Newsletter-465-December-2009 – HADAS Newsletter Archive

Doesn’t time go quickly, here we are in the middle of November looking forward to that end-of-year holiday period again!! May we, however, take this opportunity to wish all our readers a joyous holiday and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year.


As you will all know by now we had the Cafe di Lino booked for Sunday, 6th December 2009 for a holiday meal. However, the fates were against us!! When I went to finalise the menu, the manager informed me that they were closing for good the next day. He returned our deposit and wished us well. C’est la vie! It was too late to try somewhere else, so apologies to all and, maybe, we will try again early in the New Year.

Tuesday 12th January 2010 The Archaeology of Anglo-Jewry in London 1066-1290 and 1656-c.1850. Lecture by Ken Marks.

Tuesday 9th February 2010 The Trendles Project. Lecture by William Cumber.

Tuesday 9th March 2010 The History of RAF Bentley Priory. Lecture by Erica Ferguson.

Tuesday 13th April 2010 The GWR comes to the Thames Valley. Lecture by John Chapman.

Tuesday 11th May 2010 Graeco-Roman Period Funerary Practices in Egypt. Lecture by John Johnson.

Lectures start at 7.45 for 8.00pm in the Drawing Room, Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley N3 3QE. Buses 82, 143, 326 & 460 pass close by, and it is five to ten minutes walk from Finchley Central Station (Northern Line).

Avenue House Quiz by Don Cooper

On Monday, 19th October a dozen or more stalwart members of HADAS turned up for the Avenue House Quiz which was run as part of the fundraising effort on behalf of the Avenue House estate and gardens. The HADAS members divided themselves into two tables and, suitably fed and watered settled down to answering the questions. After a titanic struggle HADAS emerged triumphant with one HADAS table being first and the other second out of the eight tables playing – a great effort! I was tempted to name names but I have resisted it.

According to an article in this week’s Barnet & Potters Bar Times (published Thursday, 12th November 2009) Avenue House “funding is desperately needed to help preserve a struggling historic building”.

The article goes on to say that because of the current economic environment bookings for its function rooms are down and the income is not covering the expenses. It would be a shame and a great loss if Avenue House were to fail so activities such as the quiz are ever more important and deserve our support.

Report on the Roman Pottery Day & Cookery Demonstration at Avenue House, August 2nd. By Bill Bassus

This event came together from two different angles. The first was the current project to computerise, catalogue and repackage the Roman pottery excavated at the kiln site on Brockley Hill, north of Edgware, during the 1930s to 1950s. Although not dug by HADAS, this substantial amount of material came into our care, and has been worked on by members of this society on and off over the years. We hope to bring the packaging and archive up to current museum standards with the aim of possibly depositing it with the London Archaeological Archive and Resource Centre (LAARC). The LAARC also has material from Brockley Hill (much from excavations in the 1960s) so it may be an idea to combine the two collections. Our collection has been on display on several occasions during HADAS’s care and ideas were floated for a final show before any deposit to the LAARC.

The second angle came from Rose Baillie, Chair of the City of London Archaeological Society (CoLAS). Rose has an interest in Roman cooking and has written books on the subject (see below). She was looking for a suitable venue to conduct some experimental Roman cookery and wondered if Avenue House would be a possibility. Thus the idea came about to combine the two like-minded projects.

The day was flagged and publicised as part of the CBA’s Festival of Archaeology 2009 and some smart publicity signs from them were set up around Avenue House. After much organisation the pottery display and information panels were set up in the Dining Room (most appropriate) of AH, the tables were laden with mortaria (many with stamps of the potters), flagons, jars, bowls, lamp holders, tazza (decorated incense burners or similar) and amphorae. Also on display were a collection of small finds including a chisel, samian ware dish, intaglio, antifix (roof ornament) and bronze pin. Other exhibits were the ‘Moxon Collection’ which contains the likes of a potters’ stamp, a square bottle, some small jars and a spacer, the spacer was used to create a space between any heating flues and a wall. A half-section model of a Roman kiln illustrated the type that may have been used at Brockley Hill. The information panels showed the location of the site and explained the nature and use of the pottery and potters who worked there.

The cooking camp set up outside next to the Garden Room, Rose and her helpers built a small low level metal hearth (about two bricks high) to protect the tarmac, this was filled with charcoal. Tables were laid out with food, ingredients and various replica pots. The charcoal was lit at 1.30pm and a busy period of activity started to follow as various dishes were cooked using a mortaria to grind/mash ingredients and cooking pots on the charcoal. It was fascinating to see how it might have been done. The audience (and this writer) sampled the occasional morsel (at their own risk) which they found to be very tasty.

Here we are able to disclose (ahem) a new find and how Rose got some of her inspiration:

New Vindolanda tablet sheds light on Roman cuisine.

Scientific advances have made possible the decipherment of another writing tablet from Vindolanda. It is believed to be a follow-up to the well-known birthday invitation from the Prefect’s wife to another officer’s wife, to join her on her birthday.

Three days before Ides of September
Claudia Severa to her Lepidina greetings.

Dear sister,

I greatly missed you on the day of my birthday. How pleasant the day would have been had you been present. I am grieved to hear of Sulpicia’s mishap with the mule. May she learn a lesson by it.

A great calamity befell us. Our careless slaves let the kitchen burn down and we are cooking on a hearth in the Praetorium courtyard. How the Brittunculi must be laughing. Thanks to the Saviour Gods no-one was hurt, although Aelius Filus is sniffing all day. I pray it is only the accursed summer and not something worse.

Then dear sister the Governor decided to visit. You know he likes to dine like Lucullus. I have not seen a grape since I left Portus Itius, my amphora of Hispanic olives is apparently at the bottom of the Tamesis and those scoundrels at Sulloniacae served my crockery order so ill it arrived either broken or misshapen. Despite everything we did manage some recipes from Apicius. Here is the menu –

Gustatio: Republican style garlic, cheese and herb relish; Sesame, chickpea and olive oil dip, served on soldiers’ bread.

Fercula: Matius’ Pork and Apple Minutal with leek; Lambs’ kidneys brazed in olive oil and fish sauce, with chicory, and celery and aniseed flavoured spelt dumplings.

Mensa secunda: In truth we could manage only a selection of nibbles from Esco’s taberna in the vicus, but there was plenty of wine and his Excellency seemed content…..

All our greetings to your Cerialis and the little ones. My Aelius says can Cerialis send down some legionary craftsmen as soon as possible – they cannot all be building that wall thing. I shall expect you sister my dearest soul, as soon as you are able. May you all prosper. Vale!

So there you have it, the day seemed to go very well with what appeared to be a large amount of HADAS members and members of the public passing through, including a surprise visit by HADAS Chairman Don Cooper who had been laid low recently. Rose would like to thank her helpers: Winston Edwards and Pam Bremner along with HADAS member Emma-Jane Robinson. I would like to thank Vicki Baldwinus for her dedication, Tessa Smith, Steve Brunning, Avenue House and other members who helped in the organisation or on the day, cheers.

From the rich literature on Roman cuisine, with a measure of social history, archaeology, a dash of scandal and fish sauce:

Eating and Drinking in the Roman World

An Introduction with Recipes

by Rose Baillie

Enlarged Third Edition 2009. A5. pp 54. Illustrated throughout. Spiral bound & laminated covers for easy kitchen use. £6 incl. p&p.

Available from the author: 15 Escuan Lodge, Aberdeen Park, London N5 2AP

Cheques payable to R.Baillie please.

Hampstead Heath: Tumulus Field – Pond Dig by Emma and David Robinson

We responded to a message from Don Cooper – on behalf of Michael Hammerson of The Highgate Society – asking for HADAS volunteers to provide practical assistance for a project to dig a new pond in the Tumulus Field (Hampstead Heath) in late October. The site is near the bottom of a north-east facing grassy slope above the model boating lake – OS Reference (approx.) TQ 2755 8670. It was chosen since a natural (seasonal) spring bubbles to the surface here. The project is still work in progress, and the final report will be summarised in the Newsletter in due course.

Above the site on the hill crest is a mound known as Boadicea’s Grave which some consider is the remains of a bowl-shaped Bronze Age tumulus. It is also the only scheduled ancient monument on Hampstead Heath. The origins of the mound are widely disputed and remain a puzzle. It was excavated by Sir Hercules Read in 1894 but no trace of a burial was found. In considering the evidence the local historian Alan Farmer believes that the mound was made in the 17th century possibly for a windmill and built up in the late 18th century to form a picturesque object in the landscape. To support his assertion he observes that a 16th century map shows the site within ancient woodland and no tumulus is marked [1]. However, it is possible that an existing but non-prominent feature could have been overlooked by the map maker. On the West Heath there is evidence of flint knapping and Michael Hammerson recently found a struck flint flake close to the new pond site. Beyond this we did not know what we might find. If we found Bronze Age cremations we would need to call in English Heritage! Our brief was to clean down the levels as they were scraped by the small excavator, look out for any finds or cut features and record our findings.

Two days in late October had been set aside for an initial archaeological excavation. We first did a little homework. Alan Farmer gives an account of the landscape history and this suggests that for many centuries Tumulus Field had been used for farming and leisure purposes. He helpfully includes a print depicting the model boating lake in 1854 – surrounded by meadowland and scattered mature trees – with people relaxing and going about their leisure pursuits [2]. We did an initial field walk. The site revealed an open ditch – the course of old field drains – with a moister area around the spring. In the drain below the top soil sandy loam was revealed. This reflects the geology of the Hampstead-Highgate ridge – a crescent of high ground connecting the two. The top horizon of the ridge is formed of Bagshot Sand (with localised masses of flints), with Claygate Beds (sandy clay) below – the whole lying on impermeable London Clay. Rainwater falling on the hill percolates down to the clay layer and emerges as springs towards the bottom of the slope. The immediate area was particularly rich in mole hills – notable for being composed mainly of fine crumbly loam. These produced, however, an interesting selection of finds (which proved broadly representative of later findings) and included: fragments of assorted ceramics (mostly 18th and 19th century) and clay tobacco pipes – together with fragments of brick, glass and tile, and flint and pebbles – but no coins or metal objects.

Hampstead Heath folk start work early. By 8.15 on the first day the team began to assemble. The weather for late October was glorious. We discussed strategy with Michael Hammerson and agreed that two trenches should be dug – the first across and the second down the slope. This selection was made in the hope that any linear or cut features would be revealed. Using a small excavator the turf was removed and the surface checked and trowelled. The surface was then carefully scraped and checked removing 5 or 6 cm at a time. Spoil heaps were trowelled. Finds arising from each scraping of the surface and the spoil were bagged and labelled. We were all surprised by the scarcity of substantial metal finds. Our lack of metal finds was confirmed by use of a metal detector. Doubtless someone had been there before us on such a mission?

Overall the finds from the pond reflected those produced by the moles – although we did find some wood/tree-root preserved in the damper areas near the spring which are arguably the remains of a large standard tree? As for evidence of cut features there is little to report beyond the presence of field drains of various ages. Milk bottles (20th century), however, were abundant – although there was less evidence to suggest unduly bibulous habits represented by beer and wine bottles. A little 17th century material was found and it is conjectured that this might relate to the workers who dug the model boating and other lakes. The first day the two trenches were cleared down to natural levels, and horizons measured and recorded. Environmentalists also sampled the underlying clay layers using a hand auger. The second day of digging our purpose was to scrape and check the substantial extent of the new pond back to the natural. This was achieved. The profiles remained broadly the same – although hydrological differences were noted. Most of the finds are still being cleaned and categorised – a task for which Susan Trackman kindly volunteered. We have arranged to meet up in late November with Michael Hammerson to discuss any further work and how best to write up the overall project.

We subsequently made a couple of further visits to check for further finds. We trowelled the drainage ditch below two large sections of bituminous drains (which had been removed to a safe distance). We also sampled and checked silt samples from the pipes. On each visit we have continued to monitor new molehills and, yes, the moles have found yet more clay pipes for us. Overall our impression of Tumulus Field is of an agricultural, natural and leisure landscape of great time-depth – which has preserved remarkably strong inheritances from the past. We are grateful to Meg Game and all the other City of London Corporation folk for their assistance and hospitality and look forward to visiting the completed pond in the spring.


[1] Farmer, A., 1984. Hampstead Heath. London: Historical Publications Ltd. pp. 127-129.

[2] Ibid – pp. 165.


Day 3 of our trip involved an incursion into Wales to visit the World Heritage site of Blaenavon, visiting a church on the way, and returning early to allow some time in Hereford.

KILPECK CHURCH by Audrey Hooson

The first visit of the day was to the mid-12th Century church of SS. Mary and David at Kilpeck, eight miles south-west of our base in Hereford. There is written evidence for an earlier monastic cell or kil of Pedoric in 650 AD and in the north-east corner of the nave there are Anglo-Saxon remains, which were incorporated into the Norman building.

The present church was built by Hugh de Kilpeck, adjacent to a castle built by his father, William fitz Norman. All that remains of this castle are a motte and a fragment of the keep, giving an unusual two layer churchyard.

Kilpeck now has the church, a few cottages and many visitors. The latter come mainly to see the red sandstone sculptural decoration. We were very fortunate to arrive early in the morning, when the low sun brought out the external detail very well. The small proportions of the church, when compared with Abbeys and Cathedrals, enable it to be seen very easily

Kilpeck is the most complete example of the “Herefordshire School” This was a conflation of Celtic, Anglo-Saxon, Norse, West European and Oriental images, with the possible addition of Beasts from illuminated Bestiaries. The analysis and definition of these sources has kept many Scholars busy! Herefordshire seems quite an isolated county now, but in the Norman period it was a very important area and the local rulers travelled widely.

The church has a three-cell plan with a rectangular nave, square chancel and apsidal sanctuary, also a later minstrel’s gallery. Internally the main decorative elements are the Evangelical figures composing the chancel arch and the Cat masks forming the central boss of the chevron ribbed vault of the semi-circular apse.

Externally, the tympanum of the south portal has a Tree of Life with pillars adorned with a pair of snakes, having their tails in their mouths, symbolising the unending cycle of life and death. At the top right-hand pillar is the Green Man, fertility symbol of Springtime. Above the tympanum there is an Angel, symbol of the Western Church, and to its left a Phoenix, symbol of the Eastern Church. The left-hand pillar shows the so-called “Welsh Warriors”, two soldiers carrying swords and wearing Phrygian caps with quilted or mailed jackets, and above them a lion and a dragon. The door itself is furnished with wrought iron hinges that are identical to those at the Norman church at Peterchurch.

The West window has intricate rope-work ornamentation on the pillars and arch. Two Green Men cap the pillars.

Surrounding the apse, chancel and nave there is a series of eighty-nine elaborately carved stone corbels. These emphasise the startling mixture of Pagan and Christian decoration at this church. Over the South door and on the main axis of the apse are “Agnus Dei” but elsewhere, there is a carving of the “Sheelagh-na-gig” a Celtic fertility symbol. This ‘exhibitionist’ figure is similar to those found in South West France. There are others in England including at Salisbury and Lincoln.

Many animals such as deer, rabbits, lions, cats and various birds are depicted. An inverted ibex head is one of the subjects that gave rise to the theory that an illuminated Bestiary inspired some of these. Ibex were shown in this position since it was considered that their strong horns could bear the weight of their body, should they fall from a precipice. Humans are shown taking part in various activities, such as wrestling, juggling and playing a rebec.

It is customary to consider the sculptural decoration in churches as being created as a gift to God. The fascinating variety of sources and lavish forms in this Seigneural church seem more like Hugh de Kilpeck and his advisors displaying their erudition.

Blaenavon – The Big Pit – HADAS plunges to new depths by Jim Nelhams

From Kilpeck, where we had been joined by Stewart Wild, our “underground” expert (– no not just the Northern Line), we headed south, skirting Abergavenny and onto the A465 Head of the Valleys Road. The first turning to Blaenavon was ignored since it involved a humped-back bridge at Llanfoist over the Monmouthshire and Brecon Canal on which our coach would have grounded – so a slightly longer route was needed.

The Big Pit at Blaenavon is now the National Coal Museum of Wales, and we had booked a tour of the mine. On arrival, we were split into two groups for the underground tour, and equipped with miner’s helmets and lamps. Sadly electrical equipment including cameras had to be stored away before this point, so the sight of our groups is left to your imagination and our memories. Down 300 feet in the cage and our tour begins, through the galleries and the underground stables once used by pit ponies, and past redundant equipment to the coal face. Such was the interest that the tour scheduled for 50 minutes took nearer 90. And the taller among us appreciated why we were wearing helmets.

Near the entrance, we had seen two old steam engines, showing how the coal was removed, but this mine predates the railways. It is an amalgamation of several mines, the oldest opening in 1812. At the outset, it, and the nearby Ironworks, survived because of the canal, and Hill’s tramroad, which connected Blaenavon to Llanfoist Wharf. Similar tramroads connected other pits to the canal. Hill’s tramroad involved three inclined planes and a tunnel, and was an engineering triumph on its own. Parts of the track still exist and replica wagons can be seen by the canal. The track used L-shaped rails two feet apart, allowing horses to walk between the rails. But our descent down to the village of Blaenavon was made in the comfort of our coach, to the Heritage Centre, with some passengers dropping off at the Ironworks on the way.

Blaenavon Ironworks by David Bromley

The ironworks opened in 1788 with three steam-powered blast furnaces. Within ten years it was the second largest in Wales, employing 350 people and producing 5,400 tons of iron a year. Two further furnaces were added in 1810 and it then became the one of the largest ironworks in the world.

The left-hand side of the site is cut into the hill to form a cliff, with the brick and stone furnaces built against it, allowing the raw materials – iron ore, limestone and coke – to be added to the furnace tops at the upper level. Also on this level were the calcining kilns, where the iron ore was roasted prior to loading to remove mud and moisture and drive off impurities.

Following Blaenavon’s closure, the fine cut stone facing of two of the furnaces was robbed out in 1911 to build the nearby church, giving an opportunity to view the exposed inverted ‘bottle-shaped’ firebrick lining and the construction of the furnaces. In Furnace 2, the base interior has been cut away prior to re-lining. The missing section would have completed the wine bottle shape down to the tapping point, as can be seen on another furnace where the iron tapping point is heavily scoured by the molten iron.

In front of the furnaces are a casting shed, where iron was tapped off from the furnace and run into moulds in the sand floor to form ‘pigs’, as well as a foundry shed where cast-iron finished products were made (with examples on show). Adjacent to the shed is a small cupola furnace for re-melting iron for casting.

To the right of the site are the workers’ cottages, company shop and offices, built around three sides of a square. Two cottages have been re-created as they were when built. Although very small, they were built to attract workers and were a great improvement on labourers’ cottages of the time. Originally they had outside ash buckets, the communal toilets being a much later addition.

The centre of the square had originally been the Manager’s house and office, but this was demolished in 1860 to build a chimney about 140 feet high to draw waste gases from the furnaces into the boilers of the blowing engines, now both demolished. These underground pipes also served to keep the workers’ cottages warm – an early form of underfloor heating.

The most striking feature of the site is the Balance Tower, a fine stone-faced structure some 90 feet high. The function of this water-powered lift was to raise the raw materials to the level of the furnace tops and the finished products from the foundry and casting shops up to the level of the railway. The raw materials arrived on the site at the lower level. At the top of the tower, an empty wagon was loaded onto a platform, below which was a tank holding 2.9 tons of water. A loaded wagon was placed onto the corresponding lower platform and the upper tank was filled with water. The upper wagon would then descend, slowly at first but gaining speed. A chain clamp on the upper wheel controlled the descent and when the wagon reached the bottom, an automatic valve released the water and the wagon was locked down. The operation was almost silent and was called the guillotine, as accidents were common. It is reported that a man was crushed in 1840.

The ironworks continued to operate until the 1860s, when a new works was opened nearby. By 1900 Blaenavon had become the maintenance department for the company’s steelworks and coalmines, but by the 1960s the site was in ruins.

It is now managed by Cadw Welsh Heritage Monuments and is part of the Blaenavon Industrial Landscape World Heritage site.

Hereford by Jeffrey Lesser

Fortunately Hereford was not on our daily itinerary of visits. As a base it was perfect as it gave more time to appreciate this West Country jewel. Of the three cities it is by far the most pleasant, not submerged by outlets of the multiple-shops as in the case of Worcester and Gloucester. There was the opportunity to visit at leisure the unspoilt architecture and sites apart from the Cathedral, of this relatively small historic city.

The Saxon town of Hereford (“army ford”) lay on the north of the bend in the river Wye and the castle on its bank allowed control in both directions. This did not prevent Welsh raids with a spectacular destruction of the Minster and town in 1055. The Minster was then already venerable having been founded in 676 CE. The famous Mappa Mundi, together with the library of chained books, is housed in a special building next to the Cathedral which dates from the 13th century. On the map both Hereford and Jerusalem are marked. Our 18th century but relatively modernized hotel was in Broad Street where there is a variety of architecture. Past the Cathedral to reach the river one must deviate through King Street, previously the King’s Ditch, and cross the 15C stone bridge where the Roman army forded.

From the south bank one sees the Bishop’s Palace close to the Cathedral before walking east along the park. There is a small monument recording the death by drowning of an unfortunate swimmer and begging others not to risk it. Perhaps this is why there were no boats to be seen although previously the river was an important commercial route. Re-crossing the river by the Victorian suspension bridge, one reaches the site of the castle itself raised on a slight cliff. Apart from some mounds, nothing is visible of this royal castle built by William FitzOsbern, Earl of Hereford, as defence against the Welsh. The Castle Pool is the only remnant of the moat. The site of the keep is now Redcliffe Gardens and the Watergate became a prison. Next to it is a house belonging to a gentlemen’s club known as the Society of Tempers who insisted on being pleasant, as do we.

East of the Cathedral lies Castle Street with the Cathedral school, where the corn market was held. St. Ethelbert Street commemorates the saint, king of East Anglia, murdered by King Offa in 794. Previously East Street was ‘Behind the Wall Street’ as it lay behind the Saxon defences. Chandos House, now a pharmacy, was the town house of the Duke of Chandos, M.P. for the City, although we know him for his connection with Edgware and Handel. Here are more smart 17th and 18th century residences and the 19th century terracotta Town Hall, said to house the City Charter given by Richard 1st in 1189. From here the architecture is later and more imposing, including the Shirehall and Assembly Rooms of Sir Robert Smirke, and the War Memorial of both World Wars.

The approach to the historic northern part of the city is dominated by the ‘Old House’ dated 1621. It is typically Jacobean and bears the arms of the Butchers’ Guild as it was at the end of the Shambles. However, it has been used for selling a wide variety of goods in the past but is now a local museum with much Jacobean furniture and implements.

The wide expanse of High Town which the ‘Old House’ dominates, is a public concourse counter-balancing the Cathedral to the north. It has been a market place since the 12th century, with names such as Cooken, Mercers’ and Butchers’ Rows. The Bullring and mediaeval Town Hall were here, the site of the latter marked out in black paving stones, south of the area of the Butter Market, which now is a modern market for a wide variety of goods.

In contrast to spacious High Town, narrow Capuchin Lane leads off south into Church Street, ex Cabbage Street, equally narrow. This passes south parallel to Broad Street, crossing East Street, previously the other end of ‘Behind the Wall Street ‘ mentioned before. Church Street has many picturesque shops with timber framing and stone cellars. Obviously it was of great importance despite its restricted width, leading from the busy commercial centre of High Town to the Cathedral surrounded by wide lawns.

The Cathedral and its contents require a proper account elsewhere. The ancient monuments it contains are notably counterbalanced by a striking modern abstract ‘Crown of Thorns’ at the Crossing. The beauty of the design sits incongruously with its subject, but staying in Hereford itself allowed appreciation of the atmosphere of the Cathedral at a quiet and empty time.

The Library of Hereford Cathedral by Emma and David Robinson

By any measure the Library of Hereford Cathedral is a remarkable survival whose origins can be traced back to 1100. The important 8th century Hereford Gospels manuscript is widely considered to be the sole survivor today of the burning of the earlier Saxon church in 1055. But what makes this Library unique? In their history of Hereford Cathedral Aylmer and Tiller [1] argue that this is because:

– An astonishing number of medieval manuscripts survive in their original early bindings.

– The Hereford Chained Library is the most perfect and largest (some 1,444 books) example of an early

Jacobean library in the country [and, indeed, the world].

– It survived both the Reformation and the Civil War remarkably complete.

– A working theological lending library and a reference library are still retained. [It is of note that there

has been a working theological library in the cathedral continuously since the 12th century].

– A new state of the art library building was acquired in 1996.

To this list naturally should be added the presence of manuscripts and early printed books of international importance dating from the 7th century – but in this Hereford is of course not alone amongst our English cathedral libraries.

It is therefore of no surprise that we were encouraged to visit the new Library building whilst in the Cathedral. Personally, having researched in academic libraries for many years, and with a particular interest in historical collections, a visit was, not surprisingly, a high priority for us.

The Library as it exists today has evolved over the years, with additions from various sources. Not only have smaller collections of books, manuscripts and archives previously kept elsewhere in the cathedral precincts been brought together for the first time, but also further significant collections have been transferred to the Library for safe keeping; for example, the important chained library of the parish church of All Saints Hereford which had remarkably survived in the church until 1992.

Over the years the Library was housed in various locations in the cathedral precincts – but notably in 1590 it was moved into the Lady Chapel from a cloister room. Security in libraries has always been a concern since books were rare and valuable yet easily transportable. At first, efforts were made to secure the physical Library space; however, by 1596/7 the first purchase of irons and chains to fasten books securely to the library shelving is recorded in the archive. A major innovation of this system was that books could for the first time be placed upright on the shelves and so save space. However, to be chained in this position they would need to be placed with their fore edges outwards – so that the chain would not get tangled when a book was lifted down and placed on the reading desk below. The chains end in a ring which runs upon a rod, and when a book is added to the shelf a key is used to free the hasp and release the rod.

The chained library is now housed in a specially designed chamber in the new library building which means that the whole chained library can now be seen in its original arrangement (as created between 1611 and 1841). This also allows the books to be kept in controlled environmental conditions to modern standards of preservation. The state of the art exhibition area gives visitors the chance to view treasures from the collections whilst aiding their interpretation.

On view in the exhibition area are a number of treasures of the Cathedral. Four of these which are of international importance are described briefly below.

The Hereford Mappa Mundi (or map of the world) dates to c. 1300. This is drawn on a single sheet of vellum and is the largest known surviving medieval map of its kind. It reveals how medieval scholars interpreted the world in spiritual and geographical terms. The proposed sale of the map in the late 20th century to raise funds for preservation of other cathedral treasures resulted in an international outcry – but subsequently its future in the cathedral collections was secured.

There is a particularly fine early copy of the Magna Carta. Although this charter (also called the Great Charter of Liberties) was agreed and signed by King John in 1215 at Runnymede, it went though a number of revisions and reissues before becoming enshrined in English statute law in 1297. The most significant revision of the charter was issued in 1217. It is this version which Hereford Cathedral possesses.

The Hereford Gospels is an 8th century illuminated manuscript gospel book with large illuminated initials in the insular style (and the only book known to have survived the burning of the cathedral in 1055). It is likely to have been produced in Wales or near the Welsh borders. It is of note for its decoration which has features relating to the pre-Christian Celtic style.

In the context of Hereford being an apple growing area it is also pertinent that the Library possesses the famous Cider Bible – a 1420 copy of Wycliffe’s version in English. In this the scribe wrote ‘he shall not drinke syn ne sidir’ instead of the usual ‘strong drink’.

Today the whole Library continues to serve the cathedral’s mission and to bear witness to the Christian faith. It is also an important research centre and noted visitor destination. It would have been good to have spent more time there – although we were lucky to be able to speak briefly with curator – but this will need to wait until we can pay another visit.

[1] G.E. Aylmer and John Tiller (2000). Hereford Cathedral: A History. Hambledon Continuum

The Staffordshire Hoard Don Cooper

This is the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever discovered. The hoard was discovered by a metal detectorist (Terry Herbert) in a farmer’s field in Staffordshire in July 2009. After uncovering a number of gold items and as required by the Treasure Act 1996 he informed the representative of the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Archaeologists were mobilised and the important hoard was secured. The hoard has yet to be properly analysed and conserved, but early indications are that it dates to the late 7th or early 8th century, around the time covered by the great poem, Beowulf.

In Anglo-Saxon times this area of Staffordshire would have been in the Kingdom of Mercia. Mercia was ruled by Penda from 626 to 655 AD, followed by his son Wulfhere and then in 675 by another son Aethelred who reigned until 704. It is exciting to think that perhaps one of these kings was around at the time this hoard was deposited.

The hoard contains over 1500 items made up of 5kgs of gold and 2.5kgs of silver. To put it into perspective, the Sutton Hoo excavation in 1939 turned up 1.5kgs of gold. It is a “warlike” hoard consisting predominately of objects relating to the battlefield. There are, for instance, 87 sword pommels and 71 sword hilt collars. There are none or few domestic items or feminine ones. There are a number of apparently Christian crosses. One remarkable find is a strip of gold with inscriptions on both sides. One side has not yet been conserved and interpreted but the other contains an inscription in Latin from the Book of Numbers, which is the fourth book of the Hebrew Bible/Christian Old Testament, and the fourth of five books of the Jewish Torah or Pentateuch. The Latin reads: “Surge domine et dissipentur inimice tui et fugiant qui oderient te a facie tua” (Numbers, Chapter 10 verse 35). It can be translated as: “Arise, O Lord, and let your enemies be dispersed and those who hate you flee from before your face”

Many archaeologists believe that when this hoard is fully conserved, analysed and interpreted it will greatly improve our understanding of that period of the history of these islands that used to be described as the “Dark Ages”

Some of the artefacts are currently on display at the British Museum and there is another lecture on the discovery on the 10th December at 18.30 also at the British Museum, booking essential. To book ring 0207 323 8181, the cost is £5, concessions £3.

All of the information in this article has been collated from the web site: This web site has excellent photos of the hoard and is a good source for what is happening to the artefacts and where they are likely to be displayed. Any opinions expressed are mine.

Other Societies’ Events by Eric Morgan

Tuesday, 8th December 2009 at 18.30 LAMAS Terrace Room, Museum of London, London Wall, EC2 a lecture entitled “Rebels and Infidels at the City’s Village Hall: the Radical Collections at Bishopsgate Library” By Stefan Dickers. Refreshments at 18.00

Tuesday, 8th December 2009 at 20.00 Amateur Geological Society, The Parlour, St Margaret’s Church, Victoria Lane, N3 (off Hendon Lane) a lecture entitled “Fluorspar mining in the Northern Pennines” by David Greenwood

Thursday, 10th December 2009 at 12.45 Museum of London a talk by Jon Cotton entitled “Golden Age finds” Jon describes some of the curious objects found in the Thames in the Victorian Era. The talk is free.

Thursday, 17th December 2009 at 19.30 Camden History Society, Burgh House, New End Square, NW3 a lecture entitled “London’s Shops – The World’s Emporium” by Susan Jenkinson. Cake & wine at 19.00, visitors £1.

Monday, 21st December 2009 at 20.15 Ruislip, Northwood & Eastcote Local History Society, St Martin’s church hall, Eastcote Road, Ruislip a lecture by Eileen Bowlt entitled “Ian Tait’s Ruislip in the 1920s” Visitors £2

Monday, January 11th 2010 at 15.00 Barnet & District Local History Society, Church House, Wood Street, Barnet a lecture entitled “Hospital and quarantine ships on the river Thames” by Dr. Ian Johnston.

Friday, 16th January 2010 at 20.00 Enfield Archaeological Society, Jubilee Hall, 2 Parsonage Lane, Enfield, (close to Chase Side) a lecture entitled “Southgate before World War I” by Graham Dalling, Visitors £1.

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