Images of excavated antique carved fish released for Good Friday
A milestone 7,500 hours of specialist intrusive and disruptive surveying work has been completed since July 2022. This work, in addition to the tens of thousands of hours of planning and visual inspection research completed since 2018 will inform decisions about essential restoration work of the historic Palace of Westminster.
7th April 2023
Throughout the 7,500 hours many important findings have been made, including the unearthing of an intricately carved 200-year-old fish made from animal bone. The fish, a gaming counter possibly used in 18th Century card games, was found by Roland Tillyer, Senior Geoarchaeologist at Museum of London Archaeology whilst monitoring the digging of a borehole deep in the earth under the House of Lords’ Royal Court.
Other discoveries included identifying the position of hidden voids that were built as ventilation shafts in the original design, condition of critical utilities, sampling of building materials, heating, cooling, and mechanical and electrical systems that have reached the end of their lifespan.
The find follows the possible discovery of a section of the original medieval Thames River wall in November 2022, that is believed to run underneath the length of the Houses of Parliament.
David Goldstone, CEO of the Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Delivery Authority, said:
“We continue to make exciting and historic discoveries as we survey the Palace of Westminster. This major milestone of 7,500 hours of completed intrusive surveying work is a testament to the hard work of the hundreds of specialists brought in from across the UK, helping us in this national effort to save the iconic Palace of Westminster for future generations.
“We’ll take the important data from this extensive research to inform our future restoration plans for the building, ensuring that we tackle critical issues and preserve and protect the building and the thousands of staff and visitors that use the building every day.”
Michael Marshall, MOLA Finds Team Leader said:
"This carved bone fish is a gaming counter. Counters like this were commonly used at gaming tables in Britain during the 18th and 19th century and were used as tokens for scoring.
“A famous literary description of this practice comes from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (published in 1813) where Lydia Bennet is described as winning and losing fish while playing games of ‘lottery tickets”.
Diane Abrams, Houses of Parliament Restoration and Renewal Programme, Archaeology Lead said:
“It is amazing that this wonderful gaming token was found while monitoring a single borehole through archaeological deposits at Royal Court.
“It certainly highlights the value of the Palace's 'hidden' archaeology beneath its buildings and spaces and how even a single find such as this can contribute to its overall sense of history and our literary past".