Ancient Monuments

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Roman riverboat, 136m west of Greenwood Theatre

A Scheduled Monument in Chaucer, Southwark

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Latitude: 51.5026 / 51°30'9"N

Longitude: -0.0879 / 0°5'16"W

OS Eastings: 532810.402539

OS Northings: 179923.069539

OS Grid: TQ328799

Mapcode National: GBR SH.DJ

Mapcode Global: VHGR0.FHDF

Entry Name: Roman riverboat, 136m west of Greenwood Theatre

Scheduled Date: 10 June 1983

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1001979

English Heritage Legacy ID: LO 157

County: Southwark

Electoral Ward/Division: Chaucer

Built-Up Area: Southwark

Traditional County: Surrey

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Greater London

Church of England Parish: St Saviour with All Hallows Southwark

Church of England Diocese: Southwark


The monument includes a Roman riverboat surviving as below-ground remains. It is situated on the east side of New Maze Pond at New Guy's House, the surgical wing of Guy's Hospital.
The remains of the boat are 3.5m below ground level and orientated broadly north-south. They survive under a grass area between two buildings of the hospital. The boat is situated on the east side of what was originally an estuarine creek off the River Thames.
The northern end of the boat comprises a stem or sternpost with carvel-laid strakes. It is constructed of oak (Quercus) timbers between which is some caulking of hazel (Corylus avellana) shavings in pine resin. The planks are attached to the oak frames by iron nails with flat heads and square shanks, whose points have been bent over their inboard faces. Near the centre of the vessel is a ceiling of oak planks. The total length of the vessel is thought to be at least 16m and it has a beam of about 4.25m and a height amidships of about 1m. Hydrostatic analysis has indicated that it was a river craft or barge, which probably carried a cargo of about 7 tonnes. Roman pottery sherds recovered from the site indicate that the boat was abandoned in about AD 200, after which the creek silted up.
Partial excavation in 1959-60 uncovered the northern part of the boat but the southern part remains unexcavated and the vessel is in-situ apart from a few fragments preserved at the Shipwreck Heritage Centre, Hastings.
The monument excludes all modern buildings, roadways, pavements, fences and fence posts but the ground beneath all these features is included.

Sources: Greater London SMR 090324/00/00. NMR TQ37NW376. PastScape 1489830.
The NAVIS I Project: Ships: United Kingdom: New Guys House (Ship Number 21), retrieved from on 11th November 2009

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

The River Thames was of enormous importance during the Roman period as the principal civil port of the province. The remains of the Roman waterfront survive at several points along the bank of the Thames, largely under modern buildings. Diocletian's Price Edict for the relative inexpensiveness, reliability and convenience of waterborne transport indicates that it would have been a favourable and significant element of the provincial communication network. Riverboats and barges would have greatly assisted in the distribution of imported and domestic goods both locally, within the provincial capital Londinium, and over larger distances. Barges would have been used on rivers to move cargo wherever channels were sufficiently deep to allow their passage.
The Roman riverboat, 136m west of Greenwood Theatre, is a rare survival of its type, which is well preserved. The Roman estuarine creek has provided silty, alluvial and waterlogged deposits, which have aided the preservation of the riverboat. Partial excavation indicates that the riverboat is relatively complete and provides a significant source of information on the construction, type and size of vessels, which were used in the Roman period. A large part of it remains unexcavated and holds archaeological potential for further investigation.

Source: Historic England

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