NEWSLETTER 207: JUNE 1988 Edited by Deirdre Barrie
Saturday June 11th Outing to Flag Fen and Peterborough. Dr Francis Pryor has excavated on this site for many years. It is a Bronze Age village in the Fens with very well-preserved timbers and a model of it in the middle of a lake. This site is one of the finalists for the Hepworth Awards. Details and application form enclosed.
Saturday July 16th Outing to London Dockland
Saturday August 20th Outing to Buckinghamshire
Derbyshire Weekend Peter Griffiths has had to go to America again and regrettably we will have to cancel our weekend away this year. Perhaps we can arrange it for early next year instead.
I would again remind members to contact me (Dorothy Newbury, 01-203 0950) right up to the last minute if they find they can join an outing. We had 3 late cancellations for the Armada which we were able to fill – in fact we went over the numbers and some members had to be turned down.
Saturday September 10th Charterhouse Tour with Mary O’Connell
Saturday October 8th Stepney Walk with Muriel Large
Saturday October 15th Minimart
THE HENDON ICE-HOUSE ANDREW SELKIRK
HADAS has found its “hidden passage” – the ice-house in the grounds of St Joseph’s Convent in The Burroughs, Hendon. We have had our eye on this enigmatic mound ever since Bridget Grafton Green wrote a characteristically percipient article about it in the Newsletter of June 1978. Now that development is threatened in the vicinity, the time has come to put a spade into the ground and open up the mound.
Our first weekend (30th April – 1st May), we dug in vain. It was difficult to know where to begin, so we stuck probes in everywhere, began to survey the mound, and opened up a number of small holes in different spots. The obvious approaches were all fruitless. A trench on the northern edge of the mound simply revealed clay. On the top of the mound, there was a brick plinth which formerly held a statue of the Madonna but excavation soon revealed that this was not the top opening to the ice-house, but that the bricks were set directly on the clay. Another small brick foundation also proved to be just one brick thick.
Success came in the second weekend, the 7th and 8th May. Brian Wrigley and Victor Jones decided to approach the problem systematically so they opened a trench 5 metres long, 2 metres to the north of the apex of the mound. This did the trick, and just over a metre down they found the stone barrel-vaulting of the entrance passage to the chamber. The trench proved to be extremely well sited, for further excavation revealed that this was precisely the point where the entrance passage joined the’ dome of the ice-house. It was soon clear why we had not found the entrance earlier: it was sited indeed on the north side of the ice-house but at an angle to the modern path, and we had assumed it would be at right angles to the modern path. We began excavating along the projected line of the passage to find the entrance. Tension rose as we all began scraping away, eager to find the hidden arch. Suddenly I realised that I was in luck, for the earth fell away from beneath my spade and I could see a black void disappearing towards the centre of the mound. We’d found it I
Everyone crowded eagerly around, and we pushed the probe into the darkness: there was nothing there! Unfortunately it was already time to pack up, so reluctantly we backfilled the blank trenches and made the site safe. However, Tuesday, (May 10) was the AGM, when Sylvia Beamon, the President of Subterranea Britannica came to give us a talk on ice-houses. We had found the entrance just in time, and she was able to inspect it in the gloaming.
The following weekend, May 14th and 15th, we returned again and we dug out the entrance to a depth of nearly a metre. It was Brian Wrigley who was the brave man who first crawled down the passage and reported that the air appeared to be fresh and that both the entrance passage and the ice-house itself appeared to be in excellent condition. It is a straight entrance passage, about 5 paces long, leading into a circular chamber with a vaulted roof. There is no entrance in the roof, and the belly of the ice-house is filled up to the level of the entrance. We did however make one remarkable discovery, of a statue of the Madonna. This had been smashed into small pieces, but it was presumably the Madonna who originally stood on the top of the mound. The paint was still remarkably well preserved.
When was the ice house built? Nell Penny is busy pursuing the documentary history of the area, so far without success. The Deeds of Norden Court, in whose grounds the ice house stands, are not in the Borough Records and are presumably still held by the Convent. When we can track them down we hope that they will be able to throw some documentary light on the archaeological discoveries.
PORTABLE ANTIQUITIES TED SAMMES
This is the title of a consultation paper issued by the D.O.E. It asks for comments on the questions posed, by April 30th – totally insufficient time for Amateur Societies to take appropriate action.
The text of the document appears not to know or recognise the existence of non-professional archaeologists.
It is an attempt to improve the legislation on treasure-hunting and treasure trove, a measure long overdue. It would require finds to be reported in a specified time to authorities to be decided. Obviously ALL finds cannot be reported and it must be confined to objects of metal (bronze and precious metals), also some consideration should be given to stone implements.
This paper was discussed by the Working Party for London Archaeology on April 7th, and a submission will be made.
“British Archaeological News” for April 1988 carried the comments of the C.B.A. on its front page. They conclude that it is a “serious and well-drafted paper, and merits the closest study from the whole archaeological community, since the future of the study of the historical heritage may depend upon it.”
Copies of the consultation paper are obtainable from Peter Wright, D.O.E. Heritage Sponsorship, Division 3, Room 241, Lambeth Bridge House, London SE1 7SB.
Our Chairman, Andrew Selkirk, also has strong feelings on this subject, and considers the scheme totally unworkable. It would mean that any of us who stoops down and picks up a piece of flint will become a criminal unless he reports it to the “professionals”. A piece on the subject will shortly be appearing in “Current Archaeology”.
THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING – TUESDAY 10TH MAY ENID HILL
The business part of the meeting was speedily and efficiently carried out by Andrew Selkirk, Brian Wrigley, Victor Jones and Ted Sammes. Reports on the work of the Society during the past year and new developments facing us in the coming year, the good state of the finances and confirmation of existing officers and committee members were soon completed so that we could turn to the second half of the evening – the 3 speakers dealing with Ice-Houses, Bronze Age Swords and the Brockley Hill excavation of 1987.
The subject of Ice-Houses was especially relevant as the Society is excavating the mound at the back of St Joseph’s Convent in Hendon, and by chance Brian Wrigley reported that the entrance to the mound had been found that day, proving that the mound is an ice-house. Mrs Beamon gave a very informative account of the history of ice-houses, most of which date from the 17th and 18th centuries. They have various forms, but the most efficient is egg-shaped, built of brick, partly below ground and with a door and passage leading from them. Ice is packed in with alternate layers of straw and the ice is taken out as required. Some ice-houses were built in fishing areas, often at ground level, and the ice was taken on board ship to pack the fish in, and this continued until refrigeration was introduced. Very surprisingly, Mrs Beamon has traced the names of 3000 known ice-houses which will appear in her forthcoming book.
Brian Wrigley followed with a cut and thrust speech about Bronze Age swords, made especially interesting since he approached the subject as a fencer and so we learnt about the practical use of such swords, rather than looking at their artistic value. From this it seems that the shorter dagger-like sword may have been in use before the longer one.
Finally Gillian Braithwaite described the Brockley Hill excavation of 1987 and her slides reminded many of us of our field-walking there some time ago. Full details of the excavation are in her report, but the main findings were the existence of the gravel road as stated by Suggett and Grimes, and the bonus of an early Bronze Age arrow and some Mesolithic flints.
THE ARMADA EXHIBITION LAURENCE BENTLEY
On May 1st, 45 of us took the coach to the Armada Exhibition at Greenwich. After a wet morning, the weather had cleared, and we had the rare pleasure of a sunny spring afternoon. All the world seemed to be on the road, and we arrived a little after our appointed time to find an enormous queue stretched along the front of the National Maritime Museum. However, we had an advance booking and were able to go straight in.
This exhibition is a long way from the world of jolly tenors singing about Drake’s drum, although there is a replica of that there. It is a neat, well balanced presentation of the issues leading up to the Armada, the battle, and its aftermath. There is an outstanding collection of pictures, mainly portraits, (including Elizabeth, outshone by her jewels, Philip Mary, Pope Sixtus V, and the commanders and courtiers of the day), drawn from Rome, France and Holland, as well as from England; and some very sportingly lent from Spain. There are also one or two excellent busts, and a fine miniature of Elizabeth by Hilliard – the Heneage Jewel. There is also, of course, the obligatory display of arms and armour, as well as ship models, bygones, and some very interesting maps.
We were told by the exhibition organisers that we should get round in 45 minutes, but some of us did not finish it in 90, and were too late for tea at the tables reserved for us. By then, over an hour before closing time, people were being turned away from the exhibition for lack of room, and we were fortunate to have attended in such a privileged and well organised manner.
My best memories? Pope Sixtus V who agreed to finance the Armada after it had been successful. Drake, who apparently deserted his post to pick up a prize, and then went back to finish the battle. Finally, the Spanish ship’s lantern about six feet high, gilded, and ornate as a Moorish temple, which looked like a Hollywood fake, and wasn’t.
Our thanks to Dorothy Newbury for another successful expedition, and to our cheerful driver, Frank.
A postscript from Janet Faraday for those members who saw the distressed mother duck and her ducklings in the Seamen’s Hospital grounds near the coach park at Greenwich: she reports that she wrote to the Hospital and they have replied that a ramp has been made and the ducklings are now safely with “Mum”.
JUST ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL? CHURCH ARCHAEOLOGY IN BARNET ROBERT MICHEL
St John the Baptist’s Church, Chipping (or High) Barnet, lies between the junction of Wood Street and the High Street (grid reference TQ 245965). It is a large church; built at the top of the hill, it dominates the High Street and all that goes on in it. Sometime in 1986 problems with damp led to the removal of the plaster from the north wall of the northernmost aisle (there are, in fact, two). Alleged to be the oldest part of the building, the removal of the plaster means we have a rare opportunity to study the history of a working church in a tangible way. Another point which interests the Committee is that no authoritative guidebook of the Church exists.
The History. There is much speculation about the earliest church on this site. To date, the earliest documentary reference to St John’s was made in 1361, when one John Botiller bequeathed 10 shillings to the church. In the mid-fifteenth century one John Beauchamp (d 1453) funded a major rebuilding of the church – comprising at least the chancel, arcades and nave clerestory – helpfully leaving his name in the south arcade. Apparently the north aisle wall remained substantially untouched by Beauchamp as there is general agreement that this is the earliest part of the church (1), although the basis of this belief is not clear. Certainly we know that the wall has received its share of attention since Beauchamp. The east and two square-headed north windows are all modern (2), possibly the work of William Butterfield, who greatly enlarged the church in 1875, while the fire-door at the east end was inserted in 1986 when the west end of the aisle was partitioned off to form the choir vestry.
The Wall. The area uncovered measures some 15m long by about 3.5m wide, but is effectively reduced in area by the modern features mentioned above, as well as a number of memorial plaques of assorted shapes and sizes. The wall is a patchwork of brick (mostly modern) and some wood, but more interestingly flint, rubble and an amount of dressed stone (ashlar). The workmen seem to have removed at least three separate layers of plaster, one coloured pink. (It is hoped this was its natural colour and not the result of-staining by an overlying wall-painting, which it is rumoured the church once had!) The lower part of the wall (measuring some 1.5m from the floor) has not had its plaster removed. There is currently no intention of re-plastering the wall, and it seems most of the parishioners find the revealed architecture aesthetically pleasing. A number of interesting features have already been noted which it is hoped will bear further investigation.
The aim of the investigation is to identify and date the earliest part(s) of the north aisle wall. To this end (and subject, of course, to the approval of the Rector and church authorities) the objectives are:
* to clean up” the wall, examine it carefully, and identify the features of interest;
* to produce a scaled plan of the wall showing clearly these and other features;
* to draw/photograph the features of interest;
* SUBJECT TO PERMISSION, to remove the selected part(s) of the 1.5m plaster “skirt”; and
* SUBJECT TO PERMISSION, to remove the plaster from the north wall of what is now the choir vestry.
Following on from this it may be that HADAS could contribute towards an authoritative guide to this very interesting church.
One member has already expressed an interest in helping with this project. One or two others would be most welcome – my telephone number is 205 1455 (evenings).
Footnotes (1) Page, W. (ed) 1908 “The Victoria History of the Counties of England – Hertfordshire” (Vol II part 2) p 332. Pevsner, N. 1953 “The Buildings of England – Hertfordshire” p 83. Gelder, W.H. (ed) 1984 “Historic Barnet” p 16.
(2) “Victoria County History” p 332.
My thanks to Jennie Cobban for the historical research, much of which I am holding in reserve.
HENDON VILLAGE GREEN – Letter from Hon. Secretary, 12th May
Brian Wrigley has sent the following letter to the Chief Executive and Town Clerk for the London Borough of Barnet at the Town Hall, Hendon, with copies to various councillors, the Finchley Society, Hendon Polytechnic and the “Hendon and Finchley Times”.
“The site of The Paddock, Middlesex Polytechnic, in The Burroughs, has recently been considered by this Society in connection with planning applications for the replacement of the fencing surrounding it, and we are pleased to see that the current proposal is for an open railing around this pleasant green area; however this has also given us to think about the future of this site.
We believe that this site should be the Hendon Village Green. Hendon lacks a forum, and this site would be ideal as such, being as it is in the centre of the old village of Hendon, adjacent to the Town Hall and the nearby old almshouses. To make it available to public access would add to the amenities of the Polytechnic and bring it more to the awareness of the community.
We consider it should be public open space, with access along both sides, which could be used by local organisations for meetings, markets and fairs. The cost of such use, perhaps the provision of a few park benches or other suitable furniture, would surely be minimal.
“We draw attention to what was said by the Inspector at the Public enquiry in June 1963, that The Paddock was a delightful local amenity that should be preserved, if possible, as an open space.
We wish to give a lead in this, and we call on the Borough Council, the Polytechnic, other amenity societies, and the local Press to support us in this.”
ST LAWRENCE WHITCHURCH PETER PICKERING
Forty-two members joined Sheila Woodward for a morning tour of St. Lawrence Whitchurch on 23rd April. To the approaching visitor the church, nestling in a churchyard that is well-kept but yet with a place for nature, seems very English. But though the tower is medieval, the body of the church is Georgian, which might make the visitor suspect something. Most English Georgian churches are however as sober as were the services for which they were built.
St Lawrence, inside, is a decidedly un-English baroque riot of painting: technicolour over the altar and the ducal box – I mean pew – and more restrained sepia and grey elsewhere. Nor is the body of the church all; to the north is the mausoleum of the Duke of Chandos, and beneath it – gruesome place – a brick vault with forty-two coffins in it, one for each … no, it was pure coincidence. Sheila made sure that none of us knocked him or herself out on the iron girder provided.
A fascinating morning. Thank you, Sheila.
NEWS FROM THE BOROUGH ARCHIVES AND LOCAL STUDIES DEPARTMENT
The Borough Librarian writes: “Now that the Local History Librarian, Graham Roberts, has been appointed, we have been able to extend our opening hours. We are normally open Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday 9.30 am to 5 pm, Thursday 9.30 to 7.30 pm, Saturday 9.00 am to 4 pm. However, since cover is still very thin, an appointment is still advisable.
Work continues in helping to produce local sheets in Alan Godfrey’s reprint edition of the 25” OS maps. Welsh Harp, Edgware, Whetstone and East Barnet have all appeared recently and Totteridge, Barnet and Hadley, and Finchley and Holders Hill are all in the pipeline. We are still looking for the Central Hendon sheet (Middlesex 11.7) in the 1890s edition in a good enough condition to copy.
We were, of course, delighted that Nell Penny’s work on the early Hendon censuses reached a still wider audience in February’s “Local Historian”. By coincidence Hendon will shortly feature again in its pages, as a short article on our collection of photographs by James Barber has been accepted for publication.”
THE WESTHORPE SAGA (7) TED SAMMES
(See Newsletter 201, December 1987) Just to round the Elworthys off. I have been looking through the Hendon St Mary’s Churchyard file and discovered the grave and inscription.
The grave is in red granite and lies east of the church about three rows east of the large Rundle tomb. Inscriptions read ROBERT PEARCE ELWORTHY who died April 1st 1925 aged 79 “The memory of the just is blessed”, MARY ELWORTHY, widow of ROBERT PEARCE ELWORTHY who died April 10th 1948 aged 88. “Rest in the Lord”. Previous notes were in Newsletters Nos. 195, 196, 198, 199, 200 and 201.
BARE BONES IN YORKSHIRE DAPHNE LORIMER
For three weeks at the end of March and the beginning of April this year, I was one of a fortunate few to attend a stimulating and mind- stretching course in Palaeopathology at the University of Bradford. It was organised by Keith Manchester and Charlotte Roberts of the Calvin Wells Laboratory for Burial Archaeology and Donald Ortner, Professor of Palaeopathology at the Smithsonian Institution, Washington (in Bradford for a year’s Sabbatical).
Not only were our tutors international, but we students were as well, having come from the United States, Canada, Colombia, the Netherlands, Italy and Switzerland (not to mention darkest Orkney!) We not only had lectures of a very high calibre all morning but intensive laboratory sessions all afternoon, and the free run of the Calvin wells Library and Bone Collections. I, personally, felt I was getting rather old, as although I could work hard all day, I could not, like my younger colleagues, play hard all night, and failed to do justice to the opportunity offered by staying in the Curry Capital of Great Britain. We did however, explore Yorkshire at the weekends and, as the weather was kind to us, saw the beauties of Fountains Abbey, Ripon Abbey, Rievaulx Abbey, saw the last leper church in England, and even heard St John’s Passion in York Minster. Needless to say, we visited Jorvik and, also, needless to say, we went to Ilkley Moor (where I did not wear a hat!)
I learnt more about ancient diseases in these three weeks than I could possibly have done in three years of intensive reading. It was a marvellous experience.
GOVERNMENT OBSERVED, an exhibition of pictures, cartoons and memorabilia, on the British Constitution at Church Farm House Museum, Hendon, 11 June to 24 July 1988. Open Mon-Sat 10-1, 2-5.30. Do any members have photos or memorabilia of past politicians which they would be willing to lend? If so, please ring HADAS member Micky Watkins, 01-455 8813.
TRAVEL TALK – HOW ABOUT TUNISIA? Some thoughts by Stewart J. Wild
HADAS members considering summer holidays abroad might well overlook Tunisia as a holiday destination, but as I have recently spent some time there I would like to tell you about some of its older attractions.
The Phoenicians established small trading posts along the shores of N. Africa in what is now Tunisia, the oldest of which, Utica, is believed to have been founded in 1100 BC. Carthage was founded later, around 815 BC, but within two centuries had become a major Mediterranean power.
By the 3rd C BC, Rome was becoming increasingly irritated by the expansion of its rival empire across the water, and marched on Messina, a Carthaginian colony in Sicily. In 264 BC war was declared. Three bitter wars were fought over the next hundred years or so, the last of which ended as we all know with the total destruction of Carthage in 146 BC. Its territory became a Roman province – Africa Vetus.
Prosperity followed, and exports to Rome included wool, olive oil and wheat. Most of the considerable number of archaeological remains, mosaics etc. are from this period.
The most impressive reminder of the might of Rome must be the 3rd C. amphitheatre at El Jem (Roman Thysdrus), between Sousse and Sfax. Almost the size of the Coliseum in Rome and in some ways better preserved, the ruin dominates the town and the surrounding plain; it is visible for miles in all directions. In the dark underground dungeons you can almost hear the roar of lions.
Of Carthaginian Carthage, almost nothing remains – the Romans saw to that! But they built Roman Carthage in its place, and you can still see what’s left of a villa or two, the theatre, and the thermal baths.
Just south of Hammamet, part of a Roman settlement is slowly being excavated. There’s a long way to go; it was only discovered 20 years ago when the area was being surveyed for hotel development. The site, named Pupput, does not appear in any of the guide books and is not even shown on the local tourist maps!
Amongst the better-known sites of antiquity are Dougga (vast remains include a 3rd C BC mausoleum, and a superb theatre), Thuburbo Majus (Roman capitol and forum), Zaghouan (waterworks and aqueduct), and Sbeitla (forum, triumphal arch and mosaics).
Tunisia is inexpensive (the Dinar has devalued 50 per cent in the last 2 years), the food and wine are good, and the locals are friendly. English is spoken in most hotels and shops, and French will get you by almost everywhere.
For details of inclusive holidays see your travel agent – a good specialist operator is Tunisia Experience. Good all-round literature is available from the Tunisian Tourist Office, 7a Stafford Street,