1841 census for parts of Fort and Duke Street, Spitalfields, London

Museum of London Archaeology Service wins grant to dig deeper into Victorian past

A section of soakaway filled with Victorian household rubbish from a MoLAS excavation on Albert Embankment, Lambeth
Victorian household rubbish

16 February 2007

Queen Mary, University of London and Museum of London Archaeology Service are delighted to announce that they have been awarded a grant by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) to pilot a study of the archaeologies of Victorian households.

Nigel Jeffries and Rupert Featherby, finds specialists at Museum of London Archaeology Service, in partnership with Dr Alastair Owens, Lecturer in Geography at Queen Mary, University of London, successfully applied to AHRC through its speculative award scheme for a project entitled ‘Living in Victorian London: Material Histories of Everyday Life in the Nineteenth-Century Metropolis’.

This innovative pilot study will evaluate and develop new ways of researching the details of Victorian Londoners’ lives through archaeological finds. The methods will build on those formulated by historians and historical archaeologists working on nineteenth-century urban locations in Australia and United States.

This work will combine archaeological and documentary evidence from 3 socially and geographically contrasting localities in nineteenth-century London. It is expected to reveal important insights into the relationships between domestic space, economic activity and the wider urban world – themes of great relevance in understanding modern and future urbanism.

The archaeological sites in question are the Bell Green Brewery site in Sydenham, South London, Limehouse Causeway in East London and New Palace Yard, Westminster. Running as a nine-month project from the summer of this year, much of the documentary work needed to illuminate and contextualise the artefacts will be undertaken via a research assistant who will be based at Queen Mary’s ‘City Centre’, a newly formed institute for collaborative research on cities. Artefact research will be carried out by Museum of London Archaeology Service finds specialists.

The results will reach a broad range of people, from school children (a short CD of each site will address the Victorian element of the National Curriculum and will be sent to local schools) to academic historians and genealogists.

The project will test the value of archaeology as a crucial tool in integrated historical analysis, complementing the documentary sources traditionally used by urban historians. In the longer-term, the pilot study will be used as a basis for developing a major, collaborative research programme on the material history of nineteenth and twentieth-century London, building on ‘The Biographies of London Life’ research manifesto written by Nigel Jeffries and Dan Hicks (of Bristol University).

Press enquiries contact:

Marian Williams
tel: 020 7814 5502
email: mwilliams@museumoflondon.org.uk

Notes to editors

  1. The Museum of London Archaeology Service has been providing professional archaeological services to the property industry and academic community for the past 30 years, as an independent division of Museum of London, one of the world’s largest museums of urban history. The Archaeology Service meets the requirements of the planning process efficiently and cost-effectively, whilst also designing innovative projects that lead to a greater understanding of our past.  At any one time Museum of London may have around a dozen excavations going on across London.
  2. The AHRC funds postgraduate training and research in the arts and humanities, from archaeology and English literature to design and dance. AHRC Research Centres provide a focus for collaborative research in areas of strategic importance. Although the social and natural sciences have long had access to funding to establish centres of research expertise, it was not until the launch of the AHRC’s Research Centres Scheme that researchers in the arts and humanities have benefited from a similar opportunity. For further information please see http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/
  3. Copies of the ‘Biographies of London Life’, are available from Nigel Jeffries. njeffries@museumoflondon.org.uk
  4. Queen Mary, University of London - Queen Mary is one of the leading colleges in the federal University of London, with over 11,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students, and an academic and support staff of around 2,600.
  5. Queen Mary is a research university, with over 80 per cent of research staff working in departments where research is of international or national excellence (RAE 2001).  It has a strong international reputation, with around 20 per cent of students coming from over 100 countries.
    The College has 21 academic departments and institutes organised into three sectors: Science and Engineering; Humanities, Social Sciences and Laws; and the School of Medicine and Dentistry.
    It has an annual turnover of £200 million, research income worth £43 million, and it generates employment and output worth nearly £400 million to the UK economy each year.
    Queen Mary’s roots lie in four historic colleges: Queen Mary College, Westfield College, St Bartholomew’s Hospital Medical College and the London Hospital Medical College.
  6. The City Centre: Researching City Lives and Connections
    The City Centre, based in the Department of Geography at Queen Mary, University of London, is a unique academic setting in which to study the city in its wider geo-political, cultural and economic context: it is a place to research city lives and connections. The City Centre has been designed to provide the physical space needed to research the city in a collaborative way, building on local and not-so-local relationships with other scholars, activists, practitioners and community organisations. The research work undertaken at the Centre is uniquely characterised by this collaborative approach: knowledge is produced and disseminated through working together. As such, the City Centre is pioneering new research practice and producing new public geographies in order to shed light on the city. www.geog.qmul.ac.uk/citycentre