This report contains an assessment of the registered finds from the excavation. The report was written by Angela Wardle of the Museum of London, but has been edited for web by Chaz Morse and Guy Hunt. For a full index of the assessment reports, please see the assessment report index.

Site archive: quantification and description

Class Quantity
Accessioned finds 678 (all accessions)


The finds were submitted to MOLA by LP Archaeology and were registered in accordance with MOLA procedures. Digital records were entered on to Excel spreadsheets and all metal artefacts were x-rayed. The objects were examined individually, with the aid of the x-rays, where appropriate. A draft archive catalogue with preliminary identification of grave goods, was prepared, and the assemblage is summarised in this assessment. Most of the assemblage has been assessed by Angela Wardle, but the post-Roman glass and all leather has been examined by Beth Richardson (see separate reports).

Categories by date and material

Roman – Stone

Seven items of jewellery are likely to have been grave goods, although none is now associated with a skeleton. Two small shale armlets, <79>, <80> [1076] in a size suitable for a child, came from a secondary grave fill in an empty inhumation burial (Subgroup: 48). A third shale armlet <74> and four beads, made from a jet-like material, possibly channel coal, <75>, <76>, <77>, <78>, came from the fill of a pit, context (1057). Three of the beads, all lathe-turned, are an unusual form with a central rib flanked by slightly conical terminals. The stringing holes indicate that they were worn in a vertical position and all four beads are clearly from the same article of jewellery, either a necklace or bead bracelet. The pit cuts burial {1039}, Subgroup: 12 and it is possible that the objects were associated originally with this burial. Against this the bracelet <74> is of a size suitable for a child, while skeleton {1039} is adult, although this would not of course preclude the deposition of unworn grave goods.

Roman – Glass

The Roman glass assemblage comprises 81 accessions belonging to Roman vessels (97 fragments), three fragments of window glass, two tesserae and one gaming piece.

The vessel and bottle assemblage shows the preponderance of naturally-coloured glass in various shades of blue-green and although most fragments are small, 23 individual vessels, excluding bottles, can be identified by form. Four of these, complete vessels from grave Subgroup: 73, are of outstanding importance.

The grave goods from cremation Subgroup: 73, comprise a complete cast polychrome mosaic bowl <281>, made from canes of red, blue and white glass, a globular colourless flask with oval facets, <619>, a colourless bath flask, <618> also with facet cut decoration and a greenish colourless beaker <620>. The group, which appears to on the latest evidence to date from the 3rd century, is unparalleled in London and the cast mosaic bowl is unparalleled in the western empire (J Price pers comm). Cast mosaic vessels from London are usually of early to mid 1st-century date, but there is increasing evidence for their manufacture in the 3rd and 4th century in the east, and this one may well be a product of the eastern Mediterranean. The colourless vessels are also luxurious examples of their type and are certainly imports, perhaps from the eastern empire. The cut decoration on both the bath flask <618> and the globular flask <619> is similar to vessels from the eastern empire, including Egypt, (Allen 1986, 107-10). The closest apparent London parallel for this burial group is a late Roman grave group from the Minories, quite close by (Harden and Green 1978), although the globular flask seen there bears wheel-cut decoration and appears to be a product of the west, but it is also of probable 3rd-century date.

Other vessels from Prescot Street are less certainly assigned to burials, but at least 24 fragments are burnt, suggesting that they were placed originally on pyres and burnt with the body (in contrast to the vessels from Subgroup: 73 which were deposited as grave goods after the act of cremation).

The remainder of the assemblage comprises mostly small fragments of vessel glass as found in domestic contexts. The earliest is a fragment of yellow/brown cast ribbed bowl (‘pillar moulded’) <458>, (1735), a common form of the mid to late 1st century AD. All other fragments are free blown, with one yellow/brown jug handle <453>, (1547), three fragments of colourless cups of the late 1st to mid 2nd century and base fragments from distinctive colourless cylindrical cups of the late 2nd to mid 3rd century, as <199>, (573). There is a small selection of more utilitarian vessel fragments in naturally-coloured blue-green glass, comprising a burnt phial <220> (1197), possibly a burnt redeposited pyre good, a bath flask <325>, (1604), a flask or unguent bottle <568>, (1730), also a possible grave offering, and the base of a square bottle <190>, (1487).

In addition to the vessel glass there was one dark blue glass gaming piece <460>, (959) and a green glass tessera <217>, (959).

Roman – Ceramic

Fragments of seven Roman oil lamps came from a variety of contexts, none of which are from burials. It is however likely that several of the lamps were originally deposited as grave offerings, particularly those which are complete, or nearly so. A closed firmalampe <436>, (1554) of Loeschkcke Type Xb in Central Gaulish white ware is stamped on the base with the name CAPITO F. This maker is known from a number of lamps from Nijmegen but the name is otherwise rare; output was largely limited to the 1st century (Eckardt 2002, 203). A closed lamp, <260>, (856), in a similar fabric and form, but with an illegible stamp, is almost complete and may also be a redeposited grave good.

Only small fragments of the other lamps survive, but they may also be imports. The base of a firmalampe, <257>, (1018) is stamped FORT (FORTIS), sharply moulded and may be an Italian import. The original production centre for Fortis lamps, dating from the late 1st century AD, was near Modena, but copies were widespread. In addition there are three small fragments of firmalampen, <623>, (1018), <624>, (852) and <630>, (1488) and a small part from the base and side wall of a colour coat open lamp, <629>, (1580), possibly imported.

The only other ceramic artefact is a small fragment of ‘pipeclay’ figurine, <580>, (1514), of uncertain form, but possibly animal rather than human. Such figurines have obvious religious connotations, but are widely found also in domestic contexts.

Roman – Iron

With the exception of nails (see below) the only recognisable artefact from a secure Roman context is a tumbler-lock lift-key <641>, (1816) from cremation burial Subgroup: 73. It is as yet uncertain whether this is the key to the box which contained the cremation, or whether it is a key provided as a grave offering, a practice which can be seen in the eastern cemetery of London and elsewhere in Britain (Wardle in Barber and Bowsher 2000, 134) and has various possible interpretations.

A possible coffin fitting <427>, (1826) came from burial Subgroup: 36 and box fittings <559> also came from cremation Subgroup: 73 (see below). A buckle <423> is from context [1550] or (1551) is now regarded as unstratified.

Roman – Iron nails

Although nails are not routinely accessioned, the nails from all contexts were scanned and counted and recorded on an excel spread sheet. The contexts were then linked to the available broad dating and subgrouping in order to identify probable coffin nails.

188 contexts, producing 945 nails or fragments were recorded, of which 245 are from 29 inhumation burials and 26 from one cremation group. A further 30 are from four possible burial contexts. They are all encrusted, and often poorly preserved but a reasonable number are obviously complete or almost so and radiography would enhance the available data. Several nails are coated with mineral replaced organics, (wood traces). Where recognisable, they belong to a common type with flat round head and they vary in size. X-radiography is recommended to elucidate further detail. Table 4 summarises the nails from burial contexts, demonstrating the variable preservation in the numbers recovered, in some cases single examples which may not be coffin nails.

The nails and a probable fitting from a wooden chest in cremation Subgroup: 73, context (1817), were recorded separately and should be x-rayed separately, to assist a theoretical reconstruction of the box. Even before x-ray it is possible to see deposits of mineral replaced organics, which may be from the wood of the box. It may be possible to identify the wood species from these deposits.

Roman – Copper alloy

The 20 identified objects of Roman date comprise a range of personal items, a little domestic material and miscellaneous fittings. Although none are from burials it is possible that some are disturbed and redeposited grave goods.

Four brooches are extremely fragmentary and all require investigative conservation to establish any detail. One, <614>, (1498) appears to be a 1st-century Colchester form; <496> and <500>, (1705) may be the spring and foot of the same brooch, while <171>, (1129) appears from x-ray to have been enamelled. Two fragments of late Roman strip bracelets <147>, (796) and <138>, (979), the latter from a post-medieval deposit, could be residual grave goods, but this is unproven.

Incomplete round-bowl spoons <486>, (1280) and <503>, (1877) are typical of those found in urban domestic contexts of the 1st and 2nd century, with many examples from all areas of London and a very corroded seal box lid <497>, (1705), provisionally identified from x-ray, is also of 2nd-century date. An ornate key handle <167>, (958) is typical of forms which post-date AD 150 and a mount <506>, (1454), requiring investigative cleaning, may be a later Roman military fitting. The Roman assemblage is completed by a possible vessel mount <130>, (958) and miscellaneous fittings, rings and bindings.

Roman – Lead

Six contexts contained fragments of lead, mostly sheeting, but one item, <639>, (1048), appears to have form and may be part of a vessel.

Roman – Bone

The shaft of a hairpin <466>, (1586), from a form post-dating AD 200, may be a broken, redeposited grave good, but was found in a post-Roman context. The reel and cordon head of bone hairpin, <633>, (858) from a possible cremation context may well have been a pyre good, perhaps worn on the cremated body.

A complete bone tool, <241>, (708), a stout point, well-made from a horse metapodial and polished through use, may be a weaving tool.

Medieval – Copper alloy

Two vessel fragments <289>, <296>, both unstratified, are likely to be of medieval date.

Medieval – Lead

Two unstratified fragments of cames may be medieval in date <307>, <308> and a large cloth seal <478> (unstrat.), may be an official county seal.

Post-Medieval – Stone

Two hones, one of mica schist, <235>, (938), and <236>, (642), came from post-medieval deposits.

Post-Medieval – Ceramic

A miscellaneous collection of ceramic objects includes a complete wig curler <254>, (1123), an alley <462>, (1586) and the base of a porcelain figurine, <581>, (1158), the upper part entirely missing. A fine bird-head terminal from the handle of a ladle in blue and white pearlware dates from the late 18th century; the bowl of the ladle is now lost.

Post-Medieval – Iron

Thirty iron objects of post-medieval date were recognised, most with the aid of x-rays due to severe corrosion. These cover a range of tools and structural fittings and include six knife blades, <430>, (573) with a cutler’s mark, also , possibly <51> (42), a chisel <60>, (623), two well preserved keys of which <268>, (649) is intrusive in an apparently Roman context, and parts of two locks, <422>, (615), a padlock. Other fittings include three strap hinges <429>, (573), <153>, (1009), <73>, (615), various mounts which consist of perforated strapping or sheet iron, a ferrule <375>, (1686) and two iron rings, <30>, (575) and <425>, (990). In addition there is a plain circular buckle <426>, (615), perhaps from harness, from an early post-medieval context and fragments of two horseshoes <431>, (573), <70>, (615).

The finds and much of the post-medieval material come from a limited number of contexts (16), with groups from context (575) and (615).

Post-Medieval – Copper alloy

Thirty-four objects have been identified, many of which are unstratified. Seven buckles are typical, but simple forms of the early post-medieval period. Of greater intrinsic interest is a chatelaine <511>, (911), dating to the 16th/17th century. This is an elaborate construction of copper-alloy wire from which keys and toilet implements were suspended, and is similar to one from Abbots Lane (ABO92 <611>; Egan 2005, 64). An incomplete badge or mount <292> is unstratified as is an early post-medieval hooked clasp <300>, (as Egan 2005, 43, nos 151-5). Other personal items include two encrusted buttons, <168>, <169>, (1158), and lace chapes <131>, <132>, (575). The remainder of the post-medieval copper alloy consists of pins with wound-wire heads, <162>, (575), various mounts, riveted sheets, rings, wire and an unstratified weight <302>.

Post-Medieval – Lead

Seventeen of the 30 lead objects from the site were unstratified and recovered by metal detectors. At least 21 lead objects are likely to be post-medieval in date, the eight identified objects comprising a range of lead shot, cloth seals, miscellaneous sheeting and a modern toy ram <477>. The cloth seals appear to be of 16th century date (G Egan pers comm) and <479> , (1586) bears a potentially recognisable design.

Post-Medieval – Bone and ivory

The assemblage included four pinner’s bones, including an complete but unstratified example <242>. There are also a plain bead <579>, (638) and buttons <238>, (791), <464>, (1280), eight toothbrushes, all from context (1414), with plain rectangular handles and heads, but lacking bristles, a bone spoon <465>, (1103) and fragments of two ivory combs, <240>, <525>, (1414).

Post-Medieval – Wood

Five wooden objects (see assessment report) include a brush <282>, (323) and a spindle <13>, (104).

Post-Medieval – Fibre

Eight fragments of cloth came from post-medieval contexts, of ?17th and 19th-century date.

Post-Medieval – Iron

Eighty-one iron accessions are unidentified, mostly fragments of strapping or corroded lumps. Twenty-nine fragments come from contexts dated to the Roman period, while the majority are from post-medieval deposits.

Functional analysis

The Roman assemblage comprises a small range of personal and domestic material, but much of it takes on a special significance as grave offerings, although many of these are redeposited.

Provenance of objects


The most important Roman material, notably the grave goods from cremation Subgroup: 73, came from burials, but much material is now redeposited.


There are 151 accessions (not all identifiable) from early post-medieval contexts, with concentrations in contexts (575), (615) and (642), which are all the fills of early post medieval quarry pits. A further 115 accessions were from contexts described as late post-medieval, which included pits and a soakaway (1414).

Assessment work outstanding

Accessioning of the individual nails from context (1817), cremation Subgroup: 73 and bulk accessioning of nails from other burial contexts, prior to radiography.

Analysis of potential


The site is of great importance for its location in the eastern cemetery of Roman London (Hall 1996; Barber and Bowsher 2000) and for the presence of a cremation burial which contains grave goods unique in London.

Cremation, Subgroup: 73, contains glass vessels of forms not previously seen in London and in the case of the polychrome mosaic bowl, not seen in the western empire. Exploration of the origins of the individual vessels in this remarkable group, at least three of which are highly unusual in the north-west provinces and their dating is essential in order to assist in interpretation of this important burial. The ceramic vessels are also unusual and the grave is very well equipped. The ritual, with the cremated remains placed in a wooden box, is elaborate and it remains to be seen whether the key found with the box fittings belongs to the box, or is another example of a burial rite, (seen elsewhere in the eastern cemetery). The presence of at least one burnt coin <640> raises the possibility that both pyre goods and post-cremation offerings are present. A taste for (possibly) eastern glassware cannot of course imply eastern origins for the deceased, but it is clear that either he/she or his/her family was wealthy. A greater understanding of the grave goods and ritual is essential in order to explore the significance of this burial. To this end it is recommended that scientific analysis is undertaken of the glass from he accessory vessels; this has potential to assist in the investigation of their provenance.

Analysis of the glass vessels from Subgroup 73

The glass vessels from Subgroup: 73 include four glass vessels, a polychrome mosaic dish or plate, a colourless beaker, a colourless bath-flask with facet cut decoration and a colourless funnel-mouthed flask with facet-cut decoration. This is one of the most outstanding groups of funerary vessels of the third century to be found in London or elsewhere in Britain, and it deserves to be studied in detail.

Glass vessels are not at all common in the burials of Roman London, and it is unusual at any period to find more than one or two vessels in a single burial. It was noted in 2000 that only 60 glass vessels had been noted from the minimum of 234 cremations and 1092 inhumations recorded in the city (Barber and Bowsher 2000, 126–7). Of these, 29 came from burials in the East cemetery, which also includes the Prescot Street burial. Most burials contained either one or two glass vessels and only one other (B392, a child’s burial in a lead coffin) had four, two being very fragmentary. Thus, the Prescot Street burial is noteworthy simply for the number of glass vessels found in it.

It is also remarkable for the range and the quality of the vessels. The glass vessels in burials in London and elsewhere in Britain are often ordinary containers for drink, food or unguents rather than drinking vessels and other tablewares of high quality, and glass vessels of any type were relatively uncommon in third-century burials. However, none of the vessels in this group could be described as ordinary and their quality indicates high status. Several of the pieces are quite exotic in the context of Roman Britain. The polychrome mosaic dish, which is different in style from the early Imperial equivalents, is a very rare find in the north-west provinces and its presence in a burial in the region appears to be unparalleled. In addition, the beaker is a drinking vessel form not characteristic of the north-west provinces, while the bath-flask form has seldom been recorded in the region. The funnel-mouthed globular flask, by contrast, has some more local parallels. It is very similar to one found in a burial at the Minories, also in the East cemetery (Harden and Green 1978) and some others are known in burials in the Rhineland, as at Cologne and Strasbourg. Nonetheless, the facet-cutting on the body is unusual and it appears to be very similar to the decoration on the bath-flask.

It is uncertain whether any of these vessels were produced in Britain or the north-west provinces. The polychrome mosaic dish may well have come from the eastern Mediterranean region, and some of the best parallels for the bath-flask have been found in Egypt. By itself, this glass appears to be a group of personal possessions, but this suggestion may be modified in the light of information about the other burial goods.

The range of other Roman material is quite small, but it includes both personal and domestic items. Jewellery ranges in date from fragmentary 1st-century brooches to fragmentary 4th-century bracelets of copper alloy and almost complete examples made from shale. Jet, a material of ritual significance, is also present in the form of beads. Domestic material includes ceramic lamps, copper-alloy spoons, glassware and miscellaneous fittings. Although there is a little identifiable 1st-century material, most, where datable, is from the 2nd century or later.

Twelve known burials, both cremation and inhumation, contained artefacts, including coins, but in only seven of these burials are these finds indisputably grave goods. Bracelets in a pit are likely to be from a disturbed burial and other artefacts, notably the almost complete lamps are highly likely to have come from graves. Much of the vessel glass from various contexts is burnt and may originally have been placed on a cremation pyre.

Closer examination of the contexts of both the finds from known burials and of the other material may allow us to identify more grave goods. Examination of these will allow us to explore further the burial rituals represented by these offerings.

Distinction should obviously be made between pyre goods burnt with the body and those placed with cremated remains, and for inhumation burials, those worn on the body and those placed in or on the coffin. It is however quite likely that much of the material is background rubbish, dumped from elsewhere in the town.

In the absence of organic remains, the presence of coffins can often be detected only from nails and soil stains and the proposed further examination of the nails should establish the presence or absence of a coffin with greater certainty.

Comparison with the other sites in the eastern cemetery has potential to allow further the exploration of the general layout of the cemetery, its dating and the burial rites represented.

There are some problems with intrusive material in apparently Roman contexts, notably those identified as earlier Roman (eg. (708), (723), (1874) and the phasing of these contexts will require resolution.


The assemblage includes a considerable quantity of personal and domestic items from the early post-medieval period, which represent the dumping of rubbish into quarry pits prior to the construction of the first buildings in the area in the last quarter of the 16th century. All items can be paralleled from sites elsewhere in the city and this group cannot be associated with specific properties, thus limiting its value, although it is of potential interest as a group of the period. An unstratified cloth seal <478>, perhaps an official county seal, is however of especial interest in view of the nearby tenter ground.

It is possible that the later post-medieval material may be associated with specific buildings and further study of these finds, in tandem with the ceramic evidence, has potential to contribute to studies of the social history of the area. Again the two lead cloth seals are of interest in view of the proximity of the tenter ground.

Significance of the data

Local and regional

The site is of both local and regional significance for its position in the eastern Roman cemetery of London. Although few burials contain burial goods, closer analysis of these and conclusions about the burial rites represented will make a significant contribution to the study of the eastern cemetery.

Cremation Subgroup: 73 is of outstanding importance and potential both within the eastern cemetery and in the wider context. Detailed research of the associated artefacts will allow investigation of the burial rite and the status and perhaps identity of the cremated individual. In general composition and probable date, although not in detail, the group bears some resemblance to the burial from the Minories (Harden and Green 1998).

National and International

Glass group from cremation Subgroup: 73 is of great importance. Therefore it is necessary to establish the origins of this remarkable group. It is believed at present that the glass plate is of eastern origin. This would need clarification. It is also of importance to establish its place within the Roman glass repertoire, and this would help establish the plates socio-economic implications.