Enfield Archaeological Society

Founded in 1955, the Enfield Archaeological Society is active in carrying out research and fieldwork in and around the London Borough of Enfield, in order to understand and preserve its history.

Our main aims are: to promote the practice and study of archaeology in the district; to record and preserve all finds in the borough and encourage others to allow their finds to be recorded by the Society; and to co-operate with neighbouring societies with similar aims.

Membership is open to anybody with an interest in the past.

The Enfield Archaeological Society is affiliated to the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society; the President for the society is Harvey Sheldon BSc, FSA, FRSA

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Dig With Us

All members of the society over the age of 16 are welcome to dig with us – no experience is necessary. We typically run at least one dig a year in the summer, on the site of Henry VIII's Elsyng Palace with other work often cropping up through the rest of the year.

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 Announcing Our New Book!

First Stop North Of Londinium:

The Archaeology of Roman Enfield and its Roadline Settlement

£33.50 inc. p&p (uk delivery only)


cover

A definitive description and analysis of all the known Roman archaeology in the north London borough of Enfield, this monograph brings together antiquarian finds and re-presented and augmented reports on work from the 1950s to 1970s with the more recent excavations of the EAS as well as Museum of London Archaeology.

With prefatory chapters on aspects of the area including its prehistory, the volume documents what is known of the settlement that grew up here alongside Ermine Street, the road itself, a possible tannery, other settlement sites and often higher status burials.

A synthetic chapter examines the role of all small roadside settlements around Londinium in terms of function, chronology and their relationship to the provincial capital and discusses the possible economy of this area of the Lea valley.

With full illustrated stratigraphic and finds reports for over 45 individual sites (including samian ware, brooches, metalwork and important Roman glass finds), it presents the evidence for what may have been a broadly rural landscape, but with a quasi-urban settlement that may have reflected the needs of a cursus publicus system operating along one of the main roads of the province.

355 pages; 137 black and white and colour figures; 19 black and white and colour plates.


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Mail Order:

Send a cheque payable to "The Enfield Archaeological Society" together with your postal address to:

Enfield Archaeological Society
9 Junction Road
Edmonton
London
N9 7JS

Contact sales for more information.

Latest News

03 Jun 2018

Forty Hall Spring Dig - Day 7

trench 2 drain and walls
drain (foreground) crude brick floor (mid-left) and corner of barn wall (under black and white scale)

The final day of our spring dig went well, as we finished recording the complex sequence of features in trench 2, with the large brick-walled drain and the north-west corner of the 'long barn' building we've been excavating during the week.

At the east end of the trench (pictured), there are definite signs of efforts having been made to remove part of the drain (the top course of bricks have been cut away on both sides), as well as a broader cut taking away part of the crude brick floor between the drain and the wall of the barn building.

We think that the floor was probably an external feature and may have been associated with some sort of (perhaps timber) superstructure above the drain, which was aggressively demolished, probably at the end of the palace's occupation in the mid 17th century. We think it probably unlikely that the superstructure was a garderobe, especially since we know there were at least two very nearby in the adjacent service range (see our 2014/15 digs), but exactly what it was may be impossible to tell since it seems to have been completely cut away.

trench 2 cut feature
shallow cut with tile fragments next to drain

No dig is complete without a last-minute complication to the archaeology, and late in the afternoon while trench four was recorded and backfilled, the west end of trench 2 revealed a linear cut parallel to the drain, containing a layer of peg-tiles that we at first feared would be lying over yet another wall.

Instead they turned out to be lying in a very shallow cut into natural brickearth, and our initial interpretation of this feature is that an initial cut was made for the drain, which for some reason (perhaps mis-alignment) was abandoned and the full cut remade a few feet to the south.

trench 2 final recording
some final recording while the drain is backfilled

The remainder of the day was taken up by some final drawing and surveying and finally backfilling trench 2, a task made difficult by the final arrival of intense sunshine and high humidity. A big thank you is owed to our digging team who never let us down on days like this, especially when they come knowing there's a sizeable spoil heap to tackle.

As ever, the results of the dig will be summarised in due course in future editions of Society News.

We'll be back in Forty Hall in more or less the same spot from the 11th to 22nd of July, when we'll be looking at the rooms of the service range adjacent to the barn. Last year we uncovered a substantial multi-phased brick floor and part of what at the time we thought might be a bread oven, though now we think might be a furnace for heating water in perhaps the palace's scalding house or scullery.

It promises to produce archaeology (and potentially finds) even better than this week, so if you're in the area be sure to pay us a visit - or of course if you want to get involved see this page

During the dig we've been working on turning some of our photos into interactive 3d models, and will continue to do so this week - you can see the results of this (and other work) on our sketchfab pages or follow us on twitter


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02 Jun 2018

Forty Hall Spring Dig - Day 6

trench 2
the drain excavated to its base

Sunshine finally arrived for the penultimate day of our spring dig and the final pieces of the puzzle began to come together.

In trench 2 we finished excavating a sample section of the fill of the hefty palace drain, uncovering 11 splendid courses of top quality Tudor brickwork, to reveal a slightly less regular but still well laid brick base, exactly as we saw in the nearby section last year.

Also in common with last year, the fill of the drain does not look like an original silt but rather a single deposit of demolition material, which fits with most of the dateable finds from this context; especially yesterday's Delft 'drug' jar of c.1650.

lamb's jaw
lamb's jaw

The lack of silt may be due to the drain having been continuously flushed with water during its use, or having been recently cleaned before the demolition. A working theory at the moment is that it may have taken rain water running off from the adjacent barn.

As noted yesterday, the fill has not been without finds, although today's were mostly limited to fairly small pottery fragments and a decent amount of bone, giving plenty of evidence of the dietary habits of the palace's occupants, the best of which was probably an almost intact lamb's jawbone (pictured).

We've taken a bulk sample of the fill for post-excavation analysis, which might yield some smaller scale finds such as fish bones, seeds, small shells etc.

trench 2 floor and walls
Floor surface (middle) between drain (bottom right) and barn wall (top)

At the other end of the trench where the west wall of our 'barn' building turns to form the building's north side, we fully uncovered what looked yesterday to be a new wall between the barn and drain.

In fact, this turned out to be another rather crudely laid brick floor, very similar to the one we found in trench one earlier in the week, albeit on the other side of the barn building. In this area the top course of the drain has been cut away and there are signs of disturbance to either side of it. This may be evidence of a superstructure over the drain having been removed, perhaps associated with the floor -- we thought at one point we may have found another 'garderobe' chute, though evidence for this is rather weak at the moment.

trench 4
north side of the barn

Meanwhile in trench 4 we uncovered the expected easterly continuation of the barn building's north wall which, as in trench one's south wall, proved to be shallowly buried, well preserved and very well built (considerably more regular than the building's west end).

We were surprised at first to find a compacted gravel and chalk surface on the wall's north side, taking it to be an interior floor, but a small trench extension showed it is only a narrow strip along the wall's north side; probably a hard-standing outside the barn, which at this point (within Forty Hall's lime tree avenue) would have formed part of the south side of the palace's outer courtyard.

Having seen decent sections of all four walls of the barn building, we now have enough information to plan its complete footprint, which will be the first time this has been possible with any palace building at Elsyng.

We began backfilling today, having closed trench 1 and the strip containing the barn's west end wall. There's not much excavation left to do, so tomorrow will probably be mostly recording and then backfilling the remaining trenches.


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01 Jun 2018

Forty Hall Spring Dig - Day 5

trench 1
Footings of the barn wall

We made the most of the improved weather today and continued to make great progress in our two main trenches exploring the 16th century 'long barn' building and nearby drain.

In trench one we have now exposed the south wall of the building which has survived, at various depths, for the whole length of the trench, except for one spot where a 19th century land drain has been cut through it.

The wall has turned out to be much more sturdy than had first appeared. After opening a small preview slot (pictured) in front of the wall, we found five further courses of foundations including two offsets, making nine surviving courses in all. Given the length of the barn and the weight of a peg-tile roof, this is not so surprising!

trench 2
Drain fill partially excavated and extension in progress

We also got on well in trench two, where we began excavating the extension we laid out late yesterday, which aims to locate the point where the north-south wall of the barn's west end meets the substantial palace drain we exposed the top of yesterday.

We found the top of the north-south wall and, as anticipated, found it turns 90 degres, to form the barn's north side. Though we haven't fully uncovered the drain at this point yet, it looks like it will probably follow this north side of the barn very closely (though it may have to make a change in direction to do so).

The only complication is the heavily damaged remains of yet another, previously unrecorded wall between the two, which may predate them both, but interpreting this won't be possibly until the area is fully excavated.

In the section of drain we exposed yesterday, we began removing the fill to it's full depth of 11 courses, finding, as last year, its brick base.

So far, also in common with last year, we're finding that the fill of the drain is predominantly rubble, and there's no obvious sign of an original silt from when the drain was in use.

Tomorrow we plan to take some bulk samples of the fill for environmental analysis, which may tell us more.

small find 4
bone toggle or pendant

The fill has not been devoid of finds, though; in fact some very interesting things have already come from it, including a piece of apparently shaped bone - perhaps a boar's tusk - pierced with a small copper wire, which we think is maybe a toggle fastener or perhaps a small pendant -- a nice personal object. There's also been plenty of pottery, quite a bit of bone and window glass and even some of the leads that would have held it.

small find 7
Delftware drug jar - complete profile from foot to rim on the left foreground

Perhaps the best find of the day though, was an almost complete Delft 'drug jar' -- a squat tin-glazed earthenware pot dating to the mid seventeenth century -- towards the end of the palace's occupation.

As the name suggests, Delftware was originally made and imported from Holland, though potters eventually set up business in London, attempting (usually not very well!) to imitate Chinese porcelain. We've also had a few small fragments of decorated Delft tiles from across the site.

Late in the day today we opened probably the last trench of the dig, targeting the north side of the barn building, aiming to take in some of the wall that we're now sure runs parallel to the wall in trench one, and to also get another look at the floor surface within the barn, which we have not yet been able to see much of, especially in an undisturbed state.

The forecast still looks pretty good for the weekend, so hopefully we should get plenty of visitors.


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31 May 2018

Forty Hall Spring Dig - Day 4

trench 1
The 'barn' wall in trench 1

The weather turned out much better than we'd feared today so we made great progress uncovering and recording the various elements of our Tudor palace buildings.

At the east end of trench one the rubble layer has now been removed to reveal four courses of solid if slightly damaged Tudor brickwork. This is, as we expected, the south side of the long east-west 'barn' building that runs out into the lime tree avenue and would, we think, be the base for a timber framed superstructure.

trench 1
'Barn' wall (middle) with floor surface (right)

At the other end of the trench, beneath the tangle of tree roots, we found a well preserved section of the same wall but with a gap in it, so we opened a small extension to fully investigate and found the wall was present but had been demolished to a slightly lower level.

The extension also took in a small part of the interior of the neighbouring service range we saw last year, which at this point has a rather crude brick floor -- further evidence that this building is not at the 'posh' end of the palace.

trench 2
The substantial brick drain in trench 2

Meanwhile in trench 2, having located the position of our drain late yesterday afternoon, and having resolved most of the complications caused by tree root intrusion and post-palace landscaping deposits, we were able to press on and reveal the top of the two very well constructed walls of the drain that we saw further west last year.

We can now accurately see where the drain and the north-south wall we recorded yesterday ought to meet, and have laid out a small trench extension for tomorrow that will investigate this -- the expectation is that the drain will continue perhaps after altering course slightly, and follow alongside the wall, which should turn to the east, forming the north side of the 'barn' building.

We'll also have another opportunity to examine the fill of the drain, which may (we hope!) contain some interesting finds -- the sort of household rubbish that got thrown away and washed down drains such as pottery and particularly fish bones.

The weather forecast is looking much better for tomorrow so hopefully we're over the worst of it!


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30 May 2018

Forty Hall Spring Dig - Day 3

trench 2
Continuation of the North-South wall)

Having dried ourselves out following the soggy conclusion to yesterday's digging, our hardy team were rewarded for braving the elements today, with plenty of Tudor palace archaeology as well as some fantastic small finds.

To simplify our search for the junction of the North-South wall we've been studying, and last year's substantial drain to the north, and also to clarify some features we saw in a small test pit nearby in 2012, we opened a long thin trench extension to trace the line of the very shallowly buried wall as it approaches trench 2.

The wall is very well preserved, although the quality of construction varies quite a bit along its length, suggesting this maybe wasn't the best quality bricklaying the 16th century had to offer!

The deposits in trench 2 continued to show considerable signs of tree root and possibly planting pit disturbance, but a small preview slot cut late in the day revealed the top of the sought-after drain, so now revealing it and its connection with the north-south wall should (hopefully!) be fairly straightforward (weather permitting).

trench 1
The East-West 'barn' wall (rubble line top of pic)

Trench 1, having been thoroughly cleaned by the rain overnight, was photographed and recorded early in the day and we began to remove the rubble deposit, soon confirming that the line of rubble running along one side of the trench is indeed on top of the expected wall of the 'barn' structure we are looking for.

There's more work to do to reveal the wall along the full length of the trench, but its construction looks very much as we expected -- a 'dwarf' wall which would have supported a timber-framed structure with evidence in the rubble for a possibly mixed tile and slate roof.

trench 1
The East-West 'barn' wall revealed

There have also been a number of deliberately dressed flints come from this trench, which suggests their (probably partially decorative) use in a wall, either in this building or somewhere nearby. This method of building is atypical for Elsyng, and we've yet to see any in-situ examples of such work.

The trench has produced a wide range of small finds, from the relatively ubiquitous clay pipe stems to the less common decorated Delft tile fragments, a broad range of pottery, as well as some pieces of glazed floor tiles, which, as we often find, showed signs of considerable wear and tear -- an indicator of the dilapidated state of the palace that prompted its final demolition c.1657.

Mesolithic Arrowhead
Mesolithic tranchet arrowhead - c.8000 to 12000 bc

Undoubtedly the star find of the day though, and causing many a heart to flutter, was an object that had nothing to do with the palace at all: A beautiful and still extremely sharp Mesolithic arrowhead.

The Mesolithic period, spanning roughly 8,000 to 12,000 b.c., was a time when people were living predominantly as nomadic hunter-gatherers, and is a very sparsely recorded period indeed in Enfield.

The arrowhead is a gorgeous example of a "tranchet" type -- a triangular shape that would have been fixed to an arrow shaft by the narrow point, presenting the lethally sharp chisel-like end, which was designed to sever as many major blood vessels as possible on impact.

It's hard to think of a more evocative object; one that connects its holder with a fellow human being who lived and died more than ten thousand years before Henry VIII first arrived on the scene, or a more appropriate one for the site of what was once the headquarters of Henry's hunting forest of the Royal Chase.

Tomorrow's forecast doesn't look good and if the heavens open early in the morning we may make a delayed start. Thanks to today's finds we've plenty of motivation to crack on, though!


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