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A keyhole through the gateway: a watching brief at Aldgate

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A keyhole through the gateway: a watching brief at Aldgate
  A keyhole through the Gateway: a watching brief at Aldgate Barry Bishop Introduction ALDGATE, ONE of the main thoroughfares lead-ing out of the walled City of London, is located onthe eastern side of the City's defensive circuitstraddling the main Roman road to Colchester. Itslocation, shape and development, however, havenever been precisely determined.During the spring of 1998 the cellars of 87-89Aldgate High Street and 37 Jewry Street (TQ 3357 8114) were refurbished (Fig. I). As these cellars arelocated on the site of the Roman and medievalCity Wall and gate, a Scheduled Ancient Monu-ment, work was limited to replacement of 19th-century concrete f loor slabs and drainage runs. Pre-Construct Archaeology were commissioned tomonitor the groundworks. The project was gener-ously funded by GMS Estates. All work was super-vised by an archaeologist and all exposed surfacesand sections recorded. During the course of therefurbishment much of the anticipated archaeol-ogy remained hidden beneath 19th-century level-ling and make-up deposits, although in a few areasin 87-89 Aldgate High Street deposits dating fromthe Roman to the post-medieval periods wererevealed. This report is concerned with the evi-dence for the defences found, and although toolittle was seen to invite definitive statements, someevidence for their location and development isdiscussed.The results of the watching brief have been syn-thesised into a phased summary and assessmentreport1, which will be deposited with the rest ofthe archive at the Museum of London under thesite code AHS98. Results of the watching brief Roman Wall andgate By the early 3rd century AD a masonry wall hadbeen built to enclose Londinium. Apertures in theform of gateways broke the circuit at variouspoints. That at Aldgate, where the road to Colches-ter exited, was one of four gates srcinally con-structed integrally with the wall. Where identi- I. B Bishop An Assessment of a watch in^ Brief at 87-89 Ald~ateHkhStreet and 37Jewry Street, London ~c3 1998) unpublished PCA Report. fied, the walls were defended by a V' shaped ditch(typically 3.o~m o 4.88m wide and 1.37m to 1.98mdeep), with an internal bank of earth. At Dukes Fig. I: site location  Place to the north of the study site, a flat-bot-tomed ditch predating the City Wall was uncov-ered, which may have been a marker for the limitsof the pre-walled Cityz,or perhaps the remains oframpart and ditch defences, such as preceded townwalls in other Roman towns. A similar feature hasrecently been identified at the west of the City atAldersgate Streetl.During the construction of 87-89 Aldgate HighStreet in 1861, the Architect of the development, D.A. Cobbett, reported the finding of the CityWalk, and a plan was drawn by E. P. Loftus-Brock,a member of the Society of Antiquariess, showingit running under the western side of the site andcontinuing under the front wall of 37JewryStreet. Reference was also made to a buttress onthe east side of the wall, and a ditch was men-tioned. These descriptions are in broad agreementwith an archaeological evaluation and watchingbrief conducted at 37 Jewry Street during 199s6, although the section of the wall observed wasslightly to the east of where Loftus-Brock hadrecorded it.During sewer works in 1907 a face of dressedstones was observed, similar in construction to thebastions and running in a south-easterly direction;it was thought to be the flanking tower of a laterRoman gate located c. 10 feet f rom the frontage of 89 Aldgate High Street7. Excavations on the north-ern side of the road during 1967 located part of thenorth-eastern corner of a square-shapedgate whichwould have projected c. 3m from the City Wall8.Little is known of the development of the areaaround Aldgate after the construction of thedefensive circuit, although during the 4th cen-tury bastions were added to the eastern side of the 2. J Maloney 'Recent work on Roman London's Defences' in B Hobley (ed) Roman Urban Defences in the West CBA ResRep 51 (1983) 6-117. 3. J Butler forthcoming.4. D A Cobbett The Gentlemans Magazineand Historical Review I (1861) 46. 5. E P Loftus-Brock 'Description of an Ancient Crypt atAldgate recently demolished'Journ Brit Archaeol Ass36 (1st series) (1880) 163.6. K Tyler 87-89 Aldgate Hgh Street and 37 Jewry Street, LondonEC~,n Archaeological Evaluation(rgg5) unpublished MoLASReport; K Tyler 87-89 Alhate HghStreetand 37Jewry Street,London ~c3,n Archaeological Watching Brief (1996) unpub-lished MoLAS report. 7. P Norman and F W Reader 'Excavations on z and 89 AldgateHigh Street, 1907-8' Archaeologia 63 (1912) 66-9. 8. P Marsden 'Archaeological finds in thecity of London, 1966-8'Trans London Middlesex Archaeol Soc 22 pt 2 (1969) 0-26. City Wall, the nearest known being c. 70m to thenorth of the gate at Dukes Place (Bastion 6)9 and c. 83m to the south of the gate at Sir John Cass College(Bastion 5)'". The precise location of the Roman gate is thereforeuncertain, but is believed to straddle Aldgate HighStreet with its northern edge lying beneath thepavement of 1-2 Aldgate High Street and southernedge beneath the frontage of 88-89 Aldgate HighStreet, suggesting it only had a single entranctll.The evidence recorded from this watching brief isconsistent with this supposition. In the north-westcorner of the site a deposit of brown puddled claycontaining bands of fresh chalky flint nodules wasrecorded immediately beneath the concrete floorand in the section of a drainage run (Figs 2 and 3).This measured at least Im north-south by 1.2m east-west and survived to a height of 12.13m OD. Due tolater truncation and limits of excavation imposedby the watching brief conditions no edges of thefeature were seen and it did not appear to continuebeyond the wall foundation on the eastern side.The use of alternate layers of clay and flint asfoundation packing is similar to that recordedelsewhere along the circuit of the Roman walllz andgates1: and this undoubtedly formed part of thesrcinal foundations of the defences. The line ofthe wall usually is projected running immediatelybeneath the western perimeter of the property1+and investigations during 19955 have broadly con-firmed this. The deposits recorded here were there-fore between and 3m east of the projected wallline, and may relate to the buttress seen in 1861,likely a part of the very southern extent of the gateprojecting eastwards from the wall and continuingnorth-west across Aldgate High Street. This is con- 9. J Maloney 'Excavations at Dukes Place: The Roman Defences' London Archaeol3 no. 11 (1979) 92-7. 10. K Wooldridge Excavations at City of London Polytechnic, SirJohn Cass Foundation, 31 Jewry Street, ECZ (1992) MoLAS TestPit Report (jcsgz).11. H Chapman and T Johnson 'Excavations at Aldgate and BushLane House in the City of London, 1972' Trans LondonMiddlesex Archaeol Soc 24 (1973) -00. 12. K Tyler 87-89AldgateHGhStreetand37 JewryStreet, LondonEc3,anArchaeologicalEvaluatwn ~~+9$)(1995) npublished MoLASReport. 13. At Aldgate: P Marsden op cit fn 8; at Bishopsgate: RCHM Roman London Vol. 3 (1928)97; at Ludgate: P Marsden 'Ar-chaeological Finds in the City of London' Trans LondonMiddlesex Archaeol Soc 22 pt 3 (1970) .14. E.g. RCHM Roman London Vol. 3 (1928). IS. K Tyler op cit fn 12.  Fig. 2: plan of archaeological features sistent with the location of the north-eastern cor-ner seen during 1967'~which, if projected, wouldsuggest the gate crossed modern Aldgate HighStreet at a slightly oblique angle (Fig. q), on anapproximate alignment with Fenchurch Street andthe route towards the bridgehead.Aldgate must have been constructed at the sametime as the wall, although its shape is unknown. Ofthe srcinal gates, only Newgate, on the west sideof the City, is sufficiently well known to allow aconfident reconstruction and it consisted of twosquare flanking towers projecting between c. 2.5-gmfrom the wall and set either side of a doubleentrance. The shape of the gates, however, may 16. P Marsden op cit f n 8. well have varied through time due to the changingnature of warfare. Aldersgate, constructed sometime after the wall, and also on the western side ofthe City, appeared to have boldly projecting, bas-tion-like flanking towers and a double entrance7. The ditches Seen in the section of a drainage run, approxi-mately 7m from the projected wall line, naturalbrickearth was truncated by a cut measuring atleast 1.35m north-south. It contained finely lami-nated deposits consisting of a light brownish greysilty fine sand containing occasional charcoal flecksand shell, and pottery dateable to 212-276 AD. Thiswas overlain by a mid to dark grey sandy silt 17. R Merrifield The Roman City of London (1965) 102. 181  modemintrusionintrusion Section 1 - North east facing 11 95mOD 11 95mOD 7~ modern X lnbuslon Section 2 South west facing standing 4 building Section 3 North east Facing Pig. 3: sections containing moderate charcoal f lecks and occasionalmortar flecks and fragments. In the opposite sec-tion was a deposit of green-tinged light brownishgrey laminated sandy silts containing moderatecharcoal flecks. These deposits have been inter-preted as waterlain in srcin, containing occasionalinclusions of cultural material and their depthsuggests they were in a substantial cut or cuts. Asonly a small part of the cut was seen, its alignmentis uncertain, although the orientation and positionof the cut and its fills suggest a north-south align-ment.The waterlain deposits were sealed by dumps ofsoil and demolition material composed of rag-stone, red sandstone and Roman building tile, all vz oman C~ty ~tch ackf~ll D aterlam depos~tsnatural brickearthRoman wall foundat~ons known constituents of the Roman wall. Theirlocation and depth suggests that they may repre-sent the backfilling of the City ditch. Potteryrecovered was dateable to between 300-350 AD+ nd340-400 AD+, lthough the assemblage is very smalland could have been redeposited. The backfill ofthe drainage run contained very similar deposits to those above and were very likely derived fromthem. Although also a small assemblage, the pot-tery recovered was mostly later 4th century in dateand some of a form that is very rare in London and,when it does occur, tends to be found in very late4th- and early 5th-century assemblages, such asthose from Billingsgate Bathhouse and the Towerof London riverside wall site18. 18. M Lyne 'The Pottery from 87-89 Aldgate High Street' in B Bishop An Assessment of a watch in^ Brief at87-89 AldEate HGhStreetand 37 Jewry Street, London ~c3 1998) 34-6. Unpublished PCA Report.  The cut and its fills are likely to represent thesilting up and subsequent backfilling of the extra-mural City ditch, apparently incorporating mate-rial derived from the demolition of the City Walland/or gate.In the northern part of 87 Aldgate High Street,some 12.5m from the projected wall line, a depositmeasuring at least 1.56m north-south by 2.15m east-west of laminated light to mid brownish greysandy silt was exposed in plan. This containedfrequent charcoal flecks and fragments and lensesof very coarse sand and moderate quantities ofceramic building material and pottery fragmentsdateable to between 1150 and 1500 AD. This is alsolikely to represent the waterlain silting of the Cityditch, although in a medieval recut. At DukesPlace and Houndsditch the medieval ditch wasrecorded at distances of 21m and 23m respectivelyfrom the external face of the wall, with no signs ofthe external edges being found19.John Stow records that the City ditch was com-pleted in 1213~~.t appears to have been recut severaltimes but was mostly backfilled by the 17th cen-tury. It is likely that a series of drains or culvertswere inserted in the area of the ditch after its finalbackfilling to restore its drainage function.The deposits furthest from the wall line are likelyto represent the silting or backfilling of one of themany recuts of the medieval or post-medievalextra-mural City ditch. The dating of the ditchdeposits nearest to the wall is, however, moreproblematic. The location of the ditchzl, and dat-ing evidence from its silting, suggest it could bethe srcinal defensive ditch constructed c. zoo AD. Although the pottery assemblage was small, itsdating suggests it was backfilled sometime duringthe middle or end of the 4th century, a periodwhen substantial alterations were made to thedefensive circuit and a new, wider ditch was con-structed2Z. 19. Maloney and C Harding 'Dukes Placeand Houndsditch: theMedieval Defences' London Archaeol 3 no. 13 (1979)347-54. 20. J Stow A Survey of London (1598) 50. 21. At Crosswall the srcinal 'V-shaped defensive ditch waslocated 2.7m from the wall and was some 4.8m wide. 22. The backfill of the srcinal 'V-shaped ditch just north ofAldgate contained a coin dated not earlier than 341 AD. Overthe backfill was constructed Bastion 6 which in turn wasoverlain by pottery of the early 5th century. 23. VCH London, I, 53. 24. K Wooldridge op cit fn 10. 25. R Merrif ield London: City of the Romans (1985) 230. The main significance of a possible later 4th-century date for the backfilling of the ditch lies inthe quantities of demolition material, almost cer-tainly derived from the City Wall or gate, recov-ered from it. This would suggest that not only wasthe ditch backfilled, but substantial modificationsmay have also been made to the wall and/or gatesuperstructure. This may tie in with theories thatthe stretch of masonry found beneath AldgateHigh Street in 1907 was from a later Roman gatebuilt in a similar style to the bastionsz;. The con-struction of Bastion 5, just south of Aldgate, appar-ently involved partial demolition of the wall,sometime during the mid 4th centuryz4.Evidence for a substantial overhaul of London'sdefences during the second half of the 4th centuryis now plentiful, with bastions being added to theeastern side of the defensive circuit and a riversidewall being constructed, ". . . his was accompaniedby the modification of other structures in the CityWall, possibly the internal turrets and almost cer-tainly the gates. . ."SEven later modifications tothe defences, concentrating around the south-eastcorner, continued until the very end of Romanactivity in the City. Additions to the RiversideWall, possibly forming a heavily defended citadel, Fig. 4: conjectured position of Aldgate
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