An excavation between Rathbone Place and Newman Street in Fitzrovia has uncovered a number of interesting and unique finds according to an archaeology fieldwork report.

Two men in underground structure.
Archaeologists cleaning possible Civil War feature with brick-lined pit the in foreground. Photo: MOLA.

The investigation carried out between November 2014 and March 2015 found a series of post-medieval walls, drains and brick-lined pits, constructed on the site in the late 18th century, as well as 19th century works, and evidence of the intense damage the site received during World War II.

The findings are published in a report by Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) and produced as part of planning permission for the redevelopment of the former Royal Mail site.

A total of 13 brick-lined pits, interpreted as cesspits, were recorded on the Rathbone Square site containing botanical remains including the first archaeological evidence for horse chestnut and nutmeg.

At least two of the brick-lined pits contained masonry off-cuts or trial pieces, possibly furniture or architectural/sculptural waste from nearby workshops. Other interesting items found within the backfills of the pits included false teeth, toothbrushes, a lead bird coffin and a plaster of Paris cast of a human skull.

A number of 18th century walls were recorded, and these have helped to locate the archaeology onto period maps, suggesting the arrangement of these pits within property boundaries.

During the excavation a large cut feature running north-south (pictured) along the western edge of the site was also identified. The function of this large cut feature requires further research, although initially it has been identified as either being related to quarrying, part of the 17th century water works to the north of the site or part of the 17th century Civil War defences known to have been in the vicinity.

Initial assessment of the material from the site has identified the potential for further analysis of the archaeological records and of the recovered materials to shed light on later postmedieval social history, material-culture use and consumption trends in the local area and in London more broadly.

Report: 35–50 Rathbone Place, London W1T 1HQ. Post-excavation assessment and updated project design. Museum of London Archaeology. December 2015.