No.495 JUNE 2012 Edited by Micky Watkins
Annual General Meeting – Tuesday, June 12th 2012 at 8pm
We hope many members will take this chance to come to the HADAS AGM and express their views and volunteer to help organize outings and events.
After the AGM there will be:
Reports and pictures of HADAS activities through the year and Stewart Wild’s adventures called “North Korea – nothing is quite as it seems”
Come and support your Society
Lectures are held at Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley, N3 3QE and start promptly at 8.00 pm with coffee /tea and biscuits afterwards. Non-members welcome (£1.00) Buses 82, 125, 143, 326 & 460 pass nearby and Finchley Central Station (Northern line) is a short walk away.
Sunday 26th – Thursday 30th August Summer Trip to Ironbridge.
Sunday 30th September – Day outing to the St Albans area with Stewart and June.
More details next month
Tues 9th October – The Life and legacy of George Peabody. Lecture by Christine Wagg.
Tues 13th November – Archaeological Discoveries in Southwark.
Lecture by Peter Moore, Pre-Construct Archaeology.
Sun 2nd December– Christmas Party at Avenue House, 12 noon – 4.30pm (approx).
Conservation Techniques in Stone Masonry Stephen Critchley
Report of HADAS Talk (10.4.2012) by Celia Gould & Paul Wernick
Stephen Critchley served a formal apprenticeship as a stonemason, comprised of five years training followed by two further years ‘improving’, starting in the 1970s – the last days of traditional apprenticeships – and finishing in time for the 1980s building boom. Today he has a company based in London and the Cotswolds.
Stephen treated his audience to a master craftsman’s view of the history and current state of a trade which has existed for millennia, illustrated not with pictures but by the tools of his trade – mallets, chisels and a hammer. He also included the occasional story from the front line (the stoneface?) casting doubt on the opinions of ‘experts’ who may have read – and written – much on the topic of stonework but have probably never put chisel to stone. We asked questions and Stephen answered in an honest, down-to-earth manner. So here we present not a report of what he said in the order that he said it, but a thematic summary of what we learned during a most enjoyable evening.
Continuity in the Work of the Stonemason from Ancient Times
The designs of tools used by a stonemason have actually changed little for millennia. Stephen showed us a mallet based on drawings of an ancient Egyptian mallet, while modern plumb bobs and rollers are much the same as the Roman/Mesopotamian versions. The old skills of squaring and cutting are still taught and used. Modern materials may have replaced older ones – nylon instead of wood for mallets, hard tips on chisels – but overall, very little has changed in hand carving. Much of the modern stonemason’s terminology comes from Anglo-Norman, such as ‘quoin’ and ‘chamfer’.
Workmen’s books exist from medieval times with measurements and ratios using the Roman data of Vitruvius. The golden mean is still used when carving facial features. Old ideas on the effect of foreshortening on sculptures to be installed high up on buildings still work, as applied by Stephen when renewing faces on the Cirencester Corn Hall.
Stephen noted one curious effect of this continuity – that it can be impossible to date a piece of stonework with certainty based on the style and tool work. Renaissance sculptors knew that burying carvings in the right ground for a time could ‘antique’ their work very effectively. Modern masons can replace earlier work using the same or equivalent techniques to achieve results which look very much like the original.
His experience tells us that you cannot date buildings from looking at the stonework. You can, though, sometimes tell from tool marks on buildings where they have been finished – English masons use chisels, while French and German workers use axes.
The use of stone has changed over time. Local material was cheap in mediaeval times, and a landowner could get his workmen to dig it out from anywhere on his property, so there was no need to economise on it. Gothic architects realised that they could reduce the amount of stone in these previously over-engineered buildings to let in more light and yet still achieve structural integrity, although this did involve some trial and error – Beauvais cathedral fell down twice! Some of the distinguishing ‘structural’ features of these buildings have surprisingly turned out not to be needed now; Stephen noted that flying buttresses can without any problem be replaced leaving a gap where they ought to be holding and supporting the walls!
The Modern Trade or Craft
In recent times training has leant towards heritage conservation training for craftsmen (maybe six months in college and a two day SPAB course) tending to downplay the basic hand skills that Stephen believes underlie the expertise of the true stonemason. The pendulum is swinging back now, and he teaches his apprentices the same hand/tool and hand/eye co-ordination and how to square a block that he learnt himself, but the old skills are still taught less than they used to be.
Modern techniques have also made their presence felt. Computer-controlled machinery can cut blocks to size much more quickly than handwork. However, it takes 1½ day to set up the computerised cutter and, whilst new-build can take advantage of this technology, for small jobs an individual can still complete the task faster – and these small jobs at which humans excel are typical of conservation work!
One comparatively recent change is that 25% of apprentice stonemasons are now women. They tend to concentrate on the fine carving work, not because of any discrimination but because they lack the upper body strength needed for moving the heavy blocks of stone around.
Stephen’s company takes on a wide variety of work to help the industry to survive, ranging from Cotswold village stone windows to cathedral screens. They are not conservators or heritage workers, but craftsmen turning their hand to whatever needs to be done just as their predecessors did. On a more positive note, he has recently been approached to provide an iconostasis for a Russian Orthodox Cathedral.
Working on stonework from different periods raises varying challenges. There is often a need to correct subsidence in buildings constructed without foundations. The beautiful Georgian buildings in Bath’s crescents were jerry-built, with much of the stonework only half the thickness (2” instead of 4”) needed to keep out the damp. The fixings of the heavy wrought iron balconies in Cheltenham have proved insufficiently strong to take their weight. Even Norman work was sometimes of poor quality. Stephen noted that he regards himself as an architectural carver/sculptor, who can copy a design accurately, but not as the artist who creates that original design.
Another particular issue is the use of unsuitable materials whose pernicious effects only emerge long after the work has been carried out. Cement renders over stonework can do untold damage. The Victorians’ habit of fastening stone blocks and facings with iron clamps has also caused problems. Although these clamps were covered with lead, in many cases the lead has proved to be too thin to prevent rusting, and the corrosion-swollen clamps have split or even shattered the stone. Unfortunately less corrosion-prone phosphor-bronze and gunmetal were not used because of cost, as Stephen found out when he worked on replacing rusted clamps with replacements made from these materials – they had to be signed out from the store individually! Nowadays, English Heritage and heritage conservation architects have stopped the use of inferior fixings, so future generations will be saved from at least one element of skimped work. Stephen has also come across an example of an earlier attempt to resolve the rusting problem. When working in the Palm House at Kew Gardens, he found two very large batteries probably intended to prevent iron corrosion. The batteries had long since become exhausted and deteriorated – and the iron had rusted!
Inferior or poorly-weathering stone also causes problems. Gothic churches built from Headington stone (from near Oxford) have suffered, as this limestone shares some of the layering characteristics of sandstone, and the finished stone face tends to fall off. Wheatley Park School was originally a folly castle which collapsed because of the quality of the stone used, and had to be rebuilt.
Attitudes to conservation work have changed over time. When Stephen started, a handful of lime could be added to modern mortar ‘to keep the surveyor happy’, but now authentic materials are insisted on throughout. This has resulted in the occasional farcical situation. For instance, a balustrade at Stoneleigh had originally been carved from stone from a family-owned quarry whose stone, with a clay matrix, dissolved over time as water ran over it. The client’s insistence that the same stone be used for Stephen’s replacement work means that the same issue will probably arise at some future date. Replacement lime plaster was reinforced with yak’s hair after the modern local equivalents were felt not to be sufficiently authentic, although Stephen believes that the original hair was taken from whatever could be found – probably the local goats.
Even more oddly, Stephen was told to use only local clay to make temporary ‘birds’ nests’ to keep grout in place as it was poured – birds’ nests which were removed and discarded as the work was finished. Stoneleigh is an interesting example of a site whose development over time resulted in the presence of different styles of architecture with, for example, an 11th and 14th century gatehouse, Victorian stables, a Repton balustrade and the Rennie-designed Charlesworthy Bridge. This last was an amazing design, set out with no knowledge that it would work; a void has now been filled with lightweight concrete because of modern concerns, but this was in Stephen’s opinion unnecessary.
Stephen’s practice-based conclusion is that you need to give and take in maintaining heritage, and in dealing with the organisations overseeing this work. In many cases it is impossible to replace stone with the ‘same’ material. Quarries have been worked out or closed, so, for example, Oxford colleges now use Bath stone to replace worn-out work, although the new material is actually more durable than the now-unobtainable original. Gloucester Cathedral uses French stone for repairs; formerly any stone was used, which was certainly unsatisfactory.
Stephen also referred to the well-known controversy when French stone was used at the British Museum instead of the original Portland stone. He said that ‘everyone’ knew what was happening, but the desire to finish the job on time and within budget directed the decision to use French stone.
Some old work cannot be matched perfectly with replacement stone, even if the location of the original material can be identified. Stone taken from the same quarry 20 feet away from the original block may look very different, and some materials will change in ways that only time can replicate, such as the staining of clunch ashlar at Woburn Abbey as embedded iron pyrites nodules rust. The improvement in the atmosphere has also resulted in a change in materials suitable for replacement of old stone. English Heritage used to approve the use of Indiana limestone to match aged Portland stone which had become grey through the pre-smokeless days, and before buildings were washed.
The Mason’s Mark
Stephen gave us a very interesting insight into the subject of masons’ marks. These have been around since at least Norman times, and the tradition continues now. They are typically handed down (given to a mason, not chosen) from grandfather to grandson – for the son might still be working in the same team! You can trace teams moving from job to job by seeing them taking their marks with them; an example is Woburn Abbey, where the team carried out the work in stages which can be traced through the marks.
He emphasised that the marks tend to be simple; something that can be put into a stone block with a few taps of the tool. The point of masons’ marks was to show what a craftsman had done when he was paid by the day – and what was needed was a mark that could be made rapidly. Stephen contrasted this with some ‘masons’ marks’ found by experts, with curves and scrolls, that would simply have taken too long for a mason paid by the piece to carve.
A Few Local Examples of Stephen’s Work
Within or close to the HADAS area Stephen has worked on the Polish War Memorial and Kensal Green cemetery – interesting because of the variety of different types of stone. In Highgate cemetery he removed trees from the catacombs and put right damage to stone shattered by iron.
Green spaces in Barnet Don Cooper
There is a very good website called www.londongardensonline.org.uk. This site gives details of all the open spaces in each London Borough. It is well worth having a look.
Church Farmhouse Museum Dr Ann Saunders
A very pertinent letter written by Ann Saunders, a past HADAS President, was published in the Hampstead & Highgate Express (19th April 2012) and she has allowed us to reprint it:
Education minister Michael Gove has just released an unexpected £2.7 million to help school children explore their local history. The plans include the creation of “heritage brokers” to work with cluster of schools and help incorporate nearby historic sites into their lessons.
The borough of Barnet includes one of the finest ancient hilltop sites in the country: Greyhound Hill in Hendon. On it there is a superb Norman church, a public house, whose origins date back to the 17th century, and a 1660s farmhouse’ open to the public until last year as Church Farmhouse Museum.
Church Farm was purchased by Hendon Council in 1944 and, in an enlightened act, they opened it as a museum in 1955. The museum specialised in the local and social history of Barnet borough and gave special consideration to the needs of local children of all ages.
A particular delight was a Teddy Bear Trail. Searching for teddies hidden among unfamiliar objects from the past in the 19th century period rooms gave very young children a gentle introduction to the fascinating story of how our homes have developed over time.
Now Barnet Council has closed the museum and put the building up for sale. Interest may be shown but a buyer will be hard to come by since the Grade II* listing of the house renders it extremely difficult to alter or develop.
The people of Barnet, especially children, are losing a rare opportunity to connect with their area’s rich and important rural past. Barnet Council must be aware of what they are destroying. Do they care?
Basil, a HADAS member for many years, died earlier this year. He was born in 1924 and his work was with the well-known family funeral director business. His hobby was the carving of horn handles for walking sticks, and he became a senior member of the Worshipful Company of Horners. He was chairman of a local Rotary Club and was elected a borough councillor for Hendon. Dr Ann Saunders attended the funeral.
The Fuller Street excavation 1974: Part 2 By Andy Simpson
(continued from May 2012 Newsletter)
Thanks as ever to Jacqui Pearce for her assistance in identifying this material, all of which is unstratified.
The sole piece of medieval pottery was a heavily abraded base sherd of South Herts Greyware (SHER) dated 1170-1350.
There was also a single body sherd of Surrey/Hampshire border whiteware with green glaze (BORD G) drinking jug, dated 1550-1700, and a similarly small-sized and possibly contemporary body sherd of Early Post-Medieval London-area Redware (PMRE) of c.1480-1600.
The only other material recovered was Victorian or modern in date; perhaps a relic of someone’s front parlour was a neck and body fragment of Chinese porcelain vase with a peony design (CHPOBW, 1580-1900). There is also a sherd of cheap transfer-printed Japanese cup (JAPO, 1660-1900), two sherds of English Stoneware (ENGS), a fragment of relief-moulded brown-glazed hunting jug, and two sherds of TPW4 serving dish, and a large fragment of possibly 1920s brown-glazed mug.
The largest piece is a large, thick-walled post-medieval redware (PMR) large-diameter bowl, with finger-impression handle scar.
The clay pipe finds are very limited, and none have any trace of a maker’s mark. There are four short lengths of stem, one nipple-ended mouthpiece, and one bowl fragment, probably a pony’s hoof design (Decoration code HOOF) of probable late Victorian date. With the possible exception of two stem fragments which look thicker and earlier, these are all roughly Victorian in date, and are somewhat abraded.
There is one fragment, complete with glass stopper, of R White Lemonade carbonated drink, probably Lemonade, bottle.
A few fragments of field drain pipe and roofing tile samples (together referred to as CBM) remain in the surviving site archive. These consist of one length of red earthenware drain pipe, broken into two pieces, with a total length of 268mm, diameter (irregular) of 60mm and a bore of 40mm. there are also two fragments of large red Pantile nibbed roofing tile, maximum length 363mm.
There is also one metal item, a section of copper-ally eyepiece for a ‘Bring-‘em-Near’ style telescope, with section of wire soldered across the gall at the front.
The finds and paper archive are all held by HADAS.
Other Excavations in the vicinity
This would seem a good occasion to mention several nearby excavations, if only for their negative evidence:
It should be noted that the 1969 trial trenches by HADAS in the rear of Peacock’s Yard and Mount Pleasant, Church End immediately south of Church Terrace (NGR TQ 22950 98480) found pottery indicating occupation no earlier than the late 19th century, none of which seems to survive in the HADAS archive.
HADAS site watching at the PDSA building at Church Terrace (TQ22980 89500) on 5th November 1993 showed only modern concrete, soil and drain disturbance above natural clay in a 45cm wide trench at the rear of the building, with no finds.
A watching brief on building work for extension of the Garden Hospital at 45-60 Sunny Gardens Road in October 1992 (NGR TQ 23420 89500) found only topsoil and London clay, with no finds (HADAS Newsletter 261, December 1992). Similarly, an evaluation by Thames Valley Archaeological Services just to the west at 15-17 Sunningfields Road, Hendon, in September 1995 (TQ22960 89720, site code SSR95) found no features or finds of archaeological significance. PCA undertook an evaluation at 13 Sunningfields Road (NGR 22950 89650, Site code SFZ06).
A further trial excavation in Sunny Gardens Road in March 2006, which included a front garden trench, also found no archaeological evidence (personal communication, D. Cooper)
SELECTION OF FULLER ST FINDS
Clockwise from top left with 20p coin as scale (see text for full explanations of pottery codes used): Hunting Jug; SHER cooking pot; BORD G/PMRE jug fragments; JAPO cup rim sherd; TPW4 dish rim; ENGS (two sherds); second TPW4 dish rim; Clay pipe fragments, including pony’s hoof bowl; R. White mineral water bottle; CHPOBW vase.
Petrie, H Hendon & Golders Green Past Historical Publications 2005
Smith, C (Ed) Hendon As It Was vol. Two
Other Societies Events Eric Morgan
Fri 1st June 10.30am-12 noon, Friends of Barnet Libraries, South Friern Library, Colney Hatch Lane N10 The Battle of Britain, talk with coffee.
Sat 2nd June 2pm, Holding Your Ground – How to campaign to save your favourite green space, South Friern Library.
Weekends from Sat 2nd June till Sun 1st July, High Barnet Summer Festival: for details please see www.barnetresidentsassociation.org.uk
Other Societies Events (continued)
Sun 3rd June 3-5pm, The Bothy Garden Open, Avenue House, East End Rd N3 3QE. Free.
Mon 4th – Wed 27th June Hendon Library, The Burroughs NW4 4BQ Tiaras & Tea Towels – A Royal Celebration to mark the Diamond Jubilee, Display of many artefacts associated with coronations, royal weddings and jubilees from Queen Victoria to Elizabeth.
Wed 6th June 5.30pm, Institute of Archaeology/British Museum Medieval Seminar, IOA, UCL,
31-34 Gordon Sq., WC1 0PY, Rome of the Pilgrims: The City in the C7& C8. Talk by Alan Thacker.
Thurs 7th June 5.15pm, Institute of Historical Research Seminars in Medieval and Tudor London History. Please check www.history.ac.uk/events/seminars
Mon 11th June, Barnet and District Local History Society, Church House, Wood St., Barnet (opp. Museum) Ice Wells for a Metropolis, London’s Ice Trade, Talk by Malcolm Tucker.
Wed 13th June 7.45pm,Hornsey Historical Society, Union Church Hall, corner Ferme Park Rd/Weston Park N8. Capability Brown, Father of English Landscape Gardening, Talk by Russell Bowes. Visitors £2.
Fri 15th June 7pm, COLAS St Olave’s Parish Hall, Mark Lane EC3, Drapers’ Gardens: The Continuing Post Excavation Process of a Deeply Stratified Urban Site. Talk by Neil Hawkins (PCA). Visitors £2.
Sat 16th June 12.30-5.30pm, Highgate Summer Festival. Pond Square,N6. Lots of stalls.
Sun 24 June 12-6pm, East Finchley Festival, Cherry Tree Wood N2 (opp. Station).
Wed 27th June 7.45pm, Friern Barnet Local History Society, St John’s Church Hall, Friern Barnet Lane N20, Ally Pally Prison Camp, Talk by Maggie Butt. Visitors £2.
Thurs 28th June 8pm, Finchley Society AGM, Followed by Wine and Cheese. Avenue House, East End Rd. Display of items from the Society Archive.
Fri 29th June 10am. Proms at St Jude’s Central Square, Hampstead Garden Suburb NW11. Guided Walk through woods, gardens, ancient farmland. Meet at Whitestone Pond Flagstaff. Pre-book on www.promsatstjudes.org.uk
Sat 30th June – Sun 1st July, ‘Housewarming’ Weekend of Events to Celebrate the Reopening of Forty Hall, Forty Hall, Enfield.