No. 493 APRIL 2012 Edited by Peter Pickering
Membership Renewal – by Stephen Brunning, Membership Secretary
The HADAS membership year runs from 1st April, so all memberships are now due for renewal apart from those new members who have joined since January this year. I have enclosed a renewal form for those people who pay by cheque, and would ask that you return the form to me along with your remittance for the appropriate amount. The rates remain unchanged.
Anyone who thinks they should have had a membership renewal form or Standing Order form but hasn’t received one, anyone who wants to make their membership under Gift Aid and hasn’t already done so, or anyone who has any question at all about their membership, please contact me. (Contact details on back page).
HADAS DIARY – Forthcoming Lectures and Events.
Lectures are held at Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley, N3 3QE, and start promptly at 8 pm, with coffee/tea and biscuits afterwards. Non-members: £1. Buses 82, 125, 143, 326 & 460 pass nearby and Finchley Central station (Northern Line), is a short walk away.
Tuesday 10th April 2012 Conservation Techniques in Stone Masonry. Lecture by Stephen Critchley.
Stephen Critchley has been a stone mason for over 30 years, and has worked on projects such as Queen’s House Greenwich, Palace of Westminster, Woburn Abbey, Somerset House, Stoneleigh Abbey and many more. Stephen is now a master stonemason and part of his job is to talk to people about the craft using the experience gained from many years of working on some of the most prestigious heritage projects over the last four decades. He will cover the craft of stonemasonry (traditional and modern), the history of stone architecture and the techniques and materials used.
Tuesday 8th May 2012 – Bumps, Bombs and Birds: the history and archaeology of RSPB reserves. Lecture by
Robin Standring (RSPB Reserves Archaeologist).
Tuesday 12th June 2012 -Annual General Meeting.
Sunday 26th -Thursday 30th August – Summer trip to Ironbridge
We still have a few places left for this trip. We will be based at the Best Western Valley Hotel, in the Severn Gorge. Although we will visit some of the museums in the immediate area, we have a number of other places to visit including Wroxeter Roman town, church and vineyard, Severn Valley railway, the RAF museum in Cosford and Shrewsbury – which has a large number of Tudor buildings.
Cost as last year is £390 per person in a double room or £450 in a single room. This includes bed, breakfast, packed lunches and evening meals, coach costs and the entry costs for visits. If you wish to join the group for this trip, please contact Jim or Jo Nelhams on 020 8449 7076.
Tuesday 9th October 2012 – The Life and Legacy of George Peabody. Lecture by Christine Wagg. Tuesday 13th November 2012 – Archaeological Discoveries in Southwark. Lecture by Peter Moore (Pre- Construct Archaeology)
Sunday 2nd December 2012 – Following our enjoyable Christmas event at the end of last year, we have again booked Avenue House. The “party” will run from roughly 12:00 to 4:30. More details in due course.
‘The Archaeology of Human Origins – Update!’ course Peter Nicholson
The Mill Hill Archaeological Study Society is running a course of six classes with this title. The course gives you the opportunity to find out if you share the genes of a Neanderthal. It is both an introduction to and an update on the study of human origins. We will examine the biological and early cultural evolution of humans from the time when hominins (our ancestors) first walked upright. Our aim is to look at those factors which make us human: tool manufacture and use, the development of language, material and non-material culture, as well as biological studies such as DNA which are revolutionising our ideas of evolution. The discovery of ‘new’ human species such as Homo floresiensis (the Hobbit) and the Russian Denisovans will be examined. As for the Neanderthals – are we linked generically – join the class and see! The course tutor is Scott McCracken. The course is on Friday mornings from 10 to 12, beginning 20th April, in the Eversfield Centre, 11 Eversfield Gardens, Mill Hill, NW7 2AE. The cost for the course will be £40. Enrol at the first meeting; if you have not previously attended the Society’s meetings please contact the secretary, Peter Nicholson (020-8959 4757). http://www.mhass.co.uk
A shameful anniversary Don Cooper
On the 31st March 2012 Church Farmhouse Museum will have been closed for a year. What remains of the collection is lying packed for disposal or storage awaiting a London Borough of Barnet (LBB) decision. After nearly a year of part-time work by LBB heritage staff the collection has finally been catalogued but has not yet been published. The collection which belongs to, and should be on display for, the people of Barnet is said tob e subject to a disposal policy consisting of a combination of outright sale, disposal to other non-Barnet
Museums or deposited in deep storage, whatever that is! The grade II* listed building has been handed over to LBB property services to be sold – interest and offers to be received by May 2012. In the meantime the property is deserted and forlorn; the garden is being minimally maintained with the pond overgrown and lots of litter strewn around. This, one of the oldest buildings in Barnet and of special architectural interest, deserves better than this. LBB have a duty of care towards the building and it is up to all of us to cajole, plead and persuade them in every way possible to carry out this task proficiently. So I ask you to speak or write to your local councillors and remind them of their obligation; after all we elected them inter alia to look after the heritage of the Borough.
Transport Corner Andy Simpson
Another book to look out for if you have £8.95 to spare and an interest in the history of the Northern Line.
The London Underground Railway Society have published (in November 2011) a new and greatly expanded edition of an original 1981 booklet, this time titled ‘The Northern Line Extensions’ by Brian Hardy and ‘MRFS’. This covers the uncompleted pre-war planned extensions to Alexandra Palace and beyond Mill Hill East to Edgware and Elstree as part of London Transport’s massive pre and post-war New Works Programme, abandoned after the war when often on the verge of completion, such as the current rails reaching at least as far
as Mill Hill (The Hale). In 70 or so A5 sized pages, with colour covers and track plans, it gives a comprehensive ‘Then and Now’ account of our local tube line and how it might once have served Brockley Hill, Elstree South and Bushey Heath. Many of us are familiar with the still just-visible part demolished brick viaduct arches on the site of the uncompleted Brockley Hill station. It is a well-illustrated book; highlights include detailed track plans of such delights as Highgate Depot, Finchley Central (with former coal sidings), Mill Hill East south and north goods yards, and even the two-siding goods yard at the now-lost and buried Mill Hill (The Hale) station. There are numerous 1930s-50s shots of Finchley Central station – even with a BR diesel unit visiting on an enthusiast’s tour in 1960 – East Finchley station, Highgate depot and Park junction, Woodside Park with both of its signal boxes, Mill Hill The Hale goods yard, a steam-hauled special on Dollis Brook viaduct in 1956, aerial views of Edgware, and even a snapshot of a BR diesel loco shunting the yard at Edgware (GN/LNER) station circa 1962-64, upon the site of which now stands Sainsbury’s. It is worth remembering that BR goods trains worked to Edgware until 4th May 1964 (the track was lifted that September), and could reach Highgate Depot until the tracks through Highgate tunnel and Crouch End linking it to the main line at Finsbury Park closed in October 1970, being lifted in January 1972. The proposed track plan for the intended terminus depot at Bushey Heath, which became the vast Aldenham London Transport bus works, is most impressive!
An intriguing book with a mix of ‘wish I’d seen that’ and ‘what might-have-been’ (loss of more green belt around Brockley Hill, probably, as development followed the railway as it did beyond Golders Green in the 1920s) . Available from the Ian Allan bookshop at Lower Marsh, Waterloo. ISSN 0306-8617.
Personal Details, Data and Privacy Matters Mary Rawitzer
We have recently re-started including photographs in HADAS newsletters. We keep computer records for HADAS membership details and addressing newsletter envelopes. In earlier years HADAS used to issue all members with a Members’ List giving everyone’s full address and phone details.
Nowadays we all seem to be more aware of privacy concerns and some committee members have raised questions about these different matters. At the moment we have cleared that our computer records do not need to be registered in any way. And we certainly wouldn’t give out anyone’s details without first checking with the person concerned. But maybe you don’t want your name, or picture, in the newsletter? If so, please tell me (contact details below).
And is there any demand for a members’ list? If so, also let me know, or send your objections. I look forward to any reaction.
8 Southwood Lawn Rd, London N6 5SF Tel 020 8340 7434
February Lecture – Winchelsea, Cinque Port and Medieval Town Sigrid Padel
This lecture traced the unusual development of Winchelsea from early medieval village to prosperous trading port which was succeeded by a planned town which was never completed. Richard Comotto of Winchelsea Archaeological Society first outlined the geological events which led to the development of Winchelsea. He described the multiple changes in the shoreline of that part of the coast of Sussex and Kent. At the end of the last glaciation this area was not covered by ice, but rivers running south from the icecap deposited masses of flint from the chalk downs to the north. As the ice receded and sea levels rose, these deposits were shifted by storms and currents and formed the shingle banks which eventually enclosed this low lying area, now Romney Marsh. Romney, a Saxon fishing village, existed by AD 600. After a breach caused by further coastal movement, Romney declined. The river Camber formed a shallow lagoon in which two fishing villages were established, Old Winchelsea and Rye. Both thrived on North Sea fishing, mainly of herring, which was processed, i.e. dried or salted, in Yarmouth, where the Cinque Ports enjoyed special rights. This formed the basis of considerable wealth during the following centuries, leading to both Rye and Winchelsea becoming confederates of the Cinque Ports. Later they acquired the full status of members of the league. In years to come Winchelsea provided the largest number of ships to the King’s fleet. Climate change during the 13th century caused further coastal changes. Violent storms destroyed the coastal barriers on several occasions. Old Winchelsea was inundated several times by storms during the 13th century. Finally, in 1280, it was completely swamped. The church had already been destroyed in 1271.
Edward II had previously acquired land on a hill above the marsh between the rivers Camber and Brede, where a small settlement named Iam or Higham was built. The king decided to create a new Winchelsea in this spot. It was to be built on a roughly triangular plot of land. Planned towns were not unusual in England during the Middle Ages. They were built on a grid pattern. Though sometimes likened to the French ‘Bastides,’ Richard Comotto insisted that this was not true. (During the course of the lecture he questioned several myths concerning French connections which are thought to have affected Winchelsea’s history over the centuries.)
The new harbour was situated on a shelf beside the river Brede and the town on a spur above. It was to contain 39 quarters. East-West roads were to be numbered. This has nothing to do with New York, but was usual in medieval planned towns. There were to be a curtain wall and defensive ditch and four gates, 803 square or rectangular plots of different sizes and a one-way traffic system! A very large church was also to be built. But the town was never completed according to this ambitious scheme. Three churches were planned, but only one, St. Thomas, exists. It was intended to be very large, filling one whole plot, but the nave was never finished and has since been destroyed. What remains as the present parish church is merely the chancel of the original design. Spike Milligan is buried there!
Three of the four gates and only four of the civic medieval buildings remain, and Richard’s photos illustrated how much they have been altered over time. There is also the ruin of the Grey Friars monastic chapel.
From the 13th century the town was largely self-governing. It was, and to some extent still is, ruled by the mayor and corporation, consisting of 12 freemen selected by the mayor. He, in turn, is elected by the local freemen, property owners of the town. Winchelsea later became one of the infamous ‘Rotten Boroughs’, where, until the reforms of 1832, a small population was represented in Parliament by two members.
Winchelsea prospered until the 16th century, though never enough to complete the ambitious original design. One remarkable remnant of the early period is a large number of cellars. Over thirty are accessible, and it is known that there are many more. These cellars are well-built vaulted structures. Their most likely use was to store wine from Gascony, one of the major imports.
New Winchelsea, unlike its predecessor, was a river port. There had been economic decline since the middle of the 14th century. When the River Brede finally silted up around 1540, the town lost its raison d’etre. Never having reached its intended size it gradually became what it is now: a rather gentrified village of 280 households.
We were both entertained and informed by this history of the rise and decline of this medieval town, governed both by natural causes and changes in economic conditions. In my opinion it would be a wonderful venue for a HADAS outing.
Current Archaeology Conference Peter Pickering
I attended Current Archaeology’s annual conference on 2nd and 3rd March. It was in the University of London Senate House, a splendid if perhaps Stalinist building by Charles Holden, the architect of many Underground stations. The Beveridge Hall, which holds 450, was well filled, very largely, I judged, with Current Archaeology readers from outside London. The programme was varied, with sessions on megalithic monuments, Roman urbanism, Rescuing the past, Vikings on both sides of the Irish sea, Bodies and battles, Ancient Trade in the Mediterranean, and Living in the Iron Age. The Keynote Speaker was Mark Horton, who amid a wide-ranging and hard-hitting analysis of the state and impact of archaeology to-day singled out for condemnation Barnet Council’s closure of Church Farmhouse Museum.
I was very taken by most of the papers, though some did not chime in with my interests, or coincided with the sleepy parts of my circadian rhythm. Timothy Darvill saw the removal of bluestones from Preseli in
South Wales to Stonehenge as a deliberate transfer of power. Daniel Lee described a very recent excavation of a chamber tomb on South Ronaldsay which was in the process of being destroyed for a car park when it was discovered; it has been dubbed the tomb of the otters, because of the quantity of otter sprait (droppings) there. William Bowden talked about Caistor-by-Norwich; he wondered if the fourth century activity, paralleled only by Cirencester, suggested it might have been a provincial capital. Tony Wilmott spoke on Richborough, where
the Roman remains have suffered not from erosion but from deposition. Stephen Harrison from Dublin has been working over antiquarian reports of and collections from furnished Viking graves, demonstrating (as if HADAS needed to know!) how much real knowledge can come from old records, if they are studied properly. Andrew Wilson asked why the Romans, unlike other pre-modern economies, did not see a drop in per-capita income as the population increased; it was because they did have the benefits of expanding industry and trade – ships were larger, production of commodities such as olive-oil was on an industrial scale, with the benefits of division of labour; there were massive public works; and considerable revenue from customs duties. Philip Kenrick illustrated a particular example of Roman industry and wide-ranging trade – that in Italian Sigillata pottery – the Arretine ware that was the precursor of what we call Samian, and which has informative makers’ marks.
HADAS TRIP – THURSDAY and FRIDAY 22 and 23 September 2011
Carisbrooke Castle Steve Clews
This was a great opportunity to visit a castle complex that has examples from practically all the stages of its development as a defensive fortification. This made it possible to see clearly how the castle was
continuously remodelled to meet the new threats arising from the changing technologies of medieval and early modern warfare.
Unusually for England its key role in defence against seaborne raids on the Isle of Wight and the strategic Spithead fleet anchorage and the naval base of Portsmouth, meant that this castle was not slighted to prevent its use in civil war and remained functioning right into the 19th Century when volunteer regiments used it as a training base during the French scare of the mid 19th century.
This charmed life was probably also due to its use in the immediate aftermath of the first Civil War as a political prison, holding first King Charles I, and part of his family, and later his Commonwealth opponents.
It was here that it became clear to the Parliamentary negotiators that capture of the King and removing his ‘evil councillors’, the classic aim of aristocratic rebellions, was a blind alley when faced with Charles’s obduracy. It was at Carisbrooke that the Parliamentary Army took over the guarding of Charles leading to his journey under Army guard to Newport and eventually to the scaffold at the Banqueting House, Whitehall in January 1649. Hence the lines in Andrew Marvell’s ‘Horatian Ode’ of 1651 where he talks of ‘Carisbrooks narrow case’.
Carisbrooke still has its Norman motte under the existing shell keep. The Saxon Burh and the first Norman earthworks are no longer visible, but their existence can be deduced from the results of small excavations over the years and remaining traces.
The major works by the Redvers family in the 1130s created the basis of the current medieval castle. The curtain wall, the keep and the gatehouse were built at this time and remain substantially intact today. Ironically, the attempt to hold the castle for the Empress Maud against King Stephen during the civil war years of the ‘anarchy’ ended anticlimactically when the well ran dry! The Redvers family then had to perform some heroic political lobbying to regain their lands.
(The response to the water problem was answered by the current Well House and its popular donkey power, which is covered separately)
Most of these defences were remodelled later in the 14th century as the strategic significance of the castle became clear in the cross channel conflicts of the Hundred Years War. The curtain wall has spectacular views across almost the whole of the Island, and signal stations would have kept the garrison fully informed of
the track of any fleets or raiding parties on or around the Island. As we saw elsewhere on our trip, French raids occurred on several occasions in the 14th to 16th centuries, and the Spanish Armada cruised past the island.
The Gate tower in particular was heightened and remodelled at a date soon after the French raid on the Island and the brief siege of the Castle in 1377. The Gate tower was rebuilt with gun ports (initially for hand held guns) indicating the arrival of artillery as a battle weapon.
The next major adaptation came under Sir George Carey in the late 16th century. The fact that he was related to Elizabeth I gives an indication of how central government saw Carisbrooke Castle as a key command.
Under Carey two of the 13th century towers were lowered to provide battery positions. The Eastern artillery platform now known as the ‘Bowling Green’ was constructed at this time. Significantly these defence lines were massively extended a few years later to meet the Armada scare of 1597, and an Italian engineer was brought in to bring things up to the very latest continental standards. The whole of the castle was surrounded with the latest model artillery bastions and enfilading ditches. The defences thus rival those of Berwick on Tweed which were similarly ambitiously remodelled at this time and remain the stand-out examples in this country of an extended artillery defence system.
Carey also remodelled the 13th century hall and chapel and built his own residence within the medieval shell. These adaptations produced the rooms where Charles was to spend his imprisonment.
After its period as a political prison and as the local Militia headquarters, the Castle was remodelled again to provide a home for Victoria’s favourite daughter, Princess Beatrice. The old medieval hall and the suite occupied by Charles as a prisoner were adapted or rebuilt. The St Nicholas chapel is now a magnificent example of late Victorian-Edwardian neo-medievalism, with its Burne-Jones like fittings, a style very different from the High Victorian we saw at St Mildred’s Whippingham.
The latest remodelling is the reconstructed Privy Garden of 2009 tucked behind the chapel.
Carisbrooke Castle: The Well, the Wheel and the Donkeys David Robinson
When I first discovered that the 2011 HADAS trip was to include a visit to Carisbrooke Castle it immediately occurred to me that, as a patron of the Donkey Sanctuary in Sidmouth, I should produce a brief article on the working donkeys there. Having noted a large crowd gathering when a donkey was about to work I was immediately confirmed in my decision. Later, on the ferry returning from the Isle of Wight I encountered a group of happy schoolchildren (the same group that had crossed with us on Monday) and asked what their favourite experiences on the island had been. As a result of this unscientific survey I discovered that Carisbrooke Castle had been their favourite destination and Jim Bob the donkey on duty their favourite character.
The five working donkeys housed at Carisbrooke have a very easy life. At present the donkeys are: Jim Bob (an elegant twelve year old gelding already noted as working on the day of our visit); Joseph (at eighteen the oldest working donkey); Jack and Jill (both eleven years old who were born on the island and who are half
brother and sister); and, Jigsaw (the ‘baby’ who is still undergoing training). We were told that all donkeys housed at Carisbrooke have names beginning with ‘J’ because Charles I when imprisoned there used this initial to sign secret letters.
A brief conversation with Rachel Hunter (the Donkey Keeper on duty) revealed that each donkey was required to work for no more than eight minutes per day on the wheel. They receive at least six to eight months training before they can work in public demonstrations. Jim Bob is an experienced performer who has been working the wheel for six years and will probably continue to do so for another twelve or thirteen. He is an ex- show donkey and certainly knows how to play the crowd. Indeed, he was only too aware that a few mints had been slipped to Rachel for his reward. Since donkeys are quite capable of living to fifty years if well cared for, Carisbrooke provides an excellent deal from their point of view. In short, they are given proper training for the job; provided with full board and lodging and have in place an enviable retirement package. Readers can draw their own conclusions.
At Carisbrooke the well itself is of considerable interest. It was sunk in 1150 and has a depth of 161 feet. The average depth of water is about 30 feet, but there is still a good deal of mud at the bottom. Rachel explained that the upper levels of this deposit had been excavated by divers about five years ago and the finds were on the whole unremarkable. They mostly consisted of Victorian coins, plus mobile phones etc. but notably also a set of false teeth. The well treadmill was originally worked by prisoners and this situation continued until the very end of the seventeenth century at which point the donkeys took over in much more strenuous circumstances than now exist. Rachel explained that she and some colleagues had been on the wheel and that it was extraordinarily hard work for bipeds to raise a full bucket of water 130 feet. Today’s donkeys
have a much easier task since they only have to raise an empty bucket twenty feet. This is done with two turns of the wheel whilst it takes seventeen to raise water from the full depth. The wheel itself was built in 1588 and has an oak frame. More recently however the actual treading surface has been replaced with pine to make it easier for donkey hooves to get a grip when working.
In the recent past horse and donkey powered wheels were in fairly common use in this country – providing power for such diverse activities as pumping water; squeezing apples for cider or crushing ore. A number of these wheels have been preserved; for example, a horse wheel from Aylesbury in the Science
Museum in London. However, the only wheel in actual use is that at Carisbrooke and the reason for its survival is very simple – the visitor industry. Ironically, in the past it was the well water at Carisbrooke Castle that
made the garrison impregnable. The earlier well, constructed in the keep, was simply not sufficiently reliable for such purposes. Now, the wheelhouse and the resident donkeys have become a major attraction for visitors to
the Island – so it is open house to everyone.
Memorable visit to the Isle of Wight Postal Museum Patrick McSharry
Our visit to the Postal Museum was a rare and interesting treat. For me personally it was a defining experience as I will reveal later in this article. It was a unique opportunity to go down memory lane and indulge one’s own personal eccentricities. First impressions might have indicated that such a visit would only appeal to the male members of the party i.e. gender specific but it soon became clear, almost from the start, that once we entered the museum memories came flooding back with the result that all us were literally spell bound by what we saw. People were engrossed and delving deeply into their bank of memories. Eavesdropping peoples’ conversations soon confirmed this. It was, quite simply, an ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ of postal memorabilia. Every conceivable item associated with the postal service was there to be seen and enjoyed. What caught one’s immediate attention upon arrival was the collection of post (pillar) boxes standing like sentries in a large, green open space outside the museum. Like latter-day warriors they were a splendid memorial to the halcyon days of the letter box exuding as they did a creativity of design and variety which judging by current examples of post boxes appears to have evaporated completely.
This was no ordinary museum. The museum was born out of an obsession, the obsession of one man for street furniture. Arthur Reeder, originally from Harrow Middlesex, relocated the museum in the Isle of Wight
2006 specifically to house his ever-expanding collection of small items and small post boxes which was and remains his abiding hobby and intense passion. That said, Arthur did confide to me that his main interest was railways. Arthur had always wanted to set up a museum but simply lacked the funds. The museum boasts around 208 varieties of post boxes; 152 are located in the museum, the oldest of which dates from 1857 and the youngest 2007. The majority of the postal boxes are British or of British design. But this has not stopped Arthur from investing in and displaying foreign postal boxes from countries including Ireland (‘John Bull’s other island’) (15), the USA (1), France (2), Poland (1) and Russia (1), postal hats from abroad and postal sacks, Arthur could not come up with a precise figure on this.
Roadside letter boxes first appeared in the Channel Islands in 1857 and were experimental, hexagonal in shape and made of cast iron. Only after 1859 did they gradually become standardised though there were still
regional variations. It was Anthony Trollope, the distinguished writer, who was responsible for their introduction in his capacity as Post Office Surveyor. Since then there have been countless different varieties – pillar boxes, wall boxes and lamp boxes, of various sizes (and colours) but all displaying the ciphers of different monarchs from Queen Victoria to Elizabeth II. What is more, in recent years, the Royal Mail has introduced modern materials such as glass-reinforced plastic and polypropylene. We should not be surprised after all; cast iron was the in-material during the nineteenth century.
What are Arthur’s plans for the future apropos the museum? Currently the museum boasts eight post office bikes. He is also looking to expand the number of foreign post-boxes and related paraphernalia. It has the potential for becoming the Mecca of all things postal. Arthur would very much like to purchase an ex post
office van which is the obvious missing item in the museum. Of course, the museum has grown like Topsy. It has an organic quality and I dare say when we come to re-visit this oasis of things postal in the future it will have grown. Given that we are on the brink of witnessing the Royal Mail being sold off – I think it is called privatisation – such places as Arthur’s museum assume new importance in feeding our nostalgia and wanting to turn the clock back.
The postal museum was an historical time-line of the United Kingdom over the last 150 years. We have much to thank Arthur, and those of his ilk, who has preserved and conserved, for future generations, an important thread of the social, industrial and political history of this ‘sceptred Isle’. We and future generations are in your debt Arthur. But for you, entirely from your own resources, this important aspect of the history of our nation would be irreparably lost.
During our visit Arthur’s lovely wife Kim provided a fine tea for us and answered any and every query we might have. I said at the beginning of this article that this was a defining visit for me and for two reasons really. First, when ever I see a post (pillar) box or a wall box I stop and examine it and think fondly of our visit last September. Secondly, I have joined the Letter Box Study Group. A Damascene conversion of sorts! I have to admit that personally this visit was one of the highlights of the tour, much cherished and much enjoyed.
Bus Heaven Andy Simpson
On the Thursday after visiting the splendid Brading Roman Villa, the coach dropped me off on the outskirts of Newport. Whilst others visited Carisbrooke Castle, I wanted to have a look round bustling Newport itself – AFTER, of course, first visiting the small but perfectly formed volunteer-run Isle of Wight Bus Museum on the River Medina quayside (www.iowbusmuseum.org.uk). This is a haven for former buses of local operator Southern Vectis and other island coach operators; in a large and gloriously jumbled tin shed owned by the council, for which the lease has now thankfully been extended after a period of uncertainty, it houses a dozen or so vehicles, (with others stored elsewhere on the island) ranging from the rebuilt Ryde Pier tramcar of 1872/1911, via a 1927 Daimler single deck bus rescued from afterlife as a garden shed, and a good selection of classic post-war half cab double-deck vehicles, and yet another shop full of transport history delights and a friendly volunteer to chat to. Modern day Southern Vectis buses (www.islandbuses.info) are well filled, and one took me on the No.9 route, from Newport to Ryde, via the pretty little harbour/marina at Fishbourne, giving the chance of another train ride down to Sandown – and tea! Also at Ryde harbour, though not visited, is the boat museum (www.classicboatmuseum.org/)
The Church of St. George : Arreton, Jean Bayne Wider than you would expect from its length, this small, charming church set in the village of Arreton hints at its Saxon origins. And indeed, it has Saxon remains in its fabric. A church on this site is mentioned in the will of Alfred the Great (901) and was said to have been owned by his family. It was one of seven such wooden churches and the largest. There is other evidence for Saxon connections : the discovery of an ancient font in the churchyard in the nineteenth century , the tenth century west doorway and window and also a patch of pre Norman masonry in the north west wall recess by the tower.
It has been suggested that a group of people converted by St Wilfrid in 685 first settled here in this, safe inland village, close by the pond, and constructed a timber building for their worship. Later, William the Conqueror gave the church and the manor to the Abbey of Lyre in Normandy and this link continued for many years. In 1140, the Abbot, finding it increasingly difficult to collect the tithes and revenue due, transferred the whole estate to the Abbey of Quarr. It appears that the monks from Quarr were more centrally involved with the church, enlarging it by lengthening the chancel and adding aisles, first the north, and then, in the thirteenth
century, the south. A south chapel was also added with an arcade between the chapel and the chancel, using two pillars of Purbeck marble. About 1299, a west tower was added and later strengthened in 1480. Traces of wall paintings and some ancient stained glass from the fourteenth century can still be seen.
An ornate rood screen with a narrow loft for the Cantor to sing from was erected across the chancel arch but finally dismantled in 1886, leaving only traces of the entrance to the loft. The oldest bell in the church, the Sanctuary Bell, was given by Nicholas Serle in 1467 for the ringing of the Angelus and it survives now, at rest, in the body of the church. The Serle family must have been important and well loved as there is a brass plaque to William Serle who lived in the next century .(I tried to copy it but poor light and the age of the monument may have contributed to an inadequate reproduction, but it was so heartfelt in its expression that I am including it here). For it is the memories of the people who lived and died in the parish and who are commemorated in the church who confirm our common humanity and capture our imagination.
Loe here under this tower incovtcht
Is William Serle by name Who for his deeds of charitie Deserveth worthy fame
A man within this parish borne And in this howse called stone A glasse for to behowled a work Hath left to everyone
For that unto the people poor
Of Arreton he gave
A Hundred Pownds in redie coyne
He willed that they should have To be employed In fittest sorte as man could best invent
For yearly relief to the poor
That was his good intent.
Thus did this man, a batcheler
Of yeares full fifte nyne
And doeing good to many a one
So did he spend his tyme Until that day he did decease The first of Februarey
And in the yeare of one thousand five hundred neyntie five
But in the year of William Serle’s birth, Henry VIII took the church away from the Abbey of Quarre and sold it to a merchant in Southampton. Later it was transferred to the Fleming family who held it till recently.
The 17th and 18th centuries saw more structural renovations taking place: the walls were whitewashed, removing any remaining medieval paintings and the box pews were replaced with Tudor benches. In the 19th century, the whitewash was removed and choir stalls were placed in the chancel. The box pews were taken out and the present organ installed.
It was also at the beginning of the 19th century, that another local person was acknowledged and revered: Elizabeth Wallbridge, the Dairyman’s Daughter. She was the heroine of a book by the Reverend Legh Richmond, extolling her piety and good works. It sold one million copies between 1805 and 1820. She died from tuberculosis at the age of 31 and is buried in the churchyard. She was so famous that Queen Victoria came to visit her grave.
But there is evidence that it was not all sweetness and light in Arreton! On the floor of the Sanctuary, there is a brass of Henry Hawes –‘long tyme stuard of the Yie of Wight’– who died in 1415 and it is headless: it was said that he owed the King money and was suspected of embezzlement, so he symbolically lost his head!. There was also some lack of trust among the clergy themselves. A large oak chest from 1679 with 3 locks can be found in the church: one key belonged to the vicar and two to his church wardens. So the chest, which, no doubt, held treasures and vestments, could only be opened in the presence of all three.
There are also exterior points of interest. Oliver Cromwell’s grandson is buried in the churchyard among other notable local people. The Elizabethan square stone porch faces south and the sundial above it could be seen by villagers and clergy. The fifteenth century unusually shaped buttresses are also a unique feature of the church.
It is a delightful church, spanning many centuries, resulting in a wonderful eclectic mixture . For example, the six bells in the belfry span five centuries. And there are Tudor windows in the aisles, Norman and Early English in the chancel and Saxon in the belfry. Again the old font with a carving of a fish – an early secret Christian symbol – has a 19th century cover, carved by an Isle of Wight woman from local barn beams and is set on a plinth of Purbeck marble. However, it is also a living church. One of the most recent monuments is a memorial window dedicated to the Burma Star Association, unveiled by the Countess Mountbatten of Burma in 1992. Continuity is evident by the fact that many of the families mentioned in church records over the centuries are still living in the village.
Shipwreck Centre Arrreton Jo Nelhams
The Shipwreck Centre is the result of one man’s interest and hobby, amassing an extraordinary collection.
The museum was founded in 1978 at Bembridge where Martin Woodward, a professional diver, was a member of the RLNI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) lifeboat crew and coxswain until 2005. He has been diving since the 1960s and has recovered thousands of treasures, having dived on hundreds of wrecks around the Isle of Wight as well as other locations around the world.
A number of wrecks from the First World War were named. The bell from SS Polo, torpedoed in 1918, was recovered as well as a mine sweeping chain. Also sunk in 1918 was HMS A12 on which complete glass bottles were found. There is a replica diving bell designed by Dr. Edmund Halley in 1690 and made of wood, coated with lead with glass at the top.
From a Dutch wreck of the 1700s, a grindstone and clay pipes were found and coins from the ‘Henry Addington’ from 1798 and two flintlock pistols. Also, an astrolabe from 1620 found in 1986, considerably worn after centuries under water.
There are some real ‘pieces of eight’, the international currency of the 17th and 18th centuries. The majority of the coins were struck in South America when Spain was in control of gold and silver. The coins were chiselled from sheets or bars, and then stamped, hence the varying shapes.
There is also the Lifeboat section with the historic ‘Queen Victoria’ Lifeboat of 1887 (which was on display by the road). This has been pulled through the street annually re-enacting an epic occasion at Lynmouth in 1899 when a lifeboat was pulled miles across country to calmer waters because it could not be launched in its normal place. The re-enactments, mainly using people power and shire horses, have raised thousands of pounds for the RNLI. Other items collected are agricultural machinery, vintage horse drawn carts as well as antique cars.
Long live the collectors – remember last year, the Forncett Industrial museum static steam engines and this year the Shipwreck museum and Arthur’s post boxes. Who or what will we find in the future?
Isle of Wight Birds. Sylvia Javes
From the beginning of the trip I was looking out for birds, and once on the ferry, my binoculars came out. There were four kinds of gull: black headed, herring gull, and lesser and greater black backed gulls. There were plenty of birds to be seen from the coach from the common starlings, house sparrows, rooks and jackdaws, to the much more interesting great spotted woodpecker, seen from the coach on the way to Yarmouth.
The ferry from Yarmouth to Hurst Castle proved quite exciting, as there was a constant stream of martins and swallows flying south across the Solent, on their way to Africa. Other birds seen were cormorants and various gulls. Some lucky people even saw a gannet. Near the landing point at Hurst Castle there were shallow pools and a marshy area. I decided to take a short walk along the shingle spit and was rewarded with curlew, oyster catcher, little egret, redshank, wheatear and common tern. Had I stayed in the castle, I might have seen the Sandwich terns reported by other members of the group. On the way back from Yarmouth, there were quite a number of buzzards seen from the coach, riding thermals over the hills.
At the Brading Roman Villa, I crept out into the sunshine for a while, and as I sat on a bench, all I could hear was the mewing of buzzards over the hillside, and the chacking of jackdaws. No aircraft, no traffic, no other noise. This is what it must have been like when the villa was occupied nearly two thousand years ago. Round the back of the villa is a small conservation area, where I got wonderful close views of two more wheatears. I was delighted to see these, as I had missed wheatears during the spring migration.
All in all it was a great trip for birding opportunities.
Isle of Wight Summary Jim Nelhams
A brief word of thanks to all our travellers. While the places we visit may be of interest – as illustrated by the reports submitted, it is really the people that make the trip successful – giving us a chance to get to know each other a little better. A total of 19 people provided the reports in this and earlier newsletters. We look forward to the 2012 outings, especially the trip to the Ironbridge area.
Other Societies’ Events Eric Morgan
Tuesday 3rd April, 1pm – Gresham College, Barnard’s Inn Hall, Holborn EC1N 2HH ‘The Roman Denarius and Euro – a precedent for Monetary Union?’ Talk by Dr Andrew Burnett (British Museum)
Wednesday 4th April 2.30-4.30 pm Friends of Barnet Libraries Mill Hill Library, Hartley Avenue, NW7
2NX ‘Dickens’ London’ Talk with refreshments
Wednesday 11th April 7.45 pm Hornsey Historical Society Union Church Hall, Corner Ferme Park Road, Weston Park N8. ‘The History of Highgate Gatehouse and its Theatre’. Talk by John Plews. £1. Refreshments
Monday 16th April 3pm Barnet and District Local History Society. Church House, Wood Street, Barnet
(opposite museum) ‘People linked with Nicholls farm’ Talk by Dr Gillian Gear.
Tuesday 17th April 6.30 pm LAMAS. Clore Learning Centre, Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2.
‘The Thames Tunnel: Eighth Wonder of the World?’ Talk by Robert Hulse’ Refreshments 6 pm.
Thursday 19th April 7.30 pm Camden History Society ‘Survey of the Palace of Westminster before the
1834 Fire’ Talk by Professor Michael Scott: Burgh House, New End Square NW3. Visitors £1
Thursday 19th April 7.30 pm Avenue House East End Road N3 ‘Historic Film Night’ Presented by Angela English with a Barnet and Finchley emphasis. Tickets £7.50 at Avenue House or from email@example.com
Friday 20th April 7pm COLAS St Olave’s Parish Hall, Mark Lane EC3. ‘A Hidden Landscape Revealed: Excavations at Syon.’ Bob Cowie (MOLA) Visitors £2.
Friday 20th April. 8pm Enfield Archaeological Society Jubilee Hall, 2 Parsonage Lane\Junction Chase Side
Enfield. ‘The excavations of the society in 2011’ preceded by AGM. Visitors £1. Refreshments
Saturday 21st April 2-4 pm Local Studies Library, The Burroughs, NW4 4BQ ‘Oliver Twist and Barnet’: Archive Reading Event. Phone 020-8359 3900
Sunday 22nd April 2.30 pm Hornsey Historical Society. Fortis Green Walk. Start from Lane beside United
Reform Church Hall (opposite Church) in Tetherdown, near Junction with Queen’s Avenue, Muswell Hill N10
1NB Cost £3. Lasts about 2 1/2 hours. Ring Joy Nichol 020-8883 8486/07790 254251.
Wednesday 25th April. 7.45pm Friern Barnet and District Local History Society. St John’s Church Hall (next to Whetstone Police Station) Friern Barnet Lane N20. ‘Treasures and the Tower of London’ Talk by Garry Wykes. Non-members £2 refreshments 7.45 pm and after meeting.
Thursday 26th April 8pm Finchley Society. Christ Church North Finchley N12 (opposite Homebase). (note unusual venue) ‘The Waterways of Finchley’ Tea/coffee 7.30 pm and during interval. Finishes about 9.30 pm. Non-members £2. Talk about the Mutton and Dollis Brooks, and several ponds and lakes.