Newsletter-224-November-1989

  

NEWSLETTER  224:

November 1989                                 EDITOR: Micky Cohen

 

 

HADAS DIARY


TUESDAY NOVEMBER 7th    Lecture on PREHISTORY IN GREATER LONDON. Our lecturer
should have been Jonathan Cotton, but he has written to say his wife is expecting their first child just around this date. He has very kindly arranged for Dr Nick  Merriman to take his place. Dr Merriman is Assistant Keeper in the Prehistoric and Roman Department of the Museum of London. HADAS is known to him through our nine-year Mesolithic excavation at West Heath, Hampstead. He has visited Margaret
Maher to see the first-phase West Heath collection and discussed the possibility of its going into the Museum of London when they change their Mesolithic display. We look forward to renewing our acquaintance with him on November 7th.

THURSDAY NOVEMBER 16th HADAS Book Launch "A Place in Time" at Hendon Town Hall, 8.00 p.m. for 8.30 p.m.(See separate application form and details enclosed.)

SUNDAY NOVEMBER 19th Walk with Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust along the Mutton Brook. Meet at Henly's Corner at 10.30 a.m. Details in October Newsletter.

TUESDAY DECEMBER 5th  Southwark Cathedral and Christmas Dinner at "The George".

This is now full up, with a short waiting list. Any further applicants are welcome to be added to the list, and anyone who has to cancel please let Dorothy Newbury know as soon as possible. (Tel: 203 - 0950)

TUESDAY JANUARY 2nd Presidential Address on "The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic"     by our new President, Ralph Merrifield.    Details in October Newsletter.

MINIMART - OCTOBER 7th                                                                Dorothy Newbury

We have reached our aim of making the four figure profit once again - £1,070 in fact. This is due to the efforts of so many of our members and friends who gave excellent goods for sale, came on the day to buy, helped transport goods there and back again, baked for us, and sold at the stalls. A very, very great effort which produced excellent results. And, as usual, it was a fun-day,too! (With special thanks to Dorothy - Ed.)


MEMBERS' NEWS

Our Treasurer, VICTOR JONES, is away touring New Zealand, and we hope, enjoying a well-earned rest. Victor is a willing horse, and not only Treasurer. He does so much for the Society, digging, exhibitions; and is always ready to fetch and carry for all of us.

Our Membership Secretary, PHYLLIS FLETCHER, has had a nasty confrontation with a motor-bike in Camden Town. She was rushed to University College Hospital by ambulance and after a long wait was pronounced shocked and badly bruised but no bones broken. And true to Fletcher stoicism she made her own way home by tube and bus. She assures us it wasn't caused by chasing after anyone for their over­due "sub." - the road was clear and the bike just came round a corner and bowled her over. We wish her a speedy recovery.

This is not news, says DOROTHY NEWBURY - just a plea to anyone who may have found her favourite red jacket (20 years old) invariably worn on outings so you can see her. Has she left it in anyone's house or car or cafe and someone doesn't know whose it is? She just can't remember where she wore it last!

One of our Vice-Presidents and leading authority on the Hendon area, TED SAMMES, has had an extra digit added to his telephone number. Several members have been complaining that they can't reach him. The number is now: 0628 - 604807.

REQUIESCAT IN PACE FRIEND

Many HADAS members will be sad to hear of the death on 13th October of a long-time friend and colleague in the world of North London local history - JOHN COLLIER, who was for ten years until the end of 1987, Hon. Secretary of the Mill Hill Historical Society. During that time he had many links with HADAS, co-operating with us in such campaigns as that for more blue plaques; only last August he rang up to alert us to the coming closure (and possible demolition) of the Inglis Barracks at Mill Hill.

For the early years of his Secretaryship, his society was called as it had been since its foundation in 1929 - the Mill Hill and Hendon Historical Society. It was John who faced with our young  and  vigorous Archaeological Society, founded more than 30 years later, decided most generously that HADAS should be left a clear field in Hendon, because in the early eighties we were doing much work there and in 1983 persuaded his committee not only to drop the words  "and Hendon" from their title, but also to arrange to lodge with HADAS a number of `the Mill Hill Society's papers which were concerned solely with Hendon.

John was a good friend and man of unexpected depths. In 1986 he published the traditional "slim volume" of poems called "Early and late". He had written poetry all his life as a relaxation: the first poem in the book was over half a century old. It will be a great pleasure to his friends to have that volume to remember him by.

 

Lecture: Tuesday 3rd October 1989                                     by Christine Arnott

The opening lecture of the winter season was given by Roy Friendship-Taylor, Chairman of the Upper Nene Archaeological Society. He spoke of the twelve years he has been concerned with the excavations of a Romano-British villa at Piddington, Northants - digging every weekend and two weeks each August.

The Society has found evidence of late Iron Age settlement initially, with a simple structure on the site, succeeded by its Romanisation, and culminating in a pretentious, "winged" corridor villa. After the late 3rd and early 4th century, it deteriorated into a largely derelict "squat".

The villa was originally re-discovered in 1781 by limestone quarriers, who, according to brief contemporary records, uncovered a Mosaic about 50 feet square. Finding a skeleton with a spear and nearby a gold ring, their subsequent frantic hunt for treasure resulted in the wholesale destruction of the mosaic, the under­lying hypocaust and an adjacent room.

Somewhat later, in 1979, there were further threats to the site; a projected 24 inch water main, an ecclesiastical user of a metal detector, and deep ploughing. Neither of the first two disturbed vital evidence, but the threat of the plough remains.

Piddington village lies six miles south-east of Northampton, not itself a Roman town, but Towcester, Stony Stratford and Watling Street, with their Roman associat­ions are nearby. The villa site is in a gentle flat landscape, with the land dropping towards the Nene valley. No trace has as yet been discovered of the speculated Roman Road 172a to Piddington.

The evidence for occupation at the site begins about A.D. 1. Later, after the Claudian conquest of A.D. 43, there are finds of many imported wares - particularly military findings that suggest the presence of a nearby cavalry unit. About this time also there is evidence of copper smelting - hearths have been found and a number of crucible fragments - it is suggested that a range of tacks and nails was produced there.

The wall plaster remains found all over the site indicate the fine nature of the material and that the walls had originally designs in green and cream on a polished red surface. This well-decorated villa supports the evidence for a wealthy owner.

A number of finds have been identified as foreign imports. For instance, a distinctive bright pinky-red colour used on the wall plaster was produced by "cinnabas", a pigment known to have been an expensive luxury import from northern Spain. Another distinctive colour is the bright blue-green made from coloured glass. We can imagine that with plum-red external wall plaster, plum-red, purple-brown, and white moulded plastered limestone columns - topped by blue and cream roof tiles on the lean-to roof - the villa must have been a colourful sight.

Marble fragments have been identified as coming originally from the Aegean, Sparta, Egypt and Portland in Dorset; also the black carboniferous limestone from Belgium. Imported pottery finds of "terra rubra" (Central Gaul) "terra nigra" (Rhineland) "terra sigilata" (Samian or southern Gaul) are further evidence of overseas contacts.

We were shown slides of the bath-house and the heating thereof. In the beginning, charcoal was used, but later coal was introduced. Among many slide of the excavat­ions we saw the herringbone tiled flooring of the corridor. This must have been extremely well laid judging by its condition today. We also saw slides of the many artefacts uncovered, and were introduced to the riddle of the strange calcite gritted was finials or lamp chimneys set at one end of the roof. There was a wealth of information given to us during the lecture and we were left with many things to ponder on; so we shall look forward most keenly to our visit to the site next year, when we can inspect "in situ" all the evidence of occupation during the four hundred years that we heard about on this first Tuesday evening.

 

VISIT TO HIGHBURY AND CANONBURY                                                                by  M.E. JOHNS

On Saturday, 30th September, we had the good fortune to be introduced to parts of Highbury and Canonbury by Mary O'Connell, who kindly guided us on a short tour of the area. We started at Highbury Fields, by the memorial to Islingtonians who fell in the Boer War. Around the Fields stand the architecturally stately houses of the early 19th century, more of which we found nearby in Compton Terrace. Here our goal was the Union Chapel, a most imposing structure built as the centrepiece of the Terrace, now truncated as the result of bomb damage in the last war when Highbury "Corner" was destroyed.

We were welcomed by a Chapel member who favoured us with a lengthy discourse on its history, which began in 1799 when a small group of Anglicans and Non-conform­ists began to worship in a disused chapel at 18 Highbury Grove. At this time the area was poor spiritually, but nevertheless the chapel prospered, a regular Min­ister was appointed in 1804, and a new building was raised in Compton Terrace in 1806, Steady growth continued, particularly with the ministry of Rev. Alton from 1852, and a new and larger building, the present Union Chapel, designed by James Cubitt was opened in 1877, seating 1,700 with a Sunday School Hall for 1,000 children. Cubitt's inspiration was the church of Santa Fosca Torcelle near Venice. The tower was added in 1889. A special feature was the organ (designed by Henry Willis) which is still in working order. Some of the party ventured into the small chamber in the basement where the original pump required two persons to work it - doubtless they would have appreciated the quieter interludes in the services! The early congregations were encouraged in hymn singing with two practice sessions each week, and the musical tradition continues with concerts frequently held today.

The building was designed in the form of a Greek cross enclosing an octagon, with

a large balcony, several handsome stained glass windows, and much decorative tiling. There was an interesting ventilation system whereby vents could be opened in certain pillars to facilitate an updraught for regulating a fan in the roof; the vents can still be seen. Another noteworthy feature are the handsome wooden pews, originally available for purchase or rent; thus establishing a financial basis for the vigorous charitable work of the early members, whose "seating plan"can still be seen on a wall in a back room.  By 1892 the congregation was declining ­the then Minister declared it was either migrating to Hampstead or to Heaven! This decline continued until the appointment of the present incumbent, Rev. Janet Wootton, a very special and purposeful person under whose guidance the attendance has steadily recovered.

Our friendly guide took us to a room at the rear where he dispensed coffee and we ate our packed lunches, and we then made our way towards Canonbury Tower, passing along Canonbury Terrace and Square, Alwyne Road and Villas, streets full of 19th century architectural interest, all part of the estates of the Marquess of Northampton. In Canonbury Square, the tragedian Samuel Phelps resided at No. 8 from 1844 -67, Evelyn Waugh at No. 17a in 1928, and George Orwell at No. 27b in 1945. Alwyne Villas has been the home of Dame Flora Robson and Beatrice Lehmann. Along Canonbury Road (at one time New North Road) the course of the New River, ornamental ponds were constructed and land­scaped in 1950; here we met the local duck population enjoying the remains of the 1613 New River developed by Sir Hugh Myddelton, goldsmith and M.P. whose man-made waterway brought water from Hertfordshire springs to alleviate the problems of London's water supply.

From the ponds we approached Canonbury Tower/Place, from 1952 the home of the Tavistock Repertory Company, and known as the Tower Theatre. The tower itself is the most substant­ial part remaining of what used to be Canonbury House. The land now contained in the triangle formed by Upper Street, Essex Road and St. Paul's Road, was a manor before the Norman Conquest, but in 1253 it was bequeathed to the Canons of St. Bartholomew's in Smithfield, an Augustinian Order, when it became known as Canons' Burgh or Canonbury. Little was done to it until William Bolton became Prior - 1509 to 1532. He was a great builder, Master of Works to Henry VIII and responsible for the Henry VII chapel in West­minster Abbey. He owned other properties in the area, on two of which, an octagonal garden house at 4 Alwyne Villas and an old monastic door inside 6 Canonbury Place, his mark, a bolt piercing a tun (barrel) can still be seen. The Canonbury Tower was certainly his work, although how much more is uncertain. The Canons did not enjoy their retreat for long since the Priory and lands were surrendered to the Crown in 1539 and the Manor was bestowed on Thomas Cromwell, Chief Minister for the Dissolution, who himself fell from grace soon after and was executed in 1540, the remains of his fortune being used to provide an annuity for Anne of Cleves.

A chequered history followed until the Manor passed to Sir John Spencer, a wealthy Suffolk cloth merchant who increased his fortune by overseas trading, money lending and property development, holding many important offices, including Lord Mayor of London in 1594. He took up residence in 1599 and from about this time certain events provide a great human interest with the romance of his heiress daughter Elizabeth and Lord Compton, later Earl of Northampton. Lord Compton had spent most of his considerable inheritance with attend­ance at Court and other expensive exercises, and had borrowed from Sir John, who did not share his daughter's love for the spendthrift nobleman. Elizabeth was confined to the Tower, but eloped and married Compton in 1599. Sir John then disowned his daughter and it was not until her son was born in 1601 that reconciliation was effected with the ass­istance of Queen Elizabeth herself, who had appointed Compton Master of the Leash in 1596. A second son was born in Canonbury Tower and on Sir John's death in 1610, the couple finally inherited the Spencer fortunes. At this time, a letter from Elizabeth Compton to her husband, read by Mary O'Connell as we sat in the first floor "Spencer Room", sets out in detail the style in which she expected him to keep her, both at Canonbury Tower and at the Northampton ancestral home, Castle Ashby, Northants. Gambling, lavish entertaining and extensions to Castle Ashby were supported by Elizabeth's legacy, and also a very lavish funeral for her father (buried in Great St Helen's, Bishopsgate). That expense may have distressed Compton, as for a while he was quite demented and was kept bound. He recovered, however, and was later Lord President of the Council in 1617, and in 1618 was created Earl of Northampton. The second Earl was killed supporting the King's cause in the Civil War, and for a time his son, the third Earl, lived in Canonbury House, having had to pay a fine of £40,000 to the Commonwealth. He was the last of the line to live there, although the property is still owned by the family.

In 1907, the (by then) Marquess of Northampton completely restored the building, preserving the original features where possible. King Edward's Hall was then built, presently the Tower Theatre, and the present entrance leads into a low hall adjoining the Tower. On the ground floor is a room with the original brickwork exposed; on the first floor is the "Spencer Room", completely panelled, with an elaborately ornamented chimney-piece featuring 'dons' heads, carved figures, Tudor roses and much strapwork, and twelve pilasters (probably Flemish) which run from floor to ceiling; on the second floor the "Compton Room" even more elaborate "panel within panel" walls and strapwork on the ten pilasters, and a chimney-piece decorated with figures of Faith and Hope and fruits and flowers. Elsewhere is a shell pattern interspaced with the arms of Spencer and semi-grotesque heads. Finally, on the flat roof of the tower there is a fine view, described by Charles Lamb in 1835 as of "villages and countryside". The whole is served by a central staircase of short straight flights and quarter landings, the centre filled with timber and plaster forming a series of cupboards.

Various famous tenants of the Northamptons included Lord Chancellor Thomas Eggerton in 1605, and Sir Francis Bacon in 1616. Bacon is believed to have planted the red mulberry tree in the courtyard, and also to have had painted on the wall of the top room of the tower an inscription of the names of the sovereigns from Charles I. During the 18th century, the buildings were partly let in separate rooms - Oliver Goldsmith was there in 1762 and was visited by-Boswell. In 1770 an impoverished Earl of Northampton parted with a lease of the property to one John Dawes, who demolished the south side of the quadrangle of buildings and erected the houses in what is now Canonbury Place. He also added the bay windows to the Tower. Our visit to this fascinating building was completed by refreshments in a room beside the Tower, adding the final touch to this most enjoyable outing.

ARCHAEOLOGYAT A BARNET SCHOOL           by Alison Stratton

(Head of History at Queen Elizabeth Grammar School)

Interest in Archaeology is growing: the University of Sheffield "Archaeology in Educ­ation" Unit at the Department of Archaeology and Pre-history is most helpful and inform­ative, producing study packs, replicas and information; more sites, like Fishbourne Roman Palace, are offering workshops so that pupils may examine artefacts or experience a simulation of life in the period of study; media coverage of Archaeology is improving, for example the recent programmes about the Sutton Hoo excavations. Clearly, this is an encouraging sign for lovers of the subject.

For several years, Queen Elizabeth's Girls' School in Barnet has adopted a chronological, though skills-based approach to the study of History. While giving the girls a basic chronological framework, we hope to develop their skills of observation, questioning, discernment and deduction. This culminates in a site description of Roman Verulamium in the 4th and 5th years, when girls are taken to the excavations and, through observ­ations, are asked to deduce what Verulamium tells each individual about Roman Britain and the problems the site poses.

The enthusiasm of the girls for the subject is shown when, in our present 4th year, 110 out of 150 girls have chosen to take History at G.C.S.E. level. It was also demon­strated when in the summer term of the last academic year, an optional trip to Ports­mouth was organised for 2nd year pupils to supplement their studies. This involved examination of the Mary Rose, the Victory, the Warrior, and their artefacts, and an ass­ignment. The quality of the assignments was good and the number of girls who chose to take part was 130 out of 150          As a result of the success of the field visits, the History Department now aims to organise at least one excursion to an archaeological site for each year group.

This year we have embarked on an Archaeology course for G.C.S.E. in the 6th Form. It lasts for one year and we have 18 girls on the course from both scientific and arts backgrounds. There are two examinations and a piece of extended coursework which need to be completed, and as well as archaeological finds and sites, we look at the role of the archaeologist and archaeological technique. The girls are extremely enthusiastic to the extent that, at half-term, we are going to the Oxfordshire/Gloucestershire border to look at the Rollright stones, Belas Knap, Chipping Campden market square and, possibly Crickley Hill. We hope that the girls will also be able to have some experience of local digs.

Our school offers an ideal site to study standing buildings, with all the modifications and additions which have been made over the last 100 years (the school celebrated its centenary last year). The Tudor Hall (Barnet College) as well as other Barnet buildings provide us with an ideal area for observation. The enthusiasm seems contagious - the course has aroused the interest of both staff and pupils and there is every indication that we shall have another large class next year.

With the advent of National Curriculum (in which History is compulsory) and the result­ing attainment targets, we hope that our courses and visits will continue. Our aim is to show that Archaeology, far from being dull and boring, is exciting, interesting and satisfying, and that through observation and experimentation as well as reading books, we can learn about life in the past.

(The Queen Elizabeth girls will be visiting the Mitre site in Barnet very shortly and hope they may be able to do some work there. Ed.)

 

A SIGN OF THE "TIMES”?                                                                               by Micky Cohen

Archaeology is an "in" topic of news - the "heavies" now give more space to it than ever before. They carry not just the hyped items like the row over the Rose Theatre site, but also reports on interesting sites all over the world, on the implications of finds for man's development in pre-history, on the City's many digs and so on.

Now the "Times" is publishing a series of beautifully illustrated colour supplements every Monday for seven weeks - the "Atlas of Ancient Civilisations". So far the Near East, Egypt and Greece have appeared. Each issue has maps, charts and photographs, and provides a brief text reviewing the main aspects of the emergence of civilisation in the areas concerned. Illustrations have been drawn from the Times "Atlas of World History" and "Past Worlds".

The brief text is enough to stimulate further reading but unfortunately there is no reading list or guidance. However, there is a traveller's guide giving news of forth­coming tours to each of the areas covered and information about access to sites.

The "Times" is to be congratulated on this initiative - those who take an interest in any aspect of Archaeology will welcome the prominence this series will give to the subject for a wider audience. A set of video tapes on the same lines would have even greater impact - what about it Mr Murdoch ?

 

ENVIRONMENT FRIENDLY RAILINGS                                                              by John Enderby

Barnet Council enhances the "Village Green" of Hendon

Readers will recall that, after a short but messy occupation by "Travellers" of the "Paddock" - once graphically described as Hendon's "Village Green" - adjacent to the Middlesex Polytechnic, the London Borough of Barnet agreed to replace the dilapidated iron railings - long patched up with ugly wattle fencing.

HADAS was appalled at the design originally suggested in the planning application, and made strong representations. The Planning Department then solicited at least two further designs before it was felt that they had got it right for this environmentally sensitive site. Recently, slender black railings, with delightfully sculpted arrow­head tops, have been installed, effectively protecting the "Paddock" from further intrusion. The Society has, in consequence, congratulated the Planning Department on producing such an aesthetically pleasing design, which, it is felt, will enhance the outstanding character of this open space as a sylvan "lung" in an increasingly urban area. May we hope that one day it will become available for quiet recreational use by the people of Hendon. This, the writer knows, was the avowed wish of the previous owner, Miss Nellie Hinge, when urban pressures forced her to sell - first the herd of cattle that had grazed the pasture for generations, and finally - the land itself.

 

MORE ABOUT THE WHETSTONE TUDOR HOUSE                                      by Victor Jones

Short progress reports have been in Newsletters on several occasions during the six months since the start of the project, and it is now possible to give a fuller (but still not complete) description of the house, how and why we are interested in it, further news on the dig, and other investigations during the project.

The background to it is that early this year the architects to the owners asked if we would be interested to investigate the Grade II Listed house at No. 1264 High Road,

Whetstone, which was being considered for restoration. This would be part of the re­development of the site which includes a small 19th century building, a courtyard and ground at the back of both buildings. This had a special interest as the Society had undertaken a similar project in 1981 on the adjacent building at No. 1266 High Road. Mrs Mary Alloway, then one of our members, produced a report and some very fine drawings of that building which has been very well restored and is now the head office of the company that owns it. This 1981 project work may well have contributed not only to the records but also to the conservation of a little of Whetstone's past history.

The committee approved the project as the building is thought to be even older than that at No. 1266. The aim of the investigation was to study and record the general construct­ion of the building and especially its timber-frame construction. This Tudor system of house building is based on the manufacture in the carpenter's workshop of all the wood components of the house and to assemble them there into the complete skeleton house frame. The components were then marked to show how they fitted together, the structure was dismantled and transported to the building site, and it was re-erected, the walls infilled and the roof added.

The main frame of the Whetstone house is made of very large oak beams some twelve or more inches square, most of which are in remarkably sound condition although some of the smaller ones have deteriorated. Some original wattle and daub infill still exists in the upper floors and the loft. Only part of the building is Tudor and this is approx­imately 55 feet long and only 16 feet wide. This narrow side is the frontage onto the High Road. Built on to the front of this, a much wider, very shallow and very ugly Georgian frontage has been added, possibly in a mistaken attempt to make the building look more important. This is the three-storey building next to the Griffin pub near the crossroads in central Whetstone. At the back of the building is quite a large area of ground and on part of this is a small 19th century building now used as a photograph­ic studio. There is also a courtyard and garden area at the rear of this.

As readers of the earlier reports will recall, we made a prompt start on digging in early April, requiring a massive clearance of about 1 metre of accumulated scrap, spread a metre deep over the area of the dig. We have not yet found any material earlier than 17th century, and we were stopped just as we were starting to dig in the undisturbed area at the rear; recording and drawing has gone ahead but was also delayed. However, the visit of the timber building specialists gave the first clue that the building might be older than the accepted dating. The Dendrochronology (tree-ring) tests have not proved successful as the timber samples taken were not satisfactory.

The documentary studies, with some very hard work and unexpected luck, have produced some striking results as John Heathfield's report in the October Newsletter has shown.

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