Remembering a fallen ‘hero’: Chris Fenn (1958-2022)

Ian Blair

‘Three strikes and we are out’: unionism and activism in London archaeology

Ian Blair

Forty-five years ago on the 30 April 1978, an estimated 100,000 people including archaeologists from the Department of Urban Archaeology (DUA) took part in a march from Trafalgar Square to Victoria Park co-organised by ‘Rock Against Racism’ and the ‘Anti-Nazi League’, which culminated in a concert headlined by the Clash and Tom Robinson.

‘DUA Pizza’: in memory of Brian Hobley

Ian Blair

Life is often very circular it seems, or perhaps it is simply the way that my brain functions and the things that I perceive and the way that I process them. On Friday 8th December I was wandering along Hoe Street the main street in Walthamstow, an area that I and countless archaeologists past and present have set up home in over the years: due to the fact that it was once relatively affordable.

‘Reaching for the sky’: the pioneering aeronauts of the DUA

Ian Blair

In the formative early years of the DUA, most notably on Trig Lane (TL74), the ability to gain altitude to take aerial photographs was a problem that was overcome in a variety of ingenious, if now deemed ever-so-slightly unsafe ways.

‘The truth is out there’: if you dig deep enough!

Ian Blair

Somewhat unexpectedly my recent post about the departure of Andy Chopping, Maggie Cox, and Dave Sankey from MOLA, led to a case of mistaken identity and a mystery as to who featured in a photo taken on Regis House (KWS94) in 1994.

Shutters come down on MOLA photographic:
Maggie & Andy leave the building after long exposure

Ian Blair

Today was Andy Chopping’s last day at MOLA with Maggie Cox having left in recent weeks, both opting to take voluntary redundancy following the latest downturn in work and pursuant financial belt-tightening across the organisation.

City Wall at Vine Street: DUA archaeologists in historic return to Crosswall

Ian Blair

Tuesday evening saw the celebration and unveiling of the City Wall at Vine Street, which I wrote a related post about in recent times: https://www.digginglondon.org.uk/shadows-in-time-crosswall-revisited. It was fantastic to rub shoulders once again with three of my former DUA colleagues Cath and John Maloney, and Dom Perring.

Planning for the future: GPO delivers discarded post after forty-five years

Ian Blair

Whilst attending ‘The Great Museum of London Reunion ’ at London Wall in December 2022, I got talking to fellow archaeologist Toria Standfield from Pre-Construct Archaeology (PCA), who had recently concluded their excavation along the west side of the former General Post Office site on Newgate Street (GPO75).

DGLA Sobriety test on Maiden Lane

Ian Blair

Ian ‘Flashman’ Grainger conducts a cruel sobriety test on Barney Sloane tasked with hopping past the end of dig barbecue without falling in whilst clutching a burger and a can of beer. Barney began work on Maiden Lane as a volunteer in 1986 and is now National Specialist Services Director at Historic England.

‘Shadows in time: Crosswall revisited’

Ian Blair

The ‘City Wall at Vine Street’ is the newest museum to open in the City of London and features a substantial extant section of the Roman City wall and the foundations of an adjoining extramural bastion: City Wall at Vine Street .

‘The Man Who Would Be King’

Ian Blair

Coronation day seems to be an appropriate occasion to share this picture for the first time. It was taken by Jon Bailey on the DUA excavation at Billingsgate in 1982. Down and not so dirty in the trench is His Royal Highness Prince Charles (crowned King Charles III today), flanked by the less pristine looking archaeologists Chris Fenn and Steve Roskams.

‘Life is Fleeting’: mentioned in despatches at the Fleet Valley

Ian Blair

With the recent passing of Friederike Hammer I found myself looking at a copy of the Fleet Valley Project Interim Report published in May 1993 that she had given to me a year ago.

Raiders of the Lost Amphitheatre

Ian Blair

Judging by the photos, the summer of 1987 was a very good one!

At that time, I was working on the Guildhall Art Gallery site (GAG87) supervised by Nick Bateman: the remains of the Roman amphitheatre yet to be found.

Radio Carbon: looking for cover at Lloyds

Ian Blair

The splendid cartoon by Marietta Ryan depicting Brian Hobley in one of the small trenches in the Lloyds Insurance Building (LLO78), was clearly intended to grace the front cover of an issue of Radio Carbon, but sadly was never used.

Spoof memos, pranks, and ‘chocolate moose cake’: fun and games in the DUA Finds Section at the Museum of London

Ian Blair

Sometime in the early 1980’s whilst living in Haringey, near-neighbours Jo Groves and Natalie Tobert, Penny MacConnoran’s colleagues in the DUA Finds Section at the Museum of London,

 ‘Inflated view from a balloon over Gutter Lane’

Ian Blair

The group of photos that follow this post were taken on Gutter Lane (ABC87) in 1988, soon after the up to then ‘missing’ amphitheatre had been formally identified on the Guildhall Art Gallery (GAG87) site.

‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’

Ian Blair

Sunday 4th December 2022 saw the closure of the Museum of London after a tenure of forty-five years, having first opened its doors at London Wall in December 1976: to mark the event, the Museum threw ‘The Great Museum of London Reunion’ aimed at bringing together all staff, past and present, to celebrate the museum and its achievements: a new museum is scheduled to open in the historic General Market site at West Smithfield in 2026.

The traces we leave behind: uncovering the archaeology of the archaeologists

Ian Blair


Whilst writing the post about the Milk Street mikveh discovered beneath the basement of the State Bank of India at 20-30 Gresham Street, my mind turned to another memorable aspect of the excavation in this area.

It's just not cricket

Ian Blair

 The earliest manifestation of the DUA cricket team, was played out not ‘on the playing fields of Eton’ but ‘on the concrete roadway at Trig Lane’ in 1978 - using a pickaxe handle as a bat and an upturned bin for the wicket.

The Milk Street Jewish Ritual Bath or mikveh: the most culturally significant structure found on an archaeological excavation in the City of London

Ian Blair

With the excavation of the massive Roman wells and their bucket chains completed on 20-30 Gresham Street, I found myself working with a small team of archaeologists through the summer months in the Stygian gloom of the basement and former gold bullion vault of the State Bank of India at 1-6 Milk Street, on the west edge of the site.

‘Does an angel contemplate my fate, and do they know, the places where we go, when we're grey and old’: the young archaeologists of Paternoster Square

Ian Blair

During the summer of 1978 when the majority of the DUA archaeologists were engaged on the excavation of the GPO Newgate Street site (GPO75), we would frequently utilise the wide-open windswept spaces of Paternoster Square across the road, for a variety of outdoor recreational pursuits. One lunchtime session captured by a passing photographer of the City Recorder shows the: ‘Young archaeologists of the Museum of London’s Department of Urban Archaeology’ playing ‘Bocce’ the Italian version of Boule.