newsletter-399-june-2004

Newsletter

Page 1


HADAS DIARY

Tuesday 10 June 8pm ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

Drawing Room, ground floor, Avenue House, East End Road, Finchley, N3. The meeting will close promptly at 10pm, after discussion and coffee. Buses, including the 82, 143, and 326 pass close by, and it is a five minute walk from Finchley Central Tube station.

Wednesday 4 July — Sunday 18 July.

Long weekend in Cumbria. Now full. If you want to go on the waiting list, please ring Jackie Brookes (020 8349 2253). Saturday 7th August OUTING to the Lewes area with Tessa Smith and Sheila Woodward

Saturday 4th September OUTING to Colchester with June Porges and Steward Wild Application forms for outings are sent out with the Newsletter the month prior to the event


Page 2

Roman roads. Lecture by Harvey Sheldon reported by Jim Nelhams

Purpose: According to 1066 and all that "The Roman road ran absolutely straight in all directions and all roads lead to Rome." Generally, Roman roads are straight. They are potent expressions of Roman engineering and military power and a marked feature of Roman expansion. It is estimated that there were 55,000 miles of first class roads in the empire, in North Africa and the Middle East, and along the Rhine and the Danube. In the first century AD, a road was built from Tangier to Alexandria — later extended to Antioch and the Bosphorous. In the second century, a road was constructed between Holland and Belgrade along the Rhine and the Danube. Major roads were public roads built at state expense, possibly by contractors and sometimes maintained by local landowners. In "frontier" provinces, they were more likely to have been built by the army. A new recruit might spend 6 months probation building roads. Much evidence shows that these projects were to the glory of the emperor. Roads were indispensable for communication and the movement of troops. (Answer to a later question — there is no evidence that roads were built by slaves or prisoners. They would have needed feeding and guarding. There is always the need to keep the army busy.) In Britain, roads distinguish between the Roman and the pre-Roman eras. Many Roman roads are the routes of major arteries today. It is estimated that there could have been 10,000 miles of roads in Britain, but maybe only 2,000 to 3,000 in the first century of Roman rule. The Royal Engineers, as the main engineering resource of the British Army, have carried out a study of the Roman road from the Kent coast to London — about 70 miles. They estimate that if the road was built for tactical purposes, it would have taken about 15 weeks and required 1,200 men in construction and guarding, about 3% of the occupation army. If properly engineered to strategic standards, it would have taken around 3 years using 4,000 men — 10% of the forces available. Some Roman roads have names — maybe in Saxon or Scandinavian form, but we do not know what the Romans called them. Alignment: There would have been a surveyed line. The actual course would have followed this as closely as possible. A straight line gives a shorter distance, giving less cost, less road to defend and greater speed of movement. Much pre-planning would have taken place to find suitable terrain, river crossings and suitable local materials. There would often be a number of short straight stretches determined by the topography, with directions changing on hilltops. Roads could have been surveyed and planned by direct sighting or using beacons. The engineers had the equipment and mathematical knowledge to draw scaled maps. Much is traceable today, though where a new road follows the old line, evidence would have been destroyed. In some cases, changes in the environment could mean that the roads were diverted — e.g. to a new river crossing point — and where this happened, evidence along the original route could have survived. (Answer to a later question — there is no evidence that the Romans used hilltop routes. There would have been no military purpose in doing this. Trade goods would have been moved by water, and only used the hilltops to get from one catchment area to another. Construction: Construction was based on a raised mound agger maybe one metre high and made of gravel, clay, sand or chalk. This provided a foundation, a vantage point (highway) for viewing and drainage. It could be 15-20 metres wide. Roads on top are 7-10 metres wide, but they may originally have been wider and eroded over time. Ditches would have run alongside. (Answer to a later question — Roads could have had several tracks, possibly using different materials. The Roman legions would have marched 8 abreast on the top. Trade would have used tracks on the side.) Gravel surfaces, metalled, are tough to excavate. There is a surprising shortage of good archaeological information on Roman roads in Britain; good examples are rare and need conservation. Britain had 13-14% of the Roman army so has a lot of roads. Trees near the road would be cleared, particularly in hostile areas, to give good vision. (Answer to a later question — the army would need enough time to get organised if attacked, they might also clear buildings near the road.) If roads were extensively used after the Roman period, they would have been damaged. In the 19th/20th century, services (water, gas, etc.) were placed under road surfaces. In these cases, there is not much chance of finding structural evidence. Some evidence has been found near Old Ford in East London, since the road was diverted to a new crossing point on the River Lea. There have been several digs confirming that the road was a three track highway more than 22 metres wide. Quarries are often found close to roads, and near settlements; burial sites can also be found. The ANTONINE ITINERARY documents show many Roman roads, including many "stations", their names and distances. Between London and Verulanium, it shows a station named Sulloniacae. One theory is that this was at Brockley Hill, close to the Roman kiln, but this seems to be too close to St. Albans and Harvey suggested that a more likely site was at Red Hill (Burnt Oak) close to the Silk Stream or at Edgware. Later, Watling Street would have been a major pilgrim route. The road from Kent into London would have been diverted at Greenwich Park to avoid the Thames flood plain. Digs have taken place along the side of the Old Kent Road, and at Southwark cemeteries have been found. In Southwark, there were islands of gravel used as part of the river crossing, excavations have found that timbers were used to provide support for the foundations, and these have been well preserved by the damp. Two roads have been identified and the joining point plotted. London Bridge would have needed high gravel to launch it.

Page 3

New Geology Guides

The British Geological Survey has just published Exploring the Landscape of Assynt under the `Earthwise' trademark series. Assynt in North West Scotland is home to Britain's oldest rocks. The guides are aimed at walkers and include fold-out colour maps showing the different rock types. The BGS is also planning to extend its range online, including for example a picture library and historic maps. (CILIP Gazette 7 May 2004)

Another memory from HADAS past by Joan Wrigley

West Heath dig, more years go than I care to remember. Site director: Margaret Maher. Margaret busy digging, up comes a mounted policeman and says, "I'm looking for a man —" Margaret replies — "Aren't we all..." Visitors to the site: a man asks Joan (then `T' lady) for explanations. Joan says she'll ask an archaeologist to come and talk to him, "I'm only the `T' lady." Man replies, "Thank you, I'll have tea with milk and two sugars please."

Page 4

Hendon Fields and Factories. Lecture by Hugh Petrie reported by Peter Nicholson

In the recent past HADAS's monthly lectures have taken us as far afield as the rock art of Australia, but April's lecture could not have been more local. Hugh Petrie is the London Borough of Barnet's Heritage Officer at the newly located Archive Centre in Daws Lane, Mill Hill. As Hugh explained his talk was a report on work in progress as some details were still needed. With only a little simplification, the talk could be said to describe the four ages of Hendon; sadly none of them a golden age, though that perhaps is still to come. In the mediaeval period the local economy was based on the gathering and supplying of wood to the urban population of London, and this may also have been the main activity in the preceding Roman period. In the 15th century coal began to replace wood as the main source of fuel. Hendon Manor was largely cleared of forest and corn growing became the main activity, with a little fruit growing and the keeping of sheep and pigs. In 1574 rent in the Manor was paid in corn. From about 1600 there was a gradual switch to hay as the main crop and by 1786 only Church Farm was growing corn. The change was probably brought about by more hay being needed for fodder and bedding for the horse population of London which increased in step with the human population. Production of good hay required high soil fertility, which was maintained by rotation of crops plus night soil, carted out from London. London also supplied extra labour for haymaking as it did for hop picking in Kent. In the mid 19th century, Sir Joseph Bazalgette designed and built London's sewers and greatly improved the health and ambience of the capital. But this resulted in a cut in the supply of night soil to the surrounding areas and in Hendon soil fertility and agricultural activity declined. This was replaced by industrial development of which only a sketchy outline can be given here. Industries in the area included Tilley Lamps, the Express Dairy at Cricklewood, Smiths Clocks, the Phoenix Telephone Co., numerous laundries and many others. The development was helped by the building of the Midland Railway and tram links, which brought in workers from more heavily populated areas such as Kilburn and Willesden. The most spectacular development was the Claud Graham White aircraft factory where production soared during the First World War, but faded rapidly in the peace that followed. Most of the area's other industries have also disappeared so Hendon is now moving on to its fifth age.

OTHER SOCIETIES EVENTS

Tuesday 15 June 8.15pm The Bishop's Hunting Park at Highgate. Speaker: Malcolm Stokes, member of HADAS. Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution, 11 South Grove, Pond Square, Highgate N6.

[We regret we could not publish a full list this month due to production difficulties]



Comments