newsletter-461-August-2009

INVITATION

SUNDAY 2ND AUGUST 2009 2pm-5pm

ROMAN COOKERY DEMONSTRATION

&

EXHIBITION OF POTTERY FROM SULLONIACAE (Brockley Hill)

At AVENUE HOUSE, EAST END ROAD, FINCHLEY N3

 

'Claudia Severa to her Lepidina greetings. On 11 September, sister, for the day of the celebration of my birthday, I give you a warm invitation to make sure that you come to us, to make the day more enjoyable for me by your arrival, if you are present (?). Give my greetings to your Cerialis. My Aelius and my little son send him (?) their greetings. I shall expect you sister. Farewell, sister my dearest soul, as I hope to prosper, and hail.

Oops!  Sorry!  That’s invitation c. AD 100.  What I meant to write was invitation AD 2009:

 

‘We are holding an exhibition of finds from the Brockley Hill (Sulloniacae) digs carried out between 1937 and 1954 which we are currently cataloguing, and an open air demonstration of Roman cookery by Rose Baillie on Sunday 2nd August 2009 from 2pm to 5pm.  Refreshments will be served.  Everybody is welcome and we look forward to seeing you all.’

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HADAS long weekend in Hereford – 26th to 30th August 2009

 

The arrangements for our trip to Hereford have nearly been finalised – apart from the weather.  The balance of the cost (£290 per person sharing a room or £330 for those in single rooms) is due by the 18th August 2009.  Please send your payments to Jim Nelhams (address at back of newsletter).  A little booklet of the trip and any instructions will be sent you as soon as it is possible.

 

A few places may still be available.  We normally operate a waiting list as well because so often someone has to drop out, so please contact Jim if you are interested but have not yet signed up.

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Hampstead Ponds                                                                                           Peter Pickering

 

The Hampstead Heath conservators are planning to widen a spring to make a small pond on a part of the Heath which is near a tumulus (known as Boudicca's tomb!!) on Parliament Hill midway between the Hampstead and the Highgate Ponds. A worked flint has been found nearby by our member Mike Hammerson, and the construction of the pond provides an opportunity to look for any other evidence of ancient occupation, and perhaps study the palaeobotany of the Heath. Underneath the turf there is some 30cm of soil on top of clay; the soil would be removed and the clay used as the foundation for the pond; the area that would be affected would be at most 30 square metres, and two or three trenches dug between the removal of the turf and the actual construction of the pond could provide valuable archaeological evidence.  The work is planned for September/October. HADAS will not be undertaking the archaeological work involved, but encourages any members who would be interested in this worthwhile project to get in touch with Michael Hammerson (4 Bramalea Close Highgate London N6 4QD; michael@midsummer.demon.co.uk) or Jonathan Meares (Heathfield House, 432 Archway Road, London, N6 4JH; jonathan.meaves@cityoflondon.gov.uk.

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New member?

 

The following message has been forwarded by Andrew Coulson:

“We are proud to announce the birth of Jacob Thomas Allen born at 11.27pm Sunday 5th July 2009, weight 8lbs 7oz.  All very tired and happy.  Christian and Sam.” 

 

Congratulations to you all.

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Preliminary report on the Excavation at Hendon School from June 29th to July 10th 2009 -  

                                                                                                                                    Sarah Dhanjal

Site code HDS06 Grid references: TQ23610, 89011

 

Introduction

The last two weeks have seen the fourth season of excavations at Hendon School.  Don Cooper stated the aims and objectives of the Hendon School excavations in his report in the August 2008 HADAS newsletter.  The structure of this report is based on his previous reports to aid anyone who may wish to study them.

 

To recap, the excavations were embarked upon after a former UCL Institute of Archaeology student, then working at Hendon School, enquired about the possibility of an archaeology project there.  Working with HADAS, we looked into the possibility of archaeological interest in the area and found that it was the reputed site of John Norden’s Hendon House.  Further information on the historical findings on Hendon House so far can be found at: http://www.hadas.org.uk/projects/hendon-house

 

The excavation was set up to give practical experience of archaeology to groups of pupils from the school and to further our knowledge of Hendon House.  Pupils were given classroom talks by Sarah Dhanjal and Don Cooper well before the dig weeks.

 

Summary

The excavation this year, as with previous years, was completely different to our other experiences at the school.  We were sad to find that our chairman and dig director, Don Cooper, would be unable to join us due to illness.  He was missed.  In addition, our visits to Sharon’s Bakery on Brent Street were not as frequent.

The excavation, from the point of view of introducing the pupils to archaeological excavation and some of the other activities associated with it onsite, was a success.  However, there are plans afoot within the dig team to make our fifth season more successful by adding a stronger educational structure to the activities.  We had some problems with the weather, the first week was during the recent heat wave and the trench was baked solid at times.  During the second week we were hampered by thunderstorms!  With regard to the research questions that this project addresses, we have found further material evidence of activity on the Hendon House site from John Norden’s time until the demolition of the house in 1909.  Further examination of the finds from the past three seasons, together with this years finds will suggest whether the gaps in the historical evidence are supported or refuted by the archaeology.

 

Detail 

As with previous years, our choice of dig site was restricted by the location of the running track on the field.  We were particularly interested by a long low mound at the westernmost edge of the field.  We thought that it was likely to be related to the levelling of the playing field, or the construction of an access path for building works within the school.  As such it was likely to contain some interesting artefacts.  After a resistivity survey of the area, a 7m x 1.5m trench was established on an east-west alignment across the feature.

 

Excavating started about 0900 – 0930 and the first group of pupils arrived at 10.15 for a one and a three quarter hour session, then with a break for lunch, the second group arrived at 13.30 and finished at 15.15.  Given the changeable weather the end of the day was decided by a consensus from the dig team. 

 

We worked with pupils who had been chosen by their teachers to join the project and with those who asked our contact teacher, Jill Hickman, if they could be involved.  On one morning we were visited by HARP, the Hendon School autism unit.  We also had a visit from the local MP, Andrew Dismore, who showed great interest in our work and promised to try and visit us again soon.

 

The pupil sessions started with a short health and safety presentation.  They were instructed in excavation techniques and asked to trowel in the trench supervised by HADAS and UCL archaeologists.  The pupils were also involved in finds washing and sorting. Other activities included surveying using a dumpy level ably instructed by Jim Nelhams and metal detecting with Andrew Coulson.  Over the two weeks each of the pupils had the opportunity to take part in at least two sessions.

 

What did we find?

We excavated the first c.35cm as one context.  This was a very mixed deposit which included small, not easily definable patches of loamy soil mixed with lumps of clay.  The clay lumps were thick and hard to trowel (especially when baked!) and are likely to be redeposited from other areas of the school site.  In the side of the trench there was the suggestion of successive dumping of soil, but it was not distinct enough to separate out into contexts.  In this context we found a range of artefacts including school related finds: a coke can, two marbles, a coke bottle (complete with screw top and a little coke still inside) and half a protractor.  Interestingly there was not the usual spread of school detritus in this context.  Going further into the school’s history, there were flowerpots related to the use of the playing field as allotments in WW2.  Also within this context, related to prior usage of the site, we found one piece of 14th century pottery, several pieces of 16th century pottery, two pieces of 16th century tile and proportionately more pieces of 17th century and later pottery.  Unique to this trench was a high proportion of bad quality Victorian land drain, possibly suggesting that a drain was disturbed in the works that resulted in the construction of the feature we were excavating.  The Victorian period was particularly well represented in our trench, with a farthing from the reign of Victoria, some interesting pieces of blue and white pottery and two pieces of stamped pipe stem.  One read HARRI- on one side and –ITION on the other.  The second read –ISSON HIGHG– and –IVAL EXHI–.  Research by HADAS members suggests that the pipe stems were from pipes produced for the Festival Exhibition in the 1860s.

 

Given the adverse weather conditions, we were not able to excavate the whole trench down to the natural clay level.  A 75 cm sondage was excavated in order to see what the archaeology would reveal.  We found that the redeposited loam and clay layer was on top of a fine loamy soil, which was distinctly sterile and devoid of finds, possibly indicating a previous turf layer.  Below this lay a loamy clay layer from which there were a few finds, a clay and river rolled pebble layer and then the natural London clay.

 

Contribution to research questions

The research questions posed by the project design brief can be answered as follows:

a. Is there any residual evidence of prehistoric activity? There was no evidence of prehistoric activity.

b. Considering the proximity to various Roman roads, is there evidence of Roman activity? This year we found no evidence of Roman activity.

c. Excavations in the area have uncovered considerable Anglo-Saxon material, is there any evidence of similar remains here?  We found no evidence of Anglo-Saxon activity.

d. Is there any evidence of activity in the area between its mention in Domesday and the construction of the house?  Of the pottery that has been dated thus far, the earliest sherd we found was a heavily abraded piece of 14th century pot.  It is not diagnostic, so we cannot link it to a particular form of pot and being a lone piece, does not constitute robust evidence of activity earlier than that of Norden’s Hendon House.

e. What evidence remains for the different phases of rebuilding of the house up to the demolition in 1909?  We found the ‘usual’ spread of building material including bricks, mortar and roof tiles.  Particularly nice finds, possibly related to Norden’s Hendon House, include 2 pieces of green glazed tile, probably 16th century and some 16th century pottery.  From the 16th century onwards there is a small amount of pottery and in the later periods, clay pipe.

 

Results

Every year we learn more about the Hendon House site, through the hard work of HADAS members who research the history and add to the oral history of the site.  The archaeological excavations add another dimension by adding to the material evidence of the activity on the site through time.  In addition it enables us to educate the school about the unique history of their site.  We do this by working with specific groups of pupils, but also by talking to interested pupils and staff who are not involved in the project.  We are also learning about how to work in the school environment.  We hope that the fifth season at Hendon School will allow us to put our learning into practice.

 

Acknowledgements

 Thanks to Jill Hickman, our contact at Hendon School who makes the excavations at the site possible.  Thank you to my fellow UCL students Gabe Moshenska, Hannah Page, Sarah Doherty, Emily Esche, Nicola Kalimeris, Naomi Hollis and Matt Caro.  Thank you to HADAS members Jim Nelhams, Angela Holmes, Vicki Baldwin and Andrew Coulson for sharing your interest, enthusiasm and experience and of course, your time.  In addition, thanks to all of the pupils who took part, especially Emma Densham, who was doing her year 11 work experience with us. Thanks also to Jacqui Pearce for examining the pot sherds.  Finally, thanks must go to Don Cooper, whose hard work and support makes these projects possible.

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The following is a contribution from ‘M’, one of the pupils taking part in the dig:

 

“I thought the archaeology dig was great because I learnt so much more than what I used to know.  We learnt about what equipment to use, to measure how deep we dug and how far.  We also learnt about the history about a few objects as well.

 

Overall the dig was amazing and the archaeology team were really nice as well.”

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And an article from The Press concerning the Church Farm dig:

 

The Press www.northlondon-today.co.uk  Thursday, July 16, 2009

 

Students dig in to find a little piece of history

 

by Lucy Purdy

CHILDREN saw history come alive this week as they took part in an archaeological dig in the grounds of the Church Farmhouse Museum in Hendon.

Pupils from St Mary’s CE School in Downage and St Mary’s and St John’s JMI School in Prothero Gardens, Hendon, joined archaeologists from University College London and Hendon And District Archaeological Society to investigate a Saxon ditch in the grounds of the house.  It was built in Greyhound Hill in about 1660, opened as a local museum in 1955 and is one of the oldest surviving houses in the borough.

 

Sarah Dhanjal, a PhD student at UCL and member of HADAS, said the children relished the chance to take part in some excavations. 

 

She said: “We talk to them about the history of the area and then get them in the trench and have a go themselves.

 

“They really enjoy the chance to do something physical and hopefully, for some of them, it will spark an interest in archaeology and history to go on to study the subject at university or just as a hobby.

 

“When you are stuck in a classroom, history doesn’t always make much sense.  If you actually excavate something and learn that it’s 200 years old and you’re the first person to hold it since

it went in the ground – that’s really exciting!”

 

HADAS has held several digs in the grounds of the museum in the past, uncovering a Saxon ditch which is thought to be related to the church.  They are also on the hunt for a well which can be seen in old pictures of the area but has yet to be unearthed.

 

Miss Dhanjal added: “It’s really important to do this kind of work to show people what we do. Archaeology is not something a lot of people know about and the children enjoy it a lot.”

 

HADAS Lecture - May 2009: London’s Roman Amphitheatre - Francis Grew 

                                                                                                            report by Andy Simpson

 

Francis is Curator of Archaeology at the Museum of London, and has led many tours of the preserved remains of the London amphitheatre which he expertly described in his talk to HADAS, setting it in the context of Roman London.  The discovery captured the public imagination with its links to Gladiators.

 

The earliest hints of a possible amphitheatre in London/Londinium came, it was thought, with the discovery in the nineteenth century of a tombstone with gladiator sculpture showing a Retiarius (net carrier).  This is one of the best depictions of this type of gladiator from the Roman Empire.  It has a Greek inscription, dedicated by a woman to her husband Martialis, and was found on Tottenham Court Road.  Sadly, the sculpture is of marble from Asia Minor and was probably imported into England in the sixteenth or seventeenth century as part of a private collection held by Thomas Howard, Earl of Arundel who had a house on the nearby Strand. In itself this is an interesting survival of such early collecting.

 

Antiquarians and the public have long been fascinated by Gladiators, and there was for many years a search for the presumed London amphitheatre.  A further ‘Red Herring’ was the discovery of a very small ‘Gladiator’s Trident’ – possibly an eel spear, found in Southwark in the nineteenth century.  Interest increased with the excavation of blitzed sites post WW2, with one suggested location being on the west bank of the Fleet River for topographical reasons.  A key related discovery in 1987 by the late Dr Alan Vince was that of the long-sought Tudor Rose Theatre on the South Bank, with its interesting history, now displayed on site with conserved remains, with implications for conservation techniques.  At one time it was thought the complex of Tudor playhouses/bearpits etc on the South Bank might have been a direct descendant of a Roman entertainments complex on the same site, but there is no evidence of this.

 

The Guildhall amphitheatre was found in 1988 as short stretches of wall found in four trial trenches dug before construction of a new Guildhall Art Gallery to replace that destroyed by enemy action in 1941.   It had been expected to find remains of a medieval chapel attached to the Guildhall, and these remains were indeed located.  The site is close to the Walbrook and outside the area of earliest Roman settlement, being just outside the Cripplegate Fort which housed the Governor of Britain’s Legionary bodyguard, leaving the question of if it was for military or civil use, although its relatively simple construction outlined below suggests it may have been for civilian use, perhaps including religious activities, animal fighting and the public execution of criminals.

 

What was found was a curving Roman wall laid on tile, and it was not immediately recognised as an amphitheatre.  Other possibilities were a bath house or temple.  A piece of the northern arena wall had first been noted in 1951 but its significance not noted at the time, and a dig nearby in 1985 had noted a curved wall, forming an arc with the newly discovered remains.  Part of the site – the Guildhall Yard – had been open space since medieval times, bounded by the extant 15th-century Guildhall built 1411-1430 and Church of St Lawrence Jewry.  The site was dug from 1992 to 1997, funded by the Corporation of London.  About half of the courtyard (and actual arena) was excavated through area excavation, revealing a curving wall and entrance flanked by a chamber/room with two doorways either side; the rest hopefully survives, unexcavated, under the guildhall yard and surrounding buildings.  Little of the structure remained above original ground level having been well robbed, but extensive foundations survived. Rooms either side of the entrance may have been to coral animals prior to driving them into the amphitheatre for slaughter.

 

The arena wall was of Kentish Ragstone and flat tile, and originally stood some 2m high. Post pits found are interpreted as being from a first phase timber-built amphitheatre erected c.AD70-74, replaced by a larger masonry phase post c. AD 120.  The masonry phase had an arena roughly 57m X 45m with a 21m wide seating bank heaped up with spoil dug out from creating the arena (Giving a capacity of 7-10,000 people, bigger than the Caerleon Amphitheatre and comparable in size to those at Cirencester and Chester, compared to the 6,000 capacity of the present day Albert Hall), with entrances at the east and west ends and to the south.  The eastern one had a cobbled surface and surviving wooden threshold beam.  A magistrates viewing box probably stood at the north end. There was little evidence for a back wall, showing how simple the construction was, with no evidence for supporting buttresses of roofing over of the entrance passages.  Caerleon and Chester, being military amphitheatres, had buttresses and a back wall, most such structures being concentrated in southern England.  There was evidence in one side chamber of slots in a stone threshold suggesting a vertically sliding wooden gate to the amphitheatre, and thanks to waterlogged conditions, well preserved wooden channels and drains which were linked to an outside system that drained into the nearby Walbrook Valley.  The site was always wet and drainage was required to clear blood etc from the arena.  Markings on surviving timberwork is still undeciphered, and may be control marks by carpenters or timber merchants, with good survival of tree rings for dating.

 

The drains and timber-lined settling tank were built entirely of green oak dated AD74, close to the presumed original construction date.  From the timber phase, evidence was found of base plates and uprights with a timber bank supporting the seating, the timberwork being very complex, with drains around the arena wall.  There were relatively few finds, suggesting the arena had been kept clean, although the drains yielded some pottery including complete vessels dating the second masonry phase, including Black Burnished Ware.  Notable finds included a gold ear ring and some 17 fragments of Samian pottery with gladiator friezes, many of them preserving a complete scene, suggesting children or others were trading or collecting these sherds as souvenirs.  Some fragments of painted wall plaster from the arena wall were found, plus marble inlays and mouldings and a coping stone, possibly from the arena wall, in late deposits.

 

There was also a lead curse, inscribed ‘I give to the goddess Diana my headdress/band less one third.  If anyone has done this, slave or free, I give him to the goddess, and through me let him be unable to live’.  Diana of the hunt was an important patron goddess to gladiators and those involved in wild beast hunts, and this curse may be from someone who worked at the amphitheatre itself.

 

The discovery and designation as a scheduled ancient monument led to conservation issues (with advice from English Heritage) and a major engineering task to protect and display the remains in a special chamber at the level found, in a controlled environment allowing the remains to dry out slowly, avoiding damage to the Roman masonry, with the challenge of avoiding deep piles through the chamber.

 

Over 1000 timbers were recovered during the excavation, and many were given wax (polyethylene glycol - PEG) and freeze-drying treatment at York by the York Archaeological Trust labs, with another three-metre portion of plank-roofed main timber drain conserved and reinstalled by the Museum of London in February 2006.

Following a major rebuild c.AD250-270, the site seems to have gone into decline in the fourth century, involving dismantling and abandonment, with three burials dated to the 360s dug into the seating bank.

 

Being a potentially defensible site it housed Saxon buildings from the ninth century, and retained a thread of continuity as a public space. The first Guildhall was built close by in the twelfth century.

 

The site is now publically accessible, complete with conserved timber drains on show, and is highly recommended for a visit, which is inclusive in the modest charge to see the excellent Guildhall Art Gallery above, which opened in 1999, along with the Guildhall great hall and crypt, also open to the public.  The curve of the oval amphitheatre is marked out in the Guildhall yard in black paving stones. For more details, see: http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/Corporation/LGNL_Services/Leisure_and_culture/Museums_and_galleries/Guildhall_Art_Gallery/ampitheatre.htm

 

See also Nick Bateman’s Book Gladiators at the Guildhall: The Story of London's Roman Amphitheatre and Medieval Guildhall (Paperback)

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Roman Villas in Britain - A Retrospective Review                                       Peter Pickering

 

In June I went to one of the two days of a conference with this title. It was held in the British Museum and was organised by the Association for Roman Archaeology. It was designed to challenge the long expected overview made by Sir Ian Richmond in ‘The Roman Villa in Britain’ (1969). He stated that a villa was a farm and primarily an economic term, indicating a place designed as an agricultural establishment. 

 

The intention of the conference was to suggest alternative interpretations about the functions of villas. I did not, because of another engagement, manage to hear Roy Friendship-Taylor arguing that the Piddington Villa, the excavation of which HADAS visited a few years ago, was an imperial retreat, rather than a Romano-Celtic farm, nor the interpretation of Lullingstone as a pleasure house or hunting-lodge for the governor, later serving other functions, most of them religious; nor that of Great Witcombe as a magnificently proportioned rural shrine in honour of an as yet unknown water deity. 

 

But I did hear Whitley Grange near Wroxeter interpreted as a hunting lodge with good fishing used by the élite of that city, and doubts about the ‘farmyard’ at Bignor (at which villa some gold-leaf wall plaster was found - an opulence very rare in the whole Roman empire). The other talks I heard were somewhat less revisionist. John Shepherd described the work he has done on Gayton Thorpe, which was first excavated in the 1920s. A paper about two villas - Dinnington and Yarford - on the south-western margins was especially concerned with the end of Roman Britain, and how the last phase of Dinnington was concurrent with the occupation of South Cadbury. Sam Moorhead and Philippa Walton presented a scholarly analysis of coin finds  - apparently Britain has, compared with the rest of the empire, a large number of Constantinian coins, and the late silver ‘siliquae’. 

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What’s On                                                                                                      Eric Morgan

 

Sunday 2nd August, 3-5pm: Finchley Society, Avenue House, East End Road.  The Bothy Garden open day.  (HADAS will be at Avenue House this afternoon  - see first page of this newsletter.)

 

Tuesday 4th August, 2-3pm:  Harrow Museum, Headstone Manor, Pinner View, North Harrow: Southwark Cathedral.  Talk by John & Jo Brewster on its 1,000 year history.  Cost £3.

 

Tuesday 11th August, 8pm:  Amateur Geological Society, The Parlour, St. Margaret’s Church, Victoria Avenue, N3 (off Hendon Lane): Dolled Up Gemstones: talk by Douglas Garrod on their artificial treatment.

 

Sunday 16th August, 2-4pm:  The Battle of Barnet..  Guided walk.  Meet at the junction of Great North Road/Hadley Green Road. Led by Paul Baker.  Cost £7.

 

Tuesday 18th August, 2-3pm: Harrow Museum,  Headstone Manor, Pinner View, North Harrow: War & Medicine.  Talk by Kevin Brown on how war has dramatically impacted on the development of medicine.  Cost £3.

 

Tuesday 18th August, 6pm: Highgate Wood Information Hut,  off Archway Road, N6.  Historical Walk.

 

Friday 21st August, 7pm:  COLAS, St. Olave’s Parish Hall, Mark Lane, EC3: Algeria Before Islam.  Talk by Ian Jones.  Visitors £2.  Refreshments.

 

Saturday 22nd August & Sunday 23rd August, 12-6pm:  Friern Barnet Summer Show, Friary Park, Friern Barnet Lane, N12.  Friern Barnet & District Local History Society will have a stand there.  Also an Art Exhibition by Barnet Borough Arts Council whose stand has HADAS info, and many other stalls.

 

Sunday 23rd August, 2-4pm:   The Heart of High Barnet.  Guided historical walk through 1,000 years.  Meet outside Barnet College, Wood Street.  Led by Paul Baker.  Cost £7. 

 

Sunday 30th August, 2pm: A Meander Through Monken Hadley.  Meet outside The Spires, High Street, Barnet.  Historical walk through beautiful, unspoilt Georgian Hadley. Led by Paul Baker.  Cost £7.

 

Excavations at Copped Hall, Epping with WEAG, August 2008

From Monday 17th to Friday 21st August.  Continued excavation of an Elizabethan Great House and its Medieval predecessors.  Places still available on Field School (not for beginners) this week.  Full details from Mrs. Pauline Dalton,  Roseleigh, Epping Road, Epping, Essex CM16 5HW, tel. 01992813725, email: pmd2@ukonline.co.uk or visit www.coppedhalltrust.org.uk (HADAS have helped WEAG here with resistivity and surveying site). 

 

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