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Early Roman development at Leadenhall Court, London and related research

G Milne and A Wardle

The Leadenhall Court programme of rescue excavations which took place between 1984 and 1986 was primarily designed to record the remains of the 2nd-century Basilica. However, sealed beneath that structure were the remains of 23 earlier buildings, built between AD 70 and AD 100. Initially, the site lay just beyond the main focus of the settlement, since a cremation cemetery dated to c AD 60 was recorded on the excavation. However, by AD 75 an insula of closely-spaced brickearth and timber strip buildings had been laid out as the town expanded northwards. Each building had a yard at the rear, with outhouses, wells, latrine pits and middens, from which artefacts and animal bones were recovered. The entire area was sealed beneath the construction levels for the next major development phase, that of the 2nd-century Basilica and its associated roads. The huts, stores and offices of that construction site were also represented on the excavation. It is these last three, early but contrasting, developments – the suburban farm, the urban insula and the construction site – which are studied in detail in this report.

Taken together, the remains of the 23 vernacular buildings and the associated assemblages are therefore part of a completely sealed group, representing activity in the 30-year period which marked the elevation of London from a trading settlement to the provincial capital. The material clearly merits a detailed and integrated study, and the results of that research are presented in this report.

The background to the project is discussed in Part 1; the development of the site in the 1st century is summarised in Part 2, together with an illustrated description and discussion of the buildings and building materials utilised in their construction. The environmental evidence is considered in Part 3. The botanical and faunal remains are discussed and the interpretations are used to support the suggestion that an agricultural phase preceded the urban expansion in the c AD 80s. The individual objects described in Part 4 include a wide range of brooches, dress accessories, mirrors, lamps and keys, as well as a large glass assemblage. The finds studies facilitate the identification of the relative status of the buildings.

The detailed description of the samian and other ceramic material in Part 5 makes it possible to refine the pottery dating used hitherto on London sites, with the identification of at least two sub-divisions of Roman Ceramic Phase 2 (AD 70/75-100). Part 6 attempts to establish the comparative status and degree of ‘Romanisation’ of the households represented. This research programme shows the considerable interpretative value of the combined study of structures, associated artefacts and environmental evidence, the first time such an exercise has been conducted on this scale in a London excavation project. The concluding Part 7 provides an evaluation, in which the developments are set in perspective by comparison with other work in the City.

[Transactions 44 (1993), 23 – 169; published abstract, slightly modified]

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