Excavations on the site of Baynard's Castle, 1972

Excavations here in 1972 found the foundations of the 15th-century and Tudor Baynard's Castle, overlying earlier tenements and the East Watergate, a dock-like public watergate. This is the second Baynard's Castle; the earlier, Norman castle lay on a separate site 100m to the north, within what was later the precinct of the Blackfriars. It seems likely that the name of this castle lingered on after it was destroyed c 1275, and transferred to the nearby waterfront area; and a prominent waterfront town-house, rebuilt 1428, then took the name up again. This is the second Castle, the present site.
Saxon and early medieval river deposits were recorded west of the castle, south of the Roman riverside city wall (the wall lay below and along the south edge of medieval Thames Street, and was reused as a foundation by the north wall of the late medieval house and castle). Reclamation began in the 13th century when the river bed was deepened in front of a revetment containing reused parts of timber buildings. A timber-lined dock may have existed at this stage, to be replaced during the 14th century by a stone-lined dock basin; an area to the west was reclaimed to form an open dockside service area. Part of a medieval stone building, originally with an arcaded open front, opened onto the service area.
The north wall of the dock was formed by using an earlier timber structure, and the east wall was a pre-existing stone wall. The west wall was formed by reclaiming an area of foreshore within a stone wall. The dump behind this wall can be dated by jettons to the 1330s or later. Other finds include a pewter ampulla of late 13th century date and two lead tokens of Rigold type D2-4. The dock was backfilled in the last quarter of the 14th century. There were many finds in these two major dumps, both pottery and objects such as textiles, knives, shears, and scabbards. These have been mostly catalogued in the various Medieval finds from London volumes (see bibliography below). There was also evidence of the working of amber, probably into beads (Mead 1977).
The castle, built entirely on reclaimed land, had foundations of chalk, ragstone and mortar. The original shape was trapezoidal, with four wings built around a courtyard. It was extensively modified by Henry VII, who refaced the river frontage with a series of five projecting towers between the two pre-existing multi-angular south corner towers. The north side of the castle lay on Thames Street, and excavations of 1972 and 1975 (BC75) found the entrance and a chamber on the east side of it. The south-east tower was subsequently re-excavated in 1981. In about 1550 the castle was enlarged to the west with three new wings of brick, faced with stone along the waterfront.

For summary see also: London Archaeol, 1, 1972, 315-16

Present state of the project

The excavator, Peter Marsden, has now left the Museum of London, but is available to begin the post-excavation work for this, the most important outstanding commitment from his time as the only rescue archaeologist in the City of London in the period 1959-73. Funds are therefore being sought and all contributions are welcome. For more information contact John Schofield


of main published references to the site:
Clark, J (ed), 1995 The medieval horse and its equipment, Medieval finds from excavations in London 5 [medieval horseshoes and horse equipment]
Cowgill, J, de Neergaard, M, & Griffiths, N, 1987 Knives and scabbards, Medieval finds from excavations in London 1
Crosby, D D B, & Mitchell, J G, 1987 Potassium-argon determinations of some London medieval honestones, Trans London Middlesex Archaeol Soc, 38, 159-64
Crowfoot, E, Pritchard, F, & Staniland, K, 1992 Textiles and clothing, Medieval finds from excavations in London 4
Egan, G, 1998 The medieval household, Medieval finds from excavations in London 6
Egan, G, & Pritchard, F, 1991, Dress accessories c 1150 - c 1450, Medieval finds from excavations in London 3
Grew, F, & de Neergaard, M, 1988 Shoes and pattens, Medieval finds from excavations in London 2
Mead, V K, 1977 Evidence for the manufacture of amber beads in London in the 14th-15th century, Trans London Middlesex Archaeol Soc, 28, 211-14
Pritchard, F, 1990 Missing threads from medieval textiles in north west Europe, in Archaeological Textiles, Occ Pap 10, 15-17, United Kingdom Institute of Conservation Spencer, B, in prep Pilgrim souvenirs and secular badges, Medieval finds from excavations in London 7

Holy Trinity
Priory, Aldgate