Newsletter-210-September-1988

NEWSLETTER 210: September 1988   Edited by Jean Snelling

DIARY

Saturday September 10th Afternoon tour of Charterhouse with Mary O'Connell.

Tuesday October 4th Lecture. Recent excavations at Waltham Abbey by Peter Huggins

Saturday October 8th Stepney Walk with Muriel Large. Details & application form enclosed.

Saturday October 15th Minimart at St Mary's Church Hall, Greyhound Hill, Hendon NW4. Ring 205 0950 if you have saleable items available now. Also old helpers and new volunteers please ring in if you are available on that date. (See separate leaflet and Sales & Wants list of larger items.)

Tuesday November 1st Lecture. Excavations at the Mint, by Peter Mills.

Tuesday November 6th (to be confirmed) Tentative date for Christmas Party at St George's Theatre, N7, which is a reconstruction of an Elizabethan Playhouse. 

 

SUBSCRIPTIONS

This is a gentle reminder - there are quite a lot of members who have not paid their subscription as from April 1st 1988. Please let me have your sub as soon as possible, and thank you.

The rates are as follows:

Full membership              £5.00

Under 18 and over 60     £3.00

Additional members of the same family                £1.00

Corporate members (Schools and Societies)       £6.00

I await your remittance in due course.

Phyllis Fletcher, Membership Secretary 31 Addison Way, London NW11 6AL. 

 

DISCOVERING THE ICEHOUSE    S.P.(Bill) Bailey

All would have been well if when joining HADAS I had disconnected the phone. Or kept the phone and not joined, of course. As it was I had put myself at the mercy of persuasive friends like Brian Wrigley and Victor Jones and started therefore on my first archaeological dig, looking for an icehouse under the mound in the grounds of St Joseph's Convent School in Hendon. An icehouse is a brick-lined hole in the ground used for storing ice, of unknown size, at unknown depth, but probably (the experts say) under some sort of mound. Well, there was a mound, certainly. Was there an icehouse under it? There were three ways to find out. First way: take up your resistivity equipment and in intermittent rain traipse backwards and forwards across the site, tangling up the lines and noting the resistance readings on damp notepaper. This is a gentle sort of occupation but it didn't get us anywhere.

Second way: take one of the long metal rods with a point at one end a handle at the other and shove it in the ground until it meets an obstruction. When you do meet an obstruction, try shoving it in a few inches away and see if the obstruction is still there. It is? Then try a third time. Still there? So, stand around for a while wondering what it might perhaps be. Then take spade, fork and trowel and with the utmost care dig down to the obstruction. It will be a half brick, or possibly a broken roof tile.

Third way: gather in a group and argue cogently that there has to be a reason for the mound in the first place, that in the event of there actually being an icehouse the mound is there to cover the top of it sticking up above ground level, and that the best way to find it might be to start digging at the top of the mound and go down until either exhaustion or an icehouse supervened. Taking spades, and metal rods for probing (just in case), we dug a variety of small holes and trenches across the top of the mound, uncovering a considerable quantity of excellent clay, either glacial or not glacial according to Victor, lots of pebbles, more half bricks and bits of roof tile, several interesting pieces of old tree roots, and soil. At irregular intervals Victor, or Brian, or one of the others, seized a metal rod and prodded away to discover further half bricks or broken roof tiles. This kept up everyone's spirits.

The third way proved in the end to be the one which worked. A small area of curving brickwork, properly set in mortar, was at last uncovered and a small trench a few feet away produced more of it, plus a junction with the top of what looked like the beginning of a tunnel leading off to the north. There was an icehouse and there was an entrance to it on the north side, as predicted by the experts. All that remained was to dig out the entrance, get in, and see what it looked like. The entrance was dug out to the point where we could see the roof of the tunnel and wriggle in on stomachs with a torch held out in front. The thing was full, more or less to the domed roof, with rubbish, decayed wheel-barrows, lengths of rusty chain-linked fencing, and so forth.' Assuming, as we did, that the floor was roughly level with the floor of the entrance tunnel it would be a messy job but not too difficult. The floor of the tunnel when we finally reached it was admittedly lower than expected, but it still looked relatively straightforward.

Many, many week-ends later and with the spoil heap looming impressively high, we were able to work out more accurately what we were doing. The tunnel entrance came in at the top, just under the domed roof, of an egg-shaped cavity about eleven feet in diameter and about fifteen feet from top to bottom. And it was packed pretty well to the brim with consolidated garden rubbish and builders' remnants of thirty years or so. This spread of time could be guessed from the recollection of an ex-school girl that in the early ‘thirties she could remember the tunnel leading on to a more or less flat floor, and also from discovering in the top layers a scrap of newspaper with the words "From our Special Correspondent Robert Boothby". He was given a knighthood in 1953, so that went in some time before 1953.

We did not dig it all out. What we did was to dig out the tunnel to the point where we could go in with a mild crouch, and get wheel-barrows out the same way, and then excavate to the point where we were about a foot below the level of the entrance we were using. On the far side, opposite to the entrance, we marked out a small area in order to dig down and find the floor. This, we discovered, was somewhat futile? because there was no floor. The walls simply curved gently inwards to meet at the bottom and complete the egg shape. By then the small area was a larger area marked out by pieces of timber and shuttering, round a shaft seven or eight feet deep and entered by a short ladder which got in the way once you were down. We did at last reach the point where a probe showed the bottom to be about a further six inches down, but actually reaching it meant moving the shuttering back to enlarge the hole, and somehow our hearts weren't in it. To get that far we had dug through about twelve feet of the equivalent of an old municipal rubbish tip. We were inclined to feel that we did not want to face one more barrow load of broken glass, roof tiles, very old Bovril bottles, lumps of plaster, half bricks, tree roots, pieces of corrugated iron sheet, consolidated ashes, or even plain soil.

We had, after all, found the icehouse under the mound in the grounds of St Joseph's Convent School, and that was surely enough for one summer.

 

UNIVERSITY OF LONDON EXTRA MURAL ARCHAEOLOGICAL SOCIETY - EMAS

This new society's membership is open to all current and past students and lecturers of the Extra Mural Diplomas in Archaeology and Field Archaeology and the Certificate in Field Archaeology. Associate membership is for 'such other persons connected with Archaeology as the Committee shall approve and admit annually .... subject to payment of the normal annual membership fee’. The fee is £7, from October 1 to 30 September.

Lectures, seminars, meetings, field trips, visits to archaeological and historic sites, opportunities for excavation, conservation, field walking and surveys and a regular bulletin appear on the agenda. And a Christmas Party. A particular concern is the fostering of knowledge and interest in archaeology among members and the development of the Extension Diplomas and Certificate cited above.

Most old students and lecturers will have received information directly but anyone who wishes should contact the Membership Secretary of EMAS, c/o Birkbeck College Centre for Extra Mural Studies, University of London, 26 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DQ«

 

NEWS FROM THE BOROUGH ARCHIVES AND LOCAL STUDIES DEPARTMENT

LISTS: We have recently been able to fill in the previous gaps in our file of lists of documents in The Greater London Record Office relating to this borough. Further lists will be sent to us as they occur. We have just finished indexing the lists, at least summarily, for local people and places, and filing the cards has shown how far these references complement and extend our knowledge. Many of the sources are fairly well known and have been used, for instance, in writing the local chapters of the Victoria County History, but others may have been overlooked. Accession 351, for example, contains Allen and Cooper family papers relating to the manors of Finchley-Bibbesworth and Old Fold. Unexpectedly, these include a complete Finchley Poor Rate List of 1614, which is particularly valuable because of the destruction of most of the early Finchley vestry records. They also include a grant of 1553 of property in Barnet including four named inns in Chipping Barnet: The Lyon, George, Peahen and Antelope. The same accession also contains a large number of deeds relating to Hendon, particularly the western side and including Lower Hale, Bunns and Goldbeaters Farms.

MAPS: The 1890s 25" OS Totteridge, and Barnet and Hadley streets in the Alan Godfrey edition are now available.

FORTHCOMING EXHIBITION: PLEA FOR HELP: In co-operation with Church Farm and the Education Department we are planning an exhibition on "The Growth of the Suburbs 1860-1940',1 relating primarily to this borough. It will open on 14th October 1989 and run for about three months. It has a dual purpose, being designed both for the general public and for GCSE students as part of their examination project work. We therefore need to ensure that it is comprehensive and accurate and would very much welcome offers of loans of material or possibly personal reminiscences. If anyone has any items such as period artefacts or photographs they would consider lending for the exhibition would they please contact Gerrard Roots (Museum Curator) on. 01 203 0130.

 

OXFORD RADIOCARBON ACCELERATOR UNIT

Ann Kahn draws attention to the SERC Bulletin vol 3 no 11, Summer 1988, containing an article by Dr R.E.M. Hedges, Director of the Oxford Unit, which is largely funded on research grants from the SERC (Science and Engineering Research Council). No doubt we all think immediately of the investigations of the Turin Shroud, whose results are due this month.

The Unit was set up in 1979 by the Research Laboratory for Archaeology in order to develop accelerator- mass spectrometry (AMS) and to apply it to radiocarbon dating, and is one of 20-30 accelerator laboratories worldwide. There has been considerable publicity for the capacity of AMS to act on smaller samples and therefore a much better choice of materials for dating. The technique of AMS is explained in some detail in this article.

The aims of the Unit and some results will be of interest to HADAS members. More than 1200 radiocarbon dates have been produced in the last 3-4 years, 90% of them for archaeological research. They include samples from 57 different countries, 20 different types of materials, and. all archaeological periods over the last 45,000 years.

Priority is given to certain themes including:-

Studies of contextual and stratigraphic problems

Upper Paleolithic cave sequences

Late Paleolithic open sites

Development of agriculture and domestication

Early Man in the Americas

Mesolithic and Neolithic skeletal remains (especially in Britain)

Examples of objects dated include a parchment Mappa Mundi found binding an Elizabethan manuscript and dated to 1020-1270 AD; hairs from the moustache and undigested remains of Lindow Man's last meal; string from the Guitarrero Cave in Peru, 10,000 years old; a Mesolithic drinking cup from Germany, made from birch bark and 9,000 years old; and a remnant of resin used to glue a flint arrowhead to its shaft, from Belgium - Upper Paleolithic.

Much work is undertaken along with other archaeological studies and methods. For instance dating wild and domesticated forms of grain and bones of gazelle and sheep from several Neolithic sites, especially Abu Hureyra*in Syria, so contributing to the emerging and clearer pictures of the start of the 'Neolithic Revolution'. A start has been made on fresh dating of Paleolithic levels in 'classic' French cave sites, going back more than 40,000 years; previous radiocarbon dating having suffered from contaminated material. There is hope that eventually this work may lead to dating the transition from Neanderthal to Modern Man.

*(Some HADAS members are studying human bones from Abu Hureyra in Extra Mural classes.)

 

TED SAMMES' MISCELLANY

Cathedrals: who makes decisions on alterations, repairs and restorations in our great cathedrals? Deans and Provosts and their Capitular Bodies alone, it seems.    Anxiety was expressed at the AGM of the Society for the Preservation of Ancient Buildings on June 28th.

Churches in use including cathedrals are now exempt from Scheduling as Ancient Monuments and the normal Building Control system. In 1977 government grants to churches in use were introduced on condition that the Church of England reviewed and reformed its own control system.

In 1984 the Faculty Jurisdiction Commission set up by the Church and chaired by the Bishop of Chichester recommended that a national body, which was to become known as the Cathedrals Advisory Commission, should be established with mandatory powers to approve or reject proposals for significant work to cathedrals. These recommendations were accepted by the General Synod.

Detailed proposals to this effect were put to the General Synod this spring, met with opposition by Deans and Provosts, and were referred back, the scheme appearing to be lost. 

At the SPAB meeting in June the Vice-Chairman Mr Jeremy Benson said, "The SPAB pledges itself to the securing of a proper and reasonable system of control over cathedrals, in the national interest. We have an over-riding duty to protect these buildings, for ourselves and our successors, and we urge…….nay challenge the General Synod of the Church of England to abide by its endorsement of the Chichester Report, and to introduce mandatory control over all significant repairs and alterations to our cathedrals".

For further information contact Philip Venn, SPAB Secretary on 01 377 1644 (on HADAS list too).

Ancient Monuments Laboratory, English Heritage, London. Ted visited the Laboratory by ticket during its two Open Days in April and advises us to watch for the next opportunity. He enjoyed particularly the sections in geophysical prospecting and on dating and the conservation lab. There is a brief article on the Open Days in the English Heritage Magazine No2, July 1988, which indicates that they were thought to have been very successful, but as yet there is no sign of more invitations.

Reading Museum The new Curator is John Rhodes, previously Keeper of Art of Oxford County Museum Services, Woodchester. In an exhibition, People and Places, finishing on September 3rd, the Museum is showing pictures and paintings from its large reserve collection. Mon-Fri 10.00-5.30, Sat 10.00-5.00.

Pevsner Memorial Appeal. In celebration of Pevsner's work, especially his Buildings of England, a trust has been launched with a target of £100,000, to restore paintings in St Michael's Church, Garton-on-the Wolds, North Humberside. Donations should be sent to: The Pevsner Memorial Trust, c/o the Courtauld Institute of Art, 20 Portman Square, London W1H OBE.

Roman Baptismal Tank. The Daily Telegraph reported on June 15th the finding of a portion of a lead baptismal tank, found in a Roman wall at Caversham during gravel pit workings. On cleaning, a pattern of diamond shapes was revealed together with a CHI-RHO cross symbol. The piece was badly crushed, and is believed to date from C4 AD. Some accompanying timbers have been sent for conservation. Later it is hoped to display the finds in Reading Museum's new Roman Gallery. Finds of tanks of this nature are extremely rare.

 

MEMBERS' NEWS            Dorothy Newbury

Alan Hill has been appointed to the newly established position of Honorary Public Relations Officer to the Prehistoric Society. Alan's job will be to coordinate the Society's links with the press in order to make the Society's views known, and to see that the voice of the Society is heard effectively where prehistoric sites or monuments are threatened. We have noticed the difference already judging by the amount of material about the Prehistoric Society in the Times recently.                Good work, Alan.

Erina Crossley Though Mrs Crossley resigned from the Society a year or two ago I am sure our members will be delighted to hear she has reached the great age of 103. She still lives at home, with a little help; and until a few years ago she regularly attended our lectures with Lucille Armstrong (now deceased) and enjoyed our meetings and minimarts.

Derek Batten FRICS Derek only joined the Society in 1986 but was immediately thrown in at the deep end , to give a talk at our AGM that year on his excavations in America researching Custer's battlefields. Now, after 40 years with Simmonds & Partners, Hendon he is going a step further, to Manchester University to read for an honours degree in American History and Society. Good luck, Derek.

Christine Arnott - from the Channel to China by train. Christine was touching wood when she told me about the trip she will start on September 4th. "I'm superstitious so could you say 'hoping to start' please just in case anything goes wrong at the last minute.

I think I'd feel like touching wood too - because it's the trip-of a lifetime. How would you like to travel, taking just over 6 weeks about it, from the Channel to China by train? Only two short stages will be by boat; one a quick nip across the Black Sea to Istamboul, the other 10 hours on the Caspian. Apart from that it's trains all the way, including Paris to Vienna by - shades of Agatha Christie and Poirot - the old Orient Express; and then in China by steam train.

Though it's not an archaeological trip, Christine knows she will see the Great Wall and - of course - the Warriors; she also hopes to see at least one prehistoric site, perhaps more. "I'm taking an enormous gamble" she says. "I daren't think of all the things that could go wrong - either on the trip itself or at home while I'm away. But I've always wanted to do something adventurous once in my life - and this is it."

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