Outnumbered stars call for return of Roman kiln to Highgate

Catherine West MP,  archaeologist Harvey Sheldon, Nick Peacey and actors Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner in Highgate Wood.

Catherine West MP, archaeologist Harvey Sheldon, Nick Peacey and local residents Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner in Highgate Wood. - Credit: Charlie Andrew

Hugh Dennis and Claire Skinner donned boots to tour a former Roman pottery site in Highgate Wood.

Dennis, who presents archaeology series The Big Dig, and Skinner, who regularly walks in the wood, are helping to launch a £250,000 fundraising appeal to restore the ancient kiln which now languishes in a museum cellar.

The newly formed Friends Of Highgate Roman Kiln (FOHRK) want to reassemble it in a keeper's hut and use it as the focus for a community learning project encompassing heritage, technology and the arts. 

"We are launching a Just Giving campaign to help bring back the superb example of a Roman kiln discovered in Highgate Wood in the 1960s from storage at Bruce Castle Museum, where no-one can see it, to a secure home in Highgate Wood," said FOHRK secretary Nick Peacey.

"Claire Skinner and Hugh Dennis have joined our campaign as Patrons. They feel strongly about inclusive archaeology and heritage and that the kiln should come back to the Wood."

The couple, who got together several years after playing Sue and Pete Brockman in the popular sit-com said: "Highgate Wood plays a large part in our daily lives and we have always been intrigued by its history. We would love to see the kiln re-instated for people to enjoy."

The fundraising campaign launches at Lauderdale House on July 1 attended by FOHRK chair Catherine West MP and Duncan Hooson of Clayground Collective, who will show how the kiln can be used for educational projects by giving an online schools masterclass on making a 'Roman' pot from clay dug in Highgate Wood.

The Roman Kiln in Highgate Wood will become the focus of a community pottery project with local schools and groups

The Roman Kiln in Highgate Wood will become the focus of a community pottery project with local schools and groups keen to take part. - Credit: Supplied

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Peacey added that between AD50-AD150, it is thought that Highgate Wood was part of managed woodland used for ship-building or firewood, with a clearing where pottery manufacturing took place : "Two archaeologists in the 60s went looking for Stone Age relics and kept finding bits of pottery. They found 10 kilns connected by a ditch system like a little factory. One was very well preserved and went on show at the Horniman and Bruce Castle Museums. But is now in the cellar in bits and it really is time to restore it or it's going to crumble."

Catherine West feels its return to Highgate is overdue: "It’s time the kiln came home to Highgate, so this amazing survival can inspire community learning, crafts and heritage engagement," she said.