Monday, 9 March 2020

Woodlands Farm - Lie of the Land Project

article from 2006

"You could say this is what real education is about."
Richard Gray - Head Teacher Plumcroft Primary School

Andy Brockman came to talk to GIHS  2006 about the Lie of the Land Project taking place at Woodlands Farm. The following is a brief summary of some of the topics covered by him.

The Lie of the Land Project is an exciting new attempt to open up the History and Archaeology of the Shooters Hill area to the community of South East London. The objective is to bring the Heritage and Education communities together in a creative partnership with the wider community of this part of South East London as together we celebrate and explore the history of our landscape learning more about it and about ourselves. Something we regard as particularly important as we face the challenges of the 21st century, including economic regeneration and the effects of potential climate change. 
We are currently working with Birkbeck College and the Bexley Education Business Partnership.

As part of the Lie of the Land Project, fieldwork has been carried out at Woodlands Farm to evaluate the archaeological potential of the site. Initial work in the form of a 2m x 2m Test Pit was carried out as part of the education display at the 2005 Woodlands Farm Show. The following is an interim report on the excavation and subsequent fieldwork relating to the Shooters Hill ZAA [Anti-Aircraft Rocket] Battery, POW Camp 1020 which subsequently occupied the Battery site.

Woodlands Farm is located on the eastern slope of Shooters Hill, bordered by the A207 and straddles the London Boroughs of Greenwich and Bexley. It covers 89 acres, most of which is currently under grass and used for grazing the farm's livestock, but also includes former coppice woodland, and the site of the former Royal Arsenal Cooperative Society abattoir. It is managed by The Woodlands Farm Trust as a community farm and it lies on the undivided London Clay of the Thames Group. The original Farm buildings probably date from between 1800 and 1820, and the Farm has undergone change throughout its life, with none of the original building stock surviving.

The excavation aimed to:

1. Assess the survival of buried archaeology in the area of the former farm yard with particular reference to the 19th century farm.

2. Assess the geology of this area of the Farm.
The excavation proved that there is surviving archaeology in the area of the farm yard dating from at least the 19th century. Below the modern top soil is a layer of apparent demolition rubble containing late 19th or early 20th century London Stock Bricks with frogs and cement mortar, then a layer containing mid to late 19th and early 20th century pottery including Transfer Printed Porcelain. This may represent the ground surface prior to the dumping of the demolition rubble. A substantial, roughly finished timber lying on a north west to south east axis was found lying on top of this. The timber has no clear function, lacking nails, mortice holes or any other sign of having been part of a structure. However, its size and location suggests it may have been part of the 19th century building known to have been in the area of the excavation and shown as a piggery in a mid 20th century photograph.

The Topographic Survey was carried out by students of Birkbeck College under the Direction of Jonathon Godfrey. This demonstrated the break of slope below the Shooters Hill Golf Course caused by the change in Geology between the Gravels and Sands capping Shooters Hill and the London Clay on which the Farm lies. It was also possible to confirm that the Farm is situated at the head of a shallow valley running north east towards Abbey Wood and Erith. This probably represents the former course of the River Woghebourne. A short disused trackway was also observed running South West from the farm track towards the A207 Shooters Hill Road.

The two paddocks were the subject of a geophysical survey carried out by Birkbeck Students. A number of linear curved and circular features were observed which might hint at human activity including the sites of six World War II Huts related to the Shooters Hill ZAA Battery/POW Camp 1020.

Processing a progression of vertical RAF Air Photographs from the UK National Monuments Record collection, the Shooters Hill ZAA Battery was observed on Air Photographs dating to mid 1944. The rarity of the site was noted - there were only 51 built in the whole of the UK and the fact that, for much of its life, the site was operated by the Home Guard volunteer part-time soldiers drawn from the local community, made it worthy of further research.

A public appeal for information led to contact being made with a number of former Gunners who served on the site as well as local people who remembered the site in operation, both as an AAA rocket site and subsequently as a POW Camp.

The discovery of contemporary drawings of the site in operation as observed by one of the POW Camp inmates, prompted a campaign to evaluate any surviving archaeology of certain of the camp installations and the location and damage caused by two recorded V1 strikes in Autumn 1944 affecting the eastern edge of the camp and its immediate area on Woodlands Farm.

this page first appeared in the May 2006 GIHS Newsletter 

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