Number 504 March 2013 Edited by Deirdre Barrie
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.
Tuesday 12th March: The Railway Heritage Trust. Lecture by Andy Savage, Director of the Trust. The Railway Heritage Trust’s objectives were set in 1985: assisting the operational railway companies in the preservation and upkeep of listed buildings and structures, and in the transfer of non-operational premises and structures to outside bodies willing to undertake their preservation. The Trust achieves its objectives by giving both advice and grants. Britain’s railway heritage is one of the world’s richest, and railway buildings completed as recently as 1966 have been listed.
Andy Savage is the Executive Director of the Trust, which he joined at the start of 2010. Prior to that he was Deputy Chief Inspector of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch of the Department for Transport, following a long career in railway civil engineering and, more recently, contractor safety. Andy has a long involvement in railway heritage, and in the building aspects of it, with a particular involvement in the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways. Andy is a Fellow of the Institution of Civil Engineers, and of the Permanent Way Institution (of which he was President from 2006 to 2008). He is also a Chartered Member of the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, and of the Chartered Institute of Transport.
Tuesday 9th April: Nautical Archaeology – past, present and future. Lecture by Mark Beattie-Edwards, Programme Director, Nautical Archaeology Society.
Tuesday 14th May 2013: 10,000 years of History Beneath your Feet: the Bankside foreshore. Lecture by Dr Fiona Haughey
Tuesday 8th October: Brunel’s Tunnel under the Thames. Lecture by Robert Hulse, Director of the Brunel Museum
Tuesday 12th November: Lions on Kunulua – excavations of Early Bronze and Iron Age periods at Tell Tayinat, Hatay, Turkey – Lecture by Dr Fiona Haughey
HADAS “long weekend”, 15-19 September 2013 Jim Nelhams
There are still a few places left on the HADAS “long weekend”- actually a total of five days from Sunday 15th to Thursday 19th September. We will be based at Lee Wood (Best Western) Hotel in Buxton in the Derbyshire Peak District, an area which HADAS does not seem to have visited before.
We expect to visit Stoke on Trent, the “plague village” of Eyam, and Matlock Spa, including the Heights of Abraham, and more. Pick up points will as usual be Barnet, Whetstone, Finchley, Hendon, Golders Green and Temple Fortune. Times are not yet known until we confirm our en route coffee stop.
The proposed cost will be £450 per person sharing a double/twin room and £495 for a single. If you need a form, email or phone Jim Nelhams (details at the end of this newsletter), and send your £100 deposit, not later than 15th March. Cheques payable to HADAS please. We hope you can join us for what we expect to be another enjoyable trip.
New Barnet History Project Jim Nelhams
New Barnet is by definition “new” and does not have much written history. Cromer Road Primary School is celebrating 80 years of existence and as part of this has started a history project to fill the gap. The project is being run by Mrs Susan Skedd who works for English Heritage and has obtained a grant of £10,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund to pay for equipment and other resources.
On Sunday 10th February, there was an open afternoon at the school which was attended by a number of ex-pupils, some of whom went to the school in the 1930s. Many came armed with photographs and lots of memories. A further meeting is scheduled for Sunday 28th April from 2 to 4 p.m.
HADAS is looking into the possibility of a small archaeological dig in the summer either in or close to the school premises, which are on the edge of the old county boundary between Middlesex and Hertfordshire.
Can you help this project? Did you or any of your family or friends go to Cromer Road? Are you interested in digging there? If so, please contact Jim Nelhams (details on back page of newsletter) who will put you in touch with the appropriate people.
Ice Age Art – Arrival of the Modern Mind Audrey Hooson (British Museum until 26th May 2013)
This current exhibition at the British Museum, curated by Jill Cook, has exhibits from across Europe. Loans have come from the Czech Republic, France, Germany , Russia and the UK. The museum has been able to bring together examples of sculpture, drawings, models and jewellery. The earliest of these date from the last 40,000 years of the last ice age, which ended about 10,000 years ago.
Many of the items are very small, they are grouped by theme and beautifully lit, mainly in island cases to enable an all-round view. There is a small room with images from cave paintings projected onto an undulatory wall, in an attempt to evoke the visitor’s experience.
As the title implies, the emphasis of this exhibition is more on art and human development than on archaeological excavation. A few examples of 20th Century art are included for comparison.
As is usual at the British Museum, the exhibition is supported by lectures. I went to Jill Cook’s “Curator’s Introduction” talk and found it very interesting. This will be repeated on the 16th of March and the 19th of April (free but booking advised). Entrance to the Exhibition is £10 with some concessions. It is half price for Artcard holders and also, on Monday afternoons, for seniors.
News of Members
Mrs Jennifer Searle wrote to the Membership Secretary on behalf of her mother, Mrs Margaret Taylor of St Albans, who at age 97 has decided not to renew her membership:
“Mrs Margaret Taylor thanks the members of HADAS for their very interesting reports and excavations in their area. Increasing poor health and no longer driving herself – she sadly offers her resignation from the Society, with innumerable happy memories of involvement in HADAS. She has so many rich, varied memories of all her involvement for a very long time. Thank you for these memories & best wishes for the Society’s future.”
We wish Mrs Taylor the very best, and send her our good wishes.
The Whetstone Turnpike Trust Don Cooper
The other day Brian Warren, a well-known HADAS member and researcher, brought along a handwritten copy of a memorial of a deed he found in the archives of Hatfield House. The deed dated from about 1829. It was a petition to parliament as follows:
“To the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal in Parliament assembled. The humble petition of the undersigned inhabitants, owners and occupiers of lands and tenements within the Parish of Finchley in the County of Middlesex, showeth that a Bill has lately been brought into and depending in Parliament entitled “A bill for the further improvement of the road from London to Holyhead and of the road from London to Liverpool.” That such Bill proposes to create additional tolls to be levied within the district of Whetstone Trust which will be manifestly unnecessarily partial and oppressive on your petitioners and the inhabitants of Finchley Parish using the said road and more especially on the farmers and cultivators of the lands within the parish.
That the said bill, if passed into a law, will be extremely prejudicial to the interests of your petitioners.
Your petitioners therefore humbly pray that they may be heard by themselves, their counsels, agents and witnesses against such parts of the said bill that affects them and the same may not pass into law as it now stands or that your petitioners may have such other relief as your Lordships deem fit.”
The petition is signed by 35 named individuals including the Rector, Churchwardens and Overseers of the local church. Intrigued – I wondered what it was all about!
There were turnpike trusts set up all along the road from London to Holyhead. The trusts levied tolls on passing traffic and used the money to maintain and repair the road. Quoting from the “Sixth Report from the select committee on the Road from London to Holyhead on Turnpike trusts between London and Holyhead, ordered by the House of Common to be printed 6th July 1819”
“The Whetstone Trust commences at the southern termination of the St Alban’s Trust near the Obelisk , which is north of Barnet; it passes through this town and Whetstone and over Finchley Common to Highgate gatehouse, a distance of 8½ miles.
It is unlucky that the towns of St Albans, Barnet and Highgate stand upon the summit of hills, and that the road, in order to pass through them, has to cross ridges and valleys alternately;
whereas by passing a few miles to the east or west of the present line most of the hills would have been avoided.
To render the road in this Trust as perfect as circumstances admit, it is necessary that some hollows should be raised, and inclinations eased. The descent from Barnet is 1 in 21 for 66yds; 1 in 14 for 132; and 1 in 18 for 66yds; these two latter are evidently too steep, and the uppermost is only admissible if kept hard and smooth. In ascending to Whetstone the first part is 1 in 21 for 66yds and 1 in 18½ for 121, this latter is too steep, and the whole may be easily remedied by cutting a little near the top of the hill and raising the hollow on the north side. There are also sundry others, that is to say, near the seven mile stone, at the Green Man Inn, at the sixth mile, and by the Old Lion Inn. Materials for raising these hollows may sometimes be obtained by cutting the adjacent ridges, sometimes by lower the footpaths, which are in some instances much too high in some place, by cutting off unnecessary bends in the road fences. This is an extract from Thomas Telford’s 1st report on the English part of the Holyhead road.
After detailing the toll rate, comes the sting in the tail as follows:
According to the report,
“the annual expense for repairs, upon an average of four years, previous to 1817, is, in the aforementioned return, stated at £3083.6s.7¾; this upon 8½ miles of road, is at a rate of
£362.14s per mile, being double of the most expensive of the other Trusts, where the materials are much more difficult to procured. It is not stated that in this expense any particular improvement has been lately made; nor did I notice any upon the inspection; but, in justice to the Trustees it ought to be stated, that sundry essential improvements have in the course of some years past been made in this Trust, say, near Barnet and Finchley Common.”
Need I say more?
The digital image that I am quoting from was made by the University of Southampton library digitisation unit.
Ironbridge Trip – Day 5
Visit to Blists Hill Victorian Town Patrick McSharry
On the fifth and final day of our trip to Ironbridge and its environs we visited Blists Hill Victorian Town, which began its life in 1967 and was formally opened in 1973. It stands on what was a large derelict industrial site and has been developed over a number of years. In many respects it is still an ongoing project – organic in nature with the primary purpose, as far as visitors are concerned, to immerse them in an “atmosphere of a small industrial town at a pivotal time in British history – the period between 1890 and 1910.” It is managed and run by the Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust. I first visited the “town” in 1981 and upon my arrival last September became immediately aware of the huge changes/expansion that had taken place in the intervening years, especially the increased vibrancy of a working period community.
The “town” occupies a 50-acre site where iron was once smelted, coal and clay were mined and where bricks and roofing were made. Initially the idea was that the site should be an open-air industrial park where industrial processes and craft skills could be demonstrated, and was the first of its kind in the whole of the country. Originally it was called “Blists Hill Open Air Museum” but in the 1980s the focus began to change. People rather than processes became the new priority. No longer was it to be an open-air museum – its original conception – but a working town. To this end buildings located elsewhere and due for demolition were rescued and reconstructed on site, brick by brick, thus, for example, the bakery originated from Dawley, the doctor’s surgery had been located on the Sutherland Estate, Cottage from Donnington and the Board School had been relocated from Stirchley. Many buildings, however, are simply replicas incorporating original features of those still standing elsewhere; thus the bank was modelled on the still standing Lloyds Bank branch in Brosely (where the Clay pipe Museum is located). The newly built “Canal Street” completed in 2009 was closely modelled on extant and historic buildings in the Telford area which included the new fish & chip shop (frying on the day we visited and doing a roaring trade), the drapers shop and the post office. A whole range of typical small trades and services in the main town area were introduced, including adding domestic housing. Small crafts included an iron foundry, a tallow candle manufactory, a shoeing smith, and a decorative plasterer, for example. One could make purchases and be assured of the quality of the products sold.
The net result has been to create a snapshot from the past brought back to life, made the more real by the fact that staff (“costumed demonstrators“) wear Victorian costume and have been trained in the skills and history of the profession they re-enact. Walking into the post office, the bakery, or, for that matter, the chemist, the staff engage the visitor in authentic period conversation referring to matters/concerns of the day – the death of the old Queen, the relief of Mafeking or the increased price of flour. Momentarily one felt transported into another age courtesy perhaps of Dr. Who’s Tardis. In wandering around the complex, listening as one did to the costumed demonstrators the Trust actively encouraged the visitor to become involved in the various activities with the clear intention of ensuring that one saw Blists Hill through the eyes of a Victorian and thus experiencing it as though one were really visiting a small industrial town over a century ago. In this they largely succeeded. Additionally, the Trust, I was told, very often organises special themed events using professional actors to bring to life “the customs and traditions in the lives of ordinary working class Victorians.” Very often, during the visit, one was invariably overwhelmed by feelings of intense nostalgia for a bygone age when old fashioned courtesies abounded and where the individual counted and personal service and, indeed the quality of that service, counted for something. But enough of hankering for the so-called good old days (always a relative concept) lest we become intoxicated by the mystic chords of memory and inadvertently allow ourselves to become completely detached from reality! It has its own risks!
The visit lasted about four hours, which gave us time to walk around the site if so inclined or simply to concentrate on the town area, equally time-consuming but just as enjoyable. I decided to tour the whole complex before taking refuge at the “New Inn” Public House and its restaurant to enjoy a lovely bowl of soup and home-made bread. Talking of bread, I managed to purchase some freshly-baked fruit rolls from the bakery (in spite of the long queue), receiving the advice upon payment that they should not be consumed whilst hot. This was a memorable and remarkable visit which I hope to repeat in the future when the town will perhaps have further expanded (there is room for new development or even redevelopment) becoming a mini Victorian metropolis with its own singular dynamic, and thus ensuring a permanent focus for the inquiring public! And so we departed, thankful for a glimpse into a past world, and made our way on to Stoke Bruerne, our final visit, and its canal side in Northamptonshire before returning to London.
The Hay Inclined Plane Stewart Wild/Jim Nelhams
Those who chose to visit the Tar Tunnel on our second day would have seen the bottom end of the Hay Inclined Plane. These days, it is not possible to climb the plane from the bottom, but a short walk along the bank of what remains of this section of the Shropshire Canal takes you to the top end of the Plane. This ingenious piece of engineering, which got its name from Hay Farm on whose land it was built, commenced in 1792 and operated for over one hundred years, until 1894.
After the failure of the Tar Tunnel as a method of bringing coal direct to the canal boats, engineers constructed an inclined-plane railway nearby – basically a pair of railway tracks up the hillside at an angle of around thirty-five degrees. They rose just over 200ft to join an arm of the Shropshire Canal at the top of the hill. Tubs 20ft long with a capacity of up to five tons of coal were loaded onto cradles, lowered down the hillside with controlled descent and transferred to waiting boats on the Coalport Canal below. The scant remains of a brick boiler house and winding mechanism stand mute and overgrown at the top. This employed a funicular principle with a rope or wire running round a pulley wheel, so that as the tub descended, another came back up the other track. There also, you can see where the special cradles were immersed in the water underneath the tubs before raising them out and over a hump to start their journey down the slope.
Stoke Bruerne Jim Nelhams
On our way to Ironbridge, we had stopped for coffee at a canal-side pub, and our original plan for the return journey was similar, until we heard that our intended stop had been closed. A hasty plan B suggested a stop at Stoke Bruerne, though some members might already have been there.
This little village sits on the Grand Union Canal south of Northampton at the top of a flight of 7 locks and close to the Blisworth Tunnel. As well as a waterside hostelry appropriately named “The Boat Inn”, it boasts a small “Canal Museum” with coffee house and the necessary toilets. The Museum is on the upper floors of an old warehouse. Of particular interest was the model of another “inclined plane”, this one at Foxton on the Leicester Branch of the canal. At Foxton, two seven-foot wide narrowboats could be floated into a tank, with the whole tank descending sideways to the bottom of the hill. This process would take around 12 minutes, where the alternative route through two staircases of 4 locks each without passing places would take 45 minutes on average. (While the locks are still in use, sadly the inclined plane is rather overgrown. Work is planned by a volunteer group to restore it.)
“The Boat Inn“, as well as providing sustenance, runs a short boat trip service, and many of our intrepid travellers took advantage of this. The leisurely ride, sticking to the canal speed limit of 4 miles per hour, took us up to and just inside the mouth of the Blisworth Tunnel before turning and dropping us back at the starting point.
For the final time, we boarded our golden coach for the journey back home.
On Wenlock Edge Jim Nelhams
Wenlock Edge is an escarpment of some 16 miles running between Craven Arms and Ironbridge, overlooking the plain on which Wroxeter sits. A.E.Housman immortalised this in his poetry in “A Shropshire Lad”. And one evening at our meal, to much approbation stepped forward Ken Carter in best Thespian mode to recite the poem for us. Well done, Ken.
Events at Avenue House Jim Nelhams
A number of events are planned this year at Avenue House which may be of interest. Here are some dates for your diaries.
Quiz Suppers continue and are planned for 14th March, 16th May, 17th October and 12th December. HADAS, using the team name “The Old Ruins”, has a good record at these quizzes, but new team members are always welcome.
Sunday Marts will be held on the second Sunday each month starting in April (14th). These will have stalls on the terrace and by the stable block, as well as in the house. As a tenant, HADAS is able to have our own stall free of charge outside the garden room, providing that we have someone to man it.
The Bothy Gardens are open on the first Sunday each month until October. There will be a £5 charge in June and September, but other months are free of charge.
By the time this is published we will have missed the first Murder Mystery Supper (a trial event!), but if this goes well, further events of this type are planned. And July 29th sees a “Party in the Park”.
And don’t forget The Stephens Collection, open to the public 2pm – 4.30 pm Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday only. Admission free.
OTHER SOCIETIES’ EVENTS Eric Morgan
Tuesday 12th March, 8pm Highgate Society, 10A, South Grove, N6 6BS. Henrietta Barnett, Victorian Philanthropist and Social Reformer. Talk by Micky Watkins, HADAS member (who has just written a book on this subject). Free admission.
Tuesday 19th March, 6.30-7.30 pm. Ruislip Lido Railway Society, Osidge Library, Brunswick Park Road, N11 1EY. Talk by members on The History and Operation of Ruislip Lido Railway Since 1945.
Wednesday 20th March, 6pm Gresham College at Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN. The Historic Collections of Lambeth Palace. Talk by Giles Mandelbrote (Librarian and Archivist). Free.
Thursday 21st March, 7.30 pm. Camden History Society – Local Studies Library, Holborn Library, 32-38 Theobalds Road, WC1X 8PY. The Day Parliament Burnt Down. Talk by Caroline Shenton.
Thursday 21st March, 8pm. Finchley Society. Drawing room, Avenue House, 17 East End Road, N3 3PE. Discussion. (Please see March/April Newsletter “Finchley Society” for further details). Note: change of date. Visitors £2.
CORRECTION: Friday 22nd March, 7.30 pm, Wembley History Society, 977 Harrow Road, Sudbury, HAO 25F (opp. “Black Horse” pub). What is Sudbury? Talk by Len Snow (author and historian). Visitors £2. (Please note change of date from 15th and also different venue!) This is a correction to February’s Newsletter.
Wednesday 27th March, 7.45 pm, Friern Barnet & District Local History Society at St John’s Church Hall (next to Whetstone Police Station) Friern Barnet Lane, N20. Dig For Victory – talk by Russell Bowes. Visitors £2, refreshments 7.45 pm.
Wednesday 3rd April, 5pm. British Archaeological Association, Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, W1V OHS. Commemoration and the Development of the English Parish Church. Talk by Nigel Saul. Tea at 4.30 pm
Saturday 13th April, 10.30 am-4 pm. LAMAS – Visit to the Medieval Settlement in Ruislip, including tour round Manor Farm (including its medieval and Tudor buildings) and the High Street, with a walk through Park Wood, returning down Bury Street in the afternoon to see the Park medieval earthworks and more timber- framed houses. The tour will be led by Colin and Eileen Bowlt. Please e-mail email@example.com, or call 01895 638060 to book a place. Meet at 10.30 am at Ruislip Station, or 11 am at St. Martin’s Approach car park, Ruislip High St / Eastcote Rd., HA4 8DG.
Tuesday 16th April, 6.30-7.30 pm. North Finchley Library, Ravensdale Avenue, N12 9HP. The Friern Hospital Story. Talk by David Berguer (Chair, Friern Barnet Local History Society).
Wednesday 24th April, 7.45 pm, Friern Barnet & District Local History Society, St John’s Church Hall (next to Whetstone Police Station) Friern Barnet Lane, N20. Octavia Hill, talk by Pamela Wright. Visitors £2. Refreshments 7.45 pm.
Thursday 25th April 8 pm, Finchley Society. Christ Church, High Road, North Finchley N12 (opposite Homebase). Talk details not yet finalised. (Please see March/April Finchley Society Newsletter and note change of venue). Visitors £2, refreshments.
With thanks to this month’s contributors; Bill Bass, Stephen Brunning, Don Cooper, Audrey Hooson, Patrick McSharry, Eric Morgan, Jim Nelhams and Stewart Wild.
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