Aspects of Saxo-Norman London 1: building and street development near Billingsgate and Cheapside

Valerie Horsman, Christine Milne and Gustav Milne    Download (29 MB)


This, the first volume of a major re-assessment of the development of Saxo-Norman London, is based on the archaeological evidence from seven sites excavated between 1976 and 1985 in the Billingsgate and Cheapside areas of the City of London. There is little evidence for occupation on any of the sites in the mid Saxon period, when the main focus of the settlement lay to the west of the Roman walled town in the Aldwych-Strand area. All seven sites excavated saw substantial development from the late Saxon period onwards. In Parts 1 and 2 of this volume, the background to the project and the dating methodology are explained, and the results of each excavation summarised. In Parts 3 to 6 the often fragmentary remains of some 50 Saxo-Norman buildings are catalogued, described and discussed.

The detailed study of this sometimes poorly-preserved material has revealed evidence of different building types, traditions and techniques. Three main types of structure are represented, and the characteristics and possible functions of each type are considered. The single-storied surface-laid buildings seem to represent the standard domestic building set directly against the street frontage; sunken-floored structures were out-houses or storage sheds usually found in the yard area behind the main buildings, while cellared buildings were a uniquely urban type of structure, in which the sub-surface element was set beneath or behind the principal range.

The wide variety of structural techniques observed include the use of earth-fast posts, staves, wattlework and walls founded on baseplates. The evidence for floors, doors, hearths and ovens is also discussed, and reconstructions of two building-types are proposed in Part 7.

In addition, the excavations throw light on the origin of parts of the street-grid in the City through examination of the streets themselves and the layout of the associated properties. It is suggested in Part 8 that the medieval streets just north of Billingsgate were not all laid out in one phase in the 9th-10th century, but represent a gradual development in which primary and secondary streets can be identified.

Detailed reports on the pottery and other finds from the sites discussed here can be found in the companion volume, Aspects of Saxo-Norman London 2: finds and environmental evidence, edited by Alan Vince.

[ Special Paper 11 (1988); abstract as published]