Surrey Archaeological Collections

Surrey Archaeological Society, 2003 (updated 2016)

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Surrey Archaeological Society (2016) Surrey Archaeological Collections [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

Recent archaeological work at St George's church, Borough High Street, Southwark


During 2005--6 the stabilisation of the foundations and the enlargement of the crypt of the church of St George the Martyr, Southwark included a programme of archaeological investigation carried out by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) Natural geology consisted of flood plain gravels, overlain by prehistoric wetland situated on the southern edge of a palaeochannel. Initial Roman activity (c AD 50-70) consisted of dumping to raise the ground level, which was then occupied by a succession of late 1st and early 2nd century clay and timber building fronting onto the western edge of the bridge approach road. To the rear of these buildings was a series of yard surfaces, containing hearths, ovens and an oval animal pen. Late Roman activity consisted of a rubbish pit (AD 250-400).

The earliest post-Roman activity consisted of external dumping and rubbish pits, dating from the 13th century. During the late 13th or early 14th centuries a cemetery was established to the east of the parish church of St George the Martyr, the existence of which is first documented in 1122. Fragments of two phases of masonry church foundations were identified. The earlier phase was of 12th--14th century date and the later of 15th century date. Latterly the church consisted of a nave and chancel with asymmetrical north and south transepts or chapels. The area to the south-east of the church was occupied by a cemetery.

During c 1515--34 the church was rebuilt; the new building possessed a west tower and twin aisles. The pier bases of the north aisle contained over 113 fragments of moulded Tudor architectural terracotta. The terracottas are believed to be waste material from the construction of Suffolk House (c 1518--22) on the opposite side of Borough High Street from St George's. This mansion was the London residence of Charles Brandon, Duke of Suffolk, and is considered to be one of the key sites for the early use of terracotta during the English Renaissance.

The church was rebuilt again during 1734-6 in the Baroque style. In 1899 when the crypt of the present church was cleared of burials, many coffins were re-interred in pits dug under its floor. The present church has a long history of structural problems, which necessitated the 2005-6 restoration.

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