Registered charity 276264

Saxon Fish Trap

The Chelsea Society is concerned that the Saxon fish trap near Battersea Bridge may be threatened by relocation of boats at Chelsea Reach.  It is thought to have been constructed in the reign of King Offa 757-796 AD, and it should be listed.

According to Professor Andrew Reynolds FSA FSA Scot FRHistS FRGS:
The Cheyne Walk fishtrap at Chelsea is one of the best examples nationally of an extremely rare category of archaeological remains. At  first sight, and to the untrained eye, the timber uprights that once supported wattle panels that funnelled fish into a woven basket may  not look much. As with so many archaeological discoveries, however,  the significance lies in the historic context of the remains.

Fishtraps concentrate in small numbers in two areas of southern England, on the Thames to the west of the City of London, and in the estuary of the rivers Colne and Blackwater in Essex. Despite being geographically separated, the traps are almost certainly linked in that they represent some of the earliest evidence for the re-emergence of industrial-level activity in the period following the collapse of Roman rule in Britain.

The majority of dated fishtraps fit squarely with the re-emergence of London as an international mercantile centre and much-fought-over city between the earliest Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. Developing rapidly as it did during the late 7th and 8th centuries, London – then known as Lundenwic – required provisioning of its burgeoning new population by producers of foodstuffs beyond the urban area. Fishtraps are therefore a unique and highly significant reflection of the very beginnings and subsequent rise of London itself.

A second key point, which must not be underestimated, is that unlike terrestrial archaeological remains, those on the foreshore are preserved in a most precarious environment, their waterlogged timbers preserved up to a point, but in a most delicate state exposed to continual erosion by the passage of waterborne craft and other environmental factors. Any attempt to modify the waterfront at Cheyne Walk or to move boats currently moored there will seriously threaten the survival of this precious, vulnerable and irreplaceable record of  the early history of London.

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