It’s already unearthed plague victims, Roman skulls and a Tudor manor house, and now Crossrail has thrown up even more surprises. While constructing one of the new Elizabeth line stations in Tottenham Court Road (as the route will be known when trains start running through central London from December 2018), archaeologists found more than 13,000 rare Victorian jam jars and pickle pots.
Proving that the British obsession with condiments is nothing new, The Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) discovered the site underneath what used to be the Astoria nightclub. It was used as a dumping ground by Crosse & Blackwell, which had a huge factory there until 1921.
Finds include glass bottles for mushroom catsup, ceramic bung jars for mustard and piccalilli and delicately printed white jars for preserved ginger. Archaeologists also found earthenware jars for pure orange marmalade, household raspberry jam and plum jam.
Crosse & Blackwell was based in the Soho area between 1830 and 1921. One journalist writing at the time said the factory produced ‘a very distinctive pungency to the surrounding atmosphere’. And it turns out the pickle producer was pretty ahead of its time, as not only was it one of the first companies to receive a Royal Warrant from the newly crowned Queen Victoria, it also proved celebrity chefs are not a recent phenomenon by using Napoleon’s chef Signor Quallioti to endorse its products.
You can find out more about the discoveries in the new book Crosse & Blackwell 1830-1921: A British Food Manufacturer in London's West End.
In other Crossrail news, the new trains have undergone some serious weather testing.