Day: June 19, 2008

Old cobbled street opens new path to Templar history

Posted on Updated on

AN EARLY Victorian cobbled street more than 150 years old has been unearthed by archaeologists investigating the site of a 12th Century Knights Templar mill at the 2012 London Olympics park.

The cobbled thoroughfare is to be ‘lifted up’ and preserved, then used in the huge park now being laid out as a legacy for East London.

Archaeologists believe the street unearthed 20ft below ground may be part of the original Temple Mills lane that was demolished in 1854 before being covered by thousands of tonnes of rubble over the last century-and-a-half.

The archaeologist Kieron Tyler said: “Looking below the amazingly preserved Victorian remains reveals an older mill structure and the exact form of the crucial industries in the Lea Valley down the centuries.”

His team of archaeologists from the Museum of London are carefully digging up the cobblestones and stockpiling them to be laid down in the new Olympics park.

Then they begin digging deeper to search for evidence of the original Knights Templar mill, known as Temple Mills, which started the industrialisation of the Lea Valley.

Olympics authority chief David Higgins said: “Clearing the massive site has given us the unique opportunity to look back into East London’s past before the area is transformed.

“Bringing back to life this cobbled street will be an important way of telling the fascinating story of the development of East London.”

The authority invited the archaeologists to look for evidence of prehistoric remains, from pre-Roman right through to Viking, Medieval and relatively recent industrial and military activities on the site.

Previous archaeological finds include a prehistoric settlement and the skeletons of four of its inhabitants, Roman artefacts and a complete 19 century boat used for hunting wild fowl on the River Lea. Second World War gun emplacements have also been unearthed.

The archaeological investigations are part of the work to clean up nearly two square miles of land to make way for the 2012 Games, much of it contaminated by its industrial past.

HISTORY TO TEMPLE MILLS

THE Knights Templar built a water mill at Temple Mills between 1185 and 1278. A second mill was built on the opposite side of the mill stream in 1308.

The mills passed to the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem in Clerkenwell after the suppression of the Templars, then eventually back to the Crown after the Dissolution of the Catholic Church and leased to Clement Goldsmith in 1593.

A gunpowder mill and a leather mill were added in the 16th century, with another added in 1627 to grind corn. Other mills followed in the 1630s for working leather and gunpowder.

mike.brooke@archant.co.uk