Newsletter-474-September-2010

 

HADAS DIARY

Wednesdays, 29 September 2010 to 23 March 2011, 6.30 – 8.30, Avenue House.

LOOKING AT FINDS – A PRACTICAL COURSE IN POST-EXCAVATION STUDIES is our exciting new course, run by Jacqui Pearce, BA FSA MIfA. There will be 22 two-hour sessions for the low cost of £275. For further details see last month’s Newsletter or the HADAS website. To book, please contact the class tutor at jacquipearce126@hotmail.com (evening 020 8203 4506) or Don Cooper, 020 8440 4350.

Our lecture season resumes in October with:

Tuesday 12th October 2010, Behind the Scenes on “Time Team”, Raksha Dave

Tuesday 9th November 2010, Archaeology and the Olympics, David Divers (English Heritage)

Lectures are held at Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley, N3 3QE, and start promptly at 8 pm, with coffee/tea and biscuits afterwards. Non-members: £1. Buses 82, 125, 143, 326 & 460 pass nearby and Finchley Central station (Northern Line), is a short walk away.

News of Members

We are saddened to learn of the deaths of three of our members, Pat Karet, Virginia Pell and Ruth Whitehill. Virginia and Ruth had both booked for our Norwich trip. We hope to include more information about them next month.

Barnet Archives and Local Studies is moving to Hendon Library. It closed on 14th August and is expected to re-open November 8th 2010.

Queen’s Wood Haringey – Construction of a New Ecology Pond.                                                                    Emma Robinson

Background This is a preliminary report of a project undertaken by an ad hoc group of volunteer members of HADAS and COLAS (Peter Collins, Michael Hacker, Geraldine Missig, Sigrid Padel, Emma and David Robinson) and David Warren of Friends of Queen’s Wood. The project was undertaken during the course of construction of a new ecology pond and was proposed to ascertain if any evidence exists of past environment(s) of the wood. The project was designed as an archaeological watching brief for Friends of Queens Wood by Mike Hacker (March 2010) – who is also leading the project. I am grateful to Mike Hacker for his assistance in drafting this note.


Site Code: QW2010

Location: Queen’s Wood Haringey London N10. OS Grid Ref: c. 2872/8860. Elevation: c. 66 m OD.

Introduction A new ecology frog pond is being constructed by the charity Froglife on the site of a derelict 1930s paddling pool. The pond site lies near the head of a steep-sided valley, the source of a tributary of the River Mosell. The underlying solid geology is the London Clay Formation, although at this point the British Geological Survey map indicates that it is covered by superficial deposits. Work started in June 2010 and involved the demolition of the base of the existing concrete paddling pool. This was constructed on the site of a Victorian ornamental pond – built when the park was landscaped to commemorate the purchase of the wood in 1897 as a public open space. The Victorian pond in turn was constructed on the site of an earlier pond the origins of which are unclear.

Archaeological Background A pond is indicated at this location on the 1896 and 1894 OS maps. On these maps a ford is also recorded – but strangely not on the earlier 1863/1868 OS map. A similar pond is shown on the 1862/1868 OS c. 25m to the west of the new ecology pond site. Trial auguring at this site (2004) revealed organic rich waterlogged deposits up to 1.8m deep and environmental evidence of a fresh water habitat.

Research Questions The research questions posed in the project design were:

1)   Is there any evidence of the original pond on the site?

2)   Was the original pond a man-made or natural feature?

3)   Can the depth and size of the original pond be determined?

4)   What evidence exists of past climate and anthropogenic activity?

Summary A watching brief was maintained for most of the construction work and by observation, recording, surveying and some excavation we managed to obtain a good impression of the succession of ponds on the site and the underlying deposits.

The construction features of the succession of ponds were identified and recorded as far as possible – with particular attention to drainage of the site. The ash-rich layers used during the pond’s construction were checked for finds and a representative selection collected for recording and dating. Disturbance caused by the contractor’s JCB made doing this systematically impossible. Finds from the ash layers comprised mostly domestic rubbish and provided an interesting picture of late 19th and early 20th century life. The origins of the material are not known, but evidence exists that the valley head, adjacent to Muswell Hill Road, was used as a tip site. Some of the finds have been dated; for example, the two intact pipe bowls are of moulded construction datable to the late 19th century. There is some evidence of burning a common feature of rubbish tips. Full analysis of the finds remains to be completed.

The ‘natural’ deposits of the valley floor were sampled by taking a core with geo-archaeological help from the Museum of London. The earliest deposits were at the termination of the auger hole some 3m below the current ground level. The ash-rich retaining dam across the valley was augured and generally explored to assess if it was of natural or man-made construction. The latter was found to be the case.

The Victorian pond base is of interest since the dark ashy cement was found to exploit a technique familiar to the Romans, when volcanic ash was mixed with lime to create a hydraulic cement that would set under water and be waterproof. Such cements were widely experimented with in the 18th/19th centuries.

The construction of the 1930s pond was found to be surprisingly sophisticated. The complicated land drain system addressed issues inherent to any location subject to flooding and water logging – since it was designed to prevent water accumulating under the pool (potentially causing movement and cracking) and effectively allowing the concrete pond to exist as a waterproof dish.


Progress to Date in Addressing Research Questions

Progress has been made but much remains to be done. New avenues of investigation also opened up during the project in light of findings and broader research.

There is some evidence of the original pond on the site. However, an auger sample of the retaining dam reveals that the dam is clearly artificial – although when or why it was made is unclear but possibly it dates to 1860s to 1880s. The depth and size of the original pond is being explored; however initial examination of deposits seems to show that the organic rich layer under the Victorian pond base is comprised of woodland floor debris. No finds of non-organic nature have been retrieved from this level. With regard to anthropogenic activity as the project progresses the extent of people’s influence on the making of the landscape and drainage is becoming increasingly apparent. A full report will be prepared for publication in due course.

Acknowledgements

We acknowledge our gratitude to the following individuals and organisations:

Ian Holt, Project Officer (Nature Conservation), London Borough of Haringey

Lucy Roots, Chair, Friends of Queen's Wood

Rebecca Turpin, Froglife

Dickinson Engineering Ltd (the contractors)

Jane Corcoran and Graham Spurr, Museum of London

Roz Artis-Young, Technical Director, Scottish Lime Trust

Rose Baillie, Chair, City of London Archaeological Society

Dr Nick Branch, QUEST, University of Reading

HADAS Summer Outing: Down House, the RAF Chapel, Biggin Hill, and Lullingstone Roman Villa, 11 July 2010. Our reporters: Jean Bayne, Andy Simpson and Sheila Woodward.

Our visit to Charles Darwin’s delightful Georgian house in Kent took place in summer sunshine. The accompanying audio tape was detailed and informative, dividing our exploration of Darwin’s life and work into three areas: the house downstairs, the house upstairs and the garden.

He and his family lived there for 40 years (1842–1882) though it should be noted that he travelled extensively throughout the UK in that time – an equivalent of one day a week away from home. He had married his cousin, Emma, from the Wedgwood family and was well-supported financially by them. By all accounts, it was a happy family life and the spirit of that seems to live on in the domestic section of the house downstairs. His daughter, Henrietta, said of her father, ‘He cared for all our pursuits and interests and lived our lives with us in a way that very few fathers do.’ It would seem that Charles Darwin did not conform to traditional Victorian patriarchy. And, in fact he involved his children in his work and experiments. For example, the children were asked to watch and monitor the bumblebees which buzzed around the red clover in one of the fields. Henrietta added, ‘we were very much with both my Father and Mother’. Emma and Charles had ten children of whom three died young.

We were able to see the drawing room with French windows leading on to the verandah and the lawn. Emma’s piano was also there and the backgammon game with its score card: Charles and Emma played in the evenings. The dining room with the enormous mahogany table was laid for a meal and would have been the setting for the Darwins’ hospitality towards the many and frequent visitors who came to the house as well as the growing family. The billiards room was the scene of Darwin’s attempts to relax and Parslow, the family butler, was often called away to play with him. Darwin’s study had been carefully recreated from old photographs taken in the 1870s and 80s and artefacts donated by the family after Down House became a


museum in 1929. It was possible to imagine Darwin sitting in his battered study chair with his writing board across his knees, his table of specimens and samples within reach, surrounded by books, journals and papers and within earshot of the children playing in the inner hallway. On the Origin of Species was written here in 1859 in spite of Darwin’s chronic ill health.

The first floor, which had been bedrooms and studies in Darwin’s time, now houses an exhibition of his life and work and family relationships. His early journey in the ship, The Beagle (1831–36), was described by Darwin in a letter to his sister, as ‘a voyage made with the intention of making maps of the Eastern side of Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia; likewise to settle Longitude of many places more accurately than they are at present’. His detailed observations of plant and animal life there turned him into an accomplished naturalist and enabled him to gain access to colleagues in the scientific community when he returned. He began to write papers and publish the findings of his experimental work. His name was made.

Immediately at the back of the house are lawns and flower beds, cultivated by Emma. Dominating one corner of the house is a magnificent gnarled old mulberry tree, witness to the life of the Darwins, now propped up with an iron support but still able to produce juicy berries.

Further afield, the grounds are extensive and include: a kitchen garden, an orchard, greenhouses (including a hothouse), fields, a laboratory and the remains of a tennis court. Darwin also owned Great House Meadow and at the far end of this field lies the famous Sandwalk. He bought this narrow strip of land in 1846 and planted a hedge, trees and bushes round its border making a path of stone and sand. Every day he walked several circuits of his ‘thinking path’, marking the number of times he went round with a pile of stones, visible today.

All the land he owned was used for his experiments. You can still see the famous Wormstone which was developed by Darwin’s son Horace to measure the movement of soil displacement by worms. He also recorded the number and species of plants which sprang up in a given sized rectangle of lawn.

He was constantly in touch with his friend Joseph Hooker at Kew who kept him well supplied with plants. ‘You cannot imagine what pleasure your plants give me,’ Darwin wrote to Hooker, ‘I go and gloat over them.’ He was particularly interested in orchids, insectivorous plants and climbing plants. (The trellis over the back of the house was also in use for his climbing plant experiments.) Important publications on the growth and reproduction patterns of plants came from his experiments here. Today, similar plants are on show in the greenhouses.

‘Darwin died in 1882, as he had lived, in the quiet retirement of the country house which he had loved,’ recorded the Standard newspaper on his death. This tranquil setting was in marked contrast to the furore which his work brought about. The idea of evolution challenged religious beliefs about creation. This is summed up by WS Gilbert in a couple of succinct lines:

‘Darwinian man, though well behaved,

At best is only a monkey shaved.’

Nevertheless, his work was recognized as of seminal importance and he was buried in Westminster Abbey, attended by the great and the good of Victorian society.

What then happened to Down House? Emma and the children moved to Cambridge but returned every year in the summer till her death in 1896. In 1907 it became a girls’ school until 1921. After that, the house remained empty and began to deteriorate until an eminent surgeon bought it and restored it in1927. In 1929 it was turned into a museum and remained under the care of the Royal College of Surgeons till English Heritage took it over in 1996 and made major structural repairs. It opened to the public in 1998.

Jean Bayne


After our lunchtime pie and (very nice, if slowly served) pint at the King’s Arms, Leaves Green, we moved on to a personal highlight for me, not surprisingly – St George’s Royal Air Force Chapel of Remembrance and Battle of Britain Memorial Chapel, in a small remaining RAF-administered corner of what was RAF Biggin Hill, Kent, but is now a civil airfield.

And what could be more appropriate? As we got off the coach to enter the well-tended gardens and admire the full-sized pole-mounted fibreglass Hawker Hurricane and Supermarine Spitfire fighter model ‘gate guardians’ in their Battle of Britain era 1940 camouflage and markings, the sky roared as over our heads at very low level flew a Spitfire at full chat taking off from the airport, its Rolls Royce Merlin making a lovely sound as it headed off to give a display elsewhere. (The original Hawker Hurricane which, along with a late-mark Spitfire, guarded the chapel for many years from 1954 is now part of the RAF Museum collection, being on long-term loan to the Hurricane & Spitfire Memorial Museum at Manston Airport, not too far away)

That treat over, we moved inside for a most informative introductory talk from a volunteer guide, who was delighted to get so many signatures into his visitor book and sell a good number of guidebooks and postcards also.

Following a national appeal spearheaded by Winston Churchill, the current simple brick chapel and tower was built in 1951, replacing an earlier prefabricated station church commemorating the Battle which originated in 1943 but was destroyed by fire in 1946 – even its exact location has now been lost. It records the names of the 453 aircrew, of many nations, from the 52 Squadrons of the Biggin Hill Sector, who were killed during the Second World War. The main part of the chapel has a superb collection of stained glass windows by Hugh Easton, who designed the RAF Memorial Window at Westminster Abbey, these being installed in 1955 with more added in the 1980s.

Along with medal groups, models, Books of Remembrance and paintings, (one a remarkable double-sided representation of the original chapel and of two wartime pilots c. 1943/44) the flags of Commonwealth and Allied nations and many RAF mementos are displayed around the main chapel sanctuary and adjacent St George’s Room; even the chapel floor is supposedly made from off-cuts of wood used in the manufacture of aircraft propellers.                                                                                                                                Andy Simpson

Our final port-of-call on this varied and interesting outing was Lullingstone Roman Villa, an old favourite of HADAS and certainly due for a revisit. Situated in the Darent Valley about five miles south of Watling Street and approached from a narrow lane which fords the river, the villa is peacefully rural. It is one of a group of villas built in this part of Kent. At Lullingstone the first simple villa-house dates from about AD 100. It was expanded between AD150–275, reshaped between AD 275–350, elaborated and dramatically changed between AD 350–425 and finally abandoned following a fire sometime in the 5th century. In its final phase the villa must have been a substantial structure with handsome reception rooms at its core, underfloor heating, an eastern verandah, domestic and cult rooms in the north wing and a bath suite in the south.

The remains of the villa were rediscovered in 1750. They were excavated briefly in 1939 and thoroughly between .1949 and 1958, and publicly displayed under a protective cover-building from 1963. In 1983 a small-scale excavation led to a rephasing of the villa, and in 2009 the site was ‘updated’ with modern viewing galleries, a film-o-light show, a recently returned collection of Roman artefacts and the usual hands-on opportunities for children (and adults!).

So what is special (and it is very special) about Lullingstone? Its obvious treasures include a particularly well-preserved bath-suite and its two 4th century mosaic floors depicting Europa and the Bull (triclinium) and Bellerophon killing the chimera (audience chamber). But the villa’s unique value lies in the evidence it provides for early Christianity in Britain and its apparent co-existence with continuing pagan worship. The so-called Deep Room near the north end of the villa with a well in its floor, its wall painting of three water


nymphs, and possible ritual vessels seems to indicate a pagan cult room. The later placing of two marble busts there may indicate a change to veneration of ancestors or the Imperial cult. Yet it was above this room that a Christian house-church had been erected in about 350 AD and it was in the cult room that the excavators found thousands of fragments of painted wall plaster which had fallen from the west and south walls of the house-church. They have been painstakingly reconstructed at the British Museum where they are now on display; replicas are in place at the villa. They depict six figures with hands raised in the manner of Christians at prayer. There is also a large painted Chi-Rho. When I first visited Lullingstone (with HADAS) in about 1975 the guide book had paintings of some of the fragments of wall plaster; reconstruction of them was only just beginning. Recently I took that old guide book to the British Museum and identified the panels reconstructed from the fragments illustrated. The work involved was awe-inspiring.

Why did a pagan cult continue at Lullingstone alongside Christianity? Who lived at Lullingstone: a prosperous Romanised local tribesman? – a retired soldier? – or was it Pertinax, Governor of Britannia 185- 186 AD and Emperor for three months in 193, and his father-in-law Successus? (The two marble busts mentioned above could be portraits of the latter.) Theories abound and study of the finds from Lullingstone, of the villa itself and of its five surrounding structures will surely continue.

Before leaving for home some of us wandered down to the river bank to admire the trout, the water plants and the brilliant damselflies. The Romans knew how to site their homes!

Thank you June (and the absent Stuart) for a truly splendid day.                                                                  Sheila Woodward

THE EAST FINCHLEY HURRICANE                                                                                                                     Andy Simpson

HAWKER HURRICANE MK. 1 P3835/2694M

Sometimes the day job and the interest in local history combine, as when in early August I received a letter from RAF veteran Mr George Cull, a former resident of Finchley now living in York. He enclosed a box-Brownie photograph he had taken, dated 27 January 1946, of a well-worn wartime Hawker Hurricane fighter of No. 1825 Squadron Air Training Corps which stood adjacent to the by-then abandoned ATC HQ building, a large house on ground opposite East Finchley Underground station by the entrance to Cherry Tree Woods. It was common practice until the 1970s to issue obsolete aircraft to ATC units as attention-grabbing ‘gate guards’ and for technical instructional use for the cadets. Even today a select few ATC units maintain an aeronautical veteran, though nothing older than a 1950s Gloster Meteor these days. The unit had apparently closed in 1945. Just legible on the rear fuselage was the maintenance serial 2694M, as allocated to non-flying instructional airframes in the RAF.

A bit of cross-checking led to its original RAF serial number, P3835. I have now produced its outline history in the standard format I use for all 250 or so aircraft in the RAF Museum collection. Those of you with any knowledge of immediate post-war Finchley are warmly invited to let me know any additional information, such as when the aircraft was finally scrapped and the site cleared, and also of course any other photos of the Finchley Hurricane would be of great interest.

Mr Cull, who has kindly agreed to me telling this story in the HADAS newsletter, recalled that this stage the Hurricane was rapidly deteriorating, so he recovered, and still holds, the control-column spade-grip and a large section of starboard fuselage fabric; photos show it retains the roundel, green/brown camouflage, part of the maintenance serial number (..94M), and possible traces of the original squadron codes showing through. (The Hurricane had a mainly fabric-covered tubular metal structure fuselage with wooden formers)

19 Jun 40     Taken on charge as new aircraft at No 22 Maintenance Unit, RAF Silloth. P3835 was one of a batch of 500 Hurricane I aircraft (plus 44 attrition replacements) built by Hawker Aircraft Co at its Kingston, Brooklands, and Langley factories under contract 962371/38, delivered to the RAF between 21 February and 20 July 1940 at an average production rate of three aircraft per day.

13 Jul 40          To No. 245 Squadron (miss-recorded as 246 Squadron on the original RAF aircraft record card – that squadron did not re-form until 1942) Squadron code DX-, based at RAF Aldergrove, Northern Ireland for convoy patrols and the aerial defence of Belfast.

13 Oct 40         Slightly damaged in flying accident.

9 Jan 41           Returned to No 22 MU.

3 Feb 41         To No. 315 (Deblin) (Polish) Squadron (Squadron codes PK - ) , based at Acklington, moving  to Liverpool (Speke) in March 1941. The Squadron became operational on 18 March and began local patrols and patrolling the shipping convoys in and out of the Mersey, its first (inconclusive) combat with a Luftwaffe Ju 88 bomber not coming until 24 May. The squadron re-equipped with the Supermarine Spitfire Mk. IIA in July 1941, leading to the re-allocation of P3835 to another unit resident at Speke.

16 Jul 41         Retaining its Polish link, P3835 transferred to No 303 (Polish) Squadron (Sqdn codes RF -).The Squadron was resting after its intensive activity during the Battle of Britain, and P3835 presumably continued with local patrols over the River Mersey.

23 Sep 41        Allotted maintenance serial 2694M, and sent to No 1 School of Technical Training, RAF Halton. Total flying hours only 189.25. By now the Mk.1 Hurricane was obsolete as a day fighter, being replaced by the improved Hurricane Mk II and the ubiquitous Spitfire.

29 Apr 44        Transferred to No. 1825 Sqn ATC, East Finchley and displayed outside their HQ opposite East Finchley Underground station.

1945                         ATC unit closed/disbanded.

1946                 Scrapped on site?

Any additional information, or even reports of other surviving parts, awaited with interest!

As a footnote, Mr Cull subsequently reports that in May 1945 Potters Bar ATC celebrated VE day by burning their Gloster Gladiator biplane fighter – the type immortalised by ‘Faith, Hope and Charity’ in the defence of Malta. Thankfully several Gladiators still survive today, including one here at Hendon. At the same time, Mr Cull’s ATC unit, 393 Finchley Squadron ATC, at their HQ in a big old house called ‘St Michaels’ in Hendon Lane, were more restrained. They had a 1930s Fairey Gordon biplane day bomber/General Purpose aircraft outside, and its Armstrong Siddeley Panther engine inside on the ground floor. On VE day a cadet walked along the wings, putting his foot through the fabric covering with every step. Mr Cull reports this unit also had the fuselage of a Curtis Hawk 75A ‘Mohawk’. Some of these saw valiant service with the French Air Force during the Blitzkrieg of May/June 1940.


ERIC MORGAN’S MONTHLY ROUND-UP OF EVENTS

Some early September events were listed in the August Newsletter.

Sat/Sun. 11/12 Sept. 10.00 – 6.00pm RAF Museum, Grahame Park Way, NW9, Battle of Britain Weekend.

Mon. 13 Sept. 3.00pm, Barnet & District LHS, Church House, Wood St. Barnet, A Brief History of Pantomime, Marlene McAndrew.

Tues. 14 Sept. 11.00 –1.00pm, LAARC, Mortimer Wheeler House, 46 Eagle Wharf Rd, N1, Talk & Tour of Archives & Artefacts, Daniel Nesbitt, (curator) & Kenneth Marks (who lectured to HADAS on Archaeology of London Anglo-Jewry). Limited to 25 persons so pre-booking essential, £5, 'M 0759 907 7869

Tues. 14 Sept. 3.00pm, Museum of London, Jewish Heritage in London, Julia Hoffbrand, (curator) talks about objects recovered from a kosher distillery in Brick Lane. FREE 

but tickets allocated on arrival.

Tues. 14 Sept. 8.00pm, Amateur Geological Society, The Parlour, St Margaret’s Church, Victoria Avenue, N3, The Lying Stones of Beringer, Dr Paul Taylor

Wed. 15 Sept. 10.30am, Friends of Barnet Borough Libraries, Friern Barnet Library, Friern Barnet Rd. N11, Local Ghosts, Ollie Natelson.

Sat/Sun. 18/19 Sept. LONDON OPEN HOUSE WEEKEND, free access to hundreds of buildings across London. Details at www.openhouse.org.uk

Wed. 22 Sept. 7.45pm, Friern Barnet & District LHS, St John’s Church Hall, Friern Barnet Lane, N20, The Palace of Westminster, Major Peter Horsfall.

Sun. 26 Sept – Sun. Oct. 3, Barnet Borough Arts Council (outside Waitrose) , The Spires, High St. Barnet, Paintings & What’s On (including HADAS).

Thurs. 30 Sept. 8.00pm, Finchley Society, Avenue House, East End Rd, N3, Not Just a Pretty Place – The National Trust and how it works, Mike Watts.


THANKS TO ALL OUR CONTRIBUTORS: Jean Bayne, Stephen Brunning, Eric Morgan, Jim Nelhams, Emma Robinson, Andy Simpson and Sheila Woodward.

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