Mud, Glorious Mud
A report on the adventures of the HADAS Bog-people by Daphne Lorimer===
It has been the wettest May for a century, and HADAS has spent most of the month digging in a bog! Contrary to Genesis, the waters which were under the firmament and the waters which were above the firmament were not divided on this occasion — it was wet underneath and wet on top. The trench note-books were wet, the kneeling pads were wet, the trowels and buckets and barrows were wet, and the diggers were wettest of all! It did not however, seemed to dampen their spirits, and this will be a “Crispin’s Day” of which to tell generations of HADAS members yet unborn.
On Saturday 7 May, thanks to an unparalleled accuracy of Billy Maher, husband of HADAS member Margaret Maher, McNicholas Cable and Engineering Company Limited send a High-Max excavator to excavate a trench (hereafter known as the McNicholas Pit), 6 metres by 5 metres in the waterlogged area of the West Heath spring site. A 3 inch slurry pump was also most generously loaned by Mr Maher; in use all and every day, except the dig free of standing water. Those members injudicious enough to use the outlet pipe for wet-sieving found that it possessed a life and will of its own.
Complete soil sequences for pollen, fossil beetles and botanical analysis were taken by Maureen Girling of the Department of the Environment and her colleague, James Craig of Birmingham University, who kindly volunteered their services. These samples came from a face on the northwest corner of the trench (the sump face); large samples were taken along the whole of the North face and 1 metre intervals and a further complete series of samples was taken from a parallel section which appears to lie on the bed of an ancient stream. Large samples containing fossil wood were taken for C14 dating.
It became apparent that the organic muds were part of this ancient stream; no evidence was found in the area excavated for an ancient pond, as had been supposed from 1976 investigations.
The dry area north of the McNicholas Pit was gridded along a magnetic north/south line, and six scattered trenches were opened on the south-facing slope, where it was thought possible a campsite might be located. Apart from two or three possible struck flakes, two-and-a-half musket bulls and a musket flint (shades of the Hampstead Volunteers?), plus an interesting podsol formation, these trenches proved sterile.
On the slope to the south of the pit, a pathway had been made by the excavator. This revealed an area rich in bog iron with a thin layer of gravel. In the lumps of matrix thrown up by the digger from this area a superb conical bracelet core was retrieved. Examination of the baulks on either side of the entrance revealed one plunging flake and one burnt flake with evidence of working. Other small worked fragments were recovered from the spoil. All the flint is heavily stained with iron; it seems possible, on superficial examination, that use may have been made of local raw material.
Small these archaeological finds are, they do nevertheless make the botanical evidence doubly valuable. They also tie the upper side in with last year’s findings at the Leg of Mutton pond, as the two industries appear to be the same. The matrix from which the core was retrieved has been saved for pollen analysis. Soil samples have been taken from the face where the plunging flake was found. The results are awaited with considerable excitement, and the whole exercise has been well worthwhile.
As much as possible all the organic mud from the stream bed was wet-sieved or examined minutely by hand. Section drawing was discovered to possess hazards all its own, since the face being plotted frequently showed a distressing tendency to disappear into the surrounding ooze in the middle of the proceedings (on one occasion it had to be held forcibly in position while the last measurement was taken). Any digger so foolhardy as to stand in one position for too long suddenly found his (or her) boots been lovingly grasped by the mud and sucked slowly into the slime.
Dr Joyce Roberts (a HADAS member and a qualified botanist) and Miss Girling took careful note of all the plants present in the area before the excavation, and will return from time to time to keep an eye on the re-growth of the flora. (Dr Roberts was observed to be carefully transplanting and sundry green-leaved objects to places of safety before the High-Max arrived). It is hoped to obtain some information from the Nature Conservancy about ways in which the area can be helped to regenerate, and HADAS expects that nature will cover the scars that have been made and produce a spot more beautiful and more abundant in rare plants than it was before — and in the not too distant future.
Members are reminded that excavations start again at the lower site, by the Leg of Mutton Pond, on Saturday 4 June and will continue until 19 June. The training dig it begins on the 6 June, but HADAS members who are not trainees will also be very welcome. Except for those involved in training, there will be no excavation on Saturday 18 June, when there is a Society outing to Northamptonshire.
The swans are whooping it up on the pond, and the ducks are lying in wait for tit-bits; and those members who have not been across Golders Hill Park recently may like to know that the black-and-white goat has just produced three enchanting kids. In fact, West Heath is ready with all its attractions — and we look forward to seeing you at the dig.
A note from Edward Sammes.
Last February we invited HADAS members to help towards the cost of publishing the Society’s next Occasional Paper. The response was good, and now Occasional Paper No. 4 has been published. It is called Victorian Jubilees, and it describes the events in 1887 and 1897 in the areas which today form the London Borough of Barnet: Edgware, Mill Hill, Hendon, Childs Hill, Finchley and the Barnets — Chipping, Friern, East and New.
Six Society members have co-operated in the writing of the booklet. It entailed many hours of research, delving into local newspapers and other records. After a brief introduction, which sets the national scene, there follows a fascinating account of how individual areas celebrated. Parties, sports, bonfires and firework displays, plus the struggles of a minority to produce some permanently useful memorials of the occasion, all come within its scope, as do the vagaries of that old enemy, the weather.
The cover bears a representation of a Golden Jubilee jug, drawn by Elizabeth Holliday, and the 48 pages include fourteen illustrations. Price is £0.50, or by post £0.65. An order form is included with this Newsletter, and we hope that every HADAS member will use it! But please don’t stop there; turn yourself into a salesman for HADAS, and try to sell at least three copies — perhaps to your neighbours, perhaps to members of other societies use support, such as the Townswomens Guilds, the Womens Institutes, the Church association, a youth group, an old people’s club.
Come away for a day,
Quite soon – early June;
See a camp on a hill,
Narrow boat in a mill,
Country house in a park,
And be home before dark.
Liz Holliday tempts you, in the above lines, to join the outing on 18 June: full details are enclosed on a separate sheet).
Outings for the remainder of the summer are:
Sat July 16 – Grimes Graves
Sat August 13 – Avebury, Swindon
Sept 23-25 – Weekend in Bristol
Diggers of a Different Kind
By Christine Arnott.
The Hampstead Garden Suburb Horticultural Society of holding a special Jubilee Flower Show on Saturday 25 June from 3-6p.m. It will be at the Free Church Hall, Northway, NW11, entrance 5p.
Permission to sell out Jubilee booklet has been given, so that we can have a stall there, and the Horticultural Society want us, in addition, to mount a small archaeological exhibit.
HADAS members are cordially invited to come to this Show, to see what other “diggers” can produce! They will be assured of an afternoon’s entertainment: a brass band will put in appearance and there will be country dancing on the lawn; a special display of floral arrangements, to mark the Queen’s Jubilee, is planned, as well as the usual flower, vegetable and domestic economy entries. Teas are available in the Teahouse (familiar territory to Brockley Hill and West Heath weekenders).
HADAS goes into East Anglia
A report on the May outing by HELEN and DAN LAMPERT.
The 90-minute drive to Thaxted, in Essex (the first leg of the HADAS May outing) passed in a flash, thanks to the interesting commentary provided by George Ingram and Alec Gouldsmith. At Thaxted we started our tour by looking at the Guildhall, a two-storeyed 15th century building recently restored, with the ground floor open on three sides, and went on to the fourteenth century Church of St. John — a large building, as befits a town whose ancient prosperity was based on wool and cutlery.
It possesses a particularly fine wooden fifteenth century front cover. The roof timbers in both aisles are original, dating from c 1360-80. Any restoration has been done with great care. Gustave Holst, who composed parts of the Planets in Thaxted, also wrote several works especially for the choir of this church.
Near the church were some recently restored and unusual almshouses — one row thatched, the other with a barge-boarded north gable. Beyond was a windmill, built in 1804 and in operation for about a century, with walls 18 ft thick and three floors above ground level. Graffiti on the blocked-up door proclaimed “William and Gregory did Thaxted, 12 March, 1977;” but we really needed two days to “do” Thaxted!
However, it was already time to move on to Saffron Walden. Here George Ingram was in his element, for his mother was born in Wimbish four and a half miles off, and George imparted to us his love for this beautiful undulating part of Essex. The startling yellow of the fields of rape, or wild mustard, against the sky, was a joyous burst of colour, and the unusual number of water towers of different shapes and sizes made us realise how important they are to this sheep rearing countryside.
Our guide at Saffron Walden was the Museum curator, John Pole. His conducted tour took in first of the ruined castle keep and then the houses around the circular base of the mediaeval castle. Many were decorated with pargetting, some patterns in the shape of the saffron flower or crocus. We ate our packed lunches in the Museum grounds and then took on all-too-short look at the Museum itself. As we left Saffron Walden we passed the common, still used today as it has been since 1605, for fairs. At its eastern side lies a maze, which from time to time has to be re-cut. The origin of grass and earth mazes such as this is obscure and little is known of their history.
On next to Lavenham, where John Popham, Director of the Suffolk Preservation Society, told us some of the history of this walled town before taking us to the Guildhall (c. 1520), built by the Guild of Corpus Christi and now much restored, and then on a tour. Some houses with eighteenth century facades have the original mediaeval oak behind the brick cladding. Recent owners who have removed the brick have found that the oak beneath (which is, in Suffolk, light grey, not black) then rapidly deteriorates. We saw the only house in the town with walls of the original deep pink colour; modern paints, said Mr Popham, cannot emulate the beautiful varied colourwash produced by the original ochre, painted onto lime-washed plaster.
The church of SS Peter and Paul is a landmark for miles around. Unfortunately Victorian restoration has robbed its interior of much of its original splendour, but it is still considered one of the finest “wool” churches in East Anglia. And so, after tea at the Swan… — Alec Goldsmith and George Ingram’s certainly did their homework for this trip, and nothing of interest was left out. Our thanks to them for making us feel we must return to this beautiful part of East Anglia, so full of historical detail.
The New HADAS Committee
The Annual General Meeting having just finished, we seize the chance of recording the names of the Officers and Committee for the year ahead: Officers:
Chairman – Mr. Brian Jarman
Vice-Chairman – Mr. E. Sammes
Hon. Secretary – Mrs. B. Grafton Green
Hon. Treasurer – Mr. J. Clynes
Christine Arnott, John Enderby, Peter Fauvel-Clinch, Irene Frauchiger, George Ingram, Elizabeth Holliday, Dave King, Daphne Lorimer, Dorothy Newbury, Nell Penny, June Porges, Freda Wilkinson, Eric Wookey.
Lecture Courses for 1977/78
Here is advance news of Archaeology classes in our Borough next winter and spring. Some have been arranged as a result of HADAS’s suggestions to the various colleges, so we hope that members would take full advantage of them:
AT HGS INSTITUTE, CENTRAL SQUARE, NW11
London University 4-year Diploma in Archaeology:
1st Year, Palaeolithic/Mesolithic Archaeology. Desmond Collins. Weds. 7.30-9.30, from Sep 21. 24 lectures, 4 visits, £7.50.
2nd year, Western Asia. David Price-Williams. Thurs 7.30-9.30, from Sep 22. 24 lectures, 4 visits. £7.50.
Classical Archaeology: Greek/Roman. Dr. Malcolm Colledge. Mons 8-9.30, Jan 19-Mar 13, 1978
lectures, 2 visits. £3.50.
New Research at West Heath Mesolithic Site. Desmond Collins. Weds. &.30-9.30, from May 3-June 14, 1978. 6 lectures, £2.
AT BARNET COLLEGE, WOOD STREET, BARNET
London Univ. 3-year Certificate in Archaeology: 1st year, Field Archaeology and Prehistoric SE England. Weds 7.30-9.30, starting Sept 21, 24 meetings, 2 visits. £7.50. (Lecturer’s name not yet available).
AT HENDON COLLEGE OF FURTHER EDUCATION, 43 FLOWER LANE, NW7.
Beginning Archaeology. Mrs Portia Wallace-Zeuner. Tues 7.30-9.30, starting Sept. 20, 23 lecture, £8.28.
A New History of Hampstead Garden Suburb
Reviewed by Joanna Corden.
This History, produced on the Suburb’s 70th Anniversary, is one of the most readable and informative accounts of the origin and subsequent development of the famous estate. It gives a clear, concise account of the aims, achievements and occasional failures of the founders and their successors, from the conception of the idea of a mixed community down to the present day. It is freely illustrated with photographs of those who created the Suburb and of buildings and roads; and has maps which show both the original layout and later changes and additions.
The History includes a brief account of the conditions in Whitechapel which provided Henrietta Barnett with her main motive for creating the Suburb. The proposal to extend what is now the Northern Line to the country surrounding her country retreat at Hampstead spurred her to give practical expression to her ideas, and it was largely due to her enthusiasm and the support she was able to rally that the idea of the Suburb became a reality.
To planners and architects the planning aspect is of great importance, and rightly so. The Anniversary History gives this aspect its proper emphasis, and indeed gives a very clear account of how the original plans evolved. The administrative and legal history of the original Suburb is however of interest, and not only the Suburb residents. It is a pleasure to see that this aspect also has been given its proper emphasis. Again, the post-war history of the Suburb has the hitherto been sadly neglected, possibly because it seemed both complicated and confusing, and here a concise and clear account of recent developments remedies both the neglect and the confusion.
HAMPSTEAD GARDEN SUBURB 1907-1977 – A HISTORY, by Brigid Grafton Green. Published by the HGS Residents Association. Price 65p, including postage./packing from the Archivist, HGS Institute, Central Square, NW11.
Independent Rescue Archaeology Competition
Last month we announced that HADAS had reached the final stages in this competition, initiated by Current Archaeology and Rescue for independent (i.e. not officially funded) rescue work. Alas, we must now report that we got no further, despite an excellent presentation of our case — audible, reasoned and lucid — by the Director of the West Heath Dig, Desmond Collins. The many HADAS members who journey it to the new Museum of London for the final considered his exposition of the significance of the West Heath Mesolithic incomparable — but you could say that we were prejudiced!
The winning order, in the final, was:
First (£250), Offa’s Dyke Project, presented by the extra-mural Department of Manchester University. This traced the ninth century boundary between England and Wales through back gardens and across ploughed fields — geographically, an enormous piece of research.
Second (£150). Waltham Abbey Historical Society, currently exploring the complex of monastic buildings around the church originally founded by Harold of Hastings fame.
Two third prizes of £100 each were won by (a) an entry called The Rape of Hastings (non-violent: a “rape” in this sense is one of the six divisions into which Sussex has been divided since 1086); and (b) by the Severn/Avon Aerial Survey. The first project was entered by a husband-and-wife team who study and record, with archaeological exactitude, every ancient building in the Hastings area which is threatened either with demolition or alteration. The Survey is the work of a single individual, Arnold Baker, who last year hired a tiny training plane to photograph prehistoric and later sites in the two river basins concerned. 1976 was the vintage year of all time for aerial photography, so his results were spectacular.
All good and worthy projects, we thought, and lovingly carried out — but really not a patch on West Heath!
Calling All Typists
One talking point at the HADAS AGM was the strides which the Society has made in membership in recent years. On 31 March 1974, we had 234 members; in 1975, 270; in 1976, 294; and this year 389 members. A result of this steady (even spectacular) growth is an increase in paperwork, particularly duplicating. Apart from our Hon. Secretary, two other members help by cutting a pretty stencil — Angela Fine and Marilyn Lund — and we are deeply grateful for their assistance.
We worry, however, about overloading them. Are there any other members lurking in the background have the ability and would it be prepared to cut the occasional stencil? If so, we would greatly appreciate an offer of help. They would need to possess a suitably strong typewriter.