NEWSLETTER 227 February 1990 Edited by Liz Sagues
Tuesday, February 6
IAN JONES, curator of Harlow Museum, will describe New Excavations 1985-89 at the Temple of Minerva, Harlow. For the last five summers Harlow Museum staff,
helped by members of the EAS, have been re-excavating the site of the Harlow Temple.The main aim was to examine the pre-Roman history of the site
and to answer some of the questions
left by previous excavations. In general those aims were achieved, but there were also a number of surprises which have added greatly to knowledge of the site
and left a new set of questions to puzzle over.
The site is now known to be far more complex than was previously thought. Although there is a single find dating from the early Palaeolithic (an axe incorporated in the Roman cobbling) the first use of the site dates from the Mesolithic period after 8000 BC. Part of the working area used for making flint tools was discovered, indicating the use of this well-drained gravel hill by the side of the River Stort as a temporary encampment. There have been some Neolithic and Bronze Age finds, plus important Iron Age remains. Then came the Roman structures, thought to have been built in three phases. The latest important discovery came during the final season and concerns the final period of the building’s life. Come along on February 6 and hear more.
Saturday, February 10 One-day school for adults on Archaeology in the City of London, at the Museum of London. Ring 600 3699 ext 200 for details.
Tuesday, March 6th Constantinides Memorial Lecture on Whetstone By Percy Reboul and John Heathfield.
Saturday, March 10th LAMAS Archaeological Conference at the Museum of London. More information later in this Newsletter,
Tuesday, April 3rd Recent Monastic Excavations in North London by Barney Sloane, from the DUA, Museum of London.
Tuesday, April 14th Afternoon visit to a new exhibition, starting in March, at the British Museum, entitled Fake? the Art of Deception. Paul Craddock, who is known to many of us, has agreed to give us a talk on the subject while we are there. Numbers will be strictly limited. Details and cost later.
Tuesday, May 8th Annual General Meeting
Sunday, May 20th Outing to Quainton, Buckinghamshire. Please note – this is a Sunday outing).
September, 7,8,9 We are proposing to have a weekend trip to Shropshire, spending a day at Ironbridge, with accommodation and meals at Harper Adams Agricultural college (two nights). Cost will be approximately £75-£85 inclusive of coach, food, accommodation and guides. The college needs to know numbers as soon as possible, so please ring Dorothy Newbury, 203 0950, if you are interested.
The programme secretary hopes arrangements will be completed in time for the 1990 card to be included in this Newsletter.
PLEASE NOTE ONCE AGAIN: The Hendon Library doors are often locked, for security reasons, on our lecture evening. Please DO NOT GO AWAY, keep banging until someone lets you in.
NEWS OF MEMBERS
Paul and Michaela O’Flynn Paul has taken a new job at Nottingham and Derby Hospitals and of course they will have to move up there. They have frequently been on outings and were among our minority young membership. Michaela will be down here for several months yet until they can sell their house. They want to know of any societies in the Nottingham/ Derby area. They intend to retain HADAS membership and will join us on any trips to their area. We shall miss them.
Is there a mass emigration to Derby? Another member, Mrs Jacques, also moved to Derby-from Hampstead Garden Suburb just before Christmas. She also has retained membership and will join us on any Derbyshire trips.
Marion Le Besque (nee Newbury), another of our younger members. Her husband has taken a new job at Dorchester Hospital, and she has moved to Dorchester. She is in an 1820s cottage, and from maps it looks as if it was built on the old Roman road – so we may end up on an archaeological weekend digging in their garden.
Bill and Margaret Dibben, staunch Minimart helpers and outing attenders, have been in America for eight weeks. The day after their return they spent the afternoon collecting for the North London Hospice charity at Brent Cross. When they got home to St Albans they found their house had been broken into and ransacked. Charity didn’t begin at home for them.
We are pleased to report that Frieda Wilkinson is no longer in plaster, though she has to walk with a crutch and have physiotherapy treatment. But with true HADAS stoicism she says she is now hopping on and off buses and is not in the least downhearted, even though the doctors say she may now be subject to arthritis.
Membership Secretary Phyllis Fletcher has just spent three weeks in the Bahamas, but before she left she was able to tell the committee that membership stood at 361, an excellent figure.
Ann Saunders has been persuaded by the powers-that-be at St Martin-in-the-Fields to delve into the church archive – a most splendid one, she says – to produce a new combined history and guide to one of London’s best-known churches. The colour-illustrated book is full of fact, serious and entertaining, and costs £1 from St Martin’s.
A TIMELY PUBLICATION
Sales of the new HADAS book, A Place in Time, are going well, reports Victor Jones.
About 750 copies have been sold so far, about half to the borough and the rest in general sales, and inquiries have come from as far afield as France and Holland. Barnet Libraries has asked HADAS to mount an exhibition on recent work to complement the printed words, and that will start a borough-wide tour at the Central Library, Hendon. It should open there on or about February 10 and run for a month.
A PICTURESQUE PAST
The new exhibition at Church Farm House Museum recalls the times when the main records of Hendon were made on canvas rather than photographic paper. Picturesque Hendon – Paintings from the 1790s to the 1930s incorporates work from 16 named artists and some anonymous brush-wielders, depicting landscapes and buildings, churchyard monuments, ponds and rivers and rural scenes long gone, and much of nostalgic and historic interest. Why, cameras apart, were the brushes put away? Curator Gerrard Roots suggests two reasons – suburbanisation made the area less attractive and, with greater social equality, there are now fewer gentlemen and ladies with time on, and brushes in, their hands. The exhibition runs until March 4.
A MAGICAL, BUT NOT MYSTERIOUS, TOUR
Liz Sagues reports on the January lecture
Why, asked Ralph Merrifield more in sorrow than anger, is ritual a banned word? HADAS’s new president, giving his presidential address, has argued the case for ritual’s revival – at least as an archaeologically acceptable interpretation of certain past happenings – in his book Ritual and Magic in Archaeology.
That, too, was the title of his lecture, though its scope had to be more limited. “I was becoming increasingly worried that a whole aspect of human life was becoming ignored by archaeologists,” he explained. The book was his response. “I had the intention of trying to persuade archaeologists that there was a real subject here and above all it ought to be reported properly and this was not being done.”
He provided examples – a cow skull buried beneath a recently-discovered Roman waterside building in Southwark, two halves of a sheep’s jaw neatly placed on a beam in another waterside building on the City bank of the Thames, neither foundation deposit mentioned in published reports.
But he concentrated more on the positive – what could be reported rather than what had been deliberately overlooked. His first slide, of the ritual surrounding the honouring of death in Bronze Age Crete, set the scene for practices to follow. “The one most extraordinary thing about ritual practices is that they don’t change,” he said. “They go on exactly the same whatever happens in religion and philosophy. In order to survive they are constantly being reinterpreted.”
Characteristics of the Cretan scene, the animals being taken to sacrifice, the libations, the model of something important in the departed’s life, continued on in ritual through centuries and continents, even into modern practices, he argued. He offered examples of Roman sacrifices, of Saxon and medieval ones, animals buried as buildings were constructed, to propitiate whichever powers were regarded as influential then and there.
He even quoted a late 19th century example, recounted to the curator of the Cambridge Folk Museum, when the builder “of all things” a Methodist chapel instructed his young nephews to buy a horse’s head from the local knacker’s yard and buried it, with due libation of beer, in the chapel foundations. “These sort of things really do have a remarkably long life.”
But not all such deposits were below ground. Higher up in old houses, in recesses in chimneypieces especially, smaller creatures might be tucked away – dried cats, for example, or in the case of Lauderdale House, Highgate, four dried chickens. With the chickens were two old shoes – another frequent component of such deposits – a broken glass goblet, a candlestick and a strange plaited straw object.
Such practices, too, were as long-lived, frequent – there are more than 900 recorded instances – and widespread, with examples known throughout Europe and even in the United States and Australia. “One of the very peculiar things about this particular custom is the secrecy that surrounds it.”
Moving on to models, Dr Merrifield illustrated the huge range of votive miniature limbs found at the source of the Seine – long a holy place – and dating to the first century AD, deposited there so that the diseased members they represented might be cured. A similar ritual could be identified at Epidavros, some 15 centuries earlier; the Etruscans did it too; it was assimilated, through saintly relics and more votive objects, into the Christian Church. “The change from paganism to Christianity still permitted the continuation of identical practices.”
And so he continued, through the deliberate damaging of objects the bending of coins and swords, again in both pagan and Christian contexts – to written magic. The lead curses of the Romans served a useful social purpose for their issuers, allowing them to try to recover stolen goods, for example, or simply let off steam.
Magical symbols were sometimes used instead of words – and continued in use for a very long time, with examples from 17th century Gloucestershire exactly resembling those used by the Romans. “But not all written magic was malignant – some was protective.” A magic “square” from Cirencester, reading the same from whichever direction it was approached, was one example – and was also another example of Christians taking over Roman tradition, reinterpreting the letters to turn them into a “paternoster” cross. There was a chicken and egg situation here, said Dr Merrifield. “Which came first?” He provided his own answer, by referring to similar squares from pagan Pompeii.
And he drew more magic threads together to conclude his lecture on a seasonal theme – celebration of the feast of Epiphany. Illustrating his point with a slide of the decorated pewter lid of a 15th century casket recovered from the Thames in the last century, which depicted the three kings and their offerings, he showed how such “purely Christian iconography” could be related to the Romans’ protective magical charms.
Such protective effects were still believed in today. Go to Germany on January 6, he said, and chalked on the doors will be graffiti in the form of the three letters C, M and B, the initials of the kings. Left there throughout the year, they were believed to give protection to the occupiers, a return to “pure magic” again.
He was, he continued, rather surprised to see the letters on the door of a church, and as well – particularly as the 1965 Vatican Council had refused to authenticate the three king’s story. “One would now imagine this custom was not approved by the church. I was eventually able to get to the bottom of this mystery, a remarkable instance of how things can be reinterpreted and brought back to religion again.”
An article in a German theological magazine explained that the letters were not the initials of the kings, but those of the phrase “may Christ bless the house” – “a perfectly acceptable prayer”. It was, concluded Dr Merrifield, “a beautiful religious legend turned to pure magic and reclaimed by the church”.
The 70-plus members who listened to his lecture – an excellent attendance, especially so soon after the New Year festivities – were charmed by the 1990 Merrifield magic.
MITRE, WITH HELPFUL BISHOP
Andy Simpson describes progress on the dig at High Barnet
With the Christmas break over and the last of the turkey eaten, the society’s “excavation unit” has resumed work, spurred on by new discoveries and, in the case of the writer, the prospect of a pint of Burton ale at lunchtimes… It should be mentioned that the landlord of the Mitre, the aptly-named Mr Bishop, has been very helpful, providing storage space for the society’s equipment.
Having disposed of the upper layers of yard surfaces, demolition rubble and the footings of Victorian outbuildings, and dealt with the finer points of shoring unstable trench sides, the team is now excavating a very pebbly grey soil level that runs for much of the length of the trench. This contains, in the upper level, a considerable quantity of coarse, unglazed medieval pottery, identified as Hertfordshire Grey Ware of about AD 1200, and at least one possible “pot boiler” cobblestone.
At this stage there seems to be a gap in the pottery sequence until about 1600, after which the sequence is continuous to the present day.
Excavation is continuing, and would-be diggers, ale-imbibers or no, should contact Brian Wrigley, 959 5982.
WELL, THE SETTLEMENT SITE REMAINS A PUZZLE
Victor Jones tells how an emergency excavation failed to find the location of early settlement in East Barnet
Late in August we received a phone call from Mr W. Griffith of British Heritage (a group active in East Barnet, and not to be confused with English Heritage). He said a small subsidence had been noticed in the field by St Mary’s Church. At first it was about 1.5 yards in diameter and saucer-shaped. A day or two later it was bigger, and a central hole about one foot in diameter and three feet deep had appeared. Brickwork, possibly a well, could be seen. The adjoining London Borough of Barnet junior school uses the field area for recreation, and for pupil safety reasons immediate action was necessary. The borough Education Department had been advised and was arranging to fence off the affected area until remedial action could be taken. It was suggested HADAS be advised because of the archaeological interest of the area.
St Mary’s Church is the oldest in the borough, founded in the late 1100s as a dependant of St Alban’s Abbey. It is at the top of a hill, at some distance from the present East Barnet village. This suggests there may have originally been a settlement nearer the church, which could have been moved, later, to a more favourable location, as was not unusual with some early settlements.
Some members may recall our work in 1983-4 near the church. Dave King, a long-time HADAS member, site-watched a building project near the school. The report in Newsletter No 143, January 1983, includes a site plan, a drawing with notes of soil exposed in foundation digging and information that the immediate area had been disturbed by 19th century building and was unlikely to have any earlier material. Brian Wibberly, another HADAS veteran, later searched part of the field for traces of past settlement, without unfortunately any definite result.
Later another HADAS member, Mary Alloway, traced the records of buildings near the church back to the 1800s (reported in Newsletter No 156, February 1984). The “Enclosure” map of 1817 shows only a house with barn, near the church. Mary produced sketches and plans of the stages of building from 1817 to 1930 and a view of the area as it was at the beginning of this century. A 1950s fire destroyed the buildings.
A meeting at the site was arranged to discuss the new problem, and included representatives of various other organisations, the Education Department, the school, Barnet Museum and local history societies, also Mr Griffith and others from British Heritage and interested local residents. The subsidence was inspected and brickwork and concrete could indeed be seen about four feet below ground level and looked to be part of a well. We agreed to undertake an archaeological investigation.
As the school required the use of the area as soon as possible, it was necessary any investigation should start immediately. To speed the work it was suggested HADAS should control the project and other interested groups would co-operate. We were offered the use of various documents, maps and photographs they had collected, and information from Gillian Geer of Barnet Museum on her work on the history of Church Farm was most helpful.
We began work on September 3, first laying out trenches in the sunken area, then erecting safety fencing surrounding them. In all this work we were greatly assisted by Mr Griffith and British Heritage in the provision of tools, materials and storage space and in undertaking much of the harder work, supplying fencing materials and tea. It was also necessary to close a passage from the field to the church and to take reference measurements from the church grounds for trench positioning. The sexton and the vicar were interested and helpful.
The project took about four weeks, working a day mid-week and weekends. Members of the Barnet societies, the British Heritage group and our own dig team participated vigorously. Surface material was quickly removed and the base of the earlier farm walls soon emerged. The area around the well was exposed to the top four feet of brickwork, which, on inspection, did not appear to be very early. The dimensions of the exposed walls agreed with the drawings and information provided by Gillian Geer and others.
Below the foundations of these walls there was the natural undisturbed gravel level, with no evidence of earlier occupation. An area between the well and the church, also part of the farm site, was also explored. New trenches were laid out in the third week of the dig, but after digging through a few inches of turf and soil the debris of the 1950s fire was soon reached. This was about 12 inches deep with little but slate and brick fragments recognisable. Below this was the undisturbed gravel. The site was closed at the end of the fifth week, with British Heritage again a great help, contributing to the back filling and clearing work.
Gillian Geer has kindly provided a note on the history of Church Farm and the conversion of the buildings to homes and a training school for homeless London boys – it follows this report. The presence of the remedial school as the training school’s successor is an interesting reminder of early charitable efforts to help London’s disadvantaged young.
Though no discovery was made as the result of the investigation it was valuable in eliminating one of several possible locations for the probable settlement for which this otherwise isolated church at the top of the hill was built. We hope to be able to return to East Barnet if other possible sites become available for investigation.
LEARNING ON THE LAND
Gillian Geer, MA, describes the history of Church Farm Industrial School, East Barnet
In 1860 a Lt.Col. W.J. Gillum bought Church Farm farmhouse, a farm cottage and 50 acres of land and here he established an industrial school for destitute or semi-criminal boys, called the Boys’ Farm Home. A management committee was set up headed by Colonel Gillum and the land was rented to the boys’ home at the nominal charge of £2 an acre.
Church Farm had been used during the Crimean War by a “purveyor of mules” for the army and the sheds previously used for mules housed the cows which the boys looked after. A trust deed of 1884 transferred the whole of the land, except for that where Colonel Gillum’s house stood, to the boys’ home. The farm then consisted of 48 acres, mostly pastureland, but potatoes, hay and onions were also grown. The boys did mostly simple agricultural work in the fields and garden, as well as tending the livestock: pigs, poultry and cows. The farm had watercress beds and bunches were sold locally.
In 1933 Church Farm became an approved school. In 1937 the East Barnet site was sold and the home moved to Court Lees, South Godstone, Surrey.
NOTES AND NEWS
LAMAS Archaeological Conference, Saturday March 10, at the Museum of London: HADAS will again be there, with a display centring on the new A Place in Time book. Victor Jones (458 6180) would welcome offers of help in manning the stand and selling copies of the book. The conference starts at 10am and runs until late afternoon.
Green Past Times: London’s museums have, topically, gone green – in lecture series. Depending on when this Newsletter lands on your doormat, there are up to three opportunities to hear British Museum speakers on Green and Pleasant? The Ecology of Antiquity – February 2, Simon James on People and the Environment of Early Britain; February 16, Margaret Oliphant on Man and Nature in the Fertile Crescent; February 23, Nicole Douek (an ex-HADAS member) on The Balance of Nature in Ancient Egypt. All lectures at 1.15pm in the BM Assyrian Basement lecture theatre, admission free.
Green London is the Museum of London’s theme – and there are two Wednesday lunchtime (1.10pm) lectures left – London’s Weather Pattern: Past and Present, by David Cullum, on February 7, and Trees in the Urban Environment, by John Warburton, on February 14.
Avenue House: HADAS has an excellent new room there, with direct access from the outside. The library will be reinstated there as soon as insurance matters are finalised.
Tudor Whetstone: The report on the Tudor house is now being written, reports Victor Jones. HADAS work has proved it to be 100 years earlier than previously believed, and the project has been a highly successful amalgamation of digging and documentary research work. With much help from Pam Taylor, members have been able to trace house ownership deeds back to 1490. There may be a chance to return to the house later, to continue work,
Publicity-oriented: HADAS has a new publicity officer, John Heathfield.
Tempting Fate?: Advance information on Fake? – The Art of Deception (see Diary) reveals it is “an exhibition about deception materialised, about lying things wherever and whenever made… It is not, however, a history of crime; it does not discuss the relative morality of counterfeiting money, faking works of art and assisting fellow prisoners to escape from Colditz by forging German passes. What it does is to present such objects as a potential source of historical evidence.”
Among the objects to be seen will be the massive and magnificent Piranesi vase, and the display will span continents and millennia, concluding with a section on techniques used to make and unmask fakes. Wait for Paul Craddock to explain more.
A Better World Tomorrow? The exhbition of photographs of London in the 1950s, .60s and 70s by Henry Grant – who lived in Golders Green for much of that time – continues at the Museum of London until February 25.
Angelic Skills: The Work of Angels, the British Museum display of 6th to 9th century metalwork focusing on the Irish Derrynaflan hoard, is strongly recommended. Take time, and perhaps a magnifying glass.