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Walled garden and Stables

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Archaeological Report for Dagnams Manor House Stable Block Area

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The aim and inspiration for the archaeological investigation was agreed at a Friends of Dagnam Park (FODP) meeting way back in 2005. We set ourselves thirteen targets, one of which was to clear vegetation from the footprint of the walled garden and Dagnams House. The final push into action though was in the spring of 2015. A judges report from the annual London in Bloom contest, only gave a silver gilt award. The reasons given; we had no information signage and as nature had all but recovered the house site there was no obvious evidence of Dagnam’s rich history.

So after a series of FODP Committee meetings, discussions with the London Borough of Havering (LBH) parks department and the LBH historical advisors we broadcasted an appeal for volunteer diggers.

The diggers that gathered on the first Saturday morning dig all admitted the most experience they had of being archaeologists was gained by watching TV’s Tony Robinson’s Time Team. However we did hold an ace up our sleeves ┬áthat the Time Team didn’t always have, that we hold a huge catalogue of detailed written history, including photographs and eye witness reports of many who played in and visited the area before it was demolished in the 1950s.

The dig dates had to be interspersed with FoDP’s many other activities, which included litter picks, barbed wire fencing removal, restoration of the metal gates and fencing, guided tours of the manor and then much later during the whole of 2016, dealing with the LBH council's proposal to build solar panels and/or wind turbines on the newest fields added to the reserve only a few years previously! The dig recommenced with more vigour throughout 2017, so that the autumn saw the stable block foundations exposed and artefacts cleaned and catalogued.

This then allowed our attention to turn to the Manor House living area, this dig will continue long into 2018 and beyond.

Brief history

In 1772 wealthy merchant Richard Neave purchased Dagnams manor house. He was previously renting the nearby Bower House. However he decided the Dagnams needed a complete rebuild so continued residing at the Bower House until 1775. He did retain the east side of the old Dagnams which contained the kitchen and domestic living quarters. The stable blocks and out houses to the north of the previous house were also demolished. (Future test trenches are planned to ascertain their exact whereabouts).  The Stable block buildings that are shown in the 1948 photographs on the FODP web site were built during the same period, probably 1772 to 1775. Go to the historic images of Dagnams

Details of the stable block buildings and artefacts found

The court yard surface now revealed from its covering of soil and foliage is not of cobbled stone as first impressions gave. The whole area is covered by a three and a half to four inch thick concrete mix, laid in sections on a foundation of palm sized flint stones. This foundation is mixed in cement and sand. Before the concrete surface dried a metal former had been pressed onto the mix to create a cobbled impression. Also, before the mixture set, gullies were shaped so that rain would run down to the centre of the yard, then down further to the large drain positioned to the north in the yard.

The maximum length of the cobbled court yard is 116 feet, the maximum width being 37 feet.

The 1948 photographs revealed numerous (approximate) 8 foot double doorways that would have housed animals, carriages and much later motorised vehicles. The door posts that remain are of a cream coloured stone, possibly Portland. Inset to the stone would have held wooden posts and lintels to hang the doors via hinges.

The foundations of the standard red brick walls were once again built on a hard core foundation. The foundations of the floors have a layer of fine rubble, a layer of concrete, a layer of grey slate for the damp course then another layer of smoothed concrete. Debris found amongst the buildings on the east side have revealed small yellow coloured bricks that would have been flooring laid in the form of herring bone.

The floors of the east side buildings are littered to a depth of approximately one foot with huge quantities of broken glass and metal. The metal parts come in many forms; examples are a tractor seat, horse shoes, various hinges and window fittings and a small shield displaying a thistle that once was on a Shanks garden mower.

Evidence of large fires during the demolition showed wooden furniture had been destroyed as numerous metal draw handles were found.

A lathe probably had been housed as twisted metal shavings were discovered.

The path to the north of the court yard continued, not of concrete but of old house bricks and stone. This was covered in a fine layer of grey ash, possibly laid to give a better grip on wetter days.

Numerous test trenches of the path to the south of the court yard revealed a compacted sand and fine grit mixture, similar to the nearby newly laid path by LBH.

Alan York    Secretary of FODP.    11th January 2018

Three aerial images by Tim Doman taken by his drone from 398 feet on 21st May 2018. The foundations of Dagnams so far uncovered can be seen clearly. This is the rear of the house with its central bay facing the lily pond.

This is another of Tim Doman's highly informative drone images. It was taken on 6th July following the June/July drought in 2018 it clearly shows the ground floor layout of Dagnams.

Stable Block

A selection of artifacts uncovered during the dig. Some older than others.

Thanks to Belinda Bearman and Alan York for the photos.

Don Tait reports that Henry Peck & Co. Ltd; London was established in 1891 as meat packers and spread makers. Having their premises at 8 Devonshire Grove Old Kent Road the company produced spreads with their Anchovette Spread being a best seller. In 1904 Peck's began to export their wares to Australia and after 1940 the company set up a base in Australia producing canned meat and spread products and although not owned by the Peck family the Peck brand is still produced in Sydney and sold throughout Australia. From 1964 they also had a factory based in South Africa. The jar (pictured) could possibly date from between 1930 to the 1950's.

An interesting one this. Alan York reports that it is a GPO Telephone Insulator. It's quite possible that the hand is older than the artifact.