Newsletter 239: February 1991 Edited by Liz Sagues
Tuesday February 5 Lecture: Discovering Little Known London, by Mary O’Connell. In archaeology we expect to excavate below ground to make our discoveries. Mary will take us round London and show us many interesting features above ground, and tell us their fantastic stories.
Tuesday March 5 Lecture: Digging in Assyria – the Work of the British Museum, by Dr John Curtis.
Saturday March 23rd 28th Annual Conference of London Archaeologists at the Museum of London, 11am-5.30pm, in the Lecture Theatre. The theme this year will be Recent Archaeological Work in the London Area. The morning speakers will cover excavations at West Smithfield, Fulham, Barking Abbey, Lambeth and the Limehouse Link Road. The afternoon session will be a discussion on how archaeology in London will develop in the 1990s. As usual there will be displays of recent work by local societies. HADAS will have a stand there showing the society’s work and publications.
Tuesday April 2 Lecture: The Valley of the Kings – Burial Place of the Pharaohs by Peter Clayton. This will be a survey of the major finds and history of the valley.
Tuesday May 7 Annual General Meeting.
Sunday May 12 Afternoon visit to the London Museum of Jewish Life, at the Sternberg Centre, N3.
Saturday June 8 Essex History Fair (see details on page 5 of this newsletter).
Saturday June 15 Outing to Mapledurham, with Ted Sammes.
Saturday July 13 Outing to historic Chatham Docks.
Saturday October 5 City Walk, with Mary O’Connell.
Tuesday December 3 Christmas Dinner (to be confirmed).
Dorothy Newbury adds: We had hoped to issue our 1991 programme card with this Newsletter, but regrettably there have been numerous last-minute changes with lecturers and venues. Plans were made for a weekend in Dorchester and its surrounding area, but accommodation arrangements have fallen through. Attempts are being made to arrange an alternative weekend based in Chester or Norwich.
Phyllis Fletcher, membership secretary, is pleased to report that HADAS has, as at January 1 1991, 362 fully paid-up members. This is a few up on the same time last year.
Mary O’Connell, who leads such excellent city walks, fell on the ice and broke her leg. In plaster, she has been continuing her lecturing from a wheelchair. We hope she will make it for the lecture on February 5.
Myfanwy Stewart, burnt stone specialist from the HADAS West Heath excavation days, attended an interesting conference on burnt stone in Birmingham recently.
Victor Jones, HADAS treasurer, has resigned from the council of LAMAS. At present LAMAS leans more towards history, less towards archaeology.
Mrs Banham has written to say how much she regretted being unable to attend our 1990 Christmas Dinner. She is a founder member of the society and it was the first such festive event she had missed. She has heard from some of our loyal long-standing members who have moved away but retain membership. These include Daisy Hill, honorary secretary in the early days of the society, who now lives in Chesterfield, and Alec Thompson, a regular on outings in the past, who now lives in Whitley Bay. Not so far away, Mrs Trudy Pulfer has written. She is well and will also be remembered as a regular on outings, as well as for her work assisting Mrs Irene Frauchiger over the many years Mrs Frauchiger printed and despatched the HADAS Newsletter. The society has also received best wishes from Brian Jarman, who was chairman for many years, now in Sussex; and from Lita Silver, in Stockport. Thank you all for keeping in touch,
News is sometimes short for HADAS editors, so all contributions from members, particularly of local interesting information, is welcome.
A plea, too, for new editors. With the sad loss of Isobel McPherson, who took charge of two Newsletters a year, there is a need for one more editor and a reserve to cover emergencies. Please phone Dorothy Newbury if you think you can fill the gap.
Dorothy Newbury reports on the HADAS visit to the Museum of London Reserve Collection on January 22
This started off as a bit of a mystery tour. We had been instructed to meet at a certain park gate as the official address did not seem to exist. Several late-comers who arrived after the main group had left the meeting point were met with blank expressions when asking locals the way! The building is totally unmarked and appears derelict – presumably to deter unwelcome attention. Once furtively admitted, however, it is like entering Aladdin’s Cave, Rack upon rack, and shelf upon shelf of nostalgia. Nostalgia, rather than archaeology, but to our group, who were mostly senior citizens, it evoked many half-forgotten memories: “I remember these,” “My granny had one of those.” One or two younger members had never heard of Utility furniture, nor seen a Walls’ ice cream trolley with Snofruit at one penny.
The afternoon was most enjoyable. We were accompanied by two very nice young ladies from the museum who obviously enjoyed the collection as much as we did.
First, another good reason for going to Church Farm House Museum. Running until February 24 is Cameras, Cats and Cooking Pots, an exhibition of recent donations and other objects from the museum’s collections not normally on display – everything from a 19th century Hendon draper’s cabinet to a 1930s tea service, from a mummified cat from East Barnet to an early calculator. Exhibitions further ahead include new paintings of Hendon and Finchley by Peter Hume (March 9 – April 21), Pharmacy – Past, Present and Future (May 4 – June 9), new work by photography students at the Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute (June 22 – July 28) and Picturesque Mill Hill, another in the highly-successful series of exhibitions revealing the wealth of pictorial material held by the London Borough of Barnet’s Archives (August 10 September 15).
Return to the atmosphere of the 18th century, as the Sir John Soane Museum in Lincolns Inn Fields introduces evening opening, to allow the astonishing cabinet of curiosities of the famous architect and collector to be seen in the lamp lit conditions he himself favoured. The house is open on the first Tuesday of every month, from 6pm to 9pm, admission free. Go in summer, after the HADAS lecture series is over.
A plea for help now, as another local museum in North London is born. The project is planned in Highgate, to display especially the remarkable collection built up by Gwynydd Gosling during the 50 years she has lived in the village, serving as librarian of the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution for many of them. Other local material is intended to be included, too. A £250,000 appeal has been launched to buy a property to house the Highgate Village
Museum, and shareholders are sought to make it all possible. Write to 22A Hampstead Lane, N6 4RT, for more details.
Watch out for Whittington… The new “corporate image” of the Museum of London is the thrice-Lord Mayor of London with his cat, two figures in silhouette to be seen striding across museum posters, brochures and, in due course, the books it publishes and the merchandise it sells. The image is all part of a radical re-think of marketing at the museum, designed to bring in new funds to supplement grant income and make possible gallery refurbishments, new exhibitions and education activities.
HADAS at work
Not a cock and bull story, more a horsey tale
Liz Sagues reports on the animal bones recovered from the HADAS dig at 19/25 Barnet High Street
The main collection of bones studied comes from a disturbed layer containing other finds dating from the medieval period to present times, and there is no obvious indication from the bones themselves of their antiquity. But the assortment of limb bones represented could be consistent with their being rubbish deposited in a midden, and the presence of dog-gnawing on some of the bones could support such a domestic rubbish context. With so small a collection, however, this can be no more than assumption.
The bones from context 606 formed a little heap near the flint and tile wall in Trench 6. Of the 39 identifiable specimens recovered, the largest number are horse bones – principally two complete metatarsals, both left, and two complete radius/ulnas, both right, plus a third right-hand radius, somewhat damaged. In all, there are 17 identifiable pieces of horse bone or teeth, representing at least three animals. The largest of the three is likely to have stood approximately 1.4 metres high at the withers (just under 14 hands) (simple comparison with other work, using Kiesewalter’s factors). The second animal would have been very slightly smaller, the third rather smaller still. One horse at least, to judge by extremely worn incisors and premolars among the loose teeth, was very old – possibly as much as 30 years.
Sixteen bone/teeth specimens of cattle were identifiable, but in much more fragmentary condition.Five pieces of horn core indicate possibly a minimum of three animals represented, but this cannot be confirmed from the other remains. The loose teeth indicate at lease one fully adult animal.
Other identifiable bones from this trench are parts of two metacarpals and one metatarsal of sheep.
The collection is far too small and diverse to enable any conclusions to be drawn on husbandry practices. Sexing of the bones is not possible (pieces and sample too small, or complete bones not sexually dimorphic), except that the varying curvature of the horn cores indicates possibly the presence of at least one cow and one steer. As for butchery practices, again there is minimal evidence – clear cut marks can be seen only on one horse metatarsal. But the existence of complete horse bones in a possible medieval context does not preclude the possibility that the animals were eaten – evidence elsewhere (personal communication from Tony Legge) indicates horse bones were largely left whole, the meat being cut off and cooked without the bone. The bones from the modern intrusive Pit 6F1 are principally a near-complete cat skeleton, plus a single sheep incisor tooth and a skull fragment also likely to be of sheep. Obviously these can add little to understanding of the site.
A matter of compensation
John Heathfield provides an explanation of the history of the Barnet High Street site
The history of the site of this dig is unusual. In 1618, King James I enlarged the hunting park near his palace at Theobalds by taking in part of Northaw Common. The money which he gave the parish in recompense was invested in property, from which the rent was used for poor relief.
A site “near the Woolpack” in Chipping Barnet was purchased. This land contained four tenements. The 1817 Inclosure Award shows four tenements on a site of 1 rod 35 poles, copyhold belonging to the Minister and Overseers of Northaw, and let at a total of £7 per year. Northaw also owned three further fields in Barnet and one in Totteridge, and was allotted a further one acre at the Inclosure.
In late Victorian times, the houses were converted into small shops with living quarters above and outbuildings to the rear.
News to dig into
Brian Wrigley reports on the trial excavation at St Mary’s School, Finchley.
Following the last-minute appeal for volunteers inserted with the January Newsletter, a trial dig did take place at St Mary’s School in the fortnight allowed by the developer, from January 3-17. This was organised by the Museum of London’s Department of Greater London Archaeology. The original intention had been that with the museum organising the operation during the working week, HADAS volunteers would have been able to carry on at weekends so as to make the most of the limited time.
However, in the event, the weather was against our arrangements; in what seemed to be the wettest 14 days we have had for some time, the area opened up was for most of the time a marsh of waterlogged, sticky clay, making very little hand-work possible. Hence our dozen volunteers who had nobly responded to the Newsletter appeal were not called on.
The small museum team did manage nonetheless to get some useful results from some further machine scraping and a little investigation by hand of possible features that appeared. There was quite an amount of early medieval pottery (NOT prehistoric as previous reported – as is well known the two can often be confusingly similar), at least one concentration of burning which might be a hearth, and various indications of possible features which, however, it was wise not to explore in the wet, soggy conditions.
All in all, the exploration suggested that this site was more than just a ploughsoil scattered with pottery, and might be an area of medieval domestic or industrial activity.
The museum team are eager to make a presentation of their results to HADAS members by way of a lecture or seminar, and are hoping to arrange this in the next few weeks, at the Museum of London. As it will probably be impossible to give timely notice of this in the Newsletter, may I ask any members who would like to be notified of the date and time to let me know at 21 Woodcroft Avenue, Mill Hill, NW7 2AH (081-959 5982). An addressed envelope to send the notification in would be a great convenience!
English Heritage and HADAS
English Heritage has recently appointed an Archaeology Officer for London, Dominic Perring. He has written to HADAS: “It is a difficult position and I am anxious to consult as widely as possible before deciding how to proceed. English Heritage proposals for London have caused much concern amongst the societies and professional groups working in the capital and I think it most important that these concerns are properly addressed.” He would like to meet us, and has offered to address a meeting.
We are arranging an occasion within the next few weeks when he can meet some of the officers of the society and be shown some of the places of archaeological interest in the borough. And Mr Perring has agreed to be the society’s November lecturer. His subject will be The Rise and Fall of Roman London, and the date of the talk is November 5. Watch for explosive explanations…
More places to go…
A potted history? Well, not quite, but on March 4 the Museum of London is holding a day school on the Limehouse Link, explaining its archaeological work on sites in the vicinity of the new road link from the Rotherhithe Tunnel to Canary Wharf. Not only was new evidence of the unwritten history of Limehouse discovered, from the Bronze Age to its Chinese connections in the 18th and 19th centuries, but the site of the almost legendary Limehouse porcelain factory of the 1740s was identified at last.
By popular request, the normal debriefing reception for site developers, owners, etc, has been opened to all, and the day school will give participants the chance to hear the explanations of the excavators plus contributions from Mavis Bimson, of the the British Museum Research Laboratory, and Dr Bernard Watney, president of the English Ceramic Circle. Fee for the day, which runs from 10am to 5pm, is £12, including coffee and tea. Details from the Education Department, Museum of London, London Wall, EC2Y 5HN.
The British Association for Local History writes to HADAS: “No doubt you will have heard of the Essex History Fairs, which have become a biennial red-letter day of the history calendar. It has been suggested that the BALH might offer a service to local history societies by organising a pick-up coach to the fair site at Maldon on June 8 1991. This would naturally have to be restricted to a corridor across the Home Counties, probably on a route though West, North-West and North-East London, and it can happen only if enough people show their interest!” Any members interested should contact Dorothy Newbury (081-203 0950) as soon as possible.
More university, organised archaeological holiday making, offered this time by the University of Birmingham . The list includes three-day residential courses on the Art and Archaeology of Ancient Egypt (c.1570-1070 BC) (at Ludlow, March 15-17), Prehistoric Dartmoor, tutored by Aubrey Burl (at Ashburton, April 26-28), and Prehistoric Sites in the Cotswolds (at Cirencester, September 20-22). There are longer courses and more distant destinations, too. For a brochure, phone 021-414 5605 (24-hour answering machine) or 021-414 5615.
Warming to the task
Victor Jones provides an update on progress at Avenue House
Since November, when I reported that the room was fitted with temporary shelving, all fire-damaged items removed and the rest racked, it has been used most weekends for processing finds, first those from this year’s Barnet dig, followed by those from the earlier Whetstone dig. We have not had any information on the progress of this latter project for some time, and we decided to go ahead and process the finds and report on our overall results to date. The processing group has consisted mainly of the regulars on the Barnet dig, Bill Bass, Andy Simpson and Brian Wrigley, with my occasional attendance.
Both sets of finds proved interesting. In addition to more recent items there were further possible medieval pottery shards and a variety of other items from the Barnet dig, and possibly pre-Tudor items in the Whetstone material. All are now properly labelled, bagged and sorted for specialist examination.
The room is light and pleasant to work in, but was very cold – until Phyllis Fletcher heard of our problem and solved it, by producing two spare electric fires. Now surroundings are warm and comfortable. Some rearrangement of the furniture and the storage of the books and finds also found space for the addition of a good working desk kindly donated by long-term member Celia Gould and Mr Wernick. We found space in a side storage area to house our new exhibition equipment when not in use. There is also room to erect it and prepare exhibits in the central work area of the main room.
A folding table is available at which about six people can sit to work on books or finds or hold a meeting. There is a sink, kettle, teapot and mugs, so tea or coffee can be made if brought. For the library proper there is a small windowed extension in a corner of the room. This, with suitable shelving, will house our present book and journal collections and leave space for some additions.
Making these changes has taken more time than I expected, but the programme to repair the less damaged books and to clean and then relict them, suggested by Dan Lampert, can now be restarted. We hope soon to be able to get in touch with the members who, some time ago, offered to help in this work. We would also be very glad to hear from any others who might be prepared to help either in book repair or in listing and rearranging the library. This can now be undertaken in reasonable comfort.
Avenue House is on the north side of East End Road, Finchley, a short way east of the East End Road/Regents Park Road junction. Access to our library room – known as the Garden Room – is normally through Avenue House on weekdays. At weekends the house is closed and access is via a park entrance a little beyond the entrance to Avenue House.
It will take a time to get the library fully into usable condition, but the room is already proving to be quite a valuable resource for storage and winter working.
A place of dreams
Hampstead Garden Suburb: Dreams and Realities is the latest addition to the considerable literature on the built ideal of Dame Henrietta Barnett. Its author is Kit Ikin, life-long Suburb resident and supporter of the founding aims. “What really is remarkable is that the Suburb’s founders got so much of it right,” he said in a local newspaper interview marking the book’s publication. Mr Ikin was considerably helped in his task by Brigid Grafton Green, the Suburb Archivist, who in one appendix tackles the question of names in the Suburb, describing how roads were named after great lawyers, famous poets, English artists and Suburb personalities. The book is available from the New Garden Suburb Trust office, 862 Finchley Road, NWI 1 (081-455 1066), at £9.50 (£12.50 after April 1).