Newsletter 192: February 1987                             Edited by Isobel McPherson



WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY  4TH "London in the Mid-Saxon and Viking Period'' by Dr, Alan Vince, Deputy Finds Officer for the Department of Urban Archaeology, museum of London.


Many features of the Medieval and later landscape originated in the Mid-Saxon period, that is in the 7th to 9th centuries-, if not before then. Archaeology has until recently produced little evidence to confirm or refute these historical suggestions but now, as a result of excavations at sites along the Strand, it is possible to compare archaeological and historical data for the period. Evidence from the rest of Greater London is still limited but there is now enough information to suggest how mid-Saxon settlement sites can be recognised and what, in particular, to look for.

Surprisingly, there are even fewer excavated Viking settlements.

This will be an especially interesting lecture for HADAS members who discovered Saxon Hendon during the excavation at Church Terrace in 1973-74. Our latest publication "Finds from a Hendon Dig" by Ted Sammes will be on sale at the lecture, price £1.50.

WEDNESDAY MARCH 4TH "The Early Saxon Period in the London Region" by John Mills, of the Museum of. London (The January lecture trans­ferred to this date).


This took place on Saturday, November 22nd at the Museum of London starting at 11.30,am early timing which must have been appreciated by those coming a long distance though I felt it was perhaps a little late. It did, however allow the morning to be devoted to one speaker, Elizbeth Hallam of the Public Record Office. Her subject, appropriate for the year, was "Domesday Book a National Monument of Antiquity". She suggested that it was a list of resources drawn up to satisfy the greed of a cruel conqueror at a time when William was threatened by the kings of France and Norway a threat which never
materialised  possibly the name was a hostile term, coined by the defeated Saxons. With the passing of the years, the book became an inseparable complement to the Great Seal and the Charter Tenants, especially the great abbeys, who soon realised that it gave them an undisputed title to their possessions. It was still being used
in the 17th century to prove the right to exemption from tolls. The speaker continued with a detailed account of the history and travels of Domesday Book.

After lunch, it was the turn of the non-professionals, and Doris Hobbs gave an exceptionally lively and interesting account of the medieval market town of Croydon. I guarantee no-one fell asleep during this final paper - a good example of how to make history come alive. She thoroughly deserved the ovation at the end.

The stalls, as usual, showed that Local History is still alive and amateur-propelled:


This, unusual event, on Saturday November 29th, attracted a sell-out audience, indeed T was lucky to get a ticket. It was held in the Education Department of the Museum of London.. The speakers packed into one day information which would take many such sessions to absorb properly.

After an introduction by Dr Alan Vince, John Hurst took us through the intricate movements of the potters from Italy to Spain and on, eventually, to the Low Countries in the 16th century.

Michael Archer warned us to beware of trying to tie things down too tightly, both the origin of individual pieces and of their painted designs. This point was emphasised by other speakers, who gave examples of potters moving from place to place. Both before and after lunch, detailed descriptions were given of-some London sites, Lambeth by Brian Bloice, Vauxhall by Rhoda Edwards, Southwark by Graham Dawson.

Lunch-time gave us an opportunity to view the exhibits, which included the famous' London 'plate dated 1600 or 1602. Later, Clive Orton gave an account of his work on standardising the classifica­tion of pottery types and Frank Britton gave a detailed account of 18th century production in London. This gave him an opportunity to mention his book on the subject, to be published in April 1987 with a pre-publication price of £30.

It was an exhausting day and the Museum is to be congratulated should have liked to have received a list of participants, with a 'note on their interests and whom they represented. I feel sure that the range of those attending was wider than usual, including' ceramic dealers, museum personnel, full and part-time archaeologists. Name badges would have been helpful. 


I am grateful to Dr Hoblyn for extending the discussion on early plastics. Front page, too! He is quite right: in my anxiety to stick strictly to the text of the. 'Guide to the Exhibition', I took the cellulose nitration process for granted, which is particu­larly inexcusable as I worked for the Company for many years!

Quite the best book on the subject of early plastics is Maurice Kaufman's 'The First Century of Plastics', published by the Plastics and Rubber Institute, London (£7.00): Sylvia Katz's Classic Plastics' .contains beautiful photographs and. is more concerned with design and social hi-story aspects. Sylvia, incidentally, is the author of the new Shire book on plastics which, if this correspon­dence is maintained, should sell in large numbers to HADAS members.

For several years now I have been finding 'good homes' in museums, County Archives, and the like, for the exceptionally fine collection of British Xylonite archive material. Only this week we found the original Title Deeds for the Brantham site - including a 16th century Foot of Fine written in Latin. This was translated by our Borough Archivist, which is a tenuous connection between plastics and Hendon if you like! In the same box was found Parkes' patents assignments patents assignments--

More surprising (and even more exciting for me) was the discovery in 1980 of an old deed box containing an unpublished manu­script •called "The British Xylonite Company - reminiscences of Harry Greenstock", It proved -to be a unique, fascinating, personal account of the very earliest days of plastics, Harry, a born historian, was born in 1881 and died in 1969. His account includes the memories of his father who was at Brantham from day one as time-keeper and storeman,

Just to give you the flavour: Harry recounts how in the Acid and Bleach. shops, free clothing was issued .to the men. It was army surplus stuff, no less than the red coats and leather breeches and leggings of earlier decades. How strange to think that these 'left overs' of the Napoleonic (?) or Crimean wars were to find their final use on a remote Essex marsh!

Happily, my Company agreed to publish the memoirs with lovely old photographs, and I am lodging a copy in the HADAS library should anyone wish to read it.

Two final' and unconnected points. Brantham was chosen because of its remoteness, bearing in mind the explosive nature of cellulose nitrate. Many of the raw materials were brought up the creeks in the wonderful Thames sailing barges some of which still sail today. There is even one called XYLONITE in memory of past glories.

Xylonite is still made today at Brantham, and some of the original production equipment is extant. It is chiefly used (and has been for many years) in table tennis balls where it is unrivalled in performance: no-one has found a better substitute. 

OBITUARY - DR GLYN DANIEL from         Ted Sammes

This eminent scholar, known to millions through his chairmanship of "Animal, Vegetable and Mineral".died on December 13th at Cambridge in his 72nd- year. A man of many parts,- he was probably most interested in the archaeology of the prehistoric period in the 1972 membership list of the Prehistoric Society he is listed as having joined. in 1935.

Megaliths were a special delight, as was also the pursuit of the history of Archaeology. It was in the latter connection that on reading his "The Idea of Prehistory", published in Pelican Books in 1964, I came across a reference  Aylett Sammes, an Essex. Antiquary. I wrote to him not with much hope of a reply, but in due course and much to my delight, a. helpful reply came back which encouraged me to trace back further my possible family history.

There must be thousands of people who, like me, found him able to make Archaeology a living thing which should not be divorced from History. Finally, as Editor of."Antiquity" he gave his readers constant reminders and updates on all that was best in World Archaeology. He will be sadly missed. Many tributes will be written, each one different, because of his varied interests.



Following the death of his wife, Jeanne, Alec Thompson expects to move quite soon to 24 Briardene Crescent, Whitley Bay, Tyne & Weare, to be near his married daughter. The Thompsons joined HADASin the 1960s and we hope this will not be the end of a long association. Perhaps when we next plan a N.E. expedition, we can work in a reunion with Alec. Meanwhile, we wish him well in his new home.

Nell Penny spent an uncomfortable week in Whittington Hospital just before Christmas after a bad fall in the kitchen. Being Nell, she argued her way out in no time, determined to hang on to her independence, and began zimmering her way around and heading for a full recovery. She is now managing with one stick and making good progress. All her HADAS friends must rejoice that things were no worse and hope she will soon be her old, active self.



This piece should have been in last month's newsletter, but I'm afraid that after the night of December 12th, Christmas preparations took over and all too soon it was too late: My apologies: However, better late than never. The Christmas supper was a great success and the venue a fitting one for the HADAS 25th anniversary celebration.

The coach dropped us at the Grand Priory Church of St. John and after a brief history of the building and of the Order of St John, we split into two groups and visited both the church and the splendid Norman crypt, some of which dates from c 1140. Without guidance, we should have found it difficult to relate the much restored upper building to the 12th C round nave and choir but in the crypt we were on more familiar ground and those of us who were in Mary O'Connell's group were very impressed with her grasp of detail and her ability to hold her audience.

We then crossed the Clerkenwell Road (risking life and limb) to the Gatehouse itself. Here we spent some time in the two small museums, each of which deserved longer study. One housed a remarkable collection of items relating to the Order of St John and the other documents and displays which traced the history of the St John's Ambulance Association and Brigade. Next we went upstairs to the Chapter Hall, which made a splendid, welcoming setting for our celebration meal. An enormous fire filled the open hearth, the paneling glittered with the arms of long dead Priors while later portraits, including one of the present Queen, gazed down gravely on eighty HADAS members enjoying an excellent buffet meal and a chance to exchange news gossip and in-jokes. Even the necessity to queued, since the gatehouse was not built (in 1504) with HADAS dinners in mind, became enjoyable as we moved through the Old .Chancery with its silver and fine chimney-piece into the Council Chamber to the service bar.

A thoroughly enjoyable evening. Our thanks go to Mary O'Connell for her choice of venue and to Dorothy Newbury, whose organisation - as usual - was impeccable.

If you would like to know more about the Hospitallers and their modern descendants the St John Ambulance Brigade, remember to visit the exhibition at Church Farm House Museum, Hendon, before it closes on February 8th.

During the evening Ted Sammes announced, to our great delight, that our Chairman, Andrew Selkirk, had just been elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. We have come by a set of verses, by a fellow-Fellow, which give an amusing account of the procedure.

In part, they read:

'Twas in the year of '86

If my memory plays no tricks

A Thursday evening, I remember,

The 27th of November

The Antiquaries, by long-held habit

Devoted an evening to the Ballot

A row of boxes, a score in all

awaited to receive a ball.


The meeting room was full of Fellows

A few were young, most quite mellow

Boxes checked and minutes read

The business of the hour was sped.

Sharp at six, the President rose,

Announced the Ballot, at once, "Foreclosed"

Commenced the counting, in full view

Of the aspiring candidates, who

Desired to become an F.S.A.

Before, the ending of the day.

Some were elected, some were not

The murmur stilled, the room was hot

              With bated breath we listened and

 "Selkirk" finally came to hand.

The Secretary, solemn as Bede,

                                    Went on the Certificate "blue" to read.

                                And then, like a grave mathematical Don

                    t    he signatures written 'thereon.

Numerous signatures, quite a lot 
-Plus 50 by post- a hell of a lot 
when the balls were added - Phew! 
A hefty total of 72.

A just recognition quite overdue,

May I now join with those sons of a gun

Who were glad to take note that justice was done.

When duly admitted and signed in the book

You'll be "Non Extinguetur" - can borrow a book.

And then, it you wish for an evening of fun, 

Try out a ballot and see how it's done


The University of London offers a one-day course on New Results at Tell Abu Hureyra, Syria, a course of 10 lectures on Early

Hominid-Evolution, a Field Survey week, Monday July 13th to Sunday 19th, and a fortnight's course in Urban Excavation. This sounds an excellent course for aspiring "dirt archaeologists". Students will be given instruction in: Excavation techniques and methods of survey; Recording and initial processing of finds; Site and trench drawing. All this takes place on the Bermondsey Abbey site, Director Harvey Sheldon, from 3rd to 16th August 1987. Although there would appear to be no ban on outsiders, space is provided on the application form for declaring Diploma/Certificate/non-examination status. Further details from Miss E.M. Clancy, Dept. of Extra-Mural Studies, 26 Russell Square, - or again from the editor.

City University offers "Discovering London", a ten-week course covering the whole of the city's history from Pre-Roman times to post-1945 development, and "Industrial Archaeology" - 10 meetings plus 6 hours of field visits. The latter offers a very comprehen­sive list of topics, under three main headings: Materials,

Transport and Power. Further details from the Extra-Mural Depart­ment, Tel 01-253 4399, Ex. 3268/9, or from the editor.

EDUCATION DEPARTMENT, Verulamium Museum St Albans Herts. are organising an 8-day tour of Roman and Medieval Provence from 24th October - 1st November 1987. An excellent itinerary is planned at an inclusive approx price of £375. If any members are interested please ring St Albans 59919 - Mr Hildreth-Brown - before February 28th. 

PROPOSED DEVELOPMENT AT THE BURROUGHS. HENDON. Before Christmas there was a note and plan in the Hendon Times of a proposal put forward by Barnet Council to consider the development of land locked away between the Town Hall and Watford Way. It looks as if access is to be gained by demolishing the doctors surgery(St George's Lodge) and re­locating it in the new development. A 40-page brochure has been prepared with the idea of interesting possible developers in the project. We have not yet seen a copy of this, but one has been requested. It is understood that facilities for archaeological excavation may be built into any development that takes place. This is necessary as part of the area is close to The Grove, where Roman remains were found in 1889, and Burroughs Gardens with its medieval material, excavated in 1972 

PROGRAMME 1987 - Apologies for delay in sending out Programme Card but we are experiencing some difficulty this year in arranging dates and venues. Our summer outings will start with a walk Mary O'Connell to North Clerkenwell, followed by day trips to Taplow and Dorney Court, Danebury and Andover, Royston area, a return visit to Dover Roman Painted House, and a weekend in September (11th - 13th) with John Enderby at Abergavenny. We hope for sunny days and look forward to seeing our regulars and new members too - filling the coaches helps to keep the costs low.

Dorothy Newbury