Outings to Chatham and Folkestone

The coach for Chatham on 31st July is full and we have a waiting list. Apologies to those who have been disappointed. 

The coach for Folkestone on Wednesday 17th August is filling up, so if you want to go and have not booked yet, please send your form and cheque to Jim Nelhams to secure your place. 


A reminder of our celebration at Avenue House.

There is no charge for attending, but if you intend to come, and have not yet told us,

We do need to know so that we can order the right amount of food. 

Return to Hendon School                                                                 by Don Cooper 

Site code HDS06. Grid reference: 523675.129E 189026.785N height above sea level 59.850 metres.   

The Eastings and Northings grid reference was set up by contractors who are building the additional six-form structure in the school grounds. The centre of our trench was 12.91m from the grid reference button.

Members of University of London’s Institute of Archaeology (IoA) and HADAS volunteers returned to Hendon School for another week of excavation from 17th to 25th of June 2011. This was the six year that we have been at Hendon School. Last year, as many of you will recall, we got a surprise on the last day of excavation when, on digging a sondage (a small test pit within the trench) so that we could establish the stratigraphy down to the natural London Clay, we found over a hundred sherds of early medieval Pottery. Although these are still being analysed in order to further pin the fabrics and dates, it was clear that there was probable medieval activity in the area. The plan for 2011 was to revisit the 2010 excavation to see what was going on. However as with the “best laid plans of mice and men” it turned out not to be so simple! 

During the year the school had begun building a new sixth-form building complex and although it was at the far end of the site from our excavation, huge lorries were parked near where we wanted to dig and the ground was well and truly churned up. The school had also removed the hedge than ran along the north side of the playing field. This hedge line had been beside three of the previous five digs at the school and we had used it as “fence” protecting the northern side of our trenches. Additionally the school wished to give more pupils experience of practical archaeology so whereas in previous years we had between 25 and 30 volunteer pupils, this year the number was about 260.


                                                                                                    Figure 1. Day 1 - Thank goodness we didn't have to de-turf


As our markers as to where exactly we had dug in 2010 were no longer clear, we decided to open a much larger trench with a view to encompassing the old excavation. The advantage of having builders on site was that they kindly de-turfed a 6 metre by 6 metre trench for us (and also back-filled after we were finished – Hurrah). Despite having a 6m by 6m trench to excavate, we had to divide it in two so as to have an adequate area for the pupils to work in - that half of the trench never reached the natural except for a small E/W section. The half not allocated to the pupils was excavated during the times that there were no pupils on site, with the consequence that the natural London clay was not reached in about 75% of the trench. Nevertheless among the 17th, 18th and 19th c pot sherds, clay pipe, glass, metal and building material (mostly tile and brick) there were, as in the previous year, over 100 sherds of 12th and 13th c pottery, which are currently being analysed. 

 Although each pupil only had, of necessity, a short time to experience practical archaeology the consensus at the end of the week was that they had enjoyed themselves. Most pupils were able to spend some time troweling in the trench, sieving the soil, pot washing and trying to reconstruct a pot from its sherds as well as learning about health and safety on archaeological sites and the history of Hendon House, the probable home of John Norden the great geographer, in whose gardens we were digging. The final Saturday coincided with the school fete and although a small number of pupils and parents came to see the excavation, it was disappointing that we didn’t attract more sightseers, but the draw of bouncy castles and other rides as well as sweet and cakes stalls proved more popular. A full report of the dig is in preparation and will be published in due course. 

As a final act of the excavation a time capsule prepared by the pupils was buried in the trench. Who knows what future generations will think!! 

Thanks must go to the school, Tom Janvrin in particular who orchestrated this year’s event, to all the volunteers from both UCL/IoA and HADAS including Angie, Sarah, Gabe, Vicki, Nick, Jim, Alex, Sigrid and Hannah.



Exploring a Legionary Fortress; New Excavations at Caerleon and the Late Roman Military in Britain 

Dr. Andrew Gardner   Lecturer (Archaeology of the Roman Empire)

Institute of Archaeology, UCL London


Report by Andy Simpson 

This fascinating lecture covered work done in conjunction with Cardiff University and CADW, Dr. Gardner being co-director alongside a Welsh colleague, Dr Peter Guest. Today, Caerleon/Caerllion is a pleasant small town of some 7,000 inhabitants just outside Newport, on the bank of the tidal River Usk, with the modern town lying over the fortress, of which, happily and unusually, one third of the original area – the western side of the fortress - has lain undeveloped since Roman times. This makes a happy contrast with the heavily built-over legionary fortress sites at Chester and York. 

Lying in the territory of the powerful and warlike Silures tribe, from around AD74/75 as the Roman Isca it was home to the 5500-man Legio II Augusta, as part of the 20-30 year Roman campaign to conquer Wales and was occupied into the fourth century. Today, the excavated 6000-seat stone amphitheatre, lengths of fortress wall, and in Prysg Field, a latrine, cook-houses and ovens, and barrack blocks excavated in the 1930s can be seen, along with impressive parts of the massive, 360ft/110m long basilican fortress baths (equal in size to Wells Cathedral) under a modern cover building, along with the Roman Legionary Museum originally established in 1850. Although York became a major Colonia, the Welsh garrisons seem to have diminished in the second century. 

With the original turf, clay and timber defences converted to stone in the later first/second century, some rebuilding is attested in third century inscriptions, including the HQ building (principia) and some barrack blocks. By the 290s AD, key buildings at Caerleon appear to have become disused, and the nature of any fourth-century occupation is uncertain, whether civilian or military in nature. By the fourth century, legions had been sub-divided into dedicated Cohorts of around 1000 men. The main areas of extra-mural settlement are to the north-east and south-west, with satellite settlements also to the east with a further suburb across the river Usk. Burial grounds lie on hill slopes south and north of the fortress. 

Caerwent Roman town – Venta Silurum – with its well preserved defences and remains of public buildings, lies only nine miles away to the east. 

First dug in 1849, Caerleon was again dug in 1908-9 and the barracks and amphitheatre by Mortimer and Tessa Wheeler 1926-28 on behalf of the National Museum of Wales and by V.E. Nash-Williams in the 1950s/60s and the fortress baths 1977-1981. Small-scale rescue digs continued in the 1970s to 1990s, and a major magnetometer survey was undertaken 2006-2009. Research priorities are to investigate the unexcavated ‘blank area’ and evidence for fourth century occupation and everyday life on such military sites and how this connected with the role of the Roman military as an imperial institution.

Summer excavation work has been undertaken on the fortress granaries in ‘Priory Field’, beginning with test pits and geophysical survey in 2007, with these investigations intended to test the state of preservation- Priory Field was pasture land for centuries and previously unexcavated.

 Test pits gave some evidence of late Roman occupation, leading to larger trenches being dug in 2008/2010 across a square stone military warehouse/store building with central entrance leading to a range of rooms arranged around a central courtyard, in use from the second to probable late third century and robbed out in the medieval period, as a training exercise for students and also to engage with the public through daily public tours of the excavations. Each room was dug in quadrants to keep a record section. 

In 2008 an engraved building inscription was found, probably commemorating the construction of the warehouse by the Century of the Primus Pilus (First Spear – senior centurion in charge of the first cohort of the legion) 

Some spectacular finds included Roman military equipment including much of a suit of classic legionary Lorica Segmentata banded Roman armour, lifted in 30 soil blocks from room 2 for conservation at the National Museum of Wales, including iron bands from the torso and possibly shoulders, and copper alloy studs, rivets and buckles formerly on a leather backing for strapping. There were also remains of parade or ceremonial armour, including copper discs and a copper sheet with a relief human head, possibly from another suit or cavalry parade helmet. Also found was a lead tag and shield grip and three fish brooches. After the warehouse went out of use, the entrance was given a new surface, and with the external walls still standing a new structure was built using ‘jerry-built’ unmortared walls within a shell of standing masonry. Some of these new walls later collapsed. Later features included surfaces and walls, with much recycling of material including a sculptural fragment. Abundant fourth-century coinage was found, with some fourth century pottery but little fourth-century metalwork, with some continuing military occupation presumed. 

Many fortresses see major changes in the fourth century, with reduced occupation. At Caerleon there is still fourth-century rubbish in the baths complex, indicating continued occupation of the central area, perhaps under ‘care and maintenance’, with the extra mural settlements also still occupied at this time. The II Augustan Legion is later recorded at Richborough, Kent. Perhaps part of it remained as a detachment at Caerleon, or even the third-century fort at Cardiff, so spectacularly ‘restored; in Victorian times. At Wroxeter city and Birdoswald fort up on Hadrian’s Wall, late Roman timber buildings were erected over earlier stone ones. 

Medieval Caerleon is evidenced by patterns of rubble suggesting a possible barn, only six inches beneath the modern turf, possibly dating to the fourteenth century when Caerleon, overseen by its castle, was a small farming village, already linked with King Arthur in the popular imagination, being the site of his court according to medieval historian Geoffrey of Monmouth, with the amphitheatre identified by some as being his round table. In the twelfth/thirteenth century substantial Roman building remains were still visible there, including the shell of the baths building. 

In the summer 2010 a complex of very large stone buildings was found outside the fort during geophysical survey, and more digging is planned for 2011 to explore these unique buildings, which include a huge courtyard enclosure building, for which there is as yet no dating evidence, but it is thought to be fairly early and possibly related to a port complex on the Usk, since a harbour wall is already known. 

There is an informative website with archaeologist’s blog and detailed photographic coverage of recent work at Priory Field, along with Roman Caerleon generally – see


An Evening with the Thames Discovery Programme [TDP] at Southwark Cathedral on 6 July.                                                              Emma and David Robinson 

It was a splendid evening. The venue was superb, the content well focussed and great hospitality was shown by the Southwark Cathedral staff and the TDP.  We departed stimulated and much better informed about the history of Southwark, its Cathedral, the work of the TDP and the many other groups who contributed.  


The programme was divided into three parts.  The central part being a fascinating lecture given by Nathalie Cohen (TDP Team Leader and Southwark Cathedral Archaeologist) and entitled “Priors, Pilgrims, Potters & Pirates: the archaeology of Southwark and its Cathedral”. Before the lecture there was a chance to explore the Cathedral and its precinct and view displays from many groups in the north and south transepts – and also to visit the South Courtyard where the Middlesex and Surrey Archaeology Dowsers were examining the area where the chapel of St Mary Magdalene once stood.  After the lecture there was a further opportunity to explore, view the displays and talk with TDP staff and volunteers over a glass of wine in the Cathedral’s Millennium Courtyard.   

The evening gave vivid glimpses of the long and fascinating history of Southwark.  Notably the Cathedral is the oldest cathedral church building in London – although only a cathedral since 1905, when the Anglican Diocese of Southwark was formed.  The Cathedral’s origins however lie in the 13th century as a priory church following the rule of the life of St Augustine of Hippo.  For much of its history Southwark has often been called the ‘other London’ over the river.  But it is the important bridging point over the Thames which, since at least Roman times, has nurtured Southwark and still defines its identity to this day.  

Nathalie Cohen’s lecture brought together many facets of the lives of people who have lived, worked, worshipped or visited Southwark over time. She reminded us that Southwark was the London of many “P”s including: Priors; Pilgrims; Potters; Pirates (seafaring folk); Palaces (and great houses); Playhouses; Pubs and taverns; and, above all, People drawn from many backgrounds. Here, Priors stand for the influence and prosperity of the church (Nathalie gave a fascinating account of the consequences of the rich diet eaten by many monks as evidenced by their diseased bones); Pilgrims stand for pilgrimage routes to diverse and often distant destinations (this is known since returning pilgrims often cast their pilgrim badges into the Thames as a token); Potters stand for this important local industry (as witnessed by the Delft tile kiln in the Cathedral Precinct); Pirates stand for the seafaring folk, trade and commerce (and some colourful personalities); Palaces stand for the great houses of leading courtiers and churchmen which stood here (since it was just over the river from Westminster); Playhouses stand for the London of theatre and entertainment (as witnessed by the Globe Theatre of Shakespeare’s time which has now risen again); Pubs and taverns stand for hospitality and the constant coming of people over the Thames (which has ensured London’s prosperity since at least Roman times); and, finally People stand for the diverse folk associated with Southwark’s past.


Changing theories on the purpose of the roundhouses discovered at Vindolanda                                                                                                         Vicki Baldwin

In May this year I once again spent a week as a volunteer excavator at Vindolanda in Northumberland.  During my stint I uncovered the remains of a roundhouse underneath the road surface in the north western quadrant of the visible fort walls (Periods VII – X AD213 to AD550+).  The roundhouses are thought to belong to the brief Period VI-B (AD208 – AD213).  We were actually looking for the walls of the barrack blocks located in the area.  A roundhouse was not what we expected to find and on 19th May Justin Blake, deputy director of excavations, tweeted:

“Who'd have believed a Severan roundhouse could have survived the ravages of three different road surfacings during the 3rdC? Super to see it”

The roundhouse also appeared to have a flagged floor.  Subsequently the remains of further roundhouses have been uncovered in this area.  However, their function has yet to be determined.  The latest theory as reported by the BBC on 17th June is that they were built to house refugee farmers from north of Hadrian’s Wall. Prior to that they were reported in 2000 to be accommodation for prisoners of war, hostages or forced labour, although the possibility that they were built for refugees was considered.

While I was digging there this year I was told that someone had suggested that they may have been built by North African troops accompanying Septimus Severus “because they were used to living in round huts” (!!??).  I really do not think that notion could be taken seriously even though the layout of the structures (in groups of 10 arranged in 5 pairs) appears to have been planned.  What is clear though is that the continuing excavations at Vindolanda mean that theories are constantly being revised and that current knowledge of the fort sequence, its vicus and surroundings is always expanding.

Sequence of Forts at Vindolanda: 

Housing for Prisoners:

 Housing for Refugees:

 Roundhouse further excavated (July):

What’s On                                                                                                      Eric Morgan 

Tuesday 2nd August, 2-3pm:  Harrow Museum, Headstone Manor, Pinner View, North Harrow: Monuments in Middlesex Churches.  Talk by Pat Clarke (Pinner Local History Soc. & LAMAS).  Cost £3. 

Wednesday 3rd August, 6pm:  Docklands History Group, Museum in Docklands, No. 1 Warehouse, West India Quay, Hertsmere Road, E14, Greenwich Peninsula.  Talk by Mary Mills.  Donation £2. 

Sunday 7th August, from 1pm: HADAS 50th Birthday Party, Avenue House, East End Road, N3

also 3-5pm: The Bothy Garden Open Day, Avenue House Grounds, East End Road, N3

And on 4th September, 3-5pm: The Bothy Garden Party.  Small charge

 Monday 8th – Friday 12th & Monday 15th – Friday 19th August: Copped Hall Trust Archaeological Project: Field Schools 2011.  For details please see June Newsletter or visit or email: 

Tuesday 9th August, 8pm:  Amateur Geological Society, The Parlour, St. Margaret’s Church, Victoria Avenue, N3 (off Hendon Lane): Members’ Evening: talks by society members including Chalk Echinoderms: by Len Tapper; J.F. Kirkaldy – a Geologist at War: by Dave Greenwood; a display by John Shaw on Minerals on Stamps. 

Tuesday 16th August, 6pm:  Harrow Museum, Headstone Manor, Pinner View, North Harrow: William Morris talk by Helen Elletson. Cost £3.  

Tuesday 16th August, 6pm: Highgate Wood Information Hut, off Archway Road, N6.  Historical Walk. Highgate Society. 

Friday 19th August, 12.00-2.00pm: Museum of London,  150 London Wall EC2: Archaeology UP Close. Object handling sessions with members of Archaeological Collections Dept.  Also 2.00-2.30pm & 3.00-3.30pm: Roman Fort Visit, tickets allocated on arrival.  Both free.  Tour remains of the Western Gate, below street level. 

Friday 19th August, 7pm:  COLAS, St. Olave’s Parish Hall, Mark Lane, EC3: New Discoveries in Bronze Age Iran. Talk by Ian Jones (Enfield Archaeological Society). Visitors £2.  Light refreshments after. 

Saturday 20th August & Sunday 21st August, 12-6pm:  Friern Barnet Summer Show, Friary Park, Friern Barnet Lane, N12.  Friern Barnet & District Local History Society will have a stand there.   Barnet Borough Arts Council will also be in a marquee with paintings, info & What’s On (including HADAS). 

Wednesday 24th August, 6.30pm: Islington Archaeology & History Society Summer Stroll.  Led by John Finn.  Meet at entrance hall of Dalston Junction Station (London Overground) for a walk along Hackney/Stoke Newington edge.  Cost £6.  Send cheque payable to ‘Islington Archaeology & History Society’ & s.a.e. to:  8, Wynyatt Street, EC1V 7HU (tel: 020 7833 1541).  Walk will finish about 8.30pm at Newington Green. 

Saturday 27th August, 2.30pm:  Enfield Society, Heritage Walk: Edmonton, starting from the car park of Millfield House Arts Centre, off Silver Street N18.  A 2½-3 hour linear walk along paths via Pymmes & Craig Parks.  Ends with a visit to Church Street Conservation Area.  Led by Monica Smith. 

Monday 29th August, 11.00am – 6.00pm:  Highgate Society, Lauderdale House, Highgate Hill, N6.

30th Anniversary Arts & Crafts Fair. 

Monday 29th August: Markfield Beam Engine Steam Date, Markfield Road, N15.  Tel: 01707 873628; email; or check for times.  (HADAS had a lecture on this in May). 

Tuesday 30th August, 2-3pm:  Harrow Museum, Headstone Manor, Pinner View, North Harrow: The Life of Dr. Johnson talk by Stephanie Chapman.  £3.  

Saturday 3rd & Sunday4th September, 10.30am-6pm:  Enfield Town Show, Town Park, Cecil Road, Enfield, Middx.  The Enfield Society & Enfield Archaeological Society will have stands here.  Lots more stalls.  Admission £3 (£2 concessions).

 Sunday 5th September, 11am-5pm:  Angel Canal Festival, Regents Canal, City Road Basin, Islington, N1 (near LAARC).  Many stalls, boat trips & rally.  London Canal Museum & Islington Archaeology & History Society have stands.  Free. 

Sunday 5th September, 11am-4pm:  Highgate Society Heritage Day Highgate Woods, off Archway Road  N6 

Advance Notice

Saturday 15th September: Barnet & District Local History Society coach outing to The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.  For details please tel. Pat Alison on 01707 858430 or email