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Chalk and cheese: Samuel Pepys at Ten Trinity Square MOLA archaeologists excavated Ten Trinity Square as part of the development of a luxury hotel and residential development

The History Man

Our archaeologists excavated Ten Trinity Square beside the Tower of London, as part of the development of a luxury hotel and residential development by Reignwood Group. Occupied since the early Roman period, the site has a rich history spanning thousands of years. It was from Seething Lane, bordering Ten Trinity Square that Samuel Pepys witnessed the Great Fire of London and where he wrote much of his famous diary; one of our greatest sources of information about 17th-century life in Britain.

Samuel Pepys was stationed at the Navy Office on Seething Lane and from 1660 lived in a house attached to the office. It was in the garden of this house that he famously buried his treasured wine and parmesan cheese during the Great Fire of 1666. In his diary he notes the commotion caused on Seething Lane with people attempting to save their belongings, and on the 4th September 1666 writes “in the evening Sir W. Pen and I did dig another (hole), and put our wine in it; and I my Parmazan cheese”. The area escaped destruction from the fire and, unfortunately for archaeologists, Pepys it thought to have recovered his cheese.

Pepys’ diary describes his daily life here in detail, with the Great Fire being a major event during his residency. The archaeological investigation provided a glimpse into his world. The buildings and the objects of everyday life that Pepys walked past and knew well were exposed; including chalk-walled cellars, cess pits, animal remains and a well, perhaps the well that Pepys himself used. The remains have enabled archaeologists to build a picture of how Seething Lane would have looked, and how the buildings and backyards were laid out.

Claire Tomalin, author of Samuel Pepys: The Unequalled Self, visited the excavation and later remarked: “Ten Trinity Square’s unique Thames-side location provides a portrait into Pepys’s empire: the naval expert, the writer and the first modern man. This section of London also reaches back to the Romans – there is a tremendous amount of physical history here, but also emotional history.”

Although most of the Navy Office was destroyed by the construction of the East India Company Warehouses in the 19th-century and the Port of London Authority building in the early 20th-century, the excavation has provided archaeologists with previously unknown information about the area.

The site’s legacy is one of wealth and influence, starting in the Roman and Medieval periods and continuing into Pepys’ era and beyond. As well as archaeological excavation the Ten Trinity Square development encompassed careful restoration of the Grade II listed building. 

The History Man

About MOLA

MOLA

MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology) has been working with the property development sector to uncover the history buried beneath our streets for over 40 years. The largest archaeology and built heritage practice in the country, they help their commercial partners to achieve planning consent swiftly and expertly and make sure that the development sector’s investment in archaeological research makes an impact through its research and engagement programmes.  In this series of articles the specialists from MOLA share some of their amazing discoveries and research. Find out more about MOLA’s services and research and engagement project at www.mola.org.uk.

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