Newsletter-214-January-1989

 

 

 

Newsletter 214 January 1989                                            Editor June Porges

 

A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OUR READERS!

 

HADAS Diary

 

Tuesday 3rd January                   George Hart Egypt in the Pyramid Era

Tuesday 7th February                  Alex Werner London’s dockland, its archaeological discoveries and potential.

 

Tuesday 7 March                          DR GRAHAM CAMPBELL. Subject : The Vikings

All lectures are held at Hendon Library, The Burroughs, NW4. This is quite near to the junction with Hendon Way (buses 113), not too far from Hendon Underground Station and the 143 bus passes the door.

Coffee is available from 8pm and the lecture begins at 8.30. If you are a new member do make yourself known to someone.

 

CHRISTMAS SUPPER AT ST GEORGE'S THEATRE

On 6 December some sixty members enjoyed an evening of food and entertainment at St George's Theatre in Tufnell Park. Mary O'Connell came up with the idea for such an original venue. This was no surprise to members who know just how extensive her knowledge of London is from her Charterhouse and Clerkenwell tours.

Before supper Susie Hardie, the theatre's administrator, invited us into the theatre to tell us something about St George's. The church was built in 1867 to accomodate the growing population of the newly- built Tufnell Park Estate. The Estate's Surveyor, George Truefitt, was appointed architect with the task of designing a church within a triangular site. He decided on a structure with a circular interior resembling a mosque, a style of architecture favoured by the crusaders for eastern churches.

George Murcell, the theatre's founder and artistic director, a classical actor himself, was looking for somewhere to establish a Shakespearean theatre. He stumbled across St George's, which had become redundant, and coincidentally it conformed without any drastic alterations being necessary to what we believe a Shakespearean theatre in the round was like. After many setbacks he managed to get a preservation order on the building with the help of John Betjeman and the Victorian Society and to raise the necessary funds to buy it.

The repertoire is at the moment entirely Shakespearean and geared towards young people and the current school syllabus. Nevertheless those of us who have seen performances there will vouch for the high quality and professionalism of the productions. After Susie Hardie had answered all our questions we eagerly returned to what was modestly described as our supper. This turned out to be an excellent and generous repast served on festively decorated tables.

The theatre prides itself on being one of the few places where young actors can get a proper classical training. After the main course we were entertained by two of their talented young actors who treated us to a varied programme from Shakespeare's works finishing on a happy note with "0 Mistress Mine" from "Twelfth Night". We were deeply impressed by the commitment and enthusiasm of those involved with St George's even to the extent of Susie Hardie lending a hand with the catering and serving our coffee. The evening ended with the raffle and John Enderby proposing a vote of thanks from all members to Dorothy Newbury for her superb masterminding of the event so soon after organising the record-breaking Minimart. It must be a difficult task to find something equally original for next Christmas.

PADDY MUSGROVE                                                      Jean Snelling

A tree was planted in memory of Paddy Musgrove in the grounds of Avenue House, East End Road, N3 on November 26th. The tree, a rare Hungarian Oak, was given by the London Borough of Barnet and the planting was led by Paddy's daughter, Mrs Leone Berry and his enthusiastic grandson Rhys, aged four, supported by the Mayor of Barnet and the Finchley Society.

The sapling oak, staked and fenced, can be found on a grassy bank close by tree no 22 (recently dead) following the plan in the booklet The Trees of Avenue House, Finchley. (50p at Church End Library, Hendon Lane, N3 Tel: 346 5711). There is already one splendid and mature specimen of this Quercus Frainetto in Avenue House grounds, no 52. Paddy would have approved the timely provision of a young successor, and its association with his services to Avenue House and to the Borough generally would surely have given him great pleasure.

The first week of the New Year is the time for the newspapers and television to publicise holiday ideas, so to keep In fashion HADAS Newsletter brings news of two recent holidays.

A PACKAGE TO SICILY                                                                                                            by  Rose and Alf Mendel

We had booked a Taormina holiday attracted by the climate (75 degrees late September/early October) and by the wealth of ancient sites.

A three hour flight from Gatwick took us to Catania, birthplace of

Vincenzo Bellini. It took another one and a half hours to get to our hotel, driving along a ring road from where we saw patches of black lava from Mt Aetna's big eruption in 1928. We drove through the suburb of Giardine Naxos where the first Greek settlers from the island of Naxos had landed in 735BC and where we later visited the Museo Archaeologico, set in an orchard. A section of Greek walls and furnaces can be seen here, while excellent exhibits and wall charts in the nearby museum give an outline of local history.

The earliest inhabitants were the Sicani and the Siculi, after whom the island was named. They had been trading for centuries

with the Aegeo-Mycenians and Phoenicians, but by the 6th century BC there was the beginning of a stampede by the many city states of Greece to occupy a section of the Island of Sicily. After cutting down their own forests to build ships for trade and war resulting soil erosion had reduced the area available for agriculture, and the wheat fields of Sicily answered their need.

The Greek settlers, besides tending their newly acquired fields, had to fight many battles against the native Inhabitants, as well as against each other and the Cartagenians, until the tyrant Gelon united all of Sicily. After his victory over the Cartagenians In 480BC he became the most powerful figure In the Greek world.

Our hotel was only fifteen minutes’ walk from the Greek amphitheatre, where shortly after our arrival, on a moonlit night, we sat listening to a concert of Bellini's work performed by the Catanian Philharmonic Orchestra. This theatre, seating twelve thousand people, was built in the Hellenistic period, was greatly altered by the Romans, but retained its wonderful acoustics. The "cavea" (the part where the seats are) was excavated into the hillside, and a "naumachia" (a flooded area where mock naval battles could be staged) was added. Goethe described the view from the top of the Cavea, writing that "never did any audience in any theatre have before it such a spectacle"

Of the many tours available we took three. All of them have to traverse great distances, and often more time is spent on the coach than on visiting sites. A five hour coach trip took us to Agrigento where we visited the Vale of Temples, once the Inspiration of British and German "grand tourists" who used to admire the symmetry of architecture and landscape. Now the vale is disturbed by a network of busy roads, high-rise buildings and factory chimneys belching acid fumes which cause deterioration, and one is no longer allowed to walk through the temples. All this has happened against the protests of archaeologists, but they were helpless when opposed by the Mafia who control practically the whole of the local building industry. Our next tour, to Piazza Amerina, was a wonderful experience. A knowledgeable guide took us to the "Villa Imperials" home of a wealthy landowner around AD300. Enough is left of the walls, which had been buried by a landslide, to get an impression of the vastness of the house. One enters through a triumphal arch with two fountains on each side, leading to thirty-seven rooms containing bathing pools, a frigidarium, tapidarlum, caldaria etc. What makes this "stately home" unique are its well preserved mosaic floors, the work of craftsmen Imported from Africa. The site was first discovered around 1820, but excavations over an area of some 3,500 square metres were only completed in the 1950s. Today the whole Is protected by transparent plastic roofing,and footbridges have been erected above all the floors covered by mosaics, so one can stand and look down on the beautiful scenes depicted - girls in "bikinis" performing gymnastics, hunting expeditions, cupids busy fishing, various mythological scenes, a young girl taking off her clothes assisted by two servants - all of it reflecting the lives and beliefs of people living In the later years of the Roman Empire. We felt sad leaving all this splendour, to travel back via Enna, hillside centre of the island, and visit the Castello di Lombardia, built by the Swabian emperors who took over from theNormans in 1194.     Our third trip took us to the Aeolian Islands, named after the Greek god of the winds, Aeolus, who was said to keep the winds imprisoned in his cave. One and a half hours after leaving Sicily our ferry reached Llperi, the biggest of the Islands, where we ambled through the busy fishing harbour and followed narrow streets leading up to the Castello built by the Spaniards in the 16th century. On the summit of the same hillside, extensive excavations have revealed uninterrupted occupation since the Neolithic age, and we found the various levels well marked. Still on the summit we came to the baroque cathedral built in the 18th century on the site where the Norman church had stood since 1084, erected by the Norman Count Roger de Hautville who had captured Sicily with a handful of knights in the second half of the 11th century. Norman knights were then the dominant power in Europe, also setting up kingdoms In England, Greece and the Holy Land. The adjoining 17th century Episcopal Palace is now part of an extensive archaeological museum, where we admired the collection of vases from the 5th to 3rd centuries BC, and an outstanding series of terracotta figures and theatrical masks whose facial expressions of greed, fury, madness or mirth are much the same as we see in our theatres today.

We had to rush past excellent reconstructions of ancient burial sites to catch the one o'clock inter-island boat that took us past strange basalt stacks, and a seventy metres high obelisk of rocks rising out of the sea, to the small island of Vulcan. Here we found a rugged volcanic landscape. We made for the nearest beach, which was lined by rocks, and we found hot sulphur springs bubbling in the sea close to the shore. After a swim in the warm sea and some lunch we felt sufficiently refreshed to set off along a steep, stony path leading up to the crater whose rim you see steaming with sulphur vapours from down below. It is possible to scramble right up to the cone of the crater, but we didn't make it. However, we were feeling at peace with ourselves and the world.As we were winding our way back downhill, through groves of citrus trees, prickly pears and old gnarled olive trees. Civilization was still a healthy distance away.

Two days later on our flight home we pondered over Sicily's harsh

history of conquest, by Greeks, Carthagenians, Romans who cruelly repressed two slave uprising, Vandals, Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Saracens, Normans, Swablans, French, Spaniards, as well as the British In the early 19th century, and the Germans and Americans during the second world war. Arriving in grey Gatwick and becoming part of its mass of tourists milling around is always a shock, and yet we felt quite pleased to return to our everyday lives and home on an Island which in its recent history has suffered no foreign Invasions.

ARCHAEOLOGY AND NATURAL HISTORY IN IRELAND                                                                                                                  June Porges

Strangely enough our journey to Ireland commenced at a farm near Milton Keynes at 6.55am on a dampish morning in June. There we, Isobel McPherson, Hans and I, boarded a coach which commenced to tour the area, picking up small groups at Bletchley, Great Missenden, Beaconsfield and other foreign parts west of Barnet including Taplow, where to our astonishment the familiar figure of Ted Sammes loped aboard. We found several other old friends among the party including David Ridd who helped arrange the memorable HADAS outing to Porton Down. We sped along the M4 and A40 to Pembroke Docks to Join our ferry, but found no boat, sailing delayed for six hours. Time passed quite quickly, however, as we explored the ghost land of the Naval Dockyard which is in the process of being demolished, and the town, where Ted's observant camera photographed unusual artefacts in the streets and on the houses. So our eagerly anticipated drive from Rosslare to Cork took place in the dark and we arrived at our destination, St Dominic's Retreat and Conference Centre, to a warm welcome and hot soup (with lovely home made bread) at.4.30am. We were assured that breakfast would be available all morning, so we were able to catch up on some sleep and after we had eaten found St Dominic's to be a lovely old mansion set in gardens full of unusual exotic plants and more usual ones which because of the climate grow to be several times the specimens found in our gardens. Here we benefited for the first time from the expertise of our natural history expert, Bob Millard, who throughout the trip provided us with beautifully prepared sheets of information for the different habitats we visited, and who was always available to answer our questions.

After lunch (if you want to eat well go to a Dominican retreat) we met a well known local resident Tom O'Byrne, who after working in the East and Australia for many years has returned to Ireland and acquired his own valley, which he has turned into a nature reserve. He led us beside the stream whose banks are edged with an abundance of plants and trees, told us of the animals to be seen there and showed us the ruins of a spade and shovel factory which stood there using the water from the stream - a bit of token archaeology for those of us who were not really natural

historians. Tom gave us a fascinating account of the local natural

history, even Illustrating a talk he gave us after supper by rushing from the room and with a spectacular rugger tackle saving a pygmy shrew from under the paw of the astonished house cat.

Our first real archaeology was a visit to Ballytcatteen Ring Fort, a fine circular settlement site of three acres surrounded by three great ditches, a lovely peaceful place where we were joined by the owner of the farm who told us how her father had enjoyed working with the archaeologists excavating In the 1940s, and how it is now impossible to keep it cleared of brambles and undergrowth with the shortage and cost of farm labour. On to Dromberg stone circle which can be lined up with winter solstice. Nearby there are two hut circles and a fulacht fiadh, a cooking place consisting of a pool of water into which hot stones were dropped to cook the food. Later we met someone who had experienced meat cooked in that way as a bit of experimental archaeology and who said it wasn't very good - why eat boiled deer when it would be so much nicer roasted. Could the pool have been used for ritual cooking, or perhaps as a sauna? The day finished at Knockdrum, a fine cashel (stone fort) with ten foot thick dry stone wails.

The next day we travelled to Limerick by way of the Dingle Peninsula, with marvellous cliff and sea landscapes, interesting flora and visits to Aghados Cathedral, a ruined church with celtic crosses, the promontory fort of Dunbeg and Reasc. This is a well-displayed excavated early Christian site. It is one of fifty or more small monasteries on the Peninsula, all enclosed by a monastic wall, round or oval, and some retaining their curious beehive huts (clochans). Reasc has the remains of a small oratory and one of the finest cross-inscribed pillar-slabs in Ireland. Last we visited the astonishing corbel-built structure of Gallorus Oratory, still in good order after over 1000 years.

From Limerick we visited Craggaunowen where an attempt is being made to recreate aspects of Ireland's past with the restoration and reconstruction of earlier forms of dwelling houses and farmsteads. It included a restored castle, filled with furniture and domestic artefacts of varying ages and provenances, a wood-track excavated in 1975 at Corlea Bog, Co Longford and moved to its present site;    reconstructions of a fuiacht fiadh, a
crannog (lake-dwelling) and a ring fort. For those of us who had experienced the great excitement of Tim Severins's book there to be seen - leather patches and all - was the leather-hulled boat "Brendan" in which he crossed the Atlantic to recreate the voyage of St. Brendan the Navigator In the 9th century.

Off we rushed again to enjoy one of the highlights of the visit, the extraordinary landscape of the High Burren where the ice Age has left a large area of bare limestone blocks which bear a mixture of Arctic and Alpine plants.

Limerick was rather disappointing at first sight (a scaffolded hotel, some rooms having scaffolding actually coming in through the windows didn't help), but we enjoyed a walk round the English town, the Castle standing at the confluence of the Shannon and the Abbey rivers. Then on to Dublin from where we visited some of the greats of Irish archaeology. The Hill of Tara, the immense hill thought to have been the ancient seat and assembly place of the High Kings of Ireland, and to the Bend of the Boyne where we went into the great passage grave of Newgrange, gaping at the corbelled roof, the immense decorated slabs of rock which form the sides of the passages and the richness of the geometric decorations. The enormous burial mound covers about an acre and a half, it has a maximum diameter of between seventy-nine and eighty-five metres and is eleven to thirteen metres high, and there is a kerb stone which is probably the most magnificently decorated stone of any passage grave in Europe. There are some small satellite tombs of a similar structure, some of which may have been there before the great mound. Unfortunately when we reached Knowth we found it swathed in black plastic awaiting the arrival, said to be the next day, of the team of archaeologists who are excavating it, so we could only stand on a viewing platform in driving rain while Mike Farley, our archaeological leader, vividly described what was hidden from us. On the way back to Dublin we called at Monasterboice, the site of the monastery founded In the 6th century, with three wonderful stone crosses, and also managed to fit in a quick run up the hill to St Patrick's Rock, Cashel, which is a fortress complex started in the 4th century AD which Includes Cormac's Chapel, the earliest Romanesque church in Ireland; a cathedral; a castle and a round tower, all perched high above the green and misty plain.

Our last day was spent in Dublin itself, St Patrick's Cathedral, the archaeological museum, a typical Irish pub for lunch, a hunt for a cashpoint which would take one of our cards, and best of all for me the Trinity College Library, looking just as a library should. Unfortunately we did not have time for the three hours it took to queue for the Viking exhibition.

A pretty good trip on the whole, spoilt in places by careless organisation and weak leadership, though the two experts who accompanied us were excellent. The Boyne and Dublin provided the only really bad weather, having been warned before booking that Ireland can be wetter than Wales we were quite pleasantly surprised. The landscape was green and lovely, there was always something to be seen as we drove around - although nobody believed me when I reported seeing a donkey with a pipe-smoking dog on its back, it really was true.

"AH YES, I REMEMBER IT WELL"                                                                                                                                                      by Robert Michel

Maurice Chevalier In his charmingly Gallic way, couldn't quite get it right. Luckily for the historian Hermione Gingold was on hand to correct him. A delightful song from a classic film - but it does highlight a basic problem confronting budding oral historians.

In the summer of 1963 The Beatles pop group were on the threshold of stardom. They had already had two chart topping hits and in August "She Loves You" - arguably their best known song - was to become their third. However before "She Loves You" and the ensuing so-called Beatiemania the Group continued to play small town one-night stands around the country. In Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, they still remember the night The Beatles came to town. Or do they?


HADAS member Paula Allen and I interviewed the recently retired photographer Kenneth Mansell, who in the 1960s was the regular photographer at Yarmouth's ABC theatre. His portfolio is a Who's Who of British comic and musical talent of the last generation. I bought two photographs of The Beatles at the ABC and asked him about the night they were taken. Although recalling that it was a summer Sunday night the precise year and, naturally, the date escaped him. He seemed quite clear that they appeared only once, which was also the recollection of Joe Dade, a part-time museum curator in Norwich (1). In an attempt to fix the date Mr Mansell remembered slipping out of the theatre during The Beatles' act for a quick drink with Arthur Haynes, the well-known entertainer, who was appearing on the same bill.

Sadly for the oral historian Mr Mansell falls into the Maurice Chevallier category of witness. The Beatles did appear at the ABC on a summer Sunday night, on 30 June 1963 in fact (2). Obviously it would be unreasonable to expect Mr Mansell to remember the precise date 25 years after the event, but both he and Mr Dade forgot something far more fundamental - The Beatles played the ABC twice that summer (3). The second visit was on Sunday 28 July and was clearly a success as teenagers were reported to have been "hammering on the stage door" after the show (4).

In addition Mr Mansell could not have enjoyed a drink with Arthur Haynes while The Beatles delighted the teenagers. You see Arthur Haynes appeared at the ABC the week before on the 21 July (5). The proximity of dates seems to suggest that it was the July performance that Mr Mansell photographed while, curiously, Mr Dade (by reference to the month and the presenter, Ted Rogers) clearly recalls the first appearance.

"Living memories" are undoubtedly a useful tool in helping to recreate the past and these notes are not intended to blunt its edge. It goes without saying that personal recollections should be corroborated whenever possible. Failing that the cultivation of an ability to differentiate between a Maurice Chevalier and a Hermione Gingold will greatly enhance the accuracy and thus the usefulness of the oral historian's work.

Footnotes

(1) Mr Dade contributed to a newspaper article on The Beatles' Yarmouth connection: Eastern Evening News (EEN) 23 March 1988 (2) Yarmouth Mercury (YM) 31 May 1963 and onwards (advert)

(3)     YM 21 June 1963 and onwards (advert)

(4)      EEN 29 July 1963

(5)      YM 12 July 1963 (advert) Acknowledgements

Thanks to Paula Allen for her secretarial help and patience, and to Messrs Mansell and Dade for their time and inspiration. Thanks also to the staff at the Eastern Counties Newspapers' offices and Yarmouth Library.



NEWS OF MEMBERS

Those of us who have been missing Edgar and Lily Lewy at lectures and outings recently will be sorry to hear that Edgar has been in hospital for some time, undergoing several operations. At last Lily feels he has turned the corner and she is hoping that he will be home for Christmas. We all send our best wishes to him for a speedy recovery.Nell Penny has also been in hospital, but is home again and recovering well. Happy New Year, Nell.

SITE WATCHING                                                      John Enderby

The following sites, the subject of recent Planning Applications could be of possible archaeological interest. Members living in the vicinity are asked to keep an eye on them and report anything unusual to John Enderby, our Site Coordinator, on 203 2630

 

Northern area

Land adjacent to the Territorial Army Centre, St Albans Rd, Barnet 6 detached houses

Oak Hill College, Chase Side, Southgate, N14 3 x storey block 12 flats

 

77/79 Brookhill Rd, East Barnet 2 storey office building

 

37/41St Albans Rd, Barnet Block of 7 flats

 

Land at rear Two Brewers P H, Hadley Highstone 5 houses

 

1, Mill Corner, Hadley Highstone garage and swimming pool

Land to the west of Sainsbury's car park, Lancaster Rd, East Barnet enlargement of car park and industrial units

39 Union St, Chipping Barnet rear extension

11 Mays Lane, Barnet Central area  3 storey block

10 Grass Park, Finchley N3 Western area      extension at rear

Land adjacent to 16, Hartland side extension

Lane, Edgware The Edgwarebury Hotel, Edgwarebury Drive, Edgware rebuild and extensions.

 


 

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