Newsletter-467-February-2010

HADAS EVENTS 2010

The winter lecture series is held, as ever, at Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley. Nearest tube Finchley Central. Lectures start promptly at 8pm, non-members £1, coffee/biscuits available for purchase.

 

Tues. 9th February    Lecture by William Cumber – The Trendles Project

The site at Marcham/Frilford is an Iron Age settlement which is overlain by a Romano-British temple complex.  Its is often referred to as just ‘Frilford’. Marcham/Frilford is located in the Vale of the White Horse (on the A338 to Wantage at what used to be The Noah’s Ark pub) not far from the sites excavated as the Hillforts of the Ridgeway Project. Together the two projects explore life in this area through the later prehistoric and Romano-British periods.

William Cumber was born into a long-standing Berkshire farming family, and graduated in agriculture from Reading University in 1970.  The M4 motorway destroyed the family farm at Theale (now Junction12!) and Manor Farm Marcham was bought to replace it.   William and his wife became interested in archaeology once they knew there was potentially interesting archaeology on the farm (in 1982), but nothing more happened until the Oxford University dig started in 2001.  Their focus is on the continuing occupation of a religious site through the Iron Age and Romano-British periods, and it is fair to say that they have found more than they expected - an intended three season dig enters its tenth season in 2010.

This talk complements the HADAS trip to Broughton Castle & Oxfordshire on Sunday 26th July 2009 when members were given a guided tour of this splendid site.

 

Tues. 9th March        Lecture by Erica Ferguson – The History of RAF Bentley Priory

…which was just up the road at Stanmore until it closed in May 2008. Your editor was part of the RAF Museum team which recovered many of its historic artefacts.

 

Tues. 13th April          Lecture by John Chapman – The GWR comes to the Thames Valley

More on God’s Wonderful Railway! –see Didcot shed visit report in this issue. John is also a military historian, and was part of the group with which your editor toured the WW1 Salonika (Northern Greek) battlefields in 2009.

 

Tues. 11th May            Lecture by John Johnson – Graeco-Roman Period Funerary Practices in Egypt

 

NEW SERIES OF TIME TEAM

That time-honoured feature of winter Sunday evenings is back somewhat later this year - reportedly at the prime-time slot of 7pm in March.                                                         

 

 

THE GERRARD ROOTS PAGE… 

I75 Years of Brent Reservoir                                                                         Gerrard Roots 

Until 14 February, Church Farmhouse Museum, Hendon, is celebrating the 175th anniversary of Brent Reservoir- ‘the Welsh Harp’- with a new exhibition on the fascinating history of this major resource, which spans the London boroughs of Barnet and Brent. The two borough’s Welsh Harp Joint Consultative Committee has sponsored the exhibition.

 

Brent Reservoir was built to replenish the water lost by the many locks on the Regent’s and Grand Union Canals. It opened in 1835, and was from the start much used for swimming and fishing, but it really took off as a recreation spot in the 1860s, thanks to William Perkins Warner, landlord of the now-demolished Welsh Harp pub (from which the reservoir takes its popular name) who added skating, shooting, a menagerie and even horse racing to the area’s attractions. The Welsh Harp had its own music hall, and its own music hall song- ‘The Jolliest Place That’s Out’- and it was until the rise of the seaside holiday in the 1890s a very popular resort for day-tripping Londoners. 

The Welsh Harp has long-standing connexion with navigation: the modern ship’s propeller was created there in 1836; speed- boats and small flying-boats were common sights there in the 1920s and 1930s; and a number of boating groups use the reservoir today. 

The Welsh Harp has some unusual associations, too. Torpedoes and tanks were tested there, and it was the scene of the Hendon Nudist Riots in the hot summer of 1930, which involved fist-fights between some 200 Hendon residents and nude sun-bathers. 

Brent Reservoir, now managed by the Welsh Harp Conservation Group, has a diverse wildlife- from voles to slow-worms, and in 1975 was designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest, because of its wealth of over-wintering waterfowl; teal, grebes, shovellers, coot and Canada geese are frequent visitors to the Welsh Harp- for nearly 200 years a wonderful breathing-space for London. 

 ‘New’ Discoveries 

Church Farm Museum Curator Gerrard had to move his museum off-site store just before Christmas. Amongst his discoveries was a small wooden crate of Ted Sammes material – building material – brick and roofing tile – from the HADAS Church End Farm, Hendon, excavations of the 1960s, as published in the recent HADAS publication ‘The Last Hendon Farm’. This material will be recovered to Avenue House, cleaned, and possibly summarised in a short note, as it can be added to some field drain pipes from Church End Farm and the Paddock also rediscovered since publication of the book

 

British Museum extension gets the go-ahead

Another important planning decision reached a head on 17 December when the British Museum obtained planning permission at the second attempt for its planned north-western corner development, designed to provide new research and conservation labs and new space in which to stage large-scale temporary exhibitions. The Museum’s architects, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, produced a revised plan that reduces the height of the extension by placing more of the structure beneath the ground.                                  

 The latest excavations at El Amarna                                                          Tim Wilkins

The ancient Egyptian city of Akhetaton, at the modern site of El Amarna in central Egypt, was the short-lived capital built by the ‘heretic’ Pharaoh Akhenaten from about 1353 BCE, and abandoned shortly after his death in about 1332 BCE. It was here that he pursued his vision of a society dedicated to the cult of one god, the power of the sun, the Aten.

 

As the city of Akhetaton was built, lived in and abandoned in such a very short period, excavations there give a rare snapshot of a population at a single particular time. 

The latest excavations started in 2005 when an archaeologist walking the site noticed fragments of human bone and potsherds lying on the sand. These were traced back to a narrow wadi, about 600m long, at the extreme Eastern edge of the city plain, where recent, rare, rains had washed them out onto the sand. Investigations in the wadi found the cemetery of the ordinary citizens of the city where, according to the Project Director, Professor Barry Kemp, the density and area of the burial site could indicate maybe three thousand graves, of which less than 200 have been excavated so far. Work is slow and laborious because the sand is very soft and great care must be taken to prevent the sides slipping into the burial pit, and every breath of wind blows it back in. The spoil sand is also sieved to make sure that all bone fragments are recovered for analysis. Temperatures on site limit the digging season severely, with temperatures well over 40degrees in summer. 

Only one grave found had brick walls and a vaulted roof, a few had wooden coffins, but mostly the bodies were just buried wrapped in linen cloth and bound with thin straight sticks. The graves were dug into the sand without any attempt to cut into the underlying rock, and, when filled in, were then outlined with stones on the surface. Once the body was bound it would have been hard to tell which way up it was, and so some are found buried facing down. None of the bodies were mummified. 

The ages of the bodies at death are analysed and show a strong indication of a young population (See chart below). This may be because the people living in the city were primarily there to build and serve the temples and other institutions, and as a result older people did not move there. Also, with the site being abandoned in such a short time, the population didn’t get the chance to grow old. Consistent with this is that most bodies show signs of wear and tear, such as spinal compression from lifting and carrying heavy loads. These may have been talatat blocks – the stone blocks used for the more important buildings at Amarna, where most buildings were made from mud brick. These talatat blocks were cut to a standard size for faster construction: 27 cm x 27 cm x 54 cm (½ x ½ x 1 cubit), which would also make them about the maximum weight that a man could carry on his shoulder unaided. Where a body showed broken bones there are no indications that these had been splinted or treated in any other way – just left to heal. 

The high statistics of deaths of young people may also indicate outbreaks of disease. The statistics from the plagues of the 1500’s show similar patterns and there are mentions in Hittite texts, probably from the time of Tutankhamun, of Egyptian prisoners introducing devastating epidemics to Hittite towns. There are many signs of undernourishment, or at least gross imbalance of diet, and there are many signs of a cereal-based diet (bread and beer) but very few animal bones. 74% of the under-20’s have signs of anaemia, caused probably by the unbalanced diet and an increased demand from the body for iron to cope with infections and parasites. The average male adult height at Amarna is about 5’ 4”, a significant drop from an average height of 5’6”, both before and after Amarna. 

This presents a very different picture from the carvings on the walls of the city buildings and in the tombs of the Amarna period, which show vast numbers of offering tables piled high with all kinds of foods, especially meat, which the texts indicate were then distributed to the people. Hyena bones found at the workmen’s village to the south of the site show signs of butchering with knife cuts – so were they eating hyena as a delicacy, or as a rare source of meat?   

A few of the bodies show signs of war wounds. One unfortunate man had been shot by an arrow in the same hip at two different times; having survived the first wound he was then killed by being shot again in the same place!

 Further information can be found at:  http://www.amarnaproject.com   and   http://www.amarnatrust.com

 

More on the Staffordshire Hoard                                                                  By Don Cooper 

I visited the British Museum to view the artefacts on display from the Staffordshire Hoard (there are 33 of them displayed in Room 37 – up the stairs on the left after you go in the main entrance – it’s the first room at the top of the stairs). To my mind one of the most interesting items on display is a crumpled up gold cross which had been studded with garnets. The garnets appear to have fallen out when the cross was crumpled up in the hoard as they were all found with it. The cross itself would appear to be Christian and to have been cherished by its owner as at one time the main garnet had cracked and had been repaired with a piece of gold “wire”.  Would he or she then crumple it up to put it in the hoard or had it acquired a less pious owner?  There is a lovely photograph of it on the web site www.staffordshirehoard.org.uk  and to quote Leahy and Bland (2009, p36) “this apparent lack of respect shown to this Christian symbol may point to the hoard being buried by pagans, but Christians were also capable of despoiling each other’s shrines.” It will be interesting to follow the story as more and more research is carried out on the artefacts.

 

At the end of November 2009 the hoard was valued at £3.85 million pounds by the Treasure Valuation Committee at the British Museum and the race is on to raise the money. One pound of the £4.99 price on the Leahy and Bland (2009) book goes towards the fund.

Bibliography

Leahy & Bland. (2009) “The Staffordshire Hoard” London: The British Museum Press.                                                                      

 HADAS 2009 Long Weekend -- Day 5           Off home – via Caerwent   Jim Nelhams           

Time to leave our Hereford base and head for home. But two more planned visits on the way. Our chosen route was via the picturesque Wye Valley with a chance to enjoy some more scenery, and a brief photo-op at Tintern Abbey. 

Caerwent is today a small village on the south side of the A48 between Gloucester and Caerleon. The Romans called it Venta Silurum (the market of the Silures), and it was at one stage the largest centre of civilian population in Roman Wales. Within the Roman walls, sits now a rural village with church, Post Office and two public houses. 

We arrived through the East Gate and left our coach in the car park close to the West Gate. The excellent guide book published by Cadw, the Welsh Assembly Government’s environment service, is normally sold in the Post Office which is closed on Sundays. Because of this, a supply had been delivered to the car park for our members by a local historian. Thus armed, and having examined the helpful information boards, we scattered to view different parts of the village. 

Although the site has not been extensively excavated, though Time Team have been there, most of the finds are stored in Newport or Caerleon. Nevertheless, the footings of numerous buildings are visible, including a row of shops. More surprisingly, some ninety per cent of the town walls are still standing. The average height is around ten feet, though in some places, it reaches an impressive seventeen feet. Throughout the village, and round the walls, there are clear information boards. 

At the centre of the “town” now sits the small church of St Stephen and St Tathan. Here are to be found a few Roman relics dedicated according to the priest to “Gods other than our own”, and including a Roman funerary urn. 

Having started by the West Gate, our rendezvous point was The Coach and Horses, next to the East Gate, where we enjoyed coffee/tea before boarding our coach in the pub car park. At the back of the car park, mounds in the grass indicated the position of walls as yet unexcavated, but that is for another day! 

So eastwards over the old Severn Bridge, with a good view of the new crossing, onto the M4, with a brief comfort stop on our way to Andy’s treat.

 

Didcot Railway Centre                                                                      Andy Simpson                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

 After the delights of Roman Caerwent, and having already enjoyed statically preserved steam locos at Blaenavon and at the Waterways Museum at Gloucester, our last port of call of the weekend was to that temple of Great Western Railway steam, Didcot Railway Centre. Of course, depending on your railway allegiances, the old Great Western Railway, which existed until nationalisation on 1 January 1948 when it became part of British Railways (though still pretty much going its own way as the 'Great Western Region' as it was known) could be known as 'God's Wonderful Railway' or 'The Great Way Round'. Speaking as a native of Wolverhampton which once boasted two GWR loco sheds and a GWR works (and an LMS loco shed) I do of course have a soft spot for the designs of GWR loco designers Gooch, Dean, Hawksworth and Collett.                                                                   The Great Western Society, who run the centre on a volunteer basis, was founded by a group of schoolboys in the 1960s who wanted to preserve one of their favourite GWR steam locos. Today it has an extensive collection of copper-capped, Brunswick green (and black, and wartime Khaki) GWR steam power, from humble local goods/passenger tank locos to heavy goods engines and express passenger locos of the immortal 'Castle' and 'King' classes, plus some 40 carriages and several wagons. Many of the locos were rescued from the famous scrapyard at Barry, South Wales in the 1970s/80s after 20 years or more in limbo and restored to full working order. Others were purchased direct from BR, who retired their last standard gauge ex GWR steam power in November 1966, nearly two years before the final grubby end of BR steam in the Northwest in August 1968.

 

On site, the locos can stretch their legs on a half-mile 'main line' paralleling Network Rail lines, a shorter 'branch line' on which a 1940s GWR diesel railcar was running on the day of our visit, and Britain's only operating Broad Gauge (7ft) line, on which we could take a ride behind the glorious replica 1840s loco 'Fire Fly' with its open topped third-class carriage.

 

The ambience of a working GWR/BR steam shed is maintained with the original locomotive shed, turntable and coaling stage. There is an excellent small relics museum, shop, cosy cafe, refurbished 1940s air raid shelter, and well-stocked collectors sales facilities which added to my existing stock of musty 1960s railway magazines to help with my research into the history of the above-mentioned Barry scrapyard. 

An extra bonus was a working visit by Britain's brand new mainline steam loco, the LNER designed 'Pacific' express passenger loco 60163 'Tornado', behind which several of us enjoyed a run. 

After that, it was time for a run back home to London. The end of another wonderful HADAS weekend. Our thanks again to Jim, Jo, and Don for all their planning and hard work. 

Postscript   Jim Nelhams 

It was lovely to see people enjoying the trip, and the various visits we had planned, including places that some people would not have chosen to visit on their own. There were several comments from unexpected quarters on “the smell of the steam engines recalling wonderful memories of childhood”. 

Our thanks to Don, who instigated the trip, and to all who have contributed to the write-ups which have appeared in the Newsletter. Here’s to 2010. 

My Kinda Group - The Society of Dilettanti (From Society of Antiquities online newsletter)

The Society of Dilettanti are the subject of a new book of the same name by Jason Kelly, which traces the transformation of that society from a group of spoiled and self-indulgent libertines meeting to eat and drink to excess to a well-respected archaeological society, with aspirations (never realised) to learned society status and a set of apartments in which to display the spoils of travels in Italy, Greece and Turkey. These same fifty-nine aristocrats and antiquaries were also members of the Egyptian Society, the Divan Club (whose members had to have travelled in the Ottoman Empire) and the Royal Society!                                      

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

Letter To Barnet Council Strategic Service (Planning and Housing) from Peter Pickering, HADAS Vice-Chairman, 7 Jan 2009; HADAS is the only archaeological society in the Borough of Barnet, and has for many decades conducted research, including a large number of excavations, throughout the borough. It is based in Avenue House, Finchley. It is concerned with the whole historic environment, and not simply that part of it which is buried. It engages with the public through lectures, events and community projects with schools. 

HADAS welcomes the opportunity of participating in the process Barnet Council is now embarked on of producing a Local Development Framework to replace the old Unitary Development Plan, and offers the following comments on the ‘Direction of Travel’ document which was issued for consultation in November. The comments all relate to matters omitted from, or dealt with much too cursorily in, the document. 

We note the references to the character of Barnet and its historic environment in the document. They are welcome so far as they go, but they do not go anything like far enough, and should have a chapter to themselves (as the natural environment has in Chapter 11) or at least a separate section in Chapter 9. This chapter or section should, in particular, outline the council’s policy on conservation areas (as the UDP did in Policies HC1 and following) and on the ‘local listing’ (as it is currently termed) of buildings of importance to the borough’s heritage and townscape character - as the UDP did in Policies HC14 and 15. It should also mention the wealth of nationally listed buildings which Barnet enjoys - Barnet is, I believe, very high in this league table among outer London boroughs. Examples of policies on these matters which Barnet could usefully emulate are in Policy 9B of the draft Core Strategy of Islington, and in SP10 of the Tower Hamlets Core Strategy.

 

Archaeology in the narrower sense makes even less of an appearance in the ‘Direction of Travel’ document - indeed I have found none at all. This must be rectified, and it must be made clear to the people of Barnet and to developers that the Council will insist on proper archaeological investigations in advance of any development where it seems possible that there are buried remains, and that the results of any investigation will be made public. Including Archaeological Priority Areas in one of the maps would be very helpful.

 

Another omission is of museums. There are two perfunctory mentions, one of Church House Farm Museum in the context of the library estate, and the other of the RAF Museum in the Colindale box in Chapter 7. One would not guess from this that the RAF Museum is a National Museum which the Council should be proud of having within its area. (although the Colindale Area Action Plan - a subsidiary plan within the overall Barnet Plan - does cover the RAF Museum and recognises its importance. The CAAP is available on-line-Ed. Nor is there even a mention of other museums, such as the Barnet Museum in Wood Street and the Stephens Collection in Avenue House. This contrasts pointedly with the several paragraphs devoted to the various types of open space. Although not really within HADAS’s remit, the document appears to neglect culture and the arts completely (there is not even a mention of the Arts Depot in North Finchley, let alone the various smaller arts centres). Surely they are significant in land use terms, and in making Barnet rather more self-contained, and not a mere dormitory suburb whose inhabitants look to central London for their entertainment (Chapter 12, rightly, sees local employment opportunities in such a context, and as reducing the need to travel). We ask for a chapter devoted to culture and the arts in their widest sense.

 

We hope that the Council will follow the suggestions we have made, and that the next version of the Core Strategy will deal adequately with all these matters. We give notice that if it does not, we shall seek to persuade the Inspector that their omission makes the Core Strategy unsound.

 

OTHER SOCIETIES’ LECTURES & EVENTS                  ERIC MORGAN

 

Sunday 7 February 10.30am Heath & Hampstead Society Meet at the Flag Pole, Whitestone Pond, NW3 How The Heath Was Saved For The Nation Walk led by Thomas Radice. Donation £2, lasts approx. 2 hours.

 

Monday 8 February  3pm Barnet and District Local History Society Church House, Wood St, Barnet 500 Years of English Architecture Talk by Pamela Wright. Tea at 2.30pm.

 

Wednesday 10 February 8pm Mill Hill Historical Society Wilberforce Centre, St Paul’s Church, The Ridgway, NW7 The Timber Framed Buildings of Middlesex Talk by Patricia A Clarke (preceded by AGM)

 

Saturday 13 March LAMAS 47th Annual Conference of London Archaeologists

Weston Theatre, Museum of London (NB NOT Docklands Museum as recently)

LAMAS members £8, non-members £10. Tickets (SAE please, and cheques payable to LAMAS) from Jon Cotton, Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN

 

Thursday 18 February Camden History Society Burgh House, New End Square, NW3 London’s Bridges: Tolls, Suicides & Bombs. Talk on their history by Peter Matthews

 

Friday 19 February  7.30pm Wembley History Society St Andrew’s Church Hall, Church Lane, Kingsbury, NW9 The History of Neasden Len Snow. £1 admission.

 

Wednesday 24th February Friern Barnet & District Local History Society St John’s Church Hall (Next to Whetstone Police Station) Friern Barnet Lane, N.20 Freemasonry  Norman Greenshields £2. Refreshments 7.45pm.

 

Thursday 25 February 2.30pm  Finchley Society Drawing Room, Avenue House, East End Road, N3 Murders in the Finchley area Talk by Roger Morris Non-Members £2.

 

Sunday 28 February 11AM – 1PM Battle of Barnet Guided Walk. Meet at junction of Great North Rd/Hadley Green Road. Led by Paul Baker. Costs £7.

 

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