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 Council for British Archaeology and the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society; the President for the society is Harvey Sheldon, B.Sc, F.S.A, F.R.S.A.Latest News
The Society has an active programme of fieldwork including annual research excavations on the sites of former Tudor and Jacobean palaces, and rescue work throughout the year including work on Roman roadside settlements, iron-age hillforts and others in and around Enfield.
Research work varies from casual field-walks, map regression and documentary research, remote sensing study and ground survey work. The Society has several publications both in and out of print; our most recent book is Enfield at War 1914-1918, by Geoffrey Gillam and revised by Ian Jones.
We are keen wherever possible to share the results of our work: Our summer digs take place as part of the CBA's national Festival of Archaeology, during which we give tours and talks to the public as well as school parties, in co-operation with Enfield Council.
Enfield Council has announced the results of its consultation regarding the future of the Museum and Local Studies Library.
Happily, the proposal to close the museum’s ground floor exhibition space at the Dugdale Centre has been scrapped, but most of the other proposals appear to be going ahead largely unchanged. While “drop in” access to the library will continue, consultation with the library staff will become by appointment only. Plans to digitise the archives will apparently go ahead, though details of these plans remain exteremely vague.
Most worryingly, there remains no word on staffing and budget cuts to either service, which will have a profound impact particularly on how the museum is able to operate. The reduction of staff to one junior post and no operating budget will likely prevent the museum from staging any more of its successful and popular exhibitions, or any of its other public outreach activities.
We have offered the museum our support in maintaining a permanent display in the ground floor space of the Dugdale Centre, which will hopefully continue to showcase the history and cultural heritage of the London Borough of Enfield. It is sad that a council that so often pays lip service to our unique heritage assets should be so reluctant to invest in their presentation and curation.
More details and news on the cuts are available from The Enfield Society
For the last couple of weeks, we have been monitoring another of Enfield Council’s wetlands projects; this time at the recently-vacated council depot at Bury Street West, Edmonton.
The project is the latest in a series of Sustainable Urban Drainage Schemes (SUDS), aimed at improving water quality and reducing flood risks in Enfield’s water courses – we recently monitored just such a project in nearby Pymmes Park, which uncovered a row of substantial second-world-war air raid shelters (summarised in last month’s newsletter).
This wetlands scheme is focused on the southern half of the depot site; a long-abandoned tree nursery bounded on the north side by Salmon’s Brook and on the east by the Great Cambridge Road (A10).
As elsewhere, the scheme will consist of a series of ‘lagoons’, through which storm water will flow; selected plantlife will reduce pollutants and improve oxygenation for wildlife. The surrounding ground will also be redeveloped to provide various wildlife habitats and will ultimately be linked to Bury Lodge Gardens.
An arduous but thoroughly rewarding final day’s digging in Forty Hall saw the sun shine despite poor forecasts, which thankfully let us crack on and achieve almost all of our principal objectives, and brought a sizeable crowd to witness the fantastic archaeology our trench finally produced.
Yesterday we had removed most of a top layer of sandy rubble from the top of our newly discovered garderobe chute – the layer below seemed to be more solid and our hopes that it would contain useful finds were thoroughly fulfilled.
Our penultimate day’s digging in Forty Hall threw us an unexpected surprise today, as we continued to uncover the Palace wall that we found yesterday.
We’ve now extended the trench nearest the lime tree avenue until it just touches the edge of last year’s trench. The wall – a continuation of last year’s – appeared to thicken as we uncovered it in the end of the trench next to last year’s garderobe (lavatory) chute, and as we removed the rubble we began to suffer from déjà-vu as we noted a rectangular area of slumped bricks on the wall’s south side.
Sure enough, just as last year, we found the slumping was caused by a rectangular void backfilled with palace rubble, which has subsequently settled and allowed the surrounding bricks to tilt inwards – the void is yet another garderobe chute, right next to the one we found last year.
This second chute is abutted against the wall, and therefore must be later in date, although both appear to be of mid to late Tudor construction. There are several puzzling features of the new chute, including its south and east edges which seem to be built of bricks on-edge, in contrast to the other sides. We will be able to tell more once it is fully excavated tomorrow – we have just about finished removing a layer of sandy rubble in the top and have come to what we hope is the original fill of the chute – this is where the critical dating evidence will (hopefully) be, and is what we ran out of time to look at last year.
Meanwhile, our other important job is to determine how far the main wall runs west of the avenue. After the brickwork runs out, we have followed the demolition cut that removed the wall for a few metres, and have extended the west end of the trench to follow it – finding out where and in what direction the wall turns is critical to interpreting the building.
We had many interesting finds today, including a second piece of painted Venetian vessel glass, the complete handle of a post-medieval red-ware flagon (above), and the complete base of a black-glazed red-ware mug, with a numeral ‘X’ scored on it (pictured) – probably a tally mark made by the potter.
Having found two garderobe chutes, we are beginning to wonder if we may have found the palace’s ‘Privy Jakes’ – the communal household toilet block that many Tudor palaces had – in which case there may be more chutes to the east of last year’s trench as well, all discharging into the ornamental moat feature which ran along the building’s south edge.
This would be a significant discovery, and a very important leap forward in understanding the layout of the palace.
We’ve got one more day to excavate and record the structures, and the weather forecast is not too good for tomorrow – rain may make digging and drawing difficult.
Hopefully it won’t put off visitors, since tomorrow is our main public event. After all, it’s not every day you get to see a Tudor Privy Jakes lost for 360 years!
Better late than never, we finally revealed the wall of the Tudor building we’ve been chasing all week today. In the end, we’ve had to move right back until we almost joined up with last year’s trench – we’ve expanded the test pit nearest the avenue into a proper trench and sure enough, here we find the continuation of the Tudor building.
The wall only runs intact for a few metres, after which it is difficult to tell whether it has been robbed out or if it turns a corner at some point (or both). The mess of demolition material – brick and tile fragments and a thick spread of mortar debris make it slow progress to pick apart, leaving in-situ elements in place – we are also looking out for signs of a floor surface inside the building. It could be that the isolated block of brickwork we found yesterday was actually part of the wall, and was cut through when the building was demolished, probably around the year 1650.
Sorting this out is crucial to our understanding of the route of the wall and therefore the nature of the building, and so this will be our focus at the weekend – it will probably require opening one last trench tomorrow and so there will be a lot of work yet to do.
The structural archaeology emerged just in time today, as we were visited by pupils from local primary schools – it was nice to have part of a substantial palace building to show them, as well as members from the Colchester Archaeological Group, who also visited us in the afternoon.
Our main public event is on Sunday, when we will be giving more site tours to the public, and there will be various stalls on display and people on-hand to explain our work.
Hopefully by then we will have a more complete picture of this building – as ever, stay tuned!
Another day of mixed fortunes in Forty Hall, on the third day of our Festival of Archaeology dig in search of part of the Tudor Palace of Elsyng.
Since trench one has now shown definitively no signs of any substantial structure, Historic England, who visited us today, kindly approved a change in strategy. We have moved back towards the lime tree avenue, closer to last year’s trench and opened two small test pits on the alignment of the building we are after.
Frustratingly, there is still no obvious wall emerging from the ground – the structure we uncovered last year was very substantial and shallowly buried so it should be hard to miss when we do find it.
The pit closest to the avenue, and only a couple of metres from last year’s trench is so far looking very promising – there is a block of in-situ brickwork in its corner, although it looks to be too insubstantial to be the wall we’re after – it may be an internal feature within the building, which in itself would be excellent news.
The pit is also producing a lot of rubble and quite a few very nice finds, including part of a glazed floor brick (pictured), which once may have been part of a chequer-board pattern within our target building.
We have also found small fragments of window lead and even a few pieces of window glass and several large pieces of a splendid stoneware pitcher (pictured).
We found a similar vessel last year, decorated with oak leaves and acorns, which would have been imported from Cologne in the sixteenth century, though this one appears to be undecorated and has not yet been accurately dated.
The smallest find to come from the pit was a small fragment of a decorated Venetian glass vessel, quite late in the day (so no picture yet – stay tuned). It’s only the second such fragment ever found at Elsyng and would have been an expensive import, and a very prestigious item in its day.
Just before we finished working in trench one, it produced an almost complete clay tobacco pipe, probably dating from the late sixteenth century. We’ve almost finished excavating and recording trench one, and will probably begin to backfill it tomorrow, and concentrate our efforts on our two test pits.
If there is still no sign of our wall in the area closest to the avenue, we may find that the wall sharply changes direction very close to where we excavated it last year – one way or the other we ought to find out tomorrow.
We still have three days to go, and we’re determined to get to the bottom of the mystery of the vanishing wall before the week is out!