The DUA (Department of Urban Archaeology), managing archaeological investigations in the City of London 1973-91

Written by John Maloney

 This paper was one of eighteen given at the Fifty Years of London’s Archaeology, the 50th Anniversary Conference of the London Archaeologist held on 6th October 2018. The proceedings were published in 2020.

Formed in 1973, the DUA was one of the first professional archaeological units in the UK and quickly established its prominence in several areas. For instance, such innovations as The Site Manual and negotiating funds from developers, plus promoting the British Archaeologists and Developers Liaison Group Code of Practise facilitated the undertaking of hundreds of investigations making the City of London one of the most intensively archaeologically excavated urban areas in the world. By agreeing to staff taking unpaid leave to work abroad, the innovations and techniques were of significance for archaeology not only in London but also nationally and internationally. Major ‘open area’ excavations were undertaken and notable amongst the highlights were those on the waterfront and exceptional discoveries such as the previously unknown site of the Roman amphitheatre in the heart of the City. Mention is made of Hobley’s Heroes and other ‘related’ staff newsletters which constitute a singular archive for the unit.


In reviewing the proceedings for British Archaeology (July/August, 2020), Mike Pitts, the editor, wrote:

In one of eighteen substantial, heavily researched articles that make up this book, John Maloney notes that in 1988-9 archaeologists negotiated £5.56m (the equivalent of £15m today, plus site “facilities”) from London developers to help them to record the City’s past. By then the Department of Urban Archaeology’s Site Manual had acquired a global reputation, and the archaeologists themselves were sometimes working overseas. Yet all this was before excavations at Huggin Hill (Roman baths) and Southwark (the Rose theatre) helped to bring to Parliament the fraught issue of how to secure protection from development. If future politicians seek to reduce developer obligations, it will do well to record that in London many of those businesses had voluntarily stepped in before they were forced to do so. Saving archaeology is a common cause. And as these proceedings of a conference held to celebrate 50 years of the London Archaeologist magazine make clear, the cause has a rich history in the capital, documented here by those who were there and will shape the future. This is well edited, with period photos and an index.