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Archaelogy Watching at our London Site - Part II

On Monday 20 February 2017, site manager Steve Johnson reported a further spread of material exposed during turf stripping of the former ‘Helicopter Landing Area’ at the western edge of London's site. The turf has now mostly been removed for expansion of the car parking area during on-going site landscaping work funded by the HLF (Heritage Lottery Fund).
turf stripping of the former ‘Helicopter Landing Area’ at the western edge of London's site
The Curator of Aircraft, Andrew Simpson, made a visual inspection and walked the newly exposed area in an approximate grid pattern.  Conditions were fine and dry.

A further small selection of post-medieval material was made. The greatest spread of material was at the southern end of the exposed area closer to a pathway to the former pedestrian entrance.

These included a further single small piece of clay pipe stem; body fragments of ribbed stoneware jar; a fragment of blue glass poison/medicine bottle; wire-reinforced window glass; blue transfer-printed  earthenware and china, including plate rim, and tile; a one pound coin dated 1990 (probably lost in the former picnic tables area) ; fragments of white glass jar; one complete white glass jar with moulded Pond’s England  on the base, presumed to be for Pond’s Face Cream; and a complete glass jar, possibly for writing ink.
Items found from the Helipad Landing Area
Items noted but not retained included quantities of red brick fragments and domestic ‘bathroom’ tile, along with the ash/clinker filled cuts of more modern field drains cut into the natural clay, which lies close to the surface below the turf line and some clay subsoil.

This material is comparable to that  found near Hangar One during the initial site watching carried out on 6th February, previously reported. It certainly supports the notion that considerable areas of dumping of modern, twentieth century material has occurred on parts of the site as the result of demolition or even redeposited Blitz rubble. The few fragments of clay pipe stem – now four in all – are the only potentially pre-c.1850 items, suggesting little historic activity in the immediate area, which would be logical bearing in mind it was largely pasture land until creation of the airfield.

Further material, mostly mid-twentieth century glassware, was recovered by the contractors on 22 February and kindly passed on for assessment. This included two horseshoes, kindly identified by horse-owning Archives Curator Belinda Day as one for a shire horse or similar heavy breed, and a smaller ‘standard bred’ example – which is slightly bent, indicating it may have come off in an accident.
The Museum's former Helipad Landing Area with Hangar One in the background
Further to the mention of the November 1992 watching brief by MOLA (Museum of London Archaelogy)on the adjacent site of the then-new Divisional Police Station/Area Headquarters (GPW92, TQ2193 9011, c.50m above OD) in the previous report; the evaluation took place over two weeks, and five trenches were excavated in shallow spits through 30cm of topsoil and black cinders- possibly a make-up layer -  (again comparable to the RAFM site) down to the surface of the natural London Clay; land drains in cinder and gravel fills similar to those found at the museum site in 2017 and a few sherds of 19th – 20th century pottery, mainly blue and white china – as found at the museum site -  a single sherd of tin-glazed ware (TGW, possibly 18th century in date) and a single clay pipe stem were recovered; landscaping and truncation during and after the life and closure of the aerodrome may have led to destruction of any earlier features, and this may be the case at the Museum site also. 

It would appear that this area, and much of the Manor of Hendon (held by Westminster Abbey), was heavily wooded in medieval times, with settlement on these low-lying claylands  limited to isolated farms and the occasional small hamlet. By the mid eighteenth century with the removal of the woodlands  the area was open fields,  in use for both some arable and (mainly) meadow/pasture, the latter for sheep and cattle, with haymaking an important industry to feed the horses of London via Cumberland Market in London, the fields being manured by material coming in the opposite direction from London! 

By 1780  the fields beneath the future aerodrome were held by the Broadhead family of Church Farm at Hendon Church End (latterly the former and much lamented Church Farm Museum, housed in the original seventeenth-century farmhouse, which still stands) , who still held them in 1843. 
In 1869 the then-480-acre Church Farm was acquired under lease by Andrew Dunlop; background can be found here.  

Andrew Renwick, Photography Curator for the Museum, points out that the freehold was owned by Lt Col Theodore Francis Brinckman, from whom local aviation pioneers Everett and Edgcumbe & Co Ltd negotiated a lease, along with two other local landowners.  They were then given permission to clear the land and erect a shed to house their new (and unsuccessful) monoplane; this work may have started late 1909 but had certainly started by February 1910. The new The London Aerodrome Company Limited leased and cleared more land later in 1910, the uncompleted flying ground opening on 1 October 1910. The perhaps better – known Claude Grahame-White doesn’t enter the local scene as an aircraft builder and operator until 1911.

Colindale had begun to build up in the early 1890s, and after felling trees and clearing ground/hedges in what was then pasture land, preparation of the airfield commenced as mentioned above, some 700 metres west of the settlement at Hendon Church End with its Roman and Saxon/medieval history lying on an area of free-draining gravels. 

Church Farm was a dairy and haymaking farm until the first half of the twentieth century, and also bred ‘Clydesdale Horses’ heavy plough horses. Perhaps the shire horse horseshoe found is an echo of this?
Additional finds, including the Shire Horse Shoe

Further Reading:

See;  ‘Grahame Park Way, Hendon London Borough of Barnet An Archaeological Evaluation’ Museum of London Archaeology Service January 1993

See also; Aerodrome Road, Hendon London Borough of Barnet Archaeological Desktop Report Oxford Archaeological Unit November 1996

The Last Hendon Farm -The archaeology and history of Church End Farm Hendon and District Archaeological Society; To The Manor Born Five Good Reasons To Visit Hendon; The Fascinating History of Hendon Greyhound Inn, Hendon August 1996

Andrew Simpson : Curator, Department of Aircraft and Exhibits
About the Author

Andrew Simpson : Curator, Department of Aircraft and Exhibits

I am a keen amateur archaeologist and vintage transport enthusiast, I have worked at the RAF Museum since 1989 and I have been in my present post since 1992. I am a great fan of Propliners and pretty much anything with lots of piston engines, I wish I could have seen (and heard!) the Brabazon, Princess, and B.36. I also produce all the detailed RAFM aircraft histories as seen on the RAFM website.

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