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

Latest News  

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.


More Information

Latest News:

21 Nov 2022

Stories of Enfield Conclusion

We have finally reached the end of our Tudor Palace contribution to the Stories of Enfield project and I am pleased to say that it has been a great success with both publications now available and selling quite well while all the other aims of the project were fully accomplished.

When this all began over 18 months ago, we did wonder if we had bitten off more than we could chew with a mixture of public and educational events, oral history and film making plus the publication of both an academic and a popular work all built around our annual Elsyng Palace excavation.

We would not have been able to succeed in all this without the extraordinarily hard work running the overall project carried out by Jan Metcalf and Judith Stones. Their experience of such events plus their local knowledge and contacts brought everything together and steered the whole project to its successful conclusion.

On behalf of the Society and also of the many local citizens touched by different aspects of the project, I offer my sincere thanks and appreciation for everything they did.

Thanks also to Martin Dearne for the academic report and for running the dig under somewhat different circumstances than usual. Particular thanks also to Neil and John Pinchbeck for creating the wonderful popular account of the history, archaeology and excavation of the site from its origins to the summer of this year (available online soon! - Ed).

Ian K. Jones, Chairman.
18th November 2022

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11 Nov 2022

Elsyng Dig Video

A short film about our 2022 annual excavation on the site of Elsyng, Enfield's lost Tudor Palace in the grounds of Forty Hall, made by Footpath Films and funded by The National Lottery Heritage fund as part of the Stories of Enfield project is now available to watch online: see below and enfarchsoc.org/elsyng


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24 Aug 2022

Stories of Enfield Touring Exhibition

flyer

Come and learn about 14 incredible stories exploring elements of Enfield's heritage, history, and identity - from river communities, stained glass windows in Southgate and Bangladeshi migration through to London's only vinyard and Edmonton's boxing bishop, and of course the Tudor royal palace of Elsyng, which we excavated this summer.

Locations and dates (free entry):

  • August 29 - September 13 - Edmonton Angel Sterling Way
  • September 27 - October 11 - Forty Hall Courtyard
  • October 11 - October 25 - Palmers Green Broomfield Park
  • October 25 - November 15 - Edmonton Green Shopping Centre

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24 Jul 2022

Summer Dig - Day 13

backfilling trench 4
Backfilling T4

As predicted, we finished backfilling and re-turfing (with what litte turf there was) and had cleared the site by 11 o'clock this morning.

That concludes this year's exploration of Elsyng Palace - we came for the gatehouse and left with a moat, and more unanswered questions, but we're used to this by now - one of the defining characteristics of Elsyng is its unpredictability owing to the ad-hoc way in which it was built and modified over several centuries. If we knew what we were going to find we wouldn't need to dig it in the first place!

Post-excavation work will begin now, but we already have a list of targets in mind for next year, probably beginning with another trench close to trench 4, to try and find out how far west the outer courtyard's northern range of buildings extends, since we didn't find it as expected in trench 4.

We've also got our eyes on a large platform or mound not far away from this year's site, in the woods to the west of the lime tree avenue, which may be another contender for a gatehouse location.

trench 4 complete
T4 finished

This would be pushing us further into the area of the inner courtyard, which is where the more high-status buildings of the palace, such as the chapel and royal apartments would have been, so even if the inner gatehouse continues to elude us, there's every chance of finding some new and exciting archaeology.

A big thank-you to all our diggers this year who braved the sunshine and didn't complain (too loudly) about the lack of tangible structure in this year's trenches, and as ever a special thank-you to those of you who mucked in with the less glamorous work including backfilling and lugging equipment up and down the hill every day. Special thanks also to Forty Hall farm, for the loan of wheelbarrows and storage space for our site gear on the farm.

This year's dig was funded by the Stories Of Enfield project, organised by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and Enfield Council, to develop and deliver a range of creative community heritage activities across the borough, and has helped us to reach a wide audience including local residents and schools, and crucially has enabled us to publish our latest book Monarchs Courtiers and Technocrats.

A comprehensive history of the palace and people who owned and lived in it, the book also features a complete technical publication of all the archaeological work we've done on the site since 2004 plus a summary of the original work by the EAS in 1963-67 which rediscovered the palace site.

If you prefer a little lighter reading, we are also working on a smaller book, to be published later in the year, which will include an account of this year's dig.


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23 Jul 2022

Summer Dig - Day 12

lime tree avenue

backfilling trench 1
Backfilling T1

We worked hard in the lime tree avenue of Forty Hall today tying up loose ends and backfilling all but one trench, on what turned out to be the last day of excavation for this year's summer dig on the site of Elsyng Palace.

Although we still haven't found evidence for the elusive inner gatehouse, we have instead built a picture of what may prove to be quite a substantial moat separating the inner and outer courts of the palace.

trench 4
Rubble in T4

We pressed on with excavation in trench 4, which we opened a few days ago on the alignment of the western end of the range of buildings which define the northern side of the palace's outer courtyard, in order to find out how far west the range extends, and whether or not the new 'moat' feature we identified in trenches 1-3 extends out this way to meet it.

By the end of the day yesterday this trench had revealed an alignment of rubble which closely matched where we would have expected the building range to cross the trench, and early this morning we began excavating this rubble deposit to find out whether there was evidence of any structure or not.

trench 4
Rubble in T4 removed. The slope turned out to be illusory.

By mid-afternoon however, the rubble had been lifted to reveal what at first appeared to be a sloping brickearth surface - precisely like the sloping brickearth cuts in our other trenches which define the edge of the 'moat' - but further work in the afternoon showed that the slope was illusory, and the brickearth contained a substantial amount of brick and roof tile rubble, meaning that it was itself the fill of a larger cut.

We pressed on excavating this context throughout the mid to late afternoon and eventually came to the conclusion that it probably is the fill of the 'moat' feature, which does then indeed seem to be extending out towards the western end of the outer courtyard's north range.

jug fragment
Bartmann medallion fragment

Unfortunately, having been forced off site early in the week due to the severe weather has left us short of precious time that could have been spent fully excavating this trench and exploring the theory further, but it does give us a good starting point for next year's work which will probably include an effort to locate the actual end of the north range and to examine how it meets this year's 'moat'.

Despite the absence of palace structures in trench 4 we did have the consolation of plenty of small finds, including a large sherd of another Bartmann jug, (see day 6) this time bearing a smaller armorial fragment of what may have been the arms of Amsterdam.

pipe
c17th tobacco pipe

Trench 4 also produced a complete clay tobacco pipe bowl of a form we've seen before, and is closely dateable to circa 1640-60, meaning it could well have been deposited by workmen during the final demolition of the palace.

All that remains to do on site tomorrow is backfilling trench 4 and clearing the site, which we expect will only take at most half the day.


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