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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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.

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

Enfield Archaeological Society
9 Junction Road
N9 7JS

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19 Jul 2018

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 8

truncated wall
the external wall (center) is truncated (front of kneeling mat)

It was another day of pleasant surprises in the grounds of Forty Hall today, as we continue to uncover the features defining the buildings belonging to the service ranges of Henry VIII's Elsyng Palace.

In trench one, we excavated the small extension we started late yesterday, aiming to follow the external facade wall (centre of picture), which defines the south side of the 'boiling house' building containing the large circular furnace.

As we had half suspected, we found the wall continues a short distance east before it is truncated by the substantial demolition cut that runs north-south through this part of the site.

We think it very likely that this cut was made to remove the east-end wall of the building during demolition, and since it has removed the east end wall completely we will probably never know exactly how far east the building extended, but it can't have been very far from the point the wall was truncated.

furnace flue
the west face of the furnace with rectangular void just emerged (click for annotation)

Meanwhile, we continued to excavate the loose rubble fill of the furnace's flue. The neck of the furnace is now well defined and the beginning of the flue has straight brick sides. The loose rubble fill includes some large brick and tile fragments with large pieces of mortar adhering to them - some of these joints are wedge shaped which is strong evidence that the structure they once belonged to was arched or domed.

Brick fragments lower in the fill also show signs of soot blackening, which again reinforces our theory that the flue had an arch made of a combination of brick and tile.

We have stopped just short of removing all the rubble in the furnace itself and also in the flue, leaving a few centimetres covering the next context, which we know from last year's work will be a layer of ash, deposited during the furnace's last firing more than four centuries ago.

furnace void
interior of the void

We will probably excavate this context tomorrow, and hope that it produces some dating evidence - finds, especially from the furnace, have been more scarce today.

Late in the afternoon, while removing rubble from the wall forming the west front of the furnace (pictured), we were surprised to find a sizeable void protruding into the furnace's base.

The void is rectangular and was partly blocked by a loose group of complete bricks from the rubble fill, all of which were partly soot-blackened.

We've not had a chance to study it yet, but by reaching in with a camera we got a preview shot (pictured) which shows it is at least three courses deep and partly filled by the rubble context. As far as we can see it doesn't go through to the furnace -- we'll have to wait till the rubble context is fully excavated before we can find out any more, but it suggests that the construction of the furnace may be more complex than it looks!

the 'cupboard'

Speaking of complexity, the far west end of trench one continued to be the source of much head scratching today, as we continued to excavate the odd alcove in what we thought would be a simple interior partition wall.

The alcove's brick floor only extends as far as the front of the main wall, and together with the fact that the alcove is rendered, and faint signs of a rebate in the floor, perhaps for a timber frame or doors, leads us to believe it is probably the remains of a cupboard, similar to one recorded on the site by the Society in 1967.

truncated wall
perhaps a column base set in the interior wall (click for annotations)

On the north side of the cupboard, the wall seems to turn a corner and has a small wall projecting to the west (click image for annotations), which is difficult at the moment to interpret but we suspect may be the base of a large column -- the furnace room would have probably spanned two storeys and may have needed extra structural support.

The tangle of roots is starting to slow work down in this trench but there shouldn't be much more to do (provided nothing more unexpected turns up!).

The main remaining job is to find the edge of the furnace's ash pit, and we may have just started to find evidence of an ash layer emerge in part of the trench -- again, excavating that is a job for tomorrow.

more multi-phased floors in trench two

Trench two, meanwhile, is almost fully excavated and there remains only a few recording jobs to to before it can be backfilled. A small extension to the north revealed more of the roof-tile capped internal wall we've seen earlier in the week and more of the multiphased herringbone brick floors that characterise the building.

Interestingly, an area of the floor in this trench has noticeably slumped and at a later date been partially filled with a rammed chalk deposit -- perhaps a crude attempt at levelling the surface -- but if the floors were liable to slump like this, it may explain the sequence of laying and re-laying floors we've seen nearby.

You can explore the rest of trench two, as it was when we photographed it yesterday, at Sketchfab - see below.

Hopefully, by the end of the week, we should be able to produce a similar model of our furnace.


18 Jul 2018

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 7

external wall
deviation on the external wall

Another brilliant day's digging in Forty Hall today saw us making great progress uncovering the substantial remains of our Tudor palace service rooms.

Mercifully the sunshine was interrupted by regularly passing clouds today which allowed us to press on with the physically draining tasks of excavating sun-baked brickearth deposits without having to resort too often to improvised sun awnings strung up between the trees of the lime avenue.

The substantial structures in trench one, belonging to what we think is probably the boiling house of the kitchen ranges, continued to grow today as we pushed back westwards from the furnace, which is the defining feature of the building.

As we had begun to suspect, the external wall to the south of the furnace (right in picture) does make a pronounced turn, roughly opposite the location of the furnace's flue.

a complex interaction of walls floors and tree roots

As it reaches the end of the trench, as expected it does meet a perpendicular wall which we have seen before, and divides the furnace room from other rooms in the building.

The form of the wall here, though, is entirely unexpected and together with the strange change in direction in the external wall, is proving difficult to interpret at the moment (not helped by the tangle of huge tree roots from the nearby lime).

As the partition wall enters the trench, it is more than twice as thick as the section we recorded last year and (as we noted yesterday) makes a dog-leg before meeting the external wall.

the partition wall makes a dog leg enclosing a brick floor (click for annotations)

Once we removed the rubble from in front of it, we found the alcove this forms has a brick floor, and the face of the wall shows signs of having been rendered with a thin skim of mortar or perhaps plaster.

This is particularly interesting since surviving render on walls is very rare at Elsyng, but understanding how this feature fits into the furnace room, especially given its very close proximity to the ash pit of the furnace, is not clear at the moment. Hopefully as we excavate more of this end of trench one, it will become clearer.

rendered wall
opposite view of alcove with brick floor and possible rendering on wall

Another puzzling aspect of this end of the furnace room is understanding how it, and especially the now deviated course of the external wall, tie in to the perimeter wall containing two garderobes that we saw in 2014/15.

We had expected the external wall to continue straight west and link up with the garderobe wall, but the arrangement may be more complex. In the far southwest corner of the trench (bottom right of first picture above) is the top of a substantial wall that is likely part of the garderobe wall. This must link up to the deviated external wall, but tree roots are currently obfuscating this part of the trench.

sides of the furnace flue beginning to emerge

Much of tomorrow will be taken up with unpicking this corner and attempting to tie these various elements together, after which we should hopefully have a much better picture of the building's arrangement.

Meanwhile, we opened an extension at the other end of the external wall, as we are still not sure what the building's eastern extent is.

At the same time, we continued to excavate the furnace's flue late this afternoon, and confirmed the keyhole outline, as the flue extends west towards the ash pit we found last year.

t2 extension
extension to trench 2 - brick floor just visible in foreground

Over by trench two we began an extension to study the partition wall as it approaches the multi-phase brick floors in this area. We're beginning to suspect the floor in this trench is perhaps part of a corridor or 'cross passage' passing through the building, but more on this will hopefully be revealed tomorrow.


17 Jul 2018

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 6

the flue of the furnace emerges

We returned to Forty Hall today, after taking yesterday off to catch up on paperwork and finds processing, to resume our exploration of part of the service ranges of Henry VIII's Elsyng Palace.

We have two main trenches open this year, examining different parts of what we currently think is the palace 'boiling house' - the department of the kitchens dedicated to boiling amongst other things, large joints of meat in preparation for roasting or adding to other dishes such as pies.

The key feature to this interpretation is the large furnace we first discovered part of last year (and initially took to be a bread oven) and this is the focus of trench one.

looking into the furnace through the flue - the tarpaulin marks the extent of last year's trench

Having defined the outline of the furnace and the brick floor around it, together with the building's external wall, we began to remove the rubble fill of the furnace's interior. As we noted last week, the furnace is not exactly circular, but features a keyhole-shaped gap on its western side where the stokehole/flue was, and would have emptied into an ash pit (which we saw last year).

A notable feature of the furnace is that only half of it - by the flue - is made of brick, the opposite side being constructed from roof tiles. Tiles were frequently used by Tudor builders for various purposes in wall construction, and in this case they were probably used because heat penetration is more effective in tiles than brick (due to their being thinner), and so the tiles would absorb and retain the heat of the furnace more readily.

furnace trench
excavation progresses in the furnace trench following the external wall (left)

We have now removed almost all of the rubble from the furnace, and tomorrow will begin to do the same for the flue, to see whether the furnace's brick base and ash deposit that we found last year extend out towards the ash pit.

Meanwhile we continued to follow the structure of the wall in trench one west, making good progress removing the demolition rubble which covers the whole trench but finding the structure difficult to follow, partly due to the very large tree roots from the nearby (and recently fallen) lime tree.

It is still not clear whether the building's east-west external wall deviates beyond the furnace, or if there is a new feature (such as another brick floor, or something perhaps associated with the furnace's ash pit) at this point. Working between the roots, and telling the difference between rubble (to be removed) and in situ structure (to be left) is painstaking work.

unexpected deviation in wall (click for annotations)

At the far end of the trench we have begun to uncover a north-south wall (pictured) that we saw last year, and know is an internal partition wall within the service range, dividing the building into at least three rooms including the furnace room.

We expected this to run straight up to the east-west external wall but instead found it does an odd dog-leg just after entering the trench (click image for annotations). This together with the other oddities in trench one will need more work before we can make sense of the building in this area.

two more phases of brick floors in the furnace room

Trench two, meanwhile, located further to the north, is examining a complex sequence of brick floors within the furnace room and the room next door, as well as part of another dividing wall within the building.

At the end of last week we had found the top of the partition wall, which is lined with roof tiles - probably as the base for the timber frame that made up the wall's upper construction. (Far left in pic).

Just inside this was a mass of brick that at first glance looked like a wall, but having excavated back, we found (as expected) it is yet another phase of brick flooring. A missing patch in this floor (Neil's feet in the picture) revealed, as elsewhere, an earlier phase of floor beneath - in all this makes at least four phases of brick floor laying and relaying in this building - the latter phases being of notably lower quality.

fine glass bottle neck

There is, then, lots of work left to do to untangle the complex sequence of building and rebuilding that characterize this structure.

Fortunately we've had plenty of dating evidence to help with this in the form of finds of all shapes and sizes -- amongst others today we found the neck of a small glass bottle - the second of the dig so far, and part of another clay tobacco pipe dating from the early 17th century - the fifth of the dig.

We've also had some very nice pottery including more stoneware. Today we found two joining pieces of a stoneware vessel - perhaps a jug or mug - featuring a multicoloured armorial decoration.

another polychrome stoneware armorial

In previous years (and earlier in the week) we've had a lot of this kind of pottery, with a variety of coats of arms of predominately Dutch and other European cities, but these designs are new to us, especially with the dark blue/black colouring, and so it will take some research to identify them.


15 Jul 2018

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 5

floor planning
planning the early Tudor floor

The unforgiving sunshine and oppressive heat returned today but thanks to some improvised awnings and a gazebo we managed to avoid the worst of it and continued to uncover the brilliant archaeology of Elsyng Palace in the lime tree avenue of Forty Hall.

We finished recording the multi-phased brick floors in trench two today and shifted focus to the features at the east and west ends of the trench where we are trying to make sense of the various phases of walls and demolition cuts which define the end of our kitchen service building and the division (to the west) between it and the adjacent rooms we've seen in previous years.

We made a small extension to the trench's east end and have now got an exposure of its complete width (pictured below right) and although it is substantial enough to be an external wall, its alignment shows that it is not far enough east to encompass the features within the building - particularly the furnace in trench one.

east wall
the east end wall

Although it is possible that the wall may turn as it runs that way, we are hypothesising that the building itself may have been extensively remodelled and extended east when the furnace was built, which could also account for the two phases of floors within the room.

If this is the case, there should be another, later external wall to the building further east and the extension to trench two has revealed a patch of brickwork that may in time prove to be a wall, but more excavation is needed to confirm this.

west wall
the west end (partition) wall (left; capped with tiles - the bricks to the right are the beginnings of a floor)

At the other end of the trench, we uncovered a short continuation of the partition wall which divides the building into at least two rooms -- the brick floored furnace room and the tile floored room with the stairwell and garderobes to the west that we excavated in 2014-16.

Roots from the avenue's lime trees are particularly invasive here which made the going slow but eventually we found the wall, which was capped by a line of roof tiles (pictured right), and a brick surface against it (to the right in the picture), which at first glance looks like a wall but is in fact the beginning of a brick floor inside the furnace room.

This use of roof tiles is slightly unusual but not unheard of and underlines our previous interpretation that this wall is a base for a timber partition between the building's rooms -- they were probably laid as a nice flat base for a timber beam and may have been used to pack part of the wall that wasn't quite level. The remaining job now is to continue to reveal the brick surface next to the wall, to see how it joins to the later of the two floor phases in this trench that we recorded yesterday.

the furnace
excavation continues to reveal the furnace and associated features

Meanwhile in trench one the furnace and associated features of what we currently think is the boiling house, is slowly being revealed. Further work on the gap in the furnace's west side confirms the gap is deliberate and in fact in plan the outline of the furnace is not exactly circular, but very slightly keyhole-shaped.

The stub of wall we noted yesterday next to the stokehole corresponds to a similar stub on the stokehole's other side. These are almost certainly connected with the stokehole and were probably the bases of an arch which spanned the gap.

We have now cleared the floor surrounding the furnace and also the wall along its edge - the wall is definitely the external wall of the building forming at this point the southern facade of the palace.

The floor is truncated at the east end of the trench by the very large demolition cut which runs north through to trench two and cuts through its multi-phased floor.

the furnace
the partially excavated furnace and surrounding structure - click to enlarge with annotations

As we followed the external wall of our building west, we were surprised late in the day to find it seems to change direction, turning slightly north (click on picture to right for annotations). This is not at all what we expected, since this wall ought to carry on straight if it is to join up with the stretch of wall with the two garderobes in, in the room next door.

The area is not yet fully excavated but it also seems like there may be another brick floor at this point, so we may yet find another feature of the boiling house here.

We are taking the day off tomorrow to catch up with paperwork and finds processing, but will be back on site for the rest of the week.

Wednesday the 18th is Ask An Archaeologist Day and the 19th is Palace Day so if you have something you'd like to ask an archaeologist about a palace, be sure to come and see us!


14 Jul 2018

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 4

floor and wall
the large demolition cut (center) with the corner of the early Tudor floor just visible (left) and the contemporary wall (right)

Brief rain overnight made little impact on the site and quickly evaporated today on the hottest day of the dig so far, making work difficult but we were rewarded with some very nice archaeology.

At the east end of trench two we continued to investigate the substantial demolition cut that truncated the brick floor we uncovered yesterday and the day before, and the earlier floor beneath it that just began to show yesterday.

As we removed the rubble filling the cut, we were pleasantly surprised to find a broad wall at the cut's east end (pictured right), which at first we took to be a wall belonging to an earlier building than the Tudor palace kitchen ranges that we're currently investigating -- last year we saw such a wall running beneath the floors and walls of the Tudor buildings, and we believe it to belong to a much earlier phase in the palace's 15th century history, when it belonged to the Earl of Worcester.

early floor
fully excavated early Tudor floor

However, when we checked its alignment and position we found that this is not part of that earlier structure, and is much more likely to be the elusive east end of our kitchen range building, and probably contemporary with the earlier of the two brick floors (i.e. built for Sir Thomas Lovell, c.1500).

Because the wall is located right at the end of the trench we haven't seen its full width yet, so late in the afternoon we extended trench two just enough to encompass it. If we can confirm that this is the east end of the building, this will check off a major research goal of the dig and may give us enough information to establish the building's complete outline.

Once the cut was recorded we then removed the exposure of the rubble that separated the two floor phases, to reveal a nice amount of the earlier Tudor floor (above) -- enough to see that as with the later floor it had a probably purely decorative herringbone pattern.

the complete furnace emerges from under demolition rubble - Martin is standing in the portion we excavated last year

Meanwhile, and despite being exposed to unrelenting sunshine all day, we made terrific progress and finally began to reveal the complete outline of the furnace, which is shaping up as an excellent piece of Tudor kitchen archaeology.

As anticipated the furnace is circular in plan and its firing chamber measures a little over 1.2m (4ft) in diameter. It is quite a large structure and was clearly intended for operations on an industrial scale, as may be expected in the service ranges of a Tudor palace.

At the moment we're coming down on the 'boiling house' interpretation -- we think that the sheer size of the furnace is probably meant for the large scale preparation of substantial joints of meat -- although as ever interpretations can (and probably will!) change before the end of the dig.

furnace floor and wall
partially excavated furnace with surrounding floor and possible external wall to left

Although the furnace is circular there is one point on its west side (top of pic) where at least its upper part has a gap, and we think this is the stokehole/flue -- in fact this would also explain the feature we found immediately to the west last year which we took at the time to be a demolished feature similar to the furnace, but if the two are connected it may well be the furnace's ash pit.

Surrounding the furnace's south side (left in pic) there is a floor of flat bricks and at the west end of the floor (top) is the stub of a wall which may be evidence of supports for a superstructure around it, though we've a lot more excavation to do to confirm this.

Along the south side of the floor (pic far left) we have just begun to reveal a substantial wall which looks very much like the external building wall we anticipated, which formed the southern facade of the palace (and further west we found two garderobe chutes set into in 2014/15). We haven't exposed the whole width of the wall yet but as we found before, it is very sturdy and points to the furnace building being at least two storeys tall.

Tomorrow's weather looks set to be challenging again, but we should be able to make good progress now that the furnace has been uncovered.