Newsletter-246-September-1991

Newsletter        Newsletter No. 246                              September 1991                             edited by Jean Snelling 

Diary 

August 10th - September 15 Two Mill Hill Exhibitions at Church Farm House Museum Hendon; see below.

Tuesday September 24 West Heath Report: celebration at Town Hall, Hendon. See enclosed application form.

Tuesday  October 1 Lecture, Valley of the Kings. Peter Clayton. 8 for 8.10 pm.

Saturday October 5 City Walk with Mary O'Connell.

October 12 MINIMART Another plea for members to turn out their good saleable items. See enclosed leaflet for details.

 

At the Annual General Meeting Brian Wrigley indicated his wish to stand down after his sterling service as Hon Sec.. Now we are happy to greet a long-standing member, Liz Holliday, as Honorary General Secretary to HADAS.

Officially - Miss E A Holliday, c/o 66 Brookfield Avenue, Mill Hill, NW7 2DD Telephone (after 7.0.pm) 0923 267 483, (Delete old address on members' list)

A bonus is the special responsibility being taken by Brian Wrigley for Excavations and Archives.

Our affairs are in good hands. May they both have sound health and long lives.

From the Membership Secretary, Phyllis Fletcher

I should like to welcome to the Society the following New Members;

Mrs M Glaser, Mrs A Littlewood, Mr F M J Pinn, and Miss T Sheehan. I also welcome back to membership Miss J N Blason.

Some of our members have still not paid their subscriptions for the year, so they will receive a reminder from me. If you have paid by the time you get this Newsletter please accept my apologies.

The Newsletter

Will a computer-minded member volunteer for a project on Newsletter data? A selective list of Contents for the years 1985 to 1990 is much needed in a form which will subsequently facilitate a yearly update. A design for the data base is to hand, and the Society's computer is available.

Enquiries to Jean Snelling, 081 346 3553.


REPORT ON THE EXCAVATION AT ST MARY'S SCHOOL, FINCHLEY (extracts)

The Museum of London's Department of Greater London Archaeology have produced an evaluation report on their excavations at St Mary's School earlier this year.       Those few who attended the seminar on this which The Museum put on for us in May have received copies of the report; it is very well and concisely set out, that many other Members will find it extremely interesting.

Starting off with a description of the geology of the Finchley area, it proceeds to the historical and archaeological background quoted below, which is illustrated with reproductions of extracts from maps of 1754 (Rocque), 1822 (OS). 1877 (OS), and 1902 (OS).

HISTORICAL. AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND

There is little archaeological evidence for prehistoric settlement in Finchley or its immediate vicinity. Of the entries in the Sites and Monuments Register, many of the stone tools referred to show signs of having been redeposited in the late glacial gravels by ice sheets and streams, so their find spots do not necessarily indicate sites of manufacture or use. Four Mesolithic flakes found by the Hendon and District Archaeological Society during the Rectory Close excavations, close to the present site, were found in a disturbed layer and need not indicate settlement at this period. If any of these finds are in situ, they may represent chance loses by communities exploiting the local fauna and flora but living elsewhere, but the cautionary note should be added that small prehistoric settlements are only likely to be located by controlled scientific excavations and there have been few of these in the area.

Finds from the Roman period may indicate increasing settlement and agricultural production as a result of the need to supply the growing urban centre of Londinium. The nearest large scale settlement is at Brockley Hill, adjacent to an arterial road with evidence of industry, pottery manufacture and the import of luxury items. A reorganisation of the local landscape is shown by the minor N-S road at Hendon golf course (possibly early-mid 2nd century AD) and the scatter of finds, particularly the cluster at Hendon which includes building material and a burial (SMR), may show the establishment of small farmsteads at this time.

Although Finchley has an Anglo-Saxon name, meaning "the wood frequented by Finches" (Weinreb and Hibbert 1983 pp276-77), there is as yet little hard evidence for a settlement here at this period. Saxon foundations have been claimed for St Mary's Hendon,

St Mary's Finchley and St James the Great Friern Barnet, but without reliable historical or archaeological evidence. Grass tempered pottery found beside the church at Hendon (LA 2, 10, 1976 p370) suggests a rural community here and further excavation work may find the site of its dwellings.

Finchley is not mentioned in the Domesday book, but the fact that it was part of the ecclesiastical manor of Fulham means that a settlement here could have escaped mention. The 1086 survey does show that the county of Middlesex was already divided up into large estates supplying produce and revenue to Lords and religious houses before the conquest of 1066 (Cockburn et al 1969 pp84-85).

The medieval period is far better represented than the preceding millennia. This may in part be due to the lack of detailed archaeological excavation on the less substantial remains of earlier settlements, the existence of relevant historical documents (almost all are post 1066), and the destruction of earlier material by superimposed later settlements, but almost certainly is related to improving agricultural technology, enabling heavier soils to be satisfactorily farmed. An additional factor may have been the re-emergence of London as a major centre of population and trade, placing increasing demands on its hinterland. At Finchley, St Mary's church has 12th and 13th century fabric, but no other standing medieval structures have survived.

Finchley remained a largely rural and agricultural community until the 1870's (Figures 2 and 3) and it was only the arrival of the Great Northern Railway in 1867 that led to the expansion of the settlement to join Church End, East Finchley and Friern Barnet (Figures 4 and 5).'

Machine clearance of the playground surface and leveling dump below showed the various features shown in Figure 7 ( reproduced below):   this is all no more than a handspan below the original surface of the playground. The concluding sections of the report are (quoted below:

FINDS

All features investigated produced sherds of pottery. Most of the assemblage is made up of fragments of early medieval domestic and cooking pots. The fabrics are unusual and were probably produced locally, though some may be imports from the south Herts area. Because little work has been done on pottery types in this area, dating has been derived from comparisons of the vessel forms and rim shapes with securely dated pottery from other areas.

Most of the pottery falls within the period 1150-1250 AD, but there are a few earlier sherds - [013] produced a probable pre-Norman form - and several later ones, the latest being 1270-1350 AD. Much of the pot is heavily abraded, suggesting that it may have weathered prior to its incorporation into the archaeological deposits.The fragments of lava stone are significant. Such stone had to be imported from the Rhineland and was used to make quern stones for grinding agricultural produce.


INTERPRETATION

The post-holes and slots are the remains of timber buildings that once stood on the site, the post-holes holding vertical timbers and the slots holding sill beams into which either doorways or wall timbers could be set. A full plan of these structures could be recovered by full excavation. Two hearths probably belong within the buildings, and it is possible that some of the layers that were not investigated may be occupation deposits associated with them.

Large amounts of pottery recovered indicate the active use of the site in the early medieval period, some of it imported, but some probably made locally. The slag and lava stone point to other aspects of the industrial and economic life of a rural community.

The surviving deposits are quite shallow, the deepest features less than 0.50m deep, so a check was made of the damage caused by the footings of the school buildings. Although the walls would have destroyed all but the deepest features, the rest of the subfloor area appears to overlie undisturbed soil, at a level where archaeological survival should be considerable.

CONCLUSIONS

The site appears to offer one of the first opportunities to make a detailed archaeological investigation into the core of the historic village of Finchley. This evaluation exercise has shown that the evidence is there, together with a considerable quantity of dating evidence and the remains of structures.

The Museum of London recommends that discussions are commenced with the applicant to seek opportunities for preserving as much of this important archaeological site as possible in situ, by suitable design measures in areas where damage is likely to be unavoidable, an agreement is sought which will allow archaeological rescue investigations (and suitable archive and publication of the results) to take place prior to any development.

The Museum of London are currently discussing with the developers the possibility of rescue excavations of the area affected by the Development  Mike Hutchinson of the DGLA hopes that any such further dig can be so arranged that HADAS members can participate at weekends.


The site of St. Mary's primary school is in Finchley Church End, on the west side of Regents Park Road where it is joined by Hendon Lane.


                                                                                                                         REGENTS PARK ROAD

Figure 7: site plan showing:

post holes

layers

pits

hearths

slots

REVIEW: Excavations at the Mesolithic Site on West Heath, Hampstead 1976-1981  By Margaret Beasley MA  

Here in one volume is an informative and useful compilation of reports stemming from investigations by HADAS at West Heath during the period 1976-81. There are contributions from HADAS members (too many to name in a short review) and from specialists; providing plenty to interest anyone concerned with the Mesolithic, whether as amateur, student or professional. Overall, the presentation is good but Roman numerals on the horizontal axis of the plan of the hearth on p 69 are almost too small to read and the key on the same page does not match the style of the rest of the figures. The views of the site on p.8 are worthy of greater enlargement.

Dated by thermoluinescence to an average of 7641±900 BC, the site yielded a large quantity of worked flint. A first reaction to this might be to imagine that West Heath was densely populated in Mesolithic times. However, phosphate levels in the soil were very low, suggesting sparse occupation and as anyone who has tried flint knapping will know, large amounts of debitage are quickly generated. The lithics are well described and clearly illustrated and charts show how the various classes of tools and waste material were distributed over the site. The size of some cores indicates a supply of raw material larger than that available from river gravels and a search of members' gardens duly came up with several fair size pieces, indicating that some of the demand for flint could have been satisfied by casual finds. The range of tools and debitage suggests that a wide variety of activities were carried out. Over 130 pieces of flint have been refitted into 51 sets. Whether the knapping events represented all occured during a single phase occupation, or on repeated visits as part of a seasonal round is uncertain. Either way, much of the material appears to be a homogenous assemblage of earlier Mesolithic character, but it included some geometric microliths which Desmond Collins suggests may be a natural element in such assemblages or, alternatively, may represent a different or later group of people. Other stone artefacts are an 'arrow smoother', a 'hone', a piece of engraved flint cortex, possibly a sur­face for cutting on; and two arrowheads of Bronze Age type, one a modern fake and the other of uncertain origin, presumed to have been introduced as a hoax, as were some 'pigs' of metal stamped LFG XX!

Charcoal from the hearth, initially thought to be Mesolithic, yielded a radio carbon date in the range 1015-1165 Cal. AD at 95% probability. There is, neverthe­less, other evidence for the use of fire, in the form of charcoal and burnt store. Postholes imply structures, yet there is no substantial evidence for huts or enclosures and it is feasible that the site represents a palimpsest of repeated seasonal occupations, with traces from the individual fires and shelters of any one time blurred by repeated activities.

As a zooarchaeologist, I regret that the dry and acidic sandy soil (pH 3.5) has long since destroyed any bones and teeth. Despite this lack of faunal remains, there is, fortunately, a wealth of paleo-environmental data from the West Heath (Spa) site. Pollen, seeds and insects survived in its waterlogged sediments. James Greig's analysis of the pollen and macrobotanical remains documents 5000 years of change from lime wildwood to heathland. Beetles are quite specific in their environmental and food requirements, and the late Maureen Girling's study of the coleoptera offers fascinating glimpses of past landscapes. Two impressive scanning electron photomicrographs show the thorax of a tiny bark beetle which feeds on lime trees and the eye arrangement of a spider. Both beetles and pollen document the elm decline, which was due, it is suggested, to the combined effects of human activity and beetles.

This document is a credit to all those who have contributed their own individual areas of interest and expertise to the team effort. I shall be adding it to the list of recommended reading for my Extra Mural students.

In the manuscript of her review Miss Beasley gave the full title of the West Heath Report. In order to complete the record this is given here.

“Excavations at the Mesolithic Site on West Heath Hampstead 1876-1981 Investigations by members of the Hendon and District Archaeological Society edited by Desmond Collins and Daphne Lorimer with an associated paleoecological study by the late Maureen A Girliing and James A Grieg. BAR British Series 217, 1991”

Lower Paleolithic Site at Boxgrove Sussex                                                      P.Killpack

The Lower Paleolithic site at Boxgrove, near Chichester, is known to professional archaeologists as the oldest horse hunting and butchering site in Europe (see Current Archaeology No.123 Feb./March 1991 p 138).

A HADAS member excavated there during the month of May and participated in the unearthing of a 17cm ovate biface handaxe from a sealed layer dated to 500,000 years ago. Nearby were found rib bones, probably of horse, and numerous flint flakes. As all artefacts and associated evidence from the site are unique, excavators are required to work barefoot.

Mark Roberts of the Field Unit of the UCL Institute of Archaeology heads the project, which is funded in part by English Heritage. He has refitted flint flakes and waste to handaxes found at the site to determine the actual knapping process employed in the manufacture of the tools.

Close study of the geology of the area determined that the butchery site was a beach below chalk cliffs during a temperate period. With the onset of glaciation the sea withdrew and the site was covered by cold condition sediments. As the age of the undisturbed site is well beyond radiocarbon capabilities, the site has been dated by using bio-stratigraphic methods.

The good news is that the Natural History Museum is considering a special exhibit of finds from Boxgrove. Unfortunately the excavation ended August 11 1991, having been oversubscribed. The director informed us that there was simply no room for more volunteers.

FINCHLEY MANOR MOAT

Members who penetrated the overgrown moat during our visit to the Sternberg Centre on May 12 1991 will be interested in further news.

Our Committee has been in touch with English Heritage to raise the question of its condition, while the Museum of London (Department of Greater London Archaeology) is considering making an archaeological assessment of the scheduled ancient monument.

Newsletters will report developments.

Members News

Marion le Besque (nee Newbury) had a baby daughter, Grace Louise, on Sunday August llth. Both are doing well. 

LATE MEDIEVAL IRONWORKING IN WHETSTONE

Brian Wrigley

In Victor Jones' note on the Tudor house in Whetstone (Newslet­ter No 231, June 1990) there was reference to the evidence of iron- working found in the excavations of the back yard. We kept samples of the material which has now been examined by Dr Paul Craddock of the British Museum, and his report follows:

Report on metalworking debris excavated at Whetstone Cross roads, Middlesex

The material was excavated from a medieval context beneath a Tudor house by the Hendon and District Archaeological Society. The context was a small hollow of burnt material containing the burnt partially vitrified ferruginous waste and charcoal visual examination of the burnt material showed it to be heavily burnt and partially vitrified. Some pieces resembled clay lining. All the material was ferruginous. There was no true slag in the material examined.

The context was almost certainly a small smithing hearth, where iron was forged to shape by hammering and annealing. In the course of these operations a great deal of oxidised iron fragments (Hammer scale) and some residual slag from the bloom of iron are given off, and the debris can superficially resemble a smelting operation. However here the hearth does not resemble a furnace and there is no true smelting slag.

P F Craddock
30 May 1991

File 6117

For the record, it should be explained where the samples came from and why they are regarded as 'from a medieval context'.

Below is a sketch plan of the site, indicating the outlines of the surviving part of the timber building and its relation to our excavation.It also shows the areas where evidence of burning and iron-working residues were found.             The samples seen by Dr Craddock were from the two concentrations of burning, Features F19 and P20. These two features appear to be connected by a trail of combustion material between them; such a double hearth would fit in quite well with known techniques of early ironworking (like the 'Walloon double hearth' described in Tylecote's A History of Metallurgy) where successive processes are being carried out on the metal, and two hearths are close together to avoid the metal losing heat in the transfer.

The foundation for an extra bay to the house, referred to In the note in Newsletter 231, is marked F4 and F5 in the sketch plan: the lowest course of F5 is a line of chalk blocks, which I under­stand would fit in very well with the proposed dating of late 15C. The spread of burnt material was evident in Layer 4 (which contained features F19 and F20) and in Layer 23; both were similar disturbed clay, but separated by the footing F5.When we removed part of one of the chalk blocks of F5, we found that 4 and 23 were in fact one continuous layer below the chalk, and the signs of burning continued also; in fact, lifting the chalk block showed at least 3 fragments of charcoal on the surface thus exposed. 




Hence, on a reasonable assumption that the spread of burning is associated with the hearths, the ironworking activity must have been earlier than the laying of the footing, and if we are correct in dating the footing to the late 15C, then the ironworking must be at least as old as that date.

On a strictly non-academic note - how intriguing to find a smithy so close in place and time to the legendary sharpening of swords for the Battle of Barnet on THE WHETSTONE which stands just outside this site and has been rumoured to give the settlement its name!

Mill Hill exhibitions August 10-September 15

Two together at Church Farm House Museum, Hendon. Open weekdays 10.0-1.0pm and 2.0-5.30; but closed on Tuesday afternoons. Sundays, 2.0-5.30.pm

Pictures of Old .ill Hill (87of them) from Barnet Borough's collection. His Own Man - John Collier; Writer, Craftsman and local Historian.

Dorothy Newbury writes ; This is of special interest to HADAS as John Collier (1900-1989) had so many links with us in the past, as Secretary to the then Mill Hill & Hendon Historical Society. As HADAS grew it was John who had the 'Hendon' dropped from their title, leaving the Hendon patch to us. He liaised with Brigid Grafton Green in a campaign for more Blue Plaques in the Borough. He led a HADAS Walk in Mill Hill in 1985.

Coming shortly.

Part Jenny Cobban's tireless pursuit of the Witch's Cottage.

Also responses to Ted Sammes' enquiry in the August Newsletter about the Terrible Aeroplane Tragedy of 1920 in Golders Green/Cricklewood.

The dig at 296 Golders Green Road NW11 continues at the time of going to press but may have finished when this Newsletter circulates. A pebble layer is being uncovered; as yet there are no artefacts to help in dating.

Grafton Green is having another spell in hospital. We all wish her well again soon.

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