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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Latest News

04 Sep 2021

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 13

backfilling trench 2

A good if not hugely exciting day's work on what turned out to be the last day of our almost two week dig in search of evidence for the inner gatehouse of Elsyng Palace, in the grounds of Forty Hall.

Having finished excavation at the west end of trench two by the late morning, we were able to press on with surveying, drawing and photography through lunchtime, and then spent the rest of the afternoon backfilling and clearing the site for another year.

demolition cut
the demolition cut looking west

Although it's maybe not the most photogenic feature we've ever excavated, we're pretty pleased at having been able to fully define at least one edge of the very irregular and very wide rubble-filled demolition cut at the end of the trench.

It is of course far from conclusive evidence of a gatehouse, but it is strong evidence of a substantial, previously unknown structure very close by, and its location roughly between the meeting point of the palace's two principal courtyards does support the gatehouse theory.

demolition cut
the demolition cut looking east

The final small extension at the west end of the trench was maybe beginning to show signs of the cut rising again, but exploring it further in this area may not be possible due to nearby trees and extensive animal burrowing.

In any case, we already have plenty of ideas for excavation targets next near, which may include a re-visit to a stretch of wall we saw in a small test pit some way to the north of this year's dig, which may be on a course to intercept our tentative gatehouse. Watch this space!

As ever we are of course very grateful to our hardy team of diggers whose patience and perseverance make this work possible.

trench 2
job complete

What with the ever evolving covid situation it was touch and go whether this year's dig would even happen and unfortunately we were unable to incorporate the usual batch of students in the dig, which at times did mean we were a little thin on the ground.

All things considered we're happy to have been able once again to advance our understanding of the archaeology of Elsyng, and look forward to hopefully pushing it further next year.

We'd also like to thank the Parks Department of Enfield Council for their kind cooperation in preparing the site for the dig.

As ever, the findings of this year's work will eventually appear in future editions of Society News. Although our lecture programme is still currently suspended, there are talks going on about staging digital lectures, which may also eventually include summaries of this year's and other work in Forty Hall.


03 Sep 2021

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 12

partially excavated fill of the conduit

Work is beginning to wind down now, as we near the penultimate day of our two week dig on the site of Elsyng Palace in Forty Hall.

We've now wrapped up all the work in the area of trench one, which was examining the course of the brick water conduit we first saw in 2018.

Having revealed the top of the channel yesterday afternoon, today we partially excavated the fill of the conduit to a depth of three brick courses, but since we're nearing the end of the dig we elected not to fully excavate it, as we did this already at a previous position in 2018 and it wouldn't have told us much that we don't already know.

Having answered the relevant research questions (i.e. the channel has nothing to do with the gatehouse), we therefore phographed it, drew it and then backfilled it together with the rest of trench one.

trench 2
west end of trench 2

At the same time we wound up work at the east end of trench two, and also began backfilling it, leaving only the west end of the trench, with our deep rubble-filled demolition cut, still active.

We slightly enlarged the extended area of the trench to improve access this morning and are now making one last push to remove the substantial fill of rubble and to define the shape of what looks like a steep linear, roughly east-west aligned cut.

Whatever structure this cut is associated with, be it the inner gatehouse or something else, we are still only right on the very edge of it at this end of the trench and probably won't get to see anything much more substantial this year, but it should hopefully set us up nicely for some great archaeology the next time we dig here.

tobacco pipe
late C16th tobacco pipe

The rubble fill continued to throw up all sorts of excellent small finds throughout the day, including the bowl of what is probably the smallest and earliest tobacco pipe we've ever found.

This one is even smaller than the one we found on Tuesday, which again reflects the high price of tobacco not long after it was first introduced to Europe.

This bowl is barely 2cm long and less wide, which probably puts it in a date range of 1580 to 1610, and has a maker's mark on the foot.

Once we have time to look it up, this should get us a more accurate date range and hopefully a place of manufacture, and perhaps even the name of the maker.

window fragment
window glass set in lead cames

Right at the base of the cut we also found an astonishingly delicate find in the shape of a section of a diamond-shaped window pane, with the lead channels (known as 'cames') forming one corner, and a fragment of glass still set in them.

The last time we found anything like this was in 2015 when we found a complete pane in the base of a garderobe chute, not too far away.

Although this fragment is nowhere near as complete, it is just as astonishing to find something so delicate to have survived not only the demolition process but more than 350 years in the ground. It is also more strong evidence of a building very close by, as a fragment like this cannot have travelled far from where it derived.


02 Sep 2021

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 11

trench 2
extension to west end of trench 2

A great day's digging in Forty Hall today, as we approach the end of our two-week hunt for the inner gatehouse of Elsyng Palace.

Over the past few days we've been busily removing a sloping rubble context at the west end of trench two, and the further north and west we trace it, the thicker and deeper it seems to run.

We're now very confident the rubble is filling a substantial linear cut, and although we may not necessarily have identified the exact location of a wall, we have definitely confirmed the existence of a previously unexplored structure very close by.

This morning, after a brief but exciting detour to free a young muntjac deer that had become entangled in a fence, we opened a small extension to this end of the trench (as large as we think we can dig and record in two days), which will either find the far side of the cut, or expose more of it as it thickens and deepens to the north.

the conduit
the two sides of the water conduit

Meanwhile, in the 1.5 metre square trench we opened yesterday near trench one, we finally found the continuation of the brick water conduit that had not shown up earlier in the week in any other of the predicted positions.

This proves that the conduit does run in a straight line, and does not turn or feed into any features associated with any gatehouse or moat to its north. The channel's absence from from trench one was indeed due to extensive truncation due to centuries of successive tree planting in the lime avenue.

yet more pipkins

The only major job left to do in this trench is to excavate the fill of the channel, which we'll do tomorrow.

Trench two continued to produce a varied and steady mixture of finds. The far end of the extended trench has produced a notable number of pipkin fragments - these were cooking pots with three tripod feet and typically a hollow ceramic handle into which a wooden extension was fitted for handling when hot.

We've found so many similar fragments of one type of fabric that we think we should be able to reconstruct a sizeable portion of it after the dig.

glazed tile
an unusual glazed roof tile

Another unusual find that came from trench two late in the day was a drip glazed roof tile - something that we've never seen before at Elsyng. Glazed roof tiles are something that you would not expect on a Tudor building, but was a medieval tradition, so this together with the couple of medieval pottery fragments may together begin to hint at some older archaeology not far away.

If this is the case it will probably have to wait for another year, as we've almost completed most of this years' work. We're aiming to be done and at least mostly backfilled by Saturday afternoon.


01 Sep 2021

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 10

lime tree avenue
opening 1.5m test pit (background-left)

A drizzly and at times chilly morning didn't dampen our spirits today as we returned to Forty Hall for the final five-day stretch of our two-week dig on the site of Elsyng Tudor palace.

trench 2
excavating the cut at west end of T2

This morning we decided to have one last roll of the dice in our effort to find the extended course of the previously excavated brick water conduit we relocated a few days ago. We strung a line out along the stretch of brickwork we have exposed at the west end of trench one, and extended the line out east into the middle of Forty Hall's lime tree avenue, where we laid out a 1.5 metre square trench which hopefully should be clear of any historical tree planting pits which we suspect are the reason we didn't find the conduit running through the east end of trench 1. We've only got as far as deturfing and topsoil removal, but if the conduit does run straight in this direction we should only have to dig down 60cm or so to find it.

rubble filled cut
large sections of mortared-together rubble in the cut in T2

Meanwhile at the west end of trench two, the sloping rubble-filled context is looking more and more like a rubble-filled demolition cut. We haven't quite finished removing the all of the rubble in this area, but where we have done so it does seem to show a steep cut into a sloping brickearth surface; moreover at the north section of the trench the rubble fragments are very substantial and large chunks are mortared together.

We strongly suspect that the structure this rubble derives from is less than a few of metres away, although from the size of the apparent cut, it may well be that any in-situ wall foundations have been removed entirely. Ideally we'd like to extend this part of the trench north, but at this point we may be limited by time and person-power.

candle dish
candle holder

In any case, the context continued to throw up plenty of great finds today, including an unusual ceramic fragment that had us all scratching our heads for a few minutes until the penny dropped.

At first glance it looked like a stubby cylindrical spout, but the hole doesn't go all the way through, which led to suggestions ranging from a decorative foot to a suspension point for rope straps.

medieval pot
more medieval pottery

Fortunately the site director then remembered an identical example we found a few years ago, which was identified as a ceramic candle-holder, which would have had a surrounding dish to catch dripping wax.

Although we only removed topsoil from the new 1.5m square trench, it did turn up a second fragment of medieval pottery - part of a large handle and rim of what was probably a chunky jar, in a slightly finer fabric than the previous piece but again tentatively dated to the 14th century.


30 Aug 2021

Forty Hall Summer Dig - Day 8

lime tree avenue

east end of trench 2
Linear rubble deposit at east end of T2 - click for annotation

Another decent but unspectacular day's digging in Forty Hall today on day 8 of our two week dig in search of the inner gatehouse of Elsyng Palace.

Work in the east end of trench two succeeded in finding the missing edge of the thick rubble deposit which we began looking for yesterday in the baulk between the main trench and its extension.

This does then look like a linear rubble-filled feature, although it seems far too shallow to be anything significant like a robbed out wall line or backfilled moat.

We began removing the rubble fill today, and will continue on Wednesday, but as before the process is severely hindered by the dense network of tree roots at this end of the trench.

west end of trench 2
Removing rubble deposit at west end of trench two

Meanwhile at the west end of trench two work continued removing the coarse sloping rubble deposit we've been working on for several days now.

We've removed more than 60 centimetres of rubble in places here and still haven't really found a definitive base to the context, and although it's looking increasingly unlikely that we'll find any in-situ structure, it is further strong evidence of a substantial and fairly high status building very close by.

Progress in this context has at times been painstakingly slow, as for the most part we have to essentially pick apart the rubble brick-by-brick, but the deposit has continued to reward our patience with plenty of decent finds.

clay pipe
Another early C17th clay pipe

Delft fragment

Some of the nicer finds included another very early clay tobacco pipe, tentatively dated to the early 1620s, and a fragment of colourfully decorated Delftware - tin-glazed earthenware in a style imported from the Netherlands but typically made in London.

medieval cooking pot rim
?14th century cooking pot rim

Perhaps one of the most interesting finds of the day, however, came from the other end of the trench - a fairly sizeable chunk of a substantial cooking pot, made from a crude coarse sandy fabric distinctive of medieval pottery, we think at the moment probably dating to the 14th century.

This is a period of which we know vanishingly little about Elsyng - about a century before the first really substantial high-status buildings were constructed by the Earl of Worcester - but we do know, in part due to finds like this, that the site was inhabited long before the Earl, possibly as far back as the early 12th century.

Tomorrow we'll be taking a day of to catch up on paperwork and laundry, but we'll be back on site on Wednesday morning and working every day until the end of the dig this Sunday.

There's still time for a last-minute gatehouse!