Mud, Glorious Mud!

Meet Alfred Hawkins, the Tower archaeology expert

Meet Alfred Hawkins, the Tower archaeology expert

By Jake Patel 
Superbloom Schools Blog Editor

The construction phase of Superbloom at the Tower of London has finally kicked off. To make space for the Superbloom, which will include flowers, sculptures and much more, we are in the process of excavating nearly 1,000 square meters of soil from the moat. 

Photograph of the Tower moat in the midst of being transformed for Superbloom
Photograph of the Tower moat in the midst of being transformed for Superbloom

That’s a lot of mud! What’s underneath it all?

That is indeed a lot of mud, and who knows what we will find! As Alfred Hawkins, one of the curators at the Tower of London, puts it “Pesky Londoners, and even the Tower’s residents, would routinely throw what they considered to be rubbish into the moat.

“This material, including everything from coins to cannonballs (and even some smelly medieval and Tudor shoes!), would sink to the bottom of the moat and over time be covered in mud, silt and sand by the movement of the water sealing away physical examples of what life was like in those periods.”


A bit about the moat

The moat was constructed by Edward I in the 13th century and was the latest in a series of defensive ditches dug around the fortress to protect it from attackers.  


The moat not only holds the remnants of a great defensive entrance constructed by Henry III, but it also acted as a convenient dump for the Tower and the City of London for nearly 600 years until it was backfilled in 1845. 

Photograph of an aerial view of the Tower of London
Alfred Hawkins, Assistant Curator at the Tower of London

What does Alfred do?


Alfred is the Assistant Curator of Historic Buildings for the Tower of London and it’s his job to act as a spokesperson and guardian for the buildings, archaeology and history of the palaces and to advise on their continued protection.


“As a building archaeologist by training, my specialism is one focused around understanding the development of buildings throughout history, but I also spend much of my time advising on the ‘below ground’ or ‘dirt’ archaeology of the Tower. 


“Over the past few years, a lot of my work has been focused around Superbloom, ensuring that we protect and record any archaeology that we encounter during the monumental construction phase of the project.”

Meet the Curatorial Team  

Historic Royal Palaces’ curatorial team is made up of a passionate group of archaeologists, paint conservation specialists, architectural historians, cultural historians and more! With such a wide range of specialists, we can make sure we are properly looking after the historic sites and the surrounding areas.

It’s your turn!

When digging your Superbloom garden you might come across some strange or exciting things hidden under the mud. Take some time to reflect on what you found when digging your Superbloom garden whether it was some bugs, cool looking stones or a hidden treasure, and share your findings with your friends.

School children gardening in Tower of London moat as for Superbloom schools project

Previous Blog

Mental and Emotional Wellbeing

By Penny Whelan
Hillborough Junior School

Penny Whelan provides an update on her school's Superbloom progress.

Penny's blog All Blogs
Photograph of school