Friday, 10 June 2011

Days 18 and 19 (9-10/6/2011)

Thursday was spent writing up final suggestions for our volunteer-research project ion buildings in the East End and also how we might carry out this research and final ideas for ‘Digging Hackney’.

Used under Attribution-No-commercial (CC) license - Flickr user delete08
Friday morning I finished this off and then did a bit more research into Hackney Wick for future projects. I discovered some more of its fascinating history not least of all the strange tale of the first railway murder in Britain in 1864. Apparently the victim, Thomas Briggs met his fate on a train between Bow and Hackney Wick following dinner in Peckham. His assailant Franz Muller left him by the side of the tracks and later escaped on a boat to New York but only after selling the unfortunate Briggs’ pocket watch- the jeweller from Cheapside (in the City) whom he sold it to came forward and identified Muller after hearing the story. The police took a faster boat and were waiting in the Big Apple to apprehend the murderer who was later hanged at the infamous Newgate prison- now the site of the Old Bailey. As for the victim himself, on the evening of his attack he was brought to the Milford Castle pub (which is still there, although now called the Top o’ the Morning) on Cadogan Terrace next to Victoria Park but sadly died later, back home in Clapton.

This afternoon we had a staff meeting all about future projects and it was great to hear all the plans the organisation has and also to look at some of its recent successes. It has been a real privilege to work here- 4 weeks has absolutely flown by as I have been given such a variety of interesting things to do and been entrusted with quite a lot of responsibility to get projects like ‘Digging Hackney’ moving forward. I really appreciate that the team here have allowed me to do this and it has been really rewarding. Hopefully I have been a helpful presence too! – I’m really going to miss it. This is my last blog and I hope you have enjoyed hearing about what a unique organisation I have had the chance to work for. I urge everyone to follow the other blogs and our ongoing projects via the TBE website or to come along to one of our events in the summer.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Days 15 and 16 (6-7/6/11)

Monday brought an early start - I was going back to school…

We went to Culloden Primary School in Poplar to give an all school series of workshop on the changing built environment of the area around the school, the Olympic park and London in general. I had to help organise the volunteers handing out information sheets etc. and setting up for activities. Each session was only about half an hour long but us volunteers had to move between different classrooms with all the materials quickly so as not to keep the children and their teachers waiting. First off I helped the teacher in a year 5 class talk about the changing nature of the Olympic park, particularly how the map has changed over the years and even how whole streets have disappeared. We emphasised this point by talking about Temple Mills Lane, which was rediscovered in 2008 in excavations for the Velodrome in the north of the site. This road had been buried under around 10 metres of Victorian landfill and we showed the children a Quicktime VR (click and hold then drag cursor to move around 360 degrees) of the archaeologists digging there - I’m the one behind the tripod thing (dumpy-level)! As soon as the kids found out I was an archaeologist they seemed a lot more interested in what they were doing! In other sessions classes compared historic and contemporary maps and thought about the infrastructure needed to host the Olympics.
The early 19th century riverboat I helped excavate in
December 2007. Pretty cold and that isn't exactly clean water
-more like old diesel and who knows
what else... Lucky we were wearing protective suits.
All the volunteers and Janet, Lizzie and Rosie, who prepared for and ran the day, worked incredibly hard to make this all work smoothly and I really think the school children enjoyed it. That said, running a workshop all day for over three hundred children is very tiring so was glad to get home and rest afterwards although it took two hours due to a dodgy DLR train being stuck in the tunnel at Bank. Funnily enough I went home via Stratford as a result and saw the Olympic venues from the Overground that I had been getting the kids to look at that morning and where I had worked three years ago. Back then it was a completely different landscape and not always a pleasant one as you can see from the picture to the right.

On Tuesday I helped with lunch some secondary school pupils who came to TBE for a workshop on the Olympic legacy who then got to go on a tour of the athletes village, which I was quite jealous of! Along with this I continued to work on ‘Digging Hackney’.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Days 13+14 (2-3/6/2011)

Another busy week and another lack of blogging on my part...
Last week on Thursday I spent time investigating Hackney Wick’s heritage as part of our ongoing investigation into the area- this was all the more enjoyable as the weekend before I had wandered up the Lea Navigation Canal from here and spotted some of the buildings I was then reading about. This area is very bounded: To the West and North the A12, to the East, the river Lea and the Olympic Park and running through the centre is Lea Navigation and Hackney Cut where it links with the Hertford Union Canal running in from the west. More on this soon. Despite its proximity to the Olympics it has a very distinctive feel and is still very industrial- the smell of the Bagel factory is particularly enticing!

I also spent time investigating English Heritage’s listed buildings databases and attempting to create maps through an experimental database tool that can output entries directly as map pins on a Google map called Google fusion- (sorry for tall the Googles).

Friday brought a visit to the Woodberry Down estate in the North of Hackney where the Senior Bees building explorers learnt about the history of the estate and its massive 15+ year transformation and commensurate doubling of its density to over 4000 homes. The tour of the first phase of development we had was all the more impressive to me given that I had worked on one of the sites as an archaeologist in 2008- where once stood a bombed out 1920’s house there is now a 27 storey tower block.

Friday afternoon brought massive amounts of photocopying, laminating and preparation for our visit to Culloden school on Monday 6th which I will talk about tomorrow!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Days 11 and 12 (31/5- 1/6/11)

Since Monday was a holiday, I came back to work on Tuesday. In the morning I helped Lizzie out planning for a schools mapping workshop next Monday with 300 children that I am meant to be helping to run! Slightly daunting but sure it will go great. In the afternoon I went to Hackney Museum and catalogued all the finds used in the ‘Digging Hackney’ Workshop where children learn about archaeology. As part of our plans to change this workshop we thought it would be a good idea to know what artefacts we actually have at the moment and whether we need any different types. To do this I gave each bone, tile or piece of pottery a number and a description, attempted to date them (not the bones…) and photographed and labelled them.  The dating was tricky to say the least, despite having been an archaeologist for 3 years in London and with the help of two books I still struggled to sort some Medieval and Roman pottery from one another!
Today I inputted all this information into a spreadsheet and linked this to the photos. Whilst somewhat monotonous, this will really help us change the workshop into a more Hackney focussed activity hopefully that might look at several different aspects of past lives and local places.
Also today I have been trying to wrack my brains what might be good as a key introductory object for when we take the workshop out to schools rather than in the museum. At the moment the workshop focuses around the idea of age and how archaeologists can tell things about the past as fantastically evidenced by the Springfield Park log boat in a glass case in the museum which is great because people can stand and look down on it or sit on the glass above it to see how many people it could hold etc. Obviously to go out to schools we need something equally as impressive and evocative but somewhat smaller and less fragile! Ideas are welcome! The search continues…