I am the archaeology officer at Southwark Council. I have worked at Southwark for six and a half years. Anything posted here is my own opinion and has nothing to do with my employer what so ever!

Nothing Interesting This Year

Annoyingly, without connecting the two dates in my mind, I accepted an appointment for a terribly boring meeting that lasted all of the morning of the Day of Archaeology.  Most people I know try to do something interesting but much of the time spent by a local authority archaeology officer consists of meetings, staring at maps and trying to work your way around the acronym soup of life in local government.

First thing was off to English Heritage to discuss proposals for reorganising Archaeological Priority Zones (APZs – keep up!) or Archaeological Priority Areas or many of the other names that these float around on maps issued by local authorities buried under a multitude of other coloured and bounded areas with their own acronyms.  View the joy that is the Southwark adopted policies map here, APZs, as they are in Southwark, can be found by ticking next to Design and Conservation.  Patrick, at English Heritage, is doing some very good work looking over a number of the boroughs and considering where we know archaeology to be, where we can expect it to be found in the future and drawing logical areas to connect this on the maps.  My contribution to the meeting was to try and get the acronyms to become Areas of Archaeological Significance, to match up with the new emphasis on ‘significance’ in many planning documents.  Think about it for a while, I feel it is more memorable.

Imagine my joy on getting back to the office and finding out that an area action plan had passed its first hurdles.  The Old Kent Road Area Action Plan is beginning to move forwards.  Archaeological, this area contains some of the more interesting and significant archaeology within the borough, not least the remains of a mesolithic tool making site that is now under a B&Q, other interesting and enigmatic areas of prehistoric archaeology and the main road into London from the Kent ports through the Roman and medieval periods.  Hopefully we will have the opportunity to do a full assessment of the archaeology of this road and look at what is happening in its hinterland.  I feel this is incredibly petty but the acronym formed from the name of the document gave me the greatest joy O KRAAP!

Camberwell Parish Church

camberwell church porch

Many random bits of heritage end up without a function. This surviving, but moved and rebuilt, fragment of medieval church porch stores a bin, a table tennis table, a pile of chairs and a number of broken lights. I mentioned the porch had been rebuilt this involved an immensely strong cement that is not harder than the flints but is far harder than the soft stone dressings.  It is the stone dressing – the material of primary historic importance – that survive from the medieval building.  You may notice the blackened surface of the soffit of the arch, this is likely to be evidence of the burning of the original, medieval church, or possibly a later fire in one of the bins.

Whilst waiting by the porch two people stopped to ask me what it was.  Both were surprised to find it was part of the medieval church.  My meeting was with the Southwark Heritage Association  http://www.southwark.org.uk/ who are looking to attach a blue plaque to the porch and apply for grants to undertake some much needed conservation work.  Part of this application will be to provide a new, more convenient bin store and store for the organisation that use the community building.  So I will be writing a brief for the conservation work so the Association can get quotes for the conservation and investigating ways to secure the building.

For much of the day I was discussing a planning application site just to the east of Tower Bridge with the Regional Archaeology Science Advisor, Dr Sylvia Warman.  A small evaluation trench had been dropped in to see if the Bronze Age field systems known from the other side of the street extended into this area.  The trench identified a previously unknown palaeochannel.

A Slightly Less Archaeological Day Than Usual

Last weekend my left knee decided to stop working. So I had the day off today.  This means doing work for the course I am undertaking alongside my full-time job.

I work as the archaeology officer for Southwark Council. Other than staff in the Heritage team who work in the Borough’s museum, I am the only archaeologist at the Council. I work within the Development Management department (we no longer control development, we manage it!). I advise planning officers on whether proposals comply with the requirements of the Borough’s archaeology policy, wider heritage policies and the relevant paragraphs of the National Planning Policy Framework. I issue briefs for archaeological work, check WSIs, monitor site work, check reports, make recommendations for the discharge of archaeological conditions and manage much of the digital data for the department. Along side the archaeological work I also undertake some conservation work where an archaeological input is necessary or valuable or if it is a GIS heavy project.

I work in a team with conservation officers, urban design officers and a tree officer. As part of my employer’s commitment to staff training I am currently undertaking a postgraduate diploma in Historic Environment Conservation at the Ironbridge Institute. This is part of the Institute of Antiquity and Archaeology at Birmingham that is currently threatened with closure. Ironbridge is an immensely valuable training organisation that provides recognised degrees and qualifications that are organised in a way whereby those in full-time work can easily undertake the qualification with a minimal level of interference with their full-time jobs.

I have nearly finished by essay on concrete conservation (far more interesting than it sounds) and would urge anyone reading this to visit this web page for more information on the potential closure http://saveiaa.wordpress.com/. If you wish to support the effort to preserve the IAA please sign the petition http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-the-iaa/.