The full meetings programme for this autumn can be seen on the Societys website.
13 October 2011: The Societys portrait of Queen Mary, by Pamela Tudor-Craig FSA
The Societys portrait of Queen Mary I, painted in 1554 by Hans Eworth, was the greatest purchase made by the Reverend Thomas Kerrich, and is now amongst our Societys finest possessions. Pamela Tudor-Craig spoke briefly to the Fellowship in 2005 about its content, but there is much more to explore. As the first Queen Regnant for 400 years, her image was carefully and consciously worked out, apparently by herself, within the rapidly evolving and always revealing quasi-secular iconography of the Tudor court. The disfavour which darkened her memory accounts for the obscurity from which, in 1800, our most discerning collector rescued this wonderful picture.
20 October 2011: Matthew Cotes Wyatts colossal equestrian statue of Wellington (1846) and Turners Hero of a Hundred Fights (180010, reworked and exhibited at the RA in 1847), by Jan Piggott FSA
Newly discovered material from the National Archives will be used, alongside evidence from contemporary periodicals and diaries, prints and satirical cartoons to investigate the controversy surrounding the erection of the Wellington statue, and the events that prompted Turners extraordinary painting of its casting.
27 October 2011: Priors Hall, Widdington, Essex: an Anglo-Saxon secular building?, by Nicola Smith FSA
Priors Hall, Widdington, a privately owned rendered stone-built farmhouse near Saffron Walden, Essex, was revealed as an Anglo-Saxon building in 1988 when the discovery of an unmistakably Anglo-Saxon arch in the centre of its eastern gable end was followed by the removal of the render from the north side, exposing long-and-short work from ground to eaves at either end. Subsequent investigation of the south side has brought to light a triangular-headed doorway, and an excavation in advance of domestic building work confirmed that the structure originally extended further to the east.
Any new Anglo-Saxon building represents a significant opportunity to extend our understanding of the period, particularly when it survives as substantially as does this one. Given its plan, orientation and grandeur, the obvious initial expectation was that Priors Hall would originally have been a church or chapel. However, the original function of the building remains open to question, and this paper will suggest that it may have been secular. It will be the first formal presentation of the findings of work that remains in progress.
Just as the historic environment was permanently defaced by an ill-advised campaign that saw historic ironwork torn up by the mile during World War II ostensibly for munitions manufacture, but ultimately to be dumped as being the wrong sort of metal so the UK is now facing a threat of similar proportions, but this time as a result of metal thefts, a crime that is being fuelled by the high prices being paid for lead and copper by manufacturers in China, India and Brazil. As well as stealing copper cabling from railway and telecommunications conduits, thieves are targeting lead-roofed churches, cemeteries with copper memorial plaques and bronze war memorials, sculpture and public monuments.
Ecclesiastical, the church insurer, has received 1,900 theft-related damage claims already in 2011, compared with only ten claims in 2003, while the Church of England believes that one-third of the 16,000 churches in England and Wales have been targeted, many of them on more than one occasion.
Churches are responding by setting up round-the-clock security arrangements, with church wardens making night-time patrols to keep a watch for thieves, but even this is no deterrent, as our Fellow Philip Lankester reports: My own parish church (St Olaves, York) is not in isolated countryside but close to a city centre it has now suffered a series of separate thefts of lead, the last even after a roof alarm system had been installed. Water penetration after the most recent theft has stained the chancel walls and the internal corbel and label stop carvings by Charles Gurry, specially commissioned for the Millennium, and has caused serious damage to the fine and recently refurbished 1907 Walker organ.
The total repair bill for the roof and organ is likely to be about £50,000. With insurance payouts limited to £10,000 the parishs reserves will be exhausted in meeting the balance, making special fund-raising almost inevitable. And this extra financial burden is not because of the inevitable decay of the Grade I listed building, but simply to repair damage caused by thieves.
Philip is among those who are asking the Government for an emergency amendment to the Scrap Metal Merchants Act 1964 to prohibit the sale of metal for cash, making payment by cheque or directly into a bank account mandatory so that there is a record of the partners to the transaction. Philip urges Fellows to support this campaign by signing the petition on the Governments e-petition website.
Fellows are fighting back against the growing tendency of local authorities to respond to financial pressures by cutting historic environment services. Mike Heyworth, Director of the Council for British Archaeology, was interviewed on the BBC Radio 4s Making History programme on 4 October 2011 and emphasised that the adequate delivery of archaeological advice by people with appropriate experience, training and knowledge was not an option but a requirement of the planning system.
Mikes point was supported by a statement read out on the programme from the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) that said: residents rightly expect their council to maintain key services and to deliver their legal duties including heritage protection. National planning policy is clear about the importance of archaeology and our heritage assets the draft National Planning Policy Framework reaffirms and makes much clearer, protection for the historic environment. It also encourages councils to set out how they will protect and improve heritage most at risk through neglect or decay, for the enjoyment of communities now and in the future.
According to the programmes presenter, Buckinghamshire, the West Midlands and the Tees Valley were among local authorities that had scrapped their specialist archaeological services and Portsmouth and Walsall were among those considering such a measure. Failing to provide these services, said the CBA, just creates more uncertainty for development, with the risk of unexpected discoveries and expensive delays, at a time when sustainable growth is so important. These authorities are simply turning their backs on the opportunity of levering significant investment into enhancing their rich local heritage with all its potential for community benefit and the growth of tourism business.
Following the programme, our Fellow Pete Hinton, Director of the Institute for Archaeologists, wrote to Greg Clark, the DCLG Minister responsible for planning, on behalf of The Archaeology Forum (of which our Society is a member) to request that a copy of the statement read out on Making History should be sent to every Chief Planning Officer in England so so that authorities do not mistakenly assume that they can dispense with access to specialist archaeological and historic environment advice.
The Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) has warned that recent cuts could significantly delay planning applications. The Annual Report on Local Authority Staff Resources shows an accelerating fall in the number of conservation and historic environment experts employed by local authorities and a sharp increase in planning applications. Over the past twelve months the number of conservation officers working in local authorities has dropped by 13.5 per cent, to 606.5 full-time equivalent posts (FTEs). The number of archaeological officers is down by close to 9 per cent, to 351 FTEs. The figures on planning application decisions have risen by more than 5 per cent and listed building consent decisions are up by just over 7 per cent.
Our Fellow Eddie Booth, President of the IHBC, said: If these trends continue it is likely that the demand will exceed the capacity of the local authorities to be able to respond with suitably qualified experts. This will have a direct impact on services for customers, whether householders, businesses or those concerned about their local areas. This lack of resources also means that local authorities wont be able to meet their conservation obligations under the Governments existing planning legislation, or even under forthcoming planning policies such as the draft National Planning Policy Framework outlines.
Baroness Andrews, Chair of English Heritage, also expressed concern about the loss of expertise highlighted in the report: the imbalance between the numbers of staff and the volume of planning applications shown in this report are of extreme concern at a time of change in the planning system, she commented. The historic environment is not a soft target; loss of expertise could lead to loss of elements of Englands heritage, which once gone, cannot be recovered.
A copy of the report can be downloaded from the IHBCs website.
With just one more week to go before the close of the consultation on the draft National Planning Framework, the National Trust, which has led opposition to the thrust and wording of the draft, has published a list of ten points that it wishes to see addressed in a revised version.
They include confirmation that the planning system should not be used as a blunt tool to proactively drive development, clarification of how planning should promote genuinely, robustly defined, sustainable development and recognition that it is fundamentally wrong that neighbourhood plans should be led and funded by business.
In the face of politicians repeated assertions that the heritage is not threatened by the draft planning framework, the National Trust responds by saying that only nationally designated heritage is explicitly protected and that planning should continue to protect the wider countryside for its own sake (that should, perhaps, say the wider historic environment for its own sake). The Trust also wishes to see an explicit brownfield first policy, genuine power for communities to shape their area for the better, and a right of appeal in circumstances where consent is granted for development that is inconsistent with the local plan.
Londons Evening Standard has reported that changes are in the pipeline at the Societys near neighbour, Burlington Arcade. Although it has undergone a number of modifications since its original opening in 1819, the Arcade retains its top-lit walkway lined with small two-storey shops, designed by Samuel Ware for Lord George Cavendish for the sale of jewellery and fancy articles of fashionable demand.
The definition of articles of fashionable demand is constantly changing, and the proprietors of the current mix of antique, silver, pewter and clothing shops fear that they are going to be driven out by international luxury brands. Markus Meijer, a spokesman for the new owners, who acquired the arcade for £104m last year, says there are currently a lot of shops that sell the same thing and that the aim of a planned revamp is to keep the historic character as much as possible … and make the tenant mix as interesting as possible for people.
The top-hatted beadles who patrol the centre will have new uniforms designed by a Savile Row tailor and the ceremonial unlocking of the iron gates at each end of the Arcade at the start and end of the day will have more pomp in future. Visible wiring and air conditioning units within the arcade will be relocated and the modern concrete floor will be replaced with marble and sandstone.
Some small independent traders have been given notice to quit, however, and are not very pleased. Writing to the Evening Standard and to the Financial Times to express his concerns, Daniel Bexfield, of Daniel Bexfield Antiques, says he has been told that his shop no longer fits the look, and that he fears the landlords are after the big boys, such as Prada, Gucci and Chanel. These retailers, he says, need bigger premises and can only be accommodated by knocking together the charming and tiny centuries-old shop fronts.
The Evening Standard also reported on the latest moves at Royal Holloway, University of London, where Fellows have been joined by London Mayor Boris Johnson and broadcaster Stephen Fry in a campaign to prevent the closure of the Classics Department. The university has now agreed to abandon plans to close the department, but now plans to create a new school of history and classics with the loss of four classics staff instead of six, which, says Professor Edith Hall, will still damage classics teaching at Royal Holloway.
Professor Hall said: the university has made some major concessions but the department is still losing its autonomy and being cut by half. This is what [Fellow] Mary Beard called death by 1,000 cuts.
Professor Hall went on to say that the department is seen as one of the best in the world, and has been operating independently for more than 100 years. If this happens here, it can happen anywhere; I believe this is a tipping point for humanities in Britain. Acknowledging that universities needed to invest in science, technology, engineering and maths, she said that the humanities were also necessary because they teach people to think outside the box.
A spokeswoman for Royal Holloway said that the university will retain the classics degree because the college is convinced by arguments that classics is a pivotal subject for the understanding of Western civilisation, an important part of the history of Bedford and Holloway College and has significant overlap with the modules taught within classical studies and ancient history.
Having earlier this year (March 2011) published a paper in the Journal of Archaeological Science showing that some of the Stonehenge bluestones can be matched to specific outcrops within the Fishguard Volcanic Group, which crosses north Pembrokeshire some 8km to the north of the Preseli Hills, our Fellow Dr Rob Ixer, of the University of Leicester, and Dr Richard Bevins, Keeper of Geology at Amgueddfa Cymru National Museum Wales, are about to publish a paper that pins down even more precisely the provenances for some of the Stonehenge bluestones.
In their quest to narrow down the possible quarry sites, they have been examining the debitage, or waste material from the process of shaping the stones, excavated by Fellow Mike Pitts in 1979 close to the Heel Stone and from the 2008 excavation within the bluestone circle directed by Fellows Tim Darvill and Geoff Wainwright. In an article to be published shortly in Archaeology in Wales (Craig Rhos-y-felin, Pont Saeson, is the dominant source of the Stonehenge rhyolitic debitage), Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins will show that there is an exact petrographical match between some of the debitage and rocks at the extreme north-eastern end of Rhos-y-felin, and they further conclude that Craig Rhos-y-felin is the overwhelming source for the rhyolitic debitage found throughout the Stonehenge area.
As he continues his archaeological exploration of the former USSR, the latest despatch from our intrepid Fellow, Heinrich Härke (of the Universities of Reading and Tübingen) comes from the central Asian republic of Kazakhstan.
After a successful season at fieldwork at Dzhankent, an early medieval town site east of the Aral Sea, our travelling circus of Kazakh, Russian and German archaeologists, reinforced by a British and a German visitor, moves on to the regional capital of Kyzylorda. It is a bumpy seven-hour trip along a stretch of roadworks that will become the Kazakh stretch of a road that will eventually link China to western Europe a kind of modern Silk Road, one imagines, while crunching steppe dust between ones teeth. We stop on the way to have a look at another town site half destroyed by a bend of the River Syr-Darya (the Jaxartes of Classical antiquity). The sherds we pick up along the river bank refuel our running debate about the interpretation of the early medieval pottery here in terms of ethnic identity and migration routes interpretations that our Kazakh and Russian colleagues are still wedded to in an automatic and uncritical way that makes even an avowed migrationist like me uncomfortable.
We arrive at the State University of Kyzylorda to find that all my suggestions about how to run our planned workshop on early medieval urbanisation in East and West have been ignored in favour of something that maximises status and prestige for the university and the local organiser. On the first day, a TV crew attends the lectures given by Professors Grenville Astill (University of Reading) and Jörn Staecker (Tübingen University), who give students the first instalments of their presentations on urbanisation in England and the Baltic Sea region, respectively. It gets much more serious on the second day when our workshop transmogrifies into an international conference, and the media are present in even greater numbers; the students are dressed respectably, and the Rektor (Vice-Chancellor) sits in all morning. But in order to fit everything in and have the time for the inevitable banquet in the afternoon, papers are cut to 10 minutes each and discussion is completely ruled out.
A moment of light relief for the western visitors is provided by the Rektor mentioning our grant from the Wenner-Grenville Foundation Grenville Astills composure is admirable (as befits a Fellow, of course). But the Rektors interest has a positive outcome: in talks before and after the workshop, he agrees that the near-defunct Archaeology Laboratory at his university will be upgraded to an Archaeology Centre, and a new Head will be appointed, a young and energetic Kazakh who did his doctorate with our Russian co-director in Moscow. This will be a real boost to archaeology in north-western Kazakhstan, where few archaeologists are in permanent positions and none of them has a degree higher than a BA.
While our western visitors head to the airport to go home, the Russian-German remnant of the travelling circus goes on to Almaty (formerly Alma-ata), the former capital. The first half of the twenty-hour train journey crosses perfectly flat steppe and semi-desert, and I stare for hours at the horizon, trying to get into the mindset of nomads who lived on these plains from the Bronze Age (if not before) until 1937 when the Soviet regime brutally crushed nomadism in Kazakhstan. How does orientation work on what is to our eyes a featureless plain? That question brings home the point about building kurgans (barrows) on the steppe: they are there not just to be seen, but also to provide points of navigation amidst a homogenous sea of grass (or shrub). And would a tenth-century nomad have felt claustrophobic in the town of Dzhankent? Thats when you realise that urbanisation in a nomad society (or possibly any society) involves not just a change in settlement pattern, but also a huge change in mentality.
At Almaty, we are summoned to the court of the new khan. The new Director of the Institute of Archaeology (Kazakh Academy of Sciences) deems all existing co-operation agreements to have ceased with his appointment. He demands new negotiations with Moscow and Kyzylorda for continued research at Dzhankent (which requires an excavation licence signed by him). To westerners used to the stability of institutions and agreements, this thoroughly eastern attitude is strange, but it is the same tradition that saved Europe from the Mongols when their generals had to return home on the death of Genghis Khan to elect a new khan and renegotiate their positions.
Less strange, though unexpected in their sheer frequency, are the references to the past and to archaeology on government propaganda posters which are as frequent here as Marlborough hoardings used to be in the rest of the world. A statue of the Golden Man of Issyk, disrespectfully called The Scarecrow by Kazakh archaeologists, graces a square in the centre of Almaty, and a picture of his reconstructed form (pictured) features on a fair proportion of all the posters showing the President of Kazakhstan. This richly decorated warrior of the third century BC, discovered and excavated in 1969, has become the symbol of Kazakhstans golden past as well as that of its present regime.
British Academy Prize and Medal winners: with the President, Sir Adam Roberts (centre of front row), are our Fellow David Peacock (on the far right) and Fellow Conor Newman (at the rear on the left).
Congratulations are due to three of our Fellows who were presented with medals and prizes last week by the British Academy.
Sadly our Fellow Mark Blackburn did not live to attend the ceremony, but in view of his illness the news that he had been awarded with the Derek Allen Prize for Numismatics had been released earlier in the year. When the remaining awards were announced on 6 October, we learned that the John Coles Medal for Landscape Archaeology had been awarded to our Fellow Dr Conor Newman, of the Department of Archaeology, National University of Ireland and Head of the Heritage Council in Ireland, and that the Kenyon Medal for Classical Studies and Archaeology had been awarded to our Fellow David Peacock, Emeritus Professor, Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton.
Congratulations too to our Fellow Professor Howard Williams of the University of Chester who is a member of the team that has been awarded a 1,261,625 grant (equivalent to £1.1 million) European Research Council grant for a project that will explore the changing significance of memory in medieval and modern England and Wales. Howard will be the projects archaeologist, joining a team of academics led by Professor Philip Schwyzer, an expert in Renaissance literature and Head of English at the University of Exeter. Professor Williams says that the five-year project, entitled The Past in its Place: histories of memory in English and Welsh locales, will investigate change and continuity in the ways individuals and communities have imagined, appropriated and reinvented their own histories and mythologies in buildings, monuments and the landscape.
And finally, congratulations to our Fellow Nicholas Reeves on his appointment as the Lila Acheson Wallace Associate Curator in the Department of Egyptian Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. As an archaeologist Nicholas is best known for his work with the Amarna Royal Tombs Project, whose ground-penetrating radar survey carried out in the winter of 2000 discovered the undisturbed KV-63 funerary chamber. Nicholas is also the author of best-selling books on the Valley of the Kings, Tutankhamun and Akhenaten.
The Art Fund has just announced the launch of a new five-year programme that will award up to £50,000 a year in grants to curators and academics working with fine and applied art collections to give them opportunities to travel and pursue research in their specialist areas.
The Jonathan Ruffer Curatorial Grants programme has been created through the auspices of Jonathan Ruffer, the philanthropist who recently donated £15 million to keep the Zurbarán paintings at Auckland Castle, in consultation with Anthony Mould, the art expert and dealer, who will chair the schemes grant-making panel.
Stephen Deuchar, Director of the Art Fund, said that: Jonathan Ruffer and Anthony Mould share with the Art Fund a belief in the importance of nurturing curatorial skills and supporting serious research. Through consulting our colleagues across the sector we have learned that one of the main barriers to curatorial development is a lack of funding for travel and research. Curators therefore have fewer opportunities to deepen their understanding and engagement with the collections in their care, or to develop expertise.
Grants from the fund can be used to pay for travel and accommodation, training courses or programmes of study, books and subscriptions that add to a museums research or library resources, the costs of translation, transcription and other similar services and of temporary administrative cover to enable the applicant to take time away from work to undertake research (including training costs to enable another member of the team to provide adequate cover during the time spent away).
The Art Fund accepts that research can and should be exploratory and creative and says that it therefore welcomes adventurous applications, and will not always expect material outcomes (for example in the form of acquisitions, exhibitions or publications) to be an immediate consequence of our support.
In view of the large numbers of our colleagues who are being let go prematurely, it is also good to note that former curators are eligible: the programme is open to curators who work across the full range of fine and applied art collections in museums and galleries that hold at least provisional accreditation and are open to the public, and to researchers, art historians and academics from other relevant and related disciplines, retired curators, and other museum professionals who plan to work within and alongside museums to improve the use and understanding of their fine and applied art collections.
Further information can be found on the Art Funds website.
In a separate development, the Art Fund announced the names of the museums and galleries that have secured funding from RENEW, a scheme set up by the Art Fund and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation (as part of its fiftieth birthday celebrations) that will enable museums and galleries to build new collections of fine, decorative or applied art. The awards have been made to: Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (£100,000 towards building a collection of modern prints and works on paper from Australia, Canada and South Africa); the University of Durham Oriental Museum (£50,000 towards the creation of a collection of contemporary Japanese art); Glasgow Museums (£100,000 towards developing a collection of South Asian art); Wolverhampton Art Gallery in partnership with the Imperial War Museum, London (£150,000 towards building a collection about conflict in Israel, Palestine and its implications in the wider Middle East); and York Art Gallery (£100,000 towards the creation of a collection of contemporary fine art which focuses on flesh and artists responses to the human body).
Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, said: We are delighted to be involved with the RENEW project and help these museums to pioneer fresh and innovative approaches to their collections and preserve them for future generations.
The Art Funds financial contribution to these programmes grows out of its commitment to raise funding for museums and galleries from £4.5 million to £7 million by 2014, plans that are being met by the introduction of the National Art Pass, which gives free entry to more than 200 museums, galleries and historic houses across the country as well as 50 per cent off major exhibitions.
Our late Fellow Paul Cattermole, who died on 31 July 2009, was a leading authority on church bells and bell-ringing and the driving force behind many restoration projects in Norfolk churches relating to towers, bells and their installations. As a lasting memorial to his work as adviser on bells to the Norwich diocese, the Norwich Diocesan Association of Ringers is setting up a fund in Pauls name to support works in fields in which he was particularly interested. The formal launch takes place at 4pm on Sunday 30 October 2011 at Wymondham Abbey, Norfolk (where Paul worked as official archivist in his retirement), and NDA trustees would like to invite anyone who knew Paul to join them for refreshments and musical performances in the Abbey, finishing with Evensong.
Please inform the Secretary of the NDA, David McLean, if you would like to attend and he will send more detailed information about the event.
Our Fellow Adrian Webb is preparing a book for the Somerset Archaeological and Natural History Society on the church fonts in the county of Somerset drawn and described by Harvey, or William Harvey Pridham, who was born at Ramsden Crays, Essex, in 1863, the son of the Revd George Pridham. In his correspondence he mentions recording fonts in Berkshire, Bristol, Dorset, Essex, Gloucestershire, Hampshire, Middlesex, Monmouthshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Sussex and Wiltshire. The collections for Berkshire, Somerset and Wiltshire have been located but Adrian is now trying to find drawings and descriptions for the remaining counties. He must have recorded thousands of fonts, Adrian writes, and in so doing made a significant record, though he may not have recorded every font in the county, as some drawings at the University of Colorado at Boulder show just a few from some areas. Any information relating to his work, undertaken from c 1888 until c 1910, is very welcome, especially any details concerning his death.
Salons editor was on auto-pilot when, in issue 261, he attributed the chapter on the former Middlesex Guildhalls sculptural and decorative scheme in the book on the UK Supreme Court, edited by Fellow Chris Miele, to our Fellow Baron Cormack the combination of the words Parliament Square and Cormack led to the erroneous attribution, whereas the chapter was actually written by our Fellow Peter Cormack. Peter took the error in good part and says: I guess this sort of confusion was bound to crop up sooner or later, as my brother Andrew is also a Fellow, and he and my noble cousin Patrick are not the only Cormacks among the Fellowship (there is also our Fellow the art historian Emeritus Professor Robin Cormack). As with medicine and the law, antiquarianism seems to be a profession that runs in the genes, for the Cormacks are by no means the only family represented by multiple Fellows.
With reference to the question of whether or not the Church of England has the legal right to dispose of its historic property assets, Salon referred to the view of Fellow Lord Inglewood, the barrister and Conservative politician William Fletcher-Vane. Our Fellow Bob Bewley points out that Lord Inglewood uses his second name, and is better known as Richard Fletcher-Vane.
As for Rose Castle itself, Church Commissioners decided at their meeting at the end of September that it would be sold, but that they would postpone any sale for two years to give the Friends of Rose Castle an opportunity to buy it. Speaking for the Friends, Jane Hasell-McCosh said they were delighted with the outcome: The commissioners say they want to help us make a success of it and assist us with a business plan. We are going to respond to them formally and then we will have to get into talks. The Friends will launch a fundraising campaign once a price has been agreed.
Salons report on the recent sale of Park Place, near Henley-on-Thames, for £140m, making it Britains most expensive country house, prompted our Fellow Ian Leith to write to say that the National Monuments Record holds a very elaborate album [Collection Code PPL01] relating to Park Place and to the previous house (palace, rather) on this site before the fire of 1871. This album of over 80 photographs taken c 186471 shows the landscape, follies and sculpture as well as the exteriors of this very important house, whose architect remains unknown (despite the efforts of Colvin and, more recently, of John Harris to research the question); all we know is that he was associated with the owner, General Sir Henry Seymour Dryden (172095), and that alterations were made by Henry Holland in 1796. The owner of the album appears to be Henry Wilson of Stowlangtoft, Suffolk (views of this area are also depicted along with other sites associated with the Hervey and Scott families mostly in Suffolk and Hampshire).
In view of the recent debate in Salon about the paucity of objects in new museum displays, it is good to see a report in the Guardian praising the newly opened Antonine Wall gallery at the Hunterian Museum, now under the directorship of our Fellow David Gaimster, for being free of gimmicks, and just the living stone. In her Guardian blog, the newspapers Chief Arts Writer, Charlotte Higgins, says: These remnants of the Antonine Wall have been given a beautiful new gallery in the Hunterian, Glasgow, an apse-like niche in Gilbert Scotts soaring, cathedral-like museum building, which is now open to the public again after two years refurbishment. And what was so great about it was that it was entirely unapologetic. There were no interactive displays imagining entirely spurious lives for the men and women (OK, woman) commemorated on these stones; no film projections depicting legionaries marching through the Scottish lowlands. Instead, the sculptures, most of which are elaborately carved distance slabs (recording such-and-such a number of feet of wall built by such-and-such a chunk of the army), are simply allowed to be themselves: objects of great age and gravity; things of beauty and importance. They are uplit rather handsomely and, as the lovely natural light fades, they look more and more dramatic; they are intensely evocative.
Writing a book about Roman Britain, Ive seen so many museum displays where the museum designers and marketing departments have clearly taken fright at the idea of visitors being confronted with something so stark as a chunk of stone with some Latin on it, and have decided to cheer the experience up with screens and audio recordings and goodness knows what else. I always gripe about this and am always being told that the museums not just for me, but must cater to different audiences, and that these cold slabs are off-putting to children and indeed absolutely inaccessible to most. Maybe thats so (although Im inclined to think thats a slightly patronising view), and of course Im projecting my own version of the romance of antiquity on these shards of another time. Still, thank Heaven there are still one or two museums where the curators have some confidence in the power of the objects to impress or intrigue on something approaching their own terms.
The Society has been informed of the death of our Fellow Margaret Anne Brown on 26 August 2011; Margaret was elected on 1 May 1958 and so was one of the small number of Fellows of more than fifty years standing.
Our Fellow Audrey Baker has also died, at the great age of 103 and just a week before her book on English Panel Paintings rolled off the press (about which, see more below). Audreys editor, Ann Ballantyne, has provided this short account of Audreys life.
Audrey was born in Oxford on 11 January 1908, the second child of the chemists Muriel and Herbert Brereton Baker CBE FRS. She was educated at Berkhamsted School for Girls (as a boarder) and then St Hildas College, Oxford. She initially read chemistry but, to her parents disappointment, decided to transfer to the History Department where she did a degree in Modern History. Audrey then studied History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art, where she received her doctorate in 1937.
Her PhD thesis, on The rood screens of East Anglia and Devon, reflected her fascination with mediaeval iconography and its influences, particularly as used in England on wall paintings and rood screens. At a time when research of this kind was in its infancy, she visited and studied in virtually every major library, art gallery and museum in Europe, in her hunt for story and image sources. Part of her research was published in 2004 as Representations of Sibyls on rood screens in Devon (The Devonshire Association for the Advancement of Science, Literature and the Arts, Volume 136), while the rest of her lifes work has just been published by Archetype Publications, entitled English Panel Paintings 14001558: a survey of figure paintings on East Anglian rood screens, by Audrey M Baker, edited and extended by Ann Ballantyne and Pauline Plummer (ISBN 9781904982692).
When her father became Professor of Chemistry at Imperial College in 1912, the family moved to Latchmoor House, in Gerrards Cross, then little more than a village. Her father died in 1935. During the war, Audrey not only looked after her sick mother but also taught at High Wycombe Grammar School. Following her mothers death in 1944, Audrey adopted two children, Peter and Tom, who kept her very busy but, with the help of a part-time nanny, she managed to continue her research on one day a week, usually at the Warburg or the Courtauld Institute, the Society of Antiquaries or the British Library, and to drive Dr E Clive Rouse to a remote church to study the iconography of a (frequently newly discovered) wall painting. These excursions often resulted in the joint publication of in-depth articles in the Archaeological Journal, Archaeologia or a local historical or archaeological society journal. One result of all her research was that she became an invaluable resource in her own right, frequently consulted by conservators dealing with wall and panel paintings and always very generous with her knowledge as well as kind and encouraging to any young people who showed an interest in the subject.
In 1957 Audrey and the Revd Geoffrey Edmonds co-founded the Chalfont St Peter and Gerrards Cross History Society, of which Audrey was President until the time of her death, and in 2003 (aged ninety-five) she published her History of Bulstrode, the former home of Judge Jeffreys, the Dukes of Portland and the Dukes of Somerset in a volume that also included Geoffrey Edmondss History of Chalfont St Peter and Gerrards Cross (Colin Smythe Ltd, 2003).
Copies of Audreys book on English Panel Paintings can be obtained at the pre-publication discount price of £35 plus £5 postage if ordered before 24 November 2011 (down from £45). Order forms for the book can be found in the Societys Library, or you can send an email to Archetype Publications.
Our late Fellow Emeritus Professor Robin Alston, the distinguished bibliographical scholar and philologist, who died on 29 June 2011, has been remembered in a series of recent tributes.
The Leeds University website said that Robins magisterial multi-volume series A Bibliography of the English Language from the Invention of Printing to the Year 1800 took shape while he was a lecturer in the School of English there between 1964 and 1976.
Stephen Green, writing in the Guardian, hailed him as an inspirational teacher at Leeds who embarked on his second great project in 1966 when established publishers would not back his scheme to reprint cheap facsimile editions of pre-1801 literary and historical texts, so he set up his own publishing company, the Scolar Press, and over the next seven years reproduced more than 2,000 such works; Scolar Press is now part of the Ashgate Publishing Group, which paid its own tribute to Robin as one of the founders of its current humanities publishing programme (
Leaving Leeds in 1976, he embarked on a third great project, as Editor-in-Chief of the British Librarys major computerised Anglo-American Eighteenth-Century Short Title Catalogue project, listing every book, pamphlet, newspaper, journal and other forms of printed material published before 1801, with information on the holding institution, a task of such scale as to be thought by many to be impossible, but that Robin took on while also teaching in the University of London where, in 1990, he was appointed Professor of Library Studies, and where, in 1995, he set up the first MA in the History of the Book.
The Times published an obituary for our late Fellow Richard Hall in its edition of 26 September 2011, hailing his visitor-friendly approach to excavations in York that have transformed our knowledge of Englands early medieval towns, documenting archaeologically the major contribution made by Viking conquerors and settlers to urban development and international trade.
The obituary went on to say: While managing year-round digging teams in meticulous excavation to the highest standard, Richard also saw the importance of sharing his finds with a fascinated public. Spectators at the huge Coppergate site in the centre of York were allowed on viewing platforms and were able to watch excavators revealing timber structures and artefacts … Richards gift for popular communication, with clarity of expression, crisp turn of phrase and dry wit, soon turned his dig into one of Yorks most popular attractions.
The consequent huge public interest led a visiting entrepreneur, Ian Skipper, to suggest to the York Archaeological Trust, for whom Richard worked, that the dig should be made permanent below the shopping centre that was planned for the site. The resultant Jorvik Viking Centre, which Richard helped to develop, became, with its innovative display and interpretation techniques, one of the most successful archaeological exhibitions in the world. Now anticipating its 17 millionth visitor, Jorvik has been widely copied, changing approaches to museum display, and has been responsible for introducing generations of children to Viking history which hitherto hardly made an appearance in the British school curriculum.
The Coppergate site was owned by a sympathetic city council, which co-operated by clearing the site well ahead of development while the trust set about assembling resources for a massive excavation in deeply stratified waterlogged deposits. A fundraising campaign led by Magnus Magnusson was honoured by the patronage of the Prince of Wales, the Queen of Denmark, the King of Sweden, the Crown Prince of Norway and the President of Iceland and enough money was raised to begin the work. The initial results more than justified the hopes and five-and-a-half years of continuous excavation ensued. Richards team sometimes numbered more than 100 and to work on it almost became a rite of passage for many young archaeologists. By 1984, with the dig over and the Jorvik Viking Centre built, Richard and his team of co-workers one of whom, Dr Ailsa Mainman, the ceramics researcher he would marry turned their attention to the production of a series of magisterial reports on the excavation and finds, almost all of which have now been published.
Earlier in his York career, Richard was called upon to carry out recording when St Wilfrids Anglo-Saxon crypt under Ripon Cathedral in North Yorkshire was turned into a treasury. This began a long association with the cathedral. He became chairman of the fabric advisory committee and eventually the cathedral archaeologist, guiding conservation schemes with consummate diplomacy. Further excavations over and around the crypt demonstrated its method of construction and showed St Wilfrid had utilised building materials re-used from some unknown Roman building, as he had also done at Hexham, Northumberland. Outside the cathedral various excavations coupled with reconsideration of earlier observations and records enabled Hall to reconstruct the topography of the Anglo-Saxon monastery and its enclosure. This growing expertise in church archaeology brought appointment to the Cathedrals Fabric Commission and he also became archaeologist to York Minster where over the past decade he had been providing archaeological surveillance for the Minsters conservation programme.
Richard Hall served as president of the Society for Medieval Archaeology and of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, as Chairman of the Institute of Field Archaeologists (now Institute for Archaeologists) in its formative years, and as a trustee and Secretary of the Council for British Archaeology. Abroad he had been a British representative on the Viking Congress and a member of international reference groups dealing with the archaeology of Viking-age and Hanseatic towns in Northern Europe.
Real Venice is an exhibition of photographs of Venice by famous artist-photographers commissioned by the Venice in Peril Fund that moves from the Venice Biennale to open tomorrow (11 October 2011) at Somerset House. All the works are for sale (some can be purchased online from the Real Venice website, and the proceeds will be used to help fund such deserving and urgent causes as the restoration of the pyramid monument to Canova in the Frari and of the Arsenales hydraulic crane, built in 1884 and one of two such cranes built by the Newcastle firm of Armstrong-Mitchell to survive in the world. The exhibition continues until 11 December 2011, and is accompanied by screenings of the cinematic masterpieces, Dont Look Now on 22 October and Death in Venice on 5 November.
Our Fellow Anna Somers Cocks has been Chairman of the Venice in Peril Fund since 1999, and here she explains the background to the exhibition and why the work of the Fund is essential.
Why is Venice in Peril, the British charity that has spent forty years financing restoration and research into the problems of Venice, suddenly commissioning works of art and putting on art exhibitions? Its because we want to harness the creativity, the internationalism, the vigour and the financial power of contemporary art to saving Venice.
It all started with a conversation between myself and my friend David Landau, one of the trustees of Venice in Peril and that rare combination of successful businessman, scholar and collector. Its obvious why Venice is largely absent from the twentieth-century avant-garde, I was saying, but perhaps the artist-photographers of today might risk taking on the most clichéd city in the world. Well, lets invite them to Venice to photograph it and donate their works to Venice in Peril, he replied. Then Elena Foster, founder of C Photo Magazine, came on the scene. With her energy and intelligent charm, her knowledge of contemporary photography, her super-efficient Ivorypress team in Madrid, Blackberrying from every continent at all hours, she cajoled the photographers to take part and turned our conversation into the exhibition Real Venice, an official part of the 2011 Venice Biennale. More than 30,000 people saw it there, and now its on display until 11 December 2011 at Somerset House in London.
The artists who have produced the works one from each of their series is in this sale have responded with generosity and enthusiasm and are spreading the message that Venice really is in peril. Because time is running out, but not enough people know it; many assume that because Venice has survived so long, it will continue to do so.
It is the rising water level in the lagoon that will destroy the city. With many of its buildings the water level is at, or above, the line where the water-resistant stone bases join with the porous brickwork. The damp is crumbling the bricks, rusting the tie-rods that hold the houses together and already causing the priceless, 1,000-year old mosaics in the atrium of St Marks Basilica to fall off.
The arithmetic is inexorable. The mean water level in the lagoon is 25cm (10 inches) higher than it was in 1897, when the reference zero level was established. The city subsides around 8cm every hundred years, while the water level is expected to rise at least 50cm but perhaps as much as 100cm this century and carry on rising.
The mobile barriers currently being built between the Adriatic and the lagoon, which are necessary to stop the acute flooding events, can do nothing to stop this chronic sickness for which, as yet, no cure is known. If none is found, Venice will die slowly and agonisingly, ghastly proof of our incapacity to face up to one of the greatest ecological, artistic and political challenges of our century.
19 October 2011: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral: mystery object panel game, 6.307.30pm, Anatomy Building, Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT. UCL Museums are bringing back the classic 1950s TV show Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, which launched David Attenboroughs career in television and made television icons out of various academics, including Glyn Daniel and Mortimer Wheeler. In this light-hearted re-creation of the classic panel game, a panel of UCL experts Claire Thomson (Scandinavian Studies), Ryan Nichol (Physics and Astronomy), Tom Stern (Philosophy) and Sam Turvey (Institute of Zoology) will be given weird, wonderful and wacky objects from the UCL Museums and Collections by our Fellow Joe Flatman (Institute of Archaeology), which they will try to identify with as much wit and wisdom as the original panel members. Admission is free, there is no need to book and a free glass of wine and a private view of the Grant Museum follow the event.
22 October and 26 November 2011: Study Days at University of London. There are still places available on the Egypt Exploration Societys study day, ‘Excavating Tombs and Graves in Ancient Egypt, on 22 October 2011 (
25 October 2011: the Locality and Region seminars 201112 take place at 5.15pm on alternate Tuesdays at Stewart House, 32 Russell Square, London WC1B 5DN, beginning on 25 October with David Krolls paper on Architect-Surveyors as designers of speculative housing in London. Details of the full season of seminars can be found on the website of the Victoria County History, and you can join the e-mailing list by contacting our Fellow Elizabeth Williamson.
26 October 2011: New Histories of Nineteenth-century Archaeology will be presented by members of the Histories of Archaeology Research Network (HARN) from 4.30pm to 6pm in the South Lecture Room, Department of Archaeology, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3DZ. Tea will be served at 4pm in the North Lecture Room. Details of speakers and subjects can be found on the HARN blog site; contact Fellow Pamela Jane Smith if further information is needed.
2 November 2011: The Bone Rooms Past; revolution in palaeo-economic studies. This years Personal Histories Project seminar will take place between 1pm and 2.30pm, in the Biffen Lecture Theatre, Downing Site, Cambridge, when the participants will include Fellows Geoff Bailey, Graeme Barker, Andy Garrard, Annie Grant, Charles Higham and Ruth Whitehouse along with Iain Davidson, Robin Dennell, Tony Legge and Derek Sturdy. The seminar will be followed by the customary delicious tea. Enquiries may be addressed to the organiser, our Fellow Pamela Jane Smith.
5 November 2011: Religion and Ritual in Wessex, 10am to 4pm, at the new Ordnance Survey Head Office building, Adanac Park, Redbridge Lane, Southampton SO16 0YP. Speakers at this CBA Wessex conference include Fellows Ron Hutton (University of Bristol) on The Druids, Josh Pollard (University of Southampton) on The Sacred Chalk, Andrew Fitzpatrick (Wessex Archaeology) on Iron Age shrines and David Hinton (University of Southampton) on Saxon religions. Contact Andy Manning to reserve a place.
10 November 2011: The Annual Soane Lecture, When In Rome: John Soanes Roman Sightseeing, is to be given by Matthew Sturgis at 6.30pm at the Royal College of Surgeons, 3543 Lincolns Inn Fields, London WC2; please contact Claire Lucky to reserve tickets costing £15 (£10 for students), which can also be purchased on the door (subject to availability).
Soane was one of many young men and women who made their way across Europe to the Eternal City, to look upon the numerous and inestimable remains of Antiquity and to improve their taste through exposure to the work of both old and modern masters. Rome, of course, remains a great tourist destination, yet the sights and masterpieces that we admire now are often markedly different from those sought out by Soane and his contemporaries. In this lecture, the writer Matthew Sturgis tracks Soanes crowded season of Roman sightseeing and uncovers the buildings, statues and paintings that Soane actually chose to look at, suggesting how Soane looked at these things and how they reflected the broader tastes and aspirations of the times.
29 November 2011: Customers, Secrets, Cloth and Waistlines, a talk to be given to the Westminster History Club by Angus Cundy of Henry Poole, of Savile Row, at 7pm.
The Westminster History Club meets four times a year, with a glass of wine and a talk on some aspect of the history of Westminster, in the Lord Mayors Reception Rooms on the 18th floor of Westminster City Hall with the aim of raising funds for the second volume of the Victoria County History of the City of Westminster. Tickets cost £10 and further information is available from our Fellow Elizabeth Williamson.
Next year talks are planned on 27 March 2012 on Dressing the Altars: patrons and plate 16001800 at Westminster Abbey, St Margarets and St Martin-in-the-Fields, to be given by our Fellow Philippa Glanville, and on 26 June 2012 when John Burton, Surveyor of the Fabric, Westminster Abbey, will speak on Westminster Abbey: a thousand years of craftsmanship, materials and challenges.
29 March1 April 2012: The Roman Archaeology Conference (RAC) 10 and the Theoretical Roman Archaeology Conference (TRAC) 22, to be hosted by the Römisch-Germanische Kommission des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts and held at Goethe University, Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
Registration is now open for RAC 10 and TRAC 22, which will take place in parallel in continental Europe for the first time, bringing together, under the aegis of the Roman Society, interested parties from all sectors to present and discuss the latest archaeological discoveries from the Roman world and beyond. Both events will include excursions to nearby archaeological sites and museums. For further information see the RAC 2012 website.
Written by our Fellow Phil Newman, The Field Archaeology of Dartmoor (ISBN: 9781848020337; English Heritage) is based on fieldwork carried out by the late Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England and subsequently by English Heritage over a twenty-year period, between 1989 and 2009. Full of explanatory pictures and plans, it tells the well-known story of Dartmoors remarkably well-preserved Bronze Age landscape of the reaves (land boundaries) and reave settlements, but the book also highlights a second reason why the Dartmoor uplands are of major archaeological significance: they hold extensive evidence for the medieval tin-mining industry. For though Devons tin industry has always been dwarfed in scale by that of its Cornish neighbour, Phil Newmans book shows that Dartmoor has the lions share of the earliest remains because later large-scale mining has obliterated the remains of earlier workings in Cornwall.
The book tells the equally fascinating story of the attempt by voracious agricultural improvers to lease and enclose land in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries to create miniature gentlemens estates. Their activities were opposed by an alliance of tenants with customary grazing rights and gentlemen antiquaries who were beginning to appreciate the antiquity of Dartmoors landscape and become increasingly concerned about the destruction of prehistoric monuments during field clearance and the use of the stone to build field walls. Thus Dartmoor came to play a key role in the nascent conservation movement the Dartmoor Preservation Association being one of Britains oldest conservation bodies and ultimately become one of the first National Parks to be designated (with the Lake District, the Peak District and Snowdonia) in 1951.
Fellow Valerie Halls book on The Making of Irelands Landscape since the Ice Age (ISBN: 9781848891159; The Collins Press) investigates the landscape through environmental evidence, weaving together an explanation of the methods used in palaeo-environmental study with an account of what we can learn from lake sediments, peat bogs and plant remains about the way that Irelands natural landscape has evolved, and how humans have interacted with it, over the last 14,000 years or so.
Valerie says it is a book for a non-specialist reader, but all of us are non-specialists when we step outside our own disciplines, and this book makes some difficult science accessible, partly through the well-judged use of pictures to show you what typical Mesolithic vegetation was like, or what the strata in a peat bog can tell us indeed, what potato blight, that fungus that had such a major impact on history through mass starvation and the Irish diaspora of the 1840s, actually looks like. Bringing the story right up to date, Valerie points to such recent changes in the landscape as the loss of species-rich hay meadows with the switch from hay making to silage, or the denuding of huge swathes of the Irish midlands as a result of peat extraction on an industrial scale.
Valerie ends the book with some personal comments to the effect that people like her knowledgeable about the landscape and its fragile ecosystems wield no power in the world of politics, business strategies and economic development, where conservation is seen as an irritant and a barrier to progress; all she can do is try to share her knowledge, and educate people in the hope of building a consensus of support for the conservation of the special places in the Irish landscape.
In seeking to infect her readers with a conservation mentality, Valerie follows the example of the late L T C (Tom) Rolt (191074), who wrote more than forty books between 1944 and 1974, eloquently setting out the case for preserving industrial heritage. Bath University honoured his pioneering work with an honorary degree and, after his death, established the Rolt Fellowship, a key benefit of which is participation in the History of Technology Seminars that have been held twice a term for many years at the universitys Centre for the History of Technology. Edited by our Fellow Angus Buchanan, Landscape with Technology (ISBN: 9780948975929; Millstream Books, 18 The Tything, Bath BA2 6AL) echoes the title of Rolts three volumes of autobiography (Landscape with Canals, Landscape with Machines and Landscape with Figures) and consists of essays in honour of Rolt by Rolt Fellows and members of the History of Technology Seminars.
Among the nine contributors, our Fellow Keith Falconer writes about the designation of industrial World Heritage Sites, and how this has shifted thinking about World Heritage away from a single monument the Statue of Liberty, Westminster Abbey to entire landscapes; Fellow Brenda Buchanan writes about the acquisition of the port of Tangier, in Morocco, by the English Crown in 1661 as part of the marriage settlement between Charles II and Catherine of Braganza, and the subsequent construction of a new harbour, a story that touches, as it unfolds, on successes and the many mishaps that occurred during the course of a project that left a legacy of new civil engineering techniques; and Fellow Angus Buchanan considers the career of James Nasmyth (180890), best known as the inventor of the steam hammer but, as Angus demonstrates, entitled too to be considered a pioneering engineer of large telescopes that made possible our detailed knowledge of the landscape of the moon, and of the surface of the sun.
Another book that commemorates a pioneer is This Blessed Plot, This Earth: English pottery studies in honour of Jonathan Horne, edited by Amanda Dunsmore (ISBN: 9781907372094; Paul Holberton Publishing). This can, perhaps, be seen as a posthumous Festschrift for our Fellow Jonathan Horne (19402010), whose passion for unlocking the social history of English pottery was born out of participation in excavations at Lullingstone Roman villa, Faversham Royal Abbey, and the Roman forts at Reculver and Dover. Straddling the worlds of archaeology, museum curatorship, academia and connoisseurship, he became an international authority on English pottery whose scholarly annual catalogues have become reference works and whose exhibitions at his shop in Mayfair and at antiques trade fairs were a magnet for curators and collectors.
Following in the tradition of those catalogues, this beautifully designed book is packed with contributions from fellow scholars that reveal the human stories behind simple ceramic objects: writing about an early Tudor stoneware doll, now in Gloucester Museum, Malcolm Watkins and our Fellow David Gaimster take us from Tudor dress and portraiture, to the development of the clay toy industry out of the manufacture of religious and devotional statues, to the history of hawking and fairs, to childrens toys and games and to the tax on such figures, which would have added so substantially to the price that it was likely to have cost the equivalent of three days wages for a labourer, and was therefore probably a high-status toy.
Eighteen out of thirty-four contributors are Fellows, and similarly rich material enlivens every paper, including a preview of the as-yet-unpublished report on the pots that the first English colonists at Jamestown took with them when they set sail from Blackwall, in east London, bound for a distant land, the equivalent to a trip to the moon in the modern age; and an account of Americas first stoneware kilns, recently excavated at Yorktown, Virginia, founded by William Rogers in defiance of English laws of the time, which forbade local pottery manufacture in order to protect sales to America of English-made household goods.
Jonathan was, amongst many achievements, one of the founders of what is now the Company of Arts Scholars, and it fell to the current Master of the Company, our Fellow Philippa Glanville, to speak at the launch of the book, at which she paid tribute to the persistent and far-sighted editor, Amanda Dunsmore, and to all the contributors to a beautifully presented book, broad in spectrum, and thus representing scholarship of the very best kind.
Another posthumously published work is Girl in a Green Gown: the history and mystery of the Arnolfini Portrait, the nearly finished book that our late Fellow Carola Hicks was writing before her death in June 2010, subsequently completed by her husband Gary Hicks (ISBN: 9780701183370; Random House). Like Carolas earlier books on the Bayeux Tapestry or the stained-glass windows of Kings College Chapel, this is the biography of the object, weaving together what we know (or dont know) of its creation, subject, ownership, critical reception and influence on other artists, from Holman Hunt to David Hockney.
Critics have singled out Carolas detailed examination of the objects depicted in the painting as a strength of the book: how the furniture, the decor, the glass in the windows, the rosary beside the mirror on the back wall, the orange on the window sill, the voluminous green gown of the title, can all be read as artefacts and as symbols.
On the unsolved (and probably unsolvable) question of the subject of the painting, Carola suggests that it is a memorial portrait and not a wedding photograph. The woman in the portrait has generalised features very like those of the angels in van Eycks Ghent Altarpiece, suggesting that this is not a portrait from life, but a posthumous idealisation. She could be the otherwise unknown wife of Giovanni di Arrigo Arnolfini or his cousin Giovanni di Nicolao Arnolfini, the two candidates for the male figure in the painting; his probably is a true portrait: he also appears in a separate van Eyck portrait now in Berlin.
What Carola also recovers from the painting is how affluent the couple are, for though the painting is often described as the first portrait to depict ordinary people (not members of the aristocracy) in a domestic (as distinct from religious or courtly) setting, this Flemish importexport merchant, originally from Lucca, wears a tabard lined with marten pelts that would have cost a small fortune, while her green pleated dress (whose bulk is such that she looks pregnant) makes a similar statement about their wealth, as do the chandelier, the sumptuous bed and the Turkish carpet unless, of course, this is actually the equivalent to an advertisement in Vogue, an elaborately staged portrait in which every object is for sale.
If pottery and portraits can be mined for social history, so too can books books as artefacts, that is, beyond their texts. Books as History (ISBN: 9780712358323; British Library Publishing), by our Fellow David Pearson, is a witty and challenging work that starts with pictures of books being burned by the Nazis in 1930s Germany, but also in a contemporary Chinese engraving from the reign of the first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, when the burning of books was part of the rulers attempts to control the thinking of his subjects. The book ends by asking questions about digital alternatives, and a future without books or libraries, illustrated by all too familiar examples of educational institutions that have rushed to dispose of their printed materials to liberate space for e-learning suites.
Between these two ominous extremes, of book burning by oppressive regimes and book destruction by those who ought to know better, the author demonstrates the many different forms of knowledge that we will lose if books are valued only for their content, rather than as objects with their own stories to tell about the writing, editing and illustration of books, typography and design, printing and binding, annotation, storage and display.
Among the Fellows who have contributed to Chichester The Palace and its Bishops (ISBN: 9781907852039: University of Chichester, College Lane, Chichester PO19 6PE) is Sarah Foot, who reminds us of the surprising fact that Sussex has the distinction of being the last of the independent kingdoms of Anglo-Saxon England to convert from paganism to Christianity, the people remaining persistently heathen, despite the efforts of a small community of Irish monks at Bosham who offered the people of Sussex a model of Christian living to emulate.
St Wilfrid (on a mission from Northumbria to convert Sussex from c 681 to 685) had more success, though what might have helped was that Wilfrid and his companions also taught the inhabitants of Sussex to fish the sea and local rivers, where hitherto they had only caught eels. King Aethelwealh showed his gratitude by making over to Wilfrid a royal vill and endowing it with valuable lands, but Wilfrid subsequently decided to transfer his allegiance to the exiled Caedwalla, who invaded Sussex, killed Aethelwealh and rewarded Wilfrid with a bishopric and further rich lands.
Thus began the ascendancy of Chichester as the seat of todays diocese, and that is why it is Caedwalla, not Aethelwealh, who is depicted in the frieze by Lambert Barnard (14901567) bestowing land on Wilfrid on which to build the first cathedral. In the same volume, Karen Coke, Ruth Chavasse and Ken Carleton each examine the education, ambitions and motives of Robert Sherborn (bishop from 1508 to 1536) in commissioning these famous panels, illustrating the Founding of the See of Chichester, along with the other works (notably the Heroines of Antiquity) that Lambert Barnard painted for him. Sherborn was a well-travelled Renaissance intellectual who had lived in Rome and was thoroughly familiar with the Sistine Chapel frescoes and their underlying theme of papal authority over secular rulers. The Chichester paintings, the authors argue, reflect Italian Renaissance artistic ideas but are subtly supportive of Henry VIIIs reformation.
A century or so later it was party politics, rather than Church versus State, that divided the nation, and Fellow Jeremy Gibson has published an edited list of who voted for whom (the choice was Whig or Tory) in the election of 10 and 11 March 1689/90. The survival of such poll books is extremely rare Jeremy found this one in the Risley collection, in the Bodleian and it gives a snapshot of who was qualified to vote (owners of freehold income providing an annual income in excess of 40 shillings), which parishes they inhabited, and which candidates they supported (the two Tory candidates polled 1,539 and 1,533 votes, their Whig rivals 1,093 and 1,068).
In addition, Jeremy gives a short summary of the contents of the Association Oath Rolls for Oxfordshire. These rolls (now in The National Archives) result from the Act passed in the winter of 1695/6 requiring all public office holders in the county to take an oath of loyalty to the Crown, following concern over the possibility that an assassination attempt might be made on William III. A copy of Politics and Loyalty in Post-Revolution Oxfordshire (ISBN: 9781906280307; Oxfordshire Family History Society) has been donated to the Societys Library; copies are also available at £5, plus £1 p&p, from the author.
Edited by Fellow Peter Stone, Cultural Heritage, Ethics and the Military (ISSN: 17564832; Boydell) asks the question whether archaeologists and other cultural heritage experts should ever work with the military, and, if so, under what guidelines and strictures.
Peter Stones own introduction to the volume is well worth reading even if you go no further into the subject, because it consists of a detailed first-hand account of his own deep misgivings torn between personal opposition to the possibly illegal invasion of Iraq and the good that he could do by assisting the UK Ministry of Defence in the task of identifying and protecting Iraqs cultural heritage and of the severe criticisms he faced from heritage colleagues who accused him of lending academic legitimacy to the UKs role in the conflict.
Rarely do ethical decisions in archaeology come more difficult than that, and Peters introductory essay makes it clear that while he believes firmly that we must work with the military if we wish to mitigate the impact of conflict on cultural property, there are still unanswered questions about how and when. The book is thus a continuation of his own internal debates and an attempt to seek answers to knotty questions, asking, for example, what archaeology can learn from medicine and religious ministry, two other areas of activity where loyalty to ones professional code of ethics might be in conflict with loyalty to military objectives.
In Archaeology in the Environs of Roman York: excavations 19762005 (Archaeology of York Vol 6, No. 2; ISBN: 9781874454540; York Archaeological Trust), Fellow Patrick Ottaway has brought together reports and discussion of some fifty excavations and watching briefs carried out by the York Archaeological Trust in areas within a 3km radius of the legionary fortress and Roman town south west of the River Ouse. Patrick says that the volume allows a more rounded picture of Roman settlement in the York area to emerge than has been available hitherto, showing that settlement was located close to the fortress and approach roads in the late first to early second century but that the pace of growth quickened in the mid-second century with the development of the town on both sides of the river and of peripheral areas the subject of this volume for building, cemeteries and agriculture.
Edited by Fellow Gale Owen-Crocker, Professor of Anglo-Saxon Culture at the University of Manchester, King Harold II and the Bayeux Tapestry (ISBN 9781843836155; Boydell) examines the long build-up to the very brief reign of Harold Godwinson and the dynastic issues behind his accession on the death of King Edward the Confessor in January 1066, looking in particular at the question whether Harolds kingship was opportunistic usurpation or a long-planned and legitimate succession. Also examined is the posthumous legend that Harold survived Hastings and lived on as a religious recluse.
The essays in the second part of the volume focus on the Bayeux Tapestry, bringing out the small details that would have resonated for contemporary audiences, discussing the possible patron, the locations for which the Tapestry was produced, where and how it was designed and the various sources employed by the artist.
Thirty-three years after the Barton project began, our Fellow Warwick Rodwell (with Caroline Atkins) has brought it to a fitting conclusion with the publication of St Peters, Barton-upon-Humber, Lincolnshire: a parish church and its community. Volume 1: Archaeology, Architecture and History (ISBN: 9781842173251; Oxbow.
Volume 2, by Tony Waldron and Warwick Rodwell, was published in 2007, and is concerned with the human remains. This volume, in two parts, and with contributions from thirty-seven specialists, most of them Fellows, comprises a comprehensive and detailed account of St Peters itself, the nearby and substantial church of St Mary, which was once a chapel dependent on St Peters, and the town of Barton, which serves as the context for the two ecclesiastical buildings. The time frame extends from Bartons origins as a prehistoric settlement right up to the completion of the restoration of St Peters in 2007.
The church was declared redundant in 1972 and taken into public guardianship by the Department of the Environment (now English Heritage) in 1978. Excavations between 1978 and 1984 investigated most of the interior of the building, as well as a swathe of churchyard around its exterior. At the same time, a stone-by-stone record and detailed archaeological study of the fabric and furnishings of the church was undertaken, continuing down to 2007. As a result, no piece of worked stone, no fragment of stained glass, no scratched graffiti, no button or fragment of winding sheet has gone unrecorded, and two fat volumes, measuring three inches across both spines, testify to the amount that can be recovered through such a detailed study.
Of course, what makes the study especially important is the opportunity to study Saxon settlement and religious organisation, about which even less was known in 1978 than we know today. Characteristically, the evidence for the late Roman period is hard to find, and the report does not present a neat and joined-up story: to give but one example, no unequivocally Roman features were found, and while the late Saxon tower and the church contains re-used Roman masonry (in common with several other churches along the same Humber bank), nobody has been able to locate a nearby settlement or source. Likewise the evidence for the post-Roman period is fragmentary and consists of the odd burial, the occasional coin find, a few sherds of pottery, indicative of small dispersed settlements, each perhaps no larger than a farm.
By contrast, the Saxo-Norman evidence (from the ninth century on) is rich and plentiful, and this is the point at which the report gathers in strength and momentum, marked by Warwick Rodwells characteristic inability to pass any scrap of stone, wood, iron or mortar without asking what is this and why is it here, questions that enable him to identify, for example, fragments of surviving Anglo-Saxon timber scaffolding, floor joists of the same period, or evidence for the basketwork hoods around which the arches of the window heads were formed. Later periods get the same detailed analysis: not only are we given the evidence for on-site bell casting (reminding us that it was safer to cast large bells on site than risk damage by transporting them overland from urban foundries), we are also shown a small limestone bowl set into the corner of the ringing-chamber, which Warwick suggests might originally have held holy water, but later served the necessary function of bell-ringers urinal.
First published in 1975, Decorative Plasterwork in Great Britain (ISBN: 9781873394915; Donhead, by our Fellow Geoffrey Beard, has been reprinted with a new Preface by the author detailing the most significant research in the field published since 1975, and a lengthy introduction by Richard Ireland on materials and methods used in the conservation and restoration of historic plasterwork.
Danson House (17626) is a fine Palladian-style villa in Bexleyheath, admired by Pevsner as crystalline in its architecture. By 1995 it had become so ruinous that English Heritage declared it to be Londons most significant building at risk. Written by the specialists who were most closely involved in its conservation and repair Fellows Chris Miele and Gordon Higgott, plus Richard Lea Danson House: the anatomy of a Georgian villa (ISBN: 9781873592755; English Heritage) shows how the house was brought back from the brink between 1995 and 2004.
Reflecting their taste for classical architecture and mythology, the house resulted from a collaboration between the original owner, Sir John Boyd, and Sir Robert Taylor, the principal architect. The villa suffered grievously at the hands of subsequent owners, and the fittings, including chimney pieces by William Chambers, were only saved by the intervention of the police after they had been stripped out by thieves. Dry rot was also threatening to destroy the vibrant wall paintings by the French artist, Charles Pavillon, influenced in their style and content by the royal tapestry workshops in his home town of Aix. Knowing all this, the state of the house today, as revealed by this book, fills us with admiration for the skills of those who have made such an attractive house out of a near ruin.
Durham University: Lecturer in Cultural Heritage
Salary £36,862 to £44,016; closing date 17 October 2011
Applications are welcome from scholars working in the field of heritage, museum studies and conservation, including those who focus on the study of artefacts, with an international research profile, strong publications record and proven ability to teach in the areas of heritage studies, museums and conservation.
For further information see the universitys job pages.
Heritage Lottery Fund: Deputy Director of Operations
Salary £65,346 to £71,953; closing date 17 October 2011
The HLF is seeking a Deputy Director of Operations to ensure effective two-way communication and joint working between corporate departments and HLF operational teams. The wide-ranging role covers: leadership, management and support for regional and country teams; case advice and supervision for grant awards; regional advocacy and communication tasks, including acting as media spokesperson on occasion; strategic advice and support for up to six regional Committees and Trustees; leading and supporting departmental and cross-departmental working groups.
Application details can be found on the HLF website.
Cathedral Church of St Nicholas, Newcastle upon Tyne: Cathedral Archaeologist
Closing date: 21 October 2011
The Dean and Chapter of St Nicholas invite applications for the post of Cathedral Archaeologist, following the retirement of Barbara Harbottle. The Cathedral is currently undertaking a major renovation programme with important archaeological implications. Further particulars of this appointment and application details are available on the cathedrals website.
University of York: Fiftieth Anniversary Chairs and Readers
Salary appropriate to level of appointment; closing date 24 October 2011
To mark its fiftieth anniversary, York University intends to create up to twenty new Chairs and Readerships. Outstanding individuals are sought who have achieved distinction in their fields and who will build further on the universitys academic success, enhance its teaching and research expertise and increase its international competitiveness.
For further information see the universitys job pages.
National Trust, Curator of Pictures and Sculpture
Salary: £40,151£43,419 plus £4,465 Inner London Weighting; closing date: 27 October 2011
The National Trust cares for and provides access to one of the worlds greatest collections of fine and decorative art, consisting of some 12,000 oil paintings, 42,000 drawings, watercolours and prints and 3,000 works of sculpture, displayed in 200 houses across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
A specialist in British portraiture, Old Masters or European painting is sought to be the Trusts curator and authority on pictures and sculpture. Your task will be to help the Trust research, understand, catalogue, display and interpret its collections and celebrate their individual, distinctive histories for public benefit, sharing your expertise with colleagues across the organisation, with the Trusts supporters and with your peers in museums and galleries in this country and abroad.
To apply, see the National Trusts website.