Newsletter-489-December-2011

It has come around again, imagine! Where did the year go?  Anyway, it is that time again when we wish all our members and their families a happy holiday season and, of course,      a healthy, happy and prosperous 2012.

 

HADAS DIARY

Lectures are held at Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley, N3 3QE, and start promptly at 8 pm, 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 short walk away. 

Sunday 4th December 2011 – HADAS Christmas Party 

Tuesday 10th January 2012 - The Merchant Taylors' Great Feast, 1607. Lecture by Ann Saunders. 

Tuesday 21th February 2012 - The Medieval Cellars of Winchelsea. Lecture by Richard Comotto. 

PLEASE NOTE: Change of Date for this February lecture. 

Tuesday 13th March 2012 - It's all in the bones. Lecture by Jelena Bekvalac (Curator of Human

            Osteology – Museum of London). 

Tuesday 10th April 2012 - Conservation Techniques in Stone Masonry. Lecture by Stephen Critchley. 

Tuesday 8th May 2012  -  Bumps, Bombs and Birds: the history and archaeology of RSPB reserves.

            Lecture by Robin Standring (RSPB Reserves Archaeologist). 

Tuesday 12th June 2012  - Annual General Meeting. 

Tuesday 9th October 2012  - The Life and Legacy of George Peabody. Lecture by Christine Wagg. 

Tuesday 13th November 2012  - Tuesday 13th November 2012 - Archaeological Discoveries

            in Southwark.  Lecture by Peter Moore (Pre-Construct Archaeology)  

 

Below is a “Customer’s” view of the first day of our excavation at Harrow-on-the-Hill (see last month’s newsletter

ARCHAEOLOGY ON THE GREEN, HARROW ON THE HILL

12TH & 13TH AUGUST 2011         by Judith Mills 

It began on Thursday with bore holes. Don Cooper, a trained archaeologist passionate about community archaeology, made 6 bore holes on The Green on Harrow on the Hill. We had seen pictures of possible concrete under The Gantry and the bore holes revealed sandy soil. Relief all around and the dig could start. This was the first part of The Gantry project. There has been very little archaeology on the Hill despite its long history. As the Gantry on The Green has been a feature for at least 325 years we thought it would be a good idea. Also we could look at the footings of the 19C base in preparation for the removal of the 1980s structure and its replacement, with one that is more in keeping with previous ones.Five other amateur archaeologists from HADAS (Hendon and District Archaeological Society) joined Don on Friday: Sarah, a PhD Archaeology student, Vicky, Jim, Guy the Major and Bill. Have to say they may have not been Time Team but they looked like them. 

The process was as follows: unload Don’s car of axes, trowels, buckets, baskets, tool box, measuring tape, string, plastic fencing for overnight protection, blue plastic sheets for the turf and the spoil, i.e. the soil you dig out of the trench. Then the trench was measured and marked with string. It extended 3 metres from under The Gantry towards the tree. The turf was cut carefully, removed and laid out in order on one of the blue sheets. When two people were working on this or any task, the other four were hawkeyed and chatting ‘this looks like sand’ ‘perhaps levelling the ground at some stage’ ‘what’s that’ ‘at least it’s not clay’. Clay is dreaded for Archaeology in London. Once you reach it you meet the geology which means no more evidence of human activity. 

The trench appeared when the grass disappeared and the work begins after kneepads, gloves and sun screen are donned. Worms, caterpillars and earwigs are put in soil buckets for a sleepover. There is a ritual of breaking the soil with a fierce tool and then gently scraping the earth with a flat trowel, all the time keeping to the line of the string. Bits of clay pipe are found. Clay pipes were given free with pints of beer until the 1930s, a custom from the 1600s. A shard of Victorian pottery, beautifully embossed, was seen. Sarah had the knowledge to explain how it was made and fired to people who passed by and showed interest. Lin, a local volunteer, was sifting through the spoil heap and found a button. It had a copper back and a glass top made from glass rods moulded together to form a rose. We had a number of visitors with their own memories or stories. The Kings Head allegedly had cellars that went under The Green and also had its own well. 

Archaeologists are observant and enquire. What looked like an ordinary stone to me, had marks of being worked on and the ensuing discussion surmised it could be a weight. There is a photo of the Green in the 1930s with a goat. We found one of its teeth. Other finds were a piece of Tudor pottery (maybe),Victorian earthenware, shards of pots, long nails (could be from a previous gantry), old glass which has bubbles in  it and then ‘the pipe’. We had been assured by all the services there was nothing under The Green. What was it? Pictures from the display in Stephen Woodward’s, the local estate agents, gave the answer. Jim detected small remnants of the gas lamp on the Green and the pipe was in line with it! Care was taken with it and then, the fear became a reality. London clay at 10 inches! It was 4.00pm first day, just like Time Team. A rethink and a new plan for the morning!

                                                                                                                                    Judith Mills 

Snippets of Archaeological News

Oldest Briton?

Scientists re-examining a fragment of jawbone with three teeth that was found in the 1920s in Kent’s Cavern near Torquay have established that it is much older than previously thought. The team from Oxford University say that it is between 41,000 and 44,000 years old and is the earliest known human “part” in Western Europe. The Times 3rd November 2011 

Worcestershire coin hoard

A metal detectorist found a Roman coin hoard at Bredon Hill, near Evesham in June 2011. The hoard consisted of 3784 coins with 16 Roman emperors represented. Worcestershire archaeology service has subsequently found evidence of a Roman settlement at the site. The coins are now being conserved at the British Museum. Redditch Advertiser 22nd October 2011 

Early Bronze Age cist excavated on Dartmoor

An early Bronze Age burial cist containing cremated bones and material dating back 4,000 years has been excavated on Dartmoor (Devon, England). Archaeologists uncovered items from the site on Whitehorse Hill including a woven bag or basket and amber beads. Dartmoor National Park Authority said the discovery could be one of the most important archaeological finds in 100 years.

Archeo News, 15th November 2011. 

Viking’s Sat-Nav?

Scientists say that a crystal called Iceland spar could have helped Norsemen to navigate to within one degree hundreds of years before compasses reached Europe by enabling them to detect the sun’s position. Iceland spar, a transparent form of calcite common in Scandinavia, is sensitive to polarisation, the way sunlight is scattered by the atmosphere. The crystal could have been used as a “sunstone” to pinpoint the sun in a cloudy sky.  The Times 2nd November 2011.

 

The finds report on the Hendon School Excavations in 2010 & 2011     by Don Cooper

 

address: Hendon School,
Golders Rise,

Hendon

NW4 2HP

 

Site Code: HDS06 Grid reference 523675.129E 189026.785N and height above sea level 59.850m. The centre of the combined trenches was 13m due east of the grid reference point.  

This report covers the finds from two Hendon School excavations as both took place in the same area.


Figure 1 This is a Google Earth image of the Hendon School playing field looking almost due north. The white/yellow rectangle represents the 2011 dig and the black/blue one 2010. The 2010 area would be under the 2011 area. The view is not to scale. 

The 2010 dig took place from 28th June to 2nd July and a preliminary report was produced. It was published in the HADAS Newsletter No. 473 in August 2010 and can be read on the HADAS website. In summary, it was a very successful dig with respect to demonstrating practical archaeological skills to the pupils. However, as is often the case, the natural surface was not reached due to the constraints of time. On the last day a sondage (a small trench within a trench) was excavated which, in this instance, was used to assess where the natural, i.e. London Clay, occurred. Imagine our surprise when 117 sherds of early medieval pottery sherds (bits of pot) turned up. The sondage was only 2 metres by half a metre and either we had struck lucky or there was more to find. We determined to come back the next year. 

So in June 2011 (17th to 25th) we returned to Hendon School, to the same place as far as it was possible to identify because, unfortunately, in the intervening year building contractors, who were building the new 6th Form building, had been using the area to park their huge trucks, track-laying vehicles and diggers and, in addition, the hedge which we had used as a marker since it ran parallel to the side of the 2010 trench, had been grubbed out! We also had an erroneous measurement from the 2010 excavation. A preliminary report of the 2011 dig was published in the HADAS Newsletter No. 485 in August 2011 and is also on the website. 

More trials and tribulations of the 2011 dig were brought about by the fact that we had 260 pupils to cater for. The trench, which was opened by the on-site building contractors using a digger, was 6 metres by 6 metres which was intended to encompass the 2010 trench.  However, in order to have some chance of managing that many pupils an area of 3 metres by 6 metres of the western end of the trench (i.e. half of it!) was dedicated to the pupils and did not go down very far as the same area was more or less reprocessed with each new group of pupils. When there was time, we dug the eastern end as far as we could. This somewhat unsatisfactory outcome nevertheless revealed more medieval pottery sherds. 

What did we find? 

2010 report 

The trench was three metres by two metres (see blue area in fig.1) and in terms of depth is divided into a series of contexts, features and sondage as follows: 

Context 1: the de-turfing layer about 6cm deep 

The context was mostly detritus from the playing field – sweet papers, broken pens and pencils, bits of metal (nails & modern coins), building material (brick, tile and slate) and  a few small sherds of pottery (three pieces of English Tin-glazed ware). Except for the pottery, all the finds from context 1 were discarded. The modern coins were added to the coffee fund. 

Context 2 with context 3, context 4 (a lens of London Clay) and context 5 (a slight gravel layer) all deemed part of context 2. 

This was the main context. It roughly occupied between 6cms and 25cms and was therefore approximately 20cms deep. It was a much disturbed layer with evidence of previous episodes of gardening. 

There were lots of finds:

Building material: Brick (794g), Roof tile including peg tiles (878g), Floor tile (157g), Slate (78g), Ceramic drain, red and white (45g).

All discarded except one piece of peg tile, one piece floor tile and three pieces of decorated tile.

Glass: Bottle glass, brown (17 pieces), Bottle glass, green (9 pieces), White bottle glass (45 pieces), Window glass (25pieces). All discarded.

Clay pipe: 54 pieces of stem, 7 pieces of bowl. All retained.           

Metal: 37 nails, two horseshoes (one very small), one hook, one part blade and one amorphous lump of iron. Only the horseshoes, lump of metal, and part knife blade were retained.

Animal Bone: It has been a characteristic of all the Hendon School digs that there has been remarkably little animal bone found. In this case, seven very degraded pieces of bone were found and discarded.

Pottery: 48 pieces of pre-1350AD pot sherds weighing 302 g, mostly cooking pots with one bowl fragment; there are five different fabrics from, at least, 20 vessels.  Then there is a gap of approximately 100 to 150 years in the pottery sherd date sequence. After which there are 150 sherds (783g) made of medieval fabrics (AD1480 onwards) to modern (AD1900), including Border ware, German stoneware and transfer-printed ware. 

Sondage and features 3 and 4: The sondage was at the eastern end of the trench and was two metres by half a metre and approximately 25cm deep. Mid-way across the sondage there was what seemed like a post hole into the London clay natural surface. The top of the post hole was designated feature 3 and the bottom feature 4. 

The sondage produced 114 sherds (414g). They consisted of five pieces of Roman pot, 107 pieces of pre-1350AD pot and two small sherds (4g) of 17th century intrusions. The top feature produced 3 sherds of pre-1350AD pot and the bottom feature had 2 unidentified pieces of metal, probably nails. There were no other finds. 

2011 report 

Trench A1 covers both the black and the white rectangles in Fig.1 (blue/yellow for those receiving this Newsletter by e-mail!).  The only trench opened was 6m x 6m with the eastern half of it used to teach practical archaeological excavation skills to the pupils. Due to time constraints the other half was not excavated down to the natural. Some of the trench was on top of the 2010 trench. Fig. 2 gives an indication of where the contexts were.

 

                                                                                                                                                Figure 2  2011 trench

 

Context 01 De-turfing by machine.  The only finds were the detritus of the playing field. None were retained. This context is not shown on the sketch as it covered the whole trench. 

Context 02

The top 25cm of the western half of the trench yielded many finds. This was a very disturbed context with pot sherds whose date sequence ranged from the 11thC to 19thC (168 sherds weighing 1055grms). Most periods were represented except between mid-14thC and early 16thC, a similar pattern to the one we had seen in the 2010 excavation. The pre-/mid-14thC sherds were represented by at least seven different fabrics, but the forms were mostly cooking pots, jugs and jars. As well as the pot sherds there was roof tile (56 pieces, 2 retained), Claypipe (32 stems, one retained which was stamped “J Cole, High St. Hampstead”, and four bowls, one retained), Bottle glass (five pieces, three retained) and window glass (three pieces, none retained). One large piece of slag (281grms) was retained and there was also one piece of glazed tile, one fragment of an ornament; one small medallion, scalloped shaped, all of which were retained. Metal nails (3  iron nails) and two tiny fragments of bone were discarded.

 Context 025 (properly a feature) This context was a small irregular patch of gravel in the south-west of the trench. It produced no finds. 

Context 028 This context represented a sondage sunk in the middle of the western half of the trench. It was 2metres by half a metre. There were no finds from this, possibly because it was where the 2010 trench had been. 

Context 027

The finds from the eastern half the trench which was dedicated as a “pupil” area (Context 027) were as follows: Pottery sherds (51) of which 18 were pre-/mid-14thC and retained, of the other 33, nine were retained. A similar dating sequence gap to that mentioned previously was observed. As well as the pottery there were: 36 clay pipe stems (none retained), three pieces of clay pipe bowl, two with the makers mark “WT” (all retained), 28 pieces of brick and tile (3 peg tile retained), glass (27) mostly green and brown wine bottle sherds (two retained). Metal: 8 nails (one retained). 

Context 030 This was an “L” shaped sondage in the north-west corner of the trench 1m east x half a metre south and then extended 1 metre to the south by two-thirds of a metre east and 30cms deep. The natural London clay was reached. The grubbing out of the hedge may well have disturbed this context.

There were 36 sherds of pre-/mid-14thC pot (all retained) with most of it being 12th/13thcC. Brick and tile (18) one retained and one pipe stem retained. There was no glass or bone in this context. 

Interpretation

The hamlet at the crossroads of Brent Street and Bell Lane is clearly established by the Survey of Middlesex by John Roque in 1756. According to the History of Middlesex in the Victoria County History (VCH) series, Brent Street was the largest hamlet in Hendon in the 18th century. Brent Street as a hamlet is first mentioned in 1613 (Petrie, 2005, p25). John Norden was living at Hendon House in Brent Street in 1607 as he recorded on his maps. However, it is difficult to go further back, other than noting that we know the ownership of the land was by various monasteries. Brett-James (1932) says that Hendon was at one stage part of the Danelaw. In 1540 the Abbot of Westminster resigned, and Henry VIII created a new bishopric which included Hendon, according the Letters Patent of 1542 (Hopkins1964, p33). 

The sherds of Norman pottery found in the excavation at least indicate human presence in the area during the 12th, 13th, and 14th centuries. The gap in the pottery date sequence cannot easily be explained. The Black Death, which wreaked such a terrible toll in the years 1348 to 1350, may well be the explanation as to the area being deserted and not repopulated for a considerable time. According Brett-James (1933, p2): 

             “We had no exact figures for the ravages of plague in Hendon, but the disappearance of

              certain families after 1350 side by side with the persistence of others and the rapid changes

              of officials at that time are possible indicators of the mortality caused by the plague.” 

No structures have so far been found; the “post hole” in the sondage in 2010 could just as easily be a fence post, as old maps show a fence on roughly the same alignment. The land slopes down from the crossroads of Brent Street and Bell Lane and the finds from the 16thC onwards may well be “hill wash” gradually moving down the slope. On the other hand, Bell Lane is an old road as it leads to the crossing of the Brent at Mutton Bridge, so perhaps there were dwellings along it. 

I would like to invite any of our readers, who may have done more research than I, to send me their thoughts and references so that we can gradually refine the story of the area. 

It has to be remembered that the main objective of the excavations at Hendon School is to demonstrate practical archaeology to the pupils. In 2010 Sarah Dhanjal produced a first-class 22-page booklet specifically for the school excavations.  The booklet highlighted the tasks we try to cover during the excavation. 

The tasks included: Health and Safety with special reference to the tools used in practical archaeology as well as behaviour on the site, Drawing, including “drawing our site” using plan and section drawing, There was photography, surveying using the dumpy level, finds processing including pot washing and marking, as well as trowelling in the trench as you can see in the photograph below:

 

 

                                                                                                                            Figure 3: The Learning Process at Hendon School 

References: 

Baker, T.F.T. ed., 1976. A History of Middlesex vol.5 Oxford: Oxford University Press (VCH series).

Brett-James, Norman. 1932. The Story of Hendon. Hendon:Warden & Co.

Brett-James, Norman,1933. Some extents and surveys of Hendon: In LAMAS transactions Vol.VII, Part I.

Hopkins, John. 1964. A History of Hendon. Published by Hendon Borough Council.

Petrie, Hugh. 2005. Hendon & Golders Green Past. London: Historical Publications Ltd.


The October Lecture Report                                                                                                                  by Sheila Woodward 

            “Silchester: the Revelation of an Iron Age and Roman City” by Dr. John Creighton

 

After many visits during the last 50 years, the site at Silchester is no stranger to HADAS. Nor is Dr. John Creighton: he reminded us that in his student days he joined us briefly on our West Heath dig. 

Unlike most Roman towns in England, Silchester (Calleva Atrebatum) was totally abandoned when the Romans departed; there has been no rebuilding on the site. Only Caistor St Edmund, which we visited last year, and Wroxeter, which we hope to visit again next year, share this distinction. It means that the original lay-out of the town is intact under its covering of soil and vegetation. That was long ago appreciated and Silchester has been extensively excavated. 

Even in the 18th century the site had attracted the attention of antiquarians such as William Stukeley and John Ward and their descriptions and tentative plans have proved valuable to the later researchers. By the 19th century both excavation techniques and mapping had improved dramatically and Dr. Creighton likened Henry McLoughlin’s topographical map of 1850, showing all the massive earthworks visible in Silchester, to a modern OS map. After the area came into the possession of the Duke of Wellington, the Society of Antiquaries was able to organise a full season (May to November) of excavation each year from 1890 to 1908, so producing the first comprehensive survey of a Roman town in this country. It has been reproduced many times in books on Roman Britain. Archaeology as discerned by Pitt Rivers was beginning to take shape. In more recent years the development of Roman Silchester from its Iron Age predecessor has attracted much attention, particularly in the area known as Insula IX, lying north-west of the Forum. 

How did the Roman town develop? How was it related to its predecessor? And how and when did that town develop? The sources of information available are now so many and varied and our lecturer whirled through them at such a speed that my notes are woefully inadequate! Aerial photography combined with new excavation has revealed more stone buildings, shops and workplaces, and a large timber building at a diagonal to the street grid. In 1973 George Boon and Colin Williams wrestled with the dating of the earthworks. There were geophysical surveys in 1993 and an English Heritage magnetic survey in 2008, and there have been resistivity surveys and ground penetrating RADAR ones. The Society of Antiquaries plans have been digitised and there has been a new mapping project somewhat troubled, I gather, by livestock challenges, especially from llamas! 

Dr. Creighton plans to accumulate data from every possible source and combine all the available information to get an overall view of the town, its predecessors, its history and its surroundings. At present it seems possible that there were Roman incursions in the area well before the AD43 conquest. There are many features which still need explaining. Dr Creighton has set himself a massive task but he is an enthusiast. Further developments in the Silchester saga will be well worth watching. 

 

Isle of Wight (Day 2 – part 1)                                                                                                                                   by Jim Nelhams 

For most people, no visit to the Island would be complete without exploring Osborne House and its grounds. But first we went to a local glassworks before a nostalgic trip by rail through the countryside to Wootton, to be met there by Dave in our coach. Not all members share the same interests, and sometimes it is possible to accommodate special requests. In this case, Andy Simpson, with the chance to explore the railways, disappeared as it were in a puff of smoke....  Now read on: 

 

Glory Art Glass www.gloryartglass.com                                                                                                             by Lydia Demetris

 

I looked forward to this visit, as I had often watched glassblowing as a child in my father’s factory, the Hastings and Folkestone Glassworks. 

Martin Evans, the owner, began his business 15 years ago after retiring from the armed forces.  He gave a very good talk and potted overview of the glass industry.  The way he makes his glass, he stated, has little changed since Roman times, and he had, in fact, made replica Roman glassware for Carisbrooke Castle in the past. The business involves both sales of his finished work and demonstrations to schools and parties.  

Glory Art Glass premises consists of a ground floor shop divided by a wooden counter into a street entry customer’s retail display area and manufacturing space to the rear. Helpful display boards detailing some glass-manufacturing processes hang in strategic places around the walls.  Our group sat in the showroom facing the workroom, on the long benches and chairs that are provided for their group visitors, tourists and school parties. Martin began his presentation with a short history of Glass. 

Glass is a simple process made originally from silica sand, soda and lime fused at high temperatures. Many variations have taken place including potash and lead, the latter making the glass easier to work.  Silica sand is obtained from numerous sites in the UK.  The use of the sand from each site depends on its content.  For example the type that Martin uses for his work differs from that used in the manufacture of Plate Glass for shop windows. (Further information can be obtained from the British Geological Society www.bgs.ac.uk) However, Martin buys his ready mixed from Scandinavia together with ground coloured glass in a variety of shades. 

Martin began his talk by introducing the beginning of production of glass at around 5000 years ago with simple beads gradually progressing to carved artefacts where glass was treated rather like stone. The big step forward in his opinion, was the introduction, during the Roman Period, of metal blowing tubes leading to the production of all kinds of vases, drinking vessels and jewellery.  He then proceeded to show us some of his moulds that glass can be blown into, together with his metal pincers, cutters and tools used to process his stock.  Glass windowpanes in Roman times would have been either poured into moulds or blown and then unrolled. 

At the rear of the premises an oven with molten glass was heated at a constant temperature of 1100oC, taking four days to achieve this.  The oven has to remain constantly fuelled during operation and in a commercial situation this would involve 365 days a year, although Mr Evans now closes it during the winter months, presumably due to trading reasons.  In days before gas a constant supply of wood was essential, and we learnt that the Chinese, in the past, were experts at building huge draught ovens on hillsides to maximise heat. 

Martin introduced a blow rod into the oven and withdrew a small bulb of glass.  I would have expected the rod to be heated prior to this, but I neither saw any evidence that it had taken place nor was in a position to see whether he marvered the glass. He certainly rotated the soft bulb to keep it centred and blew through the tube to form a bubble, introduced the coloured ground glass and briefly replaced it in the oven.  He explained how it could be re-dipped after cooling to encapsulate the colour and how this process was used to create his glass vases and other pieces in the showroom.  He then used his tools to crimp and pull wings and a beak from the glass and skilfully produce the shape of a bird.  The glass, he said was still at a temperature of 3000 oC and he proved how hot it was by touching it with a newspaper, which immediately burst into flames – an instant winner with the schoolchildren of course.  The bird, still attached to the rod was placed in an Annealing Oven. The rod was tapped to disengage the bird and the door closed.  Glass produced in this way is kept in an Annealing Oven overnight at 500 oC  to cool; as if it cooled too quickly it would implode.  Martin then took out another bubble of glass and blew it into a huge bubble before bursting it safely into a bucket with a resounding bang that made us all laugh.  

Martin then began his final process which involved another glass bulb which he processed into a flower with his crimpers, then twisted the base and curled it to make hand crafted napkin rings.  These, he said, together with the small animals, were the basis of his trade and how he was able to stay in business.  We then had our buying opportunity!  

Martin’s presentation was very enjoyable and gave a very good overview of the old skills of glass blowing to the general public.  It is, of course, too huge a subject to discuss in any depth.  I think we all thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

 

RAILWAYS                                                                                                                                                                                by Andy Simpson

 

After our thoroughly enjoyable visit to the glass emporium, the group boarded the coach for the short trip to the western outskirts of Sandown where the railway station is situated. This, for me, was obviously the start of a much-anticipated part of the trip. 

The story of railways on the Isle of Wight began with the opening of the line from Cowes southwards to Newport in June 1862. The opening of the line from St Lawrence to Ventnor West in June 1900 completed an island-wide system of 55.5 route miles, serving 36 stations. Road competition and declining traffic saw early route closures in 1952, 1953 and 1956. Closure of the Smallbrook Junction (of which more later) to Cowes via Newport (the hub of the system) and Shanklin–Ventnor lines to passengers in February/April 1966 saw the ‘main line’ reduced to the 8.5 miles on the eastern side of the island between Ryde Pier Head southwards to Shanklin, which was operated by Victorian Adams class O2 0-4-4 tank steam engines until 31 December 1966. Tight clearances in the tunnel at Ryde limited the choice of replacement stock. The remaining line was electrified on the third rail system from late 1966. 

From 20th March 1967, services on the remaining line were provided by three/four-car sets of 1923-34 built ex- London Transport ‘Standard’ tube stock originally from the Bakerloo/Northern/Piccadilly Lines and later used on the Northern City Line, painted initially in soul-less 1960s/70s BR ‘rail blue’, several cars of which returned to the mainland in 1990 for preservation by the London Transport Museum – some of which remain in store at Acton Depot for future restoration to working order for use in LT’s Heritage fleet. From the autumn of 1989, initially  part of ‘Ryde Rail’, they were replaced by shortened two-car sets of ex-Northern line ‘1938 stock’ – on one of the six ‘Class 483’ sets currently in use, which HADAS, filling some normally quiet coaches at that time of the day,  took a short run on what now trades as the heavily-subsidised  ’Island Line’ (www.island-line.com) from Sandown northwards via the former junction at Brading (of which more later in the week) to Smallbrook Junction just outside Ryde. From 2000, after carrying various liveries since 1989, these sets have all rather fetchingly been repainted into LT red! 

Until 26 January 1969, the railway on Ryde Pier was paralleled by the Ryde Pier Tramway, of which the rusting track supports remain – as well as one preserved tram from this line in Newport Bus Museum (see below). HADAS saw another ex-Ryde Pier tram – the horse-drawn ‘Grapes’ car of 1871 – at Hull Streetlife (Transport) Museum on our visit there a few years back. 

When we reached Smallbrook Junction, a swift cross-platform transfer was made to a steam-hauled train on the Isle of Wight Steam Railway (www.iwsteamrailway.co.uk) , which operates from there five miles westwards to Wootton along part of the former Newport/Cowes Line; in July 1991 the railway reopened the previously closed line and lifted three miles of track from Havenstreet, from where preserved trains ran to Wootton from April 1971, operated by the Wight Locomotive Society, making this their 40th anniversary year, with various special events. Our eager throng crowded onto our specially reserved coaches, including the one I was on, dating back to 1922 (hauled by former Longmoor Military Railway and Marchwood Military Port 1953-built Hunslet 0-6-0ST WD192 ‘Waggoner) for a one-way trip along the line via Ashey and Havenstreet to Wootton, where the rest of the party moved on via St Mildred’s Church at Whippingham to Osborne House, leaving yours truly with his bargain value £14 ‘Island Liner Rover’ to explore both the preserved and main lines at leisure – which I did, thoroughly! 

The preserved line’s engine shed and HQ is at Havenstreet, with plenty of interesting steam (and diesel) engines in the yard, including the sole-surviving ‘O2’ Calbourne, sold by BR for preservation in May 1967, and two well-stocked bookshops to browse! The weather was pleasant and the camera saw plenty of use … after which I re-joined the ‘main line’ at Smallbrook Junction and spent the next five or six hours traversing the line and visiting seven of the eight stations, including the very pleasant heritage and information centre at Brading station (www.bradingstation.com), to catch up on local gossip (much disquiet at IoW council cuts) and have a welcome mug of coffee. Come rush hour, the trains filled with commuters and unusually smartly dressed school children. All trains run VERY punctually through some very pleasant countryside, much like the top few miles of the Central Line towards Epping where one can also travel on a tube train with green fields both sides of the track.

 

Exhibition at the British Museum                                                                                                                               by Don Cooper

 

The Grayson Perry exhibition at the British Museum “The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman” which runs until the 19th February 2012 (cost £10 for seniors, members free) is proving very popular. The exhibition which is of a unique kind for the British Museum sets modern craftsmanship against old items made by unknown craftsmen from the BM’s eclectic collection. 

In the accompanying catalogue (Perry, 2011) Neil MacGregor, Director of the British Museum, he of “The History of the World in 100 Objects”, says “The resulting juxtapositions are something that none of those of us working in the Museum ever would - or could - have brought into being.” And Jacob Bronowski is quoted in the introduction to the catalogue as follows: "The most powerful drive in the ascent of man is his pleasure at his own skill. He loves to do what he does well and, having done it well, he loves to do it better. You see it in his science". 

This is an exciting exhibition which certainly changed my views.  If you are going, you need to book in advance as the exhibition is timed entry.

Perry, Grayson, 2011. The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman London: British Museum Press.

 

News of other events                                                                                                                                                by Eric Morgan

Tuesday, 6th December at 14.00: Harrow Museum, Headstone Manor, Pinner View, North Harrow, HA2 6PX, a talk by Tony Earle on “Thames Barges”. Cost £3. 

Wednesday, 7th December at 13.00: Gresham College at the Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN, a lecture by Prof. Tim Connell called “The City Livery Companies”. Free. 

Monday, 12th December at 18.30: British Library Conference Centre, 96 Euston Road NW1 2DB, a talk Michael Wood called “Royal Manuscripts, the story of a book” The talk is on a manuscript about King Athelstan. Cost £7.50 (£5 for concessions). 

Tuesday, 13th December at 18.30: LAMAS at the Clore Learning Centre, Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN, a lecture by Glynn Davis and Catherine Elliott called “Thomas Layton’s Artificial Curiosities: Oceanic Collections of an ‘Old World Type’”. Free. 

Tuesday, 13th December at 20.00: Cuffley Industrial Heritage Society, Northaw Village Hall,

5 Northaw Road West, EN6 4NW a talk by Robert Hulse called “Isambard Kingdom Brunel's First Project”. Non-members £3. 

Wednesday, 14th December at 14.30: Mill Hill Historical Society, Wilberforce Centre, St. Paul’s Church, The Ridgeway, NW7 1QU, a talk by Neil Morley called “Hidden City”. 

Wednesday, 14th December at 19.00: Camden History Society, Charlie Ratchford Resource Centre, Belmont Street, NW1 8HF (off Chalk Farm Road opposite The Roundhouse), a talk by Dr. Ann Saunders called “The London Letters (1712-1713) of Samuel Molyneux, later MP”. Wine and mince pies before talk. 

Wednesday, 14th December at 19.45: Hornsey Historical Society, Union Church Hall, corner Ferme Park Rd. Weston Park N8, a talk by Mark Evison called “Alexandra Park, Past and Present” Visitors £2. 

Events for your next year’s diary 

Thursday, 17th  January 2012 at 18.30: LAMAS at the Clore Learning Centre, Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN, a lecture by Julian Hill of  Museum of London Archaeology called  “Mapping Roman London: from Site Context to Town Plan”. 

Saturday, 9th April 2012, at the Museum of London: The LAMAS Archaeology Conference. You can apply for tickets online. (Members £8, non-members £10).

Comments