newsletter-087-may-1978

Newsletter

Page 1

DIG STARTS AT FINCHLEY

PADDY MUSGROVE describes the current HADAS excavation. Trial trenching on the site of the old rectory of St. Marys-at-Finchley in Hendon Lane, foreshadowed in last month's Newsletter has been precipitated by news that the builders' advance party is liable to arrive any day now. Since Easter Monday therefore a small party of diggers has been active on Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays.

Three trenches were opened (at OS grid ref. app. TQ 24899053) and work still continues on two of them. The areas examined show considerable soil disturbance due to landscaping over the years, the recent building of a modern rectory and the building and demolition of at least two large earlier rectories. A trench on the north side of the site, for example, reveals a layer of rich black loam beneath 50 cms. of dirty dumped clay, but even this is not the original field surface, as it lies on top of yet more dumped material, which is still to be bottomed. At the east of the site, adjacent to the churchyard, three distinct layers of topsoil, all containing much scattered Victorian domestic debris, have been built up into a bank.

Sherds of medieval and later pottery continue to be found at all levels in these variously disturbed soils, and are being studied. Two small struck flakes have been found. No structural or other features have yet emerged.

Digging will continue until the builders appear. Volunteers will be welcome, specially on Wednesdays. If you can help, please first phone Paddy Musgrove.

HADAS Helps out at Highgate

The Society took part in another rescue-type dig for two weekends in April, on a site behind 64a Highgate High Street. This is in the territory of the Hornsey Historical Society, who asked HADAS to help with the final stages of a dig that had uncovered a Victorian soda-water making vat and various associated features.

Although we had only 36 hours' notice of the first weekend, a dozen or so HADAS members rallied round and lent a hand to Tony McKenna, of the Museum of London, who was in charge of the dig. A section was cleared down to natural, and some of our diggers are still helping with a trench which Mr. McKenna is opening on an adjacent site.

West Heath Season about to Begin

Don't forget! Digging starts at West Heath on Sat. May 6. It is hoped that as many members as possible will be there to open the season.

To re-cap for those who missed previous announcements: digging will continue full-time for two weeks and will then revert, with certain exceptions, to Wednesdays and weekends until the end of September. The exceptions are: no digging on HADAS outing days nor from July 8-16 inclusive, when we shall be enjoying the bracing breezes and invigorating sights of the Orkneys.

Page 2


The first two weeks of June (5-18 inclusive) will be devoted to HADAS's second training dig, but it is hoped that all members who wish will come along as well. Trenches will be kept for them and there will be room for everyone.

This season gives every indication of being an exciting one, and it is hoped that the maximum area will be uncovered. We shall continue to investigate the increasingly rich area on which we started last year. A new project - the analysis of the phosphate content of the $oil - will be undertaken by Dr. Gordon (a HADAS member whose wife, Helen, is one of the stalwarts of West Heath). Phosphate analysis is a new technique which aims at analysing the uses to which different areas of the site have been put. A midden or rubbish tip, for example, will have a high phosphate content, a flint chipping floor a low one. Phosphate has the valuable property of being insoluble in water; in most soil conditions it will remain fixed in the position in which it was deposited. Thus modern phosphate does not percolate to prehistoric levels.

This kind of analysis has only recently been made possible (previous methods were too complicated) by the use of techniques described in the American journal "Science" (vol 197, No.4311, Sept. 30, 1977) in an article by Robert C. Eidt, "Detection and Examination of Anthrosols by Phosphate,Analysis." It should be an exciting and valuable venture. Science, however, is no substitute for good old digging - so come along to West Heath and make it our best year yet.

West Heath on Show

The Library authorities of the London Borough of Camden have kindly offered HADAS the use of their excellent exhibition space at Swiss Cottage Library (behind the Swiss Cottage Odeon) for an exhibition during May, which will correspond very appropriately with the re-opening of the West Heath dig.

We hope to show panels of Peter Clinch's fine photographs on the various stages of the West Heath excavation, including the lifting of the possible Mesolithic hearth last autumn; and to display in glass cases the full range of excavated flint tools, blades and cores; exhibits on our work on burnt flint, postholes and botanical remains; and maps and books showing early prints of the area.

The exhibit will be open from May 3-31, Mon-Fri. 9.30-8.00, Sat. 9.30-5.00. We hope many HADAS members may find time to visit it.

BBC Chronical Awards for Independent Archaeology

The finals of this competition (in which HADAS took part last year) will be held at the Museum of London on May 13, 1978, starting at 2 pm. Tickets are obtainable (no charge, but please enclose s.a.e) from R. J. Kiln, Rescue, 15a Bull Plain, Hertford. As space is limited, early application is advised.

Exhibits by local societies and other bodies will be mounted in the temporary exhibition hall of the Museum; HADAS hopes to stage a small display.

Page 3

Aids to Research

JOANNA CORDEN, Archivist to the Borough of Barnet, continues her series on the archives which are available to local historians III~_Local History Library. Egerton Gns: Pt.2 MAPS: These the most frequently used part of the local history material. Until the later 1800s they still show fields and wide open spaces, but after that the sudden rush of building is well illustrated and a source of constant study, both by college students and by local people who want to know why a road is so called or on whose land their road was built.

The current edition of 50 in, 25 in. and 6 in. OS maps covers the whole of the borough. The 25 in. OS series at Egerton Gardens begins in 1864 and the 6 in. in 1873 but there are some gaps. Tithe maps exist for all areas in the borough in the 1840s; there are Enclosure maps and awards for only two parishes -Chipping Barnet (which includes East Barnet) and Finchley. Before that there are several manor and parish maps going back to 1754, and estate maps for individual properties at various dates. There is also a large collection of Middlesex and some Hertfordshire maps, from the 16th-19th century.

PRINTS: The Collection contains several thousand illustrations of varying types and value. The postcards have recently been housed separately, and are divided into areas (e.g. Mill Hill, Hendon, Finchley, etc). The rest are kept simply in order of accession, which can lead to delays in producing them. There are a very few 18th c. prints; but the main body of the collection consists of 19th/20th c. paintings, drawings and photographs. Although the 19th c. pictures are charming and can be helpful in reconstructing old buildings which have now disappeared, the later illustrations are of equal historic value. They-show, for instance, the changes in the early years of this century, and in the 1930s, which occurred after the coming of the tube. There is a sad lack of modern photographs at present, but attempts are being made to remedy the situation.

EPHEMERA: This section is sometimes unexpectedly useful to students. It contains the odd pieces of material which do not fit into any other category, and are classified according to Dewey. It includes posters:, advertisements, leaflets produced for special events, menus of civic dinners- and other similar items. On the whole, their value is as illustrations of an event or argument; and they can be very effective in exhibition work.

There is also a small collection of news cuttings and copies of the Hendon Times back to 1891; at present these are unindexed, and so are really useful only if the student has a clear idea of the date of an event which he wishes to research. To index a newspaper over 80 years is no mean task, but a start has been made. It will be all the more worthwhile because the Hendon Times itself, although it keeps files, does not have an index.

HOW THEY LIVED THEN

This is the title of the latest exhibition at Church Farm House Museum, Hendon. It is a selection from the many objects which are contained in the Local History Collection of the London Borough of Barnet.

Page 4

PROGRAMME NEWS

Mon. May 15. Annual General Meeting at Central Library, The Burroughs, NW4. Coffee at 8 pm, business meeting - at which the Chair will be taken by Vice-Fresident Mrs. Rosa Freedman - at 8.30. The evening will end with a slide show (with commentary) on the latest developments at West Heath and on the Society's Bristol weekend last September. Do come along to see our old year out and our new year in.

The exhibits are mainly Victoriana; many of the objects have connections with the Museum or with Hendon and its district. Some of them provide an insight into a way of life and a standard of values very different from our own. There are antique typewriters and sewing machines, watercolours of old Hendon, and many small items such as a case for carrying visiting cards. The exhibition remains open till May 21.

PROGRAMME NEWS

Mon. May 15. Annual General Meeting at Central Library, The Burroughs, NW4. Coffee at 8 pm, business meeting - at which the Chair will be taken by Vice-Fresident Mrs. Rosa Freedman - at 8.30. The evening will end with a slide show (with commentary) on the latest developments at West Heath and on the Society's Bristol weekend last September. Do come along to see our old year out and our new year in.

This season's outings will be: §at. May 15. Grimes.Graves (a Neolithic flint-mine>, West Stow country park {a Saxon village, excavated and reconstructed) and a conducted tour around Bury St. Edmunds, which has a wealth of history. This will be a near-repetition of last year's Grimes Graves trip, which was so heavily overbooked that we promised to run a similar outing this year. Application form enclosed - please complete and return. Sat. Jupe ,24. Berkhamsted, Gade and Bulbourne valleys

July 8-15. HADAS visits the Orkneys

Sat. Aug. 12. Framlingham, Saxted Mill and Heveningham

Sat. Sept. l6. An outing to the Cotswolds

Please note that the Cotswold outing (fuller details of which will be published later) replaces the trip, mentioned in the March Newsletter, to Danebury and Salisbury. This is because Danebury is now being back-filled, and the material we had hoped to see at Salisbury (the Pitt-Rivers Collection) cannot be made available.

Journey through a Roman Landscape

A report on HADAS's first outings of 1978.

Unexpectedly, HADAS had two outings in April. The trip to Dover on April 15 proved so popular that we decided to repeat it the following Saturday. As a result nearly a hundred members have explored the Roman remains of the south eastern tip of Britain, at Regulbium (Reculver), Rutupiae (Richborough) and Dubris (Dover).

Our way out of London was through Industrial Archaeology country. After negotiating the Blackwall Tunnel we passed through a totally working landscape, with buildings of strange shapes made for curious and diverse functions. We passed transformers like great coiled springs, with whippity wires sprouting from them; elegantly waisted cooling towers; a row of long-necked cranes which pointed to the river line; the vertical outlines of tall chimneys, some round, some square; sturdy cylindrical vats for petro-chemicals; gasometors, all lacey-edged; the witches' cauldrons of a cement works; and lost and left behind among them, the forgotten, blackened, broken remains of a Victorian church.

Page 5

Reculver provided a chance to see the oldest of the Saxon Shore forts, built early in the 3rd c. AD and used through that century; and then again in the 4th for the job of protecting the coast from marauding Saxon pirates. By the 7th c. Reculver was a Christian centre under Egbert of Kent (though nowadays the local pub, catering for the denizens of a caravan park which stretches as far as eye can see, is dedicated not to him, but to Ethelbert). Footings of some of the Saxon minster walls remain, but more outstanding are the l2th c. twin towers which were added to the minster and now still stand at their full height facing the encroaching sea. Only half the walls of the Roman fort remain; the sea has devoured the rest.

Our next stop was Richborough, after a drive through the flatness of treeless Thanet, with its windmills and water and the hedges just starting to strengthen in the thin sun; and its sudden and strange contrasts of ancient and ultra-modern, like the reconstructed timber Viking ship standing alongside a hovercraft marina. On the way we came through Sandwich - a delicious town of narrow streets and ancient houses; delicious, that is, to everyone except the driver of a 53-seater coach. We came within a whisker of hitting a typical tile-hung Kentish house-wall which must have had other encounters, judging by the angles of and spaces between its skittered tiles.

Richborough is a lesson in wall-building from masters of that craft. Again, it is the walls of the Saxon Shore fort which remain, although on this site the story of Roman occupation goes back much further, and is laid out for all to see in ditches, house footings and other evidence. The invading legions of Aulus Plautus landed here in 43 AD; after the initial success of the invasion, it became a major supply depot; and when finally the conquest was considered complete, in about 85 AD, a splendid monument to commemorate the event was erected. In the second half of the 3rd c. an earth fort was constructed, probably because the Saxon raiders were becoming more adventurous; and soon after the earthen fortifications gave way to the great walls of the Saxon Shore fort.

All these events can still be traced upon the ground today; the early ditches dug at the time of the original landings; the footings of the granaries and other buildings of the supply depot; the foundation of the monument; footings of a civilian settlement of the 2nd c; the triple ditches of the earthen fort; and finally, the late 3rd c walls, of which about two-thirds remain. A lot of the surface is gone, either from erosion or robbing, but this serves to show how well laid and mortared the interior rubble is. Much of the mortar is characteristic pink opus signinum, with crushed pot or tile in it.

Finally we came to Dover, to the newly opened museum which houses and protects the Painted House. The painted walls do not now look so bright as they did when we saw them a few years ago, just after excavation. One of our excellent guides explained that salt is still coming out, and must be allowed to finish oozing before preservation techniques can be applied. In the final outcome it is hoped that the colours - and the perspective of the columns which form part of the paintings - will be as bright and clear as when first exposed.

At Dover, too, we had a conducted tour of the current Kent Archaeological Rescue Unit excavations, seeing part of the early Classis Britannica fort, a corner of the Dover Saxon Shore fort, the outlines of 3 Saxon round huts, with gulleys between; and a lay priory which our guide said "we like to think was as big as Canterbury." In one Saxon hut alone 1896 separate stake-holes have been identified, plotted and measured - shades of West Heath, where we count ourselves rich with some 50 possible stake/post holes!

Page 6

So ended the first outing: well planned, well executed and full of the kind of good staff work which is the hallmark of HADAS trips. This time we must be doubly grateful to Jeremy Clynes and Dorothy Newbury, because they went through the whole exercise not once, but twice.

Field Walking at Edgware

SHEILA WOODWARD reports on this aspect of the Society' activities

The friendly relationship which HADAS normally maintains with those in authority does not appear to extend to the Clerk of the Weather. It was yet again cold, windy and wet when 27 members braved the rigours of a January morning to undertake the first field walk of the year. The dimensions of Longe Broadfielde (as a 16th c. map describes the field we were walking, at OS grid.ref. TQ 194942 app} seemed to justify the name as the line of walkers toiled through its muddy furrows. With each step a larger portion of furrow adhered to boot, and the resultant increase in foot-weight produced an odd sensation of distorted balance (perhaps the reverse of an astronauts weightlessness?) Despite such impediments, the walk was completed and, as far as is known, no member was lost en route.

The walking of the same field was continued, in slightly less inclement conditions, in February, and the two walks yielded a vast and miscellaneous collection of metal, pottery and flint - but no significant concentrations. The metal fragments all appear fairly recent, including a very corroded coin, probably a farthing. Sufficient horseshoes were found to ensure the Society's good fortune for several years. Potsherds of various periods range from (possibly) Roman to (certainly) modern. The large quantity of tile seems to be of no great antiquity. A considerable number of clay pipe fragments, half an 18th c. wig-curler and a cache of a dozen oyster shells bear witness to past pleasures and vanities. Taking us much further back in time, a most interesting find was a small conical flint core of Mesolithic type, not unlike some of the cores found at West Heath. Several struck flint flakes were also found.

Much of the material recovered on a field walk results from the old practice of spreading household refuse on the fields as a form of fertiliser. Bury Farm had a rather sophisticated method of transporting the refuse to the fields. A small tramway ran from the farm diagonally across several of the adjoining fields, including Longe Broadfielde, and one of the present farm-hands can remember loading farmyard refuse and manure into trucks which wore then hauled along the tramway and emptied onto the fields. The practice ceased only in the 1930s, when modern methods of refuse disposal, and of fertilisation, were introduced.

Welcome to New Members

...who have joined HADAS since December 1977: Eric Arnott, Garden Suburb; Mrs. Babalis, N22:; D J Bicknell, Finchley; Veronica Burrell, N19; Christine Chatterton, Mill Hill; Dorothy Cumberland, Leigh-on-Sea; Mr & Mrs Dewdney, Garden Suburb; G Ferris, Finchley; Mrs. Finklestone, Elstree; Geoffrey Gammon, Surbiton; Nigel Gore; Hendon; Mrs. M T Hall, Colindale; Carol Halligan, SW1; Alan Hill, Garden Suburb; Miss Hutton, East Finchley; Ruth Ikin, Garden Suburb; Miss Johnson, W3; Robert Kruszynski, SW7; Suzanne Martin, Hampstead; Mrs. Matthews, Mill Hill; Isobel McPherson, Finchley; A C Moss, Hendon; Yoda Papachristou, Highgate; A Pares, Hadley; Mr & Mrs Pentecost, N Finchley; Marion ~crryman, Mill Hill; Mts. Pestell, Golders Green; Nichola Ppothnick, Edgware; Mrs. Pozner, Golders Green; Frances Radford, W Hampstead; M K Rees, Golders Green; Royal Comm. on Historical Monuments (Eng) ; Andrew Scheer, Garden Suburb; Mrs. Solomons, Finchley; Herbert Stern, Wembley; Mrs. Watkins, Garden Suburb; Ann Watson, Cobham; Desmond Whiter, Harrow; Angus Wilson, Hampstead. We hope they will all enjoy their membership and get pleasure from our various activities.

Page 7

Farm Buildings Survey

Many thanks to all the members who have sent me information about farms in LBB. I had no idea that the word "farm"' was going to be such a talisman. It seems to have stirred about half the Society into action. One member alone sent me a list of farms covering two typewritten A4 pages! Two of the local newspapers reprinted last month's Newsletter item, which brought in a spate of material from non-members, too.

But although I now have details of all kinds of unexpected things - two farm wells left behind when a farm was demolished near one-time Dole Street, a farm inscription on a building in North Finchley, an electricity sub-station plate with the name of a vanished farm in Mill Hill, an invitation to see a possible wattle-and-daub drovers cottage - what I have not yet got is enough offers of help from members prepared to deal with all this fascinating information by doing actual field work and documentary research. A little work which I have done myself, for instance, en Census material from 1801, 1811, 1821 and 1841 shows clearly that there is a mass of information to be wrung from that sort of documentary source.

While thanking most warmly the half-dozen members who have told me they will "cover" two or three farms apiece, may I please invite any other member prepared to help - in any capacity - in what is going to be a really interesting and wide ranging project to let me know? Brigid Grafton Green.


The Dancing Ladies of Merton Station

A report on the April lecture by ELIZABETH HOLLIDAY. Scott McCrackcen, who delivered the final lecture of the HADAS winter season, is Field Officer of the South West London Archaeological Unit, and as such is responsible for the entire SW London area from Croydon to Richmond. He began his talk by outlining the difficulties which face a team of three members, with a very limited budget, trying to cover so much ground.

The Unit was established in 1974, primarily to survey and assemble current knowledge of the area. This is done by vetting planning applications to identify threatened areas and, when the team is able to identify likely areas of interest or importance, by recommending excavation before re-development. Preliminary documentary research is often undertaken by membors of amateur societies within the area. Hampered by lack of definite evidence for early settlement, most recommendations for excavation are based on educated guesswork.

Mr. McCracken reviewed two recent projects undertaken at Battersea and Merton.

Development by the GLC at Battersea enabled the Unit to investigate a gravel area close to the river which was thought to be the possible (and logical) location of a Saxon settlement.

A trial trench was cut by machine through a Victorian cobbled yard and a deep ditch containing 13th c. pottery was revealed. This is thought to be the Manor Estate boundary. The site was then opened up for a two-season dig, working 7 days a week.

Page 8

The 18th c. Manor kitchen garden was found; and below that, beam slots containing 9th c. pottery, including imported French ware and Saxon sherds, two of them decorated. Infra-red film was used in an attempt to locate features in the river alluvium but no signs of a structure were revealed. The pottery was dated 650-850 AD; the only non-pottery find was a decorated bone comb-case.

The excavation of Merton Priory posed different but equally difficult problems.

The Priory was founded by the Austin Friars in 1121; after the Dissolution, the building was robbed in 1538 to provide material for Henry Vill's palace of Nonsuch. This important site disappeared until the 1920s, when work by the local water board cut through the foundations of walls. The site, adjacent to a rail track and platforms, was partially excavated by a local antiquarian, Colonel Bidder, and his gardener - who even worked between the rail lines - and between trains! The Chapter House and south transept were traced, but as the Colonel used the rail lines and ties as a reference in his records and plans, the removal of the rails in 1973 meant all reference points were lost.

The excavation exposed a deep slot containing post holes which were identified as a mid-18th c. calico-bleaching trench. The apse wall of the Priory and buttresses were found and floor levels identified, with a scattering of 12th c. pottery.

British Rail cleared the station platforms and enabled excavation over a larger area to begin in May 1977. An odd circular structure in the NW corner of the Chapter House has been tentatively identified as a drying area used by local farmers - for the whole area lies below the level of the nearby River Wandle. This is the main post-Priory structure: the site appears to have lain fallow between 1538 and the 1750s.

The Priory is known to have had poor foundations - records of a neighbouring religious house mention that the tower blew down in the 1220s - and the recent excavations have revealed massive buttresses, many of which were not tied into the walls. Stone and evidence of wooden coffins have been discovered, although it appears that all the graves were robbed at the Dissolution.

The Infirmary Passage revealed 15 floor levels. Roman flue tiles and Samian ware were recovered (Stane Street crossed the site of the West door of the Priory). Painted glass, lead, 12th c. pottery have been excavated from the Chapter House area. Many of the tiles are decorate with figures, and two of them, when place side by side, appear to show women in 14th c. costume holding hands and dancing.

Many questions about Merton Priory remain to be answered and the unexpected appearance of dancing girls in a monastery has yet to be explained. Fortunately re-development of the site has been halted for the time being, so we may hope to hear further news from Merton.

SHOPS AHOY!

In Temple Fortune, Golders Green, there is an old-fashioned wine merchants recently taken over by Unwins, and modernisation is being considered and may be imminent. We desperately need someone to record the interesting features and, (not necessarily the same person) photograph it. The need is urgent before this small bit of local history is lost - volunteers please to Bill Firth. While on the subject, details of other old shops worth recording would be very helpful - again, contact Bill with any information you may have on this subject.


Comments