Excavations at London Bridge City, Southwark, 1999

Tudor Treasures

Over 400 leather shoes and numerous other finds from the fish tanks offer a rare glimpse into the everyday lifestyle of 16th-century Londoners. Never before have so many Tudor objects been found together in such closely datable deposits and in such a fine state of preservation. Some of the objects were thrown into the disused fish tanks in about 1560, when the property ­ known at that time as the Pike Garden ­ was sold. Others found their way into a nearby sewer that was finally closed in 1610.

The finds portray all levels of society on London's south bank ­ from the wealthy with their padded armour to the poor with their worn pewter spoons. Pottery tankards and a bottle in its wicker basket point to the taverns for which Southwark was famous. Many of the pots were imported: there is even a piece of Chinese porcelain, the earliest example to be recorded from London so far. Offcuts and half-finished objects help to explain the trades of the blacksmith and leatherworker, whilst a shovel and sickle were probably used by local gardeners.

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