No. 501 December 2012 Edited by Don Cooper
Doesn’t time go quickly, here we are in the middle of November looking forward to that end-of-year holiday period again!! Do the years go faster as you get older? It seems like only yesterday that I edited the last one!
May we take the opportunity to wish all our readers a happy holiday and a healthy and prosperous 2013.
HADAS DIARY 2012 – 2013
All Lectures are held at Avenue House, 17 East End Road, Finchley, N3 3QE, and start promptly at 8.00 pm, with coffee /tea and biscuits afterwards. Non-members welcome (£1.00). Buses 82, 125, 143, 326 & 460 pass nearby and Finchley Central Station (Northern line) is a short walk away.
Sunday 2nd December: Christmas party at Avenue House, 12 noon – 4.30 (approx.)Buffet lunch, price £22 to include some drink. Last minute attendance: phone Jim Nelhams (see back page).
Tuesday 8 January: The Reign of Akhenaten: Revolution or Evolution? Lecture by Lucia Gahlin (who has kindly stepped in to replace Nathalie Andrews).
Tuesday 12 February: From Longboat to Warrior: the evolution of the wooden ship. Lecture by Eliott Wragg, Thames Discovery Programme.
Tuesday 12 March: The Railway Heritage Trust – Lecture by Andy Savage.
Tuesday 9 April: Nautical Archaeology – past, present and future. Lecture by Mark Beattie-Edwards, Programme Director, Nautical Archaeology Society.
Dates for your long term diary:
The next HADAS long-weekend will take place from 15th September to 19th September 2013.
The Festival of Archaeology will take place from 13th July to 28th July 2013
The events run by local societies in the New Year are included in Eric Morgan’s “diary” on the last page of this newsletter, however, two late items:
Friday, 7th December 2012 at 13.15: “Saturnalia and the origins of Christmas” by Sam Moorhead, at the British Museum, Free – booking advised.
Thursday, 6th December 2012 at 10.30: “The Welsh Harp” a talk by Hugh Petrie, Barnet Archivist at Mill Hill Library, Hartley Avenue, NW7 2HX.
Newsletter 500 and still going strong by Mary Rawitzer
“If you want something done, ask a busy person”
After last month’s bumper Newsletter (HADAS’s first 16-pager?) it seemed a good time to thank all those responsible for out monthly production. I believe we can be proud that this is the only publication by a similar voluntary organisation that is produced by 12 individual editors, each doing just one Newsletter a year (although I must admit to not having done any proper research so await correction).
In the old days, Dorothy Newbury’s highly effective proof-reading didn’t alter whatever each editor produced, but now Sue Willetts and myself comb through each month’s production and, since our backgrounds (librarian/publishing) make us both rather pernickety about print we spend quite a while ensuring the layout is good – no headings on one page/text on the next, no “widows and orphans”, Latin names decently italicised, north not North ….. Occasionally our best intentions are stymied by the horrors of computer systems, but we’re getting there. Someone who has more input than most of us is Eric Morgan, responsible for the full round-up of other societies’ events which he faithfully produces, hand-written, every month. During this last year he has even managed to get one month ahead so that planning visits to other events is now much easier. Then we have the production process at Hillary Press: Christopher Newbury takes the version sent over by computer and gets it ready for printing – when he’s there. Otherwise I trot over with hard copy. Jack Newbury, still in charge at 92, tells me how busy they are and that it will be quite a few days before they can get round to any printing. Wonderfully helpful Rocco, who actually does the printing for us, mutters something and then phones within a day or two to say it’s ready for collection. Finally (thanks to Dorothy Newbury who makes us welcome at home and offers us tea, biscuits and entertainment) we stuff the envelopes (labels stuck on by Doug Evans) and use Hillary Press’s franking machine – still an amazing 31p-and-a-bit against horrendous 50p 2nd class* . Enormous thanks to all those mentioned and to the other editors, Vicki Baldwin, Deirdre Barrie, Stephen Brunning, Don Cooper, Graham Javes, Jim Nelhams, Peter Pickering, Dot Ravenswood, Andy Simpson, Micky Watkins.
*Please consider getting your Newsletter by e-mail. Contact me on Mary Rawitzer
Hendon Tokens go North by Peter Pickering
During the HADAS stay in Ironbridge we visited Bridgnorth, and the admirable museum run by the Bridgnorth and District Historical Society (alas, alas for Church Farmhouse). Some of us had our eyes caught by a collection of coin-like tokens (donated to the museum many years ago), among which was this:
(Reproduced by kind permission of the Bridgnorth museum (website bridgnorthmuseum.org.uk), who retain the copyright)
This intrigued us, and we have done a little research. Towards the end of the eighteenth century a shortage of small change led many traders to issue tokens. Hendon is unusual, though not unique, among places in Middlesex in having ones of its own. David Garrick, as well as being a nationally famous actor, had been until his death in 1779 the Lord of the Manor of Hendon and owner of Hendon Hall; he was therefore very suitable to be portrayed. Besides this token there is another one (apparently rarer) which has the same obverse, with the church, and on the reverse a greyhound and the name B Price. Between 1765 and 1796 a father and son, both named Benjamin Price, were licensees of the Greyhound, the inn close to Hendon Church at which HADAS members have often refreshed themselves.
It is clear why tokens appeared at the end of the eighteenth century, as they had a century earlier, because of the incompetence of the monetary authorities in providing what commerce needed where it needed it. It is less clear how tokens actually worked – what guarantee a person having one had that it would be honoured and by whom. There are several books about the tokens from a numismatist’s viewpoint, concentrating on design, scarcity and value (from the beginning tokens were collected, and there are many which were made specifically for collectors). We have found one book – Whiting’s ‘Trade Tokens – a Social and Economic History’ – which is written by a historian seeking to find out how and why tokens came into being and were finally suppressed by Act of Parliament. But it contains little about their actual use. Other HADAS members may have knowledge or ideas.
Barnet Archives and the Local Studies Centre new opening hours from October 2012
Please note that access arrangements for the above have changed from October 2012.
Monday – closed
Tuesday – 10am – 5pm (by appointment only)
Wednesday – 1pm – 7pm (drop-in service)
Thursday – 10am – 2pm (by appointment only) and 2pm – 5pm (drop-in service)
Friday – 10am – 2pm (by appointment only) and 2pm – 5pm (drop-in service)
Saturday (first and third Saturday of the month) – 9.30am – 2pm (by appointment only) and 2pm – 4.30pm (drop-in service)
By appointment only sessions must be booked in advance by telephoning 020 8359 3960. Booking is essential for use of the microfilm reader.
The Barnet Archives and Local Studies Centre are at:
Hendon Library (first floor),
London NW4 4BQ
How to get to The Barnet Archives and Local Studies Centre
Buses: 143, 183, 326
Underground: Hendon central, Northern Line – 15 minute walk
British Rail: Hendon, Thameslink – 15 minute walk.
A medieval pottery report – a summary from three years excavation. By Don Cooper
Hendon School Site Code HDS06
For the last seven years HADAS and University College London’s (UCL) Institute of Archaeology (IoA) have been giving practical archaeology courses at Hendon School in Golders Rise, Hendon, NW4 2PH. Pupils from year eight and nine are invited to take part in a week’s practical archaeology including inter alia excavation on the school’s playing field. The last three years excavations have taken place in more or less the same part of the schools playing field i.e. the northeast corner around about 10 metres north-west of grid reference 523675.129E, 189026.785N (see map). The reason why we were digging in more or less the same area was because in 2010 (see HADAS newsletter No. 473 August 2010) right at the end of the dig we found over a hundred sherds of early medieval pottery in a secure context in a small ½m x 2m x 25cm sondage (a slot with a trench designed to look at lower levels): there was also a modest sized post hole cut into the natural. The sondage came about because we had not succeeded in reaching the natural London clay surface over the whole trench. Finding over a hundred sherds was surprising as a cache of early medieval pottery sherds was unexpected in this area.
So we returned to the same area in 2011 and opened a larger trench (see HADAS newsletter no.485 August 2011). This time pressures of weather and a much larger cohort of pupils meant that we only reached the fairly secure context (there were a number of intrusions) above the natural London clay surface over about a quarter of the 6m x 6m trench, nevertheless another substantial number of early medieval sherds were found. In June 2012 we returned again to more or less the same area determined to reach the same context immediately above the natural clay. We excavated a 4m x 2m trench, but before we had fully excavated down to the natural, down came the rain! (I’m sure you remember June 2012).
I reported in the September newsletter (No 498 September 2012) that “Although we are no nearer to having a satisfactory theory as to why all these early medieval pottery sherds we found accumulated in this particular area, the fact that they are mostly abraded, and that we haven’t found evidence of structures” (other than the one post hole in the 2010 excavation) “is leaning towards the idea that they represent hill wash from the hamlet that existed where Brent Street and Bell Lane meet. However, one of the alternative theories, that these sherds are the detritus from along the side of a very old lane that crossed Mutton Bridge on its way to Hampstead/London cannot be fully discounted.”
All the pottery sherds found have been examined and identified by Jacqui Pearce, an expert on medieval pottery who works for Museum of London Archaeological Service (MoLA). I have not included the relatively small number of modern, Victorian, and post-1600 sherds that came from disturbed layers and contexts above the secure layer in this analysis, but only the surprising cache of early dated sherds. The results are as follows:
E/date = Earliest date for the fabric
L/date = Latest date for the fabric
Sherds = Number of sherds found
Weight = Weight in grams
Med = Medieval
Fabric Description Sherds E/date L/date Weight Forms
Roman Various Roman fabrics 13 50 400 51 Misc
EMFL Early Med flint-tempered ware 2 970 1100 17 Cooking pot
EMCS Early Med coarse sand-tempered ware 80 1000 1200 344 Cooking pots
ESHER Early South Herts grey ware 98 1050 1200 690 Cooking pots
LCOAR Coarse London-type ware 1 1080 1200 7 Jar
LOND London-type ware 45 1080 1350 192 Various
SHER South Herts grey ware 100 1170 1350 611 C/pots & Bowls
KING Kingston ware 21 1230 1400 102 Jugs & bowls
MG Mill Green ware 2 1270 1350 4 Misc
CBW Coarse Surrey-Hampshire border ware 30 1270 1500 217 Cooking pots
LMHG Late Med Herts Glazed ware 1 1350 1450 2 Misc
CHEA Cheam ware 1 1350 1500 10 Misc
PMRE Early Post-Med red ware 11 1480 1600 141 Various
In the same contexts, as well as the pottery sherds, there were a number of peg tile fragments and there were three lumps of slag which are still being examined to see if we can learn more from them. The only animal bone in all three excavations was very degraded as bone does not appear to survive in that particular area of the playing field. A re-examination of the medieval sherds from all three excavations indicate that they were not as abraded as first thought and although no indication of structures, other than the post hole, were found it is likely they have not travelled very far since their deposition.
The contexts above the medieval layer were very disturbed with detritus from the playing field including in 2012 a computer “flash drive” – the artefact of the future? The area had been used for allotments during the WWII, so there were lots of remains of flower pots, rusty implements, bits of brick, tile and glass. Earlier occupation was attested to by the numerous clay pipe stems and bowls. The spread of dates for the manufacture of the pottery sherds found in these upper layers indicate more or less continuous occupation in the area.
English Heritage have extended the Area of Special Archaeological Significance to cover this site as a consequence of the quantity of medieval pottery sherds found and it is to be hoped that when an opportunity arises to excavate further in the area this will lead to a greater understanding as to why this large quantity of early medieval pottery is present. All the people involved in these three excavations have been acknowledged in the previous HADAS newsletters: No. 473 August 2010, No. 485 August 2011 and No 498 September 2012.
Book Review by Stewart Wild
Henrietta Barnett – Social Worker and Community Planner
by Micky Watkins
Published by the author and Hampstead Garden Suburb Archive Trust
Softback 21cm x 27cm; 320pp; ISBN 978-0-9549798-7-4; £14.95
Micky Watkins has lived in Hampstead Garden Suburb for over fifty years and has been a member of HADAS for more than half that time. For the past twenty years she has worked at Hampstead Garden Suburb Archive, and this detailed book on the life and achievements of Dame Henrietta Barnett (1851–1936) is the result of exhaustive study covering this remarkable woman’s life and the legacy she left behind in north London.
Fig. 1. An Evocative Cover
It is a magnificent work. Part One (1851–1900) covers Henrietta Octavia Rowland’s childhood, the death of her German mother when Henrietta was only two weeks old, and her considerable inheritance on the death of her father when she was only 18. In 1870 Henrietta joined the newly formed Charity Organisation Society where she met Octavia Hill who was an influential committee member, and who later was a founder of the National Trust. Here, Henrietta wrote in her diary, she found her “life’s work”: social reform and improved housing conditions for the poor and needy. In December that year, at a party to celebrate Octavia Hill’s birthday, she met a local curate, Samuel Barnett, who, although seven years older, seems to have fallen in love with her on the spot. They married two years later, in January 1873, and bound by love, Christian religion and charitable work, formed a solid partnership that lasted over forty years. They spent their honeymoon visiting cathedrals in southern England. After their marriage the young couple moved east where Samuel was appointed vicar of St Jude’s in Whitechapel, “the worst parish in my diocese”, according to the Bishop of London, on account of poverty and crime. These days it is difficult to imagine how appalling living conditions were in the East End at this time. Both the young vicar and his wife worked tirelessly to improve children’s education, alleviate poverty, crime and prostitution, and provide short holiday breaks in the country for parishioners. One of their greatest achievements was the establishment of Toynbee Hall in 1884, set up like an Oxbridge college and taking its name from Arnold Toynbee, a young academic and associate of the Barnetts who had died aged only 30 in 1883 – probably of overwork – serving the poor. Another lasting achievement was the foundation of the Whitechapel Art Gallery, which opened in 1901. Despite steamer trips to destinations like Norway, Italy and Gibraltar, Henrietta’s deteriorating health was a constant worry and in October 1890 the Barnetts were so exhausted that they decided to embark on a trip around the world. Accompanied by a faithful secretary and a nurse, they visited India, Ceylon, Japan, Canada and the United States, arriving back at Liverpool in July 1891.The move to north London began in 1889 when the Barnetts bought Heath End House in Hampstead, close to the Spaniards Inn. They delighted in the Heath to the south and the unspoilt farmland stretching away to the north. But they were aware of huge changes to come, for in 1896 Henrietta had heard of a plan to build an underground railway from Charing Cross northwards. In 1902 Charles Tyson Yerkes formed the Underground Electric Company and an Act of Parliament sanctioned the extension of the Hampstead Tube to Golders Green. Henrietta knew that rows of houses were bound to follow and was desperate to preserve the fields and woods below their house as an extension of Hampstead Heath. The idea of a Garden Suburb was born.
Part two (1901–1936)
Surprisingly, Henrietta only embarked upon building the Suburb after she had reached the age of fifty. It was her experience of the poverty and degradation of the East End which inspired her to create an ideal community. But how did she have the influence and administrative ability to turn an ideal into bricks and mortar? How was she able to recruit well-known architects, churchmen, titled aristocrats and wealthy benefactors? Henrietta had her sights on eighty acres of fields which were owned by the Eton College Trustees. The College was persuaded to make an offer for sale at a reasonable £600 per acre, but where was she going to get £48,000, an enormous sum in those days? An address book which included famous names, politicians and royalty helped; she started with 13,000 individual letters, personally signed by her or her secretary. It’s a fascinating story. Despite being what we would now call manic-depressive, Henrietta was clearly charming, fun to have around, and possessed a fine sense of humour. She delighted that land once held by King Henry VIII should now change hands under a document signed by one Henrietta Octavia! She also had an astonishing capacity for hard work and a stubborn insistence on Christian principles to achieve her goals. As Lord Lytton observed, at the unveiling of her memorial in July 1937, “She could be very obstinate at times, bless her …… but she had the faith which moves mountains.” Conceived as an antidote to the slums of the East End, the Suburb today is somewhat removed from Henrietta’s ideals, being principally middle-class and with a growing Jewish community that finds it difficult to integrate. The working class is conspicuous by its absence and there is no longer any housing specifically for women and children. Yet it remains widely known and copied throughout the English-speaking world, and continues to attract talented and well-known people and celebrities. Famous names of past residents run into the hundreds. There have been many books and biographies both by and about Henrietta Barnett but none has been as comprehensive and well researched as this one, with extensive local knowledge added to little-known facts and quotations gleaned from trawling through hitherto unpublished sources. The author’s background as a social historian, town planner, teacher and archivist makes her uniquely qualified for the task. Micky’s book is lavishly illustrated with archive and modern photographs in both colour and b&w, and comes with copious references, an extensive bibliography and a useful index. Beautifully written, it will appeal to anyone with an interest in social history and the alleviation of poverty, and especially to those who are familiar with the remarkable square mile of town planning that lies on our southern doorstep. It’s also a lovely true story.
Editor’s note: The book can be purchased locally at Daunts, Joseph’s Bookstore, the Suburb Gallery or direct from the author: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other books on Local History recently produced, which would make great festive gifts.
Reviewed by Peter Pickering & Don Cooper
The first book is by Dr. Pauline Ashridge entitled ‘The Fields of Friern’. It is a deeply researched and meticulously referenced account of the demesne lands of Friern Barnet – that is, those fields which had been held by the Knights Hospitallers as Lords of the Manor of Friern Barnet, and which after the Reformation passed to St Paul’s Cathedral, who sold the lands, while keeping many of the rights, in 1800. The book ends with the building of houses in what are now Torrington Park and Friern Park. There are several pen pictures of amusing and tragic events in the history of these demesne lands, and a number of more significant episodes, especially the one on which much of the book’s argument turns – a nineteenth century legal dispute which concluded that the owners of any of the demesne lands did not have to pay tithe rents to the parish church because the lands had at one time belonged to Cistercian monks. Anyone seriously interested in the local history of our borough must get a copy of this book (obtainable from Kershaw Publishing, P.O. Box 55123 North Finchley, N12 9YH; £9.99). An archaeologist must wonder where the various buildings (including a ‘chapel and hermitage’) actually were, and whether any trace of them could be found amid the open lands and gardens of Friern Barnet.
The second book is David Berguer’s magisterial ‘The Friern Hospital Story’ which goes from the beginning of 1847, when the Middlesex Justices decided to build an Asylum for Pauper Lunatics in the eastern part of the county, to its closure in 1993 and redevelopment under the scarcely appropriate name of Princess Park Manor. There are 176 pages in all, with building and medical history, illustrative anecdotes, and lists of the causes of admission, the fines on attendants for dereliction of duty, and the meals provided; and yet on some occasions as I read it I thought ‘Could we not be told a bit more about this episode?’ It is an enthralling story, and though not cheerful, is not depressing; the hospital in its heyday was a well-run small town, and progressive in its treatment of mental illness, though no doubt many people were incarcerated then who would lead normal lives in the community to-day. My only criticism is that few of the large number of illustrations are given dates in their captions (though the text often helps) – oh, and Cardinal Hume’s name has an intrusive ‘l’. The book is obtainable from Chaville Press, 148 Friern Park, N12 9LU, priced at £14.99.
And finally a book called “The Dunlops of Church Farm” by Dr. Valerie Preston-Dunlop. This book is the story of the Dunlop side of her family who lived at Church Farm, Hendon from 1870 until 1944, when the house was bought by Hendon Council. (Afterwards it became the now lamented Church Farm House Museum). Valerie has written a very personal history of her family from their origins as farmers in Scotland to their life at Church Farm in Hendon and on to what they did after life in Hendon. Church Farm was obviously a happy place to live for this prosperous farming family with lots of children. The book costs £10.00 plus postage was published in 2012 by Verve Publishing, 56 Lock Chase, London SE3 9HA and can be obtained via Don Cooper (see my address below).
“The life and Legacy of George Peabody” by Sheila Woodward
(Lecture by Christine Wagg)
“Peabody Buildings” have been part of the London landscape for 150 years. The name was familiar to me, and the buildings became familiar to me in the 1940s when I had a “visiting” job in south and central London – though I don’t remember ever visiting anyone in a Peabody Building. But I knew nothing about Peabody himself until I listened to Christine Wagg’s most interesting lecture.George Peabody was a Victorian philanthropist, an American by birth, a Londoner by adoption. Born in Massachusetts in 1795, the third of eight children, he was apprenticed at the age of 11 to a small shopkeeper. His father’s sudden death in 1811 plunged the family into desperate poverty, but that fired George with a determination to make a good living for himself and his family. In 1812 he moved to Baltimore and set up his own business. He was shrewd and hard-working and his abilities soon earned him respect and prosperity. He entered into partnership and then founded a company, Peabody, Riggs & Co, which traded in wool and cotton. In 1827, George made his first visit to London, to negotiate the sale of American cotton to the Lancashire cotton mills. Impressed by London life and following regular yearly visits, he settled permanently in London in 1838. He had become a wealthy man and a skilful banker; he paid the American contribution to the 1851 Great Exhibition, and in 1852 formed a business association with J. S. Morgan. Its “descendant” still exists, as Morgan, Grenfell & Co Ltd.
A compassionate man who had experienced poverty himself, George Peabody was appalled by the poverty and deprivation he witnessed in the slums of London. He joined a group of people (they included Lord Shaftesbury and Angela Burdett Coutts) active in a search for a solution. In 1862, Peabody established a Trust with a sum of £150,000, his “gift to London”. He suggested that the money be spent on “construction of such improved for the poor as may combine in the utmost possible degree the essentials of healthfulness, comfort, social enjoyment and economy”.
The trustees set about fulfilling this request, and within a year of their appointment they had decided to build their first block of tenements. A site was purchased in Commercial Street in Spitalfields. The architect appointed was Henry Astley Darbishire and he designed two long blocks with shops on the ground floor and living quarters above, and commercial laundries on the top floor. The flats were approached from a central corridor, with shared communal washing facilities and lavatories at one end, placed above one another for efficient drainage. The walls were un-plastered, lime-washed brick.
Four larger estates soon followed: Peabody Square in Islington, Shadwell, Westminster and Chelsea. Large enough to erect blocks arranged around squares which could be railed off, giving a sense of community, the buildings set a standard of accommodation that was consistent and the non-self-contained flats discouraged subletting and overcrowding.These early groups of Peabody estates had in due course to be modified. The self-contained flat was eventually introduced in 1911, each flat having a private scullery and toilet. However, the original fixtures and fittings included built-in cupboards in kitchens and bedrooms, a cooking range, bedroom stoves and gas lighting. The trust also provided and paid for lighting on stairs and in corridors, a dust chute on each landing for commercial collection of rubbish, and laundries and drying rooms. Children could play in the central courtyard, and there was access to schools and workshops. Arrangements for refurbishment, future care and maintenance were, and are, mind-boggling.George Peabody was given the freedom of the City of London, was elected to The Atheneum, and was awarded the Congressional Medal (first awarded to George Washington). Queen Victoria wrote him a letter of thanks and presented him with a special portrait. Peabody died in 1869.He had what amounted to a State Funeral in Westminster Abbey (it was attended by William Gladstone) and was buried in the Abbey, but only temporarily. His body was later transported to America, to rest in his native Massachusetts.
Ironbridge Day 3 – Shrewsbury and Wroxeter
Excursion to Salopia by Kevin McSharry
The third day of our HADAS Ironbridge visit started in Shrewsbury (Salopia) a town that never ceases to delight even though I have had the good fortune to visit it many times before. “Floreat Salopia” – may Shrewsbury flourish – is the town motto and flourished it has, since Saxon times.Shrewsbury is almost an island surrounded as it is, on three sides by the meandering River Severn. One can readily understand why a settlement grew up here – it is an easily defensible site.The medieval layout of Shrewsbury has been largely preserved and staggeringly it has over 650 listed buildings. The main shopping and business area retains its ancient and intricate street pattern. A maze of narrow passages, called shuts, criss-cross the town between the main streets. Together with a large number of magnificent black and white houses of the sixteenth century, and earlier, these create a very distinctive fine-looking oldie worldly town.
Our day began at the Norman Church of St. Mary’s, which is now managed by the Churches Conservation Trust. What a fine job the C.C.T has done with St. Mary’s. The Trust is to be lauded for its conservation work. Our excellent guide, the regional director of C.C.T, was bubbly, enthusiastic and charismatic. The long history of St. Mary’s, with its many features, was brought alive by his unpacking, peeling back the layers of history of the churches’ features. It became a journey back in time. Mickey Watkins takes up the story.
St Mary’s Church Shrewsbury by Mickey Watkins
St Mary’s was founded by King Edward the Peacemaker c. AD960. The original Saxon building was replaced in the mid 12th century by a Norman cruciform church, but the Bell Tower remained and was probably used as an open air preaching tower. The church is a Royal Peculiar and so has been under the crown, not the Bishop of Lichfield. Now it is under the Churches Conservation Trust. The windows are so massive that the church is flooded with light, even though there is so much stained glass. A 19th century vicar, the Revd William Rowland, collected medieval glass from all over Europe for the windows and they are amazing. The Jesse window, representing the genealogy of the Holy Family, fills the East window behind the altar. The nave ceiling is carved with angels holding musical instruments, grotesque faces and animals. There is the tomb of a crusader and a sedilia for the weary HADAS explorer.High up above the south porch there is an anchorite’s cell in which a woman lived, visited twice a day with food and to empty her pot. People visited her to seek advice.Frances Radford found a glass window commemorating St Bernard who, when he went to consecrate a new abbey found it full of flies, He excommunicated them. On the following morning they were all dead and the glass depicts them being swept away.
After the instructive tour of St. Mary’s we were let loose, until early afternoon, to explore the town.Shrewsbury has many famous sons and daughters. Two of them are Charles Darwin (1809-1882) and Brother Cadfael, of whom more later. Darwin was born in Shrewsbury and is a huge source of pride for the town. His name is lent to the Darwin Shopping Centre, Darwin Street and the modern monument Darwin Gate. In 2009 a 40 foot sculpture named Quantum heap was unveiled in tribute to Charles Darwin’s bicentenary. There is even a night club named “Evolution”. Darwin is an alumnus of Shrewsbury public school as is Michael Heseltine an elder and luminary of the current Tory Party. One personal discovery during the morning was a small artisan bakery opposite the rail station. The bakery produces bread which is ‘proved’ for twenty four hours, thus ensuring it is digestible and tasty unlike the modern Chorley Wood method of producing bread of this supermarket age.Our visit to Shrewsbury but whetted the appetite. A week could be spent in its environs and even then only a little of its story would be revealed. We will return!
Our excursion concluded with a visit to Shrewsbury Abbey, a Benedictine foundation (1083). Much of the monastery was destroyed at the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1540) by the Taliban agents of that age. Brenda Pershouse takes up the story.
Shrewsbury Abbey by Brenda Pershouse
Our visit to Shrewsbury Abbey was brief but informative.The present Abbey church was founded by the Normans in 1083 on the site of a small Saxon church dedicated to St. Peter. The monks followed the rule of St. Benedict and during the twelfth century the Abbey flourished. In 1137, the monks acquired the bones of St. Gwenfrew (St. Winefride) in Wales. The relics were enshrined and Shrewsbury Abbey became a major centre for pilgrimage.The Abbey is impressive. Four Norman pillars remain from the original building, the remainder being in Gothic style. There are beautiful stained glass windows two of which are dedicated to St. Winefride and St. Benedict, who founded the monasteries as we know them today.In 1283, Edward I called a meeting at Shrewsbury Abbey. The particular significance of this assembly was to invite the “commons”, that is the knights from the counties, as well as the “Lords”! The Shrewsbury parliament set the pattern for the future development of our parliamentary system. In 1983, the then Speaker of the House of Commons came to the Abbey to commemorate the 700th anniversary of this significant event.Wilfred Owen, the World War One poet who was killed while serving his country, is commemorated on the First World War Memorial found below the tower.The Abbey attracts thousands of visitors a year one of the attractions being Edith Pargeter’s mystery novels (written under the pseudonym Ellis Peters), “The Chronicles of Brother Cadfael” which are set in Shrewsbury Abbey. This link is commemorated in stained glass.
Then we were on to our golden chariot for the short journey to Wroxeter.
Wroxeter Roman City By Sheila Woodward
Wroxeter is one of the most tantalising and enigmatic of our Roman towns. Originating (like so many) as a legionary fortress in about the mid 50s AD, it was excellently sited and was capable of holding an entire legion of 5000 men. The successive town, founded about AD 90 on the departure of the army, continued to thrive as an administrative and trading centre and by 120/130 AD it had become the 4th largest town in Roman Britain, boasting fine public buildings and some wealthy inhabitants. After the prosperous years came a general decline and by the middle of the seventh century, the town had dwindled away, replaced by a small village with only memories of past greatness. Less than 5% of the Roman town is now visible; the rest is underground.
The most prominent reminder of Wroxeter’s past greatness is known, rather endearingly, as the Old Work. It is part or the original south wall of the basilica of the baths. It is one of the largest free standing pieces of masonry left from Roman Britain and it certainly dominates the site: with its rather dark rugged fabric, it seems to brood over the area. Inevitably in the 18th century, the Old Work became a “Romantic” subject for local artists, and indeed Wroxeter has inspired much poetry – from A. E. Housman’s “On Wenlock Edge” to “Uriconium” by Wilfred Owen. Apart from the Old Work, the remains of the baths, especially the basilica, tend to be fragmentary but information panels and reconstructions are well placed and the bath complexes are impressive. Similarly, the remains of the Market Hall and of the Forum can be appreciated given time and imagination. As already mentioned, excavation at Wroxeter has been minimal. The site is in the care of English Heritage, and, as mainly plough land and pasture, is not in imminent danger. But considerable work has been done by investigation using other techniques. Aerial photography can reveal for example stone structures; geophysical techniques such as gradiometry, resistivity and ground-penetrating radar can detect various activities, human or otherwise, and structures. The grandly-named Wroxeter Hinterland Project has revealed a surprising density of population (at least 5000 people at its height) and has studied industrial activity.Even small-scale excavations in Wroxeter over the last 200 years have produced a good quantity of artefacts. The site museum has an excellent and varied display of a selection of the finds: jewellery, pottery, glassware, tools, weapons, building materials and so on. The first full-scale archaeological excavation did not take place until 1859 when the bath buildings now on display were uncovered. The bath buildings were again the main focus of the dig in 1936 (Kathleen Kenyon), 1955 (Graham Webster) and 1966 (Philip Baker of Birmingham University).A new piece of experimental archaeology was carried out in 2010. Six builders were set the task of constructing from scratch a “villa urbana” – a Roman Town-house – using only tools and materials known to the Romans. The design of the building was based loosely on a house excavated in Wroxeter in 1913/1914, having an oak frame covered with painted lime plaster, and forming an L-shaped building with rooms around a courtyard, and a separate bath complex. Although not a permanent structure, the house has demonstrated that a large building can stand without foundations, as it had to be built on a platform to protect the archaeology beneath. The creation of the house, which is now open to visitors, was filmed for a Channel 4 television series “Rome wasn’t Built in a Day”.
The archaeological potentials of Wroxeter and of the settlement patterns outside the town are huge. Quite literally watch this space!
St Andrew’s Church, Wroxeter by Vicki Baldwin
In common with churches whose buildings have been long established, the fabric of St. Andrew’s is a palimpsest. Its history may be read in its walls. There are Roman tiles and worked stone, some carved, parts of what was possibly a market cross, scars, niches, abrupt joints in the stonework indicating changes in size, blocked doorways and windows, weathered gargoyles, and repairs ancient and modern.
Fig.2. St Andrews Church Wroxeter
Set in a well-kept churchyard, at first sight it appears to be a living part of the local village and it is somewhat surprising to discover that it was “declared pastorally redundant” (to quote the guidebook) as long ago as 1980. Its excellent state of repair is due to The Churches Conservation Trust (then known as the Redundant Churches Fund) who took charge of it in 1987.There is mention in the Domesday Book of an establishment with four priests. The church was enlarged in the 12th century and a south aisle built with a chantry chapel later added to its east end. Part of the chantry chapel wall still exists in the present church. In 1347 the church was given to Haughmond Abbey. At some point a tower was added, but the date is not clear, although carvings said to come from Haughmond Abbey would tend to indicate that the upper storeys, at least, were post Dissolution of the Abbey.While the exterior of the church is fascinating, the interior is equally so.
Fig. 3. The Font at St Andrews church Wroxeter
The font is carved from the top of a massive Roman pillar and is the first thing one sees upon entering. It is completely plain and dominates the space. Beyond it, against the north wall, is a 14th century chest that probably held the church records and valuables. There are box pews and a carved Jacobean pulpit. In the 18th century gallery at the west end are pipes from the organ originally built in 1849. Fragments of wall painting are visible and one of the nave windows contains some 15th century glass. However, most imposing are the three ‘table tombs’. These date from the mid-16th century and are extremely fine examples. Changes in fashions of the period can be observed in the highly detailed figures. The earliest tomb is that of Sir Thomas Bromley, who died in 1555, and his wife Mabel. Their children are depicted on the side of their tomb, those dying in infancy or stillborn are shown wrapped in swaddling clothes and look rather like Egyptian mummies. Their daughter Margaret married Sir Richard Newport and their tomb is on the opposite side chancel. Sir Richard died in 1570 and Margaret in 1578. Their children are also depicted on the side of the tomb. The third tomb belongs to John Berker who married Margaret, daughter of Sir Francis Newport son of Sir Richard and his wife. This tomb bears a very touching inscription:
The sayd John Berker, being in good and perfect health at the
decease of the sayd Margaret, fell sick the next day following and
deceased the XVII day after, he being then of the age of 40 years;
they died leaving no issue of their bodies behind them.
Wroxeter Vineyard by Andrew Coulson
Wine has been popular in Wroxeter from pre-history to the present day. The Shrewsbury Museum, on the Wroxeter floor, has a wine flagon and mug in Severn Valley ware and a wine cup in Samian ware. These are on display. What more they have is not known.
The vineyard is sited on the dry, sandy soil of Wroxeter plateau some half mile south of the Old Work. Vines require sunlight to produce grapes and the Fohn effect caused by the surrounding hills ensures that the site will receive an average of 1010 hours of sunlight per annum as opposed to 850 on land further south.The area, described as a smallholding, constitutes 24 acres of which 8 are in the hands of English Heritage, 7.5 are down to sheep, and the remaining 8.5 constitute the vineyard.Initial planting took place in 1991 but not until after a struggle with the planning authorities as to whether a vineyard was industrial or agricultural. Agriculture won. Four types of vine are grown, three German and one French. The parallels of latitude embracing vineyards are 52 North to 53 North; the same applies to Northern Germany, around the Berlin area, and northern France is slightly lower – between 50 and 51 North. The types of wine produced include red, white, rosé and sparkling. Vines are climbers and are planted between stakes which are about 1 metre apart. The vines are supported by metal wires at a convenient height for picking. The lines of vines run north/south and are about 2 metres apart. It is important to ensure that the productive part of the vine is not shaded. It is possible that the growth of grass around the foot of the vine is done to conserve moisture. The impression was that harvest time is late October, or as the weather dictates. Picking is presumably done by hand, the grapes being collected in buckets and trays which are taken to the buildings by tractor and trailer. In the buildings, four processes take place; crushing, pressing – for white but not red grapes, fermentation and bottling. Crushing is done by a machine with rollers, the human foot being redundant, after which the red is placed in fermentation vats while the white is placed in canvas bags and subjected to approx. 35 pounds per square inch pressure. Before fermentation starts a yeast nutriment is added to both red and white. Fermentation lasts 7 to 10 days at which point the wine may be drinkable. Extra time for maturation may be needed, and tasting is the method of finding out.
Fig. 4. But when do we get to drink some……..
Tasting cards list the wines to be tested using the values of 3 (colour), 5 (aroma) and 12 for general impression. Marked by our panel out of 20, the Noble Roman came out with totals between 15 and 16, Regner between 12 and 14, and Shropshire Blush 14 and 18. Obviously best to employ just one expert.Marketing is basic. Buyers drive in, local farm shops have a stock, and the vineyard is listed as a Waitrose Individual Producer. In a good year, the product will be 36,000 bottles, the average being between 15 and 20 thousand. At £6 per bottle, this adds up, but even, a smallholding of 16 acres cannot reliably maintain a family of four. It looks as though Wroxeter still has its part-time soldiers.
LAMAS History Conference report by Don Cooper
The 47th London and Middlesex Archaeological Society (LAMAS) history Conference was held in the Weston Theatre at the Museum of London on the 18th November 2012. The title of this year’s conference was “A Capital Way to go: death in London through the ages”. We wondered whether we wanted to spend a whole day on the morbid subject of death. However, we decided to give it a go and we are so glad we did. It was a splendid conference. The theatre which holds 230 people was packed.
After the opening remarks, Jelena Bekvalac Curator of Human Osteology at the Museum of London gave a talk comparing the bones of the rich people buried in St Brides Church with the poor people who were buried in the lower graveyard between the dates of 1740 and 1852. It was remarkable that the differences were not as marked as one might have guessed, 85% of children died before the age of five and rickets was common in both rich and poor children but perhaps for different reasons: rich babies were wrapped in swaddling clothes and did not leave the house and therefore did not get vitamin D, poor babies had a diet that did not include vitamin D. Jelena researched the average costs of burials during this period: if poor burials cost £1 then rich burials cost £5.
Christian Steer of London University posed the question “Why gravestones and memorials in Christian burials?” Before the reformation in the 16th century, when people believed in Purgatory as an intermediate places between heaven and hell, grave memorials were therefore so that one would be remembered after death, they provided a mourning opportunity, but mainly they reminded those left behind to pray for them and therefore shorten their period in purgatory. “Pray for the soul of..” was a popular grave memorial. After the reformation memorials were more likely to describe the good deeds of the departed rather than asking for intercession for them. In the period 1200 to 1514 there were 110 parish churches and 45 religious houses in London but only 37 medieval memorial monuments have survived.
This was followed by the local history publication awards:
The Book Prize to Merton Historical Society for a book called “The Cammers, Canons and Park Place” by E N Montague.
Journal Prize to Brentford and Chiswick Historical Society.
Back to the conference, Peter Razzell a historical demographer spoke of mortality in London between 1550 and 1800. I have selected a few points: (1) Reliable evidence is extremely difficult to come by because recording by parish clergy was inconsistent. (2) Between 1838 and 1844 the rich had a worse record in mortality than the poor. (3) A survey of 21 year old brides showed that half of all their fathers were dead by the time their daughter married. (4) The introduction of smallpox inoculations gave greatly reduced mortality,
Robert Stephenson spoke on the gruesome history of body snatching from between the mid-18th century and 1832. In 1752 murderers were hung but not buried, ideal for body snatching. But the law changed in 1832 and that, thank goodness, was the end of body snatching.
John Clarke, head of library services at Great Ormond Street Hospital & Consultant Historian to Brookwood Cemetery spoke of the Victorian developments in the disposal of the dead, from the over- crowded parish cemeteries, to the great Victorian cemeteries known as the “Magnificent Seven” : Kensal Green (1833), West Norwood (1836), Highgate (1839), Abney Park (1840), Brompton (1840), Nunhead (1840) Tower Hamlets (1841). Then came the cholera panic of 1848/9 which created three enormous “out of town” cemeteries where the corpse went by train: The Great Eastern Metropolitan, The Great Western Metroplitan and the London Necroroplis and then finally to consider cremation.
The last talk of a successful day was by Brent Elliott, Historian of the Royal Horticultural Society on Epitaphs and Obituaries, full of amusing, bizarre illustrations of how people want to be remembered. The surprise was how many of the oft-quoted ones never appeared on any gravestones, but were “invented” by authors, poets etc.
LAMAS are to be recommended for putting on such a successful conference.
LAMAS survey of Grave Boards By Don Cooper
LAMAS are initiating a survey of Grave Boards to see if they can build up a history of them and their use as gravestones. The photo below is an example culled from the internet:
Fig. 1. Holy Trinity Markbeech Kent
Sometimes the ends were metal and, of course, over the years the wood rotted and these grave boards disappeared. However, these boards are important relics of the past and a study of them is long overdue. When did they start? Were they a substitute for grave stones? Why? When did they stop being used? If you know of any grave boards still in existence or have old photos of them in churchyards or any documentary evidence please let me know and I will pass them on to the researcher. The internet has already been trawled.
Other Societies Events By Eric Morgan
Wednesday, 12th December 2012 at 20.00: “ The Shadwell Shams: Bill and Charley and fake antiques” a talk by Philip Mernick for Islington Archaeological and History Society, at Islington Town Hall, Upper Street, N1.
Thursday, 3rd January 2013 at 20.00: “The Bishop of Rochester’s Palace” a talk by Patricia Clarke, for Pinner Local History Society, at Village Hall, Chapel Lane, Pinner. HA5 1AA, Visitors £2.
Wednesday, 9th January 2013 at 13.00: “The Art of the Underground: 150 years of redesigning London” a talk by Oliver Green of the London Transport Museum at Gresham College at the Museum of London, 150 London Wall, EC2Y 5HN, Free.
Wednesday, 9th January 2013 at 14.30 to 16.30: “The Last Castle” a talk by Steven Morris for Mill Hill Historical Society, at Trinity Church, The Broadway, NW7 3TB.
Wednesday, 9th January 2013 at 19.45: “The history of Wanstead House, East London” a talk by Stephen Denford for Hornsey Historical Society, at Union Church Hall, corner of Ferme Park Road and Weston Park, N8 0PX. Visitors £2 Refreshments at 19.40.
Monday, 14th January 2013 at 15.00: “The make do and mend Olympics of 1948” a talk by Joan Davis, for the Barnet Museum and Local History Society, at Church House, Wood Street, Barnet (opposite the museum), EN5 4BW.
Tuesday, 15th January 2013 at 20.00: “Number one Market Place St Albans: Life next door from the clock tower from 1550” a talk by Chris Green, for the St Albans and Hertfordshire architectural and Archaeological Society, at St. Albans school, Abbey Gateway, St Albans AL3 4HB.
Wednesday, 16th January 2013 at 19.30: A talk by the Brent Archivist Malcolm Barres-Baker, detail to follow, please see www.willesden-local-history.co.uk for Willesden Local History Society, at St Mungo’s Centre, 115 Pound Lane (opposite the bus garage) NW10 2HU.
Wednesday, 16th January 2013 at 20.00: “ A Murderography of Islington” a talk by Peter Stubley for Islington Archaeological and History Society, at Islington Town Hall, Upper Street, N1.
Thursday, 17th January 2013 at 1930: “Science in Burton Street: Sarah Bowditch 1791 – 1856” a talk by Professor Mary Orr for Camden History Society at Local Studies Library, Holborn Library, 32-38 Theobalds Road, WC1X 8PY.
Friday, 18th January 2013 at 1900: “Excavations in the Roman town of Sandy” a talk by Catherine Edwards of AoC for the City of London Archaeological Society (CoLAS) at St, Olave’s Parish Hall, Mark Lane, near Fenchurch Street, EC3R. Visitors £2.
Acknowledgements Our thanks to Peter Pickering, Vicki Baldwin, Andrew Coulson, Sheila Woodward, Brenda Pershouse, Micky Watkins, Kevin McSharry, Eric Morgan, Stewart Wild and Mary Rawitzer