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
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.
The Archaeology of Roman Enfield and its Roadline Settlement
£33.50 inc. p&p (uk delivery only)
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.
We will be returning to Forty Hall this summer from the 16th to 28th of July
to continue our investigation of Henry VIII's Elsyng Palace.
We've spent the last couple of years investigating an area between the south side
of the palace's outer court and what we now know to be part of the extensive
complex of service ranges belonging to the palace kitchens.
Last year's star feature was a complete Tudor furnace belonging to what we
believe to be the palace 'boiling house' - a department within the kitchens
responsible for boiling large joints of meat in preparation for roasting and
other uses including pie-making.
The furnace and associated multi-phase brick floors also played a starring
role in Channel 5's "Digging Up Britain's Past", in which Alex Langlands
helped us to excavate the remains of the ash deposit left behind after the
furnace's last firing, probably some time in the early 17th century.
Earlier in the year we also continued to explore a building adjacent to the
boiling house which defines the south side of the outer courtyard.
Documentary and archaeological evidence suggests this is the 'Long Barn'
-- most likely a storage barn serving the kitchen block and possibly connected
to a small stable at its east end.
The main outstanding question from last year's dig is how far east the boiling
house extends, alongside the barn. We found that part of the brick floors and
the southern facade wall of the boiling house were truncated by a large demolition
cut and so were unable to define the building's eastern limit -- this will be
the main aim of this year's dig.
The first trench (see diagram) will look for the
east side of the demolition cut and a continuation of the boiling house's southern
facade wall (and hopefully more of the interior of the building),
while the second trench (a few metres to the north of the diagram) will pick up
the edge of the barn where it meets the boiling house, and similarly follow it
east. The second trench will also hopefully tell us more about the barn
and hopefully give us a chance to see some of its interior in more detail.
If you would like to dig with us, you must be a member of the Society and over
the age of 16. See here for details on joining.
Please bear in mind the number of places may be limited, so the sooner you join
Alternatively, the Saturday of the 27th will be a public open day with exhibits
explaining our work and members of the Society will be on hand to answer your
You can interactively explore some of last years work at sketchfab.
It was with a mixture of regret and relief that this year's dig on the site
of Henry VIII's kitchen ranges of Elsyng palace drew to an end.
We've worked very hard for the last two weeks in sometimes impossible heat
and will be glad of a well earned rest, but we'll leave behind some of the
best preserved palace remains found on the site in more than 50 years.
Over the course of the dig we've pieced together a fascinating and complex
story of the construction, modification, repair and demise of what we think
was the palace boiling house, which has given us one of the most detailed
ever insights into the palace's history and adds to an increasingly detailed
picture of the layout of the palace complex between the outer and inner
One of the compelling aspects of Elsyng has always been its unpredictable
nature. Unlike other showcase palaces, Elsyng was not built to a single
grand plan, and this has always been evident in the archaeology.
Wall alignments are rarely square and building layouts almost never symmetrical,
and just when you think you have a handle on a building's layout,
the smallest trench extension can often throw you a curve-ball.
This year's dig delivered an archetypal surprise yesterday, with the sudden
emergence of the foundations of an octagonal turret in the corner of the
furnace trench, where we expected a simple linear wall connecting to the
twin garderobes a few metres away, which we excavated in 2014/15.
Having established that we'd found a very shallowly buried octagonal turret
and with building time pressure, we deturfed along the top of it, hoping to
simply record its outline before returfing and resuming the task of backfilling
the furnace trench.
The further we went, however, the more complex things became.
The turret turned out to be attached to a second, larger octagon,
making a pair of conjoined turrets (one 1.6m in diameter and the
other 3m), which did eventually return to
a straightforward wall which seems to be on the correct alignment to
join the garderobes.
The final complication came on the last corner of the larger octagon,
where a small wall appears to have been attached to it.
This wall runs very close to the 2014 garderobe trench, which showed no
sign of the new wall so at the moment we have no idea whether this wall
is truncated before it reaches that far, if it turns or even if it is
part of yet another turret.
Sadly we ran out of time to investigate any more of these features this year,
so having planned and drawn their tops, they were returfed and the rest of
the day was spent backfilling.
Post-excavation work begins now - one of the first tasks will be to put
all of these new features together with the complete layout of the
furnace that we now have, onto a single plan which may make it easier
to get an understanding of the building's layout and development.
As ever, results of this year's work will eventually be summarised in
future editions of the Society newsletter. We are now also making progress
on the preparation of a comprehensive publication of all the work undertaken
on Elsyng since 1963, together with an extensive study of the available
documentary evidence (for example the will of Sir Thomas Lovell -
available to read here).
Though the furnace is now covered and the trench slowly disappearing from
view, you can still explore it online here:
A big thankyou is owed to our members who stuck it out through the harsh
weather, and especially to those of you who came to help backfilling,
most of all the dedicated band who were able to stick with it to the end
of the day.
Without your hard work and dedication, Elsyng would still be a 'lost palace'.
The return of high temperatures and harsh sunshine made for hard work
in the grounds of Forty Hall today, which was the penultimate day of
this year's dig on the site of Henry VIII's Elsyng Palace.
Spirits were high, however, thanks in no small part to the almost
unprecedented amount of superbly preserved Tudor palace structures
we've uncovered in the course of the last ten days.
Today was our big open day, and we had a steady stream of visitors all
day, as we finished excavating the ash fill of the furnace and its flue,
and also the adjacent area of the furnace's ash pit and the peculiar
cupboard next to it.
The furnace is the defining feature of this trench and we think it was
intended to heat water in a large copper cauldron suspended above,
and supported by the substantial superstructure which is now missing
but has left tell tale signs around it.
We now think that the bricks between the furnace and the external wall
(left of picture) are not a floor,
but probably the base of a thick wall inserted between the wall and the
furnace, to stabilise and support it. The brick piers to either side of the flue neck,
which we think served as the base of an arched and possibly domed opening
to the furnace also show signs of remodelling - as mentioned yesterday
this alteration appears to have left two rectangular voids either side
of the furnace mouth.
The floor of the furnace, once it was uncovered, also showed signs of
repair near the neck of the flue - not surprising given the extreme
heat and wear it would have been subjected to.
In the part of the trench opposite the flue, we removed the last of the ash
deposit next to last year's ash pit - we think that as the furnace went out
of use, the ash pit ceased to be regularly emptied and began to overflow,
leaving a skim of ash over a wide area.
The ash came off to reveal another brick floor, partly truncated
and very heavily heat damaged - inevitable given its location near
the furnace and ash pit.
True to tradition, Elsyng wouldn't be Elsyng without a last minute spanner
thrown into the works, and the extension we opened yesterday which should
have revealed a simple straight wall has, as we suspected yesterday
afternoon, revealed the base of what is almost certainly a large octagonal
tower projecting from the building's south facade wall.
It didn't end there, though, because as we de-turfed along the outline
of the turret, we went on to find that there is yet another feature
attached to one corner - this one is circular and curves in a similar
direction to the octagon.
Our working hypothesis is that the octagonal tower,
likely a staircase, serving the room next door to the furnace,
is the first of two or more phases; the circular feature perhaps being
similar tower superseding the first.
We hope to have time at least to define the outlines of these features
before the end of the dig - they are luckily only beneath the turf -
but we really are running out of time for this year's dig.
Tomorrow will be spent almost exclusively on surveying, drawing and
photography, and then backfilling begins in earnest.
We backfilled most of trench two with our multi-phased floors today
but you can still see them at sketchfab
Another beautiful day for digging in Forty Hall today, as we near the end
of our two-week dig on the site of the service ranges of Henry VIII's
The majority of excavation is complete and there remain only a few
relatively straightforward digging jobs to do.
We were joined today by Alex Langlands, who is currently filming a
series for Channel 5 featuring several digs of various periods
around the country.
Much is often made of the 'Lost Palaces of Henry VIII', such as
Greenwich, Nonsuch and others, but Elsyng is frequently overlooked
-- we jokingly refer to it as the 'Lost-Lost Palace' -- so we are very
pleased to be able to raise its profile and bring it to a wider
audience, not to mention that of Forty Hall.
Alex helped us to finish excavating the fill of the furnace today,
exposing and eventually removing the ash deposit from its base,
left over from the last time it was fired, probably some time
in the mid seventeenth century.
This has now exposed the burnt brick floor of the furnace, and it only remains
to remove the rubble and ash fill from the flue.
We also spent much of today removing the rubble deposit from the inside
of the external wall by the flue, attempting to find the extent of
the furnace's ash pit, part of which we excavated last year.
As we removed the rubble from the south side of the flue, we found
another rectangular void set in the west face of the furnace,
corresponding to the one on the north side that we saw yesterday
(see yesterday's blog).
We're not entirely sure what the purpose of these is, but our current
guess is that the neck of the flue where it meets the furnace was
originally wider, and at some point was made narrower, without
bothering to fill in between the new neck and the old.
In the section of the trench near the cupboard we excavated yesterday,
we found the remnants of an ash-covered brick floor which has apparently
had a pit cut into it (pictured). This may be a crude enlargement
to the ash pit made late in the building's history.
Tomorrow we'll finish excavating the flue and hopefully get a better
idea of the ash pit's outline.
In the south-west corner of the trench we opened a small extension
to confirm the alignment of the stub of wall that protruded into it.
As mentioned earlier in the week, this ought to be part of the
substantial wall containing the garderobes in the rooms next door
to the furnace, that we excavated in 2014/15.
To our surprise, we found the wall is not rectangular, but has a projection
springing off at an angle. This could be the beginnings of a round or
even octagonal turret -- perhaps a staircase or even another garderobe.
Whether there's enough time this week to resolve this remains to be seen
-- once the furnace and flue/ashpit are fully excavated tomorrow we will
be very busy surveying, drawing and photographing all the complex of
features in this trench.
Tomorrow is a public event and there will be guided tours and family
activities, and will be your last chance to come and see our fantastic Tudor
archaeology, before it is reburied for another 400 years!
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.