Page 1 HADAS Diary

HADAS Diary The winter lecture series takes place at Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley N3 3QE. Lectures start promptly at 8pm.

Tuesday, 14th October 2003: “250 years of the British Museum”. Lecture by Dr. Marjorie Cayhill

Tuesday, 11th November 2003: “Roman Silchester” Lecture by Prof. Mike Fulford

Information sought

We have had a request for information concerning the ownership of land in Harrow by the Clerkenwell Nunnery (Convent of St. Mary). Can you help please? Do any records exist? This is part of a project by the Clerkenwell Green Preservation Society to trace the ownership of Clerkenwell Green itself. If you have any information please contact me (Don Cooper) at the address on the back of this newsletter.

Early notification of the LAMAS conference

The annual local history conference run by the London & Middlesex Archaeology Society will take place this year in the Museum of London’s Lecture Theatre on Saturday the 15th November 2003 from 10.00am to 05.00 pm. It is entitled “Lunatick London” and is concerned with the care and housing of the mentally ill over the ages in the London area. Among the many interesting speakers will be Dr. Oliver Natelson of the Friern Barnet & District Local History Society who will deliver a lecture on the Friern Hospital. As usual there will displays of recent work and publications by the many London based Local History Societies and of course afternoon tea. The tickets are £5 each (£4 for LAMAS members). Please send your application with an appropriate cheque and a stamped, self-addressed envelope for your tickets to Local History Conference, 36 Church Road, West Drayton, Middlesex UB7 7PX

Stephens Museum Support Group by Stewart Wild Invitation to an Inaugural Meeting

Finchley’s Stephens Collection, described as “one of the best small museums in England”, has decided to establish a Stephens Museum Support Group. The inaugural meeting will take place in Avenue House, East End Road, Finchley, London N3 3QE on Friday 10 October 2003 from 5 to 7pm. All members of the public are invited to attend.

The meeting will discuss procedural matters, steering committee, members’ benefits

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and future plans. For further information call Norman Burgess on 020 8346 6337.

As most HADAS members will know, the Stephens Collection (a registered charity, no. 1051384) was established at Avenue House in 1993 to honour the memory and achievements of Dr Henry Stephens FRCS (1796-1864), the inventor in 1832 of the famous ink, and his son Henry Charles Stephens (1841-1918), who was a chemist, inventor and successful businessman, MP for Finchley (1887-1900) and a generous local benefactor. On his death in 1918 he bequeathed his family estate, Avenue House and Gardens, to the people of Finchley. Since then it has been the responsibility of a succession of local councils until late last year (2002) when the London Borough of Barnet transferred ownership to Avenue House Estate Management, a responsible newly formed local charitable trust.

Like many small museums, The Stephens Collection, which welcomes visitors every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoon from 2pm to 4.30pm, is run entirely by volunteers and relies on donations and fund raising for its income. The Support Group will be dedicated to ensuring the financial stability of The Stephens Collection in the face of increasing costs for insurance, service charges and other overheads.

More on standard railway gauges by Jim Nelhams

An article in the May newsletter tells us that very old wheel tracks in Malta are a “standard” width apart, and that the distance is close to the Standard Railway Gauge. Should this be a surprise?

A number of mostly humorous articles have been written on the subject, but they do seem to contain an element of possibility. I’ll try to summarise.

Firstly, the standard railway gauge throughout most of the world is 4 foot 8.5 inches. There are exceptions – Spain, Portugal, Ireland and most of Eastern Europe have different gauges, and there are a number of narrow-gauge railways throughout the UK.

Most early major roads in Europe were built by the Romans particularly to help them transport the army and the supplies that it needed. They would have used horse drawn carts, and chariots. Some of the equipment required, such as the yoke worn by the horses, as well as the carts and chariots, would have used standard specifications and models which were designed for practical purposes. A yoke for two horses would need to be comfortable for them, and would also need to fit between the shafts of the vehicle. This would also allow the wheels to run without the dirt kicked by the horses getting underneath them. So our starting point is the width of two horses!

Once this has been established and the wheels start to travel on the road, ruts will appear, and any vehicle that does not conform to these ruts is liable to be damaged. Visitors to Pompeii will have seen ruts in the stone roads and will also have seen the stepping stones in the roads. The stones allowed pedestrians to cross the road without stepping in the “pollution”, but they would have caused a major problem had not all the wheeled traffic been wide enough to span them. So perhaps the ruts are actually grooves cut to guide the wheels rather than grooves made by the wheels themselves. And of course, the stepping stones would have the effect of keeping the traffic to a sensible speed. So did Pompeii effectively have a tramway and speed bumps? Also, since there are no passing places, did the streets operate a one way system?

The tramway idea is not as absurd as it sounds. Evidence exists that the Persians and Assyrians, to improve the safety of their war chariots, deliberately cut grooves on mountain passes to prevent the wheels from slipping sideways. The distance between these grooves fits closely to our standard.

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Move on to the industrial revolution. The first railways would have been horse drawn, with the trucks adapted by those already skilled in carriage building. So why change the width? After all, it did allow for the horses to walk between the rails without risk of injury from them.

How was the standard spread? Well if you want to join two railways together, or even build one railway in sections that join up later, you must have a standard. And when steam power comes along, the cost of changing to anything else may be prohibitive. Isambard Kingdom Brunel built his Great Western Railway with a seven foot gauge, and it was undoubtedly faster, smoother and more economic, but being a minority of one, the great man was unable to persuade Parliament that his answer was “best”, and was forced to conform.

During the Victorian era, railways sprang up all over the world, most of them were built by British engineers, and started with British locomotives and other equipment. So they used the same gauge.

Effectively, the standard had become a default, and had perpetuated that used long before railways came along.

Some isolated places used different gauges. Even today, most of Eastern Europe has rails wider apart, and trains travelling between west and east have to stop and change wheels.

And the effect of the standard must not be underestimated. How does equipment reach Cape Canaveral? And how are the rockets moved to the launch pads? You’ve got it – by rail. So perhaps the size of the rockets is influenced by the width of those long dead horses.

It’s not finished. The love of some of our road engineers for speed bumps and width restrictions could have similar effects. Cars should be narrow enough to go through the width restrictions but with wheels far enough apart to miss the bumps! Pity the poor person driving a Robin Reliant! Except that speed bumps don’t seem to have a standard width, so there have been lots of complaints from the Ambulance services.

And with tramways returning to our cities, we do not want our car wheels to catch in them. (Remember the film Genevieve!). So cars must use a different standard, if that makes sense.

I leave you to make up your own mind, but it does seem to be a case of the old adage, “if it works, don’t change it!”

So why did Brunel consider a 7 foot gauge? Well, I don’t know the answer, but the standard width of canal locks in this country is either 7 foot or 14 foot!


On a recent visit, I was reminded how much there is of archaeological interest in the lovely Balearic Islands. The Majorca Daily Bulletin (20 August 2003) had an article under the headline Digging in Valldemossa about ongoing excavations at an ancient cemetery complex at Ferrandell-Oleza that dates back to around 2,500BC.

Dr William Waldren has spent 30 years working on these excavations, unearthing human remains of the people who inhabited Mallorca in prehistoric times. The project, which is funded by Earth Watch, a research centre based in Boston, Massachusetts, attracts volunteers every summer from all over

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Europe and from as far away as Australia and the USA. Some come year after year. Many of the finds unearthed can be seen in the Museum of Deià, which is also under the direction of Dr Waldren.

The earliest inhabitants of the Balearic Islands probably arrived from the Iberian peninsula; archaeological evidence suggests that the islands were occupied by 4,000BC. Prehistoric remains include flint tools, arrowheads, primitive pottery, and artefacts made of horn, indicating that these early settlers were shepherds and hunters.

As well as herding sheep, the early inhabitants hunted the local species of mountain goat (Myotragus balearicus), now extinct. Most archaeological finds were discovered in caves, which were used for shelter and ritual burials.

The best preserved complex of caves, developed and extended by the Talayotic settlers, are the Cales Coves near Calla en Porter, on Menorca. There is also evidence of the culture of the Beaker folk who were capable of working in bronze. The Beaker people appeared in the islands around 2,300BC.

Close to Es Pujols on the north coast of the tiny island of Formentera is the megalithic burial chamber of Ca Na Costa dating from around 1,700BC. It consists of a circle of seven vertical limestone blocks, an arrangement not found anywhere else in the islands. Excavations were begun in 1974 and have unearthed a number of objects, including ceramic and bronze vessels and axes, which are on display in Ibiza’s Archaeological Museum.

The Talayotic Period

The mysterious prehistoric structures made of giant stones found on the islands, especially on Menorca, date from between 2,000 and 1,000BC. The most typical of the time, which also gave the period its name, is the talayot, derived from the Arabic word atalaya meaning observation tower. These structures are only found in Mallorca and Menorca, none having been located on Ibiza or Formentera.

Other common stone buildings are taulas (tables) and navetas (like upturned boats). Some taulas on Menorca are over 14ft high. In southern Europe the only other place with similar structures is Sardinia, where they are called nuraghi.

Menorca alone has an estimated 1,600 megalithic sites, while the best site on Mallorca is arguably Capocorb Vell, a rocky plateau on the south coast of the island. This settlement, dating from around 1,000BC, had five talayots, 28 smaller dwellings and Cyclopean walls reaching 13ft high in places. The area was protected as a cultural heritage site as long ago as 1931.

Nobody really knows the exact purpose of all these structures – they may have been used as defensive towers and guardhouses, burial sites or storehouses, as well as dwellings.

Phoenicians, Greeks and Carthaginians

The Phoenicians arrived in the islands sometime after 1,000BC, founding a trading settlement on the north coast of Menorca. Two hundred years later the roving Greeks arrived, but did not stay. Apart from apparently getting a hostile reception from the inhabitants, the islands lacked the metal ores that the Greeks were after.

They did however leave the islands with a name: Baleares derives from the Greek ballein (to hurl from a sling, as in ballistic). It seems the early islanders used volleys of sling-shots to repel invaders.

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By the 7th century BC the Carthaginians were in the ascendency. They founded Eivissa (Ibiza Town) in 654BC, and indeed, it was here that the famous Carthaginian general Hannibal was born in 247BC. Ciutadella and Maó (Mahon) on Menorca were also founded by the Carthaginians.

The Roman Period

The Balearic Islands played a strategic role during the Punic Wars. Following their defeat at Zama (north Africa) in 202BC, the Carthaginians were crushed. Soon afterwards they left Mallorca and Menorca but remained in Ibiza until the Romans conquered the island in 146BC. Roman rule was to last over 500 years, during which the islands were renamed Balearis Major (Mallorca), Balearis Minor (Menorca), and Ebusus (Ibiza).

The tiny island of Formentera, which the Greeks called Snake Island, derives its name from the Latin Frumentaria (Wheat Island), so called by the Romans on account of the cereals and other crops they grew here. In fact, Roman rule brought peace and prosperity to all the islands, but that’s another story.

PHOTO-FINNISH! By Jack Goldenfeld

This month, I paid a short visit to Helsinki and was fortunate enough to get to the National Museum of Finland on the one day in the year when an archaeological event is held, somewhat similar to that which I reported in last month's Newsletter. However, this one was utterly Nordic in character and featured artisans producing objects which were modern-day replicas of the museums exhibits. There were tools and projectile points being formed from slate and other local stones, as well as from (imported) flint in one area whilst, in another, barbed hunting and fishing spears, arrows, harpoons and leisters were being made from wood and bone. There was a digging area which had been seeded with pottery fragments and stone debitage for the benefit of the younger vistors, something which my two granddaughters (of Mill Green Museum fame!) would have greatly appreciated. Regrettably though, they've now returned home to Illinois. There was also a food-preparation display, with querns and examples of indigenous edible plants, exampling environmental seed evidence from excavated sites.

The Museum is well worth a visit. It has a most impressive prehistoric display of stonework and ceramics with the only known example of a fragment of fishing net, complete with stone sinkers and firbark floats, dating to circa 8000bc, part of the contents of a fishing canoe which sank, with much of the fisherman's equipment, organically preserved in a silted-up water channel.

Helsinki is easy and cheap to get to, and is well recommended for a short visit.



NEXT STOP SEATON! – 50 years of Modern Electric Tramways Limited By David Jay and David Voice Published by Adam Gordon 2003 ISBN 1 874422 43 5 Price £17.00, soft back.

Why review a book about a three-mile long narrow-gauge tourist tramway in Devon? Well, read on. This book is full of Barnet, Hadley and Hendon connections. This book celebrates the golden jubilee in 2003 of the Modern Electric Tramways Company, formed 19th May 2003 by Claude Lane to run his trams. Claude Lane was born in 1908 in Totteridge, the son of William Lane, joint manager of Manor

Page 6 Issue 391 Page 6] Farm Dairies, Highgate; having introduced pasteurisation he became a director. In 1911 the family moved to Finchley, where the infant Claude, fascinated by trams, would persuade his nanny to take him to the tram depot off Rosemont Avenue to watch them entering and leaving the depot. As a young boy he would travel to Hendon to watch the trams at the depot/workshops on the Edgware road, where Merit house now stands – of which more later. At school he developed a flair for electricity and mechanics, and served his electrical engineering apprenticeship at Stoke Newington power station. Aged 22, he formed the Barnet based ‘Mobile Welding and Workshop Company’, and opened a small workshop in Lancaster Road, New Barnet, renamed the Lancaster Electrical Company, after the road. Here he repaired batteries, radios and the like.

A growing interest in battery vehicles led to his building a workshop at 77-79 Brookhill Road, New Barnet, whilst spending his summer holidays driving trams in Llandudno and Blackpool. From WW2 his company produced many battery-operated vehicles such as the ‘Lecar’ for local deliveries by traders. In 1949, he produced his first own 15-inch gauge scale model tram, number 23, based on a modern double decker then running in Llandudno; he built a test track in the Barnet works and locals soon got use to this little tram running around the yard, giving rides to local children. As news spread, invitations to local fetes, using portable overhead and track, grew; one such being the Hadley House Conservative Association Fete of July 1949, followed by South Mimms later that month. Summer weekends saw the tram travel as far as Hitchin and Uxbridge, often with ’19 Barnet’ on its destination blinds – the pre-1938 route via Finchley to High Barnet. In 1950 a second tram was completed in New Barnet, based on the ‘Blackpool Boat’ open top single deck design, and numbered 225. In 1951 the two trams moved to a new sea-front miniature tramway at St Leonards, Hastings, as a holiday attraction. They were supplemented in 1952 by a third Barnet-built tramcar, a traditional four-wheel open topper, number 3, but local complaints had seen an end to the Hastings operation after a few months. Also built at Barnet in 1952 was a four-wheeled battery operated tram for the Air Ministry. In 1952 the whole set-up moved to a park at Rhyl. A planned move to Eastbourne in East Sussex saw trams 225 and 3 move back to Barnet for refurbishment. The Rhyl operation was leased out and the Barnet works produced a fourth tram, open ‘toastrack’ number 6, in 1954 to help maintain services there. The Rhyl operation closed in 1957.

Operations in Princes Park, Eastbourne began in 1954, with the track gauge increased to two feet. Barnet works produced a second ‘boat’ car, No.226 to help work the line, and number 238, based on the double-deck Blackpool ‘Balloon’ design. Toastrack number 6 was rebuilt at Barnet 1955/56 as a traditional bogie open top car using parts from original full-sized trams from Southampton and Llandudno. The last tram partially built in East Barnet, in 1958, was similar tram number 7, again using full-sized components such as electrical gear rescued from newly scrapped Llandudno trams, and seats from Leeds trams. The Barnet works closed, and were sold in 1959, and operations moved entirely to Eastbourne, where the tramway was partly lit by ex-Hendon gas lamps! Also built at Barnet in 1957 was a miniature ‘B’ type open top bus, based on the 1929 chassis of a Swift car, registration LA 9927.

In 1963, three of the Barnet built trams – 3, 225, and 238 – were sold to a collector in America. Barnet built Cars 6 and 7 remain in operation at Seaton, to where the tramway moved in 1969. In October 1964 the former Metropolitan Electric Tramways tram/trolleybus depot and works in Hendon, where Merit House now stands opposite the oriental shopping complex, was being demolished, following closure in 1962, and Claude Lane rescued two sets of depot gates, for use at Eastbourne and, later, Seaton. Another local link at Seaton is tram 14, originally Metropolitan Electric Tramways 94 of 1904, later London Transport 2455, rescued in 1961 from an orchard near Waltham Cross, and now cut down to single deck, of the type once common around Hendon, Finchley and Barnet until the local tramways converted to trolleybus operation c.1935-1938.

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This is a splendid book. Though not cheap, it is well written with plenty of ‘human interest’ and lots of pictures of the Barnet works and its advertising literature, Hadley Fete, and the Hendon depot gates! Well recommended for transport and local history enthusiasts.

Other Societies’ Events


Thursday 2nd October 10.30am at Mill Hill Library, Hartley Avenue, NW7 there is a talk entitled “The changing face of Mill Hill – from agriculture to modern development”.

Thursday 2nd October 7.30pm at the London Canal Museum, 12-13, New Wharf Road, Kings Cross, N1 there is a talk by Clive Chambers (historian) entitled “Greenwich & Wapping Thames ferries”. Admission costs £1.25.

Thursday 2nd October, 8.00pm at Pinner Local History Society, Village Hall, Chapel Lane Car Park, Pinner there is a talk by Andrea Cameron entitled “The story of Pears’ transparent soap – a history since its foundation in 1789”. Admission for visitors costs £1.

Tuesday 7th October, 2.00pm at Harrow Museum and Heritage Centre, Headstone Manor, Pinner View, North Harrow there is a talk by Noel Lynch entitled “2500 years of auctioneering”. Admission costs £2.

Wednesday 8th October, 5.00pm at British Archaeological Association, Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1 there is a talk by Dr. Jane Geddes entitled “Christina of Markyate & the St. Albans’ Psalter”.

Wednesday 8th October, 8.00pm at Barnet & District History Society, Wyburn Room, Wesley Hall, Stapylton Road, Barnet there is a talk by Valerie Johnston entitled “Man, Myths & Magic in Anglo-Saxon England”.

Wednesday 8th October, 8.00pm at Hornsey Historical Society, Union Church Hall, corner of Ferme Park Road/Weston Park, N8, there is a talk by Malcolm Stokes (HADAS Member) entitled “The Bishop’s hunting park in Highgate”.

Monday 13th October, 6.00pm at the Ancient Monument Society, Kenneth Clarke Lecture Theatre, Courtauld Institute, Somerset House, Strand, WC2, there is a talk by Phillip Venning (HADAS Member) entitled “Schools in 16th to 18th centuries”. Admission costs £2.

Wednesday 15th October, 6.30pm at LAMAS interpretation unit, Museum of London, 150, London Wall, EC2 there is a talk by Ken Walsh entitled “Human inhabitation of the Heathrow landscape”.

Wednesday 15th October, 8.00pm at Willesden Local History Society, Willesden Suite, Library Centre, 95 High Road, NW10, there is a talk by Alyson Herbert entitled “The origins of the Francis Frith collection (famous national photographs)”.

Friday, 17th October, 7.00pm at City of London Archaeological Society, St Olave’s Parish Hall, Mark Lane, EC3, there is a talk by Lesley Dunwoodie (MoLAS) entitled “Recent re-evaluation of the Roman London forum”.

Page 8 Issue 391 Page 8] Friday, 17th October, 8.00pm at Enfield archaeological Society, Jubilee Hall, junction of Parsonage Lane/Chase Side, Enfield, there is a talk by Kim Stabler entitled “Planning for archaeology – Current thoughts on evaluation methodologies”.

Saturday, 25th October, all day conference from 10.00am at Edmonton Hundred Historical Society, Jubilee Hall, Corner 2, junction of Parsonage Lane/Chase Side, Enfield on the theme “People, Places and Events in Southgate”. Admission costs £6 or £3 for morning or afternoon only.

Tuesday, 28th October, 8.00pm at Friern Barnet & District Local History Society, Old fire station (next to the Town Hall) Friern Barnet Lane, N12, there is a talk by Jim Lewis entitled “Royal Gunpowder Mills”. Admission costs £2.

Thursday, 30th October, 8.00pm, at Finchley Society, Drawing Room, Avenue House, East End Road N3, there is a talk by Ros Ward entitled “Planning Barnet’s Future (Jean Scott Memorial Lecture)”.

Exhibitions & Displays

Saturday, 4th October 4.00pm to 7.00pm, at Avenue House, N3, The Finchley Society have a display commemorating the 70th anniversary of the granting of the Royal Charter to the borough of Finchley. There will be a display of books, photos and artefacts from their archives.

Sunday, 5th -19th October, at the Brent Cross Shopping Centre Barnet Borough Arts Council have exhibitions & what’s on.

Wednesday, 8th October 10.30am – 3.00pm at Highgate Wood Information Hut there is a demonstration of a charcoal kiln.

Saturday, 11th October 10.00am – 4.00pm at Guildhall Art Gallery, Guildhall Yard off Gresham Street, EC2 there is an exhibition and talks entitled “London maze 2003”. Find your way through London’s history from the Romans to the Victorians.

Saturday, 1st November, There is an open day at Avenue House.

Saturday, 1st November, 10.30am – 4.00pm at LAARC, Mortimer Wheeler House, 46 Eagle Wharf Road, N1 there will be an exhibition devoted to “The Archaeology of Rubbish” with displays of objects washed up on the Thames and from rubbish pits. Thanks to our contributors: Jim Nelhams, Stewart Wild, Jack Goldenfeld, Andy Simpson, Eric Morgan