HADAS DIARY - Forthcoming Lectures and Events in 2009


Lectures are held at Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley, and start promptly at 8 pm. Nearest tube station is Finchley Central. Non-members: £1. Coffee tea and biscuits available.


Tuesday 10th March, 2009 - The Royal Gunpowder Mills - Richard Thomas.  This lecture will take the form of a tour of the former Royal Gunpowder Factory at Waltham Abbey. We examine both the history of the site and the development of gunpowder and chemical explosives including nitro-glycerine, guncotton and cordite. We will also look at the canals and boats that formed the backbone of the transport system within the site.


Tuesday 14th April - An Album of Treasures - Ann Saunders, (HADAS member and past President)


Tuesday 12th May - The Guildhall Roman Amphitheatre - Lecture by Francis Grew (Museum of London)


Another date for your diary

This year the HADAS Long Weekend will take place between Wednesday 26th August and Sunday 30th August. Staying in the centre of Hereford we will explore the cathedrals and churches, castles, museums, industrial history and archaeology and much besides of the area. See the attached booking form for more details.

An Exploration of the Western Desert of Egypt                                      

Report on the January Lecture - Denis Ross


On 13 January 2009, Nicole Douek gave a well-attended talk on An exploration of the Western Desert of Egypt. Nicole is an Egyptologist by background and well known through her activities at the British Museum and elsewhere in the UK and also abroad. She was at one time an active member of HADAS and we had at last succeeded in getting her along to talk to us.


As indicated by the title of her talk, it was not concerned with the popular areas of the Nile but on that part of the Sahara which comprises the Western Desert of Egypt and to which Nicole has become a frequent visitor and tour leader. It consists of a vast area of sand -the Great Sand Sea- which is the driest desert in the world and in which whole armies have been known to disappear!


Supported by excellent slides, she took us on a tour of the area explaining the various geological formations of sand, granite, sandstone and limestone. Areas which were once inaccessible have become accessible over the years with appropriate vehicles - she produced a slide of early travellers with their Ford Model T vehicles - now superseded by Toyotas.


Nicole directed attention to the five major oases of the Western Desert - Siwa, Bahariyah, Farafra, Dakhla and Kharga - where water is available and which provide man with food, shelter and a very distinctive and individual desert culture.


She explained that the advancing and retreating of the sea over millions of years had made the area very

productive of finds such as fossils, nummulites (single cell organisms that lived some 65 million years ago), coral, oyster shells, and ammonites. There are also extraterritorial rocks - fulgurites - remains of meteorites, and pebbles of Libyan glass. She had thoughtfully brought for our inspection an impressive collection of some of these items.

She told us about and showed slides of the Djara cave - first discovered in 1875 and rediscovered some 120 years later - which is full of stalactites and stalagmites and also contains ancient wall paintings of animals.

Nicole showed us impressive slides of the various kinds of sand dunes and of vehicles manoeuvring over them and explained the background of the production of dunes.


She showed slides of ancient tracks telling of endless caravans. She also told us about earlier explorers ranging from Herodotus to Bagnold.


Obviously, in this short note it is impossible to cover the breadth and fascination of her talk. Nicole is an enthusiast and enthusiasts are able to enthuse other people. It was obvious that she had that effect on her audi-

ence. After she finished, I heard various people enquiring about her forthcoming tours! We must ask her back!

JILL BRAITHWAITE - a brief note.

Members will be sorry to hear of the recent death of Jill Braithwaite, one-time member of HADAS. Her husband, Rodric Braithwaite, in his Guardian obituary article,  says “My wife, Jill Braithwaite, who has died aged 71, had four careers: she was a promising diplomat, a wife and mother, a meticulous scholar, and a supporter of social reform in Russia.”


Day 5 (the final day)  - THE HUMBER BRIDGE                                                                    by Jo Nelhams                                      


Our final day dawned, and we were greeted with a rather thick Yorkshire mist. We climbed aboard our red bus for the last time at Bishop Burton, with plans to view the Humber Bridge. Unfortunately the visibility was not as clear as we had hoped, but undaunted we vacated the bus at the bridge and had time to peruse the shop. We had crossed the bridge a few times in sunlight on our travels already, so we had had opportunities to admire this beautifully constructed man-made masterpiece.


The first design for a bridge over the Humber was in the 1930s by Sir Douglas Fox and Partners for a multi-span road bridge. In 1935 the first suggestion for a suspension bridge was mooted. The company was now known as Freeman Fox and Partners. In 1955 new designs were prepared and in 1959 The Humber Bridge Act was passed. Test drillings were made at Barton in 1967.


It was another 4 years before the Government announced that the bridge should go ahead.  Freeman, Fox and Partners at once began to formulate detailed designs. In 1972, the construction of the Humber Bridge commenced at Barton-upon-Humber. This massive engineering project would be in operation for another 8 years.


One wonders what some of the great engineers of the past would think of how technology has progressed. The main span between the towers on the Humber Bridge stretches to 1,410 metres. The very famous Clifton Suspension Bridge, which was designed by Brunel has a central span of 214 metres and was erected at a time when steel was practically unknown. This iron bridge is almost exactly as it was completed in 1864. When reading of the construction of the Humber Bridge, the word that recurs frequently is steel. The coffer dams

were constructed of sheet piles of steel. The caissons had steel sections added. The concrete was reinforced with steel. 16,500 tonnes of steel was used as well as 480,000 tonnes of concrete.


The first suspension bridges were rope bridges, where the support was from above rather than below. The original conception of a suspension bridge is still the same, but the advancement in materials and mechanically-driven aids has contributed greatly to the magnificent extensions of the suspension bridge technology that we see today.


The Clifton Suspension Bridge is over 150 years old, when the fastest road transport envisaged was a horse and carriage.


The Humber Bridge was formally opened in July 1981. What will be crossing it in 2131? Will it celebrate its 150 years? We will never know.


We returned to our big red bus and headed south for Andys treat. Can you believe it, an air museum he had not yet explored?


NEWARK AIR MUSEUM                                                                                                             by  Andy Simpson


Having avoided the rain all weekend, we finally met it on our way home on Sunday, at the final place we visited - an aircraft museum I have never previously visited and had long wished to get to. Upon arrival at the site on the edge of a former wartime bomber airfeld, now subsumed into Winthorpe Showground on the outskirts of Newark, but with traces of dispersals and runway still visible, we were split into two groups and braved the drizzle to be taken round the site by enthusiastic members of this volunteer-run museum. 


This is one of the UK's largest volunteer-managed aviation museums, with some 69 aircraft and cockpit sections, of which a number are recognised as being of significant historic value by the National Aviation Heritage Committee, and many are now housed in two large display halls, with just the largest airframes still exposed to the outside elements. Separate buildings house the engine and artefact collections, and there is a very well stocked shop which was surprised by the number of books on the wartime defences of London that it suddenly sold to a certain coach party!


Many of the group parted with their 50ps for a chance to explore inside the Avro Shackleton maritime reconnaissance aircraft, a direct descendant of the immortal wartime Lancaster Bomber via its later derivative, the Avro Lincoln. None of the aircraft are airworthy, but several are undergoing static restoration to a very high standard, and the iconic Avro Vulcan V-Bomber still has its electric and hydraulic systems operable to enable volunteers to work its ground power unit, flaps, bomb doors and landing lights - quite an achievement for a large and complex aircraft which has now stood outside since 1983. 


The Museum has its origins in 1965 when a derelict 1930s Westland Wallace biplane light bomber was rescued from a hedgerow near Cranwell, Lincs. After changing hands this aircraft is now restored and on display at the RAF Museum, Hendon. The Museum was established at its present site in 1967. Other notable aircraft displayed include an Avro Anson transport, Handley Page Hastings transport of Berlin Airlift fame, de Havilland Tiger Moth trainer, several English Electric Canberra bomber aircraft and nose sections, Fleet Air Arm aircraft such as the Gannet AEW aircraft, Sea Hawk fighter-bomber and Buccaneer jet bomber, a couple of Cold-War era Russian jet fighters, and classic 1950s RAF jet fighters such as the Gloster Javelin and Meteor and Supermarine Swift. Equally fascinating are relics such as the section of Avro Lancaster fuselage rescued from an afterlife as a garden shed and crash site/aviation archaeology items such as a very rare section of Handley Page Halifax bomber fuselage. There is also a display on Guy Gibson - a brave man, but not quite as portrayed by Richard Todd in the 1950s Dambusters film.


A fascinating end to a splendid weekend. Thanks again to Don, Liz, Jim and Jo.


HENDON SCHOOL EXCAVATION - 16th - 27th June 2008                                                      Don Cooper

(Site code HDS06)                  


A preliminary report of the above excavation was published in the August Newsletter (No. 449). Since that time, both the pottery sherds found and the animal bone have been analysed, and they provide a further insight into what was happening in Hendon through the ages.


The pottery report


The 6m x 2m trench yielded 258 sherds of pottery. There were six sherds of Roman pot, including a sherd of Roman mortarium or mortar bowl used for grinding seeds and herbs. This is a unique find from Hendon. Then there were twelve sherds of 11th to 12th century pots, mostly cooking pots similar to those found at Church Terrace and The Burroughs. There were also 57 sherds of 15th and 16th century pots, again similar to what is found on other digs in the Borough. Note that there are no sherds from the 13th and 14th centuries, a phenomenon we have seen elsewhere.  Perhaps the Black Death in 1349 had had a devastating effect on the population of this part of Hendon. The remaining sherds cover a period from about 1600 right up to the turn of the 20th century. Jugs, jars, dishes, bowls, drinking cups and mugs as well as cooking pots are all represented.

The junction of Bell Lane and Brent Street is considered to be the site of one of the three ancient hamlets in Hendon, and the finding of sherds from the 10th to 12th century adds further evidence to that proposition. The excavation site which is in the grounds of John Nordens Hendon House did not yield any sherds of pottery that could be directly associated with the house, although there is no reason to suppose that basic wares, such as are represented by the sherds found, were not used by his household.


The sherds have all been marked, bagged, boxed and labelled and are currently in HADAS store at Avenue House where they can be inspected. It is expected that they will be presented to Hendon School later this year. Our thanks are due to Jacqui Pearce of MOLA for identifying the form and fabric of the sherds found.


The animal bone report


A total of 54 animal and bird bones were recovered from the excavation. Overall, the bones recovered from most contexts were in good condition with some from the lowest contexts a bit more fragmentary than those from the upper contexts. The pH tests indicated that the acidity of the soil was more or less the same for each context.


The bones are, on the whole, from animals you would expect to find in a domestic assemblage, such as food bones from pigs, beef cattle, and sheep and indicate that the excavation area was used to dispose of domestic waste. The only slightly surprising bone is that of a wild bird possibly a lapwing. However, there are a number of ways it could have entered a domestic refuse area. The lapwing bone is interesting from the perspective that, if you assume it is a local bird, it hints that there was open field land around, as this is their natural environment.


Many of the animal bones are un-fused indicating that joints of young animals were being consumed. There were also typical cut marks reflecting that domestic consumption.


Our thanks are due to Emily Eshe who analysed the bones and the above paragraph is a summary of her report Many, many thanks Emily.



Membership Renewal                                                    Stephen Brunning, Membership Secretary


The HADAS membership year runs from 1st April, so all memberships are now due for renewal apart from those new members who have joined since January.  I have enclosed a renewal form for those people who pay by cheque, and would ask that you return the form to me along with your cheque for the appropriate amount. 

A Standing Order form was enclosed with the January newsletter.  If any member intends to pay the new rates by this method and has not yet submitted an updated mandate to their bank, I would be grateful if they could do so as soon as possible. 

Anyone who thinks they should have had a membership renewal form or Standing Order form but hasn't received one, anyone who wants to make their membership under Gift Aid and hasn't already done so, or anyone who has any question at all about their membership: please just ask me! (Contact details on back page.)  Many thanks.


EXHIBITION - CHILDREN’S  WRITERS  AND  ARTISTS                                                     


Church Farmhouse Museum, the London Borough of Barnet’s museum at Hendon, intends to mount an exhibition in Summer 2009 on children’s writers and artists with Barnet Borough connexions.


The exhibition will concentrate on Oliver Postgate (Bagpuss, Noggin the Nog, The Clangers; born and grew up in Hendon and Finchley); Anthony Buckeridge (the Jennings stories; born in Mill Hill); Frank Horrabin (the Japhet & Happy cartoon series for the News Chronicle; lived in Hendon); and Sydney and Betty Hulme Beaman (the Toytown stories on radio and TV; lived in Golders Green).


Others featured will include Spike Milligan, Glen Petrie, Judy Hindley, Raymond Sheppard, Betty Ladler and Lewis Carroll (the Lewis Carroll Society was founded in Hendon in 1969 by the late Ellis Hillman, a former Mayor of Barnet Borough).


The Museum would be interested to hear from anyone with material on the above which they might be prepared to lend for the exhibition, or from those with information about other published children’s writers and artists with local connexions whom they think should be included. Please contact Church Farmhouse Museum by telephone on 0208 359 3942, or by email at



EMAIL DISCUSSION FORUM                                                                  Stephen Brunning


HADAS have been working hard at improving our online presence and now have a new discussion group hosted by Google Groups.  As well as our new group, we are relaunching our website at  and have a new home for the newsletter archive at


We have decided to restrict the new group to HADAS members only.  People can request an invitation to join, but have to be approved by the group owners.


Please log onto and click on “apply for group member- ship” on the right hand side.  If you are not already a member of google groups you will need to create an account first (from this page).


Once a person has joined, an email sent to is received by everyone on the list without disclosing each individual’s email address. However, unlike the old discussion list, your membership can be edited to show “no email”. This means you will have to log onto the group to read the posts.  Some people prefer this as it saves emails clogging up their in-box.  I am a member of 5 online discussion groups!!


Latest news, events and information about the society will be posted to the group, as well as more general discussion between members of the society. It is particularly useful in providing last minute event information that was too late for publication in the current newsletter, and will have passed by the time the next edition is printed. 


It is very easy to unsubscribe from the discussion group. Click on “Edit my membership” down the right-hand side of the page, and you will see the option to do this.


I would like to reassure subscribers that the information is secure, as only the group owners (Don Cooper & I) have access to the email addresses of the people on it.


OTHER  SOCIETIES  LECTURES  AND  EVENTS                                         Eric Morgan


Thursday 5th March, 11am-12 noon, Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2 Archaeology of Spitalfields with Francis Grew. Free, but book on 020 7001 9844.


Friday 6th March, 3-4pm, Museum of London  as above. Spitalfields Woman, with Jenny Hall. Free, but book in advance. (Remains of woman found in Roman cemetery.)


Monday 9th March, 3 pm. Barnet & District Local History Society, Church House, Wood St., Barnet (opposite Museum) “Bizarre Barnet. Gerard Roots (HADAS).


Tuesday 10th March, 3.15-4pm, Museum of London, as above. Spitalfields - Romans to 19th C, with Chris Thomas. Free, but book. (Discoveries made 1991-2003).


Wednesday 11th March, 8 pm, Mill Hill Historical Society, Wilberforce Centre, St Pauls Church, The Ridgeway, NW7.Wren and his Contemporaries.  Jo and John Brewster.


Thursday 12th March, 6.30 pm. L.A.M.A.S., Terrace Room, Museum of London, as above. Forging the Railway - Archaeologists Investigate Stations, Viaducts, Railway Works. Talk by Andrew Westman (MOLA). Refreshments 6pm.


Saturday 14th March, 11am-5.30pm. L.A.M.A.S. Archaeology Conference, Wilberforce Lecture Theatre, Museum in Docklands, West India Quay, E14. Morning Session 11am-1pm: Recent Work; Afternoon Session, 2.15pm-5.30pm: London Icons. Cost including afternoon tea (3.45-4.30pm) for HADAS, £8. Ticket applications to Jon Cotton, Early Dept., Museum of London, 150 London Wall, London EC2Y 5HN. [] or on line via Paypal at []. Please make cheques out to L.A.M.A.S. and enclose an SAE.


Thursday 26th March, 2.30 pm. Finchley Society, Drawing Room, Avenue House, East End Rd, N3. John Betjeman - an Enthusiastic View. Terence Atkins. Non-members £2.