Artefacts, including a coin dating back to Roman times, have been found in Brentford, following a three-month archaeological project.
Archaeologists from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA), commissioned by LB Hounslow, carried out an excavation on the site of the Brentford Project, the housing development planned for Brentford High Street.
They were looking to see whether the site was of any archeological interest before the builders broke ground. Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd has been appointed to construct the Brentford Block D development, which will include 96 council rent homes and 12 retail units, with work due to start in the autumn.
Among the finds were two 17th century cellars with fragments of ceramic vases and whole vessels, as well as hearths that are all believed to date back to the Roman era.
The museum will use the excavation of the site as a ‘springboard’ for young people in local secondary schools to learn about archaeological processes and techniques, including how archaeology can be used to understand the changing patterns of settlement, trade and development in the local area over the centuries.
MOLA are hoping to host an open event for local residents and families to raise awareness about local archaeology and help people learn more about Brentford’s heritage uncovered through the excavations.
Image above: Site where was believed to be a crossing’ along the Brentford stretch of the River Thames; photograph courtesy of Vocal Eyes
Brentford’s rich archaeological history
The latest discoveries in Brentford are part of a rich history of archeological findings in the area, which all act as proof that people have been living here since prehistoric times. Remains of hyena, hippo, ox, red and giant deer, bison and straight tusked elephants from the Palaeolithic period have been recovered in the past, together with flint tools.
Thomas Layton, an artefacts and antiques collector, lived in Brentford between 1826 and 1911 and served on various local bodies for about 50 years. A tankard from 150 BCE, as well as brooches and a yoke terminal from a chariot are part of the Layton Collection, which is described as ‘probably the largest collection of London antiquities ever amassed by a single individual’.
During 54 BCE Julius Caesar invaded southern England. Sir Montague Sharpe, amateur archaeologist and a member of what was then Middlesex County Council, put forward the theory that Brentford was the site where Caesar and his army crossed the river, during his second expedition to Britain.
Caesar wrote about the banks of the Thames being fortified with rows of sharpened stakes during his invasion, and rows of sharpened stakes were discovered on the northern bank of the River Thames when it was being dredged to make Brentford Dock in the 19th Century.
London was established as the Roman capital in 50 CE. From that point on, the main route out of London to the west ran through Brentford.
Images above: artefact found at the dig
Historic items “Fascinating to see”
Leader of Hounslow Council, Cllr Steve Curran has visited the site. He said:
“It was fascinating to see the historic items found on the site and great that MOLA will use them to work with local schools so they can learn more about Brentford’s rich history. As well as helping conserve the past, we are looking to the future with a new development that will bring much needed homes and businesses to the area.”
Image above: Councillors Theo Dennison and Steve Curran at the dig site
Sophie Jackson, Museum of London Archaeology Director of Developer Services, said:
‘Brentford High Street is rich in archaeology and MOLA is delighted to be able to uncover and share the stories from many different periods in the history of occupation on this site over the last two thousand years.’
Matt Kemp, Senior Operations Manager at Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd said:
“There is always added interest to a project when artefacts are found prior to construction. With these now unearthed and preserved, we are excited to get started on the main construction and look forward to bringing the latest phase of the Brentford Waterside development, known as Brentford Block D, to fruition.”
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