Newsletter 213: December 1988 Editor: Liz Holliday



Tuesday 6 December
CHRISTMAS SUPPER AT ST. GEORGES THEATRE All places are now booked and there is a waiting list – but ring Dorothy Newbury (203 0950) if you would like to go, in case there are last minute cancellations.

Tuesday 3 January GEORGE HART, staff lecturer in the British Museum’s Egyptian Collection, will give an illustrated talk on EGYPT IN THE PYRAMID ERA.

Tuesday 7 February ALEX WERNER (by popular request of members who attended the Docklands outing) who works for the Department of Working History and Museum in the Docklands Project, will give his talk entitled LONDON’S DOCKLAND – ITS ARCHAEOLOGICAL DISCOVERIES AND POTENTIAL.

Tuesday 7 March
DR. GRAHAM CAMPBELL will speak on a Viking subject

BRIAN MCCARTHY reports on the November lecture

Peter Mills packed a great deal of information, views and humour into a potted, illustrated history of the Royal Mint site, which is just to the east of the Tower of London.

The original site was a marshy, useless piece of ground outside the City walls that was pressed into service as a Black Death cemetery in 1349. The area became the home of the St. Mary Graces Cistercian Abbey, founded by Edward -111 in 1350, as the result of an undertaking given 20 years earlier, when he had been in danger of drowning. His reluctance to make good his promise and his failure to finance it properly, produced a structure on poor ground that needed constant repair and buttressing, despite the use of expensive materials and magnificent drainage work carried out by the monks. After the Abbey was dissolved in 1538, it passed first to an entrepreneur named d’Arcy, who plundered the building for all he could, and then about 1560, the site became the first Naval Victualing Yard, which it remained until the 18th century.

The slides of the excavation showed with startling clarity the regular lines of individual Black Death graves, interspersed with long pits crammed higgledy-piggledy, which were needed when the death-rate rose to its height. The pictures also gave us a glimpse of the skill of the excavators who meticulously exposed some 800 skeletons, all of which will provide a unique medical record of a cross-section of the population of 14th Century London. It was interesting to learn that these bones will all eventually find a new resting place in the East London Cemetery.

As the monastery had been underfunded by the Crown, it seems that the monks went to the City for their finance and as a result, the populace was encouraged to use the Abbey church for worship and the cemetery for their dead. This is a possible explanation for the surprising mixture of all ages and sexes in the graves.

Very little was found of the Abbey itself because of quarrying and stone robbing. After d’Arcy’s exploits what remained of the church was almost all built over by the Mint in the 18th Century. Most of the Abbey buildings could be identified but little was left of any of the walls, except for the Infirmary. Here, the walls remained up to six feet high in places and had presumably been used as part of the victualing yard. In the warming house, the only room in the Abbey where heat was allowed, most of the medieval brick floor survived. A store room, which later became a latrine, provided a quantity of 16th and 17th century pots – both complete and incomplete. The “great drain” probably continued in use until the 19th century, but very little of the naval yard could be found.

Peter Mills’ lecture was packed full of information and was followed by a very lively question time – enjoyed by all.

WEST HEATH, HAMPSTEAD – A Neolithic Postscript ?

We have been fortunate enough to receive Radiocarbon dates from samples from five small fires at the Mesolithic site. The dates from Oxford University’s Accelerator Unit are as follows:-

OxA -1431 WH 1460± 70

OxA -1432 WH 4830± 90

OxA -1433 WH 4710± 90

OxA -1434 WH 4810± 90

OxA -1435 WH 4770± 100

All are uncalibrated dates Before Present.

Archaeological features dated from single samples are always liable to contamination and this is especially so at sites such as West Heath where all the deposits are in very shallow podsol. Whilst contamination might easily explain the first date – a Saxon one of c.600 AD – the remaining dates are all Neolithic and all lie close together within a 120 year span. This is at variance with the archaeological evidence – a Mesolithic site with over 100,000 flint artefacts, none of which seem to be Neolithic. No pottery, no polished stone tools and no domestic or funerary structures have been found.

Other dating evidence also conflicts – the TL dates for the site give an average of 9625±900 BP which is c.7500±900 be, which accords well with the majority of the flint industry, which is of early Mesolithic type.

So the identity of the firelighters remains a puzzle. The best candidate at present is a transhumant, teetotal Neolithic cattle herder who stopped at the site once every twenty years and who stayed just long enough to warm his hands at the fire.


On Wednesday 8th February next year, Myrtle Ellis will be speaking at Mill Hill Library. Her subject ranges from the simple family homes of early settlers to the extraordinary Gothic halls built by 19th Century industrial tycoons. Illustrated with slides, the lecture starts at 8.15pm.


Surviving Hendon settlement records total 775 examinations between 1727 and 1834. These were not spread evenly over the period; there were gaps of five years and single years when the parish officers seem to have decided that there were too many strangers in the village. In 1763, 40 persons were examined, in 1785 55 people and in 1804, one of the years of steeply rising food prices and poverty, a record figure of 82. Finchley records are more intermittent than those of Hendon. There were 430 examinations between 1744 and I836, two thirds of them in the period before the Act of 1795 which restricted examinations to those persons applying for help. There were 27 “foreigners” questioned in 1756 and 34 in 1793. Very few examination records survive for Edgware parish – they only cover the period 1822 to 1833 when 41 persons were questioned. And Friern Barnet records are nearly as meagre: they cover 1785 to 1836 and total less than 70 examinations.

Whether the number of examinations was large or small, all four parishes show the same classes of people who walked seeking work. The largest group were the farm servants, who more often than not had gained settlements in parishes by working there for a whole year for their keep and wages varying between £2.10s.(£2.50p) and £8. The monotonous repetition of “being then a simple man” proves that the farmer ratepayer did not like the risk of contracting with a married man with a young family who might become parish burdens. Unless such a man had very valuable skills his marriage was likely to reduce him to the status of a day labourer. And some farmers broke contracts if they felt they had made bad bargains with poor workers. In 1763 William Dawson was 17 years old. When he was 13 years he had been hired by a farmer in Totteridge for £2.10s. (£2.50p) a year and his keep, but the farmer had “turned him away with 49/- (£2.45p) ten days short of the year because of a dispute about a sheep’s broken leg. Poor William had not gained a settlement in Totteridge. On the other hand, fear of losing a Hendon settlement did not deter Mary Glenister from leaving her employment with Mrs. Gurney at Coventry Farm in Mill Hill, before her contracted year was finished. Mary told Friern Barnet magistrates that she was 22 years old; in 1817 she went to work for Mrs. Gurney at £2.10s. (£2.50p) a year. When she “wanted 3 days” the farmer’s wife offered to renew the contract. Mary refused the job even at £3 a year. So Mrs. Gurney sent the ungrateful girl back to Harrow, where she had been born “before the full year”.

The examinations of women – about a quarter of the total – is one more proof of their inferior status in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Whether they were elderly widows or young women, widowed or deserted, with a string of young children, they were expected to know where and how their husbands had established settlements. In 1744 Sarah Darben faced Hendon magistrates. They thought that they had established that her husband had been born in Staines, Middlesex, so they signed a removal order there for Sarah, daughters Diana (8 years) and Mary (6 years) and Darben’s posthumous son (“5 weeks old not yet baptized”). In 1828, 64 year old Mary Worrell told Edgware magistrates she was destitute. She had been married at Tring in 1793 to the man who in 1828 was at “Portsmouth awaiting transportation”. Mary hoped that her husband’s settlement in Edgware as a contracted farm worker would entitle her to parish relief there.

Single women fared no better than their married sisters. With rare exceptions they had gained settlements, when they had them, by domestic service. Old Mary Parish surely deserved better than she got in 1761 when she was examined. She said she was eighty years old: had worked for Mr. Francis Newmans in Kingsbury between 1727 and 1747. On his death his son had continued Mary’s employment in Hendon at £5.15s.Op (£5.75) a year. “But now she is old and unable to work and in want of relief”. The parish officers were ruthless in their examinations of pregnant spinsters. They felt it essential to establish the paternity of the children in order to pin a bastardy order on a man to get some money for the child’s maintenance. In 1750 Elizabeth Kirby had a baby at her father’s house in Hendon, “which is liable to be Chargeable to the Parish”. John Jordan, who was a fellow servant with Elizabeth at Mr. Hoyle’s in “Idlestree”, had “several times carnal knowledge of her body and no other had”. If the father could not be found Hendon officers were hopeful that they could prove Elizabeth’s settlement in Totteridge where she had been employed by Allen Parsons at £2.10s (£2.50) a year. In 1786 Mary James, 26 years old, was about to have a baby in Finchley. She said the father was William Jones, a watch maker in the Strand. “He has since gone back to Birmingham to a master silversmith” to whom he had been apprenticed.

The relatively small number of settlement claims based on apprenticeship may prove that men who had ‘served their time’ as tailors, wheelers, cordwainers or blacksmiths would be less likely to be unemployed than labourers were. Most men who had been apprenticed signed their examinations: this indicates their social status superior to that of farm servants, who generally ‘made their marks’. In 1752 Thomas Lodge, a blacksmith, was examined in Hendon as a foreigner although he appeared to be prospering. Born in Edmonton, he had served his apprenticeship with Mr. Harley of the same parish. In 1746 he rented a house and blacksmith’s shop in Hendon at £7 a year; four years later he also rented a field at £3 a year. Joshua Tyler was “a Barber and Perry wig maker” examined in Finchley in 1748. He began apprenticeship in St. Bartholomew the Great parish in 1728. He had served 31/2 years there when he was “turned over” to another master in Southwark where he completed his indentures. If Joshua asked for relief would he be removed to Smithfield or Southwark? Some apprentices did not complete their indentures and could not claim settlements. If a master died or was made bankrupt the apprenticeship would be cancelled. In 1793 James Dearmen told Finchley vestry that he had been apprenticed to a carpenter in St. Albans. After four years his master “failed”. The indentures were transferred to a carpenter in South Mimms who promised to pay the first master 4/- (20p) a year. He only paid for one year so the apprenticeship lapsed. One of the rare examples of a girl apprenticeship did not get very far. In 1737 Mary Winterbury had only served 13 months with Francis Tanblay of Finchley, a gold and silver button maker when “he left about a month ago”. “Last Thursday” Mrs.Tanblay also disappeared but Mary “has not heard a word”.

It was not always the master who failed to honour the indentures. In 1786 52 year old James Warren, married with three young children, told Finchley magistrates that when he was he was apprenticed by the parish of Dursley in Gloucestershire to a farmer in Horsley in the same county. After three months he had run away. Once he had been sent back to Dursley from Thame in Oxfordshire. William Harris was also examined in 1786. He also had been born in Gloucestershire. When he was 14 he had been apprenticed by his father to a butcher in Sudbury in the same county. He endured “ill-treatment” for three years before he ran away and went home.

There are some surviving certificates or copies of certificates. These were ‘passports’ issued to workers whom parishes judged unlikely to ‘fall on the rates’. The issuing parish promised to pay if the person named on the certificate asked for relief in another parish. In I727 Hendon Vestry clerk made a list of 40 certificates held “in the cupboard”; 4 were from other parishes in the modern borough of Barnet, 10 from the area north of the Thames covered by the old G.L.C., 24 from the northern Home Counties and only 2 from further afield. Between 1727 and 1785 only 14 other certificates were recorded. Perhaps the most interesting was one given by the parish of Llanvylling in Montgomeryshire to John Wynne. It described him as a “yeoman” and asked “Poole in the same county and all other parishes in Great Britain to admit him, his wife and six children”. Finchley, Edgware and Friern Barnet have very few references to certificates. In 1793 23 year old Robert Ellis was examined in Finchley. He believed that his father, who died in Hatfield in 1780, had a certificate from Friern Barnet. Soon after the father’s death four young children had been removed from Hatfield to Friern Barnet. In 1808 Ann Banks was 16 years old and pregnant when she was examined in Friern Barnet. She had lived all her young life there. When she was 12 she had gone to live with her brother-in-law at the King’s Head in Whetstone for “bed, board and cloaths”. She thought her mother and father were “Certificate People” from Edmonton.

It is not possible to use the settlement cases to prove how mobile working folk were before the advent of the train and car. Some work has been done which disproves the belief that rural families continued to be born, to live and to die in their villages for hundreds of years. Many names disappeared from a locality in less than a hundred years, either by natural wastage or migration, as they do in the more mobile twentieth century. At a very rough guess, between 5% and 10% of those living in the parishes which constitute the Borough of Barnet had not been born there or done their first regular job there.

Because the labouring poor walked if they moved it is possible to detect a significant proportion of “foreigners” moving into Edgware and Hendon along Watling Street and what is now the A41 and into Friern Barnet and Finchley along the Great North Road. In Hendon 22.5% of the “examinees” came from other parishes in the Borough of Barnet; 22.5% from parishes in the former G.L.C. area, though few seem to have ventured across the Thames bridges; 37.5% from parishes within a 50 mile radius, mainly from the northern Home Counties – Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire – and 17.5% from further afield. Finchley statistics show a similar pattern though more of the Home Counties travellers came from Bedfordshire than from Buckinghamshire. The figures from Edgware and Friern Barnet are too small to show any significant patterns.

THE BARNET COURT BOOK – an additional note From the Borough Archives & Local Studies Department

In the Newsletter issue 208 (July 1988) there is a brief description of some of the evidence for Chipping Barnet to be found in the Barnet Court Book, British Library Additional MS 40167, and members may like to know that the microfilm of the book has now arrived at the Archives and Local Studies Department.

One item which was not mentioned in July may be of interest to members examining St. John’s, Chipping Barnet. In 1353 the inhabitants of Chipping Barnet made formal agreement with the abbot of St. Alban’s concerning the continuation of an annual payment of 12d rent, due from land which had been used to enlarge the St. John’s cemetery. The exact date of the enlargement is not given, but presumably it was recent. The court book, as Miss Levett showed in Studies in Manorial History, records the devastating impact on Barnet of the Black Death in 1348-9.

Bound into the front of the book, and included on the microfilm, is an unexpected bonus: a map of the Barnet Common area between Wood Street and Mays Lane. It is undated but apparently in a 17th-century hand, and since it marks the Physic Well cannot be earlier than 1652. It also marks the road widths and ponds of the surrounding roads, but gives little description of houses. It would be interesting to establish more exactly when and why it was made.


Over the past eight months or so, John Enderby and I have concerned ourselves with the redevelopment of the land to the rear of 60/62 High Street, Chipping Barnet. As the neighbouring premises of 52 High Street (Louis Shoe Repairs) and 58 High Street (The Mitre Inn) have recently been drawn to my attention as further scenes of imminent development, it would seem timely to inform HADAS members of our activities regarding the above sites.

Before reporting on each site separately, it should be noted that all are thought originally to have formed part of the Mitre ‘complex’, first mentioned in 1636. This complex, according to Barnet Museum archives, once occupied practically the whole block from and including 64 High Street southward to and including 48 High Street. We know that the Mitre Inn complex evolved from three messuages or inns, called The Man, The Rose and The Crowns, but at what period in Barnet’s history these inns began their lives is unknown.

62 High Street

There have been two aspects to our activities on this site, the first being the recording and preservation of the 19th century granary machinery and the second being protracted negotiations for excavations on this sensitive site. It is adjacent to 64 High Street where, in 1934, was discovered the remains of a medieval house, well and a complete 14th/15th century pot. It was hoped that we may gain some evidence of Barnet’s earliest occupation, the site being situated so near the church and medieval market place.

John Enderby has reported fully on his work in preserving the granary winding gear, which was eventually a successful operation, though not without its attendant difficulties due to lack of co-operation on the developer’s part in keeping John in the dark on the demolition schedule.

Negotiations to excavate the site have so far, after seven months, proved a total waste of time and effort, again due to lack of co-operation and communication between the developer, Council and ourselves.

To cut a very long story short, a written request made in May by John Enderby for permission to carry out a resistivity survey prior to excavation from July 30 – August 1, 1988 was completely ignored. Repeated requests by letter and ‘phone in August for a machine trench to be excavated for us (a suggestion originally made by the developer) were finally agreed verbally … Machine trenches were indeed excavated by the developer’s subcontractor (the Council) but in fact we were not informed by either the developer or the Council when these works were proceeding. The situation was only discovered on a routine visit to check on the site in October, when I found excavations actually in progress.

The stratification of the site is now so massively disturbed by sewage and drainage works that the developer’s latest suggestion that the Council might excavate a trench for us (a suggestion greeted with blank surprise and eventual refusal by the Council!) seemed in any case likely to prove of little value to us, and under the circumstances there seems little point in pursuing the matter any further.

52 High Street (Louis Shoe Repairs)

Louis Shoe Repairs is housed in a listed building, and it was discovered (again, purely by chance) that extension works at the rear of the premises were in the process of exposing timber-framed walling. Fortuitously, the builder concerned has proved most co-operative and informative, being an expert and specialist in the alteration and restoration of historic buildings. He considers the timber framing to date from the mid-fifteenth or possibly early sixteenth century, and has taken a full photographic record of his work, which will be made freely available to HADAS and Barnet Museum.

Items of historical interest which have been unearthed in the course of alterations are a near-perfect clay pipe decorated with a double clown figure and a perfect little stoneware inkpot. A few days ago, a strange heavy iron implement, about 18″ long was discovered boxed within the first storey of the timber framing – possibly an iron used for heating drinks.

All three items have been donated to Barnet Museum and are at present being identified and dated by the British Museum. It is hoped to mount an exhibition on the Mitre site comprising photographs and finds from all the properties mentioned in this report. We are, however, being somewhat hampered by the lack of response from Benskins Brewery, Watford, which according to information received, holds what appears to be important documentary evidence on the history of the Mitre Inn complex. A letter written on 20th October 1988, requesting access to these documents has, to date, remained unacknowledged.

58 High Street (The Mitre Inn)

The rear of this site is the subject of a current planning application by PRC Partnership, a company which appears to have links with the developer of 60/62 High Street. A request has been made to the Council to include archaeological conditions in the planning terms, but as these conditions seem not to be legally binding and depend largely upon the goodwill of the developer concerned, I anticipate that little will be achieved here.

The stables at the rear of The Mitre (a listed building) have already been demolished under dubious circumstances. The Council were unable to inform me by whom the building had been demolished and doubt exists as to whether or not an application for the demolition of what forms part of a listed building had ever, in fact, been received, let alone granted. The period of the demolished building is uncertain, and Barnet Museum would appear to have no photographic record of it.

Most of the information concerning the properties in this report has come to light purely by chance during routine visits to check on 62 High Street.

My personal opinion is that LBB ought to inform at least one of the Barnet heritage groups when work is to proceed on listed buildings and in archaeologically and historically sensitive areas, rather than expect HADAS to learn of them from planning applications, by which time it is often too late to take effective action.

Redevelopment in Chipping Barnet itself is so intense that keeping abreast of all developments in sensitive areas is becoming increasingly onerous, bearing in mind the protracted negotiations necessary merely to obtain access to each and every one of these sites.

However, research and enquiries concerning the premises which once comprised the Mitre complex are proceeding, and any further discoveries and developments will be reported in future HADAS newsletters.


The Salisbury Hotel was demolished some months ago, and the developers concerned have been approached for permission to site watch when excavation works proceed.

The first evidence of an inn on this site is in the Manor Rolls of 1557, when the Tabor and Pipe was transferred to Margaret Taylor on the death of her husband, Roger. It is, of course, possible that evidence of earlier occupation may come to light during building excavations.

A timely history of the site of The Salisbury Hotel forms this year’s Bulletin No.26 from Barnet Local History Society and is available from Barnet Museum, Wood Street, price 25P.

We still urgently need typists (or people who can type) and who are prepared to help out from time-to-time. Please phone Liz Holliday (204 4616)

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