Newsletter-336-April-1999

 

HADAS DIARY

 

Tuesday 13th April     Archaeology of Local Building Materials

Lecture by D r Eric Robinson - a geologist who has found some surprising use of local brick and stone since Saxon times. He will focus on St Mary's Church

 

Thursday 29th April    Visit to Highgate Cemetery with Stewart Wild

(application form enclosed )

 

Tuesday 11th May at 8.00 pm for 8.30

 

HADAS Annual General Meeting

followed by Talk and Slides on the Year's Activities

Coffee and biscuits will be available as usual before the meeting

 

Saturday 12th June     Outing to Penshurst Place, Lullingstone Roman Villa

and Eynsford Castle with Micky Cohen and Micky Watkins

 

Saturday 17th July      Gloucestershire with Tessa Smith and Sheila Woodward


Saturday 14th August Suffolk with Bill Bass

 

NOTE CORRECTED DATES FOR JULY AND AUGUST OUTINGS

HADAS WEEKEND from Dorothy Newbury

Please accept my apologies. I have had numerous phone-calls re absence of a Weekend date. Now I know you would like one I will work on it. I have been trying our member Daphne Lorimer for a return visit to Orkney - no luck this year - should we try for the Millenium? It would be pricey. For this year how about Southampton University with visits in that area, and a day on the Isle of Wight? Jacky Brookes is getting me some information.

 

BARNET ARCHIVES

 

 

HADAS members know how important the Archives are to our local historians and archaeologists as well as to schools. We feel very much indebted to our two experienced local Archivists, Joanna Corden and Pamela Taylor (part-timers), who have hitherto been helped by a local studies librarian (full-time). Now Joanna Corden is leaving to become Archivist to the Royal Society, but it is a shock to hear that Pamela Taylor has resigned on account of the freezing of the librarian's post which means a 50% cut in staffing.

We are glad to hear that the Council has agreed to provide temporary cover while advertising for a part-time librarian and a part-time archivist. It may be very difficult to fill these posts with well qualified people for salaries are less than for teachers. Moreover, the appointment of two part-timers will still leave one post unfilled. We must make the council unfreeze the other post as soon as possible. In any case, we will have lost all the experience and local knowledge that Joanna and Pam have been able to give us.

 

MEMBERS' NEWS

Helen Gordon has fallen again and broken her fifth limb, but she is soldiering on and hopes to participate in some of our activities again soon.

Cyril Pentecost has phoned and I am sure all our outing regulars would love to have him join us again this summer.

Dr Reva Brown, our March Newsletter Editor, is now Professor Reva Brown. Congratulations and thanks for continuing as editor of one of our Newsletters. How about organising an archaeological trip in your area for year 2000? Derek Batten''s `Castle' might be excavated by then.

 

 

TIME STOPS IN EAST BARNET                            JANET HEATHFIELD

As a resident of East Barnet I have become increasingly concerned about the state of disrepair of the clock tower situated on the roof of the parade of shops known as Clock House Parade in the centre of East Barnet village. The tower is in urgent need of painting before the wooden part of the structure deteriorates further.

According to the Victoria County History, in 1406 Thomas Dudman is recorded as paying rent to the Abbot of St Albans for a tenement known as Mendhams. He left the house to his daughter Agnes - she married William Rolfe of Chaseside.

In 1619 and 1654 there are further references to a house known as Dudmans.

In 1821 Dudmans had its name changed to the Clock House. It is reasonable to assume that a clock was erected about that time (not necessarily the present one). By 1900 a new front had been added to the Clock House. The photo from about that time shows the present clock tower in position on the roof of the house.

In 1926 the Clock House was pulled down and was replaced by a new parade. Fortunately, the clock tower was rescued and placed on the roof of the shops and until recently the clock kept good time. The mechanism was restored some years ago and the clock face is currently being refurbished by a local man.

All the beautiful old houses in East Barnet were pulled down to make way for housing development in the 1930s and the clock tower is one of the few remaining links the village possesses with its past.

I am in the process of getting the problem referred to English Heritage with a view to asking the owner to put repairs in hand. Local people are anxious that it should once again keep the time for the villagers. Has anyone any suggestions to offer as to the next step?

 

ARCHIVE CATALOGUE

 

IN MEMORY OF BRIGID GRAFTON GREEN

Most HADAS members know that our Society owes a great deal to the work of Brigid who died in 1991. She edited the Newsletters from 1970 for nearly twenty years, and was Hon. Secretary to the Society. She was deeply involved in the West Heath Excavation and she organised all our entertainments - Who will ever forget the Roman Banquet and Arabian Nights with all the authentic food?

Brigid was also the Founder of the Hampstead Garden Suburb Archive. She collected the material together, and was the Archivist from 1973 until her death. It has long been recognised that there should be a memorial to Brigid, but nothing suitable could be found . Now two grants of £1000 each from the Millie Apthorp Fund and from Barnet Council will reinforce the Trust's funds and make it possible to produce a Catalogue of the Archive. The Archive Trust intends to dedicate the Catalogue to Brigid's memory.

Most of the Archive is now housed in the London Metropolitan Archive, 40 Northampton Rd., Clerkenwell (0171-332 3820), where house plans, photographs and much written material can be seen - Please ring to make an appointment. Remaining in the Basement Room at the Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute is a small reference library, some duplicate photographs and tape recordings and many files of Suburb history. The Basement Room is usually open on Tuesday mornings during School terms - You are welcome to make a visit - please ring the Suburb Archivist, Mr Harry Cobb (0181- 458 3688)

The Archive is of national and international interest as well as of local importance, and the Catalogue when completed will be a fitting tribute to Brigid.

 

PAUL ROBERTS' VILLA OF MYSTERY                         by PETER PICKERING

 

For our February lecture we had a return visit from Paul Roberts of the British Museum, telling us about his work at Forum Novum in the Sabine Hills as part of the Tiber valley project. Forum Novum was one of the small towns of Roman Italy - a type of settlement about which little is known. It was a very small town; though it had a forum with two temples, there did not seem to be many buildings other than public ones. Paul's slides made it look an idyllic site, rural with Mount Soracte in the background. Forum Novum was important in early Christian times as the scene of two martyrdoms under the emperor Diocletian. The basilica was excavated in the 1970s, and the floor of the important romanesque church restored in 1990; Paul was scathing about both of these operations.

The British Museum's team carried out a geophysical survey, using ground penetrating radar, found a huge villa, completely unknown hitherto - it came as a surprise to the local inhabitants. The outlines of the villa were very clear, but the team's hopes of finding fine mosaics and wall plaster were dashed. The remains of the walls, only a short way below the surface of the ground, were bare, and over most of the area there was no rubble and very few artefacts of any sort; one corner of the courtyard, and a drain, however, were rich in finds. But the finds were from centuries later than the building itself, which dated from the time of the emperor Nero. What the excavators had at first thought was a drain proved wider than would have been expected, and had pots built into its walls - perhaps it was a fishpond for the production of eels, a Roman delicacy.

The mystery is why so little was left of what had been a huge villa. The excavators considered and rejected the idea that it had been comprehensively demolished; no clearance could have been as thorough as this must have been. The most likely solution is that the villa was never finished. Was it being built for a rich and important senator who fell from imperial favour in the troublous times of the emperor Nero, and vanished from the scene?

Perhaps further investigations will reveal more. And perhaps Paul will come back to tell us more about his mystery.

 

A MYCENEAN ODYSSEY                                                 by JOHN ENDERBY

 

I have recently returned from the Peloponnese having travelled by road from Athens on an ancient road network which took in Corinth, Epidaurus, Argos, and, above all, Mycenae.

This prehistoric town, the most important in Greece, was built on the north-east side of the Argive plain, and was once the centre of a glorious civilisation lasting from 1600 BC until 1100 BC. Even today, modern Mycenae is an important point on the road system leading to Nafplion, the first capital of Greece after Independence (1822) and thought by many (including myself) to be the loveliest town in the whole of Greece.

I visited Mycenae, a thirty minute journey from Nafplion, on a bright sunny day but, even so, the extensive ruins of this once regal ancient city were invested with a brooding sense of darkness and horror. Here Orestes committed the heinous crime of matricide. I hope to tell the chilling story in a future article on the curse of the House of Atreus.

The remarkable Mycenean civilisation reached its zenith in the second millennium BC as can be seen from the fabulous gold objects - including the gold mask of Agamemnon - now in the Athens Museum. Many such priceless artefacts were excavated by the German discoverer of Troy, Heinrich Schliemann, who led a series of excavations from 1874. 1 visited the house - now a hotel - in which he lived in Mycenae and was honoured to sign the Distinguished Visitors Book in the name of NADAS!

Like Epidaurus, which is still being excavated by Greek archaeologists with a grant of £2m from the European Union, similarly funded workers were busily engaged in excavating several areas of the huge site, some 170 years after the first dig.

Today one enters the site (on payment of 1500 drachma, about £3 ) through the Lion Gate, a colossal monolithic limestone tympanum flanked by two headless lionesses of impressive dimensions. On the right are the concentric stone circles that form the Royal Tombs in which

Schliemann found no less than nineteen skeletons. After traversing a large ramp there is an exhausting and rough climb - no English Heritage type path

or handrail - to the summit (912ft ) the early part of the way bordered by walls made up of blocks of stone that weigh as much as 20 tons and are 26ft wide in places. They are all so accurately cut that no mortar was needed The view from the Acropolis and the remains of the Royal Palace was fantastic in all directions, and one realised that it must have been impregnable to attackers Fortunately, water was not too much of a problem for the residents of the Royal palace, as there was a 'secret' source and cistern in the eastern fortress if one was prepared -I was not - to descend ninety nine steps

in total darkness.

On the way back to the modern village I came to a true masterpiece, the so called treasure of Atreus, thought to have been the tomb of Agamemnon, dating from c.1300 BC. Entrance is gained through the `dromos', a long stone tunnel cut deep in the hillside. The `tholos'. or circular interior, is reached through an impressive portal with a lintel of enormous stone blocks one of which has been estimated at 120 tons. The vault itself is an amazing beehive structure built of thirty three courses of ashlar masonry (again no mortar ) reaching a height of 76ft. To me, it proved to be one of the wonders of the ancient world and, without doubt, a landmark in the history of European architecture.

 

ARCHAEOLOGY  VS. SYCAMORES

 

Our member Derek Batten writes that life at Castle Mount is not all plain sailing. You may remember that Derek now lives in Northamptonshire and bought this 800 year old Norman castle with the intention of excavating it. At present the castle is covered with a great many shrubs and trees - 130 trees in all - and Derek wants to cut down 10 sycamore trees before they damage the 11 metre high ramparts any further. In this he is backed by English Heritage. The Villagers are fighting to protect the trees, fearing that they may all be cut down, and led by the chairman of Grafton Regis parish meeting they have sent a 60-signature petition to the planners. Derek hopes the Time Team may get interested in the Castle. Would this turn all the village into keen archaeologists?

 

OLDER THAN WE THOUGHT

 

The methods used to calculate age from skeletal and dental remains have recently been challenged by scientists working at Leeds and Bradford Universities. They think that we have systematically underestimated age at death. This may explain why there is a great difference between scientific and documentary evidence of age. For instance analysis of skeletons suggested that life expectancy in Ancient Rome was less than 50, while documentary evidence shows that lots of Romans lived to be 70 or more If these new ideas are correct, it will lead to a radical revision of ideas about health and welfare in the past. (Times 11.3.1999 )

 

SPITALFIELDS EXCAVATION

 

The Museum of London Archaeology Service is undertaking a cemetery excavation in Spitalfields running through to September, and has asked local societies to form a reserve of volunteers. The work falls into two categories - excavation and other. Excavation of the burials requires helpers who are competent in this highly specialised task. To an extent you will be working without too close supervision so this is not a task for beginners, nor is it a training dig. Other tasks include manning the viewing gallery and helping to explain the excavation to visitors and finds processing. Instruction will of course be given. If you are interested in volunteering for this work please contact Vikki O'Connor (0181-361 1350) who will forward your name to MoLAS_ STOP-PRESS

Archaeologists working at the Spitalfield site have just made a rare find - a Roman coffin made of lead - indicating a very high-ranking, wealthy occupant. The Roman Mayor of London?

 

OTHER SOCIETIES EVENTS

Barnet & District Local History Society

Wednesday 14 April, 8pm, Wesley Hall, Stapylton Rd, Barnet `City Churches' - Paul Taylor

Visitors - small donation.

Finchley Society

Thursday 29 April, 8pm, Drawing Room, Avenue House 'Countryside & Conservation' - Lisa Stringer, LB Barnet (Membership Sec: Lynn Bresler 0181 446 6249)

Camden History Society

Thursday 22 April, 7.30pm, Heath Branch Library, Keats Grove,Hampstead NW3 'Keat's Triangle.

Willesden Society

Wednesday 21 April, 8pm, Rising Sun Pub, Harlesden Rd.,Willesden Green NW10 `Kensal Rise Onwards' by Ted Brooks

Hornsey Historical Society

Wednesday 14 April, 8.00pm, Union Church Hall, Ferme Park Rd., N8 'London's Country Houses' by Caroline Knight  

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