Easter holiday and bank holiday closure

The Society’s library and apartments will be closed on the following dates: Friday 22 April, Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 April, Friday 29 April, Monday 2 May, Monday 30 and Tuesday 31 May 2011.

Forthcoming meetings

Wednesday 20 April: Anniversary Meeting, at which the President will give his Anniversary address. Tickets are required for the reception that follows, at which drinks and canapés will be served. Priced at £15, they can be purchased by contacting Jola Zdunek, the Society’s Executive Assistant.

Thursday 5 May: Finds and exhibits meeting. Fellows Roger Bland and Sam Moorhead, authors of the recently published British Museum book on the Frome Hoard, will give a presentation on ‘The largest Roman coin hoard from Britain in a single container’ and exhibit some of the 52,503 coins, weighing some 160kg, ranging in date from AD 253 to 293. Buried some time in the reign of the Emperor Carausius (286—93), the hoard contains the finest silver coins of Carausius’ reign ever seen, and the largest group of Carausian coins ever found.

Getting to know the Society: introductory tours of Burlington House

The next tours of Burlington House for new (and not so new) Fellows will take place on 14 April and 23 June 2011. Each tour will include a welcome by the General Secretary, with an overview of the Society, and its current activities; an introduction by the Head of Library and Collections to the history of the Society’s library and museum collections, followed by a tour of the library; a tour of the Society’s pictures and museum collection given by the Collections Manager; and a display of items from the Library organised and introduced by the Assistant Librarian.

Tours will start at 11am and last about 90 minutes, followed by an optional light sandwich lunch, for which a charge of £5 is made. Numbers are limited to 25 per tour. To book a place please contact Jola Zdunek, the Society’s Executive Assistant.

'A View from the Battlements': a future for the heritage sector?

This one-day seminar is to be held at Burlington House on Saturday 4 June 2011 at which prominent figures from across the heritage community will give short papers addressing the sector’s response to the economic downturn and the impact of cuts in Government spending on the cultural heritage sector. This will be followed by a round-table discussion to develop the themes emerging from the day. Speakers include our Fellows Bob Bewley (Heritage Lottery Fund), Adrian Olivier (English Heritage), Robert Van Der Noort (Standing Committee for Archaeology), Peter Hinton (Institute for Archaeologists) and Loyd Grossman (Heritage Alliance). Tickets, including coffee, sandwich lunch and tea, cost £5 and can be booked by contacting Jola Zdunek, the Society’s Executive Assistant.

Fellows’ Day at Charleston, East Sussex, Saturday 16 July 2011

Fellows’ Day moves this year from Kelmscott Manor to the atmospheric Sussex downland home of Bloomsbury artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, a house whose furnishings and art, as at Kelmscott Manor, reflect the aesthetic beliefs and lifestyles of the owners. The visit will include a tour of the house, light lunch and a lecture. Tickets will cost around £15. To register your interest, please contact Jola Zdunek, the Society’s Executive Assistant.

New independent panel on forestry policy in England

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) announced on 17 March 2011 that it had set up an independent panel of experts to make recommendations on forestry policy for England, in the wake of DEFRA’s controversial proposals, now withdrawn, to sell off England’s publicly owned forestry estate. The panel will ‘advise government on a new approach to forestry policy in England, including how woodland cover can be increased and how public benefits from all woodlands and forests can be enhanced’.

The full membership of the panel is as follows: Right Reverend James Jones, Bishop of Liverpool (Chair); Shireen Chambers (Institute of Chartered Foresters); Mike Clarke (RSPB); Tom Franklin (Ramblers Association); Stuart Goodall (ConFor); Stephanie Hilborne (Wildlife Trusts); Sue Holden (Woodland Trust); Alan Knight (Single Planet Living Ltd); Dame Fiona Reynolds (National Trust); Sir Harry Studholme (Forestry Commission); John Varley (Clinton Devon Estates); and William Worsley (Country Land and Business Association).

It is surely a matter for regret that the historic environment sector is not directly represented on the panel; neither is the historic environment mentioned in the panel’s terms of reference. The panel will, however, be gathering evidence to support its recommendations on the future direction of forestry policy, to be submitted to the Secretary of State in the autumn: we will, as a sector, have to use this means to ensure that the recommendations include adequate recognition of the historic and archaeological dimension to England’s woodland and forests.

Conservation projects to lose gravel tax funding

Salon 250 reported on the almost unnoticed demise of the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF). Most of the proceeds from the aggregates levy (£2 per tonne on the 200m tonnes a year the UK produces) already goes to the Government, but a small proportion (approximately £20 million per year) was used until now to fund to nature conservation and heritage projects within communities impacted by sand, gravel and mineral extraction. Now even this small sum is to be swallowed by the ever-hungry Exchequer.

Slowly, however, a campaign is building up to challenge the cut, lead by the Mineral Products Association (MPA) and the Wildlife Trusts. Nigel Jackson, the MPA’s chief executive, says: ‘Our industry has provided a legacy of sites of great conservation value. It is vital that aggregates levy revenue continues to be used for this vital purpose.’ The MPA also points out that an independent review commissioned by DEFRA itself reported in December 2010 that: ‘Overall, the value-for-money assessment is good and many areas offer evidence of excellent potential value for money, particularly in the medium term.’

Whether they will have any success is questionable: responding to calls for the ALSF to be restored, a DEFRA spokesman said: ‘In a very tight spending review, we had to look closely at where we could make best use of the available funds.’

Academics accuse Government of forcing them to study the ‘big society’

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has been accused by UK academics of setting aside significant amounts of funding for research into the ‘big society’, in contravention of the so-called Haldane principle, named after the 1918 Haldane committee report: this established the principle that researchers rather than politicians should decide where research funds should be spent.

According to a report in the Observer, the AHRC has been told that research into the ‘big society’ is non-negotiable if the current level of funding (£100m a year) is not to be cut. The report also says that the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills has produced a revised version of the Haldane principle; this states that research bodies must work to the Government’s national objectives, even if ministers do not themselves specify individual research topics.

A Department for Business, Innovation and Skills spokeswoman insisted, however, that the AHRC itself had proposed ‘big society’ research as a strategic priority. ‘Prioritisation of an individual research council’s spending within its allocation is not a decision for ministers’, she said.

Professor Colin Jones, President of the Royal Historical Society, says: ‘In a way, the AHRC should be congratulated for securing a good settlement in a difficult spending round, but there is something slightly ignoble about making the “big society” a research priority. It is government money. They have the right to spend it on what they want, but there is a degree of anxiety about the strings being put on. They are being strengthened, which could be dangerous for independent research.’

Labour MP and historian Tristram Hunt says he intends to raise the issue in parliament, saying ‘it is disgraceful that taxpayers’ money is being spent on this bogus idea’.

‘Oliver Twist’ workhouse saved from demolition

Salon 250 also reported on the campaign to halt the intended demolition of the former Strand Union Workhouse, in London’s Cleveland Street, built in 1775, and London’s oldest surviving workhouse. Our Fellows Gavin Stamp and David Watkin were amongst those calling for the building to be listed, following suggestions that it was the building that inspired the workhouse scenes in Charles Dickens’s novel, Oliver Twist.

English Heritage had already recommended listing in 2007, but Margaret Hodge, the then Culture Minister, rejected that advice. This time English Heritage has been successful: our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said he was ‘delighted that the Heritage Minister agrees with us and has listed the building at Grade II’, adding that ‘the building is a rare and special survival, offering an important insight into London’s past’. The decision means that the developer will now be encouraged to convert the existing building to apartments, rather than demolishing the workhouse and building a new apartment block on the site.

The Department of Culture’s decision was based on the building’s ‘literary and historic associations’ rather than on architectural merit, but English Heritage was careful to distance itself from the Dickens’s associations: the EH press statement said: ‘Much has been made of the building being a literary inspiration for Charles Dickens, in particular for his novel, Oliver Twist. Certainly we know that the author lived close to the workhouse during an early period of his life and such proximity could have informed his well-known views on the workhouse system. Whether or not a direct connection can ever be established between Dickens’s works and the former Strand Union Workhouse, the building remains a reminder of that important part of London’s social history.’

Writing to the Guardian last week, Anthony Whitney, of Kettering, Northamptonshire, pointed out that Dickens was a frequent guest at Rockingham Castle, and that he wrote Bleak House and much of David Copperfield while staying there. His letters and diaries include negative views about nearby Kettering, and especially of the town’s workhouse, whose reputation for ill-treating the inmates was well known. Dickens himself said that this workhouse was the inspiration for the Mudfog workhouse in Oliver Twist, and he gives its location as ‘75 miles north of London’. Kettering just happens to be 75 miles north of London.

Trouble at mill: industrial heritage at risk

English Heritage says that the battles fought by conservationists over the last fifty years to protect industrial heritage have not been won, and that it is embarking on a study find out how much of the country’s industrial heritage remains at risk of neglect, decay or demolition and to raise the debate about what needs saving and how.

Announcing its programme of Industrial Heritage at Risk research, the results of which will be published in the annual Heritage at Risk register in October 2011, our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: ‘The current economic climate isn’t helping. Owners are finding it hard to look after their buildings as well as their businesses. Developers are cautious about taking on vacant industrial buildings and public bodies and regeneration agencies are less able to support schemes for re-use. There are no easy answers but we’re determined to see what can be done to help. Our industrial past is too important to ignore.’

English Heritage is inviting members of the public to post photographs and comments on favourite industrial buildings on a Flickr group run in association with the Council for British Archaeology and the Association for Industrial Archaeology.

Evidence of the scale of the problem came in an article in the Guardian by Martin Wainwright, which quoted Leeds-based historian and organiser of Our Northern Mills, Nigel Grizzard, as saying: ‘Wander for ten minutes in any direction in one of England’s northern cities, and you’ll find a mill in trouble. Many people have a rosy belief that the problem has been solved, but the reality is that hundreds of buildings are in serious difficulty.’

Companies that occupy historic mills, such as textile firm Leigh Spinners, which has diversified from cotton and carpets to making synthetic grass for football pitches, want to move into modern premises, and whereas there was once a premium to be paid for loft-style apartments in converted mills, the market for housing conversions has stalled.

SAVE secures a landmark decision on the demolition of buildings under UK planning law

SAVE Britain’s Heritage has secured a landmark judgement against the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government after a hearing at the Court of Appeal in London.

The case involved the decision by Lancaster City Council to authorise the demolition of the historic Mitchell’s Brewery building. The redundant but listed brewery is situated in the ‘Canal Corridor’ area of the city, which has been subject to controversial redevelopment plans that are opposed by local communities and national heritage groups and that were due to go before a public inquiry last year, an inquiry that was called off when the proposals were withdrawn by the developer.

SAVE’s legal team not only sought to halt the demolition: they also wanted a ruling on whether building demolitions fell within the scope of the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Directive. This requires that any proposed demolition that is considered to have significant effects on the environment to be subject to a formal Environmental Impact Assessment. The Government has maintained that the EIA Directive does not apply to demolition because demolition, in itself, does not constitute a ‘development’. The Court of Appeal has now decided otherwise, and has ruled that most of the Town and Country Planning Demolition Direction used by planning authorities is unlawful.

SAVE says the ruling will have widespread implications for planning authorities, and will have a particular and immediate impact on proposed demolitions of large areas of terraced housing under the Housing Market Renewal (Pathfinder) Initiative. SAVE is currently involved in a number of Pathfinder battles, including a campaign to save the ‘Welsh Streets’ area of Toxteth, Liverpool (including Ringo Starr’s birthplace), from the bulldozers. Despite the recent intervention by the Housing Minister, calling for Liverpool council to explore alternatives to demolition, the council has just submitted a new demolition notice. This latest ruling will require the council to subject the scheme for demolition to the rigours of the environmental impact assessment process.

William Palin, SAVE’s Secretary, says: ‘this is a crucial judgement which will have far-reaching effects on the way that local councils deal with demolitions of all types of building. It confirms that the government’s interpretation of this important European Directive has hitherto been too narrow and has wrongly excluded demolition from its scope. We have been arguing for years that it is absurd that a developer can escape the Directive by separating demolition from development when it is clear that demolition can and does have serious impacts on the environment.’

Our Fellow Marcus Binney, President of SAVE, says: ‘for thirty-five years SAVE has challenged the waste involved in the demolition, year on year, of tens of thousands of soundly built houses which could often be renovated for a fraction of the cost of compulsory purchase, demolition and rebuilding. The appeal court judgement is of vast significance as it will help to put a brake on the cruel practice of evicting residents and flattening houses before any decision has been made about the future of the site.’

The legal team representing SAVE consisted of Susan Ring (Richard Buxton Solicitors), counsel Richard Harwood and barrister Andrew Deakin (both of Thirty Nine Essex Street Chambers). A full and technical account of the decision can be found on the website of the Thirty Nine Essex Street Chambers.

SPAB warns against inaccurate ‘Energy Performance Certificates’

Home owners are in danger of harming historic buildings to make them more ‘green’ because of flaws in the Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) that are now compulsory whenever a home is rented out or sold, says the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). EPCs include an assessment of the heat loss from the house through the walls; known as the ‘U-Value’, this is based on tests carried out on modern materials, such as concrete and brick. SPAB has shown that traditional building materials, including timber, wattle and daub, and cob, are wrongly and routinely assessed as less efficient insulators than they really are.

SPAB calculates that 79 per cent of ancient buildings are wrongly assessed, and this encourages home owners to carry out ‘green makeovers’ on ancient buildings that could make the situation worse. Jonathan Garlick from SPAB said people are applying insulation onto ancient walls to make them more efficient which prevents the walls from breathing and can therefore cause damp. ‘By using the wrong type of insulation you cause other problems with health and possibly degradation and deterioration in the wall itself,’ he said.

Dr Caroline Rye from the University of Portsmouth, who carried out the research on behalf of SPAB, said traditional buildings are already green. ‘If you judge traditional buildings by modern standards you get inaccurate results,’ she said. ‘If you test the efficiency of traditional walls using different methods you get better results. Traditional buildings were designed to keep the weather out, which just happens to be good for heat efficiency. They were also as concerned with fuel efficiency as we are now because they had to go and cut the wood down themselves.’

Revision of BS 7913: the principles of the conservation of historic buildings

The British Standards Institution (BSI) is proposing a revision of its 1998 Guide to the principles of the conservation of historic buildings and is seeking comments on this proposal by 31 March 2011.

In particular the BSI says that research on sustainability and energy efficiency has developed considerably in the last ten years and that new principles and good practice in this area need to be captured for a revised Standard.

Controversially, the BSI says that ‘developments in the principles and philosophy of conservation [are] moving more strongly towards a value-led rather then fabric-led approach’ — something that, pace the English Heritage Conservation Principles (2008), many people engaged with historic building conservation would not happily accept.

If a decision to revise BS 7913 goes ahead, responsibility for the new draft will be given to the BSI’s Committee B/560, Conservation of Cultural Tangible Heritage, whose membership includes representatives of the Ancient Monuments Society, English Heritage and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, amongst others (for the full membership see the BSI website.

Archaeological films

You wait and wait and then along come two archaeological films at once. Perhaps, though, only one is worth the effort, because while Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams has garnered five stars and critical praise, most of the critics have given The Eagle the thumbs down (though, as we learn in the film, that should really be the thumbs up).

Based on Rosemary Sutcliffe’s 1959 novel The Eagle of the Ninth, The Eagle should be a ‘must-see’ for the many archaeologists in whose lives this book played such an influential part — how many of us not only had our interests in archaeology sparked off by the book, but also learned to think of the occupation of Britain by the Romans as a time of tension and cultural conflict. Written with memories of the Second World War still fresh, this was a book about a land occupied by an invading army, not about the enlightening impact of British culture on a grateful empire.

The film picks up on this hostility between Briton and Roman (partly by giving the Roman soldiers American accents, to point to more recent and continuing conflicts) but it departs a long way from Sutcliffes original in the way it treats the relationship between the two main characters, Marcus Flavius Aquila, who goes to Hibernia to seek the truth about his father’s vanished legion, and his British slave, Esca. In the book, Esca is set free before Aqulia sets out on his dangerous journey; it is Esca’s choice to accompany Aqulia (the relationship between the two is paralleled in the sub plot in which Aquila sets free a wolf cub that he has tamed, only for the wolf to head straight back to Aquila’s home). In the film, Esca is portrayed as Aquila’s reluctant and resentful enslaved collaborator. This heightens the tension in the film — their is always the chance that Esca will turn on his master. There is also a fashionable hint of homo-eroticism in Aquila’s affection for Esca — Cottia, the girl next door in Sutcliffe’s novel who waits for Aquila’s return, is nowhere to be seen in the film.

This, say the critics, is the film’s weakness: in place of Sutcliffe’s subtle original, it has been dumbed down to a simplistic militaristic tale of male bonding, which, according to one critic, ‘had nowhere near enough plot to justify its two-hour running time’, while another said that the film contained ‘the core of something quite good … drowned in a morass of bland mediocrity’. On the plus side, the sense of place is very strong, the wintry landscapes are stunning and the film’s academic adviser was our Fellow Lindsay Allason-Jones, who strove to make the film as accurate as possible, including the amphitheatre scene in which the life of Esca is spared with a thumbs down gesture, not thumbs up.

By contrast, Herzog’s new documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, about the Chauvet Cave art, receives universal praise. Chauvet, discovered in a gorge of the River Ardèche in 1994, is covered in30,000 year-old animal paintings and will never, for conservation reasons, be open to the public. This film is the closest most of us will get, and we have Herzog to thank for filming in the technically difficult medium of 3D in order to capture a real sense of being in the cave, not to mention conveying a tangible sense of the subtle use made of the contours and bulges in the rock surface by the makers of the cave art to convey as sense of animal bulk and musculature.

Critics have variously described the film as ‘absolutely awesome’, ‘visually mesmerising’, ‘miraculous’ and ‘pulse quickening’, especially the near to final shot, in which the camera slowly encircles the cavern, probing the shadowy niches where some of the finest art seems to have been deliberately hidden. The film also includes interviews with the palaeontologists, archaeologists and art historians who are allowed into the caves with Herzog. To their comments, Herzog adds his own ‘sardonic transcendentalist musings about the dream lives of our Palaeolithic ancestors’; his quirky musings on why early humans made these pictures are, say the critics, dryly humorous and a definite plus.

Lucy Worsley’s ‘Wild Boy’

Historian Lucy Worsley and the painting featuring Peter the Wild Boy on the staircase of Kensington Palace. Photograph: Eamonn McCabe for the Guardian

Fellow Lucy Worsley has a new TV series looking at the history of the home (‘If Walls Could Talk’), to be broadcast on BBC 4, from 7 April 2011, ahead of which she was interviewed about her television work in the Observer.

Lucy also featured in the Guardian last week, when she spoke to our Fellow Maev Kennedy about Peter the Wild Boy, the child found abandoned in a German forest and kept as a pet at the English courts of George I and II.

In her capacity as Chief Curator for the Royal Historic Palaces, Lucy has been researching the histories of the people depicted in the murals by William Kent painted on the walls of the grand staircase at Kensington Palace. Lucy’s description of Peter the Wild Boy’s physical characteristics and behavioural habits led Phil Beale, Professor of Genetics at the Institute of Child Health, to diagnose him as suffering from Pitt-Hopkins syndrome, a chromosomal disorder that was identified as recently as 1978.

Clues to the diagnosis can be found in Peter’s portrait: they include his drooping eyelids and thick Cupid’s bow lips, his short stature and coarse hair. Other symptoms, matching contemporary accounts of Peter’s behaviour, include difficulty in walking and a preference for crawling, difficulty with language and a preference for communicating with hand gestures or single words, and repetitive motions and movements, such as hand flapping.

Lucy said that George I treated him like a performing dog rather than a damaged little boy: ‘he capered like Shakespeare’s Puck and the servants had difficulty persuading him to walk instead of scuttling about on hands and knees … he never learned to speak more than his name, and he wore a brass collar like a slave or a dog so he could be restored to his “owners” if he wandered off.’

In 1737 Peter was sent to a farm in Hertfordshire owned by a retired courtier, where he lived into his seventies on a pension of £35 a year. He was buried in the churchyard of St Mary’s at Northchurch near Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire, where, says Lucy, ‘people still lay flowers on his grave’.

The smell of old books can be diagnostic of decay

The Observer also published an interview with Dr Lorraine Gibson, of Strathclyde University, representing that most unglamorous of professions, the conservation chemist. Dr Gibson is researching the gases emitted by books and artefacts as an aid to diagnosing the condition of the material. Some of these gases given off when paper, ink, glue or leather decays can be detected nasally — that fustiness or damp, musty smell that inhabits certain second-hand bookshops in Welsh border towns. Photographic materials also give off distinctive smells, and Lorraine is using these to diagnose the condition of film and photographic materials in the National Archives of Scotland, mainly at this stage in the research as an aid to distinguishing between material that is stable and stock that has started to become unstable.

The aim of Lorraine’s research is to develop chemical sensors that can distinguish the different volatile gaseous compounds emitted as different materials decay, and to detect them at an early stage in the decay process, when the amounts of gas given off are too small to be detected by the human nose. The research builds on technology developed for use in the food industry to detect decay in meat, of ripeness in fruit or in explosives detectors used in counter terrorism and security scanners.

The aim, she says, is to detect specific compounds at a dilution of one molecule in a billion; current chemical sensors work at a sensitivity of one molecule in a million. Some types of censor are activated when a molecule touches them and changes the resistance in an electric current. Mass spectrometry devices are also used to determine chemical components at very low concentration.

Zircon provides key to Stonehenge ‘bluestone’ sources

Our Fellow Dr Rob Ixer, of the University of Leicester, along with co-researchers Dr Richard Bevins, Keeper of Geology at Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales, and Dr Nick Pearce, Reader in Geochemistry at Aberystwyth University, have used the mineral zircon to pin down the provenance of some of the ‘bluestones’ that were used to form the first stone circle at Stonehenge.

‘Bluestone’ is the common name for spotted dolerite, which is blue-grey in colour when wet or freshly quarried. Also known as ‘preselite bluestone’, the source of these relatively rare igneous rocks was traced by the petrologist Herbert Thomas in 1923 to Carn Menyn, an outcrop in the Mynydd Preseli (Preseli Hills) of Pembrokeshire, where our Fellows Geoff Wainwright and Tim Darvill have been carrying out fieldwork for the last ten years.

However, not all of the orthostats that survive today from that first Stonehenge circle are made of preselite, and precise sources for some of the other ‘bluestones’ have proved harder to pin down because they consist of the much more abundant fine-grained rhyolites, tuffs and sandstones that are hard to tell apart under a microscope.

To crack this problem, Dr Ixer and his colleagues have built on recent research showing that igneous rocks from different magma flows contain differing amounts of the mineral zircon and have their own distinctive compositions. In a paper published in the March 2011 edition of the Journal of Archaeological Science, they show how the unique zircon signatures of the Stonehenge rhyolites enables the stones to be matched to outcrops within the Fishguard Volcanic Group. These exposures are found in an irregular band that crosses north Pembrokeshire some 8km to the north of the Mynydd Preseli, stretching from Crymych in the east to Strumble Head in the west. One particular rhyolite has been pinned down to an outcrop in a steep-sided valley near Pont Saeson.

The finding has implications for the route by which the stones were transported to Stonehenge. Previous theories have suggested an arduous overland haul south from the peaks of Mynydd Preseli to Milford Haven, and then by sea and river to Salisbury Plain. These new outcrops are only a short distance (c 5km) from the harbour at Newport: the overland journey would have been much shorter, but the voyage via the Irish Sea is considerably longer and potentially more hazardous.

Location map of north Pembrokeshire showing key localities as well as the outcrop of the Fishguard Volcanic Group in relation to the Mynydd Preseli. Possible source locations for the Stonehenge spotted dolerite bluestones are shown (see key for symbols). Credit: Dr Richard Bevins, Keeper of Geology at Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales

Pre-Roman roads

Fellow Tim Malim has challenged archaeologists to re-examine the evidence for Roman roads to see whether they might have Iron Age origins, following the discovery of a well-engineered road in Shropshire that dates from the middle of the first century AD. Two sections of the road have been excavated, with a total length of 400m, whose alignment suggest that the road ran for 40 miles and connected two key political centres of the Cornovii: the Wrekin hill-fort near modern Telford and Old Oswestry hill-fort, near modern Oswestry.

The roads consisted of an elder brushwood foundation on top of which cobbles had been bedded in silt, with curb stones kept in place by timber posts to prevent the road slumping. The road had been resurfaced at least twice during its life and had, in its final Iron Age phase, been used by heavy wheeled vehicles with axle widths of 1.9m and wheels 12 to 17cm wide.

World Heritage Sites

Eleven new sites have been added to the UK’s tentative list of World Heritage Sites at the recommendation of the independent expert panel chaired by our Fellow Sue Davies, which was given the task of sifting nominations and coming up with a shortlist. Two sites — the Twin Monastery of Wearmouth—Jarrow and Darwin’s Landscape Laboratory, Kent — are already on the tentative list. They will now be joined by:

 Chatham Dockyard and its Defences, Kent, England
 Creswell Crags, Derbyshire/Nottinghamshire, England
 England’s Lake District, Cumbria
 Gorham’s Cave Complex, Gibraltar
 The Island of St Helena, South Atlantic Ocean
 Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire, England
 Mousa, Old Scatness and Jarlshof, Shetland, Scotland
 The Slate Industry of North Wales
 The Flow Country, Scotland
 The Forth Rail Bridge, Scotland
 The Turks and Caicos Islands, West Indies

Places that were nominated last year but failed to make the list include Blackpool, Upper Heyford’s former RAF base in Oxfordshire, Chester’s shops and half-timbered houses and Brunel’s Great Western Railway.

The June meeting of the World Heritage Committee will now take place in Paris, at the Unesco headquarters, rather than in Bahrain, following international condemnation of the violent suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations by the security forces in Bahrain in February and the recent imposition of a state of emergency.

The battle for Numantia continues

Salon 190 reported in June 2008 on the news that the ruins of the ancient Roman settlement of Numantia, near the modern city of Soria, in Castilla y León, were threatened by plans to develop new urban and industrial zones nearby. The site has great resonance for Spain, as a city that resisted conquest by the Romans and only succumbed after a long and brutal siege. Several Roman historians of the Numantine War expressed admiration for the sense of freedom of the ancient Iberians and acknowledged their fighting skills; and Miguel de Cervantes’ play about the event, El Cerco de Numancia (The Siege of Numantia, 1587), is his best-known work after Don Quixote.

The Conde de Ripalda (Count of Ripalda), Amalio de Marichalar, whose family gave the land on which Numantia was found and excavated by German archaeologist Adolf Schulten to the nation, is leading the fight to prevent several major development projects that will have an impact on the archaeology and setting of the ancient city. He has succeeded so far in stopping the construction of a 120-hectare industrial estate adjacent to Numantia, but is still fighting proposals for an ‘Environment City’, with 1,000 housing units, an industrial estate, and four 40-metre high office blocks.

You can read Amalio de Marichalar’s account of his efforts to save Numantia, and his appeal for support, on the Europa Nostra website.

The Woruldhord project

A new website has been set up at the University of Oxford to provide educational resources for anyone studying or teaching Old English literature and language and the culture of the Anglo-Saxons. The site archive contains photographs, documents, presentations, databases and more, covering objects, archaeological sites, poetry and prose. The material can be reused for educational purposes for free under a Creative Commons Licence.

You can gain a good sense of the scope of the website by Browsing the ‘Editor’s Pick’, where the current offerings include images of the Anglo-Saxon objects in the Ashmolean Museum and of Greensted Church in Chipping Ongar, Essex.

Princess Royal opens Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History

Following the demise of the Textile Conservation Centre at the University of Southampton, which closed in 2009, it is good to be able to report that the new Centre for Textile Conservation and Technical Art History was officially opened at the University of Glasgow on 9 February 2011 by HRH The Princess Royal. Founded by the Textile Conservation Centre Foundation (TCCF) and the University of Glasgow, this new teaching and research facility is the only resource of its kind in the UK; it will focus on multi-disciplinary object-based teaching and research that encompasses conservation and the physical sciences as well as art history, dress and textile history. The new Centre has benefited from the generosity of many funders, including the Glasgow-based Robertson Trust, The Clothworkers’ Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation, The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, The Headley Trust, The Monument Trust, The Pilgrim Trust, The Getty Foundation and many others.

Restoring Ellen Terry’s beetle-wing gown

And surely one of the most challenging textile restoration projects of recent months is the 1,300 hours of careful work that has enabled the National Trust to put on display the celebrated emerald and sea-green gown worn by Ellen Terry when she played the part of Lady Macbeth at London’s Lyceum Theatre in 1888, a dress immortalised by the John Singer Sargent portrait now on display at the Tate Gallery.

The conservation work was carried out by Brighton-based conservator Zenzie Tinker and her team, and involved re-attaching 1,000 of the iridescent wings of the jewel beetle (which the beetles shed naturally) that had fallen off over the years, strengthening the 123-year-old fabric and restoring the original shape of the elaborate sleeves and the long, trailing hem.

The dress is now being shown in a new display space at Smallhythe Place, Kent, Ellen Terry’s retirement home.

New society to celebrate Voysey

The Voysey Society has been founded to encourage research into all aspects of the oeuvre of architect and designer Charles Francis Annesley Voysey (1857—1941) and to help to maintain his legacy as one of the leading figures of the Arts and Crafts movement and its successors. The Society aims to bring together all those with an interest in Voysey’s life and work, including people living in Voysey-designed houses, architects, authors, Arts and Crafts enthusiasts and museums. Amongst other activities, the Society hopes to develop a programme of lectures and visits around the country and an annual conference.

Expressions of interest are now being sought from people interested in joining the Society, and from anyone willing to be considered for key committee roles, including Executive Chair and Secretary. If you are interested in membership, please contact the acting membership secretary, Dr Peter King, with your name, address and email address and an indication of your willingness to take an active role.

First humans in North America

Researchers at Texas A&M University announced last week that they had found the first ‘unequivocal proof for pre-Clovis occupation of America’, in the form of pre-Clovis stone tools, found in sediments that, using luminescence dating, are estimated to be between 15,500 and 13,200 years old. Until now the oldest firmly dated human material found on the continent of America comes from the Clovis site, in New Mexico, and is around 13,000 years old. These sediments are also stratigraphically earlier than the Clovis layers at the same site.

The newly dated material comes from the Buttermilk Creek Complex at the Debra L Friedkin site, about 40 miles north west of Austin, in Texas. Michael Waters, who led the research team, described the 15,528 chert artefacts found at the site as consisting mostly of ‘chipping debris from the making and re-sharpening of tools, but over fifty are tools. There are bifacial artefacts that tell us they were making projectile points and knives at the site. There are expediently made tools and blades that were used for cutting and scraping.’

Waters does not believe that the tools, which are noticeably different from Clovis technology, are necessarily the work of a different people. ‘This discovery provides ample time for Clovis to develop. People [from the Buttermilk Creek Complex] could have experimented with stone and invented the weapons and tools that we now recognise as Clovis.’ He does, however, believe that ‘it is now time to abandon once and for all the ‘Clovis First’ model and develop a new model for the peopling of the Americas’.

The ‘Clovis First’ model is problematical in that it envisages a population from north-eastern Asia migrating to North America around 13,000 years ago by crossing the Bering Land Bridge and spread out across the northern and southern American continents and bringing their Clovis-type tools with them. Clovis-like tools, known for their distinctive fluted points, have never been found in Asia, however, and those found in Alaska along the Bering Land Bridge route are too young to be associated with the first migration.

Waters is thus suggesting that Clovis tools develop after the first migrants have reached the American continent, and that the migration (or migrations) occurred earlier than the Clovis model proposes. Some of the pre-Clovis bladelets found at the Buttermilk Creek site do show similarities with bifacial tools found in Asia, suggesting a deeper history, but, as Waters points out, known tools from that period in Siberia and north-eastern Asia are relatively rare in any case.

Several sites, including two in Wisconsin, one in Pennsylvania and one in Oregon, have already produced stone tools that have been given pre-Clovis dates, but in each case the dating has been problematical; equally, the dating of stone tools from Monte Verde, Chile, to 14,100 to 14,600 years ago, has been contested. The cumulative evidence suggests however, that humans were living in the Americas some time before the Clovis tradition emerged.

News of Fellows

A quartet of British glyptic scholars: our Fellows Martin Henig and Gertrud Seidmann with Sheila Hoey Middleton, author of several books on engraved gems, and our Fellow Professor Sir John Boardman.

Our Fellow Gertrud Seidmann was recently awarded a Certificate of Excellence at a ceremony at the Divinity School in Oxford on 10 March 2011. Several Fellows were present amongst them Dr Susan Walker (who spoke on behalf of the School of Archaeology), Professor Sir John Boardman, Professor Michael Vickers and the Revd Martin Henig. The certificate was awarded in recognition of Gertrud’s contribution to the study of antiquities collecting in the nineteenth century. Martin Henig says: ‘this achievement was all the more remarkable given that Gertrud did not begin studying until her retirement, being the oldest student ever registered for a doctorate at Oxford, since when she has become the leading authority in Britain on the neo-classical period of gem cutting and on Jewish marriage rings. The level of her scholarship in archaeology and the fine arts is really shown by the people who attended, in all these fields.’

The first three months of 2011 have seen anti-government protests spread across North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt, and into the Middle East, from Syria to Oman and the UAE, with NATO forces now actively involved in Libya. Accurate news about the impact of this turmoil on the heritage is hard to obtain, but Fellow Christine Finn has been to Egypt and she reports that the tourist police responsible for guarding Egypt’s ancient sites have disappeared, and that the looting activities of armed and violent criminals are on the increase. You can hear her first-hand account, first broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s ‘From our Own Correspondent’ on 17 March 2011, on the BBC iPlayer.

Christine commends two blogs to anyone interested in following events in Egypt from a heritage perspective: those of Margaret Maitland (‘The Eloquent Peasan’t) and Kate Phizackerly (‘News from the Valley of the Kings’).

Our Fellow Dr Sonja Marzinzik, Curator of the Insular Early Medieval Collections in the Department of Prehistory and Europe at the British Museum, is about to begin work on a complete redisplay of Room 41, the Late Antique to Early Medieval gallery. The project has been made possible through a generous donation from our Fellow Paul Ruddock, who also supported the recently opened Paul and Jill Ruddock Gallery of Medieval Europe AD 1050—1500 at the British Museum. This new gallery is scheduled to open in late 2013 and will display European and Mediterranean material from AD 300 to 1100, including the Sutton Hoo boat burial, the Lycurgus Cup, the Projecta Casket, the Domagnano and Cuerdale Treasures and the Fuller Brooch. The current gallery will be closed from 5 September 2011, though highlights from the collection will be displayed in Room 2, where changes in the Museum’s gallery spaces are showcased.

The new gallery will take a synoptic overview of the whole of late antique and early medieval Europe and beyond, from the Atlantic to the Black Sea and from North Africa to Scandinavia, thus reflecting the unique riches and breadth of the British Museum collections, which are among the most important in the world in view of both geography and chronology. The period covered was one of great change in numerous ways, including the movement of people, political geography and religious beliefs. The gallery will range from the Late Roman and Byzantine Empires via the Migration Period, rise of Islam and Viking Age to the consolidation of Europe after the Norman Conquest in Britain and with the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire on the Continent.

Our Fellow Tom Hassall has been appointed Chair of the new Historic Wrecks Panel, which takes over the work of the Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites (ACHWS), one of the public bodies abolished in the Government’s recent quango review. The functions of ACHWS, which include advising the Government on the designation and licensing of historic wrecks under the UK-wide Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, have been transferred to English Heritage in regard to England (the Devolved Administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will make their own arrangements), and English Heritage has established the new Historic Wrecks Panel in response, with a remit to review ‘complex, contentious and high profile designation cases and licence applications’. The other panel members include our Fellows David Caldwell, Michael Collins, Ian Friel, Nicholas Hall and Dave Parham.

Our Fellow and former Council member Frances Griffith, who has been County Archaeologist for Devon for more than thirty years, tells Salon that ‘on 1 April (always a symbolic date!) I shall be handing over my role as County Archaeologist for Devon to my very able Deputy, Bill Horner. I shall not be totally retiring, as I shall continue to work for Devon County Council for four days a month. I hope that this, with my continuing engagement with Devon Archaeological Society, the CBA, the RAI, various universities and sundry external research projects, will allow me to spend more time with my archaeology! After more than 30 years in the county there are a lot of things I want to take further. This reduction in my working and the retirement of another member of staff means that for the coming year we have achieved the cuts required of us while still leaving the rest of the Devon Historic Environment Service in pretty good shape, and I certainly hope that in years to come the County Council will continue to support our excellent team working for Devon’s remarkable historic environment.’


Antony Robbins, Head of Communications at the Museum of London, has responded to the report in Salon 251 on Fellow Mary Beard’s Times blog about cuts to curatorial posts at the Museum of London. Antony writes: ‘These are certainly challenging times for all publicly-funded bodies and we are no exception. The Museum of London will need to find around £1m in savings across all departments. But, I must assure you that there is no plan, as Mary Beard writes, to make “most” of the “pre-modern” senior curators redundant. Reviews and negotiations at the Museum of London are ongoing. But the Museum has proposed losing one senior curator post out of the four existing senior curator posts in the “pre-modern” department, plus two senior curator posts out of the four existing History posts (one of these posts is vacant, as you acknowledged, and has been for the past two years). In effect then, under this proposal, two people would be made redundant although three posts are being lost. This will still leave a curatorial cohort of twenty-four people from an original figure of twenty-six.’

Our Fellow Alan Millard, who was Vice-Chairman of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq from 2001 to 2006, writes to correct Salon’s report on the ending of the British Academy’s grant to the Council for British Archaeology. Salon said: ‘It is not clear which “overseas research institutes outside Europe” will benefit from funds diverted from the CBA, but they include the British Institute at Ankara, the British Institute in Eastern Africa and the British School of Archaeology in Iraq.’ Alan says that the British School of Archaeology in Iraq (now renamed The British Institute for the Study of Iraq) was itself a victim of an earlier round of British Academy cuts and ceased to receive funding from that source in 2009, though the Academy still permits the Institute to continue using office space in its premises.

The report in Salon 251 that a new inscription has been found by Fellow Roland Harris built into the fabric of the White Tower at the Tower of London has caused great excitement and much puzzlement amongst Fellows, some of whom initially thought ‘Roland’s stone’ as it has been dubbed, might be Roman. The Roman inscription specialists think not, however. and the consensus seems to be that it might be contemporary with the construction of the Tower, and eleventh century in date. The few letters that can be read in combination remain ambiguous and there is still no firm agreement on the language, which could be Latin, but could equally be Old French. With nobody yet able to transcribe the inscription satisfactorily, let alone translate it, the search is still on for a convincing explanation, but some of the most experienced minds in the Fellowship are working on it.

Blaise Vyner says that he hopes he will not be considered ‘parochial and mean-minded in deploring the sale of our late Fellow Honor Frost’s inherited art collection (see Salon 251) in favour of overseas maritime research’. It is unfortunate too that this news should come at more or less the same moment as the cessation of British Academy funding for the CBA in favour of ‘international’ research. There is also, says Blaise, the very strong possibility that many of the works will be purchased by overseas buyers, depriving museums here of some quintessentially English works. Let us hope that the charity that is set up to administer the proceeds is given scope to make decisions based on merit rather than on geography and that Fellows will be able to influence what happens to the money.

Fellow Nick Brannon, responding to Salon 251’s review of Churches in Early Medieval Ireland, questions the claim that the book tackles virgin territory. Let us not forget, says Nick, the work our late Fellows Kathleen Hughes and Ann Hamlin published as The Modern Traveller to the Early Irish Church (1977), nor Ann Hamlin’s posthumously published PhD thesis, The Archaeology of Early Christianity in the North of Ireland, nor Harold Leask’s volumes on Irish churches and monastic buildings.

Lives remembered

Two errors slipped into the brief notice concerning the death of James Kenworthy in Salon 251: he died on 8 March, not the 7th, and he taught first at St Andrews and then Nottingham, before Aberdeen; contrary to Salon’s report, he never taught at Leicester.

Our late Fellow Terry Ball was the subject of an obituary in the Guardian on 22 March 2011, written by our Fellow David Robinson, hailing Terry as one of Britain’s best-known and most influential artists in the field of architectural and historical reconstruction drawing, whose distinctive and richly informative paintings have graced the pages of books (notably guidebooks), exhibitions, and numerous display panels across historic sites of all kinds through his work from 1969 to the 1990s for the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, English Heritage and Cadw.

Our Fellow Mark Samuel adds his own tribute: writing to Salon he says ‘Terry Ball’s contribution to the understanding of medieval high-status buildings, now in ruins, was outstanding; and while I never met him, much of my interest in the subject was stimulated by his work in so many DoE and later English Heritage guidebooks. His deep knowledge of medieval architecture, and his flair and skill in perspective and wash medium will be sorely missed. The general loss of the craft skills and knowledge required for successful naturalistic reconstruction views is a real problem, reflected (and caused?) by the low status conferred on this most vital work in public communication by heritage managers and others.’

Photo: Terry Ball’s reconstruction of the great hall of St Davids Bishop’s Palace in 1350. Photograph: Welsh Assembly Government/Crown Copyright

Donny George, the archaeologist and Director of Research at the Iraqi State Board of Antiquities and Heritage, died on 11 March 2011, aged sixty. His obituaries in the Daily Telegraph and the New York Times recall that George fought a brave battle to prevent looters ransacking the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad following the 2003 invasion by Coalition forces, and then led the international effort to recover thousands of stolen artefacts.

On Radio 4’s ‘Last Word’ programme, on 20 March, our Fellow John Curtis, of the British Museum, recalled that in the face of US refusal to devote military resources to protecting Iraq’s cultural sites, George was forced to phone the British Museum for help, at which point our Fellow Neil MacGregor managed to persuade Tony Blair to take action.

George was eventually driven out of Iraq after several of his colleagues had been assassinated, following death threats aimed at himself and his family because of his Christian faith and his ‘collaboration’ with the West. George and his family settled in the United States, where he became a professor of anthropology, then of Asian studies, at Stony Brook University, New York.

On a more personal note, our Fellow Jane Moon has written to Salon to pay tribute to the help that Donny George gave to her at the start of her career. ‘He was tremendously helpful to young archaeologists, as I once was, working in Iraq, baffled by the strange undercurrents in the Iraq Museum, and frequently frustrated in our research. Donny, who knew the system, and just what you could get away with, and could put this into fluent and coherent English, was invaluable. At the time he was, I think, the museum photographer — he came a long way. He was a man of many talents, with an unquenchable enthusiasm for, and dedication to, the archaeology and antiquities of Iraq. People now always mention that he was a Christian, but he considered himself an Iraqi, and had no time for sectarianism.’


The view of England from the French coast; see ‘Hands Across The Water’ (6 to 8 May 2011) below.

2 April 2011: The British Archaeological Trust, Rescue, celebrates its fortieth anniversary in 2012 and this open meeting at 2pm (preceded by the AGM at 1pm) will be used to discuss how to campaign better for archaeology in an age of contraction, characterised by funding cuts, the closure of archaeology and extra-mural departments in universities, the weakening of the place of archaeology in the planning system, the closure of museums and redundancies across the profession. The meeting will take place at the Surrey History Centre (archives), Goldsmiths Road, not far from Woking Railway Station.

7 and 8 April 2011: ‘Balancing the Account’, a conference to celebrate the centenary of the publication by Edward Prior and Arthur Gardner of An Account of Medieval Figure-Sculpture in England (1912, Cambridge) and to discuss the progress of scholarship on the subject over the last century. To be held at St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, with an international cast of speakers, many of them Fellows of our Society. The programme can be downloaded from the Leicester University website and the deadline for contacting our Fellow Dr Phillip Lindley to book a place has been extended to 29 March 2011.

5 May 2011: ‘Heritage and Climate Change: Protection at any Cost?’ , a one-day discussion forum to be held at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, London, whose website has further details.

What should the long-term priorities in the intertwined fields of planning and heritage be? Should we first put in place low carbon futures, to achieve that dimension of sustainable living? Are more immediate social or economic goals higher up the list? Or should we maintain or move to a situation where heritage value, however defined, tends to trump either of these goals? Are there simply planning and heritage ‘corners’ to be fought, or can an overarching value position be constructed? Planners and those in heritage professions (including archaeologists, historic buildings and conservation specialists) come at this set of questions from different angles. This one-day workshop aims to bring some practitioners from each side together to debate the issues, and reach initial conclusions — or start a process to that end.

6 to 8 May 2011: ‘Hands Across The Water: the Archaeology of the Cross-Channel Neolithic’, School of Applied Sciences, Bournemouth University. What promises to be one of the most important conferences of the year is being organised by the Prehistoric Society and Bournemouth University in association with the Neolithic Studies Group and the Société Préhistorique Française to consider all the new evidence that has accumulated recently on both sides of the English Channel / la Manche on the origins and development of early farming communities in the Channel coastlands (and further afield in Britain and Ireland) during the fifth and fourth millennia BC.

Consideration will be given to artefacts, burial monuments, enclosures, lifeways, and ceremonial sites on both sides of the Channel and on the islands in between. What are the similarities and differences? How do the dates of major components compare? Can we refine our narrative of Neolithisation in Britain and Ireland with specific reference to the Continental material? What were the processes and social practices that promoted or restricted cross-Channel contacts? And how do recent discoveries impact on available models for explaining and understanding of the Neolithic of the Channel coastlands?

The conference aims to pool knowledge from archaeologists working on both sides of the Channel, highlighting new discoveries and disseminating the results of recent research to new audiences. Abstracts will be available in English and French. The conference will include a launch reception for the publication of Stone Axe Studies 3.

Further details and online registration can be found on conference website.

13 May 2011: ‘The Implications of Localism for the Historic Environment’ is a one-day course at Oxford University Department for Continuing Education run in partnership with English Heritage and in association with the IfA and IHBC.

Localism is much in the news these days, yet few are certain what it means, particularly for the historic environment. Speakers from English Heritage, local authorities and the professional and voluntary sectors will explore current thinking, risks and opportunities. The seminar will also contain opportunities for delegates to enter the discussion, to share their experience and debate ideas.

17 May 2011: ‘Last Orders? The Art and Architecture of Religious Orders in England, c 1350—1540’, 10am to 6.15pm, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN. For further information, send an email to [email protected].

In contrast to the arts of the so-called ‘golden age’ of English religious life during the High Middle Ages, the visual culture of subsequent generations of monks, friars, nuns and canons has traditionally received less attention. However, more recent scholarship has challenged the consensus of a late medieval decline among the monastic and religious orders in England and elsewhere in Europe, revealing an artistic tradition with considerable possibilities for investigation. At this conference, established scholars and research students from the UK and abroad will explore some of these possibilities, including the importance of continuity and innovation, the patronage of superiors, and the expression of particular institutional and confessional identities. Many of the papers will also discuss little-known examples or provide new interpretations of late monastic art.

1 June 2011: ‘Prizing the Past for the Present and the Future’, Professor David Lowenthal, FBA, in conversation with our Fellow Sir Simon Jenkins, 6pm to 7.15pm, followed by a drinks reception at the British Academy. Details of how to book a place are on the British Academy website.

As part of the British Academy Policy Centre’s work on cultural heritage, Professor David Lowenthal will expound on the necessity of caring for all heritage, natural and cultural. He traces a distinguished line of thought, arguing that consideration for our future rests on an understanding of, and concern for, the past and that, to appreciate our past to its full extent, we must acknowledge that heritage is a living and flexible body that needs continuous revision and addition to remain healthy and vibrant.


National Trust: Head of Conservation, London and South East Region
Salary c £60k, closing date 3 April 2011

For further information see the National Trust’s jobs website, using reference NT11/06535.