Newsletter No. 121 March 1981
March lecture: Tuesday March 3: Sutton Hoo by Kenneth Whitehorn, BA
Our speaker is senior lecturer for the British Museum Education Service. He has been associated with excavations in London and southern England and specialises in Anglo-Saxon literature and archaeology. The Sutton Hoc estate lies near Woodbridge in Suffolk. In 1939 the largest of a group of burial mounds was excavated and revealed the only treasure of a Saxon king in Britain which had not been robbed. During the war the site was used for tank training, but re-excavation started in the 1960s. It was considered impracticable to attempt to preserve the famous ship burial, so a plaster cast of the entire interior was made, recording planks, ribs and over 2,000 rivets. Mr Whitehorn was present when this cast was made in 1967 and his fietinghis a. most interesting lecture.
Tuesday April 7: Greek Royal Art by Dr Malcolm Colledge
Tuesday May 19: Annual General Meeting Please note this date in your diaries
Pinning Down the Past: HADAS is now on display at Church Farm House Museum, Greyhound Hill, Hendon. The exhibition will continue until May 4. For more about the exhibition, see page 6.
EVENTS NEAR AT HAND…
Monday March 9: 150 Years of London Transport by John Freeborn, at the Hampstead Garden Suburb Institute Hall, 8pm. Members who missed Mr Freeborn talking on this subject at the first HADAS lecture of the HAAS81 winter season can catch up with it here, an event in aid of St Jude’s roof fund.
Saturday March 21: College Farm Barbecue HADAS members and their. friends are invited by the Friends of College Farm to a barbecue to be held at the farm, starting at 8pm. Price per head is £2, which includes food and punch. Admission is by ticket only, and tickets
are avaiFarm/Finchleyncent Foster, 8 Stanhope Avenue, Finchley N3 3LX. Please makeLITTTEes or postal orders payable to Friends of College Farm/Finohley Society and attach a stamped, addressed envelope.
... AND A LITTTE FURTHER AFIELD
Thursdays at 7pm. There are two study lectures left in the University of London Extra-Mural Department’s series at the Institute of Archaeology, Gordon. Square, on the Stuy of Subsistence Economies, a series already made memorable by Lewis Binford’s graphic description of life with the Eskimo and Gordon Hillman’s more restrained but just as riveting discussion of crop processing practices modern and ancient. On March 5th Dr Barbara Harriss talks on Drought, Commerce and the Decline of Subsistence Economies in the Sahel; a week later the lecturer is Dr Peter Rowley-Conwy and his subject Shifting Cultivation in the Neolithic of Northern Europe?
THOSE WERE THE DAYS by Percy Reboul
Have you bought your copy yet? If not, copies will be available at the next lecture and at weekends at our exhibition at Church Farm House Museum, or by post from the Hon Treasurer, Jeremy Clynes, 66 Hampstead Way, NW11 7XX, price 95p plus 20p postage per order.
Percy Reboul, who taped the recollections and turned them into such a successful booklet, writes
I very much appreciate the kind review of “Those were the Days” in the last issue of the Newsletter. Many interesting points were raised, and I thought readers might like to know that there have already been sequels to two of the items mentioned in the review.
I have just received a telephone call from a founder member of HADAS on the question of policeman’s “marks”. His brother had been a policeman and had told our member in some detail precisely how the technique was worked. For example, he explained that on his beat the pins were put about 6″ from the ground so that if the door was forced the pins would not fall out and drop on the criminal’s head. However, the danger was that the pins could be dislodged by courting couples in the doorway, so apparently you can’t win them all!
The other reference in the review was to Mr Floyd and his farm. I have been very lucky to obtain a most stimulating interview with Mr Floyd’s nephew who ran the farm during the 1920s and 30s. Without wishing this to appear as a Pearl White serial, may I advise readers that if they want to know
Why a barrow load of horse manure was put on the farmyard pump every week
Why Mr De Rivas of the rival Al Dairies was piqued every time he saw Floyd’s milk-float, and
The astonishing events which followed the sale of the milk round to United Dairies
– they will have to keep watching the columns of the Newsletter.
FACT AND FICTION IN PREHISTORIC IRELAND
Mary O’Connell (who stresses she is a Scottish, not an Irish, Celt) reports on the February lecture
Having journeyed from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne to acquaint us with the enigmas of Bronze/Iron Age remains in Ireland, Mr Harold Mytum set the tone of his lecture right at the start.
An archaeologist in the Emerald Isle, he said, was faced with fact versus fiction, folk-lore versus romance, and often with downright lies
Geographically, the highlands are round the edges of the island, with Bronze Age hoards fairly generally distributed – many with traces of gold, eg. discs, bands, armlets etc. Tools, farming implements and so on indicated that the earlier settlements were to be found in the south and west, while Iron Age ones were north of a line from Dublin to the Shannon. Sadly, many excavations in the past had been non-archaeological!
Slides of Navan Fort, Co. Meath, showed that, like many similar sites, the bank was on the outside, the ditch within. Rejecting one proffered theory that this was because Irishmen found it easier to unload shovelsful of soil downhill, Mr Mytum identified such sites as of ritual significance. At Navan two mounds were found inside. Under the smaller one were found the remains of timber huts, carbon-dated to 680 BC. Under the larger mound was a more complex collection of postholes, possibly suggesting a farmstead, with evidence of refuse pits giving a date of 265 BC.
Superimposed was a later ring-fort (40,000 of which are to be found in Ireland, thought generally to be about 500 AD).
At the foot of the hill “in a typical Celtic bog”, a votive deposit was discovered including a decorated trumpet ring, pins and brooches.
Tara, Co. Meath, was probably the roost important site, a hillfort, plus two or three ring-forts. The 1950 excavation showed that the ditch had been eleven feet in depth with a palisade added later as the ditch silted up. Some Roman sherds confirmed occupation in the
first and second centuries AD. A large mound proved to be a megalithic tomb and may even have been used as a platform for the throne of the High King (whose power, incidentally, may not have lasted for more
than a decade). A large standing stone echoed those to be found in Brittany, and two more of these rounded monsters, intricately carved, are to be found in the churchyard (on the Christian principle of “if you can’t beat them – get them to join you!”).
Much of the complex remains on this hill can only be guessed at, but locally theories and legends abound. A large rectangular outline is known as “the banqueting hall” and there are other activity-labels and name-tags dotted about. A small collection of gold toms can be seen, but many artefacts are presumed to have disappeared. (It was
not unknown, even, for ‘prehistoric objects” to be manufactured on the spot, by a populace both greedy and eager to pleases).
At Dun Arlinne, Co. Kildare, there are signs of a concentration of activity and of large structures, possibly for ritual purposes, dating from 250 BC to the early Iron Age – but few findings have been published.
The motte and bailey at Downpatrick, Co. Down, is on the site of a hillfort with a recorded gold hoard, but is loosely described as “monastic and pre-13th century”. Phases of defence – with the bank
on the outside – were excavated, but no publications have yet emerged.
Mooghaun, Co. Clare, contains one of the largest stone rings. A huge hoard of 250 gold objects was found at the foot of the hill, but has disappeared, though casts of some of the artefacts are to be found in the Dublin museum.
Rathcoran is another low, rounded hill site with a double ring and a chambered tomb within.
Rathgall also has t*o rings and there are signs of ritual activity downhill, outside the outer ditch. Objects found include blue glass beads and flat-rim pottery, dated as late Bronze/early Iron Age.
These forts are classed as: univallate multivallate (closely spaced and widely spaced), inland.
Of the promontory forts, many are to be found in Co. Antrim and seem to have been solely defensive. None has been dated.
Lastly, a slide of sandhills showed how, by their very nature, they preserved habitation floors, but were unenclosed.
In conclusion it would seem that there is – or has been – ample evidence of tribal life, gatherings, inaugurations, ceremonies, law‑
givings-, cattle sales, etc, on numerous sites, but because of the general dearth of published material it is necessary to qualify each finding with the phrase “but we’re not sure”.
It is profoundly to be hoped that Mr Mytum’s enthusiasm and diligence – eg Pembroke, excavated 1980, published 1980 – will continue through next summer’s field survey and soon provide the many interested members of this society with further expert interpretations, which will owe nothing to the machinations of “the little folk”.
ANYONE FOR DOCUMENTS
Some month’s ago HADAS formed a Document Research Group for those members
who like messing ngor chselusive clues through libraries and record offices. At the moment the group has six members:, most of whom are actively engaged in diffferent projects
the history of field’ names, particularly since the 18th century; where were bricks made in our area, and by whom? How much outdoor sculpture is there in the Borough of Barnet? Those are three of the topics that are being investigated.
Most members had done little of sort of research before, and as one of them remarked?: at the last group meeting – “you might has told me: `documentary research – it ought to carry a government health warning.” She had just spent a couple of days ofholidays deep in the 1860-70 reports of a gas company, the goings-on of whose board sourilas if they would heVe provided plots for a Dallas-type serial.
Six, people, however, isn’t enough to cover the projects we
would like to tackle, We have a:couple on ice already. Can we interest anyone else in documents they really aren’t nearly as dry as they sound and it’s the sort of job you can take ‘in your own time, and, as we’ve demonstrated you soon get hooked on it. –
Any volunteers please let Brigid Grafton Green know,
One reason why the Documentary Research Group needs more members is because the HADAS Research Committee is making more demands on it. The Documentary group is one of five which report to the committee
– the others cover things prehistoric, Roman, medieval and industrial and among their current projects are a watch on Roman roads, a gazetteer of medieval finds in the borough, continued work at West Heath and a study of local aeronautical connections.
Members interested in any of these, or anything else of a research nature, should contact the committee chairman Sheila Woodward,
A SUCCESSFUL SURVEY
Ted Sammes reports on the conclusion to a resistivity survey at Quinton, Northants.
Attending conferences often brings about chance meetings and this happened to me in 1970 when I was introduced to Mr R.M. Friendship-Taylor, then chairman of the Upper Nene Archaeological Society, who was excavating a medieval site at Quinton, but who had located a Roman site further up the slope in the same field at grid reference
SP 7755 5368.
A visit was arranged late that year to view the site, and in August of the following year Jeremy Clynes and myself visited the site to discuss details. On a sunny weekend in mid-September 1971, after the cereal crop had been cleared, Jeremy Clynes, Martin Long and myself, aided by members of the local society, surveyed the area in advance of ploughing.
Whilst I was disappointed with the result, all the readings being very low, if only those above 18 ohms on the Martin-Clarke meter were taken, a pattern did evolve suggesting lines of walls.
met Roy at the Roman Settlement Conference at Oxford this January and can now say that in subsequent seasons this Romano-British site was excavated and has been reported, with a credit to HADAS, in
Journal 11 of the Northampton Museums & Art Gallery, December 1974- A second site in the same field has just been published in Journal No 13.
It is heartening to be able to record the success with this meter, which was presented to the Society by Mike Rivlin.
PINNING DOWN THE PAST
Liz Sagues steals a preview of the new HADAS exhibition at Church Farm House Museum
As I edged, with official permission past the “closed” sign on the stairs of Church Farm House Museum it was clear that Pinning Down the Past – due to open four days later – was not yet fully ready for
viewing. In some ways, it was more revealing like that. The scatter of photographs, piles of neatly-typed captions, folders and files, the pens, scissors, rulers, sketch plans of the rooms with their various display spaces neatly indicated brought sharply home to me just how much work was involved in putting on the latest, and surely the best, HADAS exhibition.
But by opening day – the opening was due to be performed on February 28 by Barnet’s Mayor, Councillor Edna James – all such clutter would undoubtedly have given way to the expected order and precision.
Pinning Down the Past will be hard put to equal the success of the exhibition it succeeds at the museum. Lacemaking – with its live demonstrations -palled in several hundred people every weekend. Perhaps a few trenches in the farmhouse garden might be a useful draw… But such flippancy apart, there is a great deal to see.
Besides the expected accounts of excavations – the latest, at Cedars Close, is covered in detail, down to examples of the Victorian flowerpots recovered from the Melon House, and there’s a stimulating display of the scientific work which has developed from the West Heath site – there’s plenty for those who incline towards nostalgia. The “then and now” photographs show, somewhat surprisingly, how many
familiar spots have been denuded of trees as well as of old buildings; there’s a most splendid shot of the Schweppes “cart fleet” – pair after of beautifully turned out horses, with brass cart lamps
gleaming and drivers in whiskers and caps; and memories of happy days in Orkney or the Vest Country will be brought back by views of HADAS on expedition.
The farm survey reveals something of a London borough’s agricultural past, with more than 100 farms mapped, and the subject is taken further with a fine pictorial survey of College Farm and by a study of the hay trade in Finchley. Other projects – from work in the churchyard of St James the Great, Friern Barnet, to that on the Moxom Collection of pottery vessels and other objects from Brockley Hill
– are covered. There’s a summary of Edgware’s history, study of which is much neglected, and an evocative display of the effort, and some of the ingredients, that went into the 1979 Roman Banquet. Is there room here, I wonder, for demonstrations? That would be the biggest crowd puller of all.
Pinning Down the Past should make all HADAS members very proud indeed of the society to which they belong. Go and see it – and take your family and friends. The museum is open 10am to 12.30pm and 1.30pm to 5.30pm on weekdays (except Tuesday – 10am to 1pm)’ and from 2.30pm to 6pm on Sundays.
SEARCH for Spacers
Tessa Smith goes on a “spacerchase”…
Do many of you read The Times? If so, did you notice, ,back last spring, a photo of the finding of a”spacer in situ, by the Canterbury Archaeological Trust when excavating the bath suite of a Roman town house near the Cathedral? “It formed part of the hyppocaust system which circulated heat,” said the caption’
An eagle-eyed HADAS member noted the resemmlance between that spacer and an enigmatic clay object in the Moxom Collection, a small group of Roman pottery from Brockley Hill that is kept in the Local History Collection of the Borough of Barnet at Church Farm House Museum. The Roman research group was challenged to find out more about the Moxom “spacer” – if spacer it was. The challenge was accepted with relish.
First thing to do was to look at and handle and photograph the Moxom spacer. It was like a cotton reel crudely made of red clay, pierced through
from top to bottom. It measured 55mm (2.2″) high, 55mm across its wide top and base and 30mm (1.2″) diameter at its waist. There is a precise drawing of it, by Dave King, at the end of this article
It had been found, with the other seven items in the Moxom Collection,
in 1909 during landscape gardening at Brockley Hill House .(forerunner of the Orthopaedic hospital). The exact find-spot is unidentified. At the time of its discovery the pottery attracted little attention. It was
put in a cupboard and forgotten. In 1948 Mr H, Moxom, nephew of the finder heard of the North Mimms Archaeological Research Group excavations at Brockley Hill and took the material to show the diggers,
In 1955 Philip Suggett then directing the Brockley Hill dig; published a paper on the Moxom ColleCtion in LAMAS Transactions (1). it put forward various suggestions for the function of the mysterious object a bobbin, part of a potter’s wheel, a candle holder, a kiln cone or temperature gauge or a kiln stagger or stilt. The fact that it had been found near a known Roman kiln site predisposed him to think first about its possible use in pottery making.
After thoroughly studying the Moxom “spacer” – while still keeping an open mind about whether or not it was a spacer – the next move was to try to find evidence of other spacers. A “spacerchase” began through various excavation reports. It occupied the whole of last summer. The following is a summary of the information discovered.
In 1891, at Binchester (a Roman fort in the Pennines) “a number of terracotta objects 6″ high, 3″ across, perforated after the fashion of a bobbin, that is, of a reel, were found on the floor of the circular hypocaust.” (2) In 1910, at Corbridge supply fort behind Hadrian’s
Wall, “hand brief were found, 4″ high, 3” across, “barrel-shaped …
with a roughly chamfered flange at each end each has a cylindrical
hole pierced through its axis”. They were found in a bath house. (3) -In 1932, at Langton, East Yorkshire, “an object like a spool or cotton reel, diameter :at the middle 1k”, was found near the bath building of a dwelling house with a hypocaust. (4) In 1948, at Borden, Kent, two large shallow “reels” were found. They were thought to be forerunners of the true potter’s wheel. Measurements 5″ by 5″.
Here then were four instances of objects similar to our spacer. None of them had been identified as spacers or linked by the finders with a hypocaust system perhaps because the archaeologists who had found them had been more concerned with the wheel-like and possibly rotating characteristics of the objects. In the first three reports, however, the finds were made in or near a bath house or hypocaust: while with the fourth the presence (or absence) of a nearby hypocaust is not mentioned.
Next the HADAS spacer-chaser needed to find someone with up-to-date knowledge of hypocaust systems. Immediately Tony Rooke’s lecture to HADAS, “I’ve come about the drains”, sprang to mind. ‘Then asked, Mr Rook responded immediately. ‘Spacers were used to separate flat tiles from the walls, to give a cavity flue,” he said. He also put us on the road to further reading, and suggested more archaeological contacts who might help. Obviously between 1955, when Philip Suggett wrote his pier, and today, the function of the spacer had been established. (In
Slaveni, Romania, in 1971, nine spacers were found in the bath building, one with the central hole pierced by an iron nail.) (6)
The site director of the Canterbury excavations, Kevin Blockley, was contacted. He explained that an unusual feature of the heating system in the bath suite shown in the original Times photo “was the displacement of the box-flue tiles from their usual role in the will cavities
by smaller ceramic spacers”. He went on: “The cotton-reel like spacers
were set on an iron T-skewer or staff, which attached an inner skin of tile with opus signinum facing to the outer wall. These spacers were used in the wall ducts of all the heated rooms, and this is the first occasion in Britain of their being found in situ. They were also incorporated in the Great Thermal Baths in Paris.”
Gerald Brodribb, co-director of an excavation at Beaufort Park, East Sussex, and author of a 1979 ‘Survey of Tile from the Roman bath house at Beaufort Park” in Britannia (7), told us “the purpose seems to be the same as tegulae mammatae tiles, i.e. just to provide a gap for hot air, or to provide space against damp; and they seem to be an early idea, before box-flues got going’.
James Money, a leading authority on spacers, as he has now found over 30 of them at Garden Hill, Hartfield, SUSSEX, the site of a Romano-British iron-working settlement, was the first to publish material on spacers, in 1974.(8) He had then found four “baked clay spacers in the
debris of the hot room of the 2nd century AD bath house where they were evidently used in the flues’. He gave references to some of the discoveries of spacers we have noted above; and also information from
J.P. Gillam and C.M. Daniels that spacers (unpublished) have been found at Bewcastle and Wroxeter; and one (reference untraced) at Chester.
One spacer found at Garden Hill was still threaded on to the iron hold-fast which originally held it in position in the flue. Mr Money tells
us that this spacer is now in the British Museum and is being illustrated in a new catalogue of Roman metalwork. “There is no doubt at all that all these things, including the Brockley Hill one, arc spacers. The case was proved at Garden Hill,” he states.
It was interesting to read in the sixth interim report of the Garden Hill dig that “excavation (in 1977) yielded part of -, mortarium from the workshop of Marinvs, who worked at Brockley Hill and elsewhere.” (Note Marinvs’s dates at Brockley Hill are 70-100 AD.)
This brings the spacerchase up to date, although it is by no means finished yet; and we hope to publish a further instalment.
Summing up, it seems that the 1st and 2nd century potters were faced with the brief of producing a clay object to fulfil certain needs
it had to be pierced by an iron T-bar or nail, for attachment to a wall
it was to separate two walls and so needed to be of a certain length;
it must not restrict the passage of hot air through the walls;
to fire successfully it must not be of more than a curtain thickness lest it shatter in firing.
Their answer was: the spacer, as instanced in the Moxom Collection. The hole in the spacer, which had for so many years misled researchers into thinking it was an axis of pivot, was in fact simply a hole for a T-bar. Where the Moxom example differs from all the other spacers we have found is that they had all been used in a hypocaust system and showed sins of wear and tear. The Moxom one is apparently unused, and no evidence exists for a nearby hypocaust.
The Moxom Collection is now on display in the HADAS exhibition, Pinning Down the Past, at Church Farm House Museum, Hendon. When you
go to see it, do give a second look to the insignificant little “bobbin.”
P.3. And should you go museum hunting, please look out for any
more spacers; and, if you find one, let Tessa Smith (on 958 9159) know.
Trans LAMAS vol 18, 1955, 62-64
Hoopell, Rev I E, Vinovia, London 1F91, 21, 63
Archaeologia Aeliana 3rd series vi 1910, 238 corder, Philip, A Roman Villa At Landon, 1932
Archaeologia Cantiana 1948, F H Worsfield An Early Iron Age Site at Borden
Apulum IX, 1971, 632
Britannia X, 1979, 139
Antiquaries Journal LIV, 1974, 280e