Newsletter 191 January 1987 Edited by Liz Holliday
Wednesday 7 January LECTURE CANCELLED
We have just heard from the library that the lecture hall is to be redecorated and will not be available for:our January meeting. An alternative venue was suggested, but we felt this would not be satisfactory at such short notice.
Wednesday 4 February “London in the Mid-Saxon and Viking Period” by Dr. Alan Vince, Museum of London. At Hendon Library. The Burroughs, Hendon. Coffee available from 8pm. Lecture begins at 8.30pm.
AFTER IRON a note from Dr.E.H.T. Hoblyn
“I was very interested in Percy Reboul’s page in your December issue but was puzzled by his reference to Parkesine. My organic chemistry is now more than rusty but I wonder if chloroform and castor oil would produce a sub-
stance ‘hard as horn’, I have therefore, done some digging and have found from Sylvia Katz who wrote ‘Plastic Plastics’ that Alexander Parkes in his early work in the 1840s mixed cotton fibre and wood flour with nitric and sulphuric acids (which would give him nitro-cellulose) and he then mixed the ‘resulting product with castor oil and wood naphthna to produce his original ‘Parkesine’. It was, however, when he moved to mixing camphor with nitrocellulose and alcohol that,’ in 1865, he produced the better known form of ‘Parkesine’, the forerunner of celluloid orxvlonite as it was better known in thiscountry.(‘Plastics in the Service of Man’ by Couzens and Yarsley).The British firm manufacturing celluloid was the British Xylonite Company founded in 1877 which, in 1887, built a factory at Brantham on the banks of the River Stour opposite Manningtree, Essex. They made artificial ivory and tortoiseshell for combs (functional and decorative) and hairbrushes; tubing for bicycle pumps and bodies for fountain pens; handles for toothbrushes and shaving brushes; and a large tonnage of piano keys and knife handles in the form well known before the modern dishwasher led to metal handles.
They were made in the plain-and excellent grained ivory forms. Another popular product was the celluloid collar and shirt front (or ‘dicky’) which comprised a sheet of linen sealed between two sheets of white celluloid. I do hope that Percy Reboul will keep us posted with his findings.”
SOME ANSWERS TO THE GREEN PUZZLE
The borough archivists are grateful for two helpful replies to the enquiry concerning ,green lanes, one recommending W.G.Hoskins’ comments in The Making of the English Landscape and the other pointing out that in 1764 Hendon Lane/Finchley Lane was not a particularly major road.
This month’s accessions to the Local History Collection include archives from the Mill Hill Highwood Townswomen’s Guild; copies of deeds and photographs concerning the Alexandra public house, East Finchley and the surrounding area; albums of photographs of Chas. Wright & Co.’s factory, Hendon and a booklet of photographs of Barnet and Hadley produced in about 1900 by J.Cowing.
Herbert Norman’s donation of his drawings of local buildings was mentioned in the Newsletter last month members may like advance notice that these will be on display in an exhibition of his work to be held at Church Farm House Museum from March 28 to April 26 this year.
A STORM IN A VESTRY TEA CUP
Nell Penny uncovers a rebellion by the Hendon Vestry
Local rates, be they parish, borough or county, have ever been matters of controversy. In 1820 the vestry of Hendon parish, conscious of having to set ever increasing poor rates (in 1821 they were to set three rates at 6d in the £ – 7.25p in the in all) began to look at rating valuations. They found that these had not been changed since 1722, and promptly appointed a committee which revalued the parish at a total of £24,470.
At the same time the Vicar, the irascible Reverend Theodore Williams, was also doing his sums. Since 1722 Hendon vicars had been accepting a 3d rate in commutation of their “Great and Little Tythes”:- “always excepting Surplice. Fees and other Perquisites”. Mr. Williams gave notice that he was putting an end to this system. The vestry therefore had the vicar’s property and his tithes assessed. The vicar protested – the parish persisted. In 1822 the Reverend Williams and Thomas Street appealed to a General Quarter Sessions against the assessments. Mr. Street was presumably a newcomer to the district – his name does not appear in .the 1821 census. The vicar chaired the vestry meeting in September, a function he very rarely performed; the officers of the parish did not feel bold enough to contradict him to his face. They appointed a sub-committee of William Geeves, Thomas Shettle and Mr.Goodchild, all farmers and office holders, to reconsider the valuations. By ‘December the vestry had decided to let the valuations stand and to pay their solicitor to defend them against the vicar at the Quarter Sessions.
Meanwhile, the vestry had taken steps to turn itself into a Select Vestry according to legislation of 1818. In theory a vestry had been a town meeting of ratepayers in practice it had been a monthly gathering of half a dozen office holders, churchwardens, overseers of the poor and surveyors of the highways who accepted the accounts of the overseers of the poor. There might be a few more ratepayers at a meeting where the poor rate-was to be- set. The crowded meeting in the parish church in November 1822 decided by 200 votes to 165 that a Select Vestry should be elected. Henceforward a vestry meeting could not be larger than twenty members, but a minimum of five was necessary for a quorum.
But back to our storm in the vestry tea cup. Eventually Quarter Sessions reduced the assessment on Mr. Williams’ property from £672 to £640 and on his tithes by a similar percentage. But Williams did not wait for the outcome of his appeal. It seems that he regarded the Vestry Clerk, James Goodyer as his arch enemy and the leader of the vestry rebellion. I think James disliked the vicar as much as the latter disliked him. Preserved among the parish archives are meticulous copies of most of the letters to and from the vestry at this period – all in Mr.Goodyer’s beautiful copperplate handwriting. There is also a list of Goodyer’s own property: five houses in the Burroughs and one in Brent Street. On the new valuation he had secured rating reductions which averaged 11 per cent.
On January 29th 1823, the vestry met and read a letter from the vicar to Mr. Greeves, one of the churchwardens The letter attacked James Goodyer on three counts: a) that Goodyer’s personal property was wrongly rated; b) that the vestry clerk had been appointed to his job in 1796 by “private appointment” and that his salary of £40 a year out of the poor rate was “extravagant and unwarranted” and c) “I will submit to your own good feeling whether a man who is capable of making a false entry in a Parish minute book be not morally incapable of fulfilling any public trust”. The vestry held a Special meeting next day and replied to the vicar a). all rating appeals were up for arbitration so the parish would not comment in the meantime; b) Mr. Gooyer’s appointment as Clerk had not been a private appointment but by a “valid public vote” and the parish was obliged to “those gentlemen.— for the discrimination used in the selection of a gentleman to fill that office whose conduct in and great attention to the Duties thereof, have given general satisfaction… the salary paid to Mr.Goodyer’ is neither extravagant nor unwarrantable”. c) the charges of falsifying the accounts against Mr Goodyer were so serious that the vestry asked the Reverend Williams to produce his evidence for their consideration.
Unfortunately this letter was in Goodyer’s beautiful handwriting. The Vicar would not open it and returned it to the vestry. This provoked the vestry to write to the Bishop of London regretting that “Communication between the Vicar and themselves had been cut off” and asking for the Bishop’s guidance. At the next vestry meeting in February 1823 the Vicar took the chair, but stormed out when the Vestry would not endorse his accusations against Goodyer. A churchwarden had to preside so that he could sign the minutes and announce the date of the next meeting. Another letter to the Bishop of London told him the vestry would like “Counsel’s opinion” about the Act of 1818 which they thought laid down that if the Vicar took the chair at a vestry meeting he must sign the minutes.
In April of the same year the Vicar and the vestry were at it again. A parishioner had paid what she thought were agreed fees for a tombstone of brick and stone to be erected in the churchyard. Disputing the fees, the Vicar had it dismantled – immediately – and “thrown into the Public Road”. Again to the Bishop the vestry regretted “the varience unhappily existing between the Vicar and his Parishioners which promotes secession from the Church” .
At the same April meeting James Goodyer resigned as Parish Clerk. Perhaps he felt that over twenty-five years of copying accounts and taking minutes was enough – perhaps he felt he must leave the fight against the Reverend to a younger man. He pleaded ill health. The vestry paid they were very sorry to lose him. There is no record of what the Reverend Theodore said.
ONE HUNDRED YEARS OF SERVICE
Gerrard Roots outlines the current exhibition at Church Farm House Museum
The St. John Ambulance Brigade – the uniformed branch of the Order of St. John, which has itself existed in Britain since c.1148 – celebrates its centenary in 1987. Founded •to promote knowledge of first aid amongst the general public, its first division in this area was set up in 1903 and was based upon. Queen Eizabeth’s Boys School in Barnet. Since that time numerous divisions have been created in the Barnet area.
The activities of the Brigade have greatly expanded since its inception. The Brigade numbers increased significantly during World Wars I and II when members of the St. John volunteered for active service with the Royal Army Medical Corps or provided emergency first aid at home with the air raid patrols.
The Brigade, as well as continuing its first aid training, provides first aid assistance at public gatherings, gives an aeromedical service to bring the sick home from abroad, and through the St. John Air Wing, transports vital organs and medical supplies for transplants.
This exhibition presents through photographs, documents, costume and other memorabilia, the wide range of St. John activities in the Barnet area over the past 80 or so years. It also shows something of the history of the origins of the Order of St. John from its first hospice in Jerusalem in AD 600.
The exhibition will be on show from 3 January until 8 February.Please remember that there will be no lecture in January. The next lecture “London in the Mid-Saxon and Viking Period” will be on Wednesday 4 February
LETTERS FROM HADRIAN’S WALL
Anne Cheng summarizes a recent article in Omnibus by Alan K. Bowman and J. David Thomas.
At the Roman fort of Vindolanda, a mile to the south of Hadrian’s Wall, a unique collection of writing tablets is being unearthed. The texts, which date to around AD 100 include both official documents and, the private correspondence of military personnel. They are written in ink on thin slivers of wood, which was used instead of papyrus as this would have, been expensive and difficult to obtain in Britain. The deposit of writing tablets appears to extend to at least twenty metres and over 500 new finds have already been catalogued.
Many of the new texts belong to the archive of one FIavius Cerialis, a commander of a unit at the fort. However, the outstanding discovery of 19.85 must be the archive of Cerialis’ wife, Sulpicia Lepidina. Two texts in this archive contain closing lines written by Claudia Severa, Lepidina’s correspondent. This is certainly the earliest known example of writing by a woman in Latin.
Claudia’s letter is written in two columns side by side as is normal in these tablets. She invites Lepidina to a birthday party:
“Iii Idus Septembr[e]s, soror,ad diem
sollemnem natalem meum vogo
libenter facies ut venial
ad nos incundiorem mihi
diem?] interventu tuo factures si
After transmitting various family greetings she adds the following lines in rather an awkward hand:
“sperato te, soror
“I shall expect you sister. Hail and farewell, sister, my dearest soul, as I live in health”.
The processing of these finds is extremely time-consuming and demands painstaking attention to detail, but with the amount of material already found, there is hope of yet more exciting discoveries to come.