Newsletter-253-April-1992

 NEWSLETTER 253               Edited by Micky Watkins                               APRIL1992 

DIARY

Tuesday April 7th Archaeology and History of Sutton House, Hackney - 457 years of History by Mike Gray.

Mike Gray is chairman of the Sutton House Society, the group which successfully campaigned for the restoration of the early 16th century house, the oldest in London's East End. Two years ago this property lay derelict after squatters and architectural thieves had vandalised it. It is now half way through a two million pound restoration programme funded by the National Trust and English Heritage. A research programme began two years ago. Mike Gray, in his talk, will show how above ground research by English Heritage and below ground by the Museum of London Archaeologists, and archival research, have all contributed to the understanding of its structural and social history. This lecture will be a good follow up to our March talk by Helen Paterson on the care and preservation of ancient monuments. It will also interest members researching and excavating old buildings in our own borough.

Saturday April 25th    A low key HADAS morning Minimart to dispose of our substantial stock of summer wear (we can never sell it in October) and an accumulation of bric-a-brac etc. (Please see separate slip for details)

Tuesday May 5th        HADAS Annual General Meeting - possibly followed by slides of HADAS 1991-2 activities. Please let us know if you have any suitable slides of excavations, exhibitions or outings.

Saturday May 16th     Our first outing of 1992 is a follow-up to the April lecture - To Sutton House and then on to Waltham Abbey with Peter Huggins of Waltham Abbey Archaeological Society

June- July-September Outings as programme card.

August 21, 22, 23 Weekend in Dorset PLEASE NOTE NEW DATES.

October 10th                MINIMART This is now BOOKED for October 10th Please mark you programme card. October-November Lectures as programme card.

December 1st or 8th Christmas Dinner. Unfortunately our evening visit to Freemasons Hall is not now possible. We may incorporate a visit there in a walk next year. In the meantime a really super venue has been found, but it is pricey!!! (Please see attached sheet and give me your comments as soon as possible.).

 

HADAS LECTURE, 3 MARCH 1992                                              by MIKE PURTON

About 60 members were held spellbound for the March lecture when Helen Paterson told us of her experiences as a part time warden for scheduled monuments under English Heritage

She started by outlining the legal history from the first Act on ancient monuments in 1882, up to the establishment of English Heritage in 1983. Despite Acts of Parliament, monuments still get destroyed - a pilot survey in the 1960s indicated the loss of 25% of field monuments.

The part time wardens for English Heritage each have about 600-700 monuments to visit and each monument is visited on a regular basis every three years. This is done on the basis of only 10 hours per week' The job requires reporting on the condition of the monuments, filling in record forms and sending them off to English Heritage for recording on a computer.

The monuments don't look after themselves and the most important part is liaising with owners explaining what they have on their land, its background and why it is important Without their enthusiasm the monument is likely to deteriorate or become lost.

Mrs Paterson went on to show slides of an extremely wide range of monuments, mostly within her area of Middlesex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex and Bucks.. These covered a complete range of archaeology from prehistoric times to recent industrial archaeology. The sheer variety, all illustrated with excellent photographs was amazing. It covered: major monuments such as Stonehenge and the Tower of London, linear earthworks, Iron Age ditches, crop marks, ridge and furrow and deserted villages,long barrows, round barrows and hillforts, Roman sites, moated sites and motte and bailey castles, guildhalls, churches, country houses, gatehouses and barns cathedrals, castles and parks,canals, bridges, pumping stations, kilns, windmills, lighthouses and Martello towers,crosses, street furniture, obelisks and many other curiosities

The final part of the talk covered examples of how monuments become damaged and given these examples, it was a wonder that many still exist. Besides the more obvious examples of weathering she dealt with destruction by plants and by animals. Trees can cause enormous damage ­overhanging branches can cause structural damage and when the trees are uprooted by gales or by farmers they create large hollows which allow further erosion to take place. The weight of ivy can also pull brickwork over. Undergrowth and thick scrub can blot out light and prevent the growth of ground vegetation, which again leads to erosion.

Cattle can churn up mud, horse riding over banks can cause damage to field monuments and rabbit burrows can also do damage About the only activity which helped preservation appeared to be sheep grazing on grass, and this could have a visible effect in as little as ten days.

The worst culprit was man. Farmers using heavy machinery, grading fields and ploughing up barrows, people eroding paths, treasure hunters digging holes, motorcyclists, traffic hitting buildings, vandalism and graffiti all took their toll.

The key to conservation is proper management and most of this had to be done through persuasion, talking to owners and advising them about solutions and availability of grants. This involved advice on keeping tree planting clear of monuments, providing footpaths to stop erosion, unobtrusively steering people away from vulnerable areas and avoiding ploughing around earthworks. This was particularly effective when working in partnership with the Wildlife Trust in thinning scrub and pollarding willows,etc..

Buildings decay when they fall into disuse and examples were shown where sympathetic restoration had taken place when they had been used for a different purpose. Management was easier where sites were under the direct control of English Heritage and there were uniformed custodians on site, information was available and shops selling appropriate items which brought in a steady income.

The most rewarding thing was catching the enthusiasm of children. The talk finished with an example of children managing a motte and bailey site in their school grounds. They were proud of this and it was a good omen for future conservation when they became adults.

Altogether it was a full, instructive and interesting evening.

 

A CELTIC KING'S TOMB AT ST. ALBANS by MARGARET TAYLOR

Verulamium Museum archaeologists under the direction of Mrs Ros Niblett have uncovered a most significant archaeological find on the high ground behind the Runcie Wing of the City Hospital where a housing development is planned.

Originally it was thought a Roman barracks had been found on the lower slopes, with graveyards and an industrial estate. Higher up the slope a temple emerged and right next to it a large Celtic grave dating to around 30 AD has been uncovered. The pit had a wooden but at the base, the body had been cremated and the ashes put back in a wooden coffin and the pit filled with turf and a mound built on the top.

The size of the burial and the richness of the goods found with the cremated remains - two pieces of bronze horse harness decorated with enamel, fragments of chain mail - show that the dead man was a member of a royal family.

The Roman temple was built next to the grave in about 70 AD and in use for 200 years and ceased when the Christian followers of Alban worshipped at his shrine on the opposite hill where the Cathedral now stands.

Evidence of human skulls, including one female, oxen and pottery found in the perimeter ditches await further analysis and we look forward to further interpretation and publication as to who the dead man was, and how important the settlement was before the Roman conquest, both of which remain a mystery.

 

HENDON AERODROME                                                                            by BILL FIRTH

A number of people have asked recently about what is happening to the historic, listed buildings at Hendon Aerodrome. The short answer is nothing and, in the meantime, they are deteriorating further

The problem is that , in these recessionary days, the Ministry of Defence cannot find a buyer for the site - the situation may be aggravated by the restrictions on development posed by the listed buildings. Being a Government Department the Ministry is not statutorily bound to maintain listed buildings, unlike a private owner and so dereliction continues.

Last year the buildings were reported to English Heritage as "listed buildings at risk" but they did not appear on the published list of "at risk" buldings. Barnet planners are trying to persuade English Heritage to put the buildings on the "at risk" list, although I am not sure that listing will achieve more than just that The planners are also hoping to persuade English Heritage to put pressure on the Ministry to do something about the buildings, which may be more effective than the "at risk"listing. The planners have also told me that the site is secure against entry.

Until the election is over there does not seem to be much we can do but, afterwards, we can try some pressure of our own again.


AUSTRALIA DAY   Cambridge,March 2, 1992  by AUDREY HOOSON

 

Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology organised this day meeting when papers were presented on the old and the new in Australian archaeology. As stated at the meeting "Australian archaeology is not much known outside Australia. This meeting, the first devoted to Australian archaeology in Britain, may be the first outside Australia itself" Several HADAS members with a special interest in prehistory were present.

The first speakers discussed luminescence, racemization and radiocarbon dating techniques with emphasis on their accuracy and reliability particularly for dating the earliest arrival of humans in Australia. Luminescence dating (both thermal and optically- stimulated) of artifact-bearing quartz sands at two sites in the western Arnhem Land region of northern Australia currently suggests that this took place 50-60,000 years ago.

Australian archaeologists need to engage with the Aboriginal people in the developing of research agendas and in the management of archaeological materials which are part of the Aboriginal heritage and culture. The presence of contemporary groups of hunter gatherers also provides ethno-archaeologists with evidence that can be considered in site interpretation.

Robert John Ware was an interesting speaker on this aspect. He is manager of the Aboriginal Heritage Branch of the South Australia State Government and administers the Aboriginal Sites Protection legislation. He is an Aboriginal and his responsibilities include evaluating and discussing with the relevant local Aboriginal communities projects which researchers wish to undertake in Aboriginal territory. He described some of the problems involved, especially when the researchers have failed to gain the respect of the Aboriginal people.

Presentations on the rock art in Arnhem Land and the Katherine region, Northern Territory, were given by Josephine Flood and Christopher Chippendale. Rock art is extremely difficult and sometimes impossible to date. In addition to excavations in rock shelters the relative antiquity of the very broad range of styles, techniques and subjects is being studied by analysis of superimpositions and differing degrees of weathering on art on the same rock surface.

Seven of the speakers were Australian and all ten are active in Australian archaeology. From the application of the recent developments in scientific dating, it was anticipated that Australian archaeology will have an important significance for future interpretations of the Palaeolithic.

 

NOTE FROM THE MEMBERSHIP SECRETARY                        by PHYLLIS FLETCHER

With this April Newsletter you will find reminders of subscriptions due on 1st April. I should be pleased to receive your subscriptions as soon as possible. Those who pay by Standing Order, or who have joined since lst January 1992, please ignore this request.


THIRTY YEARS ON

The Society's Prospects for Its Fourth Decade                                   by VICTOR JONES

The Society's 1962 Constitution contained as a principle objective, the study of Archaeology and Local History of the area. This aim later changed to include the area of the whole of the newly created Borough of Barnet. Other aims were to widen the general understanding of the subject, and to arrange visits, lectures and active field research.

The Society has a few founder members stilt active, a large contingent of members of many years standing, and a lot of new members who joined in recent years. These include 8 who joined us since January: we welcome them and hope they will enjoy our 1992/3 season of activity.

The First Thirty Years

The 30 years of the Society's work covered a wide range of archaeological projects. Among the earliest was the location of a small section of a Roman road in Copthall fields area following a series of investigations by leading archaeologists searching for a Roman road running from the Midlands to London. This involved excavations and surveys near Arkley, at Barnet Gate, and further south in the Copthall area these have not been followed up.

A series of building sites were excavated in the Burroughs and Greyhound Hill in Hendon during the 1960s Material was found from the Middle Ages, and on one site material of Saxon date was found, thus confirming the Saxon origin of Hendon.

In the early 1970s, projects were undertaken at sites in Finchley, East Barnet, Colindale and Edgware. There were field walks to search for Roman material in the Brockley Hill area and resistance surveys at various locations. There were digs in Golders Green, Finchley and Barnet, many leaving unanswered questions. Various finds were made, some of Roman material, more from the Middle Ages, and an occasional prehistoric item.

Other projects included studies for the Chipping Barnet Quincentennary Celebrations. This was followed by excavations at the Old Bull Pub in High Street , Barnet, yielding an interesting range of early Middle Ages materials as has later work at the Mitre Inn and the Charity House on Barnet Hill. A long survey was made in the Hadley Wood area of a suspected Iron Age earth work: Though now well documented, no date confirmation was possible, In Whetstone a very interesting Tudor House near the cross roads was surveyed and drawn and is now well restored.

The Prehistoric Hunters of Hampstead

A very major undertaking was commenced in 1976 which turned into a wide ranging series of projects. It came to be known as the West Heath Dig, and developed like 'Topsey' from very small beginnings into a very large project indeed.

The start was when a HADAS member walking on the Heath noticed some man worked flints. This led to the discovery of a Middle Stone Age (6000 BC) Hunter camp, involving a six year excavation of a woodland site, followed by a further 2/3 year second stage project to expand some aspects.

Both projects resulted in interesting discoveries and scientific studies, and some of these took several years to complete. The report on the first stage was published by the Society at the end of last year, and the second report is due to follow soon.

Later Projects

More recent Society projects included a dig in 1987 at Brockley Hill. New water supply works were being undertaken near this major Roman site and the dig was to salvage possible Roman remains. We discovered a section of an unknown medieval road, and also a number of interesting Roman tile and pottery fragments. New Stone Age flint artifacts were found in a field area near the site, including one arrow head and a number of flint tools, some partly finished. As far as we know , these had not been previously reported in the area and the full extent of the deposit remains to be explored.

A large new shopping precinct was developed next to the old Chipping Barnet market area. A number of test excavations were made and indicated there had been a little early development to the north of St. John's Church, but most was to the south and east of it.

Later excavations in Barnet High Road at the back of the Mitre pub and on a site previously occupied by the Charity House were made in 1990/1, Early Middle Age (1150 AD) material and one or two items ,possibly of Roman origin were found.

Another excavation near the oldest church in the area, at East Barnet, found only the remains of a Victorian Farm Cottage, instead of the hoped for evidence of an early village. In Whetstone, work on early Tudor houses produced records throwing new light on the development of this area at the time when the route of the Great North Road was changed in the late 15th century.

It will be seen that little investigation has been made in some of the peripheral areas of the Borough, such as Cricklewood. West Hendon, and the area near there west of Watling Street, The area beyond Arkley and Barnet, and in the East in Friern Barnet and East Finchley.

Members suggestions as to future projects would be welcome.

The Archives and the Library

The Society now has a wide range of finds including Stone Age tools, Roman pottery, Middle Age material, some coins and a few other objects. Most are now collected together, with the written archives, in our newly equipped room at Avenue House, East End Road, Finchley. By arrangement with committee members the finds can now be seen. As many members know, The Society is fortunate in having a substantial collection of reference and general interest books on archaeology and local history. These were damaged by fire at Avenue House but have now been restored and indexed by our new librarians Roy Walker and Vicky O'Connor (Tel: 081,361.1350)

 

THE STRANGE STORY OF THE MYLODON                 by STEWART J. WILD

 

I recently spent some time on holiday in South America, including Tierra del Fuego and the Beagle Channel. It is a vast, largely empty part of the world, with magnificent scenery but not much in the way of archaeological interest.

However, some 15 miles north of Puerto Natales in southern Chile, there is a huge cave (500 ft wide, 100ft deep) where in 1895 were discovered the skin and bones of a strange hairy mammal, later identified as Mylodon Listai, or the prehistoric Giant Sloth.

The story will be familiar to HADAS members who have read Bruce Chatwin's excellent book In Patagonia, published in 1977 and still available in paperback. Various archaeologists were involved in the 1890s; some of the mylodon 's remains were sent to the British Museum, but only the bones survived the journey.

Not much is known about the animal or why only one specimen has been found, There is evidence of human habitation in the cave, but the mylodon, dating from around 10,000 years ago, may have been deposited there by a later glacial action. All that one sees today is a fibreglass replica in the cave to show what a giant sloth looked like - its the size of a grizzly bear with a long neck and snout.


HADAS LIBRARY                                                                           by ROY WALKER

The recent acquisitions included three books which may be of interest to members who attended Helen Paterson's lecture on March 3rd. They date from the early `fifties which gives them a curiosity value, and are from the HMSO illustrated regional guide series of ancient monuments under Government care. Unfortunately, the series is not complete.

Volume 1, Northern England (1951)  Lord Harlech

Volume 2, Southern England (1952)  Lord Harlech

and Volume 4, South Wales and Monmouthshire (1954) Sir Cyril Fox

Another incomplete series, donated by Barnet Libraries, is Ancient Peoples and Places, edited by

Glyn Daniel (Thames and Hudson). The volumes at Avenue House are

3. Sicily before the Greeks, L.Bernabo Brea (1957)

11 Malta, ID Evans (1959)

15. The origins of Rome, R Bloch (1960)

35 Sardinia, M Guido (1963)

37 Bones, Bodies and Disease. C. Wells (1964)

45. Poland, K. Jazdzewski (1965)

61. Spain and Portugal, H.N. Savory (1968)

69. South East England, R Jessup (1970)

76. Northern Italy before Rome, L. Barfield (1971)

Finally, for those visiting Waltham Abbey with HADAS on 16th May the Library holds one copy of "Old Waltham Abbey in Pictures" by K.N. Bascombe (Waltham Abbey Historical Society - 1985).

 

THE ATLANTIS OF THE SANDS                                                  by STEWART J WILD

In the shifting desert sands of southern Oman, a combination of space-age technology and ancient literature may, according to Newsweek have located the ancient city of Ubar.

Mentioned in the Koran as a 'city of towers' called ham and by Ptolemy who referred to it as Omanum Emporium, the entrepot city of Ubar has been the subject of many legends over the centuries. Captivated by references in The Arabian Nights, T.E. Lawrence called it the 'Atlantis of the sands".

In 1981 a couple of Americans started to search in earnest. Using computers to comb ancient texts, and satellite experts to aid in location they teamed up with Sir Ranulph Fiennes last year to mount an expedition. When digging began the first finds were astonishing - an octagonal walled fortress emerged from the desert.

Outside the walls, archaeologists found more than 40 campsites - consistent with classical accounts of vast camel caravans which assembled at Ubar. The first artifacts from the site include Roman, Greek, Chinese, Egyptian and Syrian pottery shards, the latter dating from 2,800BC.

The site was found by two NASA scientists who scanned the region with sand-penetrating radar mounted on the space shuttle Challenger. They cross-checked the findings with images from US and French satellites, producing a map of the desert which showed ancient caravan routes and aquifers. Digging began at a point where a known route crossed an aquifer.

Some American archaeologists are sceptical that the remains are in fact those of the fabled city. However, sufficient funds have been raised to allow 40 workers to continue excavating for up to five years, and some Omanis are hoping they might find a treasure trove on a par with Pompeii.


MEMBERS NEWS

CONGRATULATIONS to Pamela Taylor on being elected both a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and President of the Mill Hill Historical Society. Our distinguished editor of "A Place in Time" will also appear in print again, as the paper she presented to last summer's Battle Conference entitled "The Endowment and Military Obligations of the Bishopric of London, a Re-assessment of Three Sources' will appear shortly in its proceedings, Anglo Norman Studies.

Frieda Wilkinson - almost a founder member - is in the Royal Free. She will have returned home by now and we hope to see her back at lectures and outings again soon.

Mrs Crimbley and Mrs Kuttner - two more recent members who have joined us on many outings and weekends, have reluctantly decided to leave the Society. due to advancing years. But they would like to thank us all for the enjoyment we have given them and for all the places and excavations they have visited with us. 

 

EXCAVATION TRAINING

The annual excavation training school organised by Keele University will be continuing in its eighth season on a Roman villa site in Gloucestershire, in two-week sessions, in June July and August. Beginners or diggers with some experience can attend for any or all of the six weeks, and training in all aspects of archaeology will be provided during all the weeks. Tuition fee is £65 a week. For application forms, which should be returned as soon as possible. contact Liz Holliday. TEL .0923 267483.

 

 PROGRAMME NEWS MICROMART-April 25th

Saturday Morning Only — MICROMART. (Have we invented a new word) at St. Mary's Church Hall, Church End, Top of Greyhound Hill, Hendon same place as our October Minimart. Members very kindly give us good summer wear to sell, which is difficult in October, so we are going to attempt a low-key Spring effort to dispose of that and other various general items which have accumulated—bric-a-brac and a few books. Tessa will be doing her usual duties in the kitchen, serving coffee, tea and biscuits. Small notices will be available at the April lecture for anyone who can display one in a car, shop or notice board. Offers of help from our regulars or new members will be appreciated. Our Society costs are going up—higher Library charges for lectures and higher rent and charges at Avenue House. So please advertise this fund-raising Spring Sale and come along to it with your friends. For further information ring Dorothy Newbury on 203 0950.

Combine the Micromart with a visit to Church Farm House Museum to see an exhibition entitled GRAPHIC NOUVELLE—The History of Stories in Pictures from 1066 to the present day. The exhibition will be open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (price on Saturdays £1).

DORSET WEEKEND—August 21, 22 & 23

We have had a good response to our Dorset project and accommodation has been booked in the medieval town of Sherborne. A few more places are still available and the time has come to ask for deposits and firm book­ings. We plan to visit Avebury Village and Neolithic Stone Circle, Maiden Castle, the most famous pre-Roman earthworks in Britain, and Dorchester. It will not be possible to visit Tyneham so we will delete Corfe as well, but will possibly include Abbotsbury, Cerne Abbas or Glastonbury. The final itinerary has yet to be arranged. Departure will be on Friday morning as usual, returning Sunday evening.

COST £85 to include coach throughout, breakfast, packed lunches and evening meals, and single or double room accommodation in modern study centre attached to 8th century Sherborne School. Please complete the slip below as confirmation of your booking and return it with a deposit of £20 by May 1st latest.

THE GOVERNORS' HALL

The newly refurbished Governors' Hall at St. Thomas' Hospital provides prestigious central London conference and banqueting facilities. The magni­ficent historic main hail, associated rooms and riverside terrace are located directly opposite the Houses of Parliament within a few minutes walk of Westminster and Waterloo stations.

All income generated by The Governors' Hall is used to improve patient facilities and care within the hospital.

The Governors' Hall, with its lofty ceiling, oak panelling and tall cupola, combines grandeur and history with first class modern services and a location second to none.

St. Thomas' was founded in the 12th century and since then has achieved many landmarks in caring, teaching and research including the foundation of the first school of nursing in the UK by Florence Nightingale. St. Thomas' is one of London's great teaching hospitals.

The Governors' Hall was constructed at St. Thomas' in 1904 by Percival! Currey as the riverfront extension to his father Henry Currey's Victorian hospital of 1871. The block also housed the Grand Committee Room (an ante room to the Governors' Hall), Treasurers Department, the Almoner's Room and Counting House.

The rooms were, sadly, only in use for a short time in their original form. The hospital suffered extensive damage during the London Blitz of 1940 and the Hall was subdivided horizontally and vertically to form much needed office and residential accommodation. Windows and panelling were removed and only the fine ceiling hinted at the suite's former splendour.

In 1990, work began to restore The Governors' Hall, an architectural treasure of the hospital. The work, which was generously commissioned by the Special Trustees of St. Thomas' hospital, has recreated one of London's grand meeting places.

The project was completed in October 1991.

Comments