newsletter-351-July-2000

 
 
HADAS DIARY

22 July(Sat) Outing to Dover with Tessa Smith & Sheila Woodward

 

29-30 July Hadas Archaeological Weekend

Experimental Archaeology at College Farm (Details Enclosed)

 

19 August(Sat) Outing to Wallingford with Bill Bass Details in later Newsletter

 

[10-14 July Orkney Weekend-arrangements finalised but contact Dorothy if you would like to put your name on the waiting list ]
 
 

EXCITING DISCOVERIES

 

The Millennium has started propitiously with news of important international finds ranging from lost cities under the sea offshore from Alexandria

to underwater treasures off Cyprus,and a decapitated skeleton near Stonehenge.There is enough here to keep several teams of archaeologists at work for years if not decades, establishing the facts and speculating about their implications for long held theories while developing new ones.

In many cases the national archaeological services cannot cope; if progress is to be made experts and funds from richer countries need to be slotted in. There are sensitive issues here about who controls the nature and extent of

excavation,where and by whom finds will be processed,who will have a right to display them eventually; is policing adequate against an underground

that spirits away precious objects and seems to be ever more powerful; among many more.

That is what makes archaeology such an interesting study/hobby-something new is always on the horizon: treasured theories are overturned ,dating

altered,sequences rearranged,while new technology borrowed from other disciplines provides more ways of analysing the past.If TV programmes are an indicator of growing interest in our subject, we can take pleasure in the increased airtime that is devoted to different aspects of archaeology. These range from the quick and dirty 48 hour dig in a corner of one of our towns or villages, to reconstructing the major artefacts of early times in

order to establish the technologies available and how they were used, and to tracing the broad development of civilisations over the world, and their possible influence on each other.

Archaeology has something for everybody.[Ed]

 

 

THE REVIEWER'S TALE ROY WALKER

One of our best-sellers in the HADAS bookshop is Percy Reboul's "Those were the days", a collection of memories of life in Barnet between the two World Wars taped by Percy in the late 1970s. It is an excellent example of how oral history can be presented. We are very fortunate because Percy has compiled a further selection of stories from Barnet's past, "Barnet voices" - this time published in the Tempus Oral History Series, 1999, price £9.99. The recordings are from the 1970s and 1980s and encompass a wide range of social backgrounds, occupations and ages. The London Borough of Barnet is, of course, the common factor and as each tale is fully illustrated with photographs of the period this book cannot fail to appeal to the diverse interests of our membership.

There are the childhood memories of Dorothy Egerton who moved to Sunningfields Crescent in 1902 at the age of seven and attended Ravenscourt School. Sheep grazed opposite her house where Sunnyhill Park is today. The Tram Driver's Tale concludes on a collision between a number 62 tram and a steam traction engine near Wembley Church with the latter left as a wreck, while in The Railwayman's Tale the railwayman himself suffered terribly the consequences of his collision with a train. The Farmer's Tale interested me as it provided background to the photograph of Harry Broadbelt I first saw in John Heathfield's "Around Whetstone and North Finchley in old photographs" - he ran Floyd Dairy where Whetstone Police Station stands today. We hear from the voice of the rabbit in BBC Radio's Winnie the Pooh, from a "Law Officer" based at Bowes Road School responsible for apprehending truants and from a Mill Hill GP who qualified in 1915 warning of the dangers of relying upon computers to make a diagnosis!

For those born within the Borough the stories are guaranteed to awaken earlier, personal memories of Barnet; for those who moved into the area later in life, as I did, then this book provides real people with which to flesh out the bones of Barnet's past so far gained from other local historians.

 

SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL-- by VIKKI O'CONNOR

 

MARTHA WALSH's small book of memories strings together a series of anecdotes about the family members and their circumstances during her father's lifetime, 1796-1864. She describes her father as full of fun, with an interest in poetry, politics and science. His enquiring and innovative approach to medicine, especially during a cholera epidemic in 1832-33 earned him an excellent reputation. However, when he decided to commercially manufacture the writing ink he had invented, his professional 'friends' apparently told him that he would 'lose caste' if he went into business!

Looking at the family through Martha's eyes, one can understand her father's deterioration after the death of his first wife and their little girl, or smile at the fortunes of Justine, the French housekeeper. The warmth of Martha's description of her mother and their life in Finchley are so fresh that I kept having to remind myself that she was talking about 1852, not 1952, even when she writes of haymaking and blackberrying. First published in 1913, the book has been re-printed with the permission of Martha's grand-daughter. If you decide to dip into this little treasure (don't just read it once) it will cost you £3.00 plus 31p postage from: Norman Burgess at 28 Vines Avenue, Finchley, N3 2QD, or visit the Stephens Collection - Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 2 - 4.30pm, at Avenue Hse.

 

AND SHORT IS BEAUTIFUL TOO.....

Highgate Literary and Scientific Society's recent Highgate 2000 - A Journey Through Time exhibition depicted Highgate life through themes: schools; roads; churches, shops; pubs; personalities and, of course, the cemetery. The exhibition proved to be a great success, the recipe for which appears to be a brilliant team effort with individuals taking responsibility for a section and, being given a free hand, coming up with their personal interpretation of their chosen subject. The pity is that, after all this effort, there were only thirteen days available to the Society to view the results at

their premises in South Grove. The society was established in 1840 when they took this building, formerly a school.

There were several good browsing-hours-worth of material in the displays. Tales of John Betjeman's schooldays caught my attention, as did the old Highgate custom "Swearing on the horns". Margot Sheaf, one of the contributors to the exhibition, wrote "Each Highgate inn had a set of horns mounted on staves - a ram for one inn - a stag for another. At least three out of five passengers entering an inn from their coach had to Swear on the Horns. This ancient custom has been preserved through the centuries and is still taking place at several Highgate inns where it is often used as a means to support local charities."

The exhibition brochure, sponsored by Hamptons, summarised the history of Highgate but, despite requests by many visitors, there are presently no plans to re-run the exhibition or produce a publication. However, some of the display boards will be on loan to other groups over the coming months, says Malcolm Stokes, one of the exhibition organisers.

The impressively ultra-modem and expensive display case generously on loan from the Museum of London was maybe a tad `over the top', but their collection of Highgate Wood Roman pottery doesn't usually leave the confines of London Wall. Some flints from the same site were displayed; these finds were almost incidental to the Roman kiln excavations, and were not associated with a known Mesolithic camp-site. Is this HADAS's cue for 'another West Heath'? Can Alec Jeakins be persuaded to return to London to tramp Highgate Woods for the evidence? 

The City of London Corporation owns and manages Highgate Wood, no easy task with the high numbers of dog-walkers, commuters, joggers, and whole families, trampling everywhere every day. The resulting erosion is being countered by blocked off areas and the planting of young trees and woodland plants. Surprisingly, there are over fifty species of tress and shrubs. In the middle of the Wood is a Visitor Information Centre - well worth seeing. 'Cindy', one of the Wood's rangers who lives on site, has helped to create a museum-in-miniature, aimed at all ages, where there are free leaflets on the history of the wood, and on the nature trails. Amongst the caterpillars, fungi and bird displays you will find a space dedicated to archaeology, with pieces of Roman pottery from the 1970's excavations wonderfully and trustingly available for everyone to touch. Students from Birkbeck College surveyed the ancient earthworks which might have formed part of a tribal boundary. These are marked in red on a map at the far end of the Visitor Centre; if you do spot this it could be interesting trying to project the line into the urban jungle surrounding the Wood.

If you decide to wander along there, bus routes 134, 43 and 263 all run past Highgate Wood, with the 102, 234 and 143 passing the East Finchley/Cherry Tree Wood end. There is of course the Northern line - Highgate (long haul up to road level for the less fit) and East Finchley. Amenities include toilets, children's playground and a bright little café. Enjoy...

OK, call me a nerd but, having often wondered about the destination of the centre tracks at Finchley Central on my way to work, a few years ago I ambled through Cherry Tree Wood and actually coming across the tail end of these tracks my heart beat a little faster (no, a lot, actually). Nowadays, of course, I justify this by calling it 'Industrial Archaeology'. (You can see the East Finchley sidings from Highgate Wood - and the old Railway Bridge at Bridge Gate - number 6 on the map - get your anoraks out now!)

FURTHER INFORMATION: The Highgate Wood Manager 020 8444 6129.

UPDATE

RESTORATION of EAST BARNET VILLAGE CLOCK (c.1680)

We have made progress, I am happy to report. A Committee, the Friends of the East Barnet Clock Tower has been formed to get the clock restarted and put back in its proper place - the clock tower on the roof above the newsagents in Clockhouse Parade.The clockface has been re-gilded,and the movement is being overhauled. We are negotiating with the owners to have the clock tower strengthened before re-installing the clock. If all goes well, we hope to have everything ticking by New Year's Eve 2000 - the

true Millennium! Wish us luck.           Janet Heathfield

 

BARNET GATE MEADOW INVESTIGATION

We have now done a couple of weekends exploring, by digging and augering, the ground in places where our resistivity testing showed anomalies of possible interest.We opened up four small trenches and found in each, below the topsoil, a layer of pebble gravel above a clay subsoil, with no indication it was anything other than natural formation. As might be expected, all the trenches yielded the usual assortment of post-medieval earthenware, stoneware and clay pipe fragments from manuring of the fields. The site was arable until recent years. In two further areas we confined ourselves to augering which gave similar results.

Whilst we shall make a more detailed examination to compare our resistivity readings with the ground exploration, it does appear fairly obvious that the resistivity variations result from natural variations in the in the depth of the clay layer below the topsoil surface, giving a deeper water-holding pebble gravel layer in some places (lower resistivity), and a shallower one in others (higher resistivity).

Our Member Christian Allen has kindly produced a computer diagram of the resistivity results which should give a professional air to our eventual report!

Brian Wrigley/Andy Simpson

 

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