Newsletter-469-April-2010

HADAS DIARY - Forthcoming Lectures and Events.

 

The winter lecture series is as always at Avenue House. Lectures start promptly at 8pm; non-members £1; coffee, tea and biscuits can be bought.

 

Tuesday 13th April. The GWR comes to the Thames Valley -John Chapman.

In this month’s lecture we find out how the GWR came about. The talk traces the building of the railway and the early days of the broad gauge between London and Didcot, focusing on the main towns & villages. John Chapman has been Chairman of the South Eastern Museums Service and Deputy Chairman of the Rail Users Consultative Committee for Western England. He is a local historian with special interest in transport history.

 

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

 

Tuesday, June 8th at 8pm at Avenue House – the 49th HADAS Annual General Meeting takes place – an important date for your diaries. Nomination papers for committee places will be sent out next month – so if you wish to join our committee of volunteers this is your opportunity.

 

Sunday July 11th We tried having an outing on a Sunday last year and it worked well. So keep your diaries clear for when we plan to visit sites in Kent including Darwin’s home – Down House

 

HADAS’ long weekend to Norwich – Saturday, August 28th to Wednesday, 1st September 2010.

 

Don Cooper, announced this trip in the last newsletter, and has had a splendid response. The trip is now three-quarters full. For those still making up their minds, the details are repeated here. The venue will be a hotel in Norwich. The city with its lovely cathedral, castle and museum has many attractions. We will travel by luxury coach, indeed, probably the same coach and driver as last year. Details of the weekend will be available in due course but an interesting trip is in prospect. The cost will be approximately £350 for people sharing and £390

for those requiring single rooms. There will be a limited number of places so please let Don know as soon as possible if you are interested in coming. A deposit of £50 per person is required together with an indication of whether you are sharing or not. Cheques should be made out to HADAS please. Don's address details are:-59 Potters Road, Barnet, Herts EN5 5HS (020 8440 4350) e-mail to chairman@hadas.org.uk.

 

'The Celtic World - Myth and Religion' course                                          by Peter Nicholson

 

Some elements of Celtic mythology are known to many. To enhance that knowledge the Mill Hill Archaeological Study Society is running a course of six classes entitled "The Celtic World - Myth and Religion". The course will examine the background to Celtic belief systems and their priesthood, the Druids, through a study of both documentary and archaeological evidence. The mythology of archaeological sites in continental Europe, Britain and Ireland will also be explored. The course tutor is Scott McCracken. The course is on Friday mornings from

10 to 12, beginning 16th April, in the Lawrence Room, Hartley Hall, Flower Lane NW7. The cost for the course will be £36. For further information contact Peter Nicholson (020-8959 4757)

 

Walks in East Barnet and Hendon

 

Many members will remember the lecture that Paul Baker gave to us on Barnet last year. Some of us have also been on his interesting and entertaining themed walks around Barnet. On Sunday 18th April he will lead a walk round East Barnet (Meet outside East Barnet Library, Brookhill Road at 11am.) Then he will turn his attention to Hendon. His new series of walks will be called “Hooray for Hendon” and start from outside Hendon Central Station. The next one takes place on June 13th 2010 at 2.30pm and the one after that on the 7th November 2010 at 11am. The cost is £7 per person, children under 12 £3.

 

Site of the Battle of Barnet

 

The 11th March edition of the Hendon and Finchley Times, and its sister paper the Barnet and Potters Bar Times, included an article about the site of the Battle of Barnet. The Battlefields Trust claim that it may be a mile to the north of the accepted site, and are launching an appeal to raise money for an archaeological survey to be undertaken near Kitts End, where they think the battle really took place. The Trust, which is based in St Albans, made headlines earlier this year when members found evidence of the real site of the Battle of Bosworth, which was fought on August 22 1485 in Leicestershire, two miles away from where people had thought it was.

We may well hear more about this subject in the near future.

 

Bentley Priory                                                                                   by Peter Pickering

 

Our lecture on Tuesday 10th March was given by Erica Ferguson, the retired Squadron-Leader who runs the Bentley Priory Battle of Britain Trust, set up to preserve Bentley Priory, the headquarters of Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain in 1940. Its history goes much further back than the Second World War. It was a priory of the Augustinian Friars until the dissolution of the monasteries, but little if anything remains of that building; much remains however of the work which Sir John Soane designed at the end of the eighteenth century

for the Marquess of Abercorn, about whose family connection with Great Stanmore Church we heard in our November lecture. Later it was the home of Queen Adelaide, the widow of William IV, and after many vicissitudes (including a school which failed financially in 1926) was bought by the Air Ministry in 1926, who remained until 2008.

Despite the changes made for operational reasons (like replacing the orangeries by utilitarian blocks) by wear and tear, and by a serious fire during renovation in 1979 there is still much historic fabric - including the office used by Air Chief Marshall Dowding during the Battle of Britain. Erica Ferguson spoke of the efforts being made to preserve the main rooms of the priory as a sustainable museum, focusing on intangibles like leadership and courage, rather than the hardware which is the speciality of the RAF Museum. She was very hopeful that these efforts would succeed, despite a major setback when Barratt Homes, who were to have provided funding for the museum out of planning gain from redeveloping the rest of

the estate, backed out at the very last minute. In the meantime, the Trust opens the Priory for various events in the course of the year. Members may be interested in the 1940s day to be held on 22nd May. From 11 until 4 there will be re-enactments, tours, a Spitfire display, children's activities, an art exhibition and lots more. Then from half-past seven until half-past eleven there will be a dinner and dancing to the sounds of the forties. The cost for the daytime will be £3.50

(children under 12 free) and for the evening £25 (concessions £22.50); the profits will go to St Luke's Hospice, Harrow. For further details and a booking form consult Mita Vaghji on 020 8382 8063 or e-mail mvaghji@stlukes-hospice.org website stlukes-hospice.org.

 

St Andrew's Old Church Kingsbury.

 

Many members will remember the excellent lecture that Andy Agate from UCL gave in May 2006 on his researches at Kingsbury Old Church (St. Andrews) and then his excavation there. The newsletter of the Ancient Monuments Society reports that the Heritage Lottery Fund has awarded a grant to permit this, the only Grade I listed church in Brent, now the property of the Churches Conservation Trust (the subject of our lecture in May 2008), to be repaired and softly adapted as a theatre by the body known as Drama Workshop. St Andrew's, effectively redundant since 1934, has been through a series of unsatisfactory 'solutions' and it is hoped that this really will be the sustainable option which secures the fund for repairs and sees off the vandals.

 

Current Archaeology Conference                                                   by Peter Pickering

 

I went to the British Museum on the last weekend in February to the Awards for the Presentation of Heritage Research 2010 followed by the annual conference organised by 'Current Archaeology'. Except for a talk by Julian Bowsher on the Rose and Globe Playhouses, there was nothing of specific London concern, but there was much of great interest. Among the contestants for the Awards were an amateur-run diving investigation off the South Devon coast which has found large quantities of copper and tin ingots - perhaps from the cargo of a Bronze Age ship bringing material from Mediterranean for processing in Britain (this entry was the winner) and a very detailed analysis of wall-paintings in Lakenheath Church Suffolk which found the origin of the unusual iconography in arguments between Ely Cathedral and Bury St Edmunds Abbey for control of the village. Most way-out was research into the carvings on trees ('arborglyphs' to you) by soldiers on Salisbury Plain - the researcher had managed to trace the descendants of some of those who had so defaced nature.

The conference offered choices -usually between two subjects each worth attending. Among my choices was a session on archaeology and climate change, which explored the evidence for past climates -were they warmer or colder then than to-day? As one might expect, the evidence is ambiguous. Although soldiers in Vindolanda wrote letters asking to be sent warmer clothing, that might have been because they came from southern climes, not because it was really cold - species of beetle, for instance flourished at Hadrian's Wall which are now found only in southern England. Professor Baillie had studied long tree ring sequences in Ireland,

but trends in the width of rings was not a satisfactory proxy for the temperature - for instance older trees grow more slowly than younger ones, and major replantings in the eighteenth century invalidate calculations; Professor Baillie demonstrated amusingly how graphs could be drawn in ways which gave quite different impressions. Professor Fagan from California showed how people in pre-colonial America adapted to changing climates by moving from one area to another (especially in search of reliable water supplies); he was concerned that people to-day would be unable to adopt that strategy, and could suffer greatly as a consequence.

Another valuable session was on the Stonehenge Riverside Project, which has revolutionised views about the monument, what preceded it and why it was built - as a cremation cemetery for the powerful and house for the dead ancestors, linked with Durrington Walls where there were perhaps a thousand houses for the living, occupied not permanently but for feasting at recurrent festivals. Our old friend Mark Hassall tried to undermine this new account by quoting Diodorus Siculus, who says that in the land of the Hyperboreans there is a magnificent sacred precinct of Apollo and a notable temple which is adorned with many votive offerings and is

spherical in shape; he did not shake the speakers.

There was much at the conference about the notable advances in our knowledge produced by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, on subjects as diverse as settlement patterns, the recurrent shortages of small change in mediaeval England (which led to the illegal use of Venetian money), and a type of enamelled Roman brooch found especially on the Wirral peninsula. And, of course, the great hoards of Viking silver from the Vale of York, and the Staffordshire hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold and garnets.

 

ROMANS GO HOME                                                                                 by Peter Pickering

 

This was the controversial Logo for the very serious conference on the End of Roman Britain which was held in the British Museum on 12th and 13th March. 2010 is not only the sixteenth  centenary of AD 410, the traditional date for the end of Roman rule in Britain, but also the centenary of the founding of the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies. The Lecture Theatre was as packed as the programme of 26 half-hour lectures, which eschewed mention

of Arthur or Vortigern. Inevitably, since the subjects were separate and the speakers differed in their approaches, the conference had no single clear message. But I came away much better informed both as to the extent of general agreement among scholars and as to the matters which are of lively contention. With such a programme, there was little time for questions or discussion (and such questioning as there was was hogged by one or two individuals).

I had not properly realised before that the historical sources for the first decade of the fifth century are quite extensive though of low quality - "we know more about the years 406-410 than we know about any other quinquennium of Romano-British history, apart from the periods that Tacitus describes for us", that sources agree that there was a major Saxon raid on Britain during those years (though not on the precise date) and that the text of the historian Zosimus as we have it says that the emperor Honorius wrote a letter to the cities in Britain saying that they should protect themselves, though most scholars believe that, since the context is Alaric's campaigns in Italy, 'Britain' is a scribal error for 'Bruttium'.

The conference papers that discussed the archaeological evidence for a withdrawal of Roman forces from Britain tended to see geographical differences; several Saxon Shore forts were abandoned by 400, though there were many early fifth-century coins at Richborough; there was a lack of late defences in Wales, despite the Irish raiders, but on Hadrian's Wall the late Roman garrisons remained and were slowly transmuted into the forces of local war-lords (two inscribed British names at Vindolanda being evidence of this). But everywhere the monetary economy collapsed, since soldiers and civil servants were no longer being paid in coin.

The conference heard about the evidence of continuity between Roman and Saxon London, shown by the fact that Saxon burials near St Martin's-in-the-Fields seem to have respected the Roman ones (as described to us last October by Alison Telfer), and also that the late Roman city was not so sparsely populated as is generally believed (if the ubiquitous Dark Earth comes from biologically reworked middens, then there must have been a considerable population producing the rubbish that went into the middens). The experience of small towns was varied; Keith Fitzpatrick-Matthews found good evidence for vigorous activity in Baldock extending well into the sixth century; Baldock might be atypical, perhaps because of a nearby pagan cult stronghold, or it might be that the evidence elsewhere has been removed by ploughing or unrecognised. There is a problem also with recognising the evidence in rural areas, where it may be that there was just not so much digging of ditches as in the Roman period. As for Verulamium, David Neal argued, as he had recently in Current Archaeology that development at Building 2 in Insula XXVII had not continued into the fifth century; he was met by a powerful rejoinder from Sheppard Frere, the original excavator, now 94 years old, read for him by a friend.

There was quite a lot about Gildas, the author of 'The Ruin and Conquest of Britain'. Neil Faulkner saw him as "the Red Monk of the first peasants' revolt" condemning an embryonic Dark Age élite that was constructing new forms of exploitation and domination after a lengthy period in which the peasantry had been relatively free of burdens. Another speaker praised Gildas's latinity and used it as evidence of a continuing high level of education in the fifth century, for a society which needed literate men for the law and the church. It was

agreed that Gildas was not writing history, but apocalyptic polemic, and that it was wrong to judge him by historiographical standards. Ken Dark agreed about the level of education in Western Britain in the fifth and sixth centuries; Britannia Prima was the only one of the British provinces to remain wholly under British rule, and though hill-forts like Tintagel replaced villas and walled towns the evidence of inscriptions and trade with the Mediterranean showed that civilised life continued.

Buried hoards of Roman gold and silver -some of the most spectacular remains of late antiquity -were the subject of three papers. The far from uniform pattern of such finds throughout northern Europe (including Scandinavia) was analysed with suggestive results. One speaker saw burying treasure as a post-Roman rather than a late-Roman practice. Hoards could be linked in some way with the largesse that emperors provided to their own subjects (later to be returned through taxation) and to barbarian raiders like Alaric. Were hoards buried

in times of threat with the intention of recovery, or was the purpose more ritual? A particular paper was given by Kenneth Painter on the Traprain Law hoard -a collection of silver bullion from southern Scotland made up of crushed, chopped and hacked-up vessels.

I was especially fascinated by a paper on the linguistic divisions of Britain, though it was not presented very clearly, and the argumentation and evidence were much compressed. But the thesis seemed to be that the English language was not brought to this island after the end of Roman Britain by people from overseas, but that a germanic language had been spoken here from before the Roman conquest. Evidence adduced for this included the language on the coins of the Iceni, some things which Tacitus, Claudian and Nennius write, and the tribal name Deceangli. One consequence was that the Saxon shore got its name not because Saxons raided it, but because Saxons lived there in Roman Britain.

Finally, we were told how memories of Roman Britain persisted in later centuries, but sometimes in a strangely distorted form. Magnus Maximus got a good press in Wales - "Maxen was Emperor of Rome, and the handsomest and wisest of men, and the best fitted to be emperor of all that had gone before him; he married Helen of the Hosts, and built her Caerleon and Carmarthen as wedding presents; she then built roman roads (called Sarn Helen) throughout Wales". Cleopatra was confused with Claudius Gothicus, and one saint's life takes a list of Roman emperors to be a Bible-style genealogy (Carocius -ie Carausius -begat Diocletian,

Diocletian begat Galerius, Galerius begat Constantine the Great and so on.)

A very interesting conference, but pretty hard work for those attending.

 

Other Societies' Events                                                                                 by Eric Morgan

 

Monday 12th April 3pm Barnet and District Local History Society. Church House Wood Street Barnet (opposite museum) "In the Footsteps of the Famous in Finchley" Talk by Paul Baker. Tea at 2.30 pm

 

Wednesday 14th April 8pm Hornsey Historical Society. Union Church Hall; Corner of Ferme Park Road and Weston Park N8 "Percy Joseph Barralet: Victorian Photographer" Talk by John Hinshelwood Visitors £1.

 

Thursday 15th April 8pm Enfield Society Jubilee Hall, 2 Parsonage Lane\Junction Chase Side Enfield."Centenary of the extension of the Railway from Grange Park to Cuffley" Talk by Dave Cockle and Roger Elkin. There is an exhibition on this from 20th April to 20th June at Forty Hall.

Friday 16th April 7pm COLAS St Olave’s Parish Hall, Mark Lane EC3. "Deptford and Chichester - an archaeological comparison" Talk by Joanna Taylor. Visitors £2.

 

Friday 16th April. 8pm Enfield Archaeological Society Jubilee Hall, 2 Parsonage Lane\Junction Chase Side Enfield. AGM and "The excavations and fieldwork of Enfield Archaeological Society 2009". Visitors £1.

 

Saturday 17th April 11am to 2pm. Enfield Society Historic Buildings Group. Guided tours of two Enfield churches - St Mary Magdalene, at the corner of the Ridgeway and Windmill Hill (with opportunity to ascend the Tower) and Christ Church United Reformed Church in Chase Side; refreshments and historical displays.

 

Wednesday 21st April 10.30 to 11.30am Friern Barnet Library Friern Barnet Road N11 "The history of Friary Park." Mel Hooper. With coffee.

 

Thursday 22nd April 6.30pm Willesden Green Library Centre High Road NW10 "Neo-Tudor and its Enemies" talk by Gavin Stamp

 

Saturday 24th April 2-3pm Museum of London "Playhouse Finds" Jacky Kelly. Free.

 

Thursday 27th April 10.30 am Enfield Society Jubilee Hall, 2 Parsonage Lane\Junction Chase Side Enfield. "Discovering historic buildings in Edmonton, Winchmore Hill and Southgate" talk by Stephen Gilburt.

 

Wednesday 26th April. 7.45pm Friern Barnet and District Local History Society. St John's Church Hall (next to Whetstone Police Station) Friern Barnet Lane N20. "The Fleet Valley" Ken Griffin. Visitors £2. Refreshments.

 

Thursday 29th April 8pm Finchley Society. Drawing Room, Avenue House, East End Road N3 "My granny had one of these, but she threw it away" Talk by Maurice Collins. Non-members £2.

 

Friday 30th April 2-3pm Museum of London "London's Bodies" Walk to find out where the bodies are hidden. £6.50 Book in advance - 020 7001 9844.

 

Exhibitions

Till 5th April. Kenwood House. "Lost London 1870-1945"

Till 19th April Harrow Museum, Headstone Manor "Historic Views of London"

Till 2nd May Hampstead Museum, Burgh House "Religious Freedom in Hampstead"

Monday 12th April to Saturday 26th June Camden Local Studies and Archives Centre, Holborn Library, Theobalds Road "Victorian Artists of Camden Square".

 

 

 

 

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