Time Truck: London’s local archaeology

1 min read

Today (Friday 9 September) is MOLA’s Time Truck’s last day at Bishops Square. Surrounded by tall commercial buildings, behind the high-end cosmetics shops of Old Spitalfields Market, the pop-up exhibition offers a chance to explore everyday life in east London in the 17th-19th centuries. With staff from MOLA on hand to explain the selection of artefacts on show, this is a friendly introduction to local archaeology and one that can easily engage visitors.

Tin -glazed ceramics from Tune Hotel Liverpool Street (photo: MOLA)
Tin-glazed ceramics (photo: MOLA)


Blacking bottles for polishing shoes (photo: MOLA)
Blacking bottles (photo: MOLA)

At Bishops Square, the display features items from post-medieval household clearance deposits from MOLA’s excavation at Folgate Street undertaken for Tune Hotel Liverpool Street. Posters set the finds into the wider context of the development of Spitalfields from the 16th century onwards. Among the artefacts on show are fragments of a chimney pot, tableware, pieces of tin-glazed pottery (or English ‘delftware’), and ceramic bottles which would have contained blacking to polish shoes.

Clay pipes (photo: MOLA)
Clay tobacco pipes (photo: MOLA)

There is also a quantity of tobacco pipes from the mid-17th century, crafted from low quality clay fired to a low temperature making them brittle and easily breakable. The large numbers of pipe fragments from this period found at many excavations shows how widespread and affordable smoking was. Another popular activity was drinking. German-made salt-glazed stoneware Bartmann (‘bearded man’) bottles and a more local black glazed two-handled tyg, possibly intended to be passed around a group of people, speak of jollities that would not be out of place in the area today.

The Time Truck is open at Bishops Square, Tower Hamlets, E1 6FQ between 12 and 4pm today, and entrance is free. After this, the Time Truck will visit the following locations, with each display reflecting the archaeology of the area:

The Time Truck visits Bishops Square
Time Truck visits Bishops Square

The Time Truck does TideFest
Kew Road, W4 3NG
Sunday 11 September, 10am to 4pm

The Archaeology of London Wall Place
Guildhall Yard, London, EC2V 5AR
Saturday 17 September, 10am to 4pm

Tower Beach Open Foreshore
Tower Wharf, EC3N 4AB
Sunday 18 September, 8am to 1pm

Tune Hotels are offering anyone visiting the Time Truck a 15% discount on rates at their Liverpool Street hotel, on Folgate Street when they use the code ‘TCCMOLA’. This hotel discount code is valid all the way through to January, and is applicable to room rates only. Hotel guests and the general public are invited to come on board the Time Truck, for free, from 12 to 4 pm on the 8-9 September 2016.

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