Wandsworth Historical Society

Battersea : Balham : Putney : Tooting : Wandsworth Town

Reports on our past lectures in 2019.

Current year on this page.

2019 | Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr | May | Jun | Jul

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2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 (and November 2013)

26 July 2019

'The Battersea Channel'

Virgil Yendell, geoarchaeologist at MOLA.

A talk about the ancient landscapes and finds discovered during recent archaeological work in the Nine Elms area.

Virgil told us about the Battersea Channel Project. This began following a London Archaeologist article in 2009 and now has many participants coordinated by the Battersea Channel forum.

This aim is to use data from core sampling of sediments to create maps of the prehistoric landscape. The Battersea Channel is a relic of a late glacial valley in the area between Vauxhall and Battersea dating back around 11,000 years. From the data obtained so far contour maps have been produced showing the land levels and the importance of the Battersea Eyot.

It has been possible to determine the nature of the landscape. In the Early to Mid-Mesolithic it was fenland and later wetlands. In the Neolithic to Bronze age woodland containing elm, hazel, oak and lime trees dominated before giving way to mudflats and water meadows. It is thought that the denser forest would have led the inhabitants to clear the land and encourage a move to agriculture.

The project continues as more data is obtained from the many construction sites including Battersea Power station, the Northern Line extension and the new super sewer along the river.

28 June 2019

AGM followed by a talk on 'Paul Fourdrinier, master engraver: a Huguenot life in London.'

Peter Simpson (independent historian)

The Society's AGM on 28th June was followed by an engrossing illustrated talk about engraver Paul Fourdrinier (1698-1758) by historian and author Peter Simpson, based on his recent, impressively researched book. Paul was born in Groningen (NL), his French Huguenot parents having emigrated following the 1685 revocation of the Edict of Nantes. He came to England in 1720 and the following year, married Susanna Grolleau, daughter likewise of Huguenot exiles.

He was an esteemed and prolific engraver and, from premises near Whitehall, produced plates for a wide variety of publications, including two by Putney historian Robert Wood. With his wife and members of their families, he was buried in Mount Nod Cemetery.

Peter Simpson is the author of The Forgotten Fourdrinier: The Life, Times and Work of Paul Fourdrinier, Huguenot Master Printmaker in London, AuthorHouse, 2017.

[Report by Philip Evison]

31 May 2019

'The Golden Age of Thames Antiquarians'

Jon Cotton

A talk about the heroes and villains involved with retrieving antiquities from the Thames.

Jon Cotton spent 31 years at the Museum of London with 20 years as a senior curator. His talk looked at the many individual collectors over the last 300 years who helped to create the collections of early artifacts we have now. The River Thames has been the source of by far the greater proportion of the items from before formal archaeological digging and it is still producing significant finds.

He began with George Fabian Lawrence, dealer and collector who had a shop at 7 West Hill in Wandsworth. He was the agent for the Guildhall and London Museums and obtained many items including the Cheapside hoard, a rich collection probably buried at the time of the Civil War and never retrieved until it was found by workmen in a cellar under 30-32 Cheapside.

The idea of collecting historical began with the cabinets of curiosities created by such men as John Tradescant, father and son, whose collection was later acquired by Elias Ashmole and formed the nucleus of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. It was taken up by the many young men who went on the grand tour of Europe in the 18th century returning with ancient items from Greece and Rome as well as old master paintings. Jon singled out Horace Walpole of Strawberry Hill as one such.

In the nineteenth century gentlemen collectors, known as 'nicknackaterians' obtained items from the Thames foreshore following major projects such as the removal of old London Bridge and the building of Brentford Dock. Thomas Layton of Brentford built up a collection that filled his house and 32 sheds by the time of his death in 1911. Sadly the collection was sold and broken up.

Such collecting continues to the present via the Thames foreshore programmes and mudlarkers. At the end Jon paid tribute to the late Bob Wells who worked closely with Pamela Greenwood of the WHS to ensure the items he found were recorded and passed to public collections.

26 April 2019

Old London Bridge and its houses

Dorian Gerhold, WHS Chairman

Based on research for a new book, WHS Chairman Dorian Gerhold gave a graphic account of the houses and residents of old London Bridge (1209-1761). The bridge had about 100 houses and 500 residents in the 17th century.

Having accessed previously unseen leases and other documents, Dorian was able to reconstruct the layout of the bridge and identify the residents. All the premises had a shop at ground-floor level and the most popular trade was haberdasher. Fire was a recurrent problem and eventually all the houses were removed in around 1760, allowing the road to be widened.

Publication of Dorian's Book

This has now been published by the London Topographical Society. If you are not a member of that society it is available to purchase. We are told that it will sell out quicky because only a small number are printed in addition to those distributed to the TOPSOC members.

29 March 2019

'WHS Foreshore Survey 2016-2019'

Pamela Greenwood, WHS member

Pamela began by reviewing the societies work on the foreshore since it began in the 1960s. From the very long run of photos she has of the section on both sides of Putney Bridge it is possible to compare and see the changes that have taken place since that time. The most important impact on the forshore at present is from the works for the Thames tideway tunnel.

The details of the landscape changes over the years can only really be conveyed by photographs. However she did describe some exciting new finds and brought along an almost complete black burnished ware bowl of bronze age date which was found by the late Bob Wells.

22 February 2019

Doggett's Coat and Badge

Rob Cottrell, Author

In an entertaining and interactive talk, Rob took us back to 1 August 1715 when a rowing race was held on the River Thames to celebrate the first anniversary of the accession of George 1, Elector of Hanover. That race, organised by actor, theatre manager and dramatist Thomas Doggett, was called the Hanover Prize and the king himself was in attendance. From the second year, it was known as Doggett's Coat and Badge race; it is still contested under that name today.

The event - technically, a sculling race since the oarsman has two oars - was rowed against the tide in boats weighing up to three-and-a-half tons. Only six contestants were allowed to compete; all had to be in their first year of Freedom, having completed a 5-7 year apprenticeship to a waterman. Places were originally allocated by drawing lots but later, qualifying heats were held from Putney to Hammersmith.

The race started outside Fishmongers' Hall and finished at the Botanical Gardens, Chelsea. In the early days it took 2-3 hours to complete; today - rowing with the tide - it takes about 20 minutes. Apart from prize money, the winner was - and still is - presented with a scarlet coat (originally orange) and a silver arm badge. Rob brought with him a lovely example of the badge, shown here, and generously donated two copies of his book, Thomas Doggett Coat and Badge to the Society.

25 January 2019

9th Nick Fuentes Memorial Lecture

'Reflections on fifty years of London archaeology: 1968-2018'

Bob Cowie

With the 50th Anniversary this year of the London Archaeologist founded by Nick Fuentes, archaeologists are looking back over the last half century of changes, work and discoveries in London. Bob Cowie began digging with WHS and has recently retired from Museum of London Archaeology. In his talk he covered over 50 years of archaeological history by dividing the period since 1945 into four phases.

The period from 1945 to the early 1960s he called the heroic age. This he illustrated by the work of W F Grimes and Audrey Williams with discovery of The Temple of Mithras in 1954, and Cripplegate Fort. Also significant were the excavations by Kathleen Kenyon in Southwark.

From the 1960s to the early 1970s he called the period of revolution and rescue. Huge amounts of development particularly in the City of London and the creation of new roads led to many rescue digs, often done with the help of volunteers. It is surely significant that more local archaeological societies were created in this period then before or since. The magazine Current Archaeology was founded in March 1967 and London Archaeologist in 1968. The Rescue Trust for British Archaeology was founded in 1972 reflecting the spirit of the times.

From the early 1970s to 1990 he called the period of coming of age and the rise of professionalism. Many units were set up including Kent in 1971 and the Department of Urban Archaeology at the Museum of London in 1973. The closure of Londons' docks in 1968-71 and 1980-81 made available many sites and led to a lot of waterfront work particularly in the City. Here the good state of preservation of timber in the waterlogged conditions allowed very precise tree ring dating of the timbers and hence of objects found behind the waterfront structures. There were also large amounts of work on gravel sites in both West and East London.

The highlight of this period was the discovery of the Saxon site of Lundenwic in the Covent / Garden Strand area in 1985, which was voted by LAMAS members in 2005 as the most significant site found in the previous 150 years. The Roman Amphitheatre and the Rose Theatre were also discovered at the end of the 1980s and it was the case of the Rose Theatre which led to the next phase of the story.

From 1990 archaeology became part of the planning process with the publication of Planning Policy Guideline 16 (PPG16). This brought in the principle that the developer must pay for archaeology and with it the rise of the commercial units who competed for work. Bob also noted that following the financial big bang in the City of London the pace of building became much faster with archaeology having to be done at the same time as building work went on around. Volunteer activity reduced in this period but the Thames Foreshore programme was a notable exception in the 1990s.

Bob concluded his talk with a look at the way doing archaeology has changed mainly due to new technologies such digital photography, digital planning and mapping, GPS for accurate surveying and the storage of data in relational databases.


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