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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 Announcing Our New Book!

First Stop North Of Londinium:

The Archaeology of Roman Enfield and its Roadline Settlement

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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.

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.

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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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Latest News

24 Feb 2019

2019 Dig Dates

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.

site diagram
composite vertical image of the boiling house so far (click to enlarge)

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 the better.

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 questions.

You can interactively explore some of last years work at sketchfab.


22 Jul 2018

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 11

backfilling the furnace begins

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 courts.

two octagonal towers rapidly emerging in the eleventh hour - the garderobes were just behind the orange fence

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.

a small wall attached to the large turret

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:

Together with other models of the dig's trenches at sketchfab.

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'.


21 Jul 2018

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 10

trench 1

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.

recording the fully excavated furnace and flue

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.

heat damaged and partly truncated floor next to the cupboard alcove (left) and edge of ash pit (not visible; to right)

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.

the obligatory unexpected feature - an octagonal turret

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.

the turret (background) projects from the external wall (left-right; foreground)

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


20 Jul 2018

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 9

Alex Langlands
Alex Langlands expolores the furnace

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 Elsyng Palace.

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.

the burnt brick floor of the furnace fully revealed

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).

truncated floor in front of the cupboard (top under root)

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.

the 'garderobes' wall with unexpected projection (to its right)

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!


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.