Dear Huntingdonshire Local History Society member,
It will come as no surprise to you that due to the Covid-19 pandemic we have had to cancel our Annual General Meeting due on 15th April and our President David Starkey’s first lecture to us, with presentation of Goodliff awards, on 20th May. We hope to re-arrange both for the Autumn, but it is too early yet to say when that will be and Dr Starkey’s lecture will depend when he can fit us into his busy diary, no doubt even fuller now with postponed events.
The Cambridge Historic Churches Trust conference on 18th April and Cambridgeshire Association for Local History conference on 2nd May, of which I promised to circulate details at our last meeting, have similarly been cancelled. How quickly the world has changed! CALH and the Cambridge Antiquarian Society have cancelled its meetings into the summer.
We were in the process of arranging excursions and have a visit to Spalding arranged for Wednesday 10th June that is now also likely to be postponed. That makes the lecture by Dr Stephen Parissien on Palace House Newmarket in the Huntingdon Town Hall on Wednesday 8th July our next meeting. This event is in connection with the Huntingdonshire History Festival but even if the Town Hall has reopened for use it will depend to some extent on whether the Festival will go ahead. A decision on that will be made no later than May. During July we also have planned an evening visit to Leighton Bromswold church for Thursday 23rd July, followed by the opportunity for dinner at The Green Man. There’s no harm in putting these events in your diary now, but with a question mark.
The Goodliff Awards scheme continues. The deadline for applications is just one week ahead, on 31st March. The committee will assess these without meeting, which may take a little longer but applicants can expect to hear by the end of April at the latest if they have been successful.
We hope to produce a summer Almanack with excursion and/or meeting details as soon as it is safe to reorganise these. Meanwhile we will endeavour to keep you up to date with developments, and David Smith will publish the latest information on the society’s website. We are also thinking of sending out an occasional bulletin of some sort, which might just be some local history thoughts and jottings, so contributions to that would be welcome. Either get a friend to email them to me or give me a ring.
You will be pleased to hear that we have booked the Huntingdon Military Wives’ Choir for our Christmas Social at the Town Hall on Friday 4th December. Let’s hope and pray that we shall be through this awful period by then and we will all be still here to enjoy it.
With very best wishes to you and your families during this anxious time,
It is with deep regret that we have cancelled the weekend trip to Kent this year due to the Cornovirus situation. The current forecast is that the number of confirmed cases of Cornovirus will escalate to epidemic proportions over the next 4 to 6 weeks which puts the peak at the same time as we had planned the weekend away. We have discussed this with each of the venues we had planned to visit and although they could not categorically confirm they would be open, there was every possibility they would be closed as part of a Government step to contain the spread of the virus.
Full refunds will be sent to all those members who had booked for the weekend.
Rectory Farm, Godmanchester – Publication of the Report
A book about the complex multi-period landscape excavated at Rectory Farm, Godmanchester has been published by East Anglian Archaeology. The site includes a Neolithic trapezoidal enclosure of national importance and a scheduled Romano-British villa. For details of the publication go to: http://eaareports.org.uk/publication/report170/
Oxford Archaeology East was commissioned by Historic England in 2013 to produce this monograph. The excavations at Rectory Farm, Godmanchester were undertaken between 1988-1995 by Historic England’s (formerly English Heritage) Central Archaeological Service in advance of gravel quarrying. Aerial photography had revealed a Neolithic trapezoidal enclosure of national importance and a scheduled Romano-British villa. The site lies within the valley of the Great Ouse, along which extensive prehistoric landscapes have been the subject of archaeological work for some time. Many of these sites have been excavated by OA East, including the complex of Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age ceremonial monuments at Brampton.
At Rectory Farm, the earliest activity was a large Early to Middle Neolithic monument consisting of a series of twenty-four large posts arranged with great precision and enclosed by a continuous ditch and internal bank with an ‘entrance’ on one side. A small mound further west evidently served as a viewing point for the trapezoidal enclosure. It is of unusual form and it is of particular interest in terms of its wider setting in a developing monumental landscape. Radiocarbon analysis dates the use of the enclosure to 3685-3365 cal BC (95% probability). This enclosure appears to be unique in the archaeological record and is therefore of national and international significance. The publication contains a major new analysis of its archaeoastronomical significance conducted by Professor Clive Ruggles of University of Leicester. The alignment of the posts with the early May and/or August sunrises suggests that the monument was used as a place for people to gather and mark the changing seasons, and possibly key points of the agricultural cycle.
This part of the Ouse Valley suffered regular flooding throughout the later Bronze and the Early to Middle Iron Age. Once the floodwaters had receded, the prehistoric remains influenced subsequent re-occupation of the landscape.
A Roman villa farm complex developed in three identifiable phases, linked by a road to the Roman town of Durovigutum (Godmanchester). Notable remains included a furnished cremation cemetery, set within a complex of gardens. One of these contained plant and tree species reminiscent of the Mediterranean style, while close to the cemetery and a possible triclinium (a dining area) was a kitchen courtyard garden with nearby bee hives. Three substantial wells nearby contained painted wall plaster, tesserae and a large column capital. The discovery of a finely made cockerel figurine within one of the wells may indicate an association with the god Mercury. By the early 5th century, the buildings were derelict, but although settlement had ceased the land remained in agricultural use until gravel extraction and landfill took place in the late 20th century.
The lead author was Alice Lyons, formerly of OA East. The project was managed by OA East’s Head of Post-Excavation & Publications, Liz Popescu, said “Oxford Archaeology is proud to have brought this major site successfully to publication – the results will undoubtedly be of interest to locals and academics alike.”
Brian Kerr, Head of Archaeological Investigation at Historic England said: “We are delighted to see the publication of a book about this important site, and we congratulate Oxford Archaeology East on the successful completion of the project that we funded. We are grateful to all our colleagues who contributed so much to the fieldwork, including a number of specialist analyses including human and plant remains, geoarchaeology and scientific dating.”
About Oxford Archaeology East:
Oxford Archaeology is one of the largest independent archaeological and heritage practices in Europe, with over 250 specialist staff working out of offices in Oxford, Lancaster and Cambridge. Founded in 1973, we have over 40 years of experience in professional archaeology, and a tradition of quality, innovation and service on projects ranging in scale from domestic extensions to international transport infrastructure. We are a registered educational charity, we help people to discover and enjoy their heritage through our publications and outreach. Across the country, we have welcomed many thousands of visitors to our sites on open days, regularly provide presentations and information panels, and volunteers of all ages have participated in our wide variety of excavation and survey projects that span all periods of human history. For further information, visit our website: www.oxfordarchology.com
Based in Cambridge, Oxford Archaeology East (OA East) operates primarily across the East of England from the Thames to the Humber. It has existed since the 1980s, previously as a local authority in-house contractor and since 2008 as part of Oxford Archaeology delivering commercial services for development projects and community archaeology opportunities.
About Historic England:
Historic England is the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops. They protect, champion and save the places that define who we are and where we’ve come from as a nation. They care passionately about the stories they tell, the ideas they represent and the people who live, work and play among them. Working with communities and specialists Historic England share their passion, knowledge and skills to inspire interest, care and conservation, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us all.
This year we are pleased to announce that we will be returning to Kent to visit some of the historic houses and building in the northern part of the County. For those who were lucky enough to join us for our tour of the Castles of Kent in 2016 will remember the outstanding visits to Leeds Castle, Penshurst, Dover Castle, Walmer Castle, Lullingstone Roman Villa, Igntham Mote and Hever Castle.
This year our weekend is filled with visiting some of the other areas of this County:
Day 1: Darwins House and Riverhill Himalayan Gardens
Day 2: Scotney Castle and Maidston Museum
Day 3: Smallhythe, Ellen Terry’s house and kitchen garden, Church of St Thomas a Becket, Capel
Day 4: Chartwell, home of Winston Churchill, visit to the house and gardens followed by a cream tea before heading back to Hutingdon in the afternoon.
For a printable copy of the itinerary for this years visit to Kent please click [here].
As well as enjoying the historic, book lined rooms, visitors will be able to see displays of items from the College in First Court since the 15th Century, in what was the medieval Prior’s residence. You can view more information about the Old Library online at [https://www.magd.cam.ac.uk/old-library].
The small displays referred to in the poster on the left to Huntingdonshire LHS members, particularly the April one to those who read the article on Virginia Ferrar by David Ransome in the last issue of Records or earlier papers by David on the Ferrar family published online in [Local History Articles] page
In addition to the Old Library, the College also houses the Pepys Library which is a separate library.
On the evening of 19 September 2019, over 30 members and friends joined our Chairman, Dr Philip Saunders, at Island Hall Godmanchester to bid a fond farewell and heartfelt thank you to our retiring President Dr Simon Thurley.
Dr Thurley, who became our President in 2003, is a local Godmanchester boy who has had a successful career as an Academic and Architectural Historian. Former Director of the Museum of London and Chief Executive of English Heritage and an accomplished author of a number of books on English Palaces and the buildings of England.
Throughout his tenure as President of the Society, Dr Thurley, gave over 18 addresses and talks on such subjects as ‘The Englishness of England’s Heritage’, ‘Hampton Court, a Secret History’, ‘The English Royal Court during the Civil Wars’, ‘The Invention of Heritage: How the Government fabricated our History 1930-1950’, and more recently ‘The King, the Actress and the Cardinal: the birth of London’s West End’, and ‘Heritage and Housing’ (the changing face of housing development)
HUNTINGDONDONSHIRE LOCAL HISTORY SOCIETY – VISIT TO RAF WYTON PATHFINDER MUSEUM CANCELLED
It is with deep regret that I have to inform you that the planned visit to the RAF Wyton Pathfinders Museum which was to be held on the afternoon of Tuesday 9th July has been cancelled.
The Museum is putting on a small display of some of their artefacts on Saturday 13 July in All Saints Church Huntingdon. Whilst this is not a full display of all the Museum’s artefacts, they will be showing a number of the instruments and equipment from some of the Pathfinder aircraft that operated from RAF Wyton and other pathfinder bases in this region.
Here are the answers to the quiz, ‘How Well Do You Know Huntingdonshire’ that was in the January 2019 Almanack:
Where might you find these? What are they?
Picture 1: You can find this in Ramsey Abbey, its a ceiling boss that is on the floor in the Gate House.
Picture 2: A Station of the Cross in the grounds of LIttle Gidding Church
Picture 3: Milepost at Green End, Great Stukeley