The Society has been informed that Professor John Evans, our President from 1984 to 1987, died on 4 July 2011, at the age of eighty-six. John Davies Evans played a hugely influential role in the lives of many of todays Fellows who studied at the Institute of Archaeology in London where he was the kindly and inspiring Director from 1975 to 1984, through the years that saw a huge rise in the numbers of students reading archaeology. As an academic he was renowned for his research into the prehistory of the Mediterranean, and especially the prehistoric cultures of Malta where, during the 1940s and 1950s, he excavated a number of Megalithic sites, for which he was elected a Fellow on 5 May 1955.
Our General Secretary John Lewis paid the following personal tribute: ‘John was Director of the Institute of Archaeology when I was studying for my degree. He was the quintessential gentleman-scholar: immaculately dressed, urbane, decent and kindly. However, he was also particularly adept at ensuring the interests of the Institute were represented within the University management structure; not an easy task when considering influence of many of the larger colleges within the University of London. The Institute at the time was the smallest independent undergraduate college in the University, with a distinctive, easy-going atmosphere which John did much to foster and which made my three years of study an extremely happy period of my life. I am sure that everyone who knew John will have fond memories of him and will be much saddened by his passing.’
The funeral is to be held on 22 July 2011, at 11.30am, at Salisbury Crematorium, Barrington Road, Salisbury SP1 3JB, with refreshments afterwards at the Milford Hall Hotel,
206 Castle Street, Salisbury SP1 3TE. The family would love to meet as many of John’s former friends and colleagues as are able to attend.
Cleaning and conservation work will, as usual, be taking place during the summer, so the Societys apartments and library will close at 5pm on Friday 22 July and will re-open at 10am on Monday 5 September. Fellows who need to use the Library during this time are requested to make an appointment (tel: 0207 479 7084).
The Society needs volunteers to give guided tours during the Open House London event on 17 September 2011. Dai Morgan Evans has already volunteered, so if you can talk knowledgeably about our apartments and library at Burlington House and/or aspects of its contents, or would just be happy to come along and help shepherd groups around the building from 1pm to 4.45pm, please contact the Societys Communications Officer, Jane Beaufoy.
The next Burlington House Lecture, entitled The Thames Through Time, will be given by our Fellow Danielle Schreve, of the Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London, on 20 September 2011, with tea at 5.30pm, the lecture at 6pm and a reception at 7pm, in the Geological Societys Lecture Theatre, Burlington House. Admission is free but by ticket only, available from the Geological Society Events Department.
On Saturday 21 January 2012 there will be a second conference at the Society of Antiquaries on new insights into sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British architecture. Proposals in the form of short abstracts (up to 250 words) for papers of approximately 30 minutes in length should be submitted by mid-August to Claire Gapper and/or Paula Henderson. The final programme will be announced in mid-September.
For the last decade or so, Fellows have gathered at about this time of year at Kelmscott Manor for a party to mark the end of another year and the start of the summer. Because Kelmscott Manor is now open on Saturdays, it has not been possible to hold the traditional Fellows Day there this year, but if you are pining for a dose of Kelmscott, try watching this short YouTube extract, in which the late Barbara Castle pays a visit to the house, and praises it for not [being] a museum, but a place where the thoughts of one lover of beauty and creator of beauty were reaching out into the problems of the modern world. Barbara Castles visit was filmed for that segment in One Foot in the Past (1993 to 2000) in which well-known people were invited to share their enthusiasm for their favourite historic place.
Barbara talks of the pleasures of swimming nude in the river at Kelmscott as a young woman while visiting her husbands uncle, who lived in Kelmscott. She finds her name in the visitors book on 1 May 1974, a significant date as Britains first Labour Day bank holiday. She swishes the curtains on William Morriss bed (not allowed today!) and says that Morris loved the house because it had no false grandeur. It is not, says Barbara, an aristocratic house, set aloof in grandiose parkland, but a democratic house that spills out into the village and the ordinary people.
It is often said in heritage circles that our historic environment would be better protected if the people elected to represent us in local government had a firmer grasp of their responsibilities and actually did what they are obliged to do under statute and planning guidance in other words, we dont need more legislation so much as better-informed councillors who are more conscientious in implementing such guidance as already exists and exercising responsible stewardship on behalf of the communities that elect them. Instead, many councillors act as if their personal views were paramount they are, after all, such paragons of insight, knowledge and wisdom every one of them.
Rarely though does a councillor air his prejudices (sorry, that should read judgement) so openly as did Councillor Melton, the Conservative Leader of Fenland District Council when, on 21 June 2011, in addressing an audience of some 100 developers at a building design award ceremony, he announced that his council would no longer place any archaeological conditions on planning consent, except in the rare instance of a development next to a 1,000 year-old church. Perhaps inspired by the fact that he was speaking on the summer solstice, he then branded archaeologists as bunny huggers (a term of especial abuse in a part of England where rabbit infestation is a real problem) and predicted that the bunny huggers wont like this, but if they wish to inspect a site, they can do it when the footings are being dug out.
He also announced that we shall relax conservation rules, particularly around sustainability and listed buildings. He declared that this was common sense, and that the reason the construction industry is in the doldrums is because of the pointless, money-wasting demands of the archaeology, conservation and sustainability professions. He went on to attack sustainable buildings (grass houses that only hobbits would live in) and timber cladding (within 12 months [it] looks as if it needs a coat of creosote Councillor Melton is clearly unaware that creosote is now a banned substance), and to call into question the evidence for climate change (I dont believe that polar bears will be floating down the Nene in my life time or indeed my childrens).
Now we know that these sorts of speeches are often made and such sentiments often expressed among friends and behind closed doors, but on this occasion, the Eastern Daily Press reproduced the speech, complete with all its syntactical and grammatical infelicities, and before you could say rabbit warren, fifty-four prominent bunny huggers (most of them Fellows of our Society) had written a letter of protest to The Times, pointing out that Fenland District Council would face legal challenges if it proceeded with plans that contravene national planning guidelines and existing cultural and heritage statute and case law, and that this would involve the Council (and by extension its rate-payers) in major financial costs and cause prospective developers serious delays, if not worse.
The BBC then got wind of the Fenland furore and invited our Fellow Mike Heyworth to debate the issues with Councillor Melton on the prime time PM news programme on Radio 4 (you can hear the debate on the website of the Eastern Daily Press.
Mike succeeded in putting across a number of key points, not least the fact that archaeology is not in opposition to jobs, economic growth and development, that communities greatly value their heritage and that what archaeologists do is in the public interest, that archaeologists work closely and effectively with developers, and that Fenland District has some remarkable sites of international significance, such as Must Farm, near Whittlesey, where Bronze Age textiles, pottery vessels and their original contents, wicker fishing traps, wooden walkways and bronze tools were excavated two years ago by our Fellow Tim Malim in advance of quarrying with the funding and wholehearted support of Hanson, the developer.
Councillor Melton said he had been misunderstood, implied that archaeological conditions were imposed by Europe and were, for that reason, in some way questionable or of negligible importance, and then he claimed that he had been the victim of a plethora of insults thrown at me by the archaeological profession. Challenged by the BBCs presenter to give an example of the worst insult, he said they said I was in the pocket of developers, that I should know better … one actually told me to go to hell.
Asked at the end of the radio interview to explain why he had replied to an email from an archaeologist with the words Long Live Eric Pickles, Councillor Melton said I share Eric Pickles views on deregulation. Emailing Conservative Party colleagues later in the day he said: I don’t tweet, but what a wonderful day. To be attacked by bunny huggers, historic lefties, and the vested interested professional classes. Eric Pickles will be extremely proud of me.
It is those references to Eric Pickles and deregulation that get to the importance of what might otherwise be dismissed as a minor flurry. We will find out soon what is in the National Planning Policy Framework, currently being drafted to replace the existing suite of planning policy statements, circulars and guidance documents. The Government has given reassurances that protection for the environment natural and historic will not be weakened. On the other hand, editorials in some national newspapers and magazines suggest that many people are expecting the new framework and the Localism Bill to result in a relaxation of planning controls, and the promotion of what makes most business sense over the needs of the environment.
Let us hope the Government is as good as its word; if not, the debate with Councillor Melton could just be the reopening skirmish of a much bigger battle on behalf of everyone who refuses to believe that there has to be a choice between conservation and development and who oppose the idea that the rights of private ownership should so often override public interest in the environment.
In fact, Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is a bit of a heritage hero at present, because he has called a halt to plans to demolish nearly 200 Victorian homes in the Welsh Streets area of Liverpool as part of a Pathfinder clearance project. One of the properties involved (9 Madryn Street) is the birthplace and childhood home of Beatles drummer Ringo Starr.
In line with the judicial ruling obtained by SAVE Britains Heritage earlier this year to the effect that demolition is a form of development, Pickles has told Liverpool City Council that their plans cannot proceed without the full scrutiny of an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). In addition the council will be required to examine alternatives to demolition, including renovation and refurbishment, something that it has so far refused to do. William Palin, Secretary of SAVE, said: This is a massively important decision which could spell the end of fast-tracked mass demolitions.
SAVE, meanwhile, has managed to acquire the last private house in Madryn Street No. 21 which it plans to refurbish. In this way, SAVE says, it intends to prove that the houses are perfectly serviceable, and to reverse the decline of the street, draw national attention to the scandalous waste of good housing stock and expose the way in which the council is knocking holes in fine nineteenth-century suburbs of Liverpool and blighting whole neighbourhoods to honour deals with developers. You can follow the progress of the restoration on SAVEs blog, 21 Madryn Street: the House that Refused to Die (
Even Jeremy Clarkson, the politically incorrect presenter of the BBCs Top Gear, seems to be on the side of the bunny huggers. On the programme broadcast on 30 June 2011, he was heard to observe that it was the planners job to protect pretty little villages from people putting up pink conservatories and generally ruining the heritage of Britain. If you want to change your house in this country, he said, you have to go to the council for permission. This is to stop people putting up pink conservatories and generally ruining the heritage of Britain. And it all makes sense.
Clarkson does have form in the field of heritage: his advocacy on TVs Great Britons nearly won the accolade of Greatest Briton of all time for Brunel (inevitably he was beaten by Churchill, but only by a whisker). His championing of Brunel also led him to join the campaign in 2008 to prevent the owners, the Dairy Crest Group, from demolishing Brunels historic pumping station at Totnes, in Devon.
And on that subject, the latest issue of the excellent Rescue News (Issue 113, Summer 2011) has an update on the future of this important industrial building. Demolition work ceased as soon as the building was listed at Grade II in 2008, but the building has been in limbo ever since. Now a coalition of community groups called the Totnes Development Trust has put together a plan to purchase the building and develop the site as a mixed-use, low-carbon and low-emission sustainable business park with a focus on high added-value businesses, serving as a catalyst for the emergent low carbon post-oil economy in the area. Jeremy Clarkson might have a few unkind words to say about the use of so much jargon, but the intentions are good, and one can only wish the project all success.
May we commend to Councillor Melton the latest publication from English Heritage, produced in partnership with ACRE (Action with Communities in Rural England) and called Knowing Your Place: Heritage and Community-Led Planning in the Countryside, packed with sound advice on how local communities can contribute to parish plans and village design statements, so as to safeguard and build upon local heritage. Begun before the Governments Localism Bill was conceived, it is even more timely and relevant in the light of Government plans to encourage community-led planning through Neighbourhood Plans.
Our Fellow Robert Hardy (currently starring in the final Harry Potter movie as the well-named Cornelius Fudge, discredited former Minister of Magic) has been battling plans almost as foul as anything that Voldemort might dream up: the proposal by the waste company Veolia to build an incinerator just to the north of the town of Shrewsbury, on the southern fringe of the site of the 1403 battle at Shrewsbury.
Robert Hardy told the Sunday Telegraph that English Heritage had made the wrong decision in not opposing the development. He has threatened to resign from the Battlefields Panel, which advises English Heritage on battlefield conservation, unless it reverses its decision.
English Heritage has stated that this is a finely balanced case, and while we accept that the plant will affect the setting of the registered battlefield, it is also true that the archaeology and understanding of the battlefield itself is not threatened.
It is my business to defend the battlefield, Robert Hardy told the Sunday Telegraph: these are sacred burial places; we should honour those fields. Hardy also says that the siting of the incinerator and its chimney would ruin views of the battlefield: part of the English Heritage mandate is to look not only to the approved site of the battle but also the environs and this new chimney would stand right between the visitor centre and observation points and views of the spires of Shrewsbury and the Welsh hills beyond.
Shropshire Council planning committee members agree: they rejected the plans after members felt an incinerator next to the historically significant site was visually inappropriate. Veolia has appealed and there will now be a public inquiry in September. A spokesman for the company said the proposed site is on an industrial estate which is an existing employment area. The company also says that the £60 million burner, which has already been approved by the Environment Agency, could generate enough power to supply 10,000 homes, as well as reducing the amount of waste going to landfill.
Meanwhile, let us not forget that our sector is also battling this time with cuts to the right, left and centre, as public sector employers (English Heritage, the British Library, the Victoria and Albert Museum, local authority archaeology and conservation services, and universities) all institute major redundancy programmes and archaeological units struggle to meet costs because of the downturn in developer-funded projects. What this all means and how we should respond was the subject of a meeting held at the Society on 4 June 2011 at Burlington House, under the title A view from the battlements: a future for the heritage sector. A report on that meeting, along with transcripts of many of the presentations, can now be read or downloaded from the Societys website.
Before leaving the topic of heritage protection, let us congratulate our Fellow Roger Bowdler on his appointment to the post of Designation Director at English Heritage, in succession to our Fellow Peter Beacham. Roger will now have the unenviable task of taking the flak for controversial decisions whether or not to give listed status to the Post-Modernist Broadgate estate or the Brutalist Birmingham Central Library, while Peter enjoys a well-earned break from political pressures writing a new edition of the Pevsner guide to Cornwall.
Speaking at Peters retirement party on 7 July 2011, our Fellow Simon Thurley paid tribute to Peters charm and persuasive character, which had helped to overcome the last Governments instinctive hostility to heritage and that had very nearly resulted in a Heritage Protection Bill that would have significantly increased protection for the heritage, many aspects of which had since been integrated into English Heritage practice, including the recently launched integrated online Heritage List for England.
Perhaps a miracle would help. If so, the place to go in search of divine assistance at the moment is the British Museum, where the blue dome of the Round Reading Room soars like the heavens themselves over one of the biggest collections of saints relics ever gathered in one place. Officially our Fellow James Robinson, the curator of the exhibition, has gathered together 150 exhibits, but some of the reliquaries are literally packed with scores of little parcels, each containing the fragment of a saints earthly remains, so the actual tally of relics is considerably higher.
The aim of the exhibition is not, however, to see what potency remains in relics as diverse as thorns from the Crown of Thorns, fragments of the True Cross, the foot of St Blaise, the breast milk of the Virgin Mary or the hair of St John the Evangelist, but to reveal the development of Christian iconography out of late antique art (or, in the case of angels, from ancient Etruscan tomb carvings, according to one exhibit) and to display works of astonishing craft and creativity in the form of reliquaries that date back to the earliest years of Christian devotion.
Each of these reliquaries is fascinating just for the story it tells of superhuman resilience in the face of brutal persecution or self-imposed privation, and of the many supernatural miracles that have subsequently been wrought as a consequence of one persons supreme self-sacrifice (the deal seems to work both ways, however, for we are told that medieval priests humiliated saints who consistently failed to answer prayers by celebrating their feast-day mass in a deliberately low-key manner, reserving the celebrity trappings of bells, smells, processions and finery for the more active saints).
Many of the finest reliquaries in this exhibition are enlivened by carved, enamelled or painted scenes depicting in dramatic detail the life and martyrdom of the saint whose fingernail or skull fragment it was made to contain. Some also bear the scars of a more irreverent and sceptical age, like the mid-twelfth-century reliquary of St Baudime, whose hands outstretched in blessing greet visitors to the exhibition; empty sockets are all that remain as evidence of the precious jewels that once adorned the saints vestments, all stripped by looters during the Napoleonic Wars.
Once upon a time, pilgrims walked for halfway across Europe just to see just one relic; this summer, all you have to do is walk to the British Museum to see some of the finest in the world at close quarters. Such a fine and sensitive display also bodes well for the next major BM exhibition planned for early 2012, on The Hajj: journey to the heart of Islam.
Talking of pilgrimage destinations, it is sad to report that the twelfth-century Codex Calixtinus has been stolen from the armoured vault of the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Authorship of the Codex Calixtinus was once attributed to Pope Calixtus II (died 1124), hence its name, though it is now believed to be the work of several authors and compilers, including Aymeric Picaud, one-time Secretary to Pope Calixtus, who may have contributed the Liber Peregrinationis, a guide for pilgrims following the Way of St James, describing the towns they will encounter en route, the people and their customs.
The illuminated work also contains some of the earliest recorded examples of Basque vocabulary, liturgical texts and homilies for the liturgy of Saint James, the story of how Saint Jamess body was smuggled from Palestine to Compostela and a history of Charlemagne and Roland. It is also of great value to historians of music composition in the twelfth century, containing numerous examples of plainsong chant associated with the liturgy of St James, and three examples of polyphonic work for three voices.
Picture: Folio 214 of the Codex Calixtinus has music for the liturgy of St James, Con gaudeant catholici, letentur cives celici (Let the whole church rejoice, let the heavenly host be glad). You can hear two versions of this earliest known example of a three-voice chant on ChantBlog.
Nobody can steal from Caistor anymore at least that is the intention behind the purchase just announced by the Norfolk Archaeological Trust of the unscheduled parts of the Roman town of Caistor by Norwich. In charitable ownership, the land will be safeguarded from metal detecting and intensive agriculture, says our Fellow Peter Wade-Martins, Director of the Trust, who added that our priority will be to take the land out of cultivation and return the whole site to grass and gentle countryside enjoyment for the public.
The Norfolk Archaeological Trust already owns 48 hectares (120 acres) of the Roman regional capital Venta Icenorum (market place of the Iceni), thanks to the bequest of the land by the late Mrs F E Hawkins in 1984 and a further purchase made in 1992. Now, with the help of grants of £374,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, £40,000 from English Heritage and £20,000 from South Norfolk council, plus money raised by the Norfolk Archaeological Trust, a further 22 hectares (55 acres) of undesignated land has been acquired, ensuring that the entirety of the extensive remains of the Roman town are protected.
Dr Will Bowden of Nottingham University heads a new research initiative intended to chart the effects of the towns foundation on its surrounding area and to examine the development and eventual decline of the settlement. The project is being developed in collaboration with South Norfolk Council and the Norfolk Archaeological Trust and one of its key aims is to use ongoing research to encourage wider recognition and public enjoyment of this important Roman site. For further information, see the South Norfolk District Council website.
Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced a new £55 million joint funding initiative to help arts and heritage organisations build up endowment funds to secure their long-term financial resilience. Art galleries, museums, opera houses and theatres in England will be invited to bid for grants of between £500,000 and £5 million from the fund to add to money they raise from private philanthropic sources. Different leverage ratios will be required for grants of different sizes; the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said that, on average, every £2 raised from private sources would be matched by £1 of public funding. Chaired by Michael Portillo, the funding pot has been created with contributions of £10 million from the Arts Council, £15 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund and £30 million from the DCMS.
In addition, the Heritage Lottery Fund has set aside £5 million to help smaller cultural and heritage organisations build their financial resilience and improve their fundraising abilities and the Arts Council has invested £40 million in its Catalyst Arts scheme, which offers a mix of match-funding awards and grants to help arts organisations develop their fundraising capacity.
Salon 251 reported in March that Sothebys would be selling the Evill-Frost collection in mid-June. Billed as the greatest collection of modern British art ever to come to the market, the collection was inherited by our late Fellow Honor Frost from her legal guardian, the solicitor Wilfrid Evill, who had been legal adviser to a number of important artists and who would occasionally accept works of art in lieu of legal fees.
In the event, the three-day sale raised £36.9 million, and saw record prices reached for a number of artists, including Stanley Spencer, Edward Burra, Graham Sutherland and Patrick Heron. The record of £1.75m set for a Stanley Spencer painting, the Crucifixion, only a month previously was broken by the six Spencers in this sale, all of which went for sums in the range of £3.4m to £4.8m, the top price being reached by Sunflower and Dog Worship. In accordance with the terms of Honor Frosts will, the proceeds of the sale will be used to fund research in marine archaeology.
Fellow Jim Humberstone reports on an issue that has recently been generating discussion and debate in the cathedral city of Salisbury. It concerns Arundells, the former home of the late Sir Edward Heath, situated in the Close.
The lovely Grade II* house with over two acres of lawns and garden running down to the River Avon, has, at the express wish of Sir Edward, been open to the public for the last four years. The house contains a remarkable collection of paintings, ceramics and memorabilia reflecting Sir Teds years as Prime Minister and world statesman as well as his talents as successful yachtsman and musician.
The Trustees of the house, the Sir Edward Heath Charitable Foundation, now propose selling the property and its contents, devoting the proceeds of sale to a small number of educational charities. To this end they have sought the permission of the Charity Commission, which has issued a Draft Scheme; this, if implemented, will allow the Trustees to sell off the house, garden and contents after one final season of opening.
The principal reason given by the Trustees for this course of action is that Arundells is not financially viable as a visitor attraction. This position is being challenged by the Friends of Arundells, a small group of ardent supporters of the house who believe passionately that Sir Edwards legacy is an undervalued national asset and should not be placed beyond redemption. They believe the present financial problems stem from a lack of commitment on the part of the Trustees.
The Friends have submitted evidence to support this view to the Charity Commission, based on an examination of the Trusts accounts. Central to the Friends case is their business plan. This identifies several ways in which the Trusts problems could be rectified. These include taking advantage of Gift Aid provisions through which 28 per cent of the admission charge to taxpayers may be reclaimed from the Inland Revenue, reducing the wages bill by introducing volunteer help, initiating fundraising events, such as recitals and receptions, and establishing what appears to be have been lacking, a sound marketing and publicity strategy for the property based on viable opening times.
The deadline for comments on the Draft Scheme has now passed, so it remains for the Commission to consider representations. Having weighed up the case of the Trustees the Commission may decide to convene a Tribunal. Such a course of action would result in an in-depth public airing of the pros and cons, but in the meantime the Friends are encouraging all who can to visit Arundells to savour what they believe is a fascinating heritage experience.
For further information on the work of the Friends and information on opening times, see the Friends of Arundells website.
Fellow Niall Finneran, Reader in Early Medieval Archaeology at the University of Winchester, is also the Director of the Centre for Applied Archaeology and Heritage Management (CAAHM), which was formally opened on Thursday 16 June with Fellow and former General Secretary Dai Morgan Evans giving the keynote address on the state of heritage in the UK in the twenty-first century. Niall reports that a typically forthright and honest appraisal was followed up by comments from Fellow Kenneth Aitchison and then by Dr Geoffrey Tassie (Honorary Research Fellow of CAAHM and Director of the Universitys training and research work in Egypt) who was able to contrast the UK experience with the challenges now faced by archaeologists and heritage managers working in Egypt.
Niall explains that the new research centre is concerned with the practical applications of archaeology and heritage. We are particularly focused on a number of sub-themes in which staff are research active, such as pedagogy and archaeological/heritage training, Caucasian, African, Islamic and Caribbean heritage, new applications in human osteoarchaeology and the archaeology of disease, and archaeology and relations with religious groups.
Through a programme of conferences, workshops, seminars, training excavations, research projects, links with a wide range of international partners (from Georgia to Iran, and Ethiopia to Barbados) and a new programme of PhD student recruitment, we hope, over the next few years, to build this Centre into a significant national and international focus for the development of research and training in all sectors of the applied archaeological and heritage industries, enabling a new generation of archaeologists and heritage professionals to face the undoubted challenges to this sector which lie ahead.
The International Institute for Conservation (IIC) has named our Fellow Anna Somers Cocks as the recipient of its first ever Advocate Award. The prize is designed to recognise the work of those who, not necessarily directly linked to the conservation profession, use their creative talents and influence to further the cause of sustainable heritage conservation. As well as being the former editor of The Art Newspaper, and now General Editorial Director and Group Newspaper Editor with Umberto Allemandi, the Milan-based international cultural publishing group, Anna is chairwoman of Venice in Peril; she was created an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to the arts in the June 2011 Queens Birthday Honours List.
Jerry Podany, President of the IIC, interviewed Anna for the latest issue of the organisations News in Conservation bulletin on changes in the publics understanding of heritage conservation over the past three decades. A transcript of the interview can be read on the IICs website.
Our Fellow Arnold Hunt, Curator of Historical Manuscripts at the British Library, has just been awarded the Whitfield Prize for his book, The Art of Hearing: English preachers and their audiences 15901640 (ISBN 9780521896764; Cambridge University Press). The Whitfield Prize is awarded annually by the Royal Historical Society to the best first book on British history published in the previous year.
The judges citation said: The book addresses a well-worn subject the impact of Protestant preaching in the latter stages of the Reformation but does so with entirely new perspectives and intriguing findings. Hunt is interested in the sermon as performance, and demonstrates that printed texts are only an approximate and polished version of what would have been heard from the pulpit. He also explores the reception of sermons among the congregation, a crucial component of the dissemination of the new faith which hitherto has been largely ignored by historians, which he analyses through a careful study of sermon notes taken by hearers. The book offers a series of sophisticated, linked arguments which will have a real impact on the field. It is also meticulously researched and written in clear, authoritative English.
Arnold recently spoke on a related subject Preachers in Shakespeares London at Londons Globe Theatre, citing John Gipkyns painting of Old St Pauls, in the Society’s collection, to support his themes.
Any one of six Fellows might have ended the evening better off by £5,000 when A N Wilson announced the winner of the William MB Berger Prize for British Art History at an award ceremony held in London on 5 July 2011 given that five out of the six shortlisted titles were written by Fellows. In the end, the prize went to Fellows Charlotte Gere and Judy Rudoe for their Jewellery in the Age of Queen Victoria: A Mirror to the World (British Museum Press), but also on the shortlist were Fellow Celina Fox, for The Arts of Industry In the Age of Enlightenment (Yale), Fellow Cecilia Powell for Savage Grandeur: Discovering the Lake District 17501820 (Wordsworth Trust), written with Stephen Hebron, Fellow Malcolm Jones, for The Print in Early Modern England: An Historical Oversight (Yale), and Digging and Dealing in Eighteenth-century Rome (Yale), by the late Ilaria Bignamini and Fellow Clare Hornsby. Full details can be found on the British Art Journal, including the works of several more Fellows that were included on the long list, and the names of the judges who had the difficult task of making a final decision (among whom were Fellows Robin Simon, Editor of The British Art Journal, and Rosemary Hill, author and Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford).
The Society has been informed of the recent deaths of our Fellows John Patrick William Ehrman, who died on 15 June 2011, Elaine Matthews, who died on 26 June 2011, and David Johnston, who died on 3 July 2011. Condolences have been sent to their next of kin and fuller obituaries will follow.
John Ehrman, elected a Fellow on 9 January 1958, was one of the last, great, independent scholars in the British historical tradition, according to the obituary that appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 17 June 2011, best known for his three-volume biography of William Pitt the Younger, The Years of Acclaim (Constable, 1969), The Reluctant Transition (Constable, 1983) and The Consuming Struggle (Constable, 1996).
Elaine Matthews was elected a Fellow on 7 March 2002. An Honorary Vice-President of the Roman Society, and Senior Research Fellow at St Hildas, Oxford, since 1995, Elaine was Director of the Lexicon of Greek Personal Names research project, established in 1973 to document and publish the names of all individuals attested in Greek in the ancient Greek-speaking world.
David Johnston was elected a Fellow as recently as 18 November 2010. Formerly a Lecturer in Archaeology, Department of Adult Education, University of Southampton, he was best known for his work on Roman mosaics and for his excavations of the Roman villa at Sparsholt, Hampshire.
An obituary by Richard Falkiner was published in the Guardian, on 28 June 2011, for our late Fellow Rachel Maxwell-Hyslop (pictured above), describing her as one of the foremost scholars of western Asiatic art and archaeology of her time, and author of Western Asiatic Jewellery c 3000612 BC, a bold, erudite attempt to gather together in a single volume everything important that was known on the subject [and] still the standard reference work.
Her work at Verulamium and at Maiden Castle, working for Mortimer Wheeler, led to her enrolling as one of the first three students at the Institute of Archaeology, even before it had found a home at St Johns Lodge in Regents Park, London, where she studied under Sidney Smith, who pioneered the new course in Mesopotamian studies, remembering that he constantly emphasised the importance of assessing every kind of evidence historical, archaeological, architectural, pottery, metalwork, etc and of linking it to economic, religious, mythological and legal texts, while also considering technical, scientific problems. Literature, language and archaeology were thus linked to provide evidence not only of material culture, but of people’s everyday lives.
In 1946, Rachel joined the staff of the Institute, working as an assistant lecturer, and then lecturer (1952 to 1966) after Max Mallowan had been appointed Professor of Western Asiatic Archaeology, a new post funded by his wife, Agatha Christie. Rachel also served as the administrator of Mallowans excavations at Nimrud, in Iraq, throughout the 1950s. She continued working in Cyprus, Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Syria and Iran into the 1980s, and only stood down as President of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq four years ago, on her ninety-third birthday.
Timber Castles, October 2012. To mark twenty years since the publication of Higham and Barkers Timber Castles, the Castles Study Group is planning a day conference examining the latest work on timber castles primarily in the UK, but also internationally. Anyone who is currently undertaking or has recently done work on sites with major phases of timber construction who would like to be considered to give a paper at the conference should contact Jeremy Cunnington.
Wallace Collection Seminars in the History of Collecting 2012. The organisers of this seminar series are looking for speakers and topics for ten seminars in 2012 covering all aspects of the history of collecting, including studies of the formation and dispersal of collections, dealers, auctioneers and the art market, collectors, museums, inventory work and research resources. Normally held at the Wallace Collection between 5.30pm and 7pm on the first or fourth Monday of every month during the calendar year, the seminars are open to curators, academics, historians, archivists and all those with an interest in the subject. Papers are generally 45 to 60 minutes long. To submit a proposal, please send a summary of up to 750 words, including a brief CV, to Mia Jackson by 30 August 2011.
Inigo Jones, the Queens House and the languages of Stuart culture, 15 and 16 February 2012. The Queens House at Greenwich provides both the venue and the central intellectual focus for this two-day conference, which will bring together scholars working in a variety of disciplines to discuss the origins, meanings and legacy of the Queens House and related sites in London and beyond. Proposals of around 250 words, for papers of no more than 30 minutes, should be sent to Richard Johns or Amy Miller by the beginning of August. The final programme will be announced in September. Further information can be found on the conference web page.
Institute for Archaeologists Conference, Oxford, 18 to 20 April 2012. The conference theme will be Partnership Working: creating effective networks throughout the historic, natural and built environments to maximise resources, increase public benefit and build a stronger sector. Proposals for sessions, CPD workshops and excursions based around this theme should be submitted in the form of a short abstract identifying two or three potential speakers to Alex Llewellyn by 31 August 2011.
6 to 7 August 2011: The Tower and the Household, Baxter Conference Building, University of Dundee; presenting new research from throughout northern Europe that addresses the most fundamental and the most neglected questions about great towers, the potent symbol of lordship in medieval and Renaissance Europe: how were they used and how did that change? Focusing on the household and living patterns, the conference will look at how great towers functioned as ceremonial centres and as practical residences, requiring an increasing complexity of design, plan and furnishing over time. For further details and online registration, go to the Dundee University website.
4 August to 1 September 2011: Dig at Roman Caerleon. A commonly heard complaint is that there are too few opportunities to work as a volunteer archaeologist any more, but our Fellow Peter Guest says that anyone is welcome to take part in this years Roman Caerleon excavation, which will look at the newly discovered suburb outside the Roman fortress, with its marketplaces, warehouses, baths and possible temples. Volunteers (under 16s with parents only) can join the dig for the odd day here or there, a morning or an afternoon or an entire weekend. To apply, send an email Dr Paula Jones, Community Archaeologist.
Site tours take place every day (except Wednesdays) at 11am and 2.30pm, and visitors are welcome throughout the August Bank Holiday weekend (27 to 29 August, 10am to 4.30pm) when, as well as tours, there will be displays of the latest finds and lots of activities for families to join in, including dressing up as Romans, making pots and sampling Roman cooking.
You can also follow the progress of the excavation via the dig diary on the Cardiff University website.
13 and 14 August 2011: Monuments and Monumentality in Later Medieval and Early Modern Europe, a conference to be held at the University of Stirling. For full details of the programme and registration see the conference website.
Speakers from the Fellowship include David Caldwell (National Museums Scotland), on Medieval sculpture in the West Highlands and Islands of Scotland commemorating a warrior caste; Iain Fraser (Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland), on Medieval monuments in Scotland: a survey of knowledge and conservation; Brian and Moira Gittos, on The medieval English churchyard: what did it really look like?; Sophie Oosterwijk (University of Utrecht), on Une ymage conterfait le corps? Self-image and personhood on medieval monuments; Richard Fawcett (St Andrews), on Canopied tomb design in Scotland; and Richard Oram (Stirling), on Bishops and abbots tombs in medieval Scotland.
17 September 2011: The 2011 Deerhurst Lecture. Deerhurst Priory in the later Middle Ages by Martin Heale of the University of Liverpool, 7.30pm at St Marys Church, Deerhurst, Gloucestershire. Tickets will be available at the door or visit the Friends of Deerhurst website.
23 September 2011: Fitzwilliam Museum Colloquium. The Past on Display, 10am to 7.15pm, Mill Lane Lecture Room 1, 8 Mill Lane, Cambridge CB2 1RX. This is the seminar that Fellow Lucilla Burn referred to in Salon 254 at the start of the museums debate, at which architects, critics, museum professionals and academics will discuss the museum display philosophies, and the principles and practicalities behind recent displays of Greek and Roman antiquities. The day will culminate in the 2011 Severis Lecture, to be given by Professor Dimitrios Pandermalis (Director of the New Acropolis Museum, Athens) on The new Acropolis museum: project and realisation. For further details and to book, visit the website of the Fitzwilliam Museum.
30 September 2011: Sustaining Heritage, Sustaining Communities: Museums and Historical Agencies in the 21st Century. Similar topics will be debated at the Boston Athenaeum a week later, when Fellows William Fash, Howells Director of the Peabody Museum, and Barbara Fash, Director of the Maya Corpus, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, will be among the speakers at this symposium part-organised by our Fellow Melanie Hall, Director of Museum Studies at Boston University, and hosted by the Nichols House Museum as part of its fiftieth anniversary celebrations. Registration information will be available after 25 July 2011 on the Nichols House Museum website.
Fellow Diarmaid MacCulloch offers Fellows another chance to deploy their keen eyes, memories and minds in identifying the familiar but elusive church depicted in this Girtin watercolour, which, says Diarmaid, Andrew Wyld of Dover Street is exhibiting (at a formidable price) at the moment. They have stuck with an old title for it An Abbey doorway but as church-crawlers will instantly realise, this is the south porch (south because of the directional light through its west window) of a parish church somewhere. The painting dates from the 1790s, but there is a chance that it may have survived the Victorians to our own day.
Andrew Wylds catalogue describes the work as made around 1797 when Girtin was moving away from the traditional eighteenth-century tinted drawing method of combining pencil and watercolour to a more fluid and fully-coloured style of painting. A careful balance of warm and cool washes are used to model the architecture. There are some traces of soft pencil but the drawing is applied with the point of a brush and one or two pen and ink lines. Girtins obituary writer said that the artist was uncommonly indefatigable in colouring on the spot and our drawing may well have been made out of doors. The accidental smudge of blue paint would support this view. Girtins West Front of St Albans Abbey (Yale Center for British Art), which dates from 17978, is executed in a similar manner and, as in our drawing, has dragged dry brush marks in some of the shading.
Salon 248 reported in January 2011 on the urgent in situ conservation work that the Hamilton Kerr Institute was about to carry out on the rare and fragile early Tudor panel-paintings executed by Lambert Barnard for Bishop Robert Sherburne c 1534 in Chichester cathedral (see the paper by Jonathan Woolfson and Deborah Lush in the Antiquaries Journal for 2007: Lambert Barnard in Chichester Cathedral: ecclesiastical politics and the Tudor royal image).
Karen Coke, art historian and a member of the Lambert Barnard Panels Steering Group, now reports that the first stage of the conservation work has been completed: 69,000 square inches of painted surface have been cleaned and consolidated, extensive areas of very loose, flaking paint, a legacy of less-than-ideal environmental conditions in previous times, have been carefully re-adhered to the wooden support, and layers of surface dirt, dust and other accretions removed. In the course of this work a range of investigative tests have been carried out, including microscopic paint sampling to determine the original materials and techniques, as well as the extent and stratigraphy of later restoration; mapping areas of previous damage; dendrochronology of some of the underlying timber; and infra-red and ultra-violet examination of the surface. Once analysed, the teams investigations will add much to our understanding of how these huge paintings were realised, enabling a clearer picture of early Tudor painting practice. One persistent myth relating to the dating of the panels the reputed presence of a mysterious date of 1519, high on the panels has already been put to rest: not included in Barnards original design, or even on the original sixteenth-century surface, the date was found to be written, in pencil, on eighteenth-century over-paint.
A report of the teams findings will be prepared, and published in an edition of the Hamilton Kerrs forthcoming journal, Cambridge Studies in Conservation and Material Culture. In the meantime, news updates and images can be seen on the Institutes web pages.
Karen adds a note of thanks to everyone who contributed to the costs of the work: the project could not have been realised without the generosity of a large number of individuals and charitable donations, including some stemming from Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries.
Books by Fellows are a regular feature in Salon, but this report concerns a major new piece of public sculpture that, if not actually created by a Fellow, is the result of the campaigning initiative and hard work of Fellow John Blatchley. John, who was Headmaster (never Head Teacher, an appalling piece of PC jargon, he says) of Wolseys Ipswich School for twenty-one years, was heard on BBC Radio 4s Making History programme on 14 June explaining that he was determined to see the founder of the school, Cardinal Wolsey, commemorated by an appropriate memorial in the town of his birth.
His ambition was fulfilled on Charter Day, 29 June 2011, at noon, when the cast bronze of Wolsey was unveiled on Curson Plain. The BBC website has a gallery of pictures depicting the unveiling, including a photograph of John as Chairman of the Patrons of the Cardinal Thomas Wolsey Appeal standing alongside the statue with its sculptor, David Annand, of Fife.
The base of the statue is inscribed with words that show Wolsey to have been a forward-looking educationalist and experienced teacher. His instruction for those who taught in schools was: pleasure is to mingle with study, that the child may think learning rather an amusement than a toil. Tender youth is to suffer neither severe thrashings nor sour and threatening looks, nor any kind of tyranny, for by such usage the fire of genius is either extinguished or in great measure damped.
John adds: the statue will now be the focus of guided tours of Ipswich and the educational aspects of the Cardinal Thomas Wolsey Appeal will continue with an annual lecture and rewards for inspirational history teaching and learning.
We do, of course, have quite a number of creative artists amongst our ranks, and only a month after Salon reported on Fellow Charles Jenckss project to create Northumberlandia, the largest human figure ever made, by sculpting two million tonnes of waste from the Shotton surface mine in Northumberland we now learn of another landform project on the other side of the country: the Gretna Landmark Trust has appointed Charles as Director of a project to mark the border between England and Scotland with something more welcoming and dramatic than a motorway road sign. The Trust also announced on 4 July that it had selected the artist Cecil Balmonds design for a sculpture called Star of Caledonia that will, placed on top of a landform designed by Charles Jencks, symbolise a confident, creative Scotland.
Charles described Cecil Balmonds sculpture as a scintillating piece of calligraphy seen against the sky, which will signify various meanings as you approach starburst, energy, St Andrews Cross, thistle, Highland Dancing, or, if you look at the right place, the map of Scotland. It all depends from where you see it in the landscape. These meanings emerge dramatically as you walk the site, but they are also taken up by the landform and embedded in its curves. Balmond himself said he was inspired by James Clerk Maxwell, the Scottish physicist and mathematician noted for his work in electromagnetic theory which paved the way for Einstein and the other great thinkers of our modern world.
Provided that planning permission and funding are forthcoming, the Gretna Landmark should be completed in time for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in 2014.
Fellow Percival Turnbull, of the Brigantia Archaeological Practice in Barnard Castle, endorsed Salons enthusiasm for the unreconstructed Kendal Museum and suggested that anyone visiting Cumbria might also like to visit the nearby Armitt Collection, in Ambleside, at once a museum, a gallery and a library, which has recently acquired a first edition of the King James Bible, called the he Bible because it contains a misprint in the Book of Ruth where the word he replaces the word she. Known locally as the Curates Bible, because of its annotation by the chapel curates, it has an interesting history. It was acquired for the old mountain chapel of St Annes Ambleside in 1611, but disappeared towards the end of the seventeenth century. The book reappeared 200 years later in Bradford and was bought by a Colonel Rhodes. On his death in 1905 it was acquired by a group of parishioners, including Louisa Armitt, founder of the Armitt Library, and given to the parish church, which has this year passed it to the Armitt for safe keeping.
The Armitt also holds material relating to such diverse people as Ruskin, Beatrix Potter, Kurt Schwitters and Harriet Martineau, as well as large collections of early photographs, and two plaster models of the Ambleside Roman fort made by R G Collingwood.
Fellow Robert Merrillees recommends another museum that is well worth a trip or diversion if anyone is passing through Burgundy in the coming months. The museum in Sens, Robert says, occupies the former Archbishops palatial residence adjacent to the cathedral and incorporates the cathedrals exceptional Treasury. Our visit was prompted by a news item that the vestments once worn by St Thomas Becket had gone on show there again after a ten-year, 120,000-euro restoration.
Indeed the museum now displays an alb, chasuble and other liturgical apparel (pictured above left) said to have been used by Becket during his exile at Sens from 1164 to 1165, as well as a pair of shoes or slippers whose association with Becket is less sure. Given their age and state of preservation, this assemblage is both remarkable and moving; their size suggests that Becket was a big man physically, not to mention spiritually. Unfortunately the Museum shop had no booklet or brochure on these relics, but the shop did sell beer named after the saint, made by the Brasserie Larché in Sens. In addition to the these historical items, the Museum houses a fine collection of Gallo-Roman antiquities, making a trip to the museum and cathedral a very worthwhile experience.
And from Fellow Brendan O’Connor comes this endorsement of the Gallo-Romeins Museum in Tongeren, recently awarded the accolade of European Museum of the Year: once inside the forbidding exterior (reminiscent of the Pergamon Museum in Berlin without the bullet holes) the interactive facilities are exemplary, but do not detract from the material on display. Palaeolithic/Mesolithic galleries that I would usually rush straight through detained me for some time. While Dutch is the principal language, French, German and English are all successfully accommodated. I can also testify to the quality of the lecture theatre and the cafe. Beyond the museum, extensive, if rather dilapidated, remains of the walls of the Roman town survive, while a statue of Ambiorix dominates the Grand-Place. And of course the beer is excellent! (Ed: clearly good beer is becoming a must-have characteristic of the best museums; in which case the ultimate museum must be a museum of beer and brewing!)
Salon gave two pieces of incorrect information about newly elected Fellows in the last issue. For the record, Mike Turner, described on the Societys website and in Salon as retired, is still in fact very active as an Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings with English Heritage. And though the Revd Geoff West was Director of Policy at English Heritage, as well as Head of the Midland Region of Properties in Care and before that Principal Inspector of Historic Buildings, he is now non-stipendiary curate of Banbury rather than a Buildings Conservation Manager.
Apologies are also due for a mistake that appeared in Salon 257 in the report on Henkilö- ja sukuvaakunat Suomessa, the book on personal and family coats of arms in Finland edited jointly with Wilhelm Brummer by our Fellow Antti Matikkala. Salon said that Antti had written the paper on Finnish motifs in Swedish and Finnish noble arms; in fact, that paper was contributed by our Fellow Tuukka Talvio.
Salon also gave the misleading impression that the obituary for Philip Rahtz published in the last issue was written by Fellow Norman Hammond. Obituaries in The Times are, by tradition, not attributed, but on this occasion it is perhaps only fair to name the author as Fellow Martin Carver as many readers will no doubt have worked out for themselves, given the style and content of the tribute.
Why then did Salon thank Norman for forwarding the obituary? That is because Norman has persuaded The Times to allow Salon to reproduce relevant obituaries, which Fellows would not otherwise see because The Times now charges for access to its online edition. We are very grateful to Norman and can only hope that The Times will eventually judge its paywall to be a mistake, not least because the newspaper and its contents have become virtually invisible since the policy was introduced, depriving the newspapers many good journalists and columnists of a voice in public debates. Scrapping the paywall, Mr Murdoch, would be a welcome move at a time when News International needs all the friends it can muster.
On the subject of tributes to PhiIip Rahtz, our Fellow Ian Burrow, Vice-President of the Trenton, New Jersey-based historical resource consultants, Hunter Research Inc, offers his own memories: As Philips first PhD student at Birmingham I got to know him very well. He had a hugely generous spirit and was one of the most open-minded people I have ever met. He had a ready wit and an impish sense of humour that was never far beneath the surface. There was always much laughter around him. He was an absolutely outstanding excavator. In the second half of the 20th century I think only Philip Barker was his equal in the dissection, recording and understanding of hugely complicated and subtle stratigraphy: not a claim to be made lightly for an era that included many other highly skilled practitioners, but one I stand by. He was also, of course, a gifted teacher and mentor. He lived life to the full, and our lives are diminished without him.
Fellow Norman Hammond questioned Salons description of the Langdale Pike axes in Kendal Museum as being made from jadeite rightly as it turns out, for jadeite (found in sources high in the Alps, about which our Fellow Alison Sheridan has written recently in The Archaeologist 71: 3840) is a different mineral from the volcanic tuff from which the Langdale axes are made, even though we archaeologists tend to lump them together rather carelessly under the rather vague general heading of greenstone.
Salon has yet to correct an error that appeared in issue 255: Fellow Robin Milner-Gulland was puzzled by the report on the return of the bust of Elisabeth Borrett to the church of St Peter and St Paul, Shoreham, West Sussex, after its recovery by the police. Neither of the two great churches in Shoreham has the PeterPaul dedication, nor do Nairn/Pevsner mention the Borrett memorial. Should the item perhaps refer to a different Shoreham? Robin asked. Indeed it should have done: as this page from the Courtauld Institutes art database makes clear, the wonderful bust of Elisabeth Borrett by Henry Cheere (c 1740) belongs to Shoreham in Kent.
Finally, Fellow Roy Haines has come up with an intriguing suggestion for the inscription recently discovered by Fellow Roland Harris during archaeological investigations at the White Tower at the Tower of London. Roy says: the presence of the heart at the end of line one is striking, and, unless I am imagining things, the first line of the inscription seems to read:
Ric le . L . ♥
which might well indicate Richard Coeur de Lion. This would fit with that monarchs well-known modifications at the site, involving the enclosure of the White Tower with a curtain wall and moat.
Fellow David Adshead writes to say that the National Trust Historic Houses & Collections Annual is now available in hard copy form (£5.95 plus p&p) from the NTs online bookshop; alternatively, you can download an online copy for free.
The contents of this sixteenth special supplement to Apollo magazine highlighting the Trusts work at its historic houses has articles on the beetle-wing dress worn by Ellen Terry for her celebrated portrayal of Lady Macbeth; library collections in Trust houses in Wales; the history and meaning of the Hero and Leander tapestries at Lyme Park, Cheshire; the story behind Viviano Codazzis painting The Arch of Constantine, which once hung at Osterley Park, Middlesex; an examination of the print sources for a suite of furniture at Montacute House, Somerset; an early seventeenth-century armorial panel identified as the Duke of Buckinghams; Waddesdons Livre de Caricatures, a book of scurrilous political cartoons intended for private consumption; and an overview of works of art acquired by the National Trust during 2010.
Salon readers frequently ask how do I get my book mentioned in Books by Fellows? The best way is to be your own publicist, and let the editor know, preferably with a few words about the aim of the book, so that Salon is not simply repeating the publishers blurb (blurbs very often misrepresent the book anyway, and fail to identify what it is that makes the book special).
Salons editor is also constantly looking out for books written or edited by Fellows that are reviewed in other publications. All of the books that are about to be mentioned fall into this category; they have not been read personally by Salons editor and so the reviews are based on other peoples comments.
Thus Fellow Christopher Lloyds book, In Search of a Masterpiece: an art lovers guide to Great Britain and Ireland (ISBN: 9780500238844; Thames & Hudson), is judged by Kathryn Hughes in the Guardian to be exactly the companion you would wish to take with you on a museum crawl: knowledgeable, urbane and discreetly impatient with dense art-historical lingo. Surveyor of the Queens Pictures from 1988 to 2005 (when he retired to pass the mantle on to Desmond Shawe-Taylor), Christophers book contains a personal selection of his 265 paintings in public collections, a kind of visual equivalent of Desert Island Discs, says Hughes, while Michael Prodger, in the Sunday Times, says the book reminds us that Britains provincial galleries are chock-full of unexpected high-quality paintings … thanks to civic-minded merchants who had a vision of art for the people and who formed the collections and paid for the grandiose buildings that now house them.
Simon Sebag Montefiore (author of Jerusalem: the biography) chooses as his summer reading (in CAM, the Cambridge Alumni Magazine) the latest work of our Fellow David Abulafia: The Great Sea: a human history of the Mediterranean (ISBN: 9780713999341; Penguin), calling it a vibrant and compelling history of the Mediterranean and humanity from the Trojan Wars to the beaches of Ibiza in the twenty-first century … a scholarly, accessible and exciting tour de force.
In Country Life, Philip Marsden reviews Forgotten Land: journeys among the ghosts of East Prussia, by our Fellow Max Egremont (ISBN: 9780330456593; PanMacmillan). The experience of reading Max Egremonts wonderful evocation of the final years of East Prussia, he writes, is like watching a film whose images you know will stay with you for years to come. You stumble out onto the street numb and haunted, unable and reluctant to rejoin the present. Forgotten Land is not a history, nor even a travel book. The storys power comes from the authors use of private accounts. He weaves them together to leave an impression not so much of individuals in a historical drama, but of something closer to reality, where history strikes lives at random, revealing their diversity, their yearnings, their loves and failings … the characters [in this book] represent not only the vanished fringes of Germany, but of that swathe of Eastern Europe that remains little known in the West, and whose intensity of human experience from doomed nobility to war-time suffering-now appears almost mythical in its scale.
Mythical in scale might also be a fit description for the deeds that are the subject of Fellow Nigel Sauls new book, For Honour and Fame: chivalry in England 10661500 (ISBN: 9781847920522; Bodley Head). Fellow Jonathan Sumption reviewed it in the Sunday Times and said: Honour and Fame is an account of the ideas and practice of chivalry as they developed in England over four centuries. Not that England was peculiar among European societies, for culturally it was never an island. Like Italy, Spain and the Low Counties, the chivalry of England was taken directly from French models … England, however, was in some ways special. It was a highly militarised and relatively close-knit society, which witnessed the extremes of triumph and disaster in the course of its prolonged and doomed attempt to take over the much larger, richer and more populous kingdom of France. Much has survived in England that has been lost in other countries. Its sources illustrate aspects of the aristocratic culture of the Middle Ages that are poorly represented elsewhere. Saul makes full use of these sources … he makes the most unpromising material speak to us with a directness that can surprise even those who are already familiar with it. This is a rich book that does ample justice to its theme.
The Origin of Our Species, by Fellow Chris Stringer (ISBN 9781846141409; Allen Lane), was reviewed in the Guardian by Peter Forbes, who described Chris Stringer as being in the thick of the ferment of the gene studies that has made the study of human evolution a rapidly evolving topic. The story is still too much in flux for anyone to be able to write the definitive book about human origins, Forbes says, but to follow the dramatic announcements that will be appearing in the media pretty regularly from now on concerning new fossil finds and detailed genetic knowledge on the mutations that distinguish us from Neanderthals, other hominins, and apes, you will need a primer to make sense of the story so far. Here is that book.
Finally, several Fellows have recently contributed books to the guides published by Scala on museums, art galleries, cathedrals, historic monuments and religious and heritage sites. One of them is a new guide to Gloucester Cathedral: faith, art and architecture, written by, amongst others, our Fellow Carolyn Heighway (ISBN 9781857596670). Reviewing this in the newsletter of the Ancient Monuments Society, our Fellow Matthew Saunders says: many of us were brought up with Bells guides and later Pitkins as our introduction to Britains cathedrals, but the new boy on the block threatens to stamp out all rivals. Scala, which brings an international perspective, marries coffee table size with carryability, and outstanding luminous photography with readable, accessible but accurate texts, unburdened by heavy intellectual pretension … showing the door to the merely adequate.