No.  541                                          APRIL 2016               Edited by Peter Pickering


HADAS DIARY - Forthcoming Lectures and Events.


Lectures are held at Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley, N3 3QE, and start promptly at 8pm, with coffee/tea and biscuits afterwards. Non-members: £1. Buses 82, 125, 143, 326 & 460 pass nearby and Finchley Central station (Northern Line), is a 5-10 minute walk away.   


Tuesday 12th April 2016: Douglas Killock: In the lift to the beach: a visit to the Lundenwic waterfront.

Tuesday 10th May 2016 Matt Symonds:  Hadrian's Wall: Life on Rome's Northern Frontier 

Tuesday 14th June 2016 ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING 

Monday September 19th to Friday September 23rd. HADAS trip

Tuesday 11th October 2016 Professor Caroline Barron:  Women in medieval London

Tuesday 8th November 2016 - Hazel Forsyth: The Cheapside Hoard 


HADAS Newsletter Archive.                                                                                   Don Cooper

Finally after many years of hard work, all HADAS’ monthly newsletters are available on-line on the HADAS web site (,uk). The newsletters have been digitised and are searchable by word or phrase, although, because they have been passed through OCR (Optical Character Recognition) software, there are still a lot of textual and spelling errors.

How to access this useful archive:

Go to the main HADAS web page at and on the right hand side of the page, you will see a heading “Newsletter Archive”, select and then on the newsletter archive page, you will see on the left panel, a table of volumes in five-year lots. If you want to see a copy of a particular newsletter, select the volume containing the year of publication and a list of the newsletters in that year will be listed,. Select the one you want.

To search all the newsletters for reference to a place or person, enter the search term into the field on the top right-hand side of the main newsletter archive project page.  Enjoy.

February Lecture                                                                                                      Melvyn Dresner

South Mimms Castle

Adam Corsini of the London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC) talked to us about a 12th century Norman castle built just north of Barnet at South Mimms. Castle building in the 12th century could not happen without the King's assent (and in this case an Empress). So how could there be a now-forgotten Castle so close to north London?  

Adam explained how the castle was not forgotten though not widely known. On a 1504 map the area was marked Castle Acre Field, and the chalk quarry was known as Castle Quarry. It entered the archaeological record in 1918, when A F Major and G T F Cruickshank discovered the site. A local committee was established in 1931, funds were raised by 1933 to investigate further and in 1936 the site was scheduled (before it was understood properly) to protect it as an ancient monument.  During World War Two it was used as a rifle range. In 1950, the North London Archaeological Committee was set up. It was not until John Kent (1928 - 2000), a numismatic specialist from the British Museum and Hertfordshire local archaeologist, got involved that archaeological investigation began in earnest. This investigation changed our understanding of castle building techniques, and shed light on a difficult and confusing period of medieval history - the civil war between cousins King Stephen and Empress Matilda known to historians as the Anarchy. The figure of Geoffrey II de Mandeville, first Earl of Essex, between 1136 and 1143, emerged as the possible castle builder.  

The site was dug by volunteers during the 1960s including girls from Queen Elizabeth’s Girls' School Barnet. Adam showed pictures of the site and how deep they were able to dig. The timber tower was built on raised ground, though most of the earthworks were constructed around the tower. Previously the assumption had been that with this type of castle the earthworks were built first and the tower placed on top. But South Mimms showed that the earthworks and tower construction were integrated. The earthworks were there partly to protect the wooden tower and partly to provide height as a viewing platform over the landscape.   

Why was the castle built? Charters and history of the 12th century suggest political and military reasons. The location close to the Royal Forest of Enfield Chase points towards hunting, and material finds suggest later occupation of the site after the Anarchy in the late 12th century. A plaque found shows a lion emblem that could be associated with Henry I (Empress Matilda’s father ) or could be a hunting dog, (or a giraffe according to a shopper at Brent Cross Shopping Centre!) 

The bulk of pottery found was South Hertfordshire Greyware with flint inclusions and mainly identified as cooking pots. They remind us that behind powerful men and women are potters, cooks, ploughmen, and herdsmen, who produce and prepare food; labourers who build; and crafts men and women who make pots, tools and weapons. The pottery was dated to late 12th century according to a London sequence. That is after the Anarchy, so the pottery either extends the use of the site, suggests its origin was later, or represents the time it took for local production to turn up in the City of London. Tools associated with construction include a pick and an auger; there was also re-used Roman material; a stone used for grinding that originated in Germany(classed as building material in the context of this site). Adam suggested it took 2,000 hours to build the earthworks and tower - either over say two months of intensive labour or perhaps up to two years. There was evidence (beam cut angles) for the tower tapering to improve structural strength. 

Arrow heads dateable between 1130s and 1200 associated the site with hunting and archery. High status clasps from decorative boxes or books as well as Stamford ware represent a high quality, decorated and glazed import from outside the region that would have graced the table of a powerful magnate like Geoffrey II de Mandeville or his associates. 

Though annual reports were produced each year between 1960 and 1967, the site had not been fully published by the time of John Kent’s death in 2000. After a few years a Committee was formed by John Clark, of the Museum of London, to bring the archive together and publish. In 2014 HADAS members and others were repacking finds at the LAARC and sharing these with more than 1,000 people over two days at Brent Cross Shopping Centre as part of the Unearthing Barnet project. The archive was deposited in LAARC in 2010 and 'Excavations at South Mimms Castle, Hertfordshire' was published as London and Middlesex Archaeological Society Special Paper 16, 2013. 

[Editor's Note: I spent two or three days at this dig in the 1960s]


Lurking in Churchyards                                                                                       Sylvia Javes

During our stay in the New Forest, we saw many ancient buildings and sites, but among them were some ancient trees, that were very much alive.

In Breamore churchyard stands a Yew tree that is completely hollow inside, with stems surrounding the hollow centre which is full of intertwined roots.  When we visited it was covered with red berries. Breamore Church is Saxon, and it is thought the Yew was mature when the church was founded, making it at least 1000 years old.

Nearly as old is a Yew in Minstead churchyard, which had a narrow escape from felling in 1979. It was hollow inside and had had concrete poured into it, presumably to preserve it.  However, a storm in 1979 caused half of it to fall, blocking the lychgate. It was decided to leave the remaining part of the tree and support it, and it is still growing and producing berries. Tree experts estimate it to be about 700 years old.

In the Gazetteer of ancient, veteran and significant yews:

Breamore: Classed as ancient and exceptional. Its girth is 1082cm at 60 cm height (over 35 feet). It is a female tree, but does have a young male tree growing within it! It is about 1000 years old.

Minstead: Classed as notable. Girth is 445cm at the ground (14ft 7ins).

Yew trees were revered as sacred before Christianity, and since churches were often built on pagan sacred sites, yews have long been associated with churchyards. 

The leaves and seeds of yew are lethal if consumed, but the poisonous alkaloid found in 'Taxus baccata' contains some incredibly useful chemicals called taxanes. These are most concentrated in the needles of the English yew. Between the months of May and October, clippings from yew hedges in large gardens (eg National Trust gardens) are collected. Taxanes are chemically extracted from the clippings, purified, and converted into the chemotherapy drug Taxotere® (docetaxel).

Incidentally we have our very own ancient yew in Totteridge churchyard. It is classified as ancient, with a girth of 788cm at 90cm height (about 26 feet round), and thought to be up to 2000 years old.


Ipplepen Archaeological Project                                                                         Jean Lamont

The name of Ipplepen may not be familiar to members of HADAS, but viewers of “Digging for Britain” may recall an episode, covering the South West, included a short piece on recent discoveries at Ipplepen.

In 2007, metal detectorists discovered Roman coins in a field near the small Devon village of Ipplepen which sits on the A381 road midway between Newton Abbot and Totnes. Funding for an excavation was found and Exeter University has been digging there since 2010. My sister lives a couple of miles away and took me to see the site when I visited her in August last year but sadly after the dig had closed for the year. (My sister is quite tolerant of my interest in archaeology and will visit archaeological sites with me “provided I explain what she is looking at!” – most remains on Dartmoor being pre-historic. So I was pleasantly surprised to hear that she had attended the Open Day.)

The site is recognised as being the most important discovered recently in Devon, consisting of the largest Romano-British settlement in Devon outside Exeter. Geophysical survey has shown that the site extends over 23 acres. It was previously supposed that Roman activity west of Exeter probably consisted of individual farmsteads. Successive digs have revealed continuous occupation of the site from pre-history with flints and Bronze Age pottery, Iron Age ring-ditch and round houses, Roman coins and pottery, through to the post-Roman period. The earliest coin dates from 150 BC. The most significant finds have been a Roman road with cart tracks and potholes (!), over an Iron Age track, with 15 skeletons beside the road (one dating to 655 – 765 AD). The 2014 dig uncovered a piece of Samian ware of 150 – 180 AD from Central Gaul stamped “Aucella”. postholes which are contemporary and in alignment with the road could be small rural houses, and evidence of smelting.

The orientation of the road is the same as the current road but slightly uphill from it and presumably linked the fore-runners of Newton Abbot and Totnes, both on tidal river estuaries (The Teign and the Dart), which would have been important for trading. No public announcement has so far been made of the dating of more of the skeletons or the result of the isotope analysis. It will be fascinating to discover where the people came from.

For further information visit the Exeter University website.


The Ancient Greeks at Gallipoli                                                                  Roger Chapman


Above ‘S’ beach lies the Turkish Martyrs memorial complex built on Eskihisarlik Burnu (Old fortress Point). Visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year it is one of the main Turkish memorials on the Gallipoli peninsular. It was occupied by the French during much of the campaign.


Less well known is what lies beneath the memorial and indeed is still visible in many places. This area is the site of the ancient Greek city of Eleaus. The Gallipoli peninsula was renowned for its wheat. It also profited from its strategic location on the main trade route between Europe and Asia, as well the ability to control shipping to the Black Sea.


Eleaus is reputedly the last resting place of the mythological hero Protesilaus, near a steep coastal cliff.  According to Homer’s Iliad, Protesilaus was the first Greek to set foot on land during the Trojan War, for which - according to the will of the gods - he was also the first to die. His tomb at Elaeus lay on the European coast opposite Troy and became a place of pilgrimage for the cult of Protesilaus. Later, the temple contained votive offerings and was surrounded by a settlement. In antiquity the location was variously under Athenian, Persian, Spartan and later Macedonian control.


Alexander the Great is said to have visited Elaeus at the start of his Persian campaign in spring 334 BCE in order to visit the temple of Protesilaus. Here he made an offering before crossing the Dardanelles and himself becoming the first of his army to set foot in Asia.


During the 1915 campaign the French undertook an archaeological excavation of the site making significant finds. The French army brought five sarcophagi, jewellery, ancient pottery and other objects to Paris, which are now displayed in the Louvre. Some of the main stone walls of the city are still exposed and visible today.


Kentish Town Lock                                                                                                      Bill Bass

Several members of HADAS visited the lock, part of the Regent’s Canal, during an ‘open weekend’ on the 23-24th January organised by the Canal & River Trust. The lock had been dammed and emptied so that the lock-gates could be renewed (this is undertaken every 25 years or so). The week before the ‘open weekend’ the old gates were craned out and new ones made of green Welsh Oak replaced them. As much of the original metal and other fittings are saved where possible, the work will take several weeks with other modifications being made.

Members of the public had access to the empty lock via a specially erected set of steps and platform, with a chance to inspect the new doors and the original brickwork and structure built c1820. There were many volunteers, together with display stands to explain the history of the lock and it’s operation. The area was once an important way of transhipping goods between the canal, railway and roads and many of the local industries e.g. timber yards, coal, wine merchants and icehouses.

Nearby a separate development for ‘Camden Lock Village’, a mixture of retail, leisure, arts cinema units and a new school will transform this part of Camden. Today this stretch of waterway is very popular with leisure barge and narrowboat traffic.


Canal Visits                                                                                                            Jim Nelhams


In July 2012, “ownership” of the canals in England and Wales, which had been nationalised in 1948, was transferred from British Waterways to a charity named “The Canal and River Trust”. This continued the use of volunteers who had been involved in the restoration of canals. Unlike their predecessors, the Trust has realised the value of publicity, and organises a number of events each year. Some of these take advantage of lock gate replacements to allow people to visit and inspect the locks.

While going into a lock does not involve digging, the draining of the water does reveal artefacts that have found their way into the water, including the inevitable supermarket trolley. The opening of the lock allowed us to be among the first members of the public at the bottom of the lock for nearly 200 years. A number of Victorian glass bottles were on display. As the Trust puts it, it is an opportunity to unlock some secrets from the past.

The Trust also organises walks along the canal towpath, including sections of the Regents Park Canal between Little Venice in Paddington and King’s Cross. Most of these are on level ground. Of course, you can do this yourself at any time, since the towpaths are open to the public, and easily accessible. Or you can visit the London Canal Museum near King’s Cross.

Further details can be found at

In our recent trips, HADAS has visited a number of canals and canal infrastructure, including last year the steam pumping station at Crofton on the Kennet and Avon canal. Our 2016 plans include a visit to another section of this canal. Watch this space. 


Coal Posts                                                                                                                              Bill Bass

On my occasional railway photographic forays to Potters Bar golf club I’ve noticed a stone ‘obelisk’ tucked away in the north-west corner by the lineside on top of the embankment. It was usually in over-grown land and difficult to get at. I assumed that it was a war memorial or folly that had been moved out of the way. On a recent visit the area had been cleared and the course not yet open so had the chance of a closer look, the stone is about 4m high with some letters and numbers, on the side facing the line is a shield which I recognised as the City of London.

Asking a green-keeper he said it was something to do with tax – and there were more of them. An internet search soon revealed that these were ‘Coal Tax Posts’, any coal being taken through the City of London had tax or duty payable, so the posts were set-up on all railways, canals and roads etc as a visible reminder of the tax due. Hundreds were set-up in a ring around London and many still survive, the figures on them refer the act and date they were set-up for.

More info here:



Other Societies' Events                                                                               Eric Morgan


Saturday 9th April, 11-2.30 North London and Essex Transport Society. Enfield Spring Transport Bazaar. St Paul's Centre, 102 Church St. Enfield EN2 6AR. Bus, Railway, Aviation and Military Transport, with books, photos, DVDs, Timetables, Maps, Memorabilia etc. Admission £3. Refreshments available


Thursday 28th April. 8pm Finchley Society.  Trinity Hall, Nether Street, North Finchley N12 7NN. Environmental Issues. Talks by various speakers on subjects including Open Spaces, Litter, Roads (congestion, potholes and parking). Note venue. Visitors £2


Mondays 2nd and 30th May from 11am to 5pm. Markfield Beam Engine and Museum. Markfield Road, South Tottenham, N15 4RB Steam Open Days Admission Free.


Tuesday 3rd May 7.30 pm  Enfield Society Jubilee Hall, 2 Parsonage Lane/junction Chase Side, Enfield EN2 0AJ Presenting Enfield.  Talk by Joe Studman £3. First of a monthly series.


Monday 9th May. 3pm  Barnet Museum and Local History Society. Church House, Wood Street, Barnet (opposite museum) Dickens: the Man and his Work. Talk by Paul Baker. Visitors £2. 


Wednesday 11th May. 6pm. Gresham College at Museum of London 150 London Wall .The Five Catastrophes that made London. Talk by Simon Thurley on advances in Architecture. Free.


Thursday 12th May 7pm. London Archaeologist. Institute of Archaeology 31-4 Gordon Square WC1. AGM and Annual Lecture. Crossrail Liverpool Street Excavations. Alison Telfer.


Friday 13th May 8pm  Enfield Archaeological Society Jubilee Hall, 2 Parsonage Lane/junction Chase Side, Enfield EN2 0AJ The Cutting Edge - Stone Tools in recent EAS digs. Talk by Neil Pinchbeck. Visitors £1. Refreshments 7.30pm.


Monday 16th May 7.30 pm  Enfield Society Jubilee Hall, 2 Parsonage Lane/junction Chase Side, Enfield EN2 0AJ London's Railway Termini - Part 1, North Talk by Roger Elkin


Thursday 19th May 2-5.30pm Gresham College Barnard's Inn Hall, Holborn, EC1N 2HH Cultural Heritage and War.  Symposium presented by Professor Tim Connell and a panel of experts, focusing on the current situation in the Middle East. Free, but reservations required - visit , tel. 020-7831 0575 or e-mail


Friday 20th May. 7pm City of London Archaeological Society, St Olave's Parish Hall, Mark Lane EC3R 7LQ  Religious and Rirual Imagery on Roman Pottery from London. Talk by Fiona Seeley (MOLA) Visitors £2. Refreshments after.


Friday 20th May. 7.30pm Wembley History Society. English Martyrs' Hall, Chalkhill Road, Wembley, HA9 9EW (Top of Blackbird Hill, adjacent to Church) Brent's Brent Talk by Margaret Pratt and Cliff Wadsworth on the river's past and present. Visitors £3, refreshments 50p..


Wednesday 25th May. 7.45pm Friern Barnet and District Local History Society. North Middlesex Golf Club, The Manor House, Friern Barnet Lane N20 0NL.  John Donovan Memorial Lecture by Helen Fry. Germans who fought with the British.  Preceded by AGM. Visitors £2. Refreshments.