newsletter-453-december-2008

As it is that holiday season again, we take the opportunity to wish all our readers a happy holiday, and a healthy and prosperous New Year.

 

HADAS Diary

 

Sunday 14h December 2008, HADAS Christmas Event.  A visit to Headstone Manor, Harrow, & dinner at the “Moor Mill” Beefeater restaurant, Bricket Wood, Radlett.

Do check with Jim Nelhams (contact details on back page) for last minute availability.

 

Tuesday 13th January 2009, An exploration of the Western Desert of Egypt.  Lecture by Nicole Douek.

 

Tuesday 10th February 2009, The building of the Underground.  Lecture by Tony Earle.

 

Tuesday 10th March, Tuesday 14th April & Tuesday 12th May 2009.  The lectures for these dates are still to be arranged, but it is hoped to have at least one on a Roman theme. 

 

Lectures start at 8.00pm in the Drawing Room, Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley N3 3QE.

Buses 82, 143, 326 & 460 pass close by, and it is five to ten minutes walk from Finchley Central Station (Northern Line).

 

Change to the Christmas Event programme  -                               by  Stephen Brunning
 

On 4th November I received the news that the bridge over the moat to Headstone Manor is in need of urgent repairs as it is gradually crumbling away and not safe to cross. The repairs are due to take place from this week, and the bridge will be worked on for approximately 10 weeks. The bridge is the only access point to the island and Headstone Manor, and obviously this affects visitor access to the site.
The work taking place on the bridge will affect our visit to Headstone Manor on 14th December 2008.  Initially the supervisor of the works stated that no visitor access could take place on the 14th December, seeing that there will be no deck paving on the bridge.   The workmen then agreed to escort our group back and forth across the bridge as required over the workmen’s gangway, but only on the basis that we all wear boots, high visibility jackets and hard hats! We would have to provide these items ourselves.

In view of the above problems, we have reluctantly decided to change the programme.  Instead of the tour, we will have a one hour PowerPoint presentation talk in the Tithe Barn on the restoration of the manor house.  This change will also provide more time to visit the other buildings on the site and have a relaxed hot drink.  We will be leaving as planned at 5pm for the meal.

I hope everyone is not too disappointed by the change.  If it’s very cold on the day it might be preferable to the tour anyway!

 

A successful Quiz night at Avenue House                                       by Don Cooper

On Monday evening (10th November 2008) a very successful Quiz night was held at Avenue House to raise much-needed funds for the estate. As well as a HADAS table with eight members, Stewart Wild hosted a table, and other members were part of other teams. With drinks from the bar and hot jacket potatoes in the interval and a raffle with lots of prizes, this was a very convivial evening. In the event Stewart Wild’s team won and the HADAS table were joint second. I am reliably told that over £500 was raised for the estate, a magnificent achievement.

 

Thanks                                                                                               by Don Cooper

I would like to thank everybody who has sent in possible titles for the Church Terrace excavation book (do keep the suggestions coming!). We will review all the possible titles in due course and reach a decision.

 

Digging up Theodore John Ridge                                                   by Jim Nelhams

It started with the following inquiry through our website from a gentleman named Mike Dunn. Mr Dunn was based at RAF Hendon for 5 years.

“I am not quite sure if my enquiry falls strictly within the area of interest of HADAS, but I hope you might be able direct me to a contact who could help me.

I am trying to discover the exact location in Hendon Cemetery of Theodore John Ridge.  He died in August 1911 and was the first man to be killed flying a British military aircraft.  At the time he was working at Farnborough where he was the Assistant Superintendent.  He was a qualified airship pilot and served with the Middlesex Yeomanry in the Boer War.”

Mr Dunn’s information about the burial came from the Rushmoor council website which contains this extract from a plaque – “the cortege going to Farnborough Station for the burial at Hendon.”

Andy Simpson checked the archives at the RAF museum and found three articles and a letter in contemporary periodicals. Mr Dunn had seen only one of the articles.

I checked the online archive for “The Times” and found an article on 22nd August 1911 referring to the accident, but this stated that the funeral was at Enfield cemetery that day and that Mr Ridge was the fourth son of the late Dr J J Ridge of Enfield. Interrogating the census information showed that Dr Ridge had lived in Baker Street, Enfield. A call to Enfield Council advised that the burial was in Lavender Hill Cemetery and provided the grave number.

A trip to the cemetery followed, where assistance from Steve, the Superintendent, helped me to locate and photograph the grave with a distinctive gravestone. Steve also told me that there was still a Dr Ridge in Enfield. 

A quick GOOGLE on the internet confirmed this and also confirmed the family connection.

So I was able to send to Mr Dunn, photographs of the grave, the articles found by Andy Simpson, and some information about the family. Mr Dunn has since contacted Dr Tim Ridge and received a response with more family information.

Mr Dunn has kindly provided a brief biography of Theodore John Ridge, which follows.

Theodore John Ridge was born in Enfield Ridge on 31st October 1875, the son of Dr J James Ridge.  Theodore Ridge was an electrical engineer by profession.  He studied engineering at the City of London School.  He worked in industry for a spell and also served as an electrical engineer aboard P and O ships for several years.  In 1900, Ridge enlisted as a trooper in the 34th (Middlesex) Company, Imperial Yeomanry and served in the South African War.  Whilst in South Africa, he transferred to the Army Remount Service but a severe bout of enteric fever forced his return to the UK.

In October 1909, Ridge was appointed as the first civilian Assistant Superintendent of the Army Balloon Factory.  During his time at the factory, Ridge become one of a very small number of men who obtained a pilot’s certificate (# 119 - 17 August 1911), an aeronaut’s (ballooning) certificate (# 20 – 21 February 1911) and an airship pilot’s certificate (# 5 – 21 February 1911).  In 1910, he joined the Royal Engineers (Territorial Force) and became commanding officer of the London Balloon Company RE (TF).  A well-respected scientist and engineer, Ridge was particularly involved with the design and construction of Airship “Beta”.  Ridge acted as crew member aboard “Beta” on a number of occasions, most notably during the first night flight by a British military airship, in June 1911.

On 18 August 1911, Ridge was killed at Farnborough, after crashing an aircraft known as the SE1 (Santos Experimental).  The SE1 was a ‘re-construction’ of a Bleriot XII, re-designed by Geoffrey de Havilland as a canard pusher biplane.  Following its first flight in June 1911, a series of major modifications were carried out, despite these modifications, de Havilland, still regarded the SE1 as being difficult to handle.  On the day of the crash, against advice, Ridge insisted on taking the aircraft up.  He was an inexperienced pilot and had never flown the SE1 before.  Whilst returning to the airfield, he shut down the engine before attempting a turn.  The aircraft stalled and crashed, killing Ridge. The coroner recorded a verdict of “death by mis-adventure”.  Ridge was buried at Enfield cemetery, North London.   Although he was acting in a civilian capacity, Ridge gained the ‘distinction’ of becoming the first pilot in the UK to be killed whilst flying a British military aircraft.

The departure of Theodore Ridge’s funeral cortege from Farnborough, was described in the newspapers thus:

The coffin, draped with the Union Jack, was placed upon a gun carriage, drawn by a team of six horses. This was followed by two full companies of the Royal Engineers, accompanied by the best band in the Army, that of the Royal Artillery. There were a number of officers in the procession, including General Scott Montcrieff, who was in command of the Engineers, and two other Generals. Major Sir Alexander Campbell Bannerman was in command of the procession. There were three representatives from the London Balloon Company. The wreaths were carried by orderlies behind the mourners. The route was lined with people who assembled to pay a last tribute to a brave man, while outside the Balloon Factory the hands, to the number of 350, by every one of whom the late Lieut Ridge was greatly beloved, stood at attention as the cortege passed.

 

Excavations at Prescot Street (The Roman aspect)                         by Bill Bass
 

This is a report on the first lecture of this year’s winter series. Lorna Richardson who was meant to give the talk had moved on to a different job, she was kindly replaced by the Project Director - Guy Hunt of L-P Archaeology who had dug the site. Although Prescot Street revealed a range of archaeology from Roman to Post-medieval (a row of Georgian houses and Victorian buildings), these are reflections of Guy’s Roman highlights of the dig.

Prescot Street is just east of the City of London in an area well known for its Roman roads and cemeteries. This dig covers one of the largest unexcavated areas left of the ‘East London Roman cemetery’, this extensive cemetery lined the Roman road that led north-eastwards from the city. Previous archaeological evaluations and excavations in the area have revealed a substantial number of burials dating to the 1st – 4th centuries AD.

After a desk-top survey and site evaluation in 2006 revealed Roman and later archaeology, a full scale dig started in March 2008 with the site being divided into ‘zones’ to allow builders to work one zone while L-P excavated in others.

Much of the stratigraphy was gravel and brickearth which had been extensively quarried. Amongst the pitting and quarrying were many Roman burials both inhumations and cremations. Inhumation burials came in all positions and alignments, East-West, West-East, North-South, South-North, and also slight variations of axis within these alignments; there were wooden coffins, lead coffins, stone coffins and shrouds.

Some of the cremations came with a selection of rich burial goods. One example had cremated bone in an upturned urn, next to it a wooden chest with iron nails and fittings had been placed into a pit dug into gravel. Along its East and West sides, ceramic jars and flagons (one with a deliberate slit in its side resembling a money box) had been arranged. On top of two of these was the inverted cremation urn. Inside the chest was a further cremation, probably in a small wooden box with three glass vessels along one side. And, at its Eastern side, most spectacular of all, was a complete glass millefiore dish in red, white and blue. The dish is a very rare find and would have belonged to someone of high status.

Not far from the dish cremation a ‘cist’ burial was discovered. Ceramic tiles had been used to form the sides; these included a fragment of box flue tile showing that the material employed to construct the cist derived from demolition of a Roman baths. Furthermore, evidence shows that at a later date the burial pit containing the cist was partially reopened and enlarged. This was in order to accommodate the cremated remains of another individual, this time interred within a ceramic vessel which was sealed by placing a Roman tile on the vessel’s neck – the later insertion of a relative or loved one? The remarkable preservation of the structure, coupled with the fact that only two other un-urned remains in cists are known from the Eastern cemetery made this feature an exceptional find. Another rare discovery was that of a Roman building, somewhat truncated, but what survives is a decent chunk of a rammed gravel floor surrounded by 3 walls. Basically, this was a small building measuring 2m x 2m internally, with a nice gravel floor. The lack of rubble and plaster in the foundations suggests either very thorough robbing or a timber construction. There is no evidence for either a door or a roof although it could have had both. There was no evidence for a burial at the centre of the building, and so the building is probably best categorised as some kind of funerary building like a columbarium containing the remains of many cremated individuals, or perhaps an Altar Tomb which once contained the remains of a single individual in some kind of above ground structure (either urn or sarcophagus). It is also possible that the building served some other function within the cemetery. These buildings are still quite a rarity, with only 7 known from the Eastern Roman Cemetery, but are well documented around the Roman world, with fine intact examples from Rome and Pompeii, to name just two. Excavations have now finished but the post-excavation carries on with much work to be done. Running parallel with the dig (and ongoing) has been the associated and rather fabulous website, managed by Lorna Richardson, where diaries, blogs, videos have been posted, together with much information on the digital recording of the excavation, maps and history of  Prescot Street and surrounding area:  http://www.lparchaeology.com/prescot/

Well worth a look.

 

 

Day 2 of the HADAS long weekend

 

Beverley Minster, Beverley, and St. Mary’s Church in Beverley   by Sheila Woodward

Beverley Minster

The second morning of our tour was spent in Beverley, now an attractive but modest market town, though in the 14th century it was taxed as the 11th richest town in England. Its great glory was, and is, its Minster, a popular pilgrim centre throughout the Middle Ages and source of the town’s wealth. Now a mere parish church, the Minster has the dimensions and architectural magnificence of a cathedral, soaring above the town and dominating the surrounding landscape. The interior is no less impressive: a breath-catching combination of splendour and grace. It certainly deserves its 5 stars in Simon Jenkins’s “England’s Thousand Best Churches”.

Bishop John of York, later canonised as Saint John of Beverley, founded a monastery on the site in the 8th century. His tomb-slab has pride of place in the Minster’s nave and was famed for its healing miracles. Reputedly sacked by the Vikings and re-founded as a College of Canons by King Athelstan (924 to 939), the Minster and its shrine prospered until seriously damaged by fire in 1188, followed in 1213 by the collapse of the central tower. Rebuilding between 1220 and 1390 produced the present lovely church with its graceful flowing lines and delicate tracery. There have, of course, been later additions and alterations, and when the College of Canons was suppressed in 1548 and the Minster became a parish church, there was a loss of revenue and much neglect. A leaning pillar in the north transept bears witness to its near collapse in the 18th century, and major restoration was carried out in the 19th and 20th centuries, yet nothing has destroyed the essential harmony of the building.

There was no time to do justice to detail: the wealth of exquisite carving in wood and stone, the medieval stained glass preserved in the great east window, the Snetzler organ with its colourful pipes. The huge Norman font is impressive. The frith stool, used in the rite of the right of sanctuary, is probably 7th or 8th century and a rare survival. The Georgian statues of St. John and King Athelstan which flank the south door are delightful: St. John suitably episcopal, King Athelstan hilarious in garments seeming to range from Ancient Greek via Medieval and Tudor to fashionable 18th century shoes. As our excellent guide, the Minster’s Virger, commented, Athelstan would have been so surprised! We were surprised by the vast chair made especially for a 19th century cleric who weighed 37 stone – a trifle obese perhaps. There was more fun in the misericords, 68 of them, depicting domestic and farmyard scenes, and I was fascinated by the trompe l’oeil floor – surely it should now be banned on Health and Safety grounds as a hazard to the short-sighted!

There is some pleasing modern metal sculpture in the retro-choir and one could spend many happy hours chasing the seventy stone carvings of the musicians in the nave. Of all this splendour, my lasting memories will be of the majesty and beauty of the whole Minster, the intricacy and elegance of its tombs and screens, and the enchanting exuberance of those carved musicians. To quote Jenkins: “ They drip from capitals, cling to hood moulds, hide in corners, and stare down from eaves, as if waiting to come to life to fill this fine church with sound.”.

Beverley town and St. Mary’s Church

Amazingly Beverley has a second church, St. Mary’s, not quite as grand as the Minster, but of equal interest. Walking to it we could admire Beverley’s fine Georgian houses and its busy central square with its cheerful little blue-domed market cross. The church itself is impressive with its pinnacles and battlements. It was founded in 1120 and served the already prosperous merchant guilds of the town. Like its sister church it suffered from the collapse of its central tower (in 1520) which entailed much reconstruction and repair. There was further damage during the Civil War. In the 19th century, the Pugins (father and son), and Sir Gilbert Scott were involved in a large-scale restoration, the result of which we still see today.

The most striking features of the church include the nave’s wooden ceiling bosses (1520), one depicting St. John of Beverley and King Athelstan, and the famous “minstrels’ capital” on a nave pier. These 5 cheery, colourful and irreverent-looking musicians have been referred to as England’s first pop group. They are raffishly dressed and one of them wears the Alderman’s chain. A guild of minstrels met yearly in Beverley at Rogation-tide to elect a new Alderman. This may account for the capital.

The roof of the chancel consists of forty panels bearing brightly-painted representations of the Kings of England up to Henry VI, some of them legendary. At its last restoration in 1939, George VI was substituted for the legendary Lochrine! The splendid misericords beneath the chancel stalls are mainly 15th century. St Michael’s chapel off the north choir aisle is a superb example of English Gothic Architecture with its ribbed vaulted ceiling and curvilinear tracery of windows and screens. On the ogee arch to the sacristy is carved a rabbit with a pilgrim’s staff and scrip, believed to have been the inspiration for the White Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland”.

There was no time to visit the little museum in the old priest’s rooms, but Beverley had already provided enough treasures for one morning.

 

Skidby Windmill                                                                               David Bromley
 

Skidby Mill, Grade II listed, is the last working windmill in Yorkshire and is also home to the Museum of East Riding Rural Life, where visitors can explore the history of the farming landscape and its village communities.

Skidby is an ideal location for a windmill, sited as it is 170 feet above sea level on the edge of the Yorkshire Wold. The first reference to a mill in Skidby - probably a primitive wooden post mill - was in 1316. The Lord of the Manor, as was the custom of the time, would have provided the mill stones and timber and his tenant miller would have maintained the mill.

By the 1620s there were two windmills and a horse mill in the village, though not necessarily on this site. Not until 1764 is there a clear record of a mill on the present site, a post mill with two stones which is shown on the enclosure award map of 1769.

In 1821 this post mill was sold and removed to make way for the present mill tower, which at that time was 20 feet lower and designed to mill local English wheat. Milling continued until the 1870s when cheap Canadian wheat flooded the home market. This made English wheat uneconomic and as Canadian wheat is too hard to mill using stones, the mill was converted to provide the power for animal feedstuff production in the now adjoining buildings. The tower of the mill, which had been freestanding until then, had to be raised by 20 feet to allow the sails clearance for these buildings to be added, hence the unusual vertical section in the normally tapering tower. The tower was also coated in bitumen to waterproof it, giving it its distinctive appearance.

In 1837 the entire cap was dismantled and rebuilt along with the sails, fantail and sack hoist. The mill continued in use until 1946 when one sail was struck by lightening and destroyed. It was also discovered that some of the cap timbers were unsafe, but it was not until after the war in 1948 that repairs could be undertaken and the mill brought back into operation. In 1954 the wind power was stopped and the mill was converted to electricity. Although the tower was converted to a grain silo and the sack hoist was removed, the mill workings were luckily left intact. The mill ceased commercial operation in 1966 and was ‘sold’ to Beverley Borough Council for £1. In 1974 it was restored to full working order using wind power and producing flour milled from English wheat. At the same time the Museum of East Riding Rural Life was added. Following Central Government re-organisations, the mill is now owned by the East Riding of Yorkshire Council and managed as a museum by East Riding Rural Life.

Originally the mill had two pairs of French Burr mill stones and one pair of Derbyshire Grit stones. In the 1940s one pair of the French Burr stones was replaced with a pair of Composite stones. The remaining pair of French Burr stones, made in 1851, still produces fine-grade flour. The Derbyshire Grit stones are no longer driven and the Composite ones only run ‘light’ but do not grind flour.

The adjoining outbuildings house the museum, blacksmith's shop, warehouses, barns (now a welcoming tearoom) and lastly the pigsties where the various kinds of feed produced by the feed mill were tested.

Following plenty of time for a guided talk by the miller into the workings of the mill and a look around the museum and yard, we took advantage of the tea room and facilities and had a relaxing lunch break.  Then onwards to Hull to the museum quarter with its three fine museums – Hull Streetlife Museum, East Riding Archaeology Museum and Wilberforce House.

 

HULL Streetlife Museum                                                Andy Simpson 
 

These aeroplanes get everywhere. I was keen to revisit the former Museum of Transport at Kingston upon Hull, situated on the High Street, run by Hull City Council and now renamed and expertly revamped as the excellent ‘Streetlife Museum of Transport', displaying 200 years of transport history. Special dioramas in this free-to-enter museum recreate the sights (including wagging horses tails), sounds (including begging street urchins) and unpleasant smells of the horse-drawn past, with the first Stagecoach ride simulator I have ever seen! Obviously my main 'target' was the trams, but also displayed there is a full-sized replica of a Blackburn Lincock single engined biplane of the 1920s, Blackburn being a local manufacturer. There is a separate motor car gallery and carriage gallery, street scenes (nice toyshop shopfront!), even a railway siding with two railway wagons, level crossing and signal box. There is also the now obligatory hands-on interactive area for children. 

The transport museum was originally founded in 1925, following Hull's participation in the Wembley Exhibition. Within a few years, local families, individuals, the Science Museum and other bodies had helped to establish the core of a superb collection of horse and mechanical transport. Closed due to extensive wartime bomb damage, the museum reopened in a reconstructed building in 1957 and has since been rebuilt again. Original exhibits include a Sedan Chair of 1800 from Huntingdon, a highly decorated cart from Sicily and a wide variety of horse-drawn carriages, also motorcycles and motor cars dating back to 1898, even a couple of Steam Cars and an electric buggy, all of 1901. 

The Museum was the first in the country to publically display complete tramcars, with two examples rescued by private individuals and given display space by the transport museum. These magnificent specimens are a horse-drawn single deck example of c.1871, withdrawn from service on Ryde Pier, Isle of Wight, in 1935, and a personal favourite, the 1882 Kitson steam tram locomotive from Portstewart, Northern Ireland-identical to examples that ran in Birmingham and the Black Country. They were supplemented,when the Museum was rebuilt more recently, by an original Hull Corporation Tramways double deck electric tram on loan from the Tramway Museum at Crich. Derbyshire-Hull's trams finished in 1945 but some, including this one, saw further service in Leeds, permitting its rescue by enthusiasts in the mid 1950s. You can board the platform and have a go on the driver's 'handles'. Needless to say, I did just that. 

The Museum has a dockside location on the River Hull, close to its junction with the River Humber, permitting display of Hull's last deep-sea sidewinder trawler, the 1960s vintage 'Arctic Corsair' which now retired from cod fishing, can be viewed from the quayside and boarded by prior arrangement.

 

Other Museums in Hull’s Museum Quarter                                   by Don Cooper

In the same area, there is also the Hull & East Riding Archaeological Museum with its fine Roman mosaics, the 4th c BC Hasholme boat, a fine Iron Age sword and a Celtic World exhibition. Alternatively, you can visit the Wilberforce House Museum with its exhibitions exploring slavery, its abolition and its legacy. These museums are all clustered around a small grassy area full of statues but also with seats and benches, and places to picnic. The museum quarter of Hull is a feast for the archaeologist and historian! At 1700, the big red bus returned and we rounded-up everyone from the various museums and hostelries, and headed back to Bishop Burton College for a delightful tour of the gardens by the resident head gardener, followed by a pleasant evening meal, and so ended the second day of our trip.

 

Other Societies’ Events                                                                     by Eric Morgan

Thursday, 4th December at 6.30pm, LAMAS, Terrace Room, Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2. “Revisiting the Temple of Mithras & St Swithin’s House – new discoveries on old sites”  a talk by Sophie Jackson (MOLA), refreshments at 6.00pm

Thursday, 11th December at 7.30pm, Camden History Society, Burgh House, New End Square, NW3.  “Historic views of London from the collection of B. E. C. Howarth-Loomes, a talk by Dr. Ann Saunders (past president of HADAS). Please note there will be wine and mince pies from 7.00pm.

 

Thanks to this month’s contributors:

Eric Morgan, Bill Bass, Andy Simpson, Steve Brunning, David Bromley, Sheila Woodward, and Jim Nelhams.

 

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