Rotherhithe's Royal Palace

Sarah Jane Evans examines the first of series of archaeological excavations on the Thames at Rotherhithe.

The first stage of excavations has now been completed on the Thames at Rotherhithe to uncover a fourteenth-century royal manor house and outbuildings, and a seventeenth-century Delftware factory. Both are in a remarkable state of preservation.

Londoners have become well-used to what might be called the breakneck school of archaeology in recent years: where City developers uncover sites – especially Roman ones – of outstanding importance. They then let archaeologists in to find what they can, working against the clock, and usually in confined spaces. 'The unique things here', says Eric Norton, a senior archaeologist in the Museum of London's Department of Greater London Archaeology, and Site Supervisor at Rotherhithe, 'are the very high degree of preservation, the historical associations, the material on site, and the fact that we have the whole building to work on. For instance, the excavation of the Roman basilica at Leadenhall was extremely important, but the excavations were severely hampered because the site itself was small, so you could not examine the whole of the building, since parts of it ran under the road'.

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