The Roman and medieval waterfronts at Queenhithe Dock, 142m south-west of St James’s Church
Reasons for Designation
Quays are structures designed to provide sheltered landing places with sufficient depth of water alongside to accommodate vessels over part of the tidal circle. The features and complexity of quays vary enormously depending partly on their date but also on their situation and exposure, the nature of the underlying geology and alluvium, and the volume and types of trade they need to handle. By their nature, quays also tend to occur in proximity to centres of trade and administrative authority, usually in locations already sheltered to some extent by natural features. Basic elements of quays may include platforms built up and out along a part of the coast or riverside that is naturally deep or artificially dredged, or along an artificial cut forming a small dock on a riverside or coast.
Urban waterfront structures and their associated deposits provide important information on the trade and communication links of particular periods and on the constructional techniques and organisation involved in the development of waterfronts. Artefacts recovered through excavation and the deposits behind revetments will retain evidence for the commodities which were traded at such sites.
Major redevelopment schemes along the Thames in the past have meant that the site at Queenhithe Dock is a rare survival of a sequence of waterfront constructions dating from the Roman period. The timber quays, revetments and the occupation levels are well preserved as buried features. It will provide evidence for the riverside development of London including archaeological and environmental remains and deposits. These deposits will provide information about the river and riverside environment and, by extension, about the people who lived alongside and have used it. The site is of particular significance as one of the few early medieval docks recorded in London.
This record was the subject of a minor enhancement on 19 June 2014. The record has been generated from an "old county number" (OCN) scheduling record. These are monuments that were not reviewed under the Monuments Protection Programme and are some of our oldest designation records.
The monument includes the standing and buried remains of the Roman and medieval quay and dock at Queenhithe. It is situated on the northern side of the River Thames near Southwark Bridge in the City of London.
Queenhithe Dock is a rectangular inlet in the modern waterfront of the River Thames. Archaeological watching briefs and partial excavation on the site and along adjacent parts of the riverfront, particularly at Bull Wharf, show that a sequence of waterfront constructions dating from the Roman period to the post-medieval period survive beneath the ground surface. Although partially robbed, the large timbers of the Roman quay are known to survive in situ as buried features. By the Saxon period there was a dock on the site, the quayside of which is situated to the south of the Roman quay. It was formed by a build up of the ground surface behind a line of timber revetments. The revetment itself was constructed from reused timbers, originally used within buildings and in boats, and they were held in place by vertical posts. The buried ground surface behind the Saxon revetment will retain evidence of occupation levels and structures of several periods associated with activities at the waterfront. A third sequence of timber revetments and associated deposits which date from the 12th to the 14th century are situated to the south of the Saxon revetment and survive as buried features. In the 19th century, Queenshithe Dock was curtailed to the north by the erection of Smiths Wharf. The dock walls which are now visible at Queenshithe are mostly of relatively modern materials, but the core of the walls is likely to include in situ medieval fabric. This masonry will be associated with the use of the dock during the medieval period and these remains are included in the scheduling.
Londinium, the provincial capital of Roman Britain, was established by the Romans in the first century AD and became a thriving centre of commerce; importing and selling olive oil, wine, pottery, glass and marble. Much of this material was loaded, transported and off loaded from shipping on the River Thames. Following the decline of the Roman Empire in the late 4th century, it was not until the late 9th century that London, or Lundenburh as it was then known, was re-established as a major port under Alfred the Great. The land around Queenhithe Dock was one of the first areas of the city to be occupied following the re-foundation by Alfred the Great. The siting of the Saxon harbour is thought to have been greatly influenced by the existing Roman or post-Roman topographic features which were present here. Two charters, written in AD 889 and AD 899, make references to the harbour and market of Queenhithe, indicating that both were established by AD 889. At this time and through the later medieval period, Queenhithe would have been involved in transport and trade of fish, grain, salt and timber, and eventually also iron and coal.
Archaeological watching briefs at Queenshithe in 1990, 1997 and 2005 recorded a series of timbers consistent with the position of the medieval waterfront. Other finds on the site have included a Neolithic flint flake and fragments of a sixth century gold pendant.
Further archaeological remains survive in the vicinity of this monument. Some, such as the area of Queens Quay to the north, are scheduled but others are not because they have not been formally assessed.