Number  527                        FEBRUARY  2015                Edited by Andy Simpson



Tuesday 10 February 2015    An Assorted History of Singapore: featuring the Mill

                                                         Hill connection & the Five Foot Way -  Rob Kayne 

Tuesday 10 March 2015                   To be announced. 

Tuesday 14 April 2015                      Excavations by Pre-Construct Archaeology at the former Inglis Barracks – talk by Ian Cipin.

 Tuesday 12 May 2015                       Robert Stephenson (CoLAS Member)

The Knights Templar and their London Connections


Tuesday 9 June 2015            ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING


Tuesday 13 October 2015     Dr Caroline Cartwright Scientific Methods in Archaeology

 Tuesday 10 November 2015             The History of The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI). Speaker to be advised. 

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 5-10 minute walk away. 

Sunday Mornings at Avenue (Stephens) House… 

Continue in the usual vein for post-excavation work. We are now well established in our new basement room, with plenty of racking space already well filled with finds for storage and processing, and books and journals for reference. Much time has been spent on further processing medieval greyware pottery from the Pinner kiln site, with some sorting of the comparable material from Arkley currently being studied in the Wednesday evening classes led by Jacqui Pearce also.                                                                                   

Study identifies prevalence of rickets among 16th century sailors -

New laser technology investigates bones of sailors who perished on Henry VIII’s ship.  

(With thanks to Bill Bass for this one)  – note the local (Stanmore) connection… 

The bones of sailors who sailed on Henry VIII’s Mary Rose ship have been analysed at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital (RNOH) in Stanmore, North London as part of a study by University College London (UCL), the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and The Mary Rose Trust. 

The Mary Rose was King Henry VIII’s flagship before it sank in battle on the 19th July 1545, resulting in over four hundred men losing their lives. The environment of the Solent meant that the ship and the sailors were preserved in silt, which helped to keep them in remarkably good condition. The sailors’ bones were analysed with Raman spectroscopy, a pioneering, non-destructive laser technology, to identify evidence of bone disease. The application of Raman spectroscopy to the study of bone diseases in historical populations was novel and the work has been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science. 

Two sets of tibia bones were obtained from The Mary Rose Trust, bones that appeared anatomically healthy and bones that were abnormal in shape. The deformations in the abnormal bones were suspected to be due to a metabolic bone disease such as rickets (the poor diet of the average person in the 1500s would have increased the prevalence of rickets). The results of the Raman study confirmed that the abnormally shaped bones did in fact have chemical abnormalities. The Raman technique shows potential as a tool for understanding the presence and prevalence of metabolic bone disease in historical populations and may have a place in modern-day detection of the condition, with reports earlier in 2014 warning that Britain is seeing a return of Tudor-era diseases. 

Dr. Jemma Kerns, RAMAN Clinical Study Manager at UCL and RNOH, one of the scientists who conducted the study, commented: “This is the first time that this laser technology has been used to study bone disease in archaeological human bone. We have identified chemical changes in the bones, without damaging them. There is strong evidence to suggest that many of the sailors had suffered from childhood rickets and we hope to apply the Raman technique to the study of modern day rickets.”  Alex Hildred, Curator of Human Remains at the Mary Rose Trust added: “The Mary Rose Trust has the responsibility for the remains of over 179 individuals who perished with the ship. Their provenance is absolute; they represent the crew of an English warship in July 1545. The human remains have potential to make a contribution to the public through research, education, display and interpretation. Their use to confirm the presence and prevalence of metabolic bone disease in the 16th century is one of these contributions.”                                                                                     

The RAMAN study, led by Professor Allen Goodship, was funded as part of a £1.7 million grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The bones were measured in a laser facility at the Institute of Orthopaedics UCL. The ‘normal’ bones that were analysed as part of the study were supplied by the Vesalius Centre at the University of Bristol. 


CROMER ROAD DIG 2014                                                                           Jim Nelhams 

During June 2014, we held a dig on the playing fields at Cromer Road School, New Barnet (see report by Bill Bass in November newsletter). Much of the preparation was undertaken by Sarah Dhanjal, who prepared workbooks and visited the school several times to talk to the children.

     On the final visit, after the dig had been completed, Sarah was accompanied by Professor Stephen Shennan, Director of the Institute of Archaeology at UCL, who presented the children involved with certificates to record their work.  As seen in the picture, the dig was blessed with good weather, a reward for those who freely and voluntarily gave their time.

   The following comments have been received from the school staff and children, showing how much they appreciated our efforts:-

      “Involving our school with HADAS was an enlightening and exciting experience. Staff, children, governors and parents all became involved and it was a real community event. The amazing pleasure witnessed on the children’s faces when they found hidden objects was a delight and gave us all a sense of history and awe and wonder. I would recommend them without hesitation.”

Helen Schmitz, Headteacher, Cromer Road School

     “HADAS provided a unique experience for both myself and my class of 30 Year 5 children. In my 11 years of teaching, working alongside HADAS to carry out an archaeological dig of an area of the school grounds, stands out as one of those enriching learning moments where all children were inspired and where history and geography were brought to life in a very real way. I remember as a child the enjoyment that came from digging and excavating as a way to explore the world available to me and can only wish I had the experience that HADAS provided when I was at school. I would thoroughly recommend them to any school.”

The dig team at rest

                                                                                                                                                                            Timothy Eke, Year 5 Teacher, Cromer Road School.

     The experience my year 5 class had with HADAS was not only inspiring but practical in a way that enabled children of all abilities to access the learning and also brought to life other aspects of the curriculum. For example, measuring perimeter and area, utilising ‘real equipment’, enabled children who sometimes have difficulty in the classroom setting, to see the relevance of these in a real life situation and this moved their learning forward.   The team were well organised and their enthusiasm had a huge impact on the children. I would definitely recommend HADAS to other schools.’                                  Sharon Brennan, Year 5 Teacher, Cromer Road School. 

And some comments from the children:-

     “So thanks to you, we now know so much more about our school based on the amazing things we found.”

     “I have learnt so much in the time you were here and I have gotten more into archaeology. I hope you come again.”

     “I really liked that we were learning about how people were living years ago.”

“Thank you all for your help. All of my class loved it and so did I.” 

FOOTNOTE -- HADAS always tries to reinstate dig sites as near as possible to the way we found them. This includes packing down the earth before replacing the turf. For those unfamiliar with this process, Roger Chapman produced a short video which can be viewed at      A footnote indeed. 


First Lecture of 2015                                                            Jo Nelhams (Secretary) 

Many thanks to all those members who attended the first lecture ’The Roman Fortifications in Northern France and their Social Implications’ despite travel difficulties due to the bus strike. The Romans still have their ‘pulling power’ and it was good to see members and meet some, whom we do not see on a regular basis. 


JANUARY LECTURE REPORT -  LATE ROMAN FORTIFICATIONS AND THEIR SOCIAL IMPLICATIONS – An Interpretation based on Northern France, by Dr. James Bromwich                                 (report by Andy Simpson)


This was a well-illustrated, highly entertaining and thought provoking presentation that got me thinking about all sorts of contrasts and parallels between Gaul and Britannia. The detailed handouts provided to the audience were most useful, too! 

With no guidebooks previously available on the remains and defences of Roman Gaul, Dr. Bromwich has now written three since 1996, the latest in 2014 on Brittany, Normandy and the Loire region. In this area ramparts – walled defences – tended to be small, but widespread. The early Roman history of the Imperial provinces covers the time of Augustus, c. 27BC, to Constantine, c.300AD. The Late Empire covers the period 300 to 460 AD, with the collapse of Roman society in the area in the face of ‘Barbarian’ invasions and settlement. 

He looked in detail at Nimes and Autun. The ramparts of Roman Nimes, a Civitas (tribal) capital, date to around 15BC, and enclose some 230 hectares, being some 7 km long and enclosing virtually all of the Roman settlement. Some 50-60 hollow circular towers stood in front of the 2m-thick wall, and the deliberately imposing, but possibly non-military La Tour Magne overlooked the ramparts. Similarly imposing was the gate – La Porte d’Auguste. 

Autun has 6km of ramparts enclosing all of the Roman town including parts seemingly never built in/occupied. Its circular towers stood astride the wall. The gate, La Porte St-André, reminded AS of the Balkern Gate at Colchester, with its twin main arches flanked by pedestrian archway entrances, with an open gallery above.  Comparable in size to the Porta Nigra at Trier. Reims had an earthen rampart but stone gates. It may be that these ramparts were not seriously defensible but were a symbol of Imperial Power. In the 1st – 2nd century AD, the Roman Army fought in the open and didn’t think they needed real defence beyond marching camps and narrow-walled forts as night protection from minor enemies. 

The speaker considered the extent and length of fortifications, rampart construction and thickness, tower design and spacing, gate design and military effectiveness. A 2m thick wall did not give a wall walk wide enough for two men to pass easily. Walls of this period often lack deep foundations, not being built to last, with towers spaced at 70m- 90m intervals, too wide for adequate flanking fire, reducing their military effectiveness. These walls were perhaps designed more to assert the prestige and status of the settlement and show the adoption of the new Roman order, which later became less relevant as the Gauls Romanised and became Gallo-Romans. 

Late Roman characteristics, on the other hand, featured, in Northern France, widespread and much stronger defences, but with much reduced rampart lengths.                                                                                   

These were sometimes miniscule – less than 1 km, enclosing a core area of just 10-11 ha compared to the early period 200 ha. Walls were thicker – up to 3m – permitting defenders to pass one another on the wall walk. 

Small facing blocks (petit appareil) faced a rubble core set in very strong cement, built over foundation courses of large stone blocks (grand appareil) often robbed from earlier monuments, tombs and buildings, as found in the late Roman defences of London and elsewhere in the province of Britannia. Gates had just two arched entrances and flanking towers for better defence, with less emphasis on appearance. Who actually paid for this is unclear, although the army may have provided military engineers in an advisory capacity. As the culmination of a troubled third century, ramparts were the last major public investments in Roman Gaul.


At Bavay, only the forum was walled, an area of barely 2ha. This may reflect social transformation, as described below. The walls of Sens featured the characteristic tile courses, and the ornate façade of the baths was demolished and incorporated into the wall foundations as ‘remploi’, for parts to be recovered in modern times and reconstructed in a museum. Here the walls enclosed 34ha – less than the area of the Roman town.  At Le Mans, famous for other things these days, the highly decorated walls enclosed 9ha, being the finest ramparts in Northern France, with some stretches surviving to wall walk level, with solid tower bases.  As at London, many tombstones were robbed and incorporated into the wall, with a 90m wide swathe being cleared of earlier buildings to build the walls. 

There were very few forts built, exceptions being at Jublains and the coastal defences at Brest; at Jublains the priority was to enclose a granary and two baths complexes, but gaps at the two gates suggest the site was never finished, being constructed c. 270 – 280AD, the same as Le Mans, leaving a theatre, baths etc. outside the walls and undefended. In Northern France in the later period, security was paramount; public buildings were no longer crucial to being Gallo-Roman. Occupation evidence in extra-mural areas indicates significant abandonment, though some occupation did continue. For example at Rennes, 4th century construction included a new road, but old cemeteries were abandoned. Who actually lived in these walled towns? Possibly an elite, army generals or church officials such as Bishops, as well as storing the all-important annona – tax in kind to feed the army. Churches and Bishops appeared from the time of Emperor Constantine after his conversion to Christianity, and in the 390s Christianity became compulsory. However, evidence is thin for churches in 4th/5th century towns and even thinner in the countryside. The Gallic church held regular meetings attended by Bishops, of whom there were less than half a dozen – not all towns had a resident Bishop. There are few villas in Northern Gaul, in contrast to the large numbers found in SW France and the English Cotswolds, for instance. At Amboise, there was third century abandonment, fourth century squatter occupation and fifth century quarrying for building materials; indeed, by around AD300, some 70% of  NW French villas were abandoned – a good century before many British examples.

In both countries the actual villa estates frequently continued, possibly to reflect modern local and parish boundaries in some instances.    At Viel, a 240ha sacred sanctuary was the largest in NW France, with a huge bath complex which was out of use by the third century. From this time many such sanctuaries declined or went out of use. 

The Empire in the third century underwent epidemics of disease, economic and military crisis, with endless short-lived emperors in Rome, and separatist Gallic Empires that included Britannia that collapsed in the 270s. As state rule collapsed, the elite concentrated land ownership and protected themselves and seemingly withdrew from communal religion. They may have moved to the towns, or, it has been suggested, even to Britannia. The town of Sens was even renamed; the link between civitas towns and the surrounding tribal countryside broke down. There was no new public building. 

New churches were tiny and not of cathedral scale.  From the 290s on there was civil unrest with the bagaudae - peasant insurgents - roaming the countryside attacking and looting. This made it easier perhaps to rebel, and even accept invasion by Germanic tribes, when the poor were abandoned by the moneyed class and ceremonies and festivals no longer shared by all classes as they had been in the open society of pre-Roman times.  There was a fundamental change in religious practice and perhaps belief, with an integrated Gallo-Roman religious mix no longer the cement holding society together, being replaced by a narrow local mix of religious beliefs and practices. Even today, the emphasis in France is on your own very local area – the Pays.


OTHER SOCIETIES’ EVENTS                                        compiled by Eric Morgan 

Wednesday 18th February, 7.30pm. Willesden Local History Society, St Mary’s Church Hall, Neasden Lane, NW10 2TS (nr Magistrate’s Court).  Brents’ Brent Talk by Margaret Pratt & Cliff Wadsworth (W.L.H.S).  On the long history of the river. 

Friday 20th February Wembley Local History Society NB – talk starts at 7.30, Indians in the Trenches - the contribution they made in World War I

Talk by J Sohal.  Visitors £2. 

Thursday 26th  February, 2.30pm. Finchley Society, Drawing Room, Avenue House, East End Road N3 3QE.  Medieval Middlesex – The Archaeological Remains Talk by Adam Corsini (Collections Manager for M.O.L at L.A.A.R.C) Non-members £2. The talk will mainly focus on the archaeology found at South Mimms, and may include findings of an excavation in Regents Park Road as well. 

Monday 9th March, 3pm. Barnet Museum & Local History Society, Church House, Wood St, Barnet (opposite museum).  Nursing in the First World War  Talk by Susan Cohen. Visitors £2.

Wednesday 11th March, 2.30pm. Mill Hill Historical Society, Trinity Church, The Broadway, NW7.  Pharmacy – The Journey from Art to Science Talk by Michael Beaman  Preceded by AGM.


Wednesday 18th March, 7.30pm. Willesden Local History Society, St Mary’s Church Hall, Neasden Lane, NW10 2TS. The Archivist’s Work Talk by Stephanie Alder (Heritage Collections Manager at Brent Museum & Archives).


Saturday 21st March, 11am – 5.30pm. LAMAS Archaeological Conference  Weston Theatre, Museum of  London, London Wall, EC2Y 5HN. Recent Work (a.m.) and Recent Finds Research (p.m.). See HADAS hope to have a table there. Early Bird tickets £10.00 pre-1 March, otherwise £15.00. 

Wednesday 25th March, 7.45pm. Friern Barnet & District Local History Society, North Middx Golf Club, The Manor House, Friern Barnet Lane N20 0NL. The National Census – A look at a house in Clerkenwell.  Talk by Marlene McAndrew  Visitors £2. Refreshments & bar open before & after talk. 

Thursday 26th March, 8pm. Finchley Society, Drawing Room, Avenue House. Hustings Event – Meeting With General Election Candidates or their representatives.  If you wish to submit a question to the panel, please send it to the Editor of the Finchley Society’s Newsletter:  Rosemary Coates, 38 Lyndhurst Ave, N2 0LU.  E-mail or call 0208 3681620 by 1st March. 


With thanks to this month’s contributors; Bill Bass; Eric Morgan; Jim Nelhams; Jo Nelhams