newsletter-058-december-1975

Newsletter

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New Look Party

Happy Christmas, everyone! To open the festivities we are looking forward to meeting you all at the HADAS Christmas party on Friday 5 December at 166 Station Road, NW4 at 7.45p.m.

Most of the organisers of this year's party are trying their hands for the first time and are full of fresh ideas. Irene Frauchiger has some mouth-watering notions for the buffet, with wine. Pam Selby and Margaret Musgrove have got together about entertainment -- their advice is don't bring your trowel to this archaeological event, but do bringing a pencil for light-hearted quizzes -- positively nothing of brain-stretching.

The experienced hand on the tiller will be that of John Enderby, who has compered many a HADAS party. As master of ceremonies he'll carry us along at a spanking pace. No Tombola this year, by the way -- but a hamper and sherry raffle instead.

HADAS Field Walk

To give yourself an appetite for Christmas, how about joining a special HADAS field-walk in the historic Bury Farm/Brockley Hill area (Bury Farm was the centre of the mediaeval manor of Edgware, Brockley Hill's Roman Connections needed no introduction to HADAS members) on Sunday, 14 December? Organisers Daphne Lorimer and Ann Trewick plan to start at 10.00a.m. from a rendezvous at Spur Road roundabout on the A41, at the entrance to Green Lane.

If you intend to join us, please ring Daphne Lorimer and let her know, in case there is any last-minute change of plan.

Other Dates Ahead

HADAS lectures for the second half of the Winter will be:

Jan. 6 - Napoleonic Defences - Andrew Saunders MA FSA
and Martello Towers
Feb. 3 - Medieval York - P. V. Addyman MA
Mar. 2 - Vernacular Architecture - Joan Harding FSA
Apr. 6 - There was no road to Petra - Betty Hellings-Jackson

You might like also to note that:

Saturday morning, 6 March, will be the HADAS Minimart, Henry Burden Hall, Egerton Gardens, NW4.

Starting 27 April and each Tuesday evening thereafter for six weeks at the HGS Institute, lecture course on the Mesolithic, run by Desmond Collins in connection with next Spring's HADAS dig.

Note: the Mesolithic course is University sponsored and therefore limited to 25 students. HADAS members and those in Camden History Society who wish to participate will have priority in bookings until 29 February. Members would be wise to sign on soon with John Enderby, as even within our and Camden's membership it will have to be first come, first served.

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Hampstead Garden Suburb Boundary Markers

In at the last Newsletter Raymond Lowe asks for information about a cast iron plate attached to a tree in the garden of 33 Denman Drive, NW11.

This is a Finchley boundary marker. Another in slightly better condition may be seen not many yards away, attached to a garden fence on the western boundary of Little Wood. A third, bearing the same "tree and castle" emblem but in a different style, stands in Addison Way, close to its junction with Erskine Hill. There is probably another on the western end of Big Wood, but concealed by garden rubbish.

Mr ealso refers to an iron post close to the tree marker in Denman Drive. This too is a Boundary marker. Although it has been uprooted, there is no reason to think it has been moved more than a yard or so from its correct site. It is, according even to the latest 6 in. OS map, just where it ought to be, as is another of the same type still in situ in a back garden to the east of Erskine Hill. This now shows only about 9 in. above ground level.

Because of the relative positions of the plates and posts, it seems most likely that the latter were erected by Hendon, but this is a matter which will be settled when the boundary survey can be extended to that portion of the Finchley-Hendon boundary which runs through the Suburb. None of the markers which I have mentioned has yet been fully studied or recorded, as the survey has not yet reached that stretch of the boundary.

World Archaeology

A report on the last HADAS lecture by Daphne Lorimer.

At our November lecture Dr John Alexander took HADAS by the scruff of its collective neck out of its parochial trench on a survey of Archaeology throughout the world. In his view, it is in this broad vision that the future of Archaeology lies.

Not only is Archaeology the only discipline which gives any information about a large period of mankind's history, but archaeological finds are accepted by all countries and races. This has a unifying effect and, in Dr. Alexander's opinion, could well be the future basis of the teaching of history in schools the world over.

The concept of world archaeology has evolved only in the last 10-15 years and has been taught and studied only in the last five; only since the 1940s have archaeologists been at work in every country so that an international framework of information could be built up. In every country, too, a vast amount of information awaits the excavator -- far more than was envisaged even a few years ago -- due too many new techniques (such, for instance, as palaeobotany). Dating methods haveve improved and it is possible to compare mankind's development during 3,000,000 years between one country and another.

The movement of man can also be studied. Australia was colonised 20,000 to 30,000 years ago, apparently by boat. The inhabitants of South America came southwards down the western side of their continent, with civilisations ultimately so advanced that archaeologists are forced to question the hitherto-accepted theory that civilisation began in the Middle East.

Dr Alexander went on to describe the calculation of the size of a group in a hunter-gatherer area, not only in Europe but among Red Indians and Australian aborigines; he examined the world centres of the domestication of animals and plants and theories of the dissemination of indigenous growth of cultures and techniques.

In short, he gave HADAS members a glimpse into the huge sum of knowledge to which their mite can contribute -- and when one is overwhelmed by the vastness of world archaeology, it is comforting to reflect that the parochial trench is part of it, too.

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St. James the Great, Friern Barnet

During the last nine months Ann Trewick has reported in the Newsletter several times on the progress of the dig on this site, which ended two months ago. Below is her final summing up of the excavation.

The Objectives of the Dig

In 1973 HADAS was asked for advice by the authorities of St. James the Great. A tombstone had been lifted in the churchyard near the east wall of the Church (rebuilt 1853), in order to take it inside for display. The stone commemorated Sir William Oldes (d. 1718) Knight Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod to Queen Anne. As a result a brickwork corner had been revealed.

The Rector wished this to be further investigated (a) in case it was connected with an earlier church on the site; (b) to find out the original position of Sir William Oldes' tomb, as his tombstone was thought to have been moved previously. Owing to other commitments, HADAS could not start digging until February, 1975. Meantime, the hole above the brickwork was backfilled.

The Excavation

Initially two trenches were opened, each 2 m square with 1 m baulks. They were sited outside the east wall of the south aisle. This wall provides a datum line, the datum point being taken at the corner between the south buttress and the east wall of the Church. Trench A started 1/2 a meter north of the datum point, with Trench B to its east.

Trench A

Three vaults and all burials discovered, except one, occurred in this trench. Our first action was to reopen the 1973 hole. This revealed the brickwork of Vault 1 at 10 cm below ground surface. Adjacent, on the south side of the trench, more brickwork of Vault 3 was uncovered. Between was a smaller vault, No. 2.

During the dig Trench A was extended in two directions: northwards by 25 cm to enable the brass coffin plate and the lead coffin with which it is associated to be cleared; and westwards into Trench A1 (see below).

Apart from burials and vaults, the only feature uncovered in Trench A, at 125 cm below ground level on the north side, was an area of large cobbles over smaller stones. The area was too small for it to be possible to interpret the purpose of these laid cobbles. The trench was excavated natural and the baulk between Trenches A and B was removed, exposing the full length of Vault 1.

Trench A1

At the request of the authorities we investigated the foundations of the east wall of the church within the north-south limits of Trench A, which was therefore extended up to the Church wall.

It was hoped to find the foundations of the earlier church. What in fact was demonstrated was the very shallow foundations of the 1853 church -- only 50 cm below modern ground surface. Some floor tiles were noted among the foundation stones. At some stage underpinning had been necessary, as a concrete shelf was uncovered, 1 meter long. When later the south baulk was removed this concrete continued towards to the south buttress.

Trench B

This trench was dominated by Vault 1 which allowed little space in which to work. The vault had been cut by the laying of a drain. In fact 2 drains were found: one of brick-and-tile against the east section of the trench, possibly pre-dating the 1853 Church; and a twentieth-century drain running across the trench at the floor level of Vault 1, about 180 cm below ground surface. This effectively stopped digging and natural was never reached in this trench.

The Finds

Small finds included a boar's tusk, oyster shells and bottle glass, as well as fragments of stained glass and building materials. Some of these may relate to the earlier church -- a possibility which is still being studied. The most interesting finds were connected with the burials, both in the vaults and outside them.

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Vault 1

This was a brick structure measuring at least 2.7 m long, 1.44 m wide and 1.6 m high, built to contain one or at most two coffins. The length could not be precisely determined because the end had been destroyed by the drain. The vault contained a single burial, in a wooden coffin. The wood was much decayed, but had been decorated with small brass studs; there was no coffin plate. On top of the coffin was found part of a clay tobacco pipe, dated 1700-1760, and thought probably to belong to the earlier part of that period.

Vault 2

This was small and of brick, measuring 1.54 m 76 cm. It was shallow and could have been a child's grave. It appeared to have been disturbed and the bones were not of one individual.

Vault 3

This was the family tomb of the Bretton family, who were intimates of Sir William Oldes. It was investigated, at the Rector's suggestion, at the end of the dig. Only part was revealed, because the top is still covered by a large, commemorative slab. The entrance was not excavated -- a small hole in the brickwork permitted the interior to be seen. Steps within led down from the bricked up entrance.

Two undisturbed lead coffins lay in the vault. These had been decorated with studs probably pressed into a wooden coffin encasing the lead one. Lead coffin plates were affixed. Lying on top were secondary coffin plates recording the names of Mrs. Frances Bretton (d. 1742) and her daughter, Susannah Crewys (d. 1756). There had been other burials within the vault, but flooding had clearly caused much decay. The vault was re-sealed. Vault 1 seems to have been inset into Vault 3.

The Lead Coffin

The first indication of this was an unattached brass coffin played, beautifully engraved, recording of the death of Samuel Crewys in 1746. Soon after finding this, a damaged lead coffin was excavated. On the lid was a lead plate also recording Samuel Crewys' death. This coffin was elaborately decorated with brass studs set into the wood. Its length was at 195 cm, width 63 cm, average height 35 cm. Samuel Crewys was the husband of Susannah Crewys, née Bretton. The slab above the Bretton vault records his burial near by. The coffin was reburied as near its original position as possible.

Other Burials

Two other burials in a wooden coffins were recorded -- one under the lead coffin, the other under Vault 2. Another burial was noted within the north baulk of Trench A, also below the level of the lead coffin. The burial under the small vault gave the earliest date of the excavation, on a much decayed coffin plate where 169-was just visible.

All bones moved during the excavation work carefully re-buried in Vault 1.

Summary

Although the hoped for objectives were not achieved, this dig provided valuable excavation experience and many interesting side lights on eighteenth century social history. Problems arising from working in a churchyard were tackled and much was learnt. That Sir William Oldes was buried in Vault 1 has not been proved by evidence; nor, however, is there anything to suggest that the occupant of Vault 1 was not Sir William. The fact that the foundations of the early at Church were not found suggests the possibility that they may like within the confines of the present Church.

Our thanks are due to the Rector, Canon Gilmore, and to all those connected with the Church for the unfailing support and interest in the dig.

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