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H 290 x W 205 mm

300 pages

208 figures, 35 tables (colour throughout)

Published Dec 2023

Archaeopress Archaeology


Hardback: 9781803276540

Digital: 9781803276557

DOI 10.32028/9781803276540

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London; Waterfront; Great Fire of London; Billingsgate; Shipping; River Thames; Slavery; 17th-century Houses; European Ports; American Ports; Consumption

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London’s Waterfront and its World, 1666–1800

By John Schofield, Stephen Freeth

Contributions by I. M. Betts, Lyn Blackmore, Julian Bowsher, Jacqui Pearce, Alan Pipe

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This volume, covering the period 1666–1800, considers the archaeology of the port of London on a wide scale, from the City down the Thames to Deptford. During this period, with the waterfront at its centre, London became the hub of the new British empire, contributing to the exploitation of people from other lands known as slavery.





1 The waterfront of the City of London, 1666 to 1800: introduction to the study

Conventions, methods and the archive


2 The port of London, 1666 to about 1750

Major public works on the City waterfront after the Great Fire

The reconstruction plans of Wren and Evelyn and the New Quay

London Bridge

Public buildings and places in central and eastern Thames Street

Transport networks: wharves, stairs and how shipping was managed; carmen and their carts

Conclusions: the structure of the port


3 The archaeological excavations of 1974–84

Thames Street above the Bridge, 1666–1780: the Swan Lane and Seal House excavations and their setting

Swan Lane (site A) – John Schofield, with contributions by Lyn Blackmore and Jacqui Pearce

Seal House (site B) – John Schofield, with contributions by Lyn Blackmore, Jacqui Pearce and Stephen Freeth

Fishmongers’ Hall

New Fresh Wharf (site C) – John Schofield with contributions by Stephen Freeth

Billingsgate (site D): documentary evidence – Stephen Freeth

Billingsgate (site D): excavation – John Schofield, with contributions by I M Betts, Jacqui Pearce and Alan Pipe


4 Living and working in London, 1666 to 1750

Settlements and buildings along the Thames

Buildings, material culture and lifestyle in post-Fire London

Conclusions to this chapter


5 The waterfront from 1750 to 1800, and the growth of large-scale warehousing

Custom House, London Bridge, Billingsgate and the Coal Exchange, 1750–1800

Upstream of the Bridge 1750 to 1800

The growth of large-scale warehousing in the City from 1730 to 1800

The Sufferance Wharves and other wharves nearby

Public buildings as celebrations of empire in the 18th and early 19th centuries


6 London and slavery, to 1800


7 From 1796 to the 20th century

Congestion, the debates of 1796 and proposals

Nineteenth-century developments on the City waterfront and immediately to the east


8 London’s connections with other ports, 1666 to 1800; post-medieval waterfront archaeology elsewhere

British ports and coastal shipping

Foreign and colonial ports


9 The port of London, 1666 to 1800: a summary and some questions for further research

General arguments

Detailed questions on the sites and their setting, 1666 to 1800

Overall conclusions


10 Specialist reports and appendices

Pottery and other artefacts – Jacqui Pearce and Lyn Blackmore

Post-medieval coins from Billingsgate – Julian Bowsher

Ceramic building material from Billingsgate – I M Betts

Cowrie shells from Billingsgate – Alan Pipe

Introduction and methodology

Inventories of Richard Beckford (1679) and Francis Minshull (1704) – Stephen Freeth




Documentary sources, bibliography and abbreviations

Primary Sources

Printed Sources and Abbreviations



About the Author

John Schofield was an archaeologist at the Museum of London from 1974 to 2008. Between 1975 and 1983 he identified and organised all the archaeological excavations in the City of London. He has written extensively about the archaeology and buildings of the City at all periods. He is Secretary of the City of London Archaeological Trust and from 1990 to 2021 was Archaeological Consultant to St Paul’s Cathedral.

Stephen Freeth read Classics at Cambridge and then trained as an archivist. From 1986 to 2007 he was Keeper of Manuscripts at Guildhall Library, looking after the archives of City of London institutions including the parish churches, London Diocese, St Paul’s Cathedral and many of the City livery companies. He now works part-time for two livery companies, the Merchant Taylors and Vintners. He is a trustee of the British Records Association, and a former trustee of the London Record Society.


'Focusing not only on the development of maritime infrastructure during this period of rapid development, the book also illuminates the lives of the everyday people who inhabited this area: from wealthy tradesmen to enslaved African people, and everyone in between.' – Dr Kathryn Krakowka (2024): Current Archaeology 408

'The authors are to be congratulated for their efforts to bring this wealth of archaeological and documentary evidence for London's post-medieval waterfront together in such an informative and engaging manner. It is an impressive piece of work and I would highly recommend it.'Peter Rowsome (2024), London Archaeologist

'This is a magnificently produced and well-illustrated book, 208 figures in all, which brings together the archaeological and documentary evidence from the study of four waterfront sites excavated by the Museum of London in Thames Street between 1974 and 1984... The skilful planning of the volume, encompassing excavation reports and a wider study, which justifies the expense and effort expended on investigating four major development sites, make this an exemplar for other archaeologists to note when planning the publication of their own work in the field.' Roger Leech (2024), Transactions of the London & Middlesex Archaeological Society

‘…the real strengths of the book are its arguments that the capital’s waterfront should be considered holistically, from the City to Deptford, and that post-medieval waterfronts must be understood by comparison with other British, European, and North American ports… [Ports] are usually studied in isolation or within national and regional studies— international comparisons are ‘still rare’. This book, therefore, is a welcome addition to the historiography of the port of London, and port history more generally.’Guy Collender, The London Journal

This is a handsomely produced volume, from the design of the cover, with Canaletto’s contemporary painting of the Thames, to the layout of the text and quality of the illustrations. The text itself runs to 215 pages and is followed by appendices that include artifact analyses, a bibliography, and an index. The book is available in hard cover and printed on heavy bond A4 paper (the format we reviewed), or in digital form. It is among several titles by Archaeopress that are part of their open access content, available for personal use as a pdf file in a free download, as is the companion 2018 study of the medieval period.

 London’s Waterfront and its World, 1666–1800 is largely an archival study, relying heavily on the analysis of an extensive documentary record. The archaeological work, however, while supplemental, serves to inform the archival analysis, documenting physical alterations to the waterfront structures during the period and affording evidence for studies of consumer tastes and consumption, “reveal[ing] a rich urban culture with many elements of foreign fashions.” The book is a prime example of a comprehensive historical archaeology study that serves as a model for maritime and non-maritime researchers alike.’ – Dennis Knepper (2024): Maritime Archaeological and Historical Society