Martin Dearne, director of research and excavations at Enfield Archaeological Society, gives his view on the move to convert part of the Dugdale Centre into council offices
Enfield Council’s proposals to evict Enfield Local Studies Library from the Dugdale Centre and scrap the history displays on the first floor are a body blow to anyone who cares about the borough as a living community anchored in its rich heritage.
Under threat of being hidden from the public is the ornate lead coffin of one of Enfield’s Roman residents; the objects recovered by archaeologists at the site of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I’s Elsyng Palace, which once stood in what are now the grounds of Forty Hall Estate; plus testimonies of how Enfield was a powerhouse of early 20th Century industry.
Today, if you want to know what it was like to grope your way round an Enfield street in pitch dark during the Blitz, you can go to Enfield Local Studies Library and read the diary of someone who did. You can ask to listen to the actual voice of a woman describing how, as a girl, she saw a German Zeppelin explode in mid-air above the borough during the First World War. You can see just how different Edmonton, Southgate or Ponders End looked in 1910, from early photographs.
Tomorrow, who knows if you will be able to do this at all? Certainly, if the council gets its way, you won’t be able to discover all of these things in an accessible central location, where the evidence of our collective experience as Enfieldians is carefully preserved and added to so that everyone living here has their story represented and recognised as important.
For anyone who has ever wondered why the shopping centre in Enfield is called Palace Gardens, why the one in Lower Edmonton is called The Green, what ‘The Angel’ in Upper Edmonton refers to, or how Broomfield House looked before it was devastated by fire, the answers are readily accessible through Enfield Museum and Enfield Local Studies Library.
If you want to see pieces of an Ice Age mammoth that roamed Enfield, before any human trod here, show your kids a beautiful Roman ‘millifiori’ brooch found in a back garden in Bush Hill Park, or fire their imaginations about what it would have been like to live in Enfield two hundred or more years ago, go to the first floor of the Dugdale Centre. But go soon, because your council is about to rob you of the chance.
Editor’s note: Enfield Council wants to convert the first floor of Thomas Hardy House – also known as the Dugdale Centre – into offices for its family and children’s services. The council argues that moving its various staff teams into one space will save £350,000 on rent and help improve service quality. The Dugdale’s theatre, café and shop will remain.
Nearly 2,000 people have signed a petition against the move: