Monday 9 January 2017

Its quiet over Christmas

This is a posting with very little, if any, news and a lot of chit chat.


Don't forget our next meeting ......... which will feature ...

Stewart Ash speaking on Sir John Pender.  17th  7.30. at Age Exchange Old Bakehouse.
- all welcome - learn about how Greenwich changed the world

So -

Richard Buchanan has drawn our attention to an article in the current LAMAS Transactions (Vol.66 2015) This is about the proof house in the Tower of London. This is where the nation's gunpowder was tested Tudor period and earlier and this is an archaeological report, rather than a history (there is a difference).  I guess from the archaeologists point of view this is all good stuff - lots of digging up of post medieval bricks and the like.

Why are we interested in this here in Greenwich? As Richard pointed out 'The Proof House is the predecessor of the Magazine at what became Enderby Wharf''.  So - but - here is my problem with the article - it doesn't actually mention Greenwich.   The Greenwich Gunpowder Magazine dated from the 1690s - the site was first investigated as somewhere for it to be built in 1694.and it is thought this move was because the storage of gunpowder in the Tower was seen as dangerous. However the LAMAS article says that a proof house and charging house were built by the Ordinance Board at the Tower in 1682 and that they were replaced in 1709 with larger buildings. So what was going on??

We know that the Greenwich Magazine was used for proofing as well as for a store. Did the two run concurrently, or have we misunderstood the role of the works at Greenwich?  Isn't this something that should be discussed?  But there is no mention of Greenwich in the article - or indeed of Purfleet where the magazine was moved to in the 18th century.

Can anyone throw a bit of light on this??

 (Anthony Mackinder.. The Proof House and later works at Tower Wharf)

More - archaeology - thanks Elizabeth for a copy of an article in London Archaeologist (winter 2017),   'The Bronze Age landscape of the Greenwich Peninsula'.  

This is another article all about digging things up to look for far distant times.  Fair enough I suppose - if all you are interested in is several thousand years ago, and, bother what has been on the site since.  Illustrations in the article show 'Early Holocene surface around the Blackwall Lane site.... to the north on what is now the Greenwich Peninsula lay a network of channels interspersed with gravel islands'.

The article also draws heavily on the discovery of a Bronze Age trackway in Bellott Street (er - technically not on the Peninsula).  Some of the article also rests on archaeological reports which are not available to the likes of you and me.

As ever I have some problems with this sort of stuff, which seems to exist in a little cloud  of its own some distance from reality.

For instance - can we be told what the Thames was doing at this point??  I mean, I'm not good on prehistoric dates but I do know that  the Thames has moved about a bit over the years, I also guess there have been any number of dreadful tidal surges not to mention various shoals and things in the river (one only removed in the 19th).  How did they affect what they found?? How did all these little gravel islands change?  What relation to they have to what is there now??

The article is about the Bronze Age - but the questions I would like answered are about things which are more recent - it would be good to know who exactly we think first embanked the Peninsula??  Do the drainage channels you have identified then in any way match the late medieval drainage system?? Do we think there were other earlier man made drainage systems?? Why do you think there was managed farming and settlement there when in 1600 the Peninsula was almost all marshland held on short term leases for marsh based activies - wildfowling, osiers, etc?  Does usage and tenure not have a very very long back story.  What were all those bits and pieces I used to be shown by local workers who told me they were Roman and picked up on the Dome site (I didn't believe them particularly ....but.. you never know)

I think there are other issues - one is that it is a pity that the potentially interesting area at what was Bugsby's Causeway was built on with no investigation - were MOLA/Pre-Construct not aware of possibilities there??  and - you know there are more features on the Peninsula than the medieval tide mill
and - also - by the way - I can point you to an excellent description of monthly plant growth there from the 1620s onwards, would be useful for comparison??

Archaeologists will love this article and it is clearly an important paper - I want to say something positive about it, but I also want to know where it takes us.  How does it help us understand the world we find ourselves in??