Newsletter-258-September-1992

NEWSLETTER No. 258        Edited by Ann Kahn  SEPTEMBER 1992

 

DIARY

 

All of September - "London: the underground city". The Building Centre,26 Store St., London WCI. (Tunnels, rivers, sewers and habitat] free.

Saturday 26 September Day trip round Southwark. Details and application form enclosed.

Tuesday 6 Ocotober The opening lecture far the coming winter is by our old HADAS friend, Harvey Sheldon, entitled "The Roman pottery manufacturing site in Highgate Woods". Harvey was the Museum of London's Archaeology Officer for many years and in 1983 became Head of the Department of Greater London Archaeology until it ceased to exist last year.

Saturday 10 October - MINIMART -MINIMART - MINIMART - With the huge expense of Avenue House, the only place we have to work on finds, keep our library and store our possessions, fund-raising is even more important. Please advertise the MINIMART as much as possible, and bring as many friends as you can. (See separate leaflet for details).

Tuesday 3 November - Our lecturer, Dr. John Curtis, has regretfully had to postpone his lecture till 1993. The British Museum has changed the dates of a tour he is scheduled to lead in Iran. A replacement lecturer has been found at short notice, and it should be a very interesting evening - on a current excavation near to home. Its title is "Archaeological investigations in advance of the A41 bypass at Berkhamsted/Boxmoor." By Clare Halpin, Assistant Director, Hertfordshire Archaeological Trust.

Tuesday 1 or 8 December Christmas Dinner. To be confirmed and finalised.

January          No Lecture

Tuesday 2 February -           "Ancient Near Eastern Cylinder Seals". By Dr. Dominique Callon

 

Has anyone heard of a Davies Estate, building or area in or near New Barnet? It will fill a gap on the archaeology map HADAS are working on. Thanks.

BILL BASS

 

MUSEUM OF LONDON. More bad news for some of the staff, as there is talk of shedding up to 20 jobs soon.


 

    SITE WATCHING AT THE OLD FORD MANOR, BARNET 10 August 1992                              by  ROY WALKER

    The August Newsletter carried Brian Wrigley's report on the April site-watching at the Old Ford Manor where foundations had been dug for a greenkeepers' building.         HADAS returned in August to observe the results of the demolition of the tractor shed situated within the moated area (see p.5 of the August Newsletter for plan). The         Museum of London evaluation of December 1991 expressed concern that as nothing was known of the occupation features of this part of the site and as trial pits had         revealed archaeological deposits of between .30m to .50m below the surface, it was important that ground reduction should not go below 130.80m O.D. in preparation         for the construction of a car parking area where the shed had been.

        The shed, a wooden construction with a low brick wall base on a concrete foundation had been demolished prior to our arrival leaving the concrete floor which had  not been penetrated. The footings of the brick wall had been left in the ground and all debris removed. The top surface of the area to the south of the shed had been  mechanically scraped and some vegetation and trees had been stripped from the west of the site near to the north/south arm of the moat. These works did not contravene the ground reduction recommendation. A visual survey of the cleared area did not locate any evidence of structures, foundations or ditches which might     have required further inspection or excavation prior to the commencement of the building works, although a few  sherds of pottery were found out of any recognizable context.

 

HADAS IN EGYPT! BILL BASS

No not exactly, but it felt like it on some of the hot weeekends during June/July at 19-29 High Street, Barnet, the latest HADAS dig which was completed on 30/7/1992, with various trenches and pits being back-filled to make the area safe. Features included a trench approx lm x 2m by lm deep, butting a substantial wall (see Newsletter 256) packed with loose earth and many flint nodules. Suggestions so far have been a soak-away or an outside urinal! Any other ideas would be gratefully received.

An unusually shaped pit possibly another soak-away produced much roof-tile, bone, fragments of wine glass and a fairly wide range of pottery fabrics. Some of the sherds are currently being re-fitted. Part vessels include a porringer (one handled bowl) in Borderware of c1590, a meat dripping tray of reduced redware - late 16thc. Other fabrics recovered were Cistercian ware 1500-1600 and a decorated handle sherd of Late Medieval Herts Glazed ware 1350-1400.

Some of the (to us) sizeable sherds of Herts Grey ware 1150-1300 from elsewhere on site can also be re-fitted. Finds processing continues at Avenue House, it is hoped to display material at forthcoming HADAS lectures.

 


WITNEY IN THE RAIN       SHEILA WOODWARD

The excellence of HADAS outings has never been dependent upon fine weather (remember Hadrian's Wall in 1975?) (cf below] so a wet day for our July excursion did not quench our enthusiasm, at times we even considered the rain an advantage!

First to Cassington for coffee, with the weather briefly dry. There was time to visit the Norman Church, of considerable interest but badly lacking a guide book or leaflet. The medieval oak pews are in good condition, glowing with the patina of years. The wall paintings are tantalizingly fragmentary. There is some fine old stained glass including attractive Flemish roundels.

At Witney it was raining heavily so we appreciated the canopy over the excavated ruins of the 12thc bishop's manor. The bishop was Henry of Blois, brother of King Stephen, who became Bishop of Winchester in 1129. Wealthy and extravagant, this was but one of the great fortified palaces he built or rebuilt. (We saw another, Wolvesey Castle, when we visited Winchester). It featured the finest ashlar masonry and such luxuries as a chimney, a ventilation shaft and "the most spectacular latrine in Norman England". It needs to be to justify that canopy, erected at a cost of £300,000 - estimated life of 25 years!

After lunch in the coach we ventured on a (dampish) conducted walk round Witney, a delightful little town still famous for its blankets. Its large central Green gives a feeling of spaciousness, and the surrounding buildings of various periods are handsome and well preserved. They include Tudor cottages and a house which harboured Oxford students during the Great Plague of 1665. At the south end is the Parish Church with its soaring Early English spire; on the side of the latter, if you know where to look, you can see a tiny stone monkey, commemorating one which escaped from a travelling fair, and took refuge on the steeple. North of the Green is the old Buttercross supported by 13 stout pillars and the graceful 17thc Town Hall, its open arcade designed to shelter local merchants selling grain. A small modern shopping precinct blends remarkably well with the older buildings.

Across the River Windrush a short but delightful walk through the water-meadows leads to Cogges and the Manor Farm Museum. Here the wet weather favoured us - the museum was uncrowded. "Museum" is almost a misnomer. It is a small working farm reflecting life at the turn of the century. The cows are milked by hand, the milk "set" in the medieval dairy, the cream skimmed, the butter hand-churned. In the yard the hens scuttle from under one's feet or roost peacefully in the barn rafters. In the Victorian pigsty, Edwina, a handsome Tamworth, has gorgeous ginger eyelashes! Inside the manor house (13th to 17thc) the parlour was peaceful, the kitchens bustling. "Cook" in a mob cap and capacious apron mixed a Victoria sandwich and baked it on the range. A maid was spinning wool. Through the windows we could see the walled garden, rain-sodden, but bright with geraniums, marigolds and cornflowers.

Because of the rain we left Cogges early and had a bonus visit to South Leigh Church with its superb medieval murals. The paintings of the Last Judgment, and The Weighing of the Soul, are particularly lively, with vicious-looking demons thoroughly relishing their work. The medieval sinner was left in no doubt about his fate.

We enjoyed our day; the rain could not spoil it. Thank you, Dorothy!

Hopes for a nice summer survey of "Aeges Weir", a possible Saxon/Medieval mill site near Edgwarebury Park are receding into a slightly colder winter survey, due to need for animal grazing.

 


BENTLEY PRIORY TESSA SMITH

Security checks were strictly enforced when a group of HADAS members reported to the Guardroom before assembling near the fibreglass replicas of a Hurricane and a Spitfire. We were lucky to have the opportunity of a guided tour of this wartime Fighter Command Headquarters, and what a surprise was in store for us.

Instead of gloomy corridors and grim offices, the Priory has recently been beautifully restored inside to a high standard of craftsmanship and comfort. It was from Bentley Priory, surrounded by barrage balloons, and from a secret underground bunker that King George VI, Churchill and Eisenhower monitored the D Day landings. In the Dowding Room are Air Marshall Sir Hugh Dowding's chair, table and binoculars, together with combat reports, written up from pilots' accounts of wartime action.

The first, 12thc, Priory is thought to have stood further down the hill from the present building, possibly in the area of Clamp Hill. In 1546 Henry VIII gave the lands and the Priory to Robert Needham, one of his noblemen, and so the Priory's religious days ended. The history starts in 1766 when James Dubberly built the basis. In 1788 the Earl of Abercorn, John Hamilton, commissioned Sir John Soane to extend the house "in a more lavish and sumptuous manner". In 1846 Dowager Queen Adelaide leased the Priory, and finding the stairs too difficult, used a downstairs suite, which has small and delicately painted flower panels on the moulded ceiling and a gold framed monogrammed mirror. In 1863 the estate was bought by Sir John Kelk, who built the Albert Memorial. He built the Grand Staircase, and added the Clock Tower, the most eye-catching part of the Priory's roof-line; and a cedar garden, trees of which are still in evidence on parts of Stanmore Hill today. He also added a deer park, which is now part of Bentley Priory Open Space. A pathway, open to the public, runs from Boot Pond, Uxbridge Road, past the deer park and south side of Bentley Priory. Since 1863 the Priory has been a hotel (1882-1905) and a girls school until 1924. In 1924 it was sold, part to the Air Ministry, part to Middlesex County Council and part for building plots. In its heyday many famous people have visited, including William Pitt, Wellington, Wordsworth, Lady Emma Hamilton, Sarah Siddons and Sir Walter Scott.

The entrance Portico was designed by Sir John Soane to give shelter to guests awaiting their carriages. It has the original vaulted ceiling, Doric columns and arched windows with modern glass portraying airmen and aircraft. Last year the ceiling was repainted revealing the original design recently found under the old paintwork.

Paintings of aircraft and of Royalty hang on all the walls. One of particular interest shows an RAF plotting room with WAAFs plotting the movement of. aircraft. One member of the HADAS group was a WRAF plotter working at Bentley Priory during the war. She pointed out the actual window of her office. There is also the magnificently intricate Nottingham lace panel, 15ft long by 65 inches wide depicting various scenes and insignia connected with "this glorious epic in our history." Some 30 panels were made, after which the Jacquard which controlled the pattern was destroyed. But a few of them have been traced to date.

In 1975 dry rot had spread disastrously and a campaign began to save the Priory, championed by the Queen Mother. In 1979 while renovations were in progress a huge fire broke out and devastated most of the main staircase, the Dowding Room and the original clock. It has cost £3m to restore the buildings.


Now, the Grand Staircase really is the showpiece of the Priory. The Portland Stone has been cleaned and restored. It rises majestically past stained glass windows, its gilded metal panels having survived the fire.

As we know, Bentley Priory is guarded vigilantly, not because of its costly interior, but because it is the centre of Strike Command and responsible for British airspace.

So, our thanks to Bill Firth for organizing this outing, which had something of interest for everyone, and for getting us out safely! We are also most grateful to our excellent and knowledgeable guide F/L Hebbes and to the President of the Mess Committee, Wing Commander G. S. F. Booker, who gave permission for this splendid visit. A History of Bentley Priory can be obtained from the Priory, price £2.00, all proceeds to the RAF Benevolent Fund.

TIMBER PALACE FOUND NEAR HADRIAN'S WALL HELEN GORDON

Older member may recall the fascinating, if rather wet, visit in 1975 - this (edited] report from "The Independent" (6/8/1992) may well whet the appetite for a repeat. A team led by Robin Birley of the Vindolanda Trust believes that they have found Hadrian's headquarters - a beautifully decorated yet massive timber palace. The building is without parallel on Hadrian's Wall. Each side is up to 50m (164ft) long and made of oak, it is the grandest wooden building ever found in the frontier zone. It also had a 10cm (4in) thick concrete floor - unique for the early second century Border area. The palace had four sides, standing around a large cobbled courtyard.

The 50 or more rooms appear to have been adorned with sumptious wall paintings, hundreds of fragments of which are being recovered. The wall paintings in reds, greens, yellows and browns, include floral patterns, an as yet undeciphered inscription in 15cm (6in) high letters and portray at least three people, all bearded. Hadrian, a fanatic philhelline, was the first to introduce beards into Roman society, beards being a predominantly Greek fashion.

Eighty wax writing tables have also been discovered inside three of the sixteen rooms which have so far been excavated; some of the tablets are 25cm (10in) square - four times the normal size.

Other finds include a 10cm (tin) pointed iron rod, possibly a map pointer, topped by a beautiful bronze leopard; woven part-reed, part-hark floor mats, pottery, wooden mugs, pieces of barrells and buckets, bobbins, shovels; and a huge wooden lock, hand carved to receive the tumblers of a giant key.

The construction of the building has been dated to between 120-130AD; Hadrian is believed to have arrived in exactly 122AD. Vindolanda - whose excavated remains are open to the public - was the midway point along the frontier, and would have been ideal as a headquarters for the construction of the Wall. It is also idyllically situated in a valley with two streams.

Discussions and negotiations are fairly well advanced with a view to conducting a dig or evaluation at the former Victoria Maternity Hospital, Wood Street, High Barnet, which is being partly demolished for development; other parts are listed Georgian buildings.


 

AN ARMCHAIR WEEKEND IN DORSET           ROY WALKER

The library at Avenue House has a small but interesting selection of books on the theme of West Country archaeology, ideal for those members who were unable to participate in the HADAS Dorset weekend. Although billed as a "Dorset" weekend, Glastonbury and the Somerset Levels were visited and the Archaeology of Somerset (D.P.Dobson 1931), King Arthur's Avalon (G.Ashe 1973) and The Bowl of Glaeston (R.Nichols 1962) provide good background to Glastonbury. The last named "book" is a typed monograph published for the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and adds to the mystique of the site. Similarly The Mysteries of Avebury: the Avebury-Stonehenge Axis of the Powers by the same author, enhances the aura surrounding these two monuments. The 1939 HMSO guide to Stonehenge and Avebury by R.J.C.Atkinson is more down to earth but interesting if compared with later editions by the same author to see how interpretations have changed in the last thirty years. Windmill Hill and Avebury (I.F.Smith 1965) is a detailed report and appraisal of Alexander Keller's excavations from 1925 to 1939, an excellent starting point for the armchair archaeologist as is Arthur Bulleid's The Lake Villages of Somerset, first published in 1924. The HADAS version is the sixth edition (1968) revised by the author who was joint director of the original excavations started in 1910. The library has reprints of Sir Mortimer Wheeler's first and second interim reports on The Excavations of Maiden Castle, Dorset taken from The Antiquaries Journal 1933 and 1936. We may not have all the recent publications but our books are themselves of historic value!

Of general interest are Dorset Coast and Country by Car (P. and H. Titchmarch 1977), a guide suitable for those planning their own excursions and Wessex, a Regional Archaeology (P.J.Fowier 1967) aimed perhaps at the younger reader. For the specialist, The Lost Roads of Wessex (C.Cochrane 1972) may encourage some research with a map. Our most recent book is The Archaeology of Rural Dorset - Past, Present and Future - monograph of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, 1982, which was kindly donated by Alec Goldsmith. This covers all periods from prehistory to post-medieval as well as the problems of agricultural damage and natural decay. Views expressed on the amateur archaeologist are competently stated and reassuring.

Please telephone 081 361 1350 if you wish to borrow any of the above or require further information about the library and the services it can provide.

Talking of Avenue House - builders have been busy restoring the wing destroyed by fire three years ago.

 

HENDON AERODROME    BILL FIRTH

English Heritage has received a letter from the Ministry of Defence about the buildings of Hendon Aerodrome and has kindly sent us a copy. The Ministry admits the problem in selling the site is the planning conditions requiring the removal of the hangar to the RAF Museum and, since there has been no commercial interest in the site, is reviewing its marketing strategy.

In the meantime, as a result of 'the apparent increase in theft and vandalism' the Ministry of Defence Police have taken over the caretaking of the site from the commercial firm which was responsible. The buildings are being secured as far as practicable and some missing fixtures and fittings have been recovered.


As a personal view I wonder if some compromise on the hangar should be looked into. I believe it will be very difficult to find a buyer, even when boom conditions return, if the removal of the hangar to the RAF Museum site has to be financed. In due course all the buildings will rot away and nothing will remain. This is of course what the Ministry wants.

The hangar itself has no particular merit, it is the offices which are the historic part. If a sympathetic removal of the offices to a suitable setting in the RAF Museum could be achieved, all the other buildings could be left in situ. I believe retention of these would not prove a major difficulty to the sale of the site. I would like to have members' views.

 

RAILWAY SIDELINES...

Spurn Point guards the entrance to the River Humber, an estuary which drains water from the Pennines via the Rivers Trent, Ouse and Derwent. For generations Spurn Point was inaccessible, and cut off in times of great storms.

Roads in the area were either impassible or nonexistent and consequently all materials had to be brought down the Humber by water. Nevertheless the area was vulnerable to attack particularly during the two World Wars, and work on permanent coastal defences began in 1912. Bull Fort still stands in the entrance to the deep water channel.

For some reason a railway was built from Spurn Point northwards towards Kilnsea, but not connected to the main line. The Spurn Head railway remained isolated serving only the military, a few locals and the lifeboat station. (This station at Spurn is the only one in the country manned by a paid permanent crew). Although trains ran hourly during the day, the official service was augmented by the famous "sail bogies" - wind driven flat trucks, of which two are known to have been used. Sadly the last sail bogies ran at the end of World War II and the line was demolished in 1951. However parts of the track are occasionally exposed following storms or unusual tidal conditions. The appearance of the track is supposed to herald national disaster. It "appeared* recently in 1973, 1979 and 1982, years of General Elections and of the Falklands War.[Edited extract from Littleton Scene (Civil Service Sailing Association) July/August 1992. - Ed.1

P.S. It has been decided that the coastal defences are too costly to repair and to let nature take its course. The Times 22/8/1992 - Ed.

 

MEMBERS NEWS

 

BOOK REVIEW       W. H. GELDER

No one can resist reading the history of their old school. Those who went to St. James' or All Saints C. of E. School, Oakleigh Road, Whetstone, now have that pleasure to hand. John Heathfield and Percy Reboul, both Old Boys of the school in question, (and HADAS members] have combined their considerable talents to tell the story of The Origins, history and development" of their old primary schools.

Percy Reboul is a keen photographer and assiduous recorder on tape of other people's memories, while John Heathfield is an ex-headmaster and schools inspector (of other schools), and now holds the scarcely less distinguished positions of chairman of Barnet Local History Society, curator of Barnet Museum (and HADAS committee member]. So who could tell the history of a school with more sympathy, understanding and authority?


The book, a 27 page large-size paperback, is called "Teach us this Day", and disentangles, with the help of diagram and chart, the somewhat complicated metamorphosis of six different infant and primary schools on three different sites, leading finally to the establishment in 1969 of All Saints' Junior Mixed and Infants' School in Oakleigh Road.

It can't, obviously, include names of pupils but it gives names of many class teachers and all headteachers, from the original 1809 Almshouse Charity School down to (or should we say up to?) Philip Elgar, present head of All Saints School, with his photograph. There are 14 other photographs, the earliest of a boys' class in St. James' School in about 1878. There is even a 1992 school dinner menu for four weeks, to make your mouth water (or stomach heave).

Not the least engaging part of the book are the memories of five old pupils (all girls) and one teacher, all of whom remain anonymous; from modesty one surmises, rather than possible retribution. The earliest was born in 1906 and went to school in 1911. They recall all aspects of school life, the sometimes fearful as well as the warmly nostalgic.

The book costs £3.50 and is available at Barnet Museum during its five open sessions a week, where Mr Heathfield may sometimes be on hand to enhance the value of a copy by signing it. It is also available from Percy Reboul; Whetstone Books in Oakleigh Road, or direct from the School itself.

 

Course Successes - Please let us know if there are any more.

Bill Bass -        1st year Field Archaeology Course with Paul Craddock at City Lit.

Roy Walker     ditto

Micky Cohen - 4th Year Diploma at the Institute of Archaeology

Celia Gould - One-time Newsletter editor. Following a year studying Latin,

Celia has got the study bug and given up work to start a full time three year degree course in "Ancient World Studies" at London University.

Paul Wernick - One-time photographer for us. Not very archaeological but we'd like to congratulate him on gaining an MSc in "Computer Science". He is a year into his PhD in "Software Engineering".

 

OBITUARY

We are sad to announce, somewhat belatedly, that the husband of Mair Livingstone, also a member of HADAS, died suddenly last October. Our deepest sympathy goes to her and all her family and friends. She has asked that all future correspondence etc should be addressed to her:

Mair Livingstone, 21 Park Avenue, NW11 7SL (081 455 7600)

 

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