‘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.

 Eight years ago, I had written a post ‘Heavy metal on Regis House’ which detailed the discovery of three Roman lead ingots and their back-breaking removal and transportation from site to the Museum of London.
I had always thought that the archaeologist who featured in the working shot with the ingots was Dave Sankey, but clearly, I was mistaken. Chris Tripp was the first to flag up my error and my identification was subsequently brought into question by the man himself who said: ‘Not convinced that is me. I don't remember having any rigger boots....one of my many look-alikies, I suspect’. I think that Dave was probably being kind to me as surely no one would forget finding three massive Roman lead ingots with a combined weight of 81.70kg (nearly 13 stone), unless of course you had worked for an archaeological organisation for thirty-five years eleven months, it had addled your brain, and you had forgotten! 

Regis House Roman lead ingots 550wArchaeologist Alan Roy on Regis House with the Roman lead ingots. Apart from his rigger boots he would have made a good stunt-double for Dave Sankey and John Minkin  There then followed a flurry of suggestions on Hobley’s Heroes Facebook as to who the mystery man might be, these included Kieron Tyler, who I knew it most certainly was not, and John Minkin who appeared to be people’s favoured candidate. In anticipation for it potentially being John, I had already started a draft by way of correcting my error: that was until Dana and Damian weighed in with the fact that John (like Dave) did not wear rigger boots!

My next port of call was to contact Bruce Watson and Trevor Brigham the Regis House supervisors asking for their views on who they thought featured in the photo. Interestingly, Trevor thought like me that it was Dave Sankey, whereas Bruce said that it was not the case. Suddenly it felt like I was in danger of coming full circle in the hunt to uncover the truth. Helpfully, Bruce consulted the staff list for Regis House and threw a new name into the hat: Alan Roy, with Trevor suggesting that the only way I was likely to get to the bottom of the mystery was to consult the primary site records held in the MOLA archive: which is precisely what I did on a visit to Eagle Wharf Road last Friday.

Having consulted the contexts and plans assigned to the lead ingots and the shallow cut that they were contained in, it is clear the name Bruce proposed was correct as all were created and initialled by AR (Alan Roy). By way of collaboration, I took a photo of the plan and one of the context sheets. So, there you have it, a thirty-year-old mystery solved and proof that the truth really is out there, if you are prepared to dig deep enough, but then hey, that’s what archaeologists do!
Fig 2 550w

The context sheet and plan for the lead ingots sporting Alan Roy’s monogramFig 3 550w


** We go to great lengths on Digging London and Hobleys Heroes to make sure that all the archaeologists who feature in photos are correctly identified, although it is inevitable given the passage of time and the number of archaeologists who came in and out of the doors that occasional mistakes are made, so please do let us know if you spot any errors on either of the sites.


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