The Royal Arsenal in Woolwich is being transformed through a major scheme of urban regeneration. Since 1999, Oxford Archaeology has been on hand to provide archaeological services in this historically, architecturally and archaeologically important site.
In the latest phase of fieldwork, undertaken between November 2014 and June 2015 for Berkeley Homes Ltd, a team from OA South uncovered remains dating from the Iron Age to Victorian period. These include an early Iron Age enclosure that was a forerunner of a later, massive oppidum-style ditch seen in previous works, the remains of 17th- and 18th-century warehouses and wharves that once fronted the Thames, clay-pipe kilns and a bread oven, which provide a tantalising glimpse into the cottage industries that were practised within the historic waterfront area, and, most significantly, a middle Saxon cemetery.
Some 76 inhumation burials were found in a dark soil overlying the natural gravels. These were orientated east-west and have been radiocarbon dated to the late 7th or early 8th century AD. Although a small trading settlement is documented in the historical literature (Woolwich derives from its Saxon name), little trace to this has been recovered. The discovery of the cemetery provides rare evidence for activity during this formative period.
The Royal Arsenal has been witness to activity and regeneration since the Iron Age. OA continues to work closely with the developers and other stakeholders to record and conserve the historic features of the site and inform and facilitate the needs of the development.