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Secrets of the Tudor world emerge from the earth of London

Tudor footwear. Copyright: Crossrail.

From clothes worn by noble families to waste created by butchers at Smithfield market, finds from London’s Crossrail project paint a picture of London as a vibrant late 16th-century trade hub

Since Crossrail began construction in 2009, more than 200 archaeologists working with Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) have unearthed over 10,000 objects from 40 locations, spanning 55 million years. The findings of the archaeology programme have been published in a series of 10 books with the latest publication focusing on rare fragments of clothing from the Tudor period.

The site, which is part of a new rail link for London with a new station and tunnels underneath London’s Docklands and at Farringon, has already provided information about the Black Death in the city, but now analysis of artefacts extracted from the Faggeswell Brook area reveal more about the people living in there during the 16th and 17th Centuries.

Highlights of the findings include 22 shoes made of thick cattle leather ranging from unisex slip-on shoes, bearing an uncanny resemblance to modern-day footwear, to styles fastening with a strap over the instep.

These flat shoes would have belonged to ordinary Londoners and reflect a time towards the end of the 16th Century when shoes with low heels for both sexes became fashionable at the Elizabethan court.

Copyright: Crossrail

Copyright: Crossrail

The finds also include a horse harness strap with an unusually ornate buckle and knotted reins, whilst personal dress items include a scabbard holding a sword, knife or other large blade, and fragmentary pieces from a doublet fashionably ‘slashed’ to show off the bright colours of the garment beneath.

Two distinctive silk bands used for decorative trimming for fashionable clothes include one that was possibly made in Spain or the Spanish Netherlands and another in Italy. By contrast a coarse plain-weave cloth – suitable for sacking – was found with the haul.

Copyright: Crossrail

Due to the wet ground conditions in the area of the brook, the rarely found Tudor textiles, leather and plant remains were all preserved in excellent condition. Damp conditions stopped oxygen from decaying the organic materials.

The main excavation ended in 2013 and results are reported in the book which explores the life of the site surrounding the Charterhouse through archaeology and the history of the area.

Copyright: Crossrail

The research has been published in the book: Charterhouse Square: Black Death cemetery and Carthusian monastery.

Some of these objects can be seen in: Tunnel: The Archaeology of Crossrail at Museum of London Docklands until September 3 2017. See
www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london-docklands/whats-on/exhibitions/tunnel-archaeology-crossrail

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Museum of London Docklands

London, Greater London

From Roman settlement to the development of Canary Wharf, this 200 year old warehouse reveals the long history of the capital as a port through stories of trade, migration and commerce.

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