Chaucer’s moat wall

Chaucer’s moat wall

Artists impression of the Tower of London Tower c1240

Wall collapse reveals remains of the Tower’s 14th-century wharf

Following the collapse of a section of the revetment wall...

...flint and chalk remains of the first 14th-century section of Tower Wharf – constructed by Geoffrey Chaucer – were uncovered in February 2003.

Archaeological work at the Tower of London revealed the wall’s failure was caused by the roots of Victorian Plane trees.

Chaucer – better known as author of The Canterbury Tales – was Clerk of Works at the Tower of London between 1389 and 1391 when this section of the wharf was built under his direction.

Excavation and repair

Oxford Archaeology carried out the excavation after a section of the revetment wall collapsed into the moat on 14 February 2003. A repair programme was begun in January 2004 and was then halted after significant archaeology was revealed.

Other discoveries during excavation included remains of the dressed stone walls of 15th-century cellars and 16th-century majolica tiles.

Cause of collapse

The excavation also revealed the cause of the wall’s failure. Massive tree roots had been pushing against the stonework, and down into the foundations.

For the wall to be repaired safely, and to prevent further damage to the archaeology, two London Plane trees were felled and their roots cut back. 

The Tower Wharf was constructed in stages in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was built for ships to moor alongside for the loading of weapons and provisions.

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