Smiths' Wharf


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Greater London Authority
City and County of the City of London (London Borough)
Non Civil Parish
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
TQ 32273 80802


The Roman and medieval waterfronts at Smiths Wharf, now the site of Queens Quay, 118m WSW 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.

Despite 19th century and modern development on the site, the Roman and medieval waterfronts at Queens Quay survive well. The timber quays, revetments and the occupation levels will be 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.


See Details


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 waterfront or quay at Queens Quay. It is situated on the northern side of the River Thames near Southwark Bridge in the City of London.

Archaeological watching briefs and partial excavation at adjacent parts of the riverfront, in particularly at Bull Wharf and Queenhithe Dock, indicate that a sequence of waterfront constructions dating from the Roman period to the post-medieval period survive beneath the modern buildings at Queens Quay. Although Smiths Wharf was built on the site in the 19th century, remains of the earlier waterfronts will have been preserved below it. The large timbers of the Roman quay will survive in situ as buried features. The Saxon quayside was situated to the south of the Roman quay and 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.

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. In the 19th century, Smiths Wharf, now the site of Queens Quay, was built immediately north of Queenhithe Dock. In 1841, sewer excavations immediately north of Smiths Wharf recorded a wall that is thought to be part of the Roman quay between Lambeth Hill and Queenhithe. In 1997, an archaeological watching brief below Queenhithe Footbridge recorded a post-medieval cellar, culvert and wall.

Further archaeological remains survive in the vicinity of this monument. Some, such as the area of Queenhithe Dock to the south, are scheduled but others are not because they have not been formally assessed.


The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
LO 118 B
Legacy System:


Greater London SMR 042875/00/00, 040612/00/00, 044981/00/00. NMR TQ38SW842, TQ38SW1694, TQ38SW1693, TQ38SW1695. PastScape 405365, 1194423, 1194414, 1194429. Proposed MPP 21590.,


This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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