Newsletter-302-May-1996

No: 302           MAY 1996      Edited by VIKKI O'CONNOR

DIARY

Tuesday 14th May Annual General Meeting - chaired by Michael Robbins, followed by the Excavation Team's summary of their year's work. Also, short slide-talks by Andy Simpson on transport in Barnet and Bill Bass on Martin Biddle's excavation at St Albans last summer, in which some of our members participated.

8.00 for 8,30pm - Avenue House, East End Road.

(There is an induction loop system available in this room).

Saturday 8th June Outing: Rye and Bodiam. - Micky Watkins & Micky Cohen Details and application form enclosed.

Saturday, 20th July Outing: Flag Fen - Tessa Smith & Sheila Woodward

Saturday, 17th August Outing: Farnham/Waveriey Abbey - Bill Bass & Vikki O'Connor

Thursday/Friday/Saturday/Sunday 29/30/31/ August 4-day visit to Cornwall. We have had a good response to this and the group is full. Names for the waiting list are welcome: 'phone Dorothy: 203 0950. (Last year we had several late cancellations).

Saturday 28th September Outing: Whitechapel/Bell Foundry - Mary O'Connell

Tuesday 8th October Lecture: The Temple of Mithras & Cripplegate Fort John Shepherd.

HADAS member Tom Real phoned to say that his Field Archaeology class have spare places on their field trip to Portchester, Fishbourne & Bignor. The day trip ( Sunday 12 May) is being conducted by Harvey Sheldon, and will cost under £15 - they meet at the Embankment, 9am, Any HADAS members interested (and not planning to join us on our dig that day) should phone Harvey on 0181-693 9533 (evenings) for details.

Society of Genealogists "Family History Fair" 4/5 May, Royal Horticultural Society New Hall & Conference Centre, Westminster, £5 at door - offering lectures, regional societies' exhibits, and 'clinics' for individual enquiries. Timing etc from: Society of Genealogists, 14 Charterhouse Bldgs, Goswell Rd, London EC1M 7BA.

 

MEMBERS NEWS

Gill Baker is home again after a month in the Royal Free, but few days before her return, her sister, Jean Brearley (also a HADAS member) was taken into hospital, Gill has now 'phoned Dorothy to say that Jean died last week - our sympathies to Gill.

Micky Watkins 'phoned Dorothy recently to say she 'had joined the club' - she has broken her wrist (the third HADAS member to do so in the last 9 months). Fortunately, she had made her preliminary trip for our June outing to Rye the previous week!

Dorothy Newbury would like to thank her team on the Programme Committee for their invaluable help in reducing the load of organising outings and lectures. It was becoming an almost full time job and she is very grateful to the two Mickys, Sheila and Tessa, Bill and Vikki, and, of course, Mary O'Connell.

We were pleased to see Victor Jones once again attending lectures, and our thanks go to HADAS members who have given Victor a lift to Avenue House.

'BUDDIES' We do, from time to time, get asked by members with temporary or longer-term mobility problems if is possible to get a lift to lectures. We realise that it is difficult to make a permanent commitment, but if car drivers would be prepared on an occasional basis to collect and take home another member from their own part of the Borough, please contact Vikki , Roy or Dorothy so that if a need arises we could take advantage of those offers.

 

Congratulation to Sian and David Plant on the birth of their son, Matthew - they joined HADAS during our Church Farmhouse dig but will have to drop out for a while. We look forward to seeing them again when they have more time!

 

RENEWALS - we have two thirds of renewals in already. If you have mislaid your renewal form, please phone Vikki O'Connor for another - there are plenty of spares!

 

SUBSCRIPTIONS: PROPOSAL FOR AGM

Three members of the Society contacted the Hon.Secretary with views on changes to the annual subscription rate, which were presented to the Committee at their meeting on 19th April. These, and several other ideas were discussed before the Committee finally agreed to recommend the following alterations to subscription rates, with effect from 1 April 1997: Standard subscription £8.00 per year

Each additional family member: £2.50 per year; Under 18s £5.00 per year.

All members will have the opportunity to give their views and vote on the proposed  chances at the Annual General Meeting on 14th May.

THE THAMES FORESHORE SURVEY                                                                                                                                                                                Roy Walker

The concept of a Thames foreshore survey was first mooted by Gustav Milne at the LAMAS Conference in 1994 under the title of "The Final Frontier", for that was how he envisaged this neglected area of London's archaeology, Mike Webber, the Survey's full-time officer, thanks currently to funding from the National Rivers Authority, explained the aims of the Survey at our April meeting and was able to show some of the results of the first season's work,

The foreshore can be regarded as a single site some two hundred miles long. Knowledge of water levels during the Roman period indicates that foreshore gravels were originally deposited on dry land hence modern low tide could reveal prehistoric contexts. As the river is 3 metres below Ordnance Datum the archaeologist has no need to excavate to that level nor to step-in at intervals, thus a ready-made trench with no inhibitions already exists. Past excavations at Tilbury had revealed sequences of prehistoric peats, Wheeler had located wattle structures at Brentford, and artefacts such as the Battersea Shield and the Waterloo Helmet confirmed the importance of the Thames to the archaeology of London. Yet it had not been treated in the same way as dry land sites - it did not appear on the Sites and Monuments Record (SMR), finds were not correctly provenanced and erosion together with human interference was destroying the archaeology.

The Survey operates by finding access to the foreshore, undertaking initial "fieldwalking", making brief notes then returning for more detailed study and recording with the aim of notifying English Heritage of items relevant to the SMR. This

work was undertaken during the Pilot Study in 1995 primarily by local societies and students whose assistance will be required during the coming 1996 season.

Mike ran through the highlights of the year showing the nature of the foreshore and features that have been located and recorded. Watermen's stairs (still used today, with caution, by the Survey) and jetties abound - the jetty at Richmond served the Tudor Palace - and within the gravels at Chambers Wharf, Southwark are prehistoric peats, stakes, barge beds and 18th/19th century gridirons, plus a dump of sugar refining moulds! This is genuine archaeology in need of interpretation and recording.

Marine archaeology, naturally, is to the fore. Barge beds of various construction (rammed chalk, gridirons, timber baulks) were illustrated. At Custom House the 19th century gridiron used for barge repairs had reused house timbers beneath. Similarly at Billingsgate, 18th century planking beneath the silts were reused ships timbers including a rudder from a frigate.

At Brentford Ait a "graveyard" consisting of the remains of over twelve boats was recorded. An almost 4 metres long, centre post of a 17th/18th century ship's windlass at Bermondsey could actually be assigned to a specific stratigraphical level. Peats outcropping along the foreshore contain the environmental evidence needed to interpret the landscape and state of the river at the time of deposition. There are exposures even within the City areas as well as further out, and neolithic remains have been recovered from the peats at Bankside Power Station.

Many features have been recorded, especially fish traps evidenced by wattles and stakes, sometimes broken off with bases now eroding. The nature of the Thames fishing industry is not well-documented so this Survey is providing an insight into its character. An intriguing sequence was that of a tufa layer predating a peat deposit, surmounted by a wattle structure and within the tufa were aurochs' remains. This deposit may represent an eroded walkway. Mike summarised the archaeology as being prehistoric all the way along with Roman mainly at the bridging points.

A spur to setting up the Survey was the threat to the resource. Development along the foreshore should not necessarily cause damage but we were shown how tracked vehicles could erode rammed chalk barge beds, how boats swinging on a single mooring could scour away the peats and gravels and how the river washing around firmly moored boats could also wash away deposits. Rudder and propeller cuts can increase the rate of erosion. A barge leeboard laying near to the MI6 building caused scouring by the tide which has left it further exposed and subject to drying out. The extent of this danger was illustrated by slides of a 19th century rowing boat comparing the 1988 situation with that in 1996. Treasure hunters pose a threat to both archaeology and the archaeologist. Holes dug by metal detectorists destroy the stratigraphy and leave pits up to two metres deep which are extremely dangerous to others using the foreshore such as those engaged on the Survey.

Mike's lecture, presented in his usual enthusiastic style, certainly revealed the potential of this archaeological resource running the breadth of London. To supplement this lecture, he has kindly offered to conduct a foreshore walk later this year. Full details, hopefully, will be in the June Newsletter.

PLANNING APPLICATION ??                                                                                                                                      Bill Bass

The Building Management & Design Dept at the University of Northumbria, have compared the construction programme for Durham Cathedral from 1093 to 1242 with what would happen if construction were started today:-

"The original building period was prolonged by labour and materials being used on the construction of nearby Durham Castle and there were delays due to several outbreaks of hostilities. Our prediction, reflecting today's building practices, was for a seven-year construction period, though the likelihood of the present-day construction industry being able to find or train the necessary number of stonemasons (200-plus) is debatable. Our best guess for today's cost would be £167 million. This would includ such things as stained glass windows, but not furniture, fittings, pews, artwork, sculptures or even an organ - all of which could add another £15 million. The cost of the design would be another £9 million." What about an archaeological evaluation?

 

BOOK REVIEW                                                                                                            Roy Walker

"HERTFORDSHIRE INNS & PUBLIC HOUSES" Andrew Selkirk in Current Archaeology No 42 divided archaeologists into two types - beer drinkers and chocolate cake eaters. However, it may be that the cake-eating members of HADAS share Stewart Wild's enthusiasm for the buildings within which beer is drunk (HADAS Newsletter, October, 1994) in which case the latest addition to the Society's library will cater for all tastes. "Hertfordshire Inns & Public Houses" is subtitled "an historical gazetteer" and restricts its entries mainly to houses which were established before 1900 but which were still open in the 1990s. This differentiates it from Barnet Local History Society's "Barnet's Pubs" of 1995 which covers all houses whether extant or not and the two publications therefore cannot really be compared.

"Hertfordshire Inns" updates W. Branch Johnson's two volume work of the 1960s and reflects changes over the last thirty years. Helpfully, it provides a detailed list of sources used,         The entries are grouped under parishes each with a brief background to the area and in particular its licensing history.

The histories of the houses themselves are detailed and there is a selection of

photographs of the more picturesque buildings. Dates and names abound as should be expected in such a book but reference to events and personalities of national importance and the related local significance make it a valuable companion to students of local and social history. This also makes it very readable. For example, the entry for The Mitre in Barnet High Street tells of associations with General Monck (1660), Dr Johnson (1 774) and reveals that the licence to William Cobley was refused in 1869 following the finding of a rat pit (and two dogs and twenty-one dead rats) in the ballroom. This style runs throughout the book with the advantage that it is not necessary to know the inn or public house (or even the parish) to benefit from dipping into its pages. Indeed, it will probably encourage a trip into Hertfordshire to inspect the buildings for oneself and perhaps try a little of the produce on sale.

"Hertfordshire Inns & Public Houses" by Graham Jolliffe and Arthur Jones. Published by Hertfordshire Publications, 1995. Price £78.00.

HADAS member, Graham Javes, contributed the section on the Barnets, A rkley, Hadley and Totteridge.

Text Box: 4PLACES OF INTEREST ...

The Beginnings of Egyptian Civilisation: Bull's Toil and Bird Beaks is the the title of Professor Fekri A Hassan's inaugural lecture to be held at the Darwin Lecture Theatre, Darwin Building, Gower Street, (near Euston Sq. station) on Tuesday 14 May at 5.30pm.  The one-hour lecture is open to anyone interested in the subject, admission free without ticket,

How about a 45 minutes stroll along Scratchwood Nature Trail, taking you through a remnant of the ancient Forest of Middlesex? Spot the rare Wild Service trees, used as an indicator of undisturbed woodland, or the ancient boundary bank lined by old pollarded trees, The area is part of the Moat Mount and Scratchwood Countryside Park and is on the 232 bus route (Colindale -Edgware - Borehamwood, half hour service on Sundays).

For fans of Church Farmhouse Museum, an exhibition on The Fascination of Fans runs until 2nd June. Exhibits from the East and the West, dating from 1750 to the present day include examples made of lace, ivory, feathers, paper and silk. You may be surprised to learn of the existence of the Fan Circle international, an active society for people who collect or who are interested in the historical or artistic aspects of fans and fan-making. A permanent Fan Museum opened recently at 12 Crooms Hill, Greenwich, a terraced house built in 1 721 - but please visit 'our' museum first!

 

THE LATEST NEWS FROM BOXGROVE                     (HADAS lecture by Simon Parfitt, March 12th)

Last summer the Society arranged a visit to the now famous paleolithic site at Boxgrove in Sussex. it was inevitable therefore that a great degree of interest was generated for the visit of Simon Parfitt, who, as one of the leaders of the excavation, was to give us the most up to date report on materials recovered from the site as well as sharing with us the latest interpretations on those discoveries. A good attendence, augmented by colleagues from the City of London Archaeological Society, were privileged during the evening, to hear an informative and entertaining lecture.

Media excitement over Boxgrove has focused on the discovery of a 'human' tibia and two incisor teeth which have been dated to around 500,000 years old. However, Simon started by emphasising that, even without the discovery of the oldest fossil evidence for man in the British Isles, Boxgrove would have remained our richest site for information on human activity and environmental conditions in the Cromerian Inter- Glacial.

Simon outlined the climatic changes as revealed by the geological sequence and how, through evidence based on sea levels and the flow of archaic river systems, it is possible to determine when Boxgrove Man occupied the site. He emphasised the importance of the South Downs as lying just beyond the southernmost extremity of the ice sheets periodically effecting Britain over the last million years. Because it was never completely covered by glaciers, the site can inform us on the environment when the ice was advancing (when Tundra conditions would prevail) and on periods of ice retreat (when the fauna would resemble current sub tropical types). Simon illustrated this part of his talk with artistic representations showing how each environment might have looked. The crucial question was whether the occupation predated the Anglian Ice Age. Up until now the earliest fossil evidence for man in the Britain came from Swanscombe which was definitely post- Anglian, Simon referred to the fauna, in particular, water vole found at Boxgrove. Through examining teeth, the experts have been able to determine that these animals were primitive types which were extinct by the time we reached the same period as Swanscombe in the archaeological sequence.

Turning to the site itself, Simon described its position on the coastal plain below the South Downs near Chichester. Situated today in a quarry, the work is very much rescue archaeology prior to industrial development. English Heritage have fortunately come up with funds for next year to continue excavations. At the time of Boxgrove man the site was at the foot of a 100 metre cliff. The larger fauna included rhinoceros, elephant and hyena, which suggests proximity to a watering hole. Most exciting, is the evidence of man's activity at the site through the huge number of flint hand axes of typical Acheulean design that were found.

It is fortunate that the area provides excellent raw materials for manufacturing axes, nevertheless, those found have amazed all by their exceptional quality in workmanship. Along with animal bones, 140 of these axes were recoverd from one trench alone. Simon stated that even the best modern-day flint napper would have difficulty in replicating the sharp cutting edges. Furthermore, in settling the debate as to how these were used, complementary finds of animal bones showing lateral cuts, testify to the effectiveness of these implements for butchering carcasses. Also, at least one bone has been pierced, perhaps by a spear. This is significant in revealing a hunting rather than a scavenging culture.

Turning finally to that tibia, Simon explained how the experts had given up the idea of finding Hominid remains until this discovery in 1993 and the excitement he experienced. Investigation by Chris Stringer has assessed the bone as belonging to a massive individual (assumed male) approx 6' tall, heavily built and old at age 40 years. Fitting in with other finds in Europe from the Cromerian period we can probably say that Boxgrove Man belongs to the same Hominid group as the owner of the

Heidlberg jaw, and ancestor to later Neanderthal types, based on evidence of his massive build. The uncovering of the two teeth (the last of which was found on the final day of excavation) will tell us more about the diet of Boxgrove man.

This summer Simon wants to extend the excavations to the south of the find spots. We wish him the best of luck and wait with great anticipation for Simon's next news bulletin when we hope more exciting finds will be announced, James Lansdale Thank you James for the report - nice to receive a contribution from a new member!

RECENT PUBLICATIONS

Chiltern Archaeology: recent work. A handbook for the next decade .

Ed: Robin Holgate. Publisher: The Bookcastle, £16.99.

Resulting from a day conference at Luton in September 1990, this publication presents comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge of Chiltern archaeology, and of how archaeological work in the region is organised. Contributions were provided by archaeologists from Beds, Bucks, Herts, and Oxon. Included is a paper from Tom McDonald o n the Hertfordshire Archaeological Trust's A41 project - this was the subject of a HADAS lecture.

Roman Hertfordshire, Rosalind Niblett . Publisher: Dovecote Press, £7.95.

Ras Niblett is the head Field Officer for the St Albans Museum Service, where she has conducted many excavations, including that of the Folly Lane royal burial in 1992. Hertfordshire is well-known for its Roman archaeology, which is well covered by chapters dealing with the conquest, towns, religion, burial, villas, farming and the economy. This is a wide-ranging and up-to-date study drawing on all currently available sources, useful as an introduction, or for those who wish to refresh their studies on the Roman period in this county. A very readable book, well illustrated with clear photographs and reconstruction drawings.

 

OTHER SOCIETIES

In their February '96 Bulletin, Mill Hill Historical Society ask people in possession of old photographs, postcards or pictures of Mill Hill, property deeds which might be of historical interest, or memories of the area, to get in touch with Ralph Calder or Frances Bone who are constantly updating their Society's local history records. Our contact is Mr R S Nichols, 29 Maxwelton Aenue, NW7 3NB, tel: 0181 959 3485.

COLLEGE FARM (Fitzalan Road, N3)

There has been much publicity given by the local press to the continuing fight by north Londoners and Local Societies to save the farm from re-development. The Dept of Transport bought it for a planned road-widening but these plans were scrapped and they are now obliged to sell at the best price, Acer Environmental have been commissioned to prepare a consultative report based on information from English Heritage, the local authority, and 'other interested parties'. The report will aid the decision whether to seek planning permission for the site (from the Council or direct from the Planning Minister). HADAS has an added interest in the outcome - we store our excavation equipment in one of the outbuildings! HADAS members may transmit their views to the Highways Agency by writing to:

Mr Peter Wilson, Head of the London Branch of the Highways Agency, Land and Compensation Division, Room 5/10, St Christopher House, Southwark Street, London SE1 OTE, marking the letter 'College Farm', preferably by 9th MAY.

This Victorian model farm with its listed farm buildings is a local landmark, loved by generations of local children who have visited; the next monthly Country Fair will be on Sunday 5th May from 1pm, admission 52.00, concession £1.50, children ELM.

 

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