newsletter-462-September-2009 – HADAS Newsletter Archive

It’s that time of the year again!

Only this year it is different, for the last five years Birkbeck College and HADAS have jointly run a course processing old HADAS digs to latest standards and bringing them to publication. However, this year Birkbeck has raised its course fees to £400 per student (it was £300 last year). As a consequence HADAS has decided to run the course itself. The course, “Looking at finds – a practical course in Post-Excavation Studies”, will be tutored by Jacqui Pearce (as usual) and will be held at Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley N3 3QE. Meetings will be held on Wednesday evenings from 6.30 to 8.30. The course will run for 22 two-hour sessions over two terms, from 30 September 2009 to 24 March 2010.

Fees and booking

We welcome anyone who wishes to acquire the relevant archaeological skills. The fee for the two terms is £275, payable to HADAS. To book, please contact the class tutor at or ring 020 8203 2506 (evenings only). For a detailed syllabus please check out the HADAS website or alternatively contact Jacqui Pearce or Don Cooper.


Our new lecture programme begins again in October.

Tuesday 13th October 2009, Excavations at St Martin in the Fields, Alison Telfer – Project Officer, Museum of London Archaeology.

Tuesday 10th November 2009, Bricks and Skeletons: St John’s 1632 Brick Church Ruin (St John the Evangelist, Stanmore), Dr Frederick Hicks.

Lectures are held in the Drawing Room at Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley, N3 3QE, starting at 8.00pm. Coffee/tea and biscuits are served afterwards. New members and Visitors are welcomed. Avenue House is about ten to fifteen minutes walk from Finchley Central Station. Buses 82, 125, 143, 326, 382 & 460 pass close by.


The Fieldwork Team continues to meet most Sunday mornings in The Garden Room at Avenue House, around 10.30 hrs till ‘13.30ish’. New and old members are welcome to come along; though it is perhaps best first to check the emails on HADAS discussion: or ring Bill Bass, 020 8449 5666, to confirm that members will be meeting that Sunday.


Sunday July 26th 2009: We were welcomed at the entrance to Broughton Castle by Lord Saye and Sele himself – dapper, bright-eyed and charming ­– as we arrived ahead of time for our visit. So we had time to look at the 14th century church of St Mary, built close to the castle.

Evidence for an even earlier church lay in the 12th century circular font and an arcade of 4 arches in the south aisle appeared to be from the 13th century. Fragments of wall paintings survive and richly designed stained glass windows reflect changes down the centuries. Hatchments (1666-1847) decorate the walls. These are diamond shaped coats of arms which were hung outside the house of someone who had died. All of them were dedicated to either the Fiennes or Twistleton families. In fact, the Castle was in continuous family ownership from 1337. Alterations, additions and renewals continued to be made to the church, most recently in 1994, when the spire was struck by lightning and had to be restored. Nineteenth century restoration undertaken by Gilbert Scott and his son included a Gothic style pulpit and the chancel roof and east window. The changes were discreetly and sensitively done. The church is richly endowed with monuments, notable both for their number and as an index of family continuity throughout the centuries. They include the founder, Sir John de Broughton, who died in 1315, and the 2nd Lord Saye and Sele, who was killed at the battle of Barnet in 1471.

John de Broughton also founded the ‘castle’, early in the l4th century. It began life as a medieval manor house, dominated by the Great Hall and developed over the subsequent centuries into a grand Tudor mansion which remains virtually unchanged today. Entering through the gatehouse, the castle, as it is known, is set off dramatically by extensive front lawns and a wide moat. The high building itself has a symmetrical ‘feel’ to it, enhanced by the vertical and horizontal lines of the large windows. A small crenellated building was attached to one side in 1406, suggesting a military function but it was never a serious defensive establishment.

We entered the castle straight into the Great Hall where Lord Saye and Sele met us again to introduce us to his home and our guides. In spite of the suits of armour, leather buckets and family portraits of grand ancestors, it retained the atmosphere of a lived-in, family home, reinforced by Lord Saye’s description of chilly winter childhoods round the large log fire. I also recognized it from the film, Shakespeare in Love. Lord Saye was quick to point out how welcome film companies were in supporting the upkeep of the building!

The Great Hall had been significantly altered since medieval times when it had small windows, a low ceiling and a central fire. In the 16th century the roof was raised, large windows were put in and stairs and wings added. The walls and ceiling were plastered (though subsequently the plaster was removed from the walls) and the great fireplace was installed. The pendant ceiling dates from the 1760s.

Moving on, we next visited the undercroft, now a dining room, but originally used for storage in Tudor times. Beautiful oak double linenfold panelling decorated the room at intervals, with a tiny carving of sheep in the park at one point. Also notable was the vaulted ceiling which continued into the groined passageway out of the dining room and which included corbel heads at the base of the arches, one of which was the Green Man.

We made our way upstairs to the Queen’s Room, a bedroom named after Queen Anne of Denmark, who stayed there in 1604. The fireplace was an imposing feature: one of the first Elizabethan fireplaces built by English stonemasons in the new sixteenth century Renaissance style − with some local interpretation! In one corner of the room, there was a ‘squint’: a little window which looked down on the chapel and enabled the occupants to worship in their slippers perhaps. Our guide told us that he was once taking a group around and entered this room only to find it was occupied by a family guest! Again the whole building felt as if it was imbued with the living spirit of a welcoming, charming family.

The Queen’s Room was at the end of the Long Gallery, above the Great Hall, and this gallery featured ancestral and present day portraits of the family. One of the most notable was William Fiennes, the 8th Lord Saye and Sele, who was a Puritan Parliamentarian and active in the Civil War in the 17th century. He was pro-democracy and against Charles 1 because of his religion. However, he did not wish to be involved in the King’s execution and withdrew to Lundy for a number of years, thus avoiding Cromwell’s Parliament. When Charles II came to the throne in 1660, he was pardoned and brought back into government. No wonder he was nicknamed ‘Old Subtlety’!

In the 18th century, the name Fiennes was superseded by the name Twistleton, through marriage. (It was changed back to Fiennes in the 19th century.). In the l8th and l9th centuries, the family did not prosper, culminating in the experience of William Thomas, the 15th Earl who gambled away all the remaining wealth and was forced to auction the contents of the house in a 12 day auction in 1837.

Leading off the Long Gallery is the King’s Room which boasts a remarkable white chimney piece, stone underneath with a stucco overmantle above. The overmantle is decorated in the French style with dryads dancing round an oak tree. The Chinese wallpaper, dating from 1740-50, is hand-painted and the bed was designed in 1992 and built to reflect the character of the room. King James I (1604) and Edward VII (1901) both slept there.

At the end of the Long Gallery is the Great Parlour whose elaborate plaster ceiling bears the date 1599. Its striking nineteenth century wallpaper, designed to imitate Spanish leatherwork, reinforces the rather remote, dignified atmosphere of this room. It contained much family memorabilia including some coronation chairs. (Seemingly, if you attended a coronation, you were allowed to keep the chair you occupied; I wasn’t clear whether this applied to all the guests or only members of the aristocracy!)

At the top of the west stairs, lay a small but interesting room: The Room That Hath No Ears. Here, the 8th Lord, of Civil War renown, met with his cronies to criticize the King. Ostensibly claiming to be planning their new Puritan colony in America, they were, in fact, Parliamentary plotters. During the war the house was attacked and taken over when the King‘s army seized Banbury.

The Oak Room on the ground floor, originally l6th century, was also of historical interest. An interior porch had been built over the door on the inside of the room. It was inscribed: ‘I have no pleasure in the memory of the past’. It was clearly intended as a tribute to King Charles II. Even the painting over the fireplace is of a seascape of Scheveningen, Holland, from where Charles left exile to claim his throne in England. Wonderful Tudor oak panelling lines the walls and an intricate bone and tortoiseshell cabinet can be seen near the door.

We went out into the Lady’s Garden on the south side of the castle. Shrubs and flowers, especially roses, grew in profusion against the stone walls. In the middle, there were flower beds shaped like fleur-de-lys. Our guide told us that their shape was actually taken from the Scout Movement, not the French court, as one of the Lords had been an enthusiastic Scout Leader.

The Fiennes family are devoted to their castle and each other as William Fiennes makes clear in his new book: The Music Room. He describes his childhood in the castle, saying: ‘Nowhere was my sense of belonging as complete or unambiguous as it was in my childhood home.’

SWALCLIFFE BARN was our next stop. William of Wykham, founder of New College Oxford (1379), built this incredible barn for his college early in the 15th century. Oak trees from Bewdley Woods were used for the main roof timbers and local ironstone for the major construction. It is basically unaltered today and was used for 600 years until the 1960s, when it was still a working barn for storing agricultural produce and for housing pigs and poultry. The original stone threshing floors remain near the wagon porches.

Today, the barn houses carts and wagons and agricultural tools and machinery from the past and displays information on local history and archaeology. We noticed a Baker’s van and a Brewery Trolley and a Fire Engine and one cart which was still operating in the 1960s, telephone no.9 displayed on its side! Some members of our group had seen similar types of transport in their youth! The barn held memories of life in Swalcliffe through the ages and is itself one of the top dozen great barns remaining in England.

The Celtic World: The Archaeology of Iron Age Europe and Britain

This is the latest course arranged by the Mill Hill Archaeological Study Society, and will run on Fridays at 10:00-12:00, beginning on 2 October. The venue is the Lawrence Room at Hartley Hall, Flower Lane, NW7. The tutor will be Scott McCracken, known to many members, and the cost is £130 for the series of 20 classes. Enrolment will be at the first meeting. For further information contact the secretary, Peter Nicholson on 020 8959 4757.

Visit to Syon Park – 8th July 2009 Report by Jim Nelhams

During our long weekend in Durham a few years ago, we visited Alnwick Castle, home of the Duke of Northumberland. On this trip, we went to his London house, Syon House, on the north bank of the Thames opposite Kew Garden.

The first part of the visit was a conducted tour of the house. Our guide proved to be very interesting and knowledgeable, covering much history of the family as well as the house. Indeed, when we were offered the option of visiting some of the private rooms, everybody stayed with the group. Our guide also pointed out that some of the statues were fakes, made up from parts of other statues.

Sadly, the Northumberland Lion, which at one time was on the top of Northumberland House in Trafalgar Square, had been temporarily removed.

After the tour, we had the opportunity to view the grounds, including the Great Conservatory which contained some remarkable plants.

Syon House was the site of a Time Team dig in 2003 and since that time, with the encouragement of the House, it has been used by Birkbeck College each summer as a training dig for archaeology students. Volunteers from Richmond Archaeological Society are on hand during the dig to show members of the public around the site, but HADAS was privileged in receiving, despite the inclement weather, a thorough explanation of the dig and various findings from our President, Harvey Sheldon. Our thanks are due to Harvey.

Sigrid Padel, another of our members, has worked at the dig each year, and has kindly written in more detail about the findings, including some after our visit. Her report follows.

Digging at Syon 2004-9 Sigrid Padel

During the past five years and again in 2009, I was allowed to take part in Birkbeck’s training excavation as a volunteer helper. In practice that means that one might be asked to do almost anything from “clearing above blue plastic” where trenches are re-opened, to cleaning any part of the trench before photo sessions. Sometimes one is even allowed to dig, though most of that is done by the students who do, after all, pay for the privilege. This year, because there were many features to be investigated, volunteers were needed to excavate more than usual, especially during the last week and after the students had left.

In 2003 Time Team attempted to find the Bridgettine Abbey dissolved by Henry VIII, and had uncovered remnants of the foundations, especially at the east end of the church. By invitation from the then manager of the Syon Estate, Richard Pailthorpe, Birkbeck College was allowed to proceed with further investigation of the site. The Birkbeck digs aimed to discover not only as many as possible of the monastic remains, but also to trace and record remnants of the gardens that were laid out above in subsequent centuries.

Though much of these early formal gardens was destroyed when Capability Brown landscaped Syon Park in the eighteenth century, various paths and bedding trenches have been traced, Notable were two ornamental features,

probably fountains, dating to the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. For instance, the large round “pond”, identified as part of the garden shown on the map by Moses Glover of 1635, still existed, not only in outline, but with much of the brick paving still in situ. Some of us became very well acquainted with tumbles of brick which needed cleaning!

For me the main interest has been the discovery of abbey buildings. Several fellow volunteers and I are carrying out research into the Bridgettine Order and this abbey in particular. Properly we should use the name Birgittine, after the name of its founder, St. Birgitta of Sweden (1303-1373), if only to avoid confusion with the Irish St Bridget. (453-523). St. Birgitta, a fairly formidable character, left very precise instructions about how her order should be constituted and run, and how its churches should be constructed. This should be taken into consideration in interpreting what is uncovered at Syon. There are also records of the expenditure at the abbey from its foundation to its dissolution, summarised in an article by R.W. Dunning (“The Building of Syon Abbey” in Trans. Arc. Mons. Soc. 1981, Vol.25, p.16-26). From these and many other sources we know a fair amount about the various abbey buildings, but so far no plans or illustrations have been discovered which might aid interpretation.

For me, this year’s excavation was remarkable because not only did we uncover more parts of the abbey church, confirming its southern and south eastern extent, but also structures to the north of the church which appear to be the foundations of a cloister in the place where it was expected to be. Two buttressed robber trenches, one parallel with the north wall of the abbey, the other running north, would seem to be the outer walls of the cloister walk. Parallel with the eastern feature a more substantial foundation could be the wall of the east range of the buildings round the cloister. At Vadstena in Sweden, the mother house of the Bridgettine order, the nuns’ cloister lay to the north of the church. This was also the case at Gnadenberg in Bavaria. It is quite likely that this pattern was followed in England. Members of the Vadstena community spent two years in England helping to establish the monastery, but we have no evidence to show that they influenced the layout of the abbey buildings. If Birkbeck is allowed to continue excavation of the site next year, looking for the turn of the cloister wall at its northern extremity might be one of the research priorities.

Within the possible cloister area several features of uncertain purpose were excavated. One of these contained quite a large assemblage of pottery dating from a period up to 1520. Since the monastery was dissolved in 1539, the ceramics would seem to belong to the monastic period. It has to be said, though, that this area contained several intercutting features which await interpretation.

Time Team had come to the sensational conclusion that the abbey church had been ten bays long, extending from east of the present house to its western end, and nearly equalling Westminster Abbey in length. St. Birgitta, however stipulated that her churches should be five bays long. Several of the extant churches of the order follow that pattern. This summer a new geophysical investigation, part of a geophysics course run by Birkbeck, discovered what seem to be walls to the east of Syon House, exactly where the western end of a five bay church would have been. Whether this can be proved by excavation depends to some extent on being allowed to dig under the gravel path east of the house.

This is a mere snapshot of this large open area excavation, based largely on my experiences and interests. I have not mentioned the many burials which add an interesting and sometimes puzzling dimension to the interpretation of the site. It looks as if much remains to be discovered. It is to be hoped that Birkbeck can continue the investigation next year.

Ancient and New Discoveries in the Isle of Man Stewart J. Wild

On a recent visit to the Isle of Man – where HADAS enjoyed a long weekend trip in 1994 – I was interested to get the latest news on the excavations currently being carried out on the coast to the east of Ronaldsway Airport.

As part of the runway extension and construction of associated taxiways, major earthworks were started in May 2008. Archaeologists had already discovered nearby a 3,000-year-old Bronze Age village, three burials and numerous artifacts, including myriad pieces of pottery and worked flint.

Now a prehistoric dwelling dating back perhaps 8,000 years has been unearthed, the local newspaper trumpeting that it was “3,000 years older than Stonehenge”. Built by settlers after the end of the last Ice Age, it is probably the oldest structure ever found on the island.

Digging has brought to light the foundations of a shelter, with thousands of pieces of worked flint, charred remains of wood, and hundreds of hazelnut shells. The project is on schedule to be completed by the end of this year, and radio carbon-dating results are eagerly awaited. Manx National Heritage field archaeologist Andrew Johnson said, “Archaeologists hesitate to call a structure of this kind a ‘house’ because the received wisdom is that 8,000 years ago people moved through the landscape as nomads, gathering their food from the land, rather than staying put and farming and harvesting it. But this building was constructed from substantial pieces of timber and had a hearth for cooking and warmth. Its occupants lived here often, or long, enough to leave behind over 12,000 pieces of worked flint together with the tools needed to flake them, and food debris in the form of hundreds of hazelnut shells.”

The excavation has been undertaken by Oxford Archaeology North and monitored on behalf of the airport by Manx National Heritage. It is scheduled to be included by the BBC team filming the next series of Coast, so I hope we can look forward to seeing the results on our TV screens soon.


44th Local History Conference

OPEN-AIR LONDON: Pleasure, Parks and Protest: SATURDAY 21 NOVEMBER 2009 10am–5pm

City of London School for Girls, Barbican

· Woodlands and Commons, by Dr. Colin Bowlt, LAMAS Archaeological Committee

· The London Square: Islets in our Desert of Brick, Slate and Mud, by Todd Longstaffe-Gowan, Gardener, Historian and Gardens Adviser to Hampton Court & Kensington Palaces

· Common People, Common Land: a History of London’s Open Spaces as Places of Protest

by Michael Berlin, FLL Birkbeck, University of London

· The Pleasure Gardens of London: a Creative Use for Open Space, by Katrina Burnett, with Kate Semmens (Soprano) and Steven Devine (Harpsichord) from Finchcocks Musical Museum, Goudhurst.

The Conference will be introduced by Prof. Caroline Barron, President of LAMAS, who will present the Annual Local History Publications Award. There will be displays of recent work and publications by local history societies. Cost (including afternoon tea): LAMAS members £8, Non-members of LAMAS £10. Tickets from: Local History Conference, 24 Orchard Close, Ruislip, Middx. HA4 7LS. Cheques should be payable to LAMAS. Please enclose an s.a.e.

Don Cooper notes four new short courses at Birkbeck coming up in the next twelve months:

Learning from Pots – the role of ceramics in archaeology. This one day course will take place on Saturday, 3 October 2009 from 10.00 am to 5pm at the LAARC and will be run by Jacqui Pearce. The cost is £42. (FFAR155N0ACB)

Investigating Archives, Site Reports and Records in Field Archaeology. This course will take place on Saturday, 13th February and Sunday, 14 February 2010 at Birkbeck College in Malet Street and will be run by Kathryn Meheux, BA, PhD. It runs from 10am to 5.00pm each day and costs £84. (FFAR157N0ACB)

Pre-historic Artefacts – Exploring Archaeological Finds from the Distant Past. This course will take place on Saturday, 17 April 2010 from 10.00am to 5.00pm at the LAARC and will be run by John Cotton and Jacqui Pearce. The cost will be £42. (FFAR156N0ACB)

Small Finds – Interpreting Material Culture from Excavated Artefacts. This one day course will run on Saturday, 19 June 2010 from 10am to 5pm at the LAARC. The course will be run by Jacqui Pearce and will cost £42. (FFAR154N0ACB)

There are concessionary rates of approximately 50% off the full price on all the courses for those who qualify. I have included the course reference numbers against each course to aid booking with Birkbeck (I am not responsible for the daft course referencing system!) Details of the content of the courses can be found on the Birkbeck website or 0845 6010174.

AUDREY HOOSON reports: Ruin and Rebellion: uncovering the past at Tutbury Castle

The current small exhibition in gallery 69a at the British Museum has interesting finds from recent and historical excavations in the Tutbury area of Staffordshire. In 1831, 30,000 silver coins were found and the display shows examples of these along with pottery finds.

The castle is possibly built on the site of an Iron Age hillfort and a gold torc from nearby Needwood Forest is one of the many objects on loan for the exhibition.

The exhibition closes 17 January 2010.

Eric Morgan’s Monthly Round-Up of What’s On.

Sat/Sun 5/6 Sept 10.30 – 6.00pm, Enfield Town Show, Town Park, Enfield. Including Enfield Society and Enfield Archaeological Society stalls.

Sun. 6 Sept. 3–6pm, The Bothy Garden, Avenue House, Open Day. HADAS will be in the Garden Room in the morning only.

Tues. 8 Sept. 8pm, Amateur Geological Society, The Parlour, St Margaret’s Church, Victoria Ave. N3, The Evolution of Whales, by Ted Wheeler.

Thurs. 10 Sept. 8.15pm, Hampstead Scientific Society, Age Concern Resource Centre, Henderson Ct, Prince Arthur Rd, corner Fitzjohns Ave, Scientific Methods in Archaeology, Dr Caroline Cartwright (British Museum)

Sat/ Sun 12/13 Sept. 10am -6pm, RAF Museum, Grahame Park Way, NW9, Battle of Britain Weekend.

Mon. 14 Sept. 3pm, Barnet & Dist. Local Hist Soc, Church House, Wood St. Barnet, The Development of the English Country House from Medieval to 20th Century, based on National Trust Properties, Pamela Wright

Tues. 15 Sept. 8pm, Avenue House, East End Rd, Archaeology of Anglo-Jewry in London 1066-1290 & 1656-1850, illustrated talk by Kenneth Marks

Fri. 18 Sept. 8pm, Enfield Archaeological Society, Jubilee Hall, Parsonage Lane, Enfield, Kensington Palace & Excavations 2008, Tim Bradley (PCA), £1.

Fri. 18 Sept. 7.30pm, Wembley History Society, St Andrews Church Hall, Church Lane, Kingsbury, NW9,

60 Years of Radio & TV, Trevor Legg, £1

London Open House Weekend, Saturday 19 & Sunday 20 September.

Free access to hundreds of buildings, many not normally open to the public. See Events include:

Sat 19th only, 11am-4pm, Old St Andrews Church, Church Lane, Kingsbury, Open Day, Wembley Hist. Soc.

Sun. 20th Sept. 11am-4pm, Myddelton House: Open House, also E.A. Bowles’s House, Bulls Moor Lane, Enfield.

Sun. 20th Sept. 11-4.00pm, Highgate Woods Heritage Day, Information Hut, off Archway Rd, N6.

Sat/Sun 19/20 Sept. Open House: Museum of London Docklands, West India Quay, E14, Pre-booked Tours of the Grade I Listed Warehouse, website or ‘ 020 7001 9844.

Thurs. 24 Sept. 7.45pm, Finchley Society, Avenue House, East End Rd. N3, They All Laughed at Christopher Columbus, Susette Palmer, £2.

Wed 23 Sept. 7.45pm, Friern Barnet & District Local History Society, St John’s Church Hall, Friern Barnet Lane, N20. London Garden Squares, Daphne Glick, £2. Refreshments before & after.

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