Another string to our bow!

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Congratulations to PCA’s Duncan Field on becoming a fully-qualified chain saw operative!

Duncan has just completed a training course with London Chainsaw Training LCT and achieved a Level 2 Certificate of Competence in Chainsaw Maintenance and Cross-cutting.

He will now be able to undertake timber sampling work on our sites, and also adds to the list of services we provide for others.

Photo to follow!

Fish Sauce at the Roman Table- SGRP Guest lecture

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An evening of Roman cooking with food historian and chef Sally Grainger – Wednesday June 23rd at 6pm

As part of their 50th Anniversary celebrations, the Study Group for Roman Pottery welcomes Sally Grainger for a linked lecture on her latest research into the nature of the various forms of ancient fish sauces – garum, liquamen, muria, and allec – which were consumed in all levels of Roman society.

Sally is a Roman food historian and chef (BA Ancient history University of London, MA Archaeology Reading university). She works with archaeologists and historians reconstructing ancient cooking and dining practices. Her published works include The Classical cook Book, British museum Press, ‘Cooking Apicius’ and ‘Apicius:’ a critical edition, Prospect Books 2006. She has worked with universities and museum around the world in reconstructing ancient banquets including the British Museum; The Getty Villa, Los Angeles; The museum of London and The Ashmolean. She is currently working on her book The Story of Garum: fermented fish sauce and salted fish in the ancient world with Routledge due out in 2021.

Evidence suggests that certain forms of ceramic cups were associated with these sauces. To test this hypothesis, samian vessels from the Thameslink excavations in Southwark, London, carried out by PCA and Oxford Archaeology, were subjected to residue and use-wear pattern analysis. Her paper, co-authored with Edward Biddulph (Oxford Archaeology), will be published in Grana, L., Ivleva, T., and Griffiths, B. (forthcoming 2022) The Bloomsbury Handbook of Experimental Approaches to Roman Archaeology, Bloomsbury Publishing, London.

Register for this free, online event here:


The Study Group for Roman Pottery conference will be held the following week, on the 2-3 July 2021

If you haven’t already booked your ticket for the conference, you can do it here!

Revealing Holywell Priory: Recent Excavations

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Friday June 18th 7 – 8.30pm

Register for this free, online event by The City of London Archaeological Society here:


In this talk, Matt Edmonds will be presenting the results of PCA’s work at Holywell Lane, Shoreditch Village, where excavations in advance of redevelopment for the basement of a hotel quickly revealed that the basement footprint covered important structural elements of Holywell Priory.

Holywell Priory was founded on the site between 1152 and 1158 and dedicated to the Virgin Mary and St John the Baptist. It housed canonesses of the Augustinian Order and was originally a single-aisle building, but no remains of this early phase of church were found during the excavation.

The priory church was reorganised at the end of the 12th century (c. 1170-90) with the construction of a narrower central aisle with north and south aisles. We found many important architectural features of this later church in the excavation of 2012, including the portico entrance, column bases between the south aisle and the nave, and an impressive, extensive section of Westminster tile floor.


A total of 45 medieval skeletons were exhumed; 16 to the south of the church with the rest buried within. The burials in the south aisle resulted in the raising of the floor, with at least 3 phases of floor discernible in this part of the church. The assemblage of human remains included both adult and juvenile, men and women and the skeleton of a priest, recognised by a mortuary chalice placed within the grave.

Excavations in the southern part of the site showed how the original bank and ditch perimeter was replaced by a curtain wall, and that the original gatehouse was expanded and altered over hundreds of years. The gatehouse was clearly a very important building in its own right, and included a bastion to the west of the gate, with the doorstop still visible, where the roadway passed through. A ‘holy’ well was also constructed against the outside of the curtain wall, presumably as a gift from the priory to the people of Shoreditch.


Hollywell Priory was dissolved in 1539 and the property granted to a number of individuals, the largest portion was acquired by a Henry Webbe. Demolition of the church was undertaken in a number of phases. Stow reported in the 1590’s that ‘the church thereof being pulled downe, many houses have been builded for the lodgings of noble men’. One of those aristocratic land owners was the Earl of Rutland who built a mansion house to the south of priory church.

The south wall and portico-entrance of the priory church at our site were incorporated into a large 16th century building with the two columns defining the south aisle of the priory built into an internal wall. A notable feature of this building was a large fireplace with a base of glazed tiles; a second phase of fireplace floor was formed with brick and tile in a herring bone pattern. The fireplace faced west, suggesting the building had at least two adjoining wings set at right angles to each other

By the 18th century both the priory church and 16th century house had been subsumed into the backyards of properties. Excavated features of this date include domestic rubbish pits, wells, cess pits and small ancillary buildings. The priory gatehouse, however, appears to have remained standing until at least the 18th century. Cellared rooms were added to the rear, the wall between adjoining medieval rooms was knocked down to create a single room and brick floors were laid.

Recent Excavations

Between 2019 and 2020 several phases of excavation undertaken on the eastern side of the site revealed the eastern end of the medieval Holywell Priory church and further parts of the cemetery. A total of 220 medieval skeletons were exhumed from an area thought to be a cemetery associated with the priory church. All the graves were orientated east-west which suggests that they were Christian burials as expected on a medieval priory cemetery site. The assemblage of human remains included both adults and juveniles, men and women, and included the skeletons of three further priests recognised by a mortuary chalice placed within their graves.


Several phases of the medieval church were identified including the south transept and additional cells to the east. A later phase of church construction included a robbed out wall which delineated a later phase of the south transept.

With the post-excavation work well underway, the osteology will be an important part of ongoing research into the community in the cemetery and the significance of burials within the church and chapels within the priory.

Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge

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PCA excavations at Lucy Cavendish College have found the course of Roman Akeman Street. 

The site lies on the edge of the Roman walled town, in the location that Ordnance Survey and other previous reconstructions of the Roman town layout had projected the line of the road. Akeman Street led from Cambridge (Duroliponte) to the Roman ‘small town’ at Arrington Bridge on Ermine Street, 15km south-west, and appeared in our excavations as a thick gravel spread with a ditch on one side.  

A horizon of dark earth covering the site suggests a suburban area on the edge of the Roman town, primarily used for intensive ‘market garden’ cultivation. This deposit contained copious quantities of Roman hearth waste and midden material, as well as an abundance of Roman pottery, metalwork and 3rd– to 4th-century coins. Other finds include remains of gravel yard surfaces and a group of four c. 3rd-century inhumation burials. A very well-preserved iron cooking pot was recovered from one Roman rubbish pit, seen here with X-rays of the metal vessel before micro-excavation.

“I am not surprised at these finds, but very excited as it contributes to our good but patchy knowledge of the Roman town and everyday life of the time.”

Dr Corinne Duhig, Director of Studies in Archaeology, Lucy Cavendish College

The excavations, undertaken on behalf of Orion Heritage and Bidwells ahead of Lucy Cavendish College’s new eco-friendly student accommodation development, are ongoing. Post-excavation work is underway, with excavation and analysis of the cooking pot taking place back in the lab. Our full report will be published in PCAS in due course.


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Have you got a little pile of garden treasures?


PCA will be at the Hilly Fields Summer Fayre!

Saturday 17 July 2021

12 noon – 5pm


PCA have been based in Brockley for 25 years, and we are passionate about rubbish from the past, even from more recent times. We will have a stall with archaeologist and finds specialists ready to answer questions about your personal garden treasure and about archaeology in London and beyond.

Fragments of the past, traces of those who used to live in your house a long time ago like bits of broken pottery, glass bottles, metal objects or old broken toys. Strange bits that once were something meaningful. Bring them to the Fayre and we will help you trace the stories behind your bits and pieces!

For more information on the Fayre click here.

We look forward to seeing you!

Bermondsey Abbey, The Reformation and Beyond

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Alistair Douglas will be giving a talk on PCA’s extensive excavations at Bermondsey Abbey at the CBA London AGM and Spring 2021 London Archaeological Forum on 27th May 2021 at 18:00.

Alistair will summarise evidence from excavations at Bermondsey Abbey and present his ongoing research into its Saxon foundation as a Minster and development as a Cluniac church following a European model. This complex of buildings, wide range of artefacts and strategic position are all the subject of discussion within a forthcoming PCA monograph.

Booking is free, and registration is available at Eventbrite here.


3D Bronze Age Crouched Burial

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To aid ongoing research into the Bronze Age crouched burials of Oxfordshire, we used 3D photogrammetry surveying to maximise the data collected and allow our experts, and anyone else who might be interested, to study each individual in detail and from the comfort of their desk.

Cholsey – the final update

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One of the many red kites who kept watch on our work.

The archaeological investigations at Cholsey have finally come to an end and our multi-office team have returned to their London, Cambridge, Newark and Warwick offices to enjoy their next adventure. As we mentioned previously, this is not where PCA and Cholsey part ways as we now embark on the more academic aspects of our work: putting together what we have learnt and placing this information into the public sphere to aid future research. Bellway Homes Limited have kindly provided a budget to allow us to assess and analyse the many soil samples, pottery fragments, bone, worked flint and other finds we recovered as well as the countless folders of paperwork, drawings, plans and photographs a project this size produces. Next, working closely with the Local Authority archaeological advisor and the regions research framework, we will put together evidence that helps further the knowledge of Bronze Age activity in this area. It has already been noted how the Bronze Age field systems over much of the Thames valley surrounding Wallingford are placed on an identical alignment, showing a single governing body in the area. Likewise the relatively large assemblage of animal bone and crop waste will allow us to gain a better understanding of diet and these, along with the pottery assemblages will help us gain a handle on trade routes during this period.

So although it is good bye to the site and we will miss the Red Kites and helicopters, this is the start of a new and exciting adventure that PCA hopes will further our collective knowledge.