The winter lecture series takes place at Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley N3 3QE. Lectures start promptly at 8pm – non-members £1, Coffee or tea 70p.
Tuesday, 12th October 2004: “Digging in the City of the Sun: settlement archaeology in Egypt”. Lecture by Lucia Gahlin.
Tuesday, 9th November 2004: “Durolevum” Lecture by Paul Wilkinson.
Wednesday, 1st December 2004, Introductory talk and tour of the Docklands Museum followed by Christmas dinner in the vicinity – coaches will be provided. (all arrangements to be confirmed).
Tuesday, 11th January 2005: “Colchester” Lecture by Kate Orr; a follow-up to our recent visit.
Early notification of the LAMAS local history conference
The annual local history conference run by the London & Middlesex Archaeology Society will take place this year in the Museum of London’s Lecture Theatre on Saturday the 20th November 2003 from 10.00am to 05.00 pm. This is the 39th conference and is entitled “St. Paul’s and the diocese of London: fourteen hundred years”. There are fascinating speakers including the current Bishop of London (Right Reverend Richard Chartes), Dr. John Schofield and Dr. Pamela Taylor among the distinguished cast. The presentation of the Annual Local History Publications Award will also take place during the day. As usual there will displays of recent work and publications by the many London based Local History Societies and, of course, afternoon tea is included in the cost. The tickets are £5 each (£4 for LAMAS members). Please send your application with an appropriate cheque and a stamped, self-addressed envelope for your tickets to Local History Conference, 36 Church Road, West Drayton, Middlesex UB7 7PX
It started as one of those questions asked partly to wind up an archaeological “expert”, but I really did not know the answer. The question – “How do you do multiplication with Roman Numerals?”
So I asked a few more people, none of whom knew, though one consulted her father, a Professor of Mathematics, who suggested “the Egyptian method”. When this was explained to me, it worked using our number system, but seemed far too complicated using Roman numbers. I’m convinced that whatever system was used would have been simple, though maybe only a limited number of people needed multiplication and kept the secret within their circle. Surely each legion would have needed a payroll officer.
So let’s look for clues.
Firstly we must understand that the Romans did not count in tens in the way that we understand. They counted in fives and twos alternating. This is not as strange as it sounds. Until 1971, our currency was counted in twelves, twenties and then tens – 12 pence to a shilling and 20 shillings to a pound. Even now, we have 5p and 50p coins. Personally, I like the suggestion that Romans only used fingers to count to five because the other hand was holding the toga on their shoulder!
Clue 1 – calculations.
This word derives from the Latin word for a stone or pebble. Calculations were done using stones.
Clue 2 – abacus.
This word derives from a Greek word meaning sand. Early calculations probably used lines drawn in the sand with stones used to represent numbers, the position of the stone indicating its value. This developed into a wooden frame filled with sand. Later came something we would recognise with “counters” either in grooves or threaded onto wires, and we would probably expect to see nine counters on each wire.
But the Romans did not count in tens, and the very few known examples of the Roman abacus show each column with two wires, one with four counters representing units and the other with one counter representing a five. No doubt how these were used for addition and subtraction, – but multiplication – I wonder.
So what is my theory? I really do not know the answer, but assuming that any method must be simple, I have a suggestion. But before I tell you what it is, I’m going to throw the question open to the combined experience and intelligence of all HADAS members. What do you think they did?
If you have any theory, please let me know. I’ll collate the results and publish them in another newsletter.
P.S. Lest anybody is concerned, I am not proposing to produce HADAS accounts in Roman numerals!
Tessa and Sheila had arranged a perfect day, bright sunshine and a light breeze, as well as the visit. We arrived in good time at Lewes for relief. Although the cafe was closed, Tessa soon made our presence known. Both insisted on serving our coffee and biscuits themselves as part of their duties of arranging this trip.
Lewes is the county town of Sussex, dominated by the Castle Mound and its companion Brack Mound to the north-east. Its history is well shown by the scale model in the museum. The 25 minute verbal commentary is illustrated with slide-projection and spotlights, describing the history of this illustrious town from the earliest period; not forgetting its famous bonfires commemorating the events of November 5th.
After the show, it was time to brave the sunshine and the climb up to the motte where the keep stood. Lunch was taken round the central tree of the ancient courtyard, over the site of the well, essential in times of siege. Then up the winding staircases of the two towers, narrow enough to require one-way working. One included the statues of Hercules and Minerva, brought here from Herstmonceux Castle. In the 18th century, the arrow embrasures were enlarged with Chippendale Gothic windows allowing all round views to the chalk downs.
Down again to what was now known tautologically as the Gun Garden, in reference to the Crimean cannon captured at Sevastopol and presented by Lord Palmerston. Next to the Barbican and more stairs. At the first level there was a tromp d’oeil panorama and a good display of medieval costumes and lances for the children to use. Fortunately the lances are very long and heavy. Ascending further to the Barbican roof we were rewarded with a magnificent 360 degree view explained by the engraved diagram. The blue and yellow chequered flag of the de Warrens could be seen drooping limply from the roof of the keep. The Barbican itself, in front of the Norman Gate House in the original wall, is a more modern construction dating from 1333 and still has traces of the portcullis.
At ground level, through the Barbican was the site of the bailey. Now it is partly occupied by the bowling green, possibly used earlier as a tilt-yard. Nearer to the High Street is the museum, occupying Barbican House and home of the Sussex Archaeological Society. The former kitchen with its Elizabethan fireplace now houses the souvenir shop. The staircase with spiral balusters is 17th century. The museum finds are well displayed and explained. They range in time from a giant spiral ammonite to a Boot’s loyalty card and a fluorescent emergency jacket. The former needed no explanation for geo-archaeologists, but the latter are labelled helpfully, giving possible uses in archaeological contexts.
Other delights had been arranged by Sheila and Tessa, so there was inadequate time to spend in these well-planned and comprehensive galleries of Sussex history. We awaited our coach in two groups on opposite sides of the High Street, trying to convince each other that the others were going in the wrong direction.
The next part of our visit was to Barcombe Roman Villa a few miles north of Lewes. This interesting site is being excavated by the UCL Field Archaeology Unit and the local Mid-Sussex Field Team, in pleasant sunshine the Director Chris Butler and his assistant gave us a tour of the dig.
This fertile farmland area is not unusual for Roman villa sites with earlier examples excavated at Beddingham and Bignor. Roman finds have been noted at Barcombe since the early 1990s, in 1999 a geophysical survey revealed the outline of a villa and associated buildings. In fact this is a multi-period site with finds including an Acheulian hand axe, mesolithic and bronze age flint, also a bronze age barrow and iron-age round houses.
The main sequence starts with the discovery of postholes from several iron-age roundhouses within a rectangular ditched enclosure, occupied from the late 1st century and then cAD40-140 making them Romano-British and showing a late tradition for such buildings. The roundhouse complex appears to respect the nearby bronze-age ring ditch/barrow.
By mid to late 2nd century the roundhouses were out of use and a simple rectangular building with narrow flint foundations had appeared, then between AD200-300 this was replaced with much larger winged corridor villa. The villa consisted of at least 15 rooms including corridors, and main entrance porch. Although no floor levels survived, small white, red and grey cubes point to mosaics having once existed in a couple of rooms.
By c300 the site was abandoned perhaps because of Saxon raids along the south coast. No further occupation is apparent until the late Saxon period when evidence of squatter occupation is suggested by the discovery of a large cess-pit and post holes near the villa area.
The main villa site was excavated between 2001-2003 and is now back under crop. The focus of the 2004 excavations was a Roman masonry building just southeast of the main villa and connected by a courtyard wall. This structure has produced evidence of a well-preserved red tesserae floor and a hoard of 120 late 3rd century Roman coins. Indeed, as we toured the site an excavator found a further larger and earlier copper coin form the opposite end of the building. The use of this building is not yet known but is likely to be of high status.
Thus Barcombe appears to be a good example of a group of Iron-age farmers adopting Roman influences with subsequent generations. As the site leaflet describes, “it is possible that many of the villas in Sussex were developed in this way by what might be called ‘tribal’ aristocracy. With a network of non-villa farms occupied by less wealthy families linked to the villas by tribal bonds or tenancy arrangements, Barcombe villa could have been a local centre, encouraging romanised patterns of food production and trade.”
The final place visited on our lovely outing to Lewes on 7th August was Michelham Priory. After walking around the excavation at Barcombe Roman Villa in blazing sun, everybody made straight for the café for ice creams, cold drinks or afternoon teas and being tempted by their wonderful cakes!!. Having slated our thirst and cooled down, we had an opportunity to examine the wonderful surroundings of the Priory. It is on an island surrounded by a moat formed by the Cuckmere river and has spectacular gardens. The Priory was founded on this spot in AD1229 for the Augustinian canons. They enjoyed over 300 years at the Priory, although it is said that as the years went there was a decline in their strict observance of their rules. They became materially richer under Prior John Leem and by 1478 had given up the rule of silence, were frequenting the local tavern and one of them admitted to adultery with a local married woman! Money corrupts? However, Henry VIII put an end to all that (he wanted even more money!), he dissolved the Priory in 1537 and chased out the remaining eight canons. Much of the Priory was demolished and the contents and building materials sold off as well as some of the land. In 1556, the Crown sold the estate to one John Foote. Foote turned the estate into a Tudor gentleman’s residence adding suitable buildings and creating the gardens. In 1601 it was bought by Thomas Sackville, Lord Buckhurst, later the Earl of Devon, who was then the Lord Treasurer. The estate remained the property of the Sackvilles until the late 1890s. During the 17th & 18th centuries the Sackvilles leased the building and 500 acres to a succession of tenant farmers. The farmland is poor and many of the tenants struggled to make a living and maintain the property which over the period declined almost to a ruin. Of interest is the fact that among the tenant farmers were ones with the surname “Children” followed some years later by ones called “Child”. From 1896 to 1959, when a Mrs. Hotblack gave Michelham Priory to the Sussex Archaeological Society, a programme of “restoration” and “renovation” took place under various owners. It was not helped by a disastrous fire which gutted the Tudor Wing in 1927. At the beginning of World War II, evacuees from East London and later Canadian troops were stationed there. The consequence is that all the buildings are much restored and little remains of the original Priory. On the upside the buildings are all attractive and set in well maintained gardens. There are many other attractions on site including a water mill, a forge and wheelwright’s museum, a rope museum, a bakery and a gift shop. As we got back on the coach for our journey back to Barnet it was time to congratulate Tessa and Sheila for a wonderful day out.
Digging has continued this year at the villa site of Turnershall Hall Farm, Mackery End which was visited by HADAS in 2003. They had an open weekend in August 2004 that was very well attended, with parties being given a tour of the villa outline and inspecting recent finds. Particular attention is being given to various pits and post holes over the site and to a probable Iron-age ditch that runs under the villa. Work is also ongoing to discover further buildings known from geophysical surveys.
Not far away, near Amwell, the local St Albans Archaeology Group continued working on another villa. The site was initially found by fieldwalking with tile and pot fragments scattered over the surface, a resistivity survey found the outline of a building. Small trenches, in 2003 and this year, have confirmed the layout of some of the walls, floors and features of the structure. Notable were the thickness of the north wall, just over a metre, and a laid, sandy mortar floor between the angle of two walls. A third century coin was found amongst the foundations of the north wall. The remains lie only 25cm below the surface and are in good condition considering the field is regularly ploughed.
Avenue House grounds, East End Road, Finchley. TQ 2513 9027
As mentioned in the last Newsletter this year’s training dig organised by Don Cooper was held once again at Avenue House in August. The ‘target’ for the weekend was an ornamental pond known to have been located on the lawn in the grounds of the house. The pond was created in the (1870s?) with the landscaping of the park and was thought to have demolished and backfilled in the 1950s?
As an exercise this made good sense as we had evidence from a variety of different sources to locate the pond.
• Photographic evidence – there are at least two photos showing the pond and a statue/fountain within it. • There are maps showing the pond. • Parch marks – in the dry (!) summer months parch marks can be seen of the pond edging and the surrounding field drain system (also surveyed by HADAS). • There are also some shallow earthworks showing the extent of the pond. • Local knowledge – several people who enquired what the dig was for could remember the pond from their childhood.
Several days before the weekend we surveyed the area with resistivity which clearly showed the extent and shape of the pond. A baseline was laid out and a 5x1m trench outline was established, the trench was placed where it was thought it might catch two edges of the structure.
The trainees arrived for the weekend and were given a safety introduction by Don. The trench was then de-turfed, in the topsoil there was the usual mix of finds pottery, clay pipe, ceramic building material, glass sherds and iron objects – including nails and a length of chain, two coins turned-up: a 1947 3d and a 1965 ½p the finds mostly dated to the 20th century and some late Victorian. Below this was a gravel layer probably a base for the turf.
Continuing through the gravel layer several unexpected features began to appear. Firstly, a layer of river-rolled cobbles appeared in the southern end of the trench, it transpired that this was packing for a system of field-drains within the pond area. Three lines of pipes fed into a grill which may have been part of the western side of the pond. The feeling on-site was that this may have been a later system to drain the area once the pond had been taken out of use.
Elsewhere in the northern end of the trench a line of bricks was emerging together with a massive lump of flint, first thoughts were that this was also part of the pond edging with a culvert running underneath, but then it became a bit more complicated. Closer inspection and excavation showed that the bricks were not ‘set’ in any foundation, they were also surrounded by a mixture of concrete and stone. The bricks were mortared and were most likely to have formed an edging or wall at some point, but they were now just demolition rubble from the pond decommissioning. The block of flint is a bit of a mystery, it’s definitely part of the structure but how it fits in we’re not sure. But inspection of the photographs shows a statue/fountain was placed near to the dig area, was this flint a foundation to such a monument?
The Dig attracted a lot of attention from passers-by and although the area was fenced off they could see the trench being excavated. Some were interested in the finds and some as mentioned above could remember the pond when it functioned as such.
The project may lead to a wider investigation of the landscape history of the park as Don has been ‘digging the archives’ at the Barnet Local Studies & Archive Library and has been discovering a lot of useful information.
From Don Cooper As Bill has reported above, the HADAS training dig took place at Avenue House on the site of an ornamental pond. Although we found what appeared to be the remains of the pond, there are a number of areas we would like information on. The pond was there at least until 1951/52.
1. When was the pond filled-in and why?
2. How big was the pond? 3. What shape was the pond 4. Was there a statue in the middle of it?
We would also love to see any photographs that include the pond from any angle. Any photos will be returned. If you have any information please contact Don Cooper at 59 Potters Road, Barnet, Herts. EN5 5HS Many thanks
7th October 2004 at 20.00 – “The history of London’s water supply & the Kew Bridge Steam Museum” a talk by Ron Howes at Village Hall, Chapel Lane car park Pinner. 13th October 2004 at 20.00 – “The myth of the Great Fire – recent thinking about the buildings in the City of London” a lecture by Dr. John Schofield at the Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2. 13th October 2004 at 20.00 – “Man, Myths & Maces in Anglo-Saxon England” a lecture by Val Johnston at Barnet Local History Society, Wyburn Room, Wesley Hall Stapylton Rd. Barnet. 13th October 2004 at 20.00 – “Street vendors, paupers and criminals of the 18th century” a lecture by Graham Javes (HADAS) at Hornsey Historical Society, Union Church Hall, cnr of Ferme Park Road/Weston Park, N8. 15th October 2004 at 1900 – “London before London: The Iron Age of London” a lecture by J. D. Hill (British Museum), at City of London Archaeological Society, St Olave’s Parish Hall, Mark Lane EC3 20th October 2004 at 20.00 – “A History of Kensal Green Cemetery” a talk by Henry Vivian-Neal at Willesden Local Historical Society, Willesden Suite, Library Centre, 95 High Road, NW10. 21st October 2004 at 19.30 – “Echoes of the wider world in Victorian Primrose Hill” a talk by Jeremy Noble at Camden History Society, Rosslyn Hill Unitarian Chapel, Rosslyn Hill NW3. 27th October 2004 at 20.00 – “The history of early plastics” a talk by Percy Reboul (HADAS) at Friern Barnet & District Local History Society, St John’s Church Hall (next to Whetstone Police Station) Friern Barnet Lane, N20. 28th October 2004 at 20.00 – “Avenue House” a talk by Janett Durrant at Avenue House, East End Road, N3.
Thanks to our contributors: Jim Nelhams, Jeffery Lesser, Bill Bass, Eric Morgan.