Greater London still boasts over 50 local history and archaeology societies, though this number pales in comparison to the 90 plus reported by London Archaeologist at the height of the rescue archaeology in the 1970s. These groups form an important part of the London heritage sector, contributing to a wide range of volunteer and community projects from fieldwork and training, through monitoring of planning applications, to research and publication. They often work in conjunction with local authorities, schools, museums and other societies, as well as sponsoring regular lectures, trips, visits and activities for members and the general public.
Many local societies’ interests focus on specific boroughs, while others are either more specific, or overlap several boroughs (eg WEAG and ODAS). One – the Greater London Industrial Archaeology Society, formed the same year as London Archaeologist – deals with a specialist topic across London. A newer area of interest is conflict archaeology, although no specific society for this in London yet exists. Similarly, specialist societies have been formed at a national level for specific periods – from prehistory to the 20th century – and specific fields of study – from pottery to pilgrim badges.
The county societies for London and Middlesex (LAMAS), Essex (ESAH), Kent (KAS) and Surrey (SAS) are the next level up from the local archaeology and history societies, covering some of the outer regions of greater London and beyond. A regional group of the Council for British Archaeology (CBA London) has been formed to further promotion, education and advocacy of archaeology.
Many local societies were formed after WWII, and especially in the 1960s and 1970s to rescue the archaeology of sites threatened by development, though some have a longer history – Greenwich History Society was formed in 1905, for instance – and all the county societies date from the 1850s.
All the societies very much welcome new members. To find out more, explore the societies’ own websites via this page.