Heritage Open Days 2019

Imagine if 2000 year old artefacts could all taken out of display cases so that you could see them properly. That's exactly what happened at our Heritage Open Days event when archaeologists from SWAT Archaeology brought along items from the Watling Place Roman small town that they've been excavating for the past year. Whole ceramic pots (some very rare), jewellery, coins, furniture inlays and a few mystery pieces all prompted questions and discussion. 

We'll add some pictures and descriptions here over the next week so that you can see some of the best pieces. Click on the pics to find out more about each item.  

NHG research ensures a fitting tribute

A moving ceremony to commemorate the last man to receive the Victoria Cross in WWI was largely the result of research carried out by Newington History Group.

Members of the group found out about Major Brett Cloutman when researching Newington’s unique position on the defences built to protect London in the event of a German invasion. Major Cloutman was commanding officer of the Royal Engineers, the men charged with digging the trenches and erecting the gun emplacements which would have been England’s last line of defence had the unthinkable happened.

He was later awarded the VC, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy, following action on November 6, 1918 in France, days before the end of the war.

The ceremony saw a paving stone inscribed with Major Cloutman’s name and the date of the action unveiled at the War Memorial in Haringey, near his birthplace in Muswell Hill. The paving stone is part of a government initiative to remember all recipients of the Victoria Cross in the First World War within their local communities.

Haringey Council was unaware of Major Cloutman’s connection with the area until they were contacted by NHG Chairman, Dean Coles. The major becomes the fourth VC recipient in the area.

The citation, read by Lance Corporal Clark, Royal Engineers, said that Major Cloutman swam across a river under machine-gun fire to defuse explosives set to blow up an essential bridge. Although the bridge was later destroyed by other means, Major Cloutman’s action meant that the abutments remained intact and the bridge could be quickly restored.

The ceremony was addressed by Lieutenant General Tyrone Urch, Commander Home Command, who then unveiled the paving stone with Councillor Gina Adamou, the Mayor of Haringey.

NHG secretary, Thelma Dudley, also laid a cross on the paving stone and chairman, Dean Coles, presented a copy of the group’s publication Newington Remembers to Stefan Siemieniuch, Officer Commanding 59 Commando Squadron, Royal Engineers.

NHG remembers those who served in WWI and other conflicts in the last century at Battle's Over on Sunday November 11. See details by clicking on the link on the left. The event follows a Remembrance Service earlier in the day at St Mary's church in Newington.

Rural Crafts

Our speaker this month was James Preston, a lecturer on History, Industry and Archaeology and author of three publications on industry, malting and transport. James gave us a comprehensive talk about rural crafts from the 19th & early 20th centuries. 

He reminded us of all the crafts and production at a local level, once commonplace in towns and villages. Local people grew and made all that was necessary to earn a living and sustain life.

Subjects he covered for us,ranged from all things made of wood, such as fencing, gates and hop poles made of chestnut, which was cheap and plentiful. Household items like spoons, bowls and rolling pins made from sycamore, which didn't leave a taste. Ash was used for tool making due to its strength and straightness.

Ladders were made from alder for strength. Elm was used since the 18th century for large water pipes, that carried fresh water from natural springs to towns and villages. Oak was used for long life, such as furniture and barrel making for beer, gunpowder and cement. Oak bark was stripped and used in tanneries for colour and preserving.

Willow, reeds and straw were used for thatching, basket making, bee skeps, hat making, plaiting and rope making.
Baskets were made for fruit, fish, hops and pottery.

A smithy made tools, agricultural implements, hopping knives etc. A wheelwright made cart wheels with metal rims. A
blacksmith was also a farrier and worked on horse shoes, which would have been a very necessary skill with all the daily labour required from horses.

Other products produced were cricket bats made from ash, due to its strength and straightness, and cricket balls made from a
ball of string and covered in leather and hand stitched.

Beer making from hops, dried in kilns and sent to local breweries, and cider from apples, pressed through felt and naturally
fermented, sometimes with animal parts added to the fermenting process

It was obvious that James could have talked for longer and his subject was both interesting and educational. We learnt new
words such as a wimple and a twybill, both tools in woodwork. A bodger or bodging was cane weaving, grown from reeds, for seats on chairs during the 19th century. Also a skuppet was an early frame work to aid drying hops, covered in horsehair cloth. And lastly, a bessom was a broom made of birch (like a witches broom).

Unique site for commemorative beacon

A beacon, specially commissioned by Newington History Group to commemorate the centenary of the end of WWI, has been erected on an equally unique location. 

It stands on the site of a former gun emplacement that formed part of the defences built to protect London in the event of a German invasion.

The beacon will remain there in perpetuity as a reminder of Newington's role in the Great War and as a tribute to the men who gave their lives to protect their country.

The beacon is on private land but can be viewed from footpaths that run across Wormdale Farm in Newington.