification of a previously unknown rural Roman road running parallel to Worsted Street and an associated, long-lived roadside settlement. The trackway was laid out in the mid-1st century AD and continued in use up to at least the 4th century. The site was rich in metalwork, with high-status imported wares uncommon in rural sites in the region, indicating access to wider trade networks. Almost three hundred small finds were recorded during the excavations. In addition to these individual finds, a Late Roman coin hoard was unearthed in a small pit.

Together, the sites illustrate how the village has seen occupation from at least as early as the Bronze age until the present day. We have a prime spot in the Village Hall which will be weather-proof but hopefully the sun will shine – come and see what we found!

The coin hoard in situ with a detail of one of the coins. Most of the coins within the pit were found arranged in loose stacks, indicating deposition in a series of textile rouleaux that have since decayed in the soil. All but three post-date AD 330; the earlier coins, however, are of a similar size and are likely to have circulated at the same time as their later counterparts. Most of the coins in the hoard are ‘Fallen Horseman’ nummi of the House of Constantine, issued in the late AD 340s and 350s; these include a combination of official ‘regular’ nummi and a much higher proportion of unofficial ‘irregular’ nummi. The hoard was probably buried in the period AD 355-364.

Brockley Garden Archaeology at Hilly Fields Summer Fayre

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Have you got a little pile of garden treasures?

Bring them to Hilly Fields Summer Fayre in Brockley on Saturday 25 June from 12 noon to 5pm!

We will have a stall with archaeologists and finds specialists ready to answer questions about your personal garden treasure and about archaeology in London and beyond.

A selection of finds from Bermondsey Abbey and other monastic sites we have excavated in London will also be on display at the stall.

Click here for more details!

Ferry Island, Tottenham Hale Open Day

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The open day last week at our Ferry Island excavation in Tottenham Hale was a resounding success. So far we’ve found a probable east-west aligned palaeochannel which has been recut by a medieval ditch, along with multiple other medieval ditches, pits and postholes attesting to late medieval and then early post-medieval land-use and settlement. There is also some background prehistoric activity attested to by lithic finds.

Our specialists were there with a display of finds, the sun shone and a great day was had by all!

Archaeology Open Day!

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On Wednesday the 15th of June, from 1-4pm, we will be hosting an open day at our Ferry Island excavation, by Tottenham Hale Station.

Come and see the excavation and talk to the archaeologists about their exciting discoveries!
This event is free of charge.

Access via Station Road, N17 9LR. Sturdy footwear is advised.

Student work experience

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Sam from Eltham College has just completed his work experience at our London office. PCA were recommended to him by Orpington and District Archaeological Society (ODAS) of which he is a member.

He was a pleasure to work with and this is what he has said of his time with us:

It has given me a good insight into working for an archaeological company. I was involved in assisting with processing finds (washing pottery and bones as well as boxing different samples in order of context numbers) and sifting through environmental samples (finding and identifying bits of bones, flint, shell, pottery and many other materials) from archaeological sites. I enjoyed working with such friendly people who made me feel most welcome.

In the future, I am considering studying archaeology, geology, palaeontology or physical geography at university. I chose PCA because your company has a very good reputation in the industry and I wanted to gain expert experience from well-regarded professionals. 

Here are some photos I took during my work experience: