A Conference to Remember
The London and Middlesex Archaeological Society’s Conference of London Archaeologists is now an annual event for all societies operating within Greater London. This year it moved from its original venue, Guildhall, to the new Museum of London. For many years HADAS has exhibited at the Conference. This year we also had the honour of opening the proceedings at the Conference’s new home, when Desmond Collins talked on West Heath. DAPHNE LORIMER reports below on his lecture and those which followed.
The fourteenth Conference of London Archaeologists took place at the Museum of London on 19 March, under the chairmanship of Max Hebditch, President of LAMAS.A varied and interesting programme was provided for a packed audience, among were as many members of HADAS as could beg, borrow or buy a ticket.
The Conference opened with a masterly account of our West Heath dig by its Director, Desmond Collins. He spoke of the unexpected discovery of the site, its geology and setting and the method of excavation; and then went on to describe his gradually dawning realisation that the consistent density of finds (68 per square metre) indicated that rarity, a Mesolithic habitation site.
He detailed the careful accumulation of supporting evidence such as postholes, fires, etc; the analysis of 7810 chipped flakes which produced, among waste chips, unmodified flakes and blades, 74 highly characteristic tools — mostly oblique points, backed blades, microburins, etc. There were few scrapers and now tranchet axes. He commented that pairs of microliths indicating a barb and tang had not been found but that the number of broken points could well have been broken projectiles from carcasses of game brought back to the camp by hunters.
Next Mr Collins spoke of the exciting results obtained from the samples taken by Maureen Girling, fossil beetle expert from the Department of the Environment, from the trial pit at the spring site. Here organic mud yielded rare information about the vegetational history of South-East England. The lowest sample came from 30 cm below the period of elm clearance (i.e. the period of Neolithic farming) and showed a phase rich in lime-pollen, of which only one other example is known in Southeast England. The results also indicated a surprisingly late development of the heathland, around 500 BC.
Mr Collins did not forget to show slides of the many visitors to West Heath — including our adoptive mascot, the ducks.
Tony Dyson of the Museum of London covered a very different aspect of archaeology. He discussed the role of documentary evidence which, in theory, should complement the archaeological record; in practise, however, it seldom does so. Preservation of records varied from landholder to landholder and documents did not always produce direct evidence and might, in fact, prove contradictory.
Names were used for signposts – e.g. the gradual adoption of French names after the Norman Conquest, while the “Englishness” of the City of London continued alongside, as testified by the consecration of a 12th century Church in Bread Street to St. Mildred, venerated in the 8th/9th century Anglo-Saxon England.
The investigator should pose three questions about a building — when, how and why was it occupied? The documents at his disposal to answer these questions would probably be legal records (the more litigation, the greater the amount of information); Royal records (grants from the Crown, etc); and revenue records (wealth was expressed by property, so taxation returns tell much). The property deed is the skeleton upon which all else depends.
After 1250, Hustings Rolls give valuable information, but once in the possession of the church, property ceases to be recorded there. After 1250, too, forgeries became prevalent, especially at Westminster Abbey; but even these can be useful, provided the date of forgery only is used. (Note: this particular point, incidentally, is of interest to our area, where much land was owned by Westminster. The three so-called “Saxon” charters of Kings Edwy and Edgar concerning Hendon, BCS 994, 1290 and 1351, are considered to be twelfth century forgeries). (BCS = de Grey Birch, Cartularium Saxonicum)
John Kent of the British Museum fascinated LAMAS (as a short while ago he fascinated HADAS) by his account of the origin and development of coinage in the London area. Since his recent talk to HADAS is fully reported elsewhere in the Newsletter, let it suffice to say that, after giving a vivid political interpretation of the coinage distribution in Britain at the time of Julius Caesar’s invasion, he deduced the disruption and demoralisation of Cassivellaunus’s empire.
Philip Walker (Department of Environment) induced in his audience an overwhelming desire to revisit the Tower of London — if only to see the ravens! His excavations had uncovered the bank of the Thames in the Roman period and a prehistoric burial on the foreshore. He traced the history of the consolidation and use of this area up to the building of the new Ordnance House in 1788.
Rescue work in south-west London was the theme of Scott McCracken of the Surrey Archaeological Society. His professional team of three had undertaken a survey of the archaeological potential of the Boroughs of Wandsworth, Merton, Richmond and Sutton, and had produced a site index, using period maps and other documentary evidence. They investigated, with the help of local volunteers, the mediaeval settlement of Battersea around St. Mary’s Church, reputedly a Saxon foundation built on “Batteric’s Isle.”
The sil-beams of wattle and daub houses were unearthed, together with a 9th century bone comb, 8th/9th century pottery, grass-tempered ware and ninth century black burnished ware imported from France. (They also uncovered some long dark stains on the soil which proved to be a potato patch!)
The team’s second excavation took place in a goodsyard, the site of Augustine Priory. Volunteers drawn from all over south west London dug his side. The documentary evidence of a 12th century foundation was confirmed, a calico-bleaching pit uncovered and some rare and interesting floor tiles, decorated with dancing girls, were found — a strange find from a Priory!
The meeting concluded with an entertaining and staccato account from Brian Philp of the Kent Archaeological Rescue Group’s excavation of so-called Roman “villa” at Keston. This proved to be a mausoleum: subsequently a cemetery of mixed type, dating to mid-2nd/early-3rd century was uncovered around it. Following consolidation and turfing the site is now open to the public.
Also in Keston the group ran a series of training digs which uncovered the ramifications of an important Anglo-Saxon grubenhaus on top of a Roman villa. Mr. Philp concluded by describing the very successful open day held by his society on this series of sites. It attracted over 1,000 visitors.
There was, inevitably, a certain amount of nostalgia at the meeting for the solid splendour of the Guildhall and the solid, almost nineteenth century abundance of its teas; but the airy spaceiousness of the exhibition space and some very good home-made scones did much to reconcile the Conference to its new venue. An enjoyable and informative day.
Rescue Archaeology Competition
HADAS hopes for a further chance in made to set up a small display of the West Heath finds at the Museum of London, similar to that shown at the Conference of London Archaeologists.
The AGM of Rescue will be held there on Saturday 7 May next at 11.30a.m. Afterwards, starting at 2.15, the Independent Rescue Archaeology Competition for a BBC TV award of £250 will take place. This is sponsored jointly by Current Archaeology and by Rescue. We know many members saw the “Chronicle” programme on BBC 2 some weeks ago at which this competition was announced, because several of them rang or wrote to the Hon. Secretary saying they thought HADAS should enter.
Well, HADAS has entered for the competition, which is open only to archaeology societies engaged in rescue work with no paid staff and virtually no financial help from either national or local government. As our West Heath dig is a rescue operation (the site has been steadily eroded for the last ten years and the Mesolithic evidence would, had we not dug, probably have vanished completely in the next ten) and as we get no financial help, we feel that we are eligible.
A short-list of six entrants will be chosen to compete on 7 May. All societies who enter, even if not short-listed, will have the right to set up displays at the Rescue meeting.
Should HADAS be fortunate enough to reach the short-list, Desmond Collins has kindly agreed to present a case in a 15-minute talk. On this, and on a written paper submitted in advance, the issue will be judged. The five judges (Barry Cunliffe, CBA President; Graham Thomas, Rescue Chairman; Andrew Saunders, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments; Bruce Norman, BBC television; and James Pickering, independent) will announce their decision after tea on 7 May. The award will be made in a BBC TV programme next September.
Anyone who would like to attend the afternoon session and see the final stage of judging should send a stand addressed envelope before 23 April to either Robert Kilmer, Rescue; or Andrew Selkirk, Current Archaeology. There is no charge for tickets, but a collection will be taken at the meeting for expenses.
The Next HADAS lecture
This will be the last of this current season. It will be given by Mr Ted Sammes, will talk and show slides of Jutland, Denmark. The talk will be based on pictures taken during a recent visit organised by the Medieval Society.
Further Date for your Diary
— is that of the HADAS Annual General Meeting, which will be held on Tuesday 24 May next. Vice-President Mr Eric Wookey has kindly agreed to take the chair.
Coffee will be served at 8.15, before the meeting, which will start at 8.30p.m. A notice officially calling the meeting will be circulated with the next Newsletter. After business has been completed, Dorothy Newbury proposes to organise a show of members’ slides, showing the events of the past year. She did similarly for the last AGM, and it was an occasion not to miss.
Outings for the Coming Season
Saturday 23 April sees the first outing of the summer season. It will be to St. Albans. Many members have mentioned that, although this ancient city lies almost on our doorstep, they have never properly explored it: this is the chance to do so. St. Albans was one of the largest and most important Roman Towns (Verulamium, on the river Ver); its magnificent cathedral is on the site where Alban, the first British martyr, was beheaded in the fourth century.
Full details of the outing may be found on the enclosed application form. Please complete, if you would like to join us, and returned with fee to Dorothy Newbury. New members please note that HADAS outings fill up quickly and application should be made by return. Should your application be delayed, please don’t hesitate to telephone as we sometimes have last-minute cancellations.
Further outings this summer will be:
Sat May 14 – Thaxted, Saffron Walden, Lavenham
Sat June 18 – Northamptonshire
Sat July 16 – Grimes Graves
Sat August 13 – Avebury, Swindon
Please note particularly that the August outing is a week earlier than was announced in the last Newsletter — that is, on 13 August not 20 August.
Subscriptions for the Coming Year
The HADAS financial year starts on 1 April. At a special meeting of the Society on 1 March the Committee’s proposal to raise the subscription to £1.50 per annum was amended. The meeting decided that from 1 April the subscription would go up as follows:
Full membership – £2.00
Under-18 – £1.00
Over-60 – £1.00
A new rate has been instituted for Family Membership. The first member of a family pays £2; additional members will pay £1 each.
Subscriptions are now due and should be sent, using the enclosed form, to the Hon. Treasurer. Forms are available from him for those members wishing to play by standing order.
The Coinage of Pre-Roman Britain
A report by Raymond Lowe, of Dr John Kent’s lecture of 1 March.
British pre-Roman Coinage is an extremely difficult and abstracts subject, yet Dr. Kent was able, with some excellent slides and without a single note, to guide us through its tangled history.
Britain being on the very edge of Europe was almost last in having her own coinage. The earliest Coins found in this country came from Gaul. The exact date of the introduction of currency is not known, but its use and origin are quite clear.
Philip III of Macedonia had struck a fine gold Coin, a stater, the approximate size and weight of a sovereign. One side, the obverse, bore a head of the god Apollo wearing a laurel wreath. The reverse showed a chariot with driver and two horses, with an inscription under it. This coin continued to be struck long after the king’s death, a posthumous immobilised type, but the design changed a little — the charioteer, for instance, sprouted wings. It is these late coins which the Gauls copied, the wings becoming diagnostic. A Greek writer stated that one gold coin would pay one fighting man one year and so we have on record one of the first uses of coin in the West. The Gallic staters found in Britain are mercenaries’ wages.
As far as coinage was concerned, Gaul at this time was divided into zones: the North West Gaul(Belgic Gaul) which struck gold, and South West Gaul (Armorica) which could produce only a very poor silver coin. Only a few of the silver coins have been found in Britain, along the South Coast and up the Bristol Channel; many thousands had been found in Jersey. Find-spots of the Belgic coins, along the North Downs, skirting London, and through the Chilterns to Colchester, show how the population was distributed away from the heavy wet cold clay lands.
Most of these early issues were produced during Caesar’s Gallic wars, and were war money. None of these coins were copied direct from the originals, but were copies of copies of copies — therefore the later the coin, the greater the remove from the source. Tin coins, of a lead tin alloy (French potier), provide a small supporting currency found along the Thames, contemporary with the iron bars mentioned by Caesar. The design was based on a copper coin of the city of Marseille, a butting bull on one side and a head on the other. They were not struck, but cast in strips and then broken apart.
The distribution of these coins and bars along the Thames shows a trade route. This was completely altered with Caesar’s invasion of 54 BC when the Thames became a frontier between the petty kingdoms. London would probably have come into being a century earlier but for the invasions of 55 and 54 BC. Cassivellaunus then started to strike his own coins, copying Gaulish copies. He was followed by other kings. The further from the South East the coins were produced, the poorer, lighter and baser they were. When hoarded they were kept in hollow flints and not pots, as later. The coins of this period show a change of areas of power because of Roman interference.
The Dorset Durotriges produced a coinage which lasted longer than most; some are found in second century Roman hoards, one was found in Jersey in an Armorican hoard.
Soon the coins bear the abbreviated Latinised name of the king. One such was Tincommius, whose later designs improve — the charioteer becomes a Roman-style horseman and the reverse bears his name. Both half and quarter-staters were struck, plus silver in a classicizing style. In the first century Verica marked his coin COM FIL VER REX (“son of Commius King Verica”); a vine leaf shows the influence of Rome, for large amounts of Mediterranean vine were imported. Tasciovanus at Verulamium depicted the Celtic trumpet, the carnex. The find-spots show an expansion of power. A possible coin portrait is of Cunobelin – with a very hairy face. It was he who finally removed the last vestiges of the god Apollo, with the laurel band becoming an ear of barley. The end of our first indigenous coinage came with the invasion of Claudius, AD 43.
Although we use modern terms to describe ancient coinage, the idea behind it and its actual usage were quite different to the ideas of today. Early coinage was treasure handed out by the king, not money of circulation. Dr. Kent’s lecture made it very clear that all finds should be reported and the coins declared: something the members of the coin detector brigade seldom do.
Britannia, Sheppard Frere, chaps 1-4. Routledge Kegan Paul 1967.
Britannia Vol I (1970) The coins of the Iceni by D.F. Allen
Britannia Vol III (1972) The Origin of Some Ancient Britsh Coin Types by M. Henig.
The last two above produced by the Society for the Promotion of Roman Studies.
By Christine Arnott.
This was a very successful morning, making over £300 for HADAS. It demonstrated once again the splendid way in which members unite to work hard (and I mean hard!) in a common cause. Some 30 people took part. Each of the seven main stallholders had additional helpers; two members looked after the entrance lobby, another two dispensed coffee and the Treasurer presided over the Society’s information stall.
Not a lot of material was left over, but even so it was possible to make substantial contributions to charitable bodies such as St. Mary’s Church Young Wives, Oxfam, Toc H, Hampstead Comprehensive School’s parents-teacher association and HGS Fellowship House.
The fund-raising committee are happy that the Society will now be able to contemplate buying special equipment for excavation and research which otherwise would have been far beyond our means.
Any Local Coronation Souvenirs?
In honour of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee The Borough’s Library Services will stage a special exhibition on the Coronation of 1953, at Central Library, Hendon. It will start on 14 May and go on to 18 June.
The Library will be most grateful to any member of HADAS who is able to lend-local photos of street parties, tree planting or other Coronation events; or Coronation souvenirs — spoons, medals, etc — which have a local connection. Members who have such articles are asked to get in touch with Elizabeth Holliday before mid-April.
More News from the Library
HADAS’s highly successful exhibition on Archaeology in Action ends on 27 March, and will be followed, from 2 April – 15 May, by toy-time at Church Farm House Museum. The next exhibition, on old toys, will include trains, figures, animals and vehicles in tin plate and lead, steam engines, constructional toys, musical toys, dolls, games and books.