newsletter-393-december-2003

Newsletter

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Seasons greetings to all our members for a happy holiday and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

HADAS DIARY

Tuesday 9 December CHRISTMAS DINNER at the Pavilion On The Park Restaurant, Barnet College, Colindale, NW9 Some tickets at £23 still available - hurry to book. Phone Dorothy Newbury on (020) 8203 0950. The recent postal strike has played havoc with book¬ings and Dorothy is anxious to fill vacant spaces. So if you and a friend would like to come please let Dorothy know as soon as possible - a private room has been reserved for us and the deposit paid.

Tuesday 13 January 2004 Portable Antiquities, A lecture by Nicole Weller, the new Portable Antiquities Liaison Officer and Community Archaeologist at The Museum of London, Nicole will be talking about her work, the Treasure Act and related matters. She will also discuss any small finds that members would like to bring along.

Tuesday 10 February 2004 London Burial Grounds. A lecture by Dr. Roger Bowdler, Lectures start at 8.00pm in the Drawing Room at Avenue house, East End Road, Finchley, and are followed by question time and coffee. Meetings close promptly at 10.00pm

CAN YOU SPARE AN AFTERNOON ONCE A MONTH ?

The Stephens Collection at Avenue House is in desperate need of stewards to preside while the museum is open from 2pm to 4.30pm on Tuesdays. Wednesdays and Thursdays each week. Members may well be familiar with the collection_ featuring the fascinating history of writing implements, ink and the Stephens family, as it often open by special arrangement prior to our monthly meetings at Avenue House. This is an easy, relaxing task that might suit some HADAS members whose bent is not for excavation or finds processing.Volunteering for as little as one afternoon a month would help enormously, and you would be accompanied by an experienced steward to learn the ropes'. Your reward would he a greater knowledge of Avenue House and the amazing Stephens family, and the oppor-tunity to help preserve the memory of Henry Stephens whose generosity led to Avenue House being left in public ownership.

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Brian Arthur Wrigley remembered

1926 -2003 Some twenty members of HADAS attended the service for Brian Wrigley at the church of St. Michael & All Angels, Mill Hill on Monday 3 November, The well-filled church testified to the affection and esteem in which Brian was held. Conducted by Canon Barry Wright, the service celebrated and gave thanks for Brian's life in all its aspects: as a family man, as a solicitor and colleague and as a friend sharing in many leisure activities. The reading from Ecclesiasticus on the value of friendship and the qualities of a true friend seemed particular¬ly apt. Three speakers paid tribute to Brian. Roderick Hunter remembered him as a colleague and convivial drinking companion. He spoke of Brian's work as a solicitor for The Prudential, of his service in litigation especially in the High Court and Appeal cases and his clear and concise presentation and advice. Brian was greatly respected by both barristers and the judiciary - witness the comment by Lord Denning when Guest of Honour during Brian's Presidency of the Holbourn Law Society, that for all to go well one needed a Mr. Wrigley in charge. Peter Manix, Best Man at Brian and Joan's wedding, said that he had known Brian since 1943. He recalled their respective wartime service, their subsequent law studies together and their continuing long friendship. He also spoke of Brian's sporting activities and amateur dramatics. Denis Ross spoke of Brian the archaeologist, who joined HADAS over 25 years ago, became secretary in 1983 and was latterly Vice Chairman, until ill health led to his resignation last year. Brian was an active field-worker, obtained his Diploma of Archaeology in 1978 and continued his archaeologi¬cal studies until very recently. He also handled all the Society's legal work. Brian and Joan have been regular attenders at the Society's functions and out¬ings and have for many years hosted committee meetings at their home. A much loved and respected members of HADAS, Brian will be greatly missed. The service reflected Brian's love of music. His son Stephen and Didier Messidoro played Gymnopedie No.1 and Gnossienne No.1 by Erik Salle, the choir sang a Walford Davies anthem, there were traditional and modern hymns and music by Handel and Elgar. There was also a reading of John Rudney's poem "Do Not Despair". Afterwards, during refreshments in the Hartley Hall, there was a delightful "Brian" touch - he had arranged that we should drink to his memory in champagne. Sheila Woodward

From Joan Wrigley:

Joan. Norman, Stephen and Ann (Brian's sister in Devon) wish-to thank everyone for their kind messages and sympathy on the passing of Brian, a good hus¬band, father, brother, lawyer and an even better archaeologist. He will surely rest in peace.

250 YEARS OF THE BRITISH MUSEUM Sheila Woodward reports on the October lecture given by Marjorie Caygill

The British Museum: a simple all-embracing title for a great institution which most of us probably take for granted. It is 250 years old this year and historian Marjorie Caygill talked to us about its foundation and some highlights in its history. She pointed out that cramming so long a story into an hour's lecture neces¬sitated rigorous selection. The founding father of the Museum was Sir Hans Sloane, physician and naturalist. He returned from a trip to the West Indies with a huge natural history collection (and a recipe for a milk chocolate drink which Cadbury's were still said to he using in the 20th century!). Sloane established a lucrative medical practice, became President of The Royal Society and continued to indulge his collecting enthusiasm. When he died in 1753 at the age of 92 he bequeathed his collection to King and Parliament in return for a payment of £20,000 to his daughter. As his collection was estimated to have cost him about £100,000, it was a bargain. The bequest was accepted and on 7 June 1753 the British Museum Act became law, establishing the first national museum freely open to the public. Its principal trustees were the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Lord Chancellor and the Speaker of the House of Commons. Sloane's collection was eclectic. Its 71,000 objects included an Asante drum from Ghana, a lower palaeolithic hand axe found in 1696 and an English asto¬lahe of about 1295. The 50,00() hooks, manuscripts, prints and drawings includ¬ed an album of 138 drawings attributed to Albrecht Duren There were also 337 volumes of dried plants. Parliament immediately supplemented the collection with an earlier bequest of coins and manuscripts from the estate of Sir Robert Cotton which included the Lindisfarne Gospels, two copies of Magna Carta and the manuscript of Beowulf. A further addition was the purchase of the l-larleian Library and in 1757 George II gave the Old 250 years of The British Museum continued

Sir Hans Sloane 0660-1753) Royal Library to the Museum with its right to a copy of every publica¬tion printed in the country. The first home of the Museum was Montague House in Bloomsbury, situated where the Museum still stands. Its galleries and a reading room opened on 15 January 1759. Despite generous donations, money was a problem and initial funding was by a scandalously conducted public lottery. (Lotteries, comment¬ed Dr. Caygill, are almost always scandalous!) The prospect of public access to the collection was viewed with horror by the Trustees and total mayhem was anticipated. Visitors had therefore to obtain pre-booked tickets and were taken round in small groups led by a curator. But there was no charge; even tips were forbidden. In its early days the Museum was more like a cabinet of curiosities; its hotchpotch collections even includ¬ed a portrait of a horned lady. However, a vogue for the Grand Tour benefited the Museum and the purchase in 1772 of Sir William Hamilton's classical acquisitions changed the balance of the whole collection. In 1778 a South Sea Room was opened to display items brought hack from Captain Cook's voyages and further connoisseurs' bequests increased the Museum's stock of drawings, prints and coins. By the end of the 18th century the Museum was shabby and over¬crowded and expansion was planned. Antiquities from Napoleon's Egyptian campaign which were ceded to Britain in 1802 vastly enlarged the Museum's Egyptian Collection. The "plum" was the Rosetta Stone which enabled the decipherment of ancient hieroglyphs. In 1818, courtesy of Henry Salt, the British Consul in Cairo, came the splendid bust of Rameses II. The classical collection was augmented by the superb Charles Townley collection (includ¬ing the famous Discobolus) and in 1816 the Elgin Marbles arrived. Building expansion was gradual and by this time "persons of decent appearance" were allowed to wan¬der unescorted through the Museum. In 1808 the first purpose-built gallery was opened to house the Townley Collection. In 1817 a tem¬porary Elgin Room was erected to house the Marbles. In 1823 George IV gave his father's library to the nation, parliament granted £40,000 to the Museum to house it and the architect Sir Robert Smirke began his neo-classical building. The East Wing (for the King's Library) was completed in 1827 and the rest of the quadrangle in 1847. The famous domed Reading Room in the central courtyard was completed and opened in 1857, Kari Marx was one of its first regular readers; he visited it daily for nearly 30 years. Meanwhile, new acquisitions to the Museum's collections continued to pour in. Layard was excavating at Nimrud and when the first massive Assyrian sculptures reached the Museum in 1847 they caused a sen¬sation. In 1852 a room was opened for the display of British antiquities, previously much neglected. Augustus Woolaston Franks, who joined the Museum staff in 1851, had a private income which he used for the benefit of the Museum. He became Keeper of British and Medieval Antiquities and Ethnography and with his friend and fellow benefactor Henry Christy, laid the foundation for much of the Museum's later work. At Frank's death in 1897 his huge bequest to the Museum included the Oxus treasure. The creation of a separate Museum of Natural History, long mooted, was implemented in 1880. Plans for further expansion in Bloomsbury, shelved during the Boer War, were resumed in 1902 and the Edward VII Galleries were opened in May 1914. During World War I the possi¬bility of air raids necessitated the evacuation of precious exhibits. Things returned to normal briefly in the 1920s and Leonard Woolley's excavations at Ur produced rich finds which were divided between Iraq, the British Museum and Philadelphia. By -1933 preliminary plans were already in place for the packing and removal of treasures in the event of war. The excavation of the great Anglo Saxon ship at Sutton Hoo in 1939 entailed the storage of finds under Mrs. Pretty's bed before they were taken to the Aldwych tube tunnel "for the duration". In 1941 incendiary bombs hit the south west corner of the Museum, destroying the coin room and about 250,000 books. During the 1950s much repair work and refurbishment was done. The Duveen Gallery for the Elgin Marbles was finally opened in 1962. The 1960s also saw the beginning of the great special exhibitions. The Tutankhamun Exhibition was seen by over 11/2 million visitors. A plan in 1962 for new buildings to the south of the Museum to provide more space for the library was rejected and in 1973 a new institution, the British Library, was formed and was moved to its new building at St. Pancras in 1998. Work was then begun on the Museum's central courtyard area and the Queen Elizabeth II Great Court, the biggest covered courtyard in Europe, was opened in December 2000. It has proved very popular.. Dr. Caygill commented that the British Museum has not been good at publicising and celebrating its special anniversaries. She has ensured that its "quarter of a millennium" should not pass unrecorded.

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MORE NEWS FROM FONTWELL MAGNA

Recent finds at Spinghead Farm, Fontwell Magna indicate that there may well be a Romano-British settlement or rural Roman villa/farmhouse on the site. Finds unearthed by metal detectorists from the Dorset Detection Group include coins (mainly Constantine and Constantius c. 300AD), bronze brooches and a solid gold strip with striations on one side. The gold strip is of course Treasure Trove and is currently being examined at the British Museum. Their initial opinion is that the strip dates from the late Bronze Age and thus very rare. Fontwell is one of Dorset's oldest villages, first recorded in the Shaftesbury charter of 888AD, almost 200 years before the Doomsday survey. John Gadd, the village archivist, has long suspected that the village may have a Roman settlement as it is so close to the Roman fort at Hod Hill. The exact location of the site is being kept secret to prevent disturbance and theft of atrefacts by treasure hunters while permission is sought to excavate, possibly next year..

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Joyce Corlet 1912 - 2003 remembered

Members will be sorry to learn of the death, on 17 October, of Joyce Corlet, aged 91. Joyce, who was born on the Isle of Man, published many short stories and travel articles over the years and was a great devo¬tee of cats. Dorothy Newbury remembers Joyce's late husband Geoffrey spending many weeks copying out the church records of St. Mary's, Hendon before these were called in by the Church of England. Joyce is survived by her son Andrew and her grandchildren Kate, Vickie and Grace, who live in Powys.Deirdre Barrie

Helena Nash 1909 - 2003 remembered

Helena Nash, a HADAS member for many years, died in November during a fire at her home in Denman Drive, Hampstead Garden Suburb. Sadly, a gallant attempt to rescue her from her bedroom by her neighbour David Ambrose failed and Mrs. Nash was found to have died from smoke inhalation while asleep. Mrs. Nash was horn in the house and had lived there all her life. She was still very active, well-known in Temple Fortune and a dedicated supporter of the North London Hospice.

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CHURCH FARMHOUSE MUSEUM

New exhibition opens on 15 December "Winter Wonderland" Victorian and early 20th century toys Displays will include dolls' houses, toy soldiers. Christmas angels and many more items from the vast and wonderful collection owned by Irene and Mark Cornelius. An ideal outing at Christmas and the New Year. Note: The Museum will be closed on 24,25 & 26 December and on 1 January 2004

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OTHER SOCIETIES' DECEMBER EVENTS Prepared by Eric Morgan

Wed. 3 Dec. 5.00pm British Archaeological Association Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House,Piccadilly, W I 'De Profundis': an archaeology of the medieval funeral Talk by Barney Sloane

Thur. 4 Dec. 7.30pm London Canal Museum 12-13 New Wharf Road, Kings Cross, N1 Built Heritage of British Waterways Talk by Nigel Crowe and Mike Manuel Concessions £1.25

Mon. 8 Dec. to Sat. 20 Dec Barnet Borough Arts Council Chipping Barnet Library, Stapylton Road



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