NEWSLETTER 226: January 1990 Edited by Isobel McPherson
A Happy New Year to all our readers, at home and overseas – and a special word of thanks to our contributors, who responded to our appeal for early copy. In it came, not only early but, as near as dash it, immaculate. Would that the job were always as easy:
Tuesday 2nd January 1990 Presidential Address by our new President Dr Ralph Merrifield, entitled The Archaeology of Ritual and Magic. Dr Merrifield wonders if members will have recovered from seasonal festivities, but we have assured him that we will all make a special effort to come to meet him (even if still suffering from hangovers.)
Tuesday 6th February The Temple of Minerva, Harlow by Ian Jones, Curator of Harlow Museum.
Tuesday 6th March Constantinides Memorial Lecture by Percy Reboul and John Heathfield.
NOT ONLY “A PLACE IN TIME” but a belated CELEBRATION OF TWENTY-FIVE YEARS
Anyone reading this new HADAS Book cannot fail to grasp that the Society is very much alive and digging, not only metaphorically but also literally. Brigid Grafton Green writing in the Preface provides an excellent potted history of the Society up to its 25th Anniversary in 1986. The book “is about human settlement in the area now covered by the London Borough of Barnet from the earliest times until the end of the Middle Ages”, starting when the Heath was an encampment and hunting area in the later Stone Age through to the Battle of Barnet in 1471.
The Society’s West Heath Dig provided a wealth of important evidence for the Middle Stone Age period, although “flints” might be difficult for some people to appreciate. However, moving on to the Bronze and -Iron Ages, we have some striking finds from Brockley Hill and Mill Hill. in the Roman period the Society has had some spectacular success, excavating the Pottery at Brockley Hill, the Thirlby Road Site in Burnt Oak and then the Roman Road in Copthall Fields.
HADAS has also been able to cast some light into the “Dark” and Middle Ages and establish a reasonably clear outline sketch of life within the Borough of Barnet, with various finds from the different digs as well as evidence from historical records such as Court Rolls.
Although the book is the work of several different authors (all members of HADAS: Brigid Grafton Green, Victor Jones, Myfanwy Stewart, Pamela Taylor, Brian Wrigley, Helen Gordon and Ted Sammes), they are to be congratulated for producing such a unified book, which is well illustrated with photos, drawings and maps (although I think that the maps might have been made larger). Speaking as a two year old (archaeologically of course) I was enthralled. It is a good read and well worth having on your own bookshelf along with your trowel. I look forward to the publication of Volume Two which should bring us up to the early part of the 20th Century.
Finally, I should declare a vested interest, I happen to be looking after the sales of the book. Nevertheless, I do look forward to hearing from many of you. Send £4.50 50p for P & P or phone me and I will tell you of the nearest bookshop that stocks the book. (Alan Lawson, 68 Oakwood Road, NW11 6RN 01-458 3827)
CUICUL PETER PICKERING
Some members will recall that our daughter, Helen, went to Moscow at about the same time as Lady Braithwaite, but last May was declared “persona non grata” and returned unceremoniously to England. Since then she has been posted to Algeria, and we visited her there in November. Algeria, unlike the other Mahgreb countries, has not developed its tourist industry, but like them has several Roman cities excavated early this century. We therefore eagerly agreed with her suggestion of a trip to Djemila (Arabic for “the beautiful”), the ancient Cuicul. The journey from Algiers was over 300 kilometres, and we stayed a night in the large town of Setif, whose museum has two glorious mosaics, one of the triumph of Dionysus (lions, camels, an elephant, Indians etc. on a black background) and the other of the birth of Venus surrounded by a border of assorted birds.
Cuicul lies on a ridge, just beyond the modern village, and through it pass to and from school the children from the farmsteads below. They are watched over by a number of custodians, who have little else to do; in the whole of a lovely hot November morning, under a cloudless sky, there was one Algerian couple looking round, and in the afternoon we saw six other visitors.
Cuicul has a little museum, which contains many fine mosaics – or rather is made from them, since the floors and all of the inside and much of the outside walls are mosaics of Venus, Hylas among the nymphs, Europa, Dionysus, hunting, mysteries, and a very lengthy poem to a
bishop. The town itself has everything a Roman city should have: baths, fountains, a triumphal arch (in honour of Caracalla), a temple to the Severi, a theatre with a stunning view beyond the stage wall, two fora, a market, and two large churches and a baptistery. Everywhere there are inscriptions honouring emperors (and not a few with the defaced names of emperors whom the city wished to forget it had ever honoured), and, even more frequently, letting passers-by know at whose expense the market or whatever had been erected. Particularly interesting were the table with standard measures in the market and an altar in the forum with carvings of the sacrificial victim and the implements used in the rite. Even if, as the guidebook Helen had been clever enough to borrow said, the excavation had been primitive and the restorations imaginative, the ensemble was beautiful and fascinating. We were privileged to see it in ideal conditions. Do the Algerians not understand about progress? They too could have hundreds of coaches, guides waving little flags and recounting legends in all the tongues of the earth, and lots of coca-cola tops everywhere. You do not even have to pay for entry to Cuicul. Nor do they have many postcards; sad, when photography in the museum is forbidden.
For the record, Cuicul is probably a native name. The city was founded as a colony of veterans under Nerva, and extended under Commodus. It survived the period of Vandal rule, and probably continued for some time after its last recorded date (553 AD); but when the Arabs conquered North Africa it must have been the ruin they called “The Beautiful”. It was a smallish city, and many similar probably lie unexcavated in Algeria.
CITY PARISH AND COUNCIL Ted Sammes
This was the title of the Local History Conference organised by L AM A S at the Museum of London on Saturday November 25th. It was their 24th annual history conference and was in celebration of the 800th Anniversary of the London Mayoralty and also the centenary of the London County Council.
As usual there were many societies showing their latest work and selling their publications. (It would be wonderful to see so many for the archaeological conference in the spring.)
The chairman for the day was Nick Fuentes, managing editor of the London Archaeologist, deputising for Derek Renn, which function he carried out with a light touch and some mildly humorous introductions. At the same time he admitted that he was more at home with dirt archaeology than documents.
Dr Caroline Barron set the ball rolling by presenting many facets of the early Medieval City of London. The population of the City in 1300 has been estimated to be about seventy thousand, falling later as the result of plagues to about forty thousand. It did not regain this size until about the 17th century.
A surprising quantity of archival material has survived including four volumes of the transactions of the Court of Aldermen. They are very difficult to read and she estimated that it had taken her three years to get to grips with them.
The City Folk Moot stemmed from Saxon times being summoned by a bell to meet in the North East corner of what later became St Paul’s churchyard. By the 13th century the City was divided into Wards, each run by an Alderman who had to hold his own Moot. Over the years the pattern changed as the City grew and new, vital roles emerged, amongst them people responsible for keeping the streets paved, clean and drained. Often there were arguments as one ward swept its rubbish across the border into the next: The Beadle held a critical position and would have been able to read and write. Bread and beer were staple parts of the diet, as was also fish.
The Court of Common Council evolved from 1285 and in due course had its own coloured Livery for special occasions. Great secrecy was imposed on the proceedings of the Council. By the fifteenth century the Lord Mayor was only allowed to hold office for one year at a time. In the early period Lord Mayors were seldom knighted, but by 1500 the practice had become common.
Dr. T. Harper Smith took us through similar evolutionary processes in respect of the County of Middlesex. He believed that the position and evolution of local government in the County was a special case which had evolved because of the large land holdings of the Abbey of Westminster at Domesday.
After lunch John Richardson asked us to consider the evolutionary trials and tribulations of the Parish of St. Pancras. Population partly forsook the area round the old church and settled round a new chapel of ease in a less boggy area. This almost had the effect of rendering the old church redundant, the vicar refusing to preach there more than once a month. Similarly there were two burial grounds, side by side, charging different rates:
Finally he dealt with the destruction of Agar Town when the railways came to the area. They brought no compensation to the people living in the area and the disturbance of burials was considered a scandal.
Dr . Ron Cox gave a lively, running presentation on Captain Shaw, a distant relative of George Bernard Shaw. Captain Shaw was the first Fire Chief of the Metropolitan Board of Works. He had much opposition to overcome in combining a consortium of ten individual companies into one working authority. This action followed the Great Fire of Tooley Street, and the findings of a select committee of the House of Commons.
The final speaker, John Davis, talked on aspects of the London County Council, which (had it survived) would be celebrating its centenary this year. He said that we tend to look at the local aspects of Town Halls, gas and waterworks etc., but there is also Parliamentary power behind the scenes. His paper was very detailed but did not hold the same appeal for me, despite his witty comments.
All-in-all, it was a good day which I know many HADAS members missed. Local History can be fun!
Membership of LAMAS is open to all, the standard rate is £7.50, details from Mrs. Rita Springthorpe, Street Farm, Heath Road, Bradfield, Essex C011 2XD.
FRIARY PARK REVISITED – HOW THE EYE DECEIVETH! John Enderby
It will be recalled how some years ago, HADAS attempted without success to trace the foundations of the ancient Manor House of Friern Barnet in Friary Park. The old house, which was originally the manse or country residence of the Friars of St. John, is documented as the first “hospitium” for the entertainment of travellers on the northern road, being some nine miles from the City of London. This house was completely demolished about 1830, and the existing one built on a seemingly new site for a private owner (Edmund William Richardson) in 1871. The Estate was then bought by Sidney Simmons and the Middlesex County Council in 1909, passing to the London Borough of Barnet in 1965. The latter is now carrying out a survey for an extensive repair and refurbishment programme to the house, thought likely to cost over £300,000. During the course of the survey, an unexplained arched cavity came to light by the side of the coal shute.
A “state of the art” Fibre Optic Infra-Red Video Camera was hired (at £30 per hour!) and lowered through a tiny aperture. The resulting film appeared to reveal an extensive tiled chamber filled with clear water. This revelation caused much excitement for there had been mention in past writings concerning the original Friary of not only a Monks-hole, thought to be a subterranean passage leading to a confessionary, but also a Monks lavatory or bath. Had this at last been substantiated through a marvel of modern technology? Philip Wilson, an old friend in the LBB Planning office, quickly phoned me and arranged an immediate site meeting and the loan of the video film for further study. Having watched it, I was convinced like Archimedes, that I had every reason to yell “Eureka!”
After another site visit along with Brian Wrigley, the LBB agreed to open up the cavity. This was done, and I rushed over to Friary Park to assess the result, camera at the ready. I could hardly believe my eyes. Instead of the Monks Bath or possibly, subterranean passage, I saw before me a soundly constructed shallow well of patently late Victorian date. I then realised that the video camera had played a devilish trick on us all by “flattening” the picture it produced due to reflection from the standing water in a confined space: A salutary lesson, was thus learnt of the danger of taking short cuts in archaeology and allowing one’s knowledge of folk legends to colour facts. When the well was subsequently pumped dry prior to infilling, no artefacts were found in the silt and debris at the bottom, What could be more interesting is an examination of two more wells, one shown by a plumb line to be 200 feet deep, in the grounds at the back of the house. So, watch this space. Maybe all’s well after all.
SOUTHWARK CATHEDRAL VISIT AND CHRISTMAS DINNER – 5 DECEMBER
Once again some 65 HADAS members gathered on an early December evening for a social occasion to usher in the festive seasons the formula of a little erudition followed by a fine dinner proved as usual to be a winning combination.
At Southwark Cathedral – the Church of St. Saviour and St. Mary Overie we were received by Canon Peter Penwarden, Vice-Provost and Precentor, who proved to be an admirable guide. He skilfully took us through the history of this splendid Gothic building, starting with the legend of a seventh century convent church built on a riverbank site by a ferryman’s daughter, and dedicated to St. Mary Overie (over the water). In the 9th century the Bishop of Winchester rebuilt the church after a fire, adding a monastery, but both were replaced in 1087 by a Norman church of which a few fragments may still be seen. When this burnt down in 1206, it was replaced by a fine Gothic building, the first in London, and on which Westminster Abbey was modelled.
In 1539 it became the parish church of St. Saviour, but decay and collapse led to the reconstruction of the present nave, a copy of the marvellous Gothic original, coinciding with its promotion to Cathedral in 1897. The church has links with Shakespeare who worshipped here (his brother Edmond’s gravestone is in the choir), and with Harvard University, whose founder John Harvard was born a butcher’s son in Southwark in 1607; the Cathedral’s Harvard Chapel was paid for by grateful Americans.
A short walk into Borough High Street took us to the George Inn, dating from 1676 and the last remaining galleried coaching house in London, now owned by the National Trust. They had prepared for us an excellent meal, served by cheerful staff in a pleasant upstairs room. Conversation and wine flowed freely, and our only concern was for those unfortunate members whose acquisition of the flu virus had prevented their being with us. However, we were delighted to have with us not only three Founder Members of the Society, Olive Banham, John Enderby and Ted Sammes, but Colin Evans and his sister. Colin, who now lives in France, was an active member and still maintains his interest. It was very pleasant to meet him again.
John Enderby proposed, in a witty speech, a vote of thanks for Dorothy Newbury for having organised, with her usual efficiency, such a splendid evening that some members voted it the “best ever”. The waiting list will be even longer next year. STEWART J. WILD
Brigid Grafton Green writes: “One great attraction of Christmas is that it’s a time for catching up with news of old friends. It was a pleasure to hear from DAISY HILL – a Vice-President of long standing and secretary of HADAS in the late sixties. She retired to live in Chesterfield some years ago, but likes to keep in touch with events in Hendon – and the Newsletter helps her to do so. ‘I enjoy reading what you are all doing,’ she writes, and adds most generously ‘have enclosed a wee cheque for the funds.’ Thanks, Daisy, we do appreciate your interest and help.”
The December issue of the Newsletter was a joy to read (writes Percy Reboul) – and not because I got a mention: The delightful earpiece, line drawings and pictures, to say nothing of the quality of the typewriting made it, for me, the most attractive issue ever published.
Congratulations to Liz Holliday and all concerned.
THE “MITRE DIG AT BARNET VICTOR JONES
This has proceeded through December with a group of five of six enthusiastic members and several new layers are being cleared; at one level medieval pottery has now been found. Digging has now been suspended for the holiday and will be resumed as soon as weather permits – and the landlord agrees.
THE IRISH QUESTION IN THE IRON AGE
David Keys (The Independent, Tuesday 12th December 1989), reported on excavations on a loop of the Shannon at Drumsua, near Carrick. The double earthwork, constructed in the 1st century B.C., and once thought to be part of an Iron Age Fort, spanned the neck of the loop, denying access to the south from two extremely shallow fords to the north. The largest of the two pairs of double ramparts was 90 ft. wide, 18 ft. high and 1¾ miles long with what is thought to be an entrance complex – perhaps a monumental entrance gateway into what became the Kingdom of Connacht. Each gate seems to have been around six yards wide and at least four yards high, though the evidence for this rests on greatly strengthened ramparts, with a wooden palisade, at this point and one giant post-hole.
Fifteen miles north of this site, an earlier earthwork known as Black Pig’s Dyke marks a possible territorial boundary between the warring tribes of Ulster and Connacht. This one is constructed to deter invaders from the south. Together, the two defensive systems throw more light on the longstanding hostility which is reflected in many of the ancient Irish tales. They also cast a long shadow.