NEWSLETTER 251 Edited by Helen Gordon FEBRUARY 1992
Tuesday February 4th ‘Paleolithic Cave Painting and Underground Artwork from Palaeolithic to Modern Day’ Sylvia Beamon M.A.
Mrs Beamon gave us a talk on Ice Houses after the HADAS A.G.M. in May 1988, just as we found our own ice-house in Hendon Convent grounds. Here is yet another success story of a mature student with a young family, reading Arch aeology and Anthropology at Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge. She is a founder member of Subterranea Brittanica started in 1974 – a Society to which several HADAS members belong. She lives in Royston and has studied the Royston Caves (which HADAS has visited) for over twenty years and put forward the theory that it may have been used by the Knights Templar, primarily as a store w.ith an addition of a chapel after problems with the local Prior. Her talk this time will be on Paleolithic cave painting end artwork up to the present day.
Wednesday February 26th HADAS members who missed the excellent lecture by Dr Essex-Lopresti in November 1990, on ‘The history of the New River’ from Amwell, Herts to Islington, have an opportunity to hear it at the City University at 6.30 pm – price £1 This is run in conjunction with Mary O’Connell’s City Guiding, and she says all HADAS members and friends are welcome.
Tuesday March 3rd ‘Ancient Monuments – Their care and Preservation’ – Helen Paterson
Tuesday April 7th ‘Achaeology and History of Sutton House, Hackney’ – Mike Grey
Saturday May 16th Our first outing is a follow-up to the April 7th lecture – a visit to Sutton House and then on to Waltham Abbey, with Peter Huggins
Tuesday October 6th ‘The Roman Pottery Manufacturing Site in Highgate Weeds’ Harvey Sheldon
Tuesday November 3rd ‘Excavating in Northern Iraq – from the Greeks to the Mongols’
Dr John Curtis
HADAS lectures are held at Hendon Library, The Burroughs, Hendon at 8.00 for 8.30 start. Coffee is available before the lecture. Members with cars please offer lifts home. The library is 5 minutes from Hendon Central underground, a few minutes from a
113 bus stop) and the 183 bus stops at the Burroughs.
Readers will have seen reports in the press some weeks ago of the finding of a Viking boat burial in the Orkneys. We are proud that Daphne Lorrimer was called to give an expert opinion on the bones as they lay undisturbed. Here is her first impression of the dramatic scene.
A Traveller’s Tale
A Viking boat burial is always exciting, but a Viking boat burial in peril from
storm and spring tide, is .an excitement of no mean order. So, it was with
considerable anticipation and a feeling of great privilege, that I answered a summons on the sixteenth of December, to examine the bones in the boat burial on Sanday, one
of the most northerly of the Orkney Isles. These bones had been discovered by the
local farmer and were being excavated by ADC Scotland Ltd, funds being provided by Historic Scotland and the Orkney Islands Council.
The setting was spectacular and the sky, when I arrived after a pre-dawn flight, was aflame from the rising sun and made a perfect backdrop – the fires of Valhalla (If a merchant rated Valhalla) – to this quite incredible excavation. The boat was quite small (a faering) but it had been chocked all round by stones and although the wooden planks had long since decayed, the metal rivets were still in place and there it sat, just as it had been left all those hundreds of years ago, a boat by the sea!
There were three burials and, by standing on my head, I gave them an inspection in situ and hazarded, what at that stage, could only be called the informed speculation, that they belonged to a man, a woman and a child. The man had been
separated from the other two by a small stone wall and was dignified by a sword, thought (beneath the rust) to be in its scabbard. On top of this was a lump of rusted metal which some said was a spearhead and some a bundle of arrows. He was clutching a decorated bone comb (which some again said was to remove the fleas from his beard!). He had a sickle and a disintegrated cloak brooch which, from the odd gleam, appeared to have been decorated with gold.
The woman not only had a comb, but an extrordinary and, in this country,
practically unique whalebone plate. About the size and shape of a kitchen chopping
board, it had a pair of handsomely carved horses’ heads at one end as an apparent handle.
One side of the plate was plain and the other proved, later, to have an intricately carved border – but no knife cuts. Only two similar plates have been found in Britain and forty in Norway. Its use is something of a mystery – it has been suggested as an ironing board using a lump of glass as a smoother, but the experts have yet to decide.
The boat also contained gaming pieces and weights. It was the presence of these weights which made Magna Dalland, the archaeologist in charge of the dig, think that the burial was that of a well-to-do merchant and, presumably, his family.Since the burial was elaborate, a nearby Viking settlement to provide the labour is postulated,
but the cause of death is, at the moment, unknown. Did illness, epidemic or
catastrophe overwhelm this little family? or were the ancient travellers’ tales from Russia true and slave girls had volunteered to accompany their master to the other world? It can only be hoped that the bones will speak but, alas, they rarely do!
The missing tomb of one of Britain’s most affable but luckless prime ministers has been found sealed, unmarked and buried deep beside an abandoned parish church at Stanmore. Middlesex.
The discovery of the coronet-surmounted coffin of the Earl of Aberdeen solves a mystery which has puzzled historians for more than 100 years. But it creates a new enigma: why was one of the most eminent Victorians left interred without inscriptions or memorials and with the door blocked by earth? His great-great-grandson, the Marquess et Aberdeen said last night that the discovery was “most interesting.” adding: “We had no idea where he was.”
George Hamllton-Gordon, fourth Earl of Aberdeen, called by Queen Victoria a “faithful friend”, was a notable Foreign Secretary before becoming PM in 1852. However, Britain drifted into the Crimean War under his leadership. He was forced to resign in 1855, dying five years later. According to one document. Queen Victoria sent her state coach in tribute for his burial in the grounds of St John the Evan. genet. Steamers, which was already roofless and disused because another church bad been built.
The earl’s disappearance has tantalised Roy Abbott. Harrow and Stanmore historical society treasurer for more than 50 years. He mentioned it to Dr Frederick Hicks, who is hoping to raise £250.000 to make the ruined church safe for its 360th anniversary.
With a team of masons, Dr Hicks was removing ivy from the ruin. They were tracing some of the roots through the brickwork of a sealed vault beside the building when part of the vandal-weakened masonry collapsed. Inside the vault they saw empty shelves built to accommodate 16 coffins.
Low in the vault wall they saw “what looked like the top of a door almost hidden by earth”. They confirmed this by removing two flagstones in the vault floor. Dr Hicks hung upside-down through the gap, holding a flashlight, a compact automatic camera, and a mirror. “I could hardly contain myself when I saw what was there,” he said. “There were coffins piled four high and five coronets — one of shining gold — sitting on top. I was sure we had found the lost Lord Aberdeen.” Insignia on the uppermost coffin confirmed the find.
Beside it were the coffins of the earl’s two wives, and. apparently, those of three of their children who died in youthThe team respectfully resealed the vault. Dr Hicks wrote giving the news to the Marquess. “Decisions on what should be done next will have to be postponed until the family has recovered from its surprise,” he said.(Being personally distantly connected with the family the following may throw some light on this mystery – Editor)
The fourth Earl was a man of retiring character, preferring the quiet of Stanmore Priory to living in London. His first wife, daughter of the owner of this house, the Marquess of Abercorn, had been buried there on her death in 1812, and Aberdeen had worn mourning for her till the end of his life. (The vault where the coffin has been found is that of the Abercorn family).
As his great great granddaughter-in-law June Aberdeen wrote (Times 26.12.91)he was also a man of peace. While Prime Minister he wrote to a friend that “my strong feeling is that under the present circumstances war would not only be an act of insanity but would be utterly disgraceful to all of us concerned”. After a few months of war he had to resign and, during his remaining five years political recriminations must have been a torment to him; his grandson wrote in his Memoir ‘We Twa’ that “it might perhaps be said, without exaggeration, that he never smiled again”. His remorse is illustrated by his reply to a request from the villagers in Aberdeenshire for money to build a church; he is reported to have said that he would give them money for any other kind of building but he could not build a church because he had blood on his hands.
Did he himself give instructions before he died as to the manner of the disposal of his coffin, or did his heirs, fearing attacks from enemies/vandals, decide to place no inscription on the vault? His effigy and memorial are in the new church.
HARVEY SHELDON and The Department of Greater London Archaeology
One of the many casualties of the English Heritage’s re-organisation of London’s archaeological effort has been our friend, Harvey Sheldon.
I first met him in connection with his excavations in Highgate Wood, a site which was discovered in 1962. A trial trench was put down in 1966. Two other members were on the site between 1967 and 69, and HADAS also co-operated in doing a resistivity survey in the summer of 1969. This was later published in the London Archaeologist.
When an effort was made to co-ordinate the work of the various societies in London by the formation of the London Borough Secretaries, Harvey was very active, and HADAS joined in about 1974, as far as I can remember. It is fair to say that over the passing years Harvey has played a major part in enthusing archaeology in the minds of all he contacted, Developers, Contractors, and people alike. In more recent years, as head of the Department of Greater London Archaeology, he has built up the department from scratch.
More recently he was deeply involved in the controversy over the preservation of the Rose Theatre in which he clashed with English Heritage. He has also been, for the last five years, President of Rescue, a nation-wide action group in the archaeological field.
At present he has in mind to write up some past digs, and he has promised to talk to us on the latest interpretation of the Pottery Kilns at Highgate (see diary). Knowing Harvey, his optimism and cheerful attitude will carry him through this present period.
Short notes on Highgate appear in:-
HADAS Newsletters 11, 18, 29, 43
London Archaeologist Vol.1 pp 38-43, 150-4, 197 and 232
There has been a more comprehensive article on the Rose Theatre and Harvey’s career in
general in:- Current Archaeology No.124 pp 165-9, which should be read in conjunction with pp 163/4
LOCAL NEWS…. Brian Wrigley reports
As members know we were asked by the Museum of London and the developer to make an archaeological evaluation of the site of St Joseph’s Convent at the Burroughs, Hendon. We had hoped to get access by the end of November, but in the event we were not able to get on site until December19. Over the Christmas and New Year period a small band of devoted diggers completed the necessary investigation in the short time allowed. Fortunately (? ed.) there were very few features and a report is being prepared.
BRIGID and HADAS…. British Archaeological News writes in their obituary:-
…was a leading amateur archaeologist in the London area …She and her journalist husband moved to Hampstead Garden Suburb in the late 1940s and she became interested in the area’s archaeology and history. She took London extramural diplomas in both subjects and for twelve years was secretary of the Hendon and District Archaeological Society
A book of Cartoon to make environmentalists laugh (and think) aren’t all archaeologists environmentalists
Earthscan Publications and World Wide Fund £6.99TURES, MEETINGS, CONFERENCES
INSTITUTE OF ARCHAEOLOGY
Wetland Archaeology Tuesday lectures 6.30 – 8.30 pm
A course of 14 lectures (started Jan 7th) by Robert Fellner, who has worked for three years at large wetland excavations in the Canton of Neuch&tel, Switzerland, where many waterlogged neolithic and bronze age villages have been completely excavated on a scale unknown in Britain.
Aspects of Iron Age Society Thursday lectures 6.45 – 8.15 pm
Feb 6 LIGs, MEBs and the Gundestrup Cauldron (Tim Taylor Ph.D.)
Feb 13 The Stanwick Oppidum (Colin Hazelgrove Ph.D.)
Feb 20 Agriculture in the Iron Age (Peter Reynolds Ph.D.,Butzer Archaelogical farm)
Feb 27 The Iron Age to Roman transition in Northern Europe (Gregory Woolf Ph.D.)
March 5 The Snettisham goldwork (Ian Stead Ph.D.)
March 12 ‘Celtic’ Iron Age Europe; the theoretical basis (Andrew Fitzpatrick Ph.D)
(Trust for Wessex Archaeology)
ROYAL ARCHAEOLOGIAL INSTITUTE
CONFERENCE: ARCHAEOLOGY AND THE LANDSCAPE : 3 – 5 APRIL : BRISTOL
(in association with Bristol University’s Dept. of continuing education)
Apply Ass.Sec. RAI, c/o Soc.of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, WLV OHS
MUSEUM OF LONDON
The Archaeology of the City Wednesday lectures at 1.10 pm, based on excavations by the Museum and given by the principal authors of four new books; in conjunction with LAMAS. The remaining 3rd and 4th are:-
Feb 12 Roman finds around the Bank of England (Tony Wilmott)
March 4 Medieval dress accessories from City excavations (Geoff Egan)
What is it? Exhibition until 26th April
Workshops on Thursdays at 1.10 pm on analysis and care of objects.
from Feb 6th – ceramics; bone, antler and ivory; handling history; (27th none) to April 9th) glass
“Behind the Scenes” at the Museum of London – an invitation to visit the Museum’s vast Reserve Collection of thousands of objects, not normally open to the public, housed in a specially converted warehouse in Finsbury. A group of HADAS members visited the collection last year. This is an opportunity for those who missed it. Visits at 2.0 pm on Feb 11, 25, March 10 and 24: entrance £2 by ticket only, available in advance by completing the form below and returning it with cheque or postal order payable to the Museum of London.