The Archaeology of London Buildings - A Day of Talks

Join us for a day of fascinating talks exploring the archaeology of London buildings!

Welcome to The Archaeology of London Buildings - A Day of Talks! Join us on Saturday 13 July 2024 for a fascinating exploration of London's rich history through its buildings.

Our lineup of experts will delve into the hidden stories behind some of the city's most iconic structures. From Roman ruins to medieval marvels, come and uncover the secrets lurking beneath London's streets. Don't miss this opportunity to deepen your understanding of the capital's past!

Our Speakers

10.15am: Dr James Wright - Historic Building Mythbusting

Go to any ancient building in London and there will be interesting, exciting, and romantic stories presented to the visitor. They are commonly believed and widely repeated – but are they really true? These stories include those of secret passages linking ancient buildings, spiral staircases in castles giving advantage to right-handed defenders, ship timbers used in the construction of buildings on land, blocked doors in churches which are thought to keep the Devil out and claims to be the oldest pub in the country. James Wright will explain the development of such myths and investigate the underlying truths behind them. Sometimes the realities hiding behind the stories are even more interesting, romantic, and exciting than the myth itself…

James Wright (Triskele Heritage), is an award winning buildings archaeologist. He has two decades professional experience of ferreting around in people’s cellars, hunting through their attics and digging up their gardens. He hopes to find meaningful truths about how ordinary and extraordinary folk lived their lives in the mediaeval period. He is the author of the popular Mediaeval Mythbusting Blog and his book Historic Building Mythbusting will be released via The History Press in June 2024.

11.30am: Dr Jamie Ingram - Heretics, Traitors, and Soldiers: The Tower of London Graffiti

Dr Jamie Ingram read archaeology at University of Southampton and graduated in 2022 with a doctorate in Archaeology focusing on the informal practices of lay worshipers in the medieval period using historic graffiti as evidence for behaviour. In 2023 Jamie joined Historic Royal Palaces as a post-doctoral researcher to develop a research strategy and undertake a pilot study to examine the historic graffiti at Tower of London.

The Tower of London has been famous for its ‘prisoner graffiti’ since the early 19th century with repeated surveys and writings on the subject. However Historic Royal Palaces has been aware for some time that the graffiti story of the Tower of London runs much deeper. In September 2023 we began an exciting pilot project to examine the potential to develop a full survey, cataloguing, and interpretation of the historic graffiti collection at the tower and to develop a research strategy that will allow us to better conserve and protect our historic graffiti and learn more about the people who created it. This talk will tell some of the story of that pilot project and the work that has gone on around it to develop a strategy for future research into the graffiti of the Tower of London and the other Historic Royal Palaces.

12.30pm - Lunch break

2.00pm: Karen Averby - What became of Tyburn Lane…? The story of a rural track’s transformation to prestigious street via magnificent mansions, Art Deco delights, car showrooms and city lights.

Originally a rural track, today’s Park Lane in Mayfair is a dual carriage way that forms part of the London Inner Ring Road running from Hyde Park corner in the south to Marble Arch in the north. Buildings historian Karen Averby takes a look at the history and architecture and impetus behind the buildings that were constructed, restored and demolished along this famous street, from the 18th century to the present day. . .

The date range and breadth of subject matter within this talk should hopefully provide something for everyone: architecture, social history, local history, house history, hotel history and more!

Karen Averby is a seaside-loving Buildings historian, research consultant and former archivist. She researches, writes, and speaks about buildings, people and places of all types and periods throughout the UK, with specialisms including house history, hotel history, seaside heritage, and local history. She is Director of Archangel Heritage Ltd, a historical research consultancy that she established to provide historical research services for the commercial heritage sector, and also undertakes freelance history and heritage commissions from private clients, as well as working on collaborative community projects. She is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, an Associate of the Institute for Archaeologists, and a has written books on seaside hotels, beach huts, and town halls, with more in progress.



X (FKA Twitter): @karenaverby

3.15pm: Melanie Backe-Hansen - The Social History of London Houses

For many years the history of houses was about grand architecture and famous aristocratic families in stately homes and palaces, but what about the history found in the house down your street? In recent years there has been rising interest in researching the stories and personal histories of everyone across society and this includes the history found in the houses of us all. Melanie Backe-Hansen has been researching the social history of residential houses across the United Kingdom for over 18 years and in this talk she will reveal the fascinating and extraordinary stories to be uncovered in the seemingly everyday houses across London. From old mews houses, former community halls, terraced houses, mansion blocks, and suburban homes, Melanie will reveal the wonderful stories of our ancestors, along with a few surprises, and how a wealth of history can be uncovered in the ‘ordinary’ houses of London.

Melanie Backe-Hansen is an independent historian, writer, and speaker, specialising in the social history of houses across the United Kingdom. Melanie was research consultant for television series, A House Through Time, and co-authored the book of the same name with David Olusoga. She is also the author of House Histories: The Secrets Behind Your Front Door and Historic Streets and Squares: The Secrets on Your Doorstep. She was series historical consultant for Phil Spencer’s History of Britain in 100 Homes and was contributing expert for BBC Radio 4 series, A Home of Our Own.

The main focus of Melanie’s work involves original research for homeowners and clients across the country to provide research reports and bespoke house history books. Melanie regularly contributes to national media and appears regularly on television, radio, and a range of podcasts. She is also a regular speaker at events and festivals, as well as universities and history groups. Melanie is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Member of the Royal Historical Society, and Associate staff member at the University of Dundee.


X/Twitter: @HouseHistorian

Instagram: @melbackehansen


This event will take place in the Cathedral library and is in-person only so won't be streamed or recorded. Your ticket allows entry to the Library for the whole day and there will be a lunch break included in the day where you can visit our cafe or Borough Market located next door to the Cathedral.

We are delighted that this event is part of the Council for British Archaeology Festival 2024. For further details about the festival please visit the CBA website.