Welcome to Architectural Archaeology

Dr Mark Samuel has extensive experience in archaeology and building history, having worked in the field for more than thirty-five years. He has collaborated with organisations ranging from institutions curating Grade 1 monuments to developers of brown-field sites, and has completed projects on a wide variety of historical buildings, including cathedrals, castles, schools, rectories, factories, and pillboxes.

It’s not just about complete buildings – he provides a rare expertise in excavated architectural remains and fragments. He has aided most archaeological units in south-east England with their post-excavation obligations, and provided invaluable assistance to many museums.

Flexibility of approach allows competitive prices for private customers, developers, civil engineers and heritage bodies. Dr Samuel’s past involvement in many prestigious projects speaks for itself.

He provides:

  • Desk-based assessments, statements of significance and heritage statements
  • Historic building recording
  • Historical research on properties
  • Written and visual content provision for Heritage Interpretation
  • Museum collections measurement and management

Please feel free to get in contact to discuss your requirements or simply have a chat...

Meanwhile, enjoy the site!

News 2019-20

The year saw Architectural Archaeology continue to move towards Heritage Interpretation and content provision, although developer-funded work still figured highly.


Throughout the year, long-grown specialist contributions appeared in publication: These publications contrasted; one was a round-up of hundreds of years of excavations at a known monastic site, Torre Abbey, Devon; (Oxford Archaeology) while the other was a developer-funded modern urban excavation of a type never conducted before in Cambridge- Medieval to modern suburban material culture and sequence at Grand Arcade, Cambridge (Cambridge Archaeological Unit). An article co-authored with Dr Nick Holder (and supported by LAMAS) will appear digitally in the Antiquaries Journal in 2020: this describes the ‘Provincial’s Hall’ at Blackfriars (the only surviving part of that great friary above ground).

A 14th-century cloister arcade that once stood at the Austin Friars of Cambridge will form part of another Cambridge Archaeological Unit publication, which is currently in preparation. The arcade, found in fragments, had originally been built over a Black Death cemetery; the second of two recently excavated in Cambridge (see below).

January: Whitby Abbey Site Improvement and Re-interpretation project (English Heritage)

Whitby Abbey

The great church at Whitby Abbey developed from a Romanesque church to form the surviving Gothic ruin. The graphics team at EH were faced with the challenge of showing how this came about. Much of the east part of the Church survives and its digital reconstruction is relatively straightforward. The nave however is mostly destroyed, and English Heritage’s 3D-artist needed expert guidance to proceed with an animation of the building’s construction. It was necessary to have a detailed understanding of the west front and interior of the church, even if these areas are not currently part of the animation. A cross-related series of elevation drawings were delivered to the 3-D modellers for their ‘fly-past’. The Site improvement and Re-interpretation Project has since received a runner-up prize in the biennial AHI Awards Scheme AHI 2019 Discover Heritage Awards for excellence in cultural and natural heritage interpretation in Britain and Ireland.

April: No. 12 Arthur Road, Cliftonville (Margate)

Arthur Road

Architectural Archaeology was invited by the National Lottery Heritage Fund-funded Dalby Square Townscape Heritage Initiative to write a handbook about a Victorian house in Cliftonville. This large elaborate house had been built for a Jewish fruit merchant in 1895. The return of the ex-B&B house to life after twenty years of vacancy had required a variety of professionals and crafts people; including a conservation architect and a researcher/conservator of historic interiors. Remarkably, all the legal conveyance documents had survived and the first owner Emmanuel Levy had inadvertently preserved much information about himself due to his (in those days rather ground-breaking) divorce; providing a sad but fascinating aside into Jewish society and the evolving Law of the Land. With the aid of family historian Louise Oldfield (co-author) the remainder of the story – occupants and domestic staff; their roles and origins – can all be reconstructed with the aid of national archive resources (the internet makes most of these resources available in a way inconceivable only twenty-five years ago). The original form of the house, its construction techniques, layout, use and styles are restored and set in their social context: namely, the suburb of Cliftonville – one hundred and twenty years of change. The 50,000 word handbook is to be officially launched at the house in 2020.

June: St Mary-at-Finchley Church: Historic Building Analysis of the North Wall

St Mary-at-Finchley Church

It was recommended in a recent quinquennial survey that an archaeological report of the North Wall of this historic church should be carried out as part of a conservation management plan. The large church now has a peculiar and ‘lop-sided’ plan considered to be medieval in origin and thought by some to incorporate earlier Norman walls. The vast increase in Finchley’s population in the 19th century, and (it seems) structural failings in the building itself led to rebuilding and extension of St Mary-at-Finchley during the 1870s. Seventy years later, the Chancel was nearly destroyed by a German bomb; complete rebuilding being carried out with little regard for what was there before. No published accounts exist of these changes and it was a case where any trained observation would improve on the current state of knowledge.

The Church of England could not allow much in the way of resources. This meant that (as with Time Team) everything had to be found out in two visits.

It soon however became apparent that the north wall could not be studied in isolation. Until 1872, the church had changed little from its medieval appearance. There was however one valuable resource: many historic views had been taken of the picturesque old church in the late 18th and early 19th centuries (including a drawing by the young J.M.W. Turner). Comparisons of the images (which fortunately cover all angles) allow an original plan to be restored in relation to the modern plan.

The original church proved to be a regularly-designed construction of the 15th century. The 1870s restoration was however so radical as to amount to a new church. In a forgotten act of engineering ingenuity, the surviving 15th-century nave roof was jacked up and moved (in one piece) a metre to the north to allow the removal of the crumbling medieval walls and arcades; the north arcade columns being repositioned with new arches and the south wall removed. It was replaced by an entirely new arcade in the style of the old work. A cross wall and arch separating the presbytery from the nave was removed and ‘kinks’ introduced to accommodate the different positions of the chancel and nave walls/arcades.

A wall in the north-east of the church previously thought to be 12th century is more likely part of an added chapel constructed in the 16th-century. However, the recycled stones of an earlier church can be seen in the central and western bays of the north wall, which formed part of a regularly designed 15th-century church, with at least one chapel added to the east. The church was a showcase for the tombs and ledger slabs (a couple survive) of rich London merchants who commuted to the City from their homes in Finchley. As a result of this study (far from conclusive) only the tower; north wall and two eastern arches of the arcade can currently be regarded as undisturbed late medieval work. Click for more information.

July: The After the Plague Project: reconstruction dioramas of St John’s College, Cambridge

St John’s College

A normal urban excavation to the east of St John’s College revealed the genetic code of the Black Death in the Yersinia Pestis (plague) virus. A multi-disciplinary research project is now studying this internationally important discovery. A bioarchaeological approach is unravelling how this catastrophe affected the 14th - century population of Cambridge. Click for more information.

Architectural Archaeology was invited to carry out part of the ‘Historical contextualisation’ by Cambridge archaeologist Craig Cessford (tasked by the Wellcome Institute to integrate disparate topics other than the hard science into a ‘holistic biosocial history’). The objective was a series of reconstruction dioramas showing the hospital in 1300 and 1520. The chief resources were detailed (but conflicting) Victorian records made when two medieval chapels were knocked down to allow the construction of G.G. Scott’s chapel in the 1870s. Estimation and comparison to other buildings of the era was needed to fill in the gaps in the records.

We know for certain that an oratory and infirmary (a ‘dual-purpose’ building) were built circa 1225. Otherwise the other buildings of the 13th-century hospital are unknown. It is likely that a much larger set of buildings was later built around the earlier hospital; prefiguring the extant college buildings of the First Court. It has long been assumed that Gilbert Scott was influenced by the chapel he removed. Re-interpretation of disparate 19th-century records (and surviving remnants) shows that the later chapel (c.1325-50) resembled the Latin Chapel at St Frideswides, Oxford (but with a friary-type ‘passing place’ and belfry). Gilbert Scott had gone his own sweet way in his design of the present chapel; probably drawing on the recently-completed reconstruction of the Sainte-Chapelle (Paris). It is odd to think that Gothic architecture was then a source of fascination to the fashionable world.

The appearance of the surrounding town had to be provided on the basis of a plan of the streets, one 16th - century map and a few known monuments - all else is conjecture. Comparative studies played an important role – for example, the earlier hospital may have resembled the surviving Hospital of St Cross in Winchester. A series of fixed point views were generated using CAD. Optimal wireframe views were then selected and the printouts were laid on a light box. Direct tracings could then be made onto watercolour paper. The drawings were then produced in this medium; a marriage of old and new technologies. An interim presentation by Mark was made of the results on the 1st of July at the McDonald Institute, Cambridge, during the general meeting of the project. This provoked considerable interest and lengthy questioning.

October: ‘Facts, Fiction and Interpretation’ Association for Heritage Interpretation

AHI Logo

As part of my CPD, I attended the annual conference in Bedford (October). This was an opportunity to catch up on trends in Heritage Interpretation, and indulge my middle-aged man’s interest in Bletchley Park (the WW2 code-breaking centre). In her keynote talk, Peronel Craddock (Head of Collections and Exhibitions) demonstrated how a collection of concrete huts once only of interest to a handful of enthusiasts has been successfully transformed into a quality heritage attraction with a clear mission and a unique story.