Low Hall Depot (Low Hall Manor),

South Access Road, Walthamstow, E17

WS-LH97

'The Three Wise Men of Gotham' and 'Low Down on Low Hall'

Written by Ian Blair


The Three Wise Men of Gotham

Three wise men of Gotham, 
They went to sea in a bowl, 
And if the bowl had been stronger 
My song would have been longer.

(Old Nursery Rhyme)

 ‘Wise man of Gotham’ Ryszard Bartkowiak, with commemorative mug found in the moat at Low Hall

 ‘Wise man of Gotham’ Ryszard Bartkowiak, with commemorative mug     found in the moat at Low Hall

 

Almost twenty years have passed, since the excavation at Low Hall Depot Walthamstow (WS-LH97) in the summer of 1997, and the site of the fantastically preserved moated medieval manor house of Low Hall, and the much smaller post medieval farmhouse complex that was to follow it. The site was ideally located, as living in E17 it afforded me a leisurely ten minute stroll to and from work. Over the past decade or more, Walthamstow has attracted a large number of archaeologists who now call it home. As I write this, I realise that there is scope for more than one post related to the site, so this opening shot across the bows will be the first, with others to follow.

Given the large size of the site, it is hard to believe that only seven archaeologists were involved in its excavation, who collectively toiled for nine weeks through a mix of torrential rain, and blazing sunshine of a typical English summer. With a small but happy team, and sole occupancy of the site, it was al fresco archaeology at its finest, and a rare opportunity for most of us to give our legs a rare airing. Spirits were further lifted by the presence of ‘Kaya’ (Chris Pickard’s faithful hound) and I feel that every archaeological site would benefit from the presence of a dog to boost morale.

 

Kaya bringing water to Ian and Rysz on a hot summer’s day on site

Kaya bringing water to Ian and Rysz on a hot summer’s day on site

 

Most of the limited work in the area of the moat adjoining the medieval bridge abutment and gatehouse was undertaken during a short watching brief at the end of the excavation, by which time a pump had been acquired, enabling the well-preserved base frame of the medieval bridge to be revealed. It will be readily apparent, from the sequence of photos that follow, that they pre-date the arrival of the aforementioned water-sucking device.

 

Epilogue: ‘The Three Wise Men of Gotham’

 

Two wise men of Gotham (Ryszard Bartkowiak and Ian Blair)     photo-cleaning the medieval bridge abutment and the moat side wall of the adjoining gatehouse.Scene 1: Two wise men of Gotham (Ryszard Bartkowiak and Ian Blair) photo-cleaning the medieval bridge abutment and the moat side wall of the adjoining gatehouse.

 

 

Wise man of Gotham perched on narrow board over waterScene 2: Wise man of Gotham perched on narrow board over water: ‘I have an idea, as to the easiest way to reach those difficult to clean areas close to the waterline’ .

 

 

Wise man of Gotham (somewhat predictably now in the moat and still fully clothed)Scene 3: Wise man of Gotham (somewhat predictably now in the moat and still fully clothed): ‘ Come on in, it’s lovely, at least if you ignore the freezing temperature of the water around your nether regions, and the likely contaminants’.

 

 

If you can’t beat them, join them: ‘Two wise men of Gotham standing in the  moat’Scene 4: If you can’t beat them, join them: ‘Two wise men of Gotham standing in the moat’.

 

  ‘Wise man of Gotham’ Paul Thrale, who worked on the original evaluation in March 1997Scene 5: But you might ask: ‘Where is the third wise man of Gotham ?’ ‘Wise man of Gotham’ Paul Thrale, who worked on the original evaluation in March 1997, is still occasionally sighted around Walthamstow, clutching his retro photo board, and asking passers-by if they can point him in a northerly direction.

 


 

Low Down on Low Hall

Written by Ian Blair

(Including a rather surprising archive photograph sent to us by Trevor Brigham)


The second (and most important) post related to Low Hall Manor, is a simple acknowledgement of the people who worked on the site. This element of bringing the archaeologists centre stage and out of the shadows of the archaeology we have all so lovingly excavated over the past decades, is central in what we continually strive to do with Hobley’s Heroes. With the future launch of the site ‘Digging London’, we will have the opportunity to expand our remit, and better reflect the complex history of the individuals and the units that are an intrinsic part of the story of the development of urban archaeology in London since the Second World War.

 

 Low Hall Group shot in manor house

 Archaeologists relaxing in the remains of the medieval manor house, following a hard week or two licking the site clean for the final photos. From the front: Richard Turnbull in the solar extension, Ian Blair in the solar, Kaya (about to enter the solar from the great hall), Ryszard Bartkowiak and Chris Pickard, and two extras? in the great hall, Malcolm McKenzie outside under the stars (and the only person without a virtual roof over his head), and Mark Burch in the porch outside the great hall. The elongated service wing at the lower end of the great hall is at the top of the photo

 

Low Hall group shot cropped

Closer cropped view of archaeologists at rest in the remains of the medieval manor house (names as before, with occasionally faithful hound Kaya, now returned to his master!)

 

Mark Rysz Ian Kaya catching up on paperwork

Kaya, Mark B, Rysz B, and Ian B, taking the opportunity to catch up on paperwork

 

Chris, Kaya and Malcolm

Chris P, Kaya and Malcolm M, captured from above by an early experimental pilotless drone

 

Malcolm McKenzie

I love this photo, which oddly did not make the final cut for the MOLAS 1998 Annual Review (no idea why!). Malcolm M in full recording mode, with water (well it was very hot), and lots of fags (well it was occasionally stressful). The transistor radio is just out of shot, I kid you not.

 

Mark Burch 01 800

Mark Burch and tile hearth in the great hall of the manor house (quite funny: I’ve only just noticed that Mark although striking a pose, doesn’t actually have a trowel in his hand, unless it is a very, very, very small one!)

 

Val Griggs

Val Griggs toiling away as ever

 

Chris Pickard

Chris P having been deserted by Kaya, who was probably off keeping an eye on Rysz

 

Kaya supervising Rysz

Kaya supervising Rysz

 


From Trevor Brigham

 Mark Burch from Trevor Brigham

Ian's reply to Trevor

Thanks for sending me the uncensored version of the photo of Mark at work with his very, very, very big trowel, which I hadn’t previously seen. It’s inappropriate usage, is clearly the reason for the large central area of the hearth being damaged, so I can see why Big Brother and the overly sensitive archaeological censors here in London, would have sought to Photoshop it out of existence.

 

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