A lost river, only recently rediscovered has revealed some fascinating insights into daily life in Tudor London, including the discovery of the exotic Grains of Paradise.
Excavations carried out by MOLA at the Crossrail site at Farringdon have already provided remarkable information about the Black Death in London, but now analysis of artefacts extracted from the re-discovered Faggeswell brook, that flowed past Charterhouse Square, revealed more about the people living in the area during the 16th and 17th Centuries.
Due to the wet ground conditions in the area of the brook, archaeologists were able to recover rarely found Tudor textiles, leather and plant remains all preserved in excellent condition.
It is very rare that textiles and leather survive in the ground, and it is only because of the damp conditions which stopped oxygen from decaying the organic materials that there is such an invaluable insight into the lives of ordinary folk living in Elizabethan London.
One of the highlights found in the Faggeswell brook are the Grains of Paradise — which are actually a type of black pepper with a citrus flavour — brought to England all the way from West Africa. To drive the price up, the name of Grains of Paradise was invented as a marketing tool, with demand from Elizabethan England leading to a surge in its popularity.
Global trade and marketing hype were are prevalent then as today.
Among the other findings include 22 Tudor leather shoes made of thick cattle leather range from unisex slip-on shoes. 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.
Also, the archaeologists uncovered a horse harness strap with an unusually ornate buckle and knotted reins. Also, personal dress items including a scabbard, which is a sheath for 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 were found.
Two distinctive silk bands used for decorative trimming for fashionable clothes. One was possibly made in Spain or the Spanish Netherlands and the other in Italy.
High status to everyday ceramic wares: a rare German tankard depicting Venus and the judgement of Paris to Surrey-Hampshire border cooking pots as well as candlesticks and a moneybox.
Results from the main excavation that ended in 2013 are reported in the recently published book which explores the life of the site surrounding The Charterhouse through archaeology and the history of the area.
Photos by Crossrail/MOLA