Thursday 30 March 2017

The Archaeology of Archaeology - the Woolwich kiln

It has been all excitement this week.  What is this all about?? In 1974 a group of eager young people volunteered to do what we now call 'community archaeology' on a site in Woolwich.  And what did they find???

"THE EXCAVATION at the Woolwich Old Ferry Approach in 1974 recovered a sequence of kilns producing earthenware and stoneware.' The stoneware kiln is unique ....ince it represents attempts to produce a saltglazed stoneware in Britain earlier than Dwight's venture in 1672."

So - its called 'The Woolwich Kiln '-  Next the kiln was lifted out in one piece, and it was huge - as big as a room.  It was taken off to the Council depot in Tunnel Avenue and there is stayed until the depot closed. It was then taken on a low loader to the Arsenal site. (we think there was a film made of it being moved, and possibly of the dig - does anyone know about this??).  It sat on the Arsenal site as everything was demolished around it, and - I think - around 2000 it was opened up to see if it was alright because it was thought that plant growth inside might have destroyed it.  But it was ok.  It was then moved to outside the Heritage Centre, and there it has stayed.

This week a group of archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology with a lot of high tech equipment, not available in 1974, are all set to slice it up, take it to bits and see what it is all about.

So - since Sunday - there has been a big exercise to contact all those keen young people - now mainly retirees, some married to those they met on the dig, many inspired to become leading lights in local archaeology, and local history groups or even eminent historians. Some, sadly are dead (a sad mention of Beverley Burford).  However a stream of people have come down to look at the kiln - and the archaeologists working on it have been making notes and keeping records of what they are told. Some of them - like me - were not involved in the original dig, but we knew about it,  Others had a particular reason - .ike Lisa, from Maze Hill Pottery who is an expert in salt glazed stone ware - and as many of those keen young people as we have been able to contact.

Today is Thursday - we understand that be tomorrow it will be all gone.