Salon (the Society of Antiquaries of Londons Online Newsletter) is a fortnightly digest of news from the heritage sector, focusing especially on the Society and its Fellows and the contribution that they make to public life through their many and varied activities. Like the intellectual salons of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, it aims to amuse and to stimulate debate as well as to inform. Feedback should be addressed to the Editor, Christopher Catling.
1 December 2011: Lifting the Heavy Stone of Classicism: regional vernacular portraiture in post-Reformation England to c 1620, by Robert Tittler FSA
Our traditional notion of Tudor and early Stuart portraiture, as supported by the art-historical canon and the exhibits of our major galleries, emphasises those paintings that celebrate the formal and polite aesthetic of the age. Works have tended to be judged chiefly on aesthetic grounds, and on how closely they reflect the standards set by the heavily theorised, and classically inspired portraiture being produced on the continent at the same time. But once we lift the heavy stone of classicism, we find a native English vernacular portraiture chiefly motivated by utilitarian rather than aesthetic objectives, deeply rooted in craft production, highly receptive to such indigenous concerns as heraldry and genealogy, and often reflecting regional rather than national patterns of patronage and production.
8 December 2011: Parish churches and the post-Reformation landscape, by Andrew Spicer FSA
The religious and sacred landscape was fundamentally shattered by the Reformation. The rejection of the contemplative life and the efficacy of prayers for the dead, for example, led to the dissolution of the monasteries and the despoiling of the chantries. Their ruins stood as permanent visual reminders in the landscape of the previous religious order. Yet, in contrast to this destruction, an air of permanence seems to surround the early modern parish church. While its interior was altered to accord with the liturgical demands of the new order and a different religious aesthetic, the building itself remained as a place of worship at the heart of parish life. This paper sets out to question the apparent permanence of the parish church and to reflect on how the Reformation altered its place in the early modern landscape.
15 December 2011: Aspects of the Societys paintings collection, by Bernard Nurse FSA and Maurice Howard FSA, followed by mulled wine reception
Our former Librarian will look at how the Society acquired its collection of paintings and our President will highlight important individual paintings. The meeting is followed by the traditional mulled wine and mince pie reception, for which tickets are required costing £10 and available from the Societys Executive Assistant, Jola Zdunek.
The following were elected as Ordinary Fellows at the ballot held on 17 November 2011 (short career summaries can be found on the Societys website: Michael Anthony Faraday, Alison Jane Hicks, Andrew Meirion Jones, Sonia Ruth Zakrewski, Andrew Niall Gardner, Edward Rupert Holland, Michael Kevin Riordan, Andrew Mudd and Sophie Clodagh Mary Andreae.
The following were elected as Ordinary Fellows at the ballot held on 24 November 2011: Marc Frederick Oxenham, Dougald OReilly, Trevena Scott Rosoman, Mary Alexander, Alexander Robert (Sandy) Nairne, Jason Kelly, Sean Geoffrey Francis Ulm and Robert Hugh David Dixon.
Our Fellow Jon Cotton, formerly Curator of Prehistory at the Museum of London, will give a talk called Ballast-heavers and battle axes: the Golden Age of archaeological finds from the Thames, on 17 January 2012 at the Geological Society (tea at 5.30pm, lecture 6pm, reception 7pm; free admission by ticket only, available from the Geological Society Conference Office. The great haul of finds from the Thames includes some of the most iconic objects from British prehistory such as the Battersea shield, the Waterloo Bridge helmet and the Kew tankard. Less well known is the story behind their recovery, which, like any good whodunit, involves fallible heroes, intricate sub-plots and (maybe) a satisfying conclusion.
Our Fellow Sir David Cannadine has called on the Government to make history a compulsory school curriculum subject, studied by all school pupils until the age of sixteen. Education Secretary Michael Gove demonstrated how seriously he took this message by speaking at the launch of Sir Davids new book, The Right Kind of History: teaching the past in twentieth-century England (ISBN 9780230300873; Palgrave Macmillan), where he said that he was genuinely worried about the state of history teaching. Despite the best efforts of brilliant history teachers, gifted academics and television and publishing executives who help to popularise history, our curriculum and examination system mean that children thirsting to know more about the past leave school woefully undernourished, he said.
Sir David argues, in his new book, that history should have the same status as maths, English and science in the national curriculum, which is currently under review, as it already does in many other countries: along with Albania, we are one of the few countries in which history is not compulsory; I can see no reason why this country is not on an equal footing with the rest of Europe, he said at the launch.
What has stopped history becoming a mainstream subject is the lack of time devoted to it in the school timetable. If you examine the history curriculum carefully, it does actually cover pretty much everything you might want students to know; the problem is there isn’t enough time to teach it. So inevitably there are going to be gaps in people’s learning. The erosion of historys central place, which is no new phenomenon, means that the chances of pupils acquiring a comprehensive grounding in the subject are slim.
Sir Davids book departs from the view that there was once a golden age when everyone left school knowing English history in its entirety; back in the 1930s, the Tudors were the equivalent of the modern-day Nazis, with everyone complaining that pupils spent far too much time on the Tudors at the expense of other periods, he says. He also pinpoints the moment at which the history curriculum first came under strain: when Kenneth Baker et al were drafting the original curriculum in the 1980s it was always intended that history should become compulsory until the age of sixteen. At the last minute, though, Kenneth Clarke, then education secretary, decided to retain the status quo, and ever since history teachers have been forced to cram a syllabus originally intended to be learned over five years into three. As a direct consequence, those students who did choose to continue history to GCSE were frequently forced to cover much the same syllabus in key stage 4 as they had in key stage 3 only in rather greater depth. It doesnt take a lot of working out to realise why so many students complain that history is repetitive and boring. Sir Davids solution is thus to leave the curriculum alone and go back to teaching it the way it was always intended to be taught, but making it compulsory to sixteen, though he accepts that this will create other pressures on the timetable, and that there are other voices championing a return to compulsory language teaching, which will further add to the pressure.
Evidence of the diversity of the Fellowship could not have been demonstrated with greater clarity than in the contrast between Fellow David Cannadines championing of universal history education in one corner, and Fellow John Schofields championing of punk graffiti as heritage in the other. Surely Sid Vicious would have responded to a question like who commanded the British troops at the Battle of Waterloo, with the words who cares. Hence there is a certain irony in a paper appearing in an academic journal claiming as heritage something that its creators would have called rollocks (or worse).
Despite this, our Fellow John Schofield (of York) and Paul Graves-Brown have published a paper in the latest issue of Antiquity (The filth and the fury: 6 Denmark Street (London) and the Sex Pistols), arguing that, if Londons Abbey Road studios could be listed because of the significance of the music made there (not to mention the listing of the zebra crossing because of its appearance on an album cover), then surely we ought at the very least to stop and ask about the pros and cons of designating the graffiti (mainly caricatures of band members and their friends by John Lydon, aka Johnny Rotten; see his self-portrait on the left) recently discovered on the walls of the eighteenth-century house in Londons Tin Pan Alley (No. 6 Denmark Street) that Malcolm McLaren, manager of the Sex Pistols, rented as a rehearsal space when the band was formed in 1972.
John Schofields purpose was, of course, to raise more general questions about recent musical heritage and our response as designators, managers, curators, conservators and academics to this massively influential cultural heritage, but the press had a field day, deriding mad archaeologists for suggesting that rude words daubed on the walls by an anarchistic and self-destructive Sid Vicious could be compared to Lascaux cave paintings (actually, it is perfectly possible that much prehistoric cave painting is itself pornographic graffiti, but that is the subject of another thesis, yet to be written).
Even the normally liberal Guardian appeared to harumph (
On the contrary, everything in our culture glorifies the immediate, the contemporary … people love to be told the Pistols are more important than the remote past … but there is absolutely nothing subversive about such a claim. It is the clichéd dumbness of our age. For archaeologists to be truly original, he says, they must resist this shallow culture and make us recognise the existence of profoundly different pasts on our own soil … archaeology has a duty to be different.
From the band that set out to create chaos and alienation, let us turn to a man so loved by the nation that the Proms this year included an extended homage (albeit as part of the Comedy Prom); our Fellow Sir David Attenborough has just topped a poll in which more than 4,000 people were asked which of Britain’s greatest living national treasures would you like to see as the face on a £1 million note. Sir David beat Stephen Fry, Sir Paul McCartney, Stephen Hawking, J K Rowling and even his own brother, the film director Lord Richard Attenborough.
The Inland Waterways Authority (IWA) has taken the unusual step of issuing a call to arms to friends and supporters, asking them to write to their MPs objecting to current proposals for turning British Waterways (BW) into a new charity, the Canal and River Trust (CRT). The case has important implications for many other heritage bodies, for it is very likely that conversion of BW into a Big Society trust will serve as a model that will be widely adopted in future for central and local government-funded museums, galleries, libraries and even for HERs and historic environment advisory services.
The key issue in such conversions is whether or not the new trust is financially secure enough to have a reasonable hope of survival once cut off from government funding, and in the case of BW, this appears not to be the case. The IWAs hard-hitting press release says that the money is everything. A good deal from Defra [the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] will deliver a significant Big Society project, and secure the future of a national asset. IWA is concerned, however, that Defra is playing hard ball, and trying to impose a lean deal just to get BW off its books.
Spelling out the detail in a template letter that supporters are urged to use as a model in writing to MPs and to Waterways Minister Richard Benyon MP, the IWA says that the CRT would inherit from BW an annual funding deficit of £20 million, ongoing maintenance costs of £12 million a year (to stabilise the waterways network and ensure that drainage, navigation and environmental requirements are properly supported), a repairs deficit of at least £107m and a pension deficit of £65 million. In the light of this, the IWA says, the Governments offer of a funding contract of £39 million per year that is not index-linked and that ends after ten years is just not enough. The Government has, however, offered to transfer the British Waterways (BW) property portfolio to the Canal and River Trust, and it is not made clear in the IWA statement how much this could be worth, and how the value of rents and future developments could affect the Trusts financial sustainability.
For further information, see the IWAs website.
One of the saddest pieces of news this week comes from Chipping Campden, Glos, where thieves smashed their way into the Court Barn Museum, and stole more than twenty pieces of silver that were the pride of the museums Guild of Handicrafts collection. A complete list of the stolen items, many of them made by C R Ashbee, who moved the Guild of Handicraft workshops from east London to Chipping Campden in 1902, has been published on the website of the Antiques Trade Gazette in order to alert the trade, but trustees of the museum fear that the raiders, who struck on 7 November 2011, will melt them down and sell them through the scrap-metal trade.
Illustrating the dire situation whereby nobody in this country seems to want to accept ownership or responsibility for public art is Rodins The Burghers of Calais. The Art Newspaper highlights in its November issue the fact that government departments and agencies all deny that one of the countrys most important public sculptures does not appear to have a legal owner. It stands outside the Houses of Parliament and across the road from Henry Moores Knife Edge Two Piece, which is similarly ownerless.
The Burghers of Calais, commemorating the heroes of the 1347 siege of Calais, was donated to the nation by the National Art Collections Fund, now the Art Fund, in 1911 and unveiled in its current site in 1915, under the care of the Office of Works. After a long series of bureaucratic changes, most of the functions of the Office of Works were hived off to various agencies, with some residual responsibilities passing to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, but they have officially denied ownership of the sculpture and, as the Art Newspaper reveals, so too have the Parliamentary Art Committee, the Royal Parks (despite being credited as the lender when the sculpture was exhibited at Saved! (Hayward Gallery 2003/4) and Rodin (Royal Academy 2006)) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.
Our Fellows Sir Nicholas Goodison and Lady Judith Goodison personally funded the urgent conservation work that was carried out in 2003, to mark the retirement of Sir Nicholas as Chairman of the Art Fund. At the time it was thought that the Royal Parks had undertaken to maintain the sculpture and be responsible for future conservation.
What must be in the back of everyones minds is the question of how long it will be before unscrupulous thieves try to take advantage of the situation.
Equally worrying to read was Ben MacIntyre’s report in The Times (15 November) on Silvio Berlusconis neglect of Italy’s antiquities, symbolised by the collapse of another wall near the Porta di Nola in Pompeii last month, a grimly fitting testament to Berlusconis cultural legacy. Italy earns 8.6 per cent of its GDP from the 45 million tourists who flock to the country every year, but the Culture Ministrys budget has been halved over the last three years and is now just 0.18 per cent of public spending.
Pompeii now needs an estimated £210 million to combat the effects of weather, light exposure, water damage, incompetent excavation, inadequate repair, tourism, vandalism, theft and official negligence, but Pompeiis decline is only the most conspicuous evidence of a far wider problem. Across Italy, important buildings, large and small, are in danger: Norman churches in Sicily, industrial-era architecture in Turin, Bolognas twin towers and Renaissance palaces in Florence are all reported to be deteriorating at an alarming rate, and with Italys need to refinance £170 billion of government debt, there is little hope of more state money for cultural preservation.
A controversial solution is sponsorship: Italys cultural defenders fear that only the most visible sites will benefit, and that such monuments as the Colosseum will end up plastered with corporate logos, as Italys glorious past is hijacked for inglorious commerce. Many, however, have concluded that only through such publicprivate partnerships in cultural preservation can cash-strapped Italy maintain its heritage.
Fellow Karen Hearn, Curator of Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century British Art, has curated the exhibition that has just opened at Tate Britain, entitled Rubens and Britain (to 6 May 2012); she has also written the accompanying book of the same title (Tate Publishing).
The exhibition focuses on the Rubens masterpiece, The Apotheosis of James I and Other Studies (162830), consisting of preparatory sketches for the Banqueting House ceiling, a work that Tate acquired in 2008 with the help of the Art Fund and public donations. The exhibition explores this work and Rubens’ connections with Britains royal court through a group of fourteen key works, including portraits of the Earl of Arundel (1629: loaned by the National Portrait Gallery) and James Is physician, Sir Theodore Turquet de Mayerne (162930: British Museum), and the dramatic image of Englands patron saint, A Landscape with St George and the Dragon (162930) (Royal Collection). Also on display are Inigo Joness original architectural drawing for the Banqueting House and his costume designs for one of the masques held here.
Tates website seems not to have caught up with the fact that the exhibition is on, but you can read The God-maker Who Did His Job Too Well, an essay written about the exhibition by our Fellow Lucy Worsley (whose curatorial responsibilities include the Banqueting House) on her blog site.
Congratulations to our Fellow Clive Gamble, who has just been elected President of the Royal Anthropological Institute. The election of a President who is primarily an archaeologist and a Fellow of our Society is a very rare event: our Fellow Glyn Daniel was possibly the last such to have held the position. The Anthropological Institute was formed in 1872 from the merger of the Ethnological Society (1843) and the Anthropological Society (1863) and it once had many Fellows in common with our Society. Indeed, as Richard Morris reminds us in Visions of Antiquity (Archaeologia 111), it was from the Anthropological Institute that Lubbock launched his first Ancient Monuments Bill in 1871, towards which, at the start, the Antiquaries were lukewarm (we later made up for it by playing a key role in its advocacy and eventual passage into statute).
Fellow and former MP Robert Key has been appointed Chairman of Wessex Archaeologys Board of Directors in succession to our Fellow and former President, Geoff Wainwright, who has retired from the post after seven years of duty. Robert taught economics in Edinburgh and London between 1967 and 1983 and served as MP for Salisbury from 1983 to 2010. When the Department of National Heritage (now the Department of Culture, Media and Sport) was formed in 1992, he was one of the founding Ministers, responsible for Museums and Galleries, Heritage and Archaeology, Royal Parks and Palaces and for the National Lottery.
Fellow Christine Finn says that it has been a very good year for her professionally thanks to a number of BBC commissions. Extracts from her Radio 4 programme, Bleached Bone and Living Wood, on Wilfred Owen and the foresters house at Ors in northern France that has been turned into a work of art paying tribute to Owens life and poetry, were chosen for Radio 4s Pick of the Week. You can listen to the programme on BBC iPlayer. Christines related report, for From Our Own Correspondent, can also be heard online.
Christine is one of twenty-six writers chosen to help launch National Museum of Scotlands 26 Treasures project next week. The project pairs twenty-six writers with twenty-six objects and asks them to use it as the inspiration for a poem or prose piece of exactly sixty-two words. Christine was paired (at random) with the rattle used by the feisty Glaswegian activist, Mary Barbour, during the 1915 rent riots. Christine is due to talk about it on Radio 4s Woman’s Hour on 29 November and will be joining the other writers in a reading of the work at the NMS on 3 December, after which recordings will be available for museum visitors to hear alongside the various artefacts throughout the museum, until Burns Night (25 January 2012).
Finally, Salon belatedly wishes many happy returns to Private Eye magazine on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary (first published on 25 October 1961), and in particular to our Fellow Piloti, author of the magazines Nooks and Corners column and a staunch campaigner for the heritage for the last forty years (since Eye 246 on 21 May 1971, when the first Nooks and Corners appeared, written by John Betjeman). Piloti used the fiftieth anniversary issue to pass comment on the iconic and vibrant firstsite arts centre in Colchester that opened in September 2011 (three years late and many millions over budget) and that mixes Roman coins and mosaics found on the site with contemporary ceramics by Grayson Perry and Ai Weiwei. Golden banana (a reference to its curved plan and gold cladding) is one of the kinder descriptions: overpriced bling bikeshed was the local papers description.
Piloti ends his anniversary column by saying that he is often asked to explain his pseudonym. Quoting from the Oxford Dictionary of Architecture, by our Fellow James Stevens Curl, he writes, a piloti is one of several columns or piers supporting a building over the ground … leaving an open area below. It was a favourite device of Le Corbusier: its widespread adoption in the UK has created many unpleasant places.
Some of us are a little more forgiving these days in our judgements of post-war architecture: in that regard, it is well worth listening again to the Radio 4 programme, Archive on 4: Rebuilding Britain for the Baby Boomers, on the architects who rebuilt Britain after the Second World War. In a programme that features interviews with a number of Fellows, past RIBA President Maxwell Hutchinson examines the radical ideas, influenced by Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius, that inspired the post-war generation of architects as they built social housing for slum clearance families, hospitals for the infant NHS, schools for the children of the Butler Education Act and bold new tower blocks that would transform city skylines. The programme centres around the newly restored Parkhill Flats, in Sheffield, Europes largest listed building, which is also celebrating its fiftieth anniversary this year, seen originally as the embodiment of the ideals of the modernist movement, then condemned as the new slums and now undergoing a renaissance.
Several more Fellows have owned up to being members of the tweeting class.
Anthony Quiney does not tweet to promote himself, but rather his uncle who, as 94237 Sapper Bernard Heath OBrien of the Royal Engineers, kept what he called his War Diary from January 1915 until his eventual demobilisation and civilian employment in April 1920. Each day Anthony tweets one of Sapper OBriens diary entries, and he now has 1,300 followers a number that will surely rise as the Great War Centenary approaches.
Fellow Nicholas Kingsley tweets about his work as Head of Archives Sector Development and Secretary of the Historical Manuscripts Commission at The National Archives, with occasional observations on country houses, the peerage, the landed gentry and even the Society of Antiquaries (nothing scandalous: his tweet for 27 October notes, for example, that he is Recovering gently from excellent evening as guest at Antiquaries Essay Club last night: v civilised but no longer used to such late hours!).
As befits the Professor of Shakespearean and Early Modern Drama at the University of Reading, Fellow Grace Ioppolo mainly tweets about things Shakespearean, but also about books, manuscripts, literature, drama and culture generally. One intriguing piece that Grace shared recently with her followers was an article about a Shakespeare reading with a difference in New York: the readers, in this case, were all naked. Its called full frontal literature and the aim, say the promoters, is to get people excited about literature.
Fellow Michael Turner, author, social historian, archaeologist and Senior Curator at Sydney Universitys Nicholson Museum, is another tweeter who draws the attention of his followers to some nudity he is far from being the first Fellow to be puzzled about what exactly is going on in the ancient Greek red figure vase that was shown at the Getty Museum last year.
Michael also wonders if there are Fellows planning to visit Australia in 2012 who would like to give a talk at the Nicholson Museum; if so, please contact Michael as soon as possible. Michael says that many FSAs have spoken in the Nicholson Museum over the years. The museum is home to the largest collection of antiquities in the Southern Hemisphere and was previously curated by Fellows Dale Trendall (193954), Alexander Cambitoglou (19612000) and Daniel Potts (200005). It is a wonderful venue that draws in an audience of over 200; to talk surrounded by the collection is a memorable experience.
Fellow Paul Holden tweets about his work as architectural historian, author, lecturer, House and Collections Manager for the National Trust at Lanhydrock, in Cornwall, and Chair of the Cornish Buildings Group. Paul is one of several tweeting Fellows who regularly share Salon stories with their followers. Thank you Paul! That saves Salons editor from having to join the twitterati (or, in the case of Fellows, perhaps that should be the twitterarti).
The Society has been informed of the death on 2 November 2011 of our Fellow Dr Peter Brandon at the age of 84 following a long battle with kidney disease. A tireless campaigner for conservation in Sussex, Peter was elected a Fellow on 28 November 1985.
Dr Brandon, born in Shoreham-by-Sea on 16 July 1927, was Head of the Department of Geography at the University of North London until the late 1980s, when he retired to concentrate on giving talks and writing books about the landscapes of Sussex, Surrey and Kent (many of them published by Phillimore). He was greatly admired as a passionate speaker and advocate for these landscapes Sussex in particular inspiring generations of landscape geographers and historians, residents and visitors with his natural and infectious enthusiasm and deep passion for the regions history and archaeology. He was Vice-President of the Sussex branch of the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and of the Sussex Archaeological Society, and President of the South Downs Society.
Salon 264 quoted the Daily Telegraphs obituary for our late Fellow George Daniels, the renowned watch maker, and said that in 2006, to celebrate his work and his eightieth birthday, Sothebys and Bobinet (the antique watch dealer) held a retrospective exhibition of his work, featuring every watch Daniels had made, except for the one that is held by the British Museum.
Our Fellow David Thompson, the British Museum’s Curator of Horology, has written to say that this statement is an unfortunate error: I personally delivered the British Museum Daniels watch to Sothebys and called in on a daily basis to wind it whilst it was in the exhibition. I would not like people to think that the British Museum did not participate in that most fitting tribute to George and his contribution to horology on the occasion of his 80th year, David says.
Apologies are due to our newly elected Fellow Jenny Uglow who, as readers of her excellent books (The Lunar Men and A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration) will know is Jenny and not Jennie as Salon (and the Societys ballot paper) misnamed her.
Landmark Trust Historian and Fellow Caroline Stanford writes to correct a couple of errors in Salon 265 concerning Lundy Island, threatened by a huge wind turbine array planned for the Bristol Channel. The island is in fact owned by the National Trust, rather than the Landmark Trust, which has a ninety-nine-year lease and manages and runs the island on behalf of the National Trust. Similarly, the Landmark Trust does not own Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, the post-Abdication home of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor; the Trust lets it on behalf of its British owner, which, says Caroline, has the additional advantage of providing us with an income stream for our embryonic French activities, avoiding any diversion of funds from saving UK buildings at risk.
Fellow Ian Leith, who chairs the English Heritage / War Memorials Trust Grants Panel, was pleased to see the plight of war memorials highlighted in the last issue of Salon. He says that it is very difficult to prioritise and allocate funding and conservation attention to the most needy examples of war memorial theft, vandalism and neglect because there is no system for collating information or carrying out regular audits. He says that this is one of the many tasks facing our recently elected Fellow Inspector Mark Harrison, who has been seconded to English Heritage to co-ordinate a national response to heritage crime, but that real progress will only be made once every local authority identifies a member of staff to take responsibility for war memorials and public monuments generally, and reports back to a national co-ordinating body, such as the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, the War Memorials Trust or the UK National Inventory of War Memorials.
Fellow Mark Milburn writes to say that rock art is equally endangered, and that urgent attention needs to be given to the erosive effects of frost, water, roots, lichen, small animals and the like. During my lifetime certain carvings known since my childhood have become very faint indeed, he reports. Apart from erecting a shelter over the rock to keep it dry, the best conservation method at present seems to be an earth covering, designed on the basis of our knowledge of the weathering mechanisms and mineralogy at the specific site under consideration, though this is fraught with problems because relatively few geologists have an extensive knowledge of chemical and physical weathering processes.
The popularity of rock art has led to the exposure of previously buried examples, to their detriment: when originally excavated from beneath a turf covering, and from under a substantial cairn of stones, there were many sharp-edged carvings showing individual pick marks in the design construction of the rock art at Hunterheugh; today there are only rounded edges and it is hard to identify any pick-mark indentations. It is sad, this is a site that could easily have been recovered with soil if not turfed. Is it not time to let specialist geologists take over and make some carefully-controlled experiments?, Mark asks.
3 December 2011: The Autumn Symposium of ASPRoM (the Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics) will be held from 2pm to 5.30pm, in the River Room, Kings Building, Strand Campus, Kings College London. The speakers are Cristina Boschetti (The Doves Mosaic from Hadrians Villa at Tivoli: manufacture, materials and interpretation), Rebeca Sweetman (Late Antique mosaics in Crete: use of space and Christianisation) and Will Wootton (Figuring out the facts: calculating labour times for the production of mosaics in fourth-century Britain). Further information is available on the Associations website. Those wishing to attend should contact Dr Will Wootton.
15 December 2011: Science and Heritage five years on. Margaret Sharp, Baroness Sharp of Guildford, will speak at 6.15pm in the JZ Young Lecture Theatre, Anatomy Building, Gower Street, UCL, London WC1E 6BT, on the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee Report on Science and Heritage, published five years ago, in November 2006. She will reflect on how far the recommendations contained in that Report have been implemented, on other actions that have followed from it and on the future of science and heritage both in the UK and within the wider European context. This is a public lecture and all are welcome; please email Bethia Tyler if you would like to attend.
Edited by our Fellow Lindsay Allason-Jones, Artefacts in Roman Britain: their purpose and use (ISBN 9780521677523; Cambridge University Press) does not set out to be a comprehensive guide to small finds (which, to the confusion of anyone not used to archaeological parlance, can be very large!), but rather is an aid to understanding their significance, and how the artefacts that are found in various Romano-British contexts (other than ceramics, bone or ecofacts) aid our understanding of life in Roman Britain.
The books thirteen thematic essays, mostly written by Fellows, look at the objects associated with such activities as commerce, industry, agriculture, writing, domestic life, heating and lighting, recreation, medicine, travel and religion. The authors ask of the objects that they discuss what are they for, how are they made, where are they found, when, where and how might they have been used and how might we interpret them, the point being, of course, that significance often lies in the context, so that a coin found in a burial, in a hoard, in a temple deposit or placed beneath the mast of a ship has a different meaning from one found in a shop.
Some of the objects are strikingly modern in appearance: the carpenters plane from Silchester shown on page 82 looks like a rusty version of the one that many of us have in our toolboxes today. But what comes across from the book is the fact that even if the objects look familiar, they may represent something very different within the context of Romano-British technology, deposition practices (the plane came from a hoard), wealth, status and display.
The fact that seven people who died and were buried in three graves in the twenty-fourth century BC have resonant names is testament to the popular interest that was shown in these burials when they were discovered in 2002 and 2003. At the time, the Bowmen were hailed as a band of brothers from Wales who had helped bring the bluestones to Stonehenge, while the Amesbury Archer (dubbed the King of Stonehenge by the Sun) was characterised as a migrant or pilgrim from the alpine regions of Europe, come to seek help at Stonehenge for painful and debilitating leg injuries and a tooth abscess, accompanied by a Companion who could have been his grandson, and bringing with him tools that indicate that he possessed the magical skills of the metal worker.
The complexity of the archaeology, rather than over-simplified biography, is the proper subject of the final report, The Amesbury Archer and the Boscombe Bowmen: Bell Beaker burials at Boscombe Down, Amesbury, Wiltshire (ISBN 9781874350545: Wessex Archaeology Report 27) by our Fellow Andrew Fitzpatrick, with specialist reports by numerous Fellows. This shows that, for example, the Boscombe Bowmen (for ease of reference, the report retains the alliterative names) are less likely to have come from Wales (because of a lack of contemporary beaker material) than from Brittany, the Massif Central or Portugal, whilst the range of possible climatic and geological conditions in Europe that might account for the isotopes in the Amesbury Archers teeth, along with the lack of the data that would be needed to fine tune the variables, mean that it is not possible to precisely identify the Archers homeland.
Neither would it seem that the grave goods, including an unusually large number of beakers, are of much help if precise life histories are the desired outcome of this study, since they are not geographically diagnostic, and comparable objects are widespread (though not common) throughout Europe at the time. What certainty is left then? We have some firm dates for the burials in the late Neolithic, when metal working was in its infancy, and biological evidence that the seven men buried in these graves had travelled long distances during their lives (six of them coming to the Durrington Walls and Stonehenge area from continental Europe, while the seventh, the Companion, though probably born in Wessex, had travelled to the continent in his childhood).
It is this long-distance travel that the report returns to in its conclusion. Isotope studies from other cemeteries of the period suggest that most people were sedentary; the journeys of the Archer, Companion and Bowmen mark them out as different. Could their richly furnished graves, along with others like them all over Europe, mark them out as people who enjoyed a high status in late Neolithic society because of the central role they played in the production of prestige goods and in the control of the networks by which raw materials and finished goods were distributed? Such a conclusion challenges the beaker people as invaders model of old, and reminds us once again, as other studies have suggested, that you dont need armies on the march or mass migrations to affect a major cultural shift: one person will do, with the right knowledge and connections.
In ending at that point the report leaves us wanting to know so much more than can be answered by these graves alone: when and where did such a network start, how did the chaîne opératoire work? Did goods, people and ideas travel from central Europe northwards and westwards, following the major river systems, or did they go south and then west, via the Atlantic coast? How was the network established so quickly and so comprehensively over such large distances, leading to a homogeneous material culture spreading over wide areas of Europe within a few generations, and why did it all end, as it seems to have done, after such a short period?
Such questions are for archaeologists of the future to investigate, but the graves of the Archer, Companion and Bowmen do seem to hint at a short and dramatic period in European prehistory that has much more to tell us about the complexity of human endeavour than simplistic ideas about kings of Stonehenge and Welsh stonemasons.
Trevelgue Head, Cornwall (ISBN 9781903798737; Cornwall Council) is another excavation report that centres around the power of metal and the trading and cultural networks involved in its distribution. In this case, the excavation is not a new one. Fellows Jacqueline Nowakowski and Henrietta Quinnell say that unforeseen circumstances delayed the publication of this excavation report for seventy-plus years. The clue is in the date of the excavation, which took place during the long hot summer of 1939: many people watching the excavation from nearby Newquay assumed that the hive of archaeological activity taking place at Trevelgue Head must be war preparation work. Yet, like other major excavations that took place in that same year (including Richborough Castle and Sutton Hoo), the results of Charles Croft Andrews work at Trevelgue Head are too important to leave unpublished so, helped by a huge cast of contributors, the authors have produced a belated report, set in the context of new and additional work carried out on the promontory since 1983.
Despite its bleak and exposed appearance, little more than bare rock and thin grass, Trevelgue Head has been the scene of human activity since the Mesolithic; its significance lies in the fact that it is one of the largest and most complex examples in southern Britain of an Iron Age promontory fort or cliff castle, described by Jacquetta Hawkes in 1951 as perhaps the best example of a type of fortification very common around the Cornish coasts. Fortification is now a word that archaeologists surround with questioning inverted commas: here the evidence consists of a series of ramparts and rock-cut ditches, dividing the headland into distinct zones. What was being defended was a series of houses, middens, field systems and numerous hearths associated with the smelting and working of iron, suggesting that this was a Middle Iron Age (fifth to first centuries BC) industrial site, perhaps sited here for practical reasons, or perhaps in order to keep the metalworking processes secret.
One large circular building was exceptional: in use for four centuries, from the fourth to the first century BC, and oriented east, looking straight out through the rampart entrances, it was 14m in diameter and had an impressive perimeter wall made of upright slabs of slate alternating with finely laid drystone slate walling, a remarkable piece of architecture that has never been paralleled.
Trevelgue Head thus begins to look to modern archaeological eyes like a specialised settlement, one of a number along this stretch of the Cornish coast, engaged in extracting and processing the locally rich sources of iron ore, and linked by sea to places such as Hengistbury Head that our Fellow Barry Cunliffe has identified as trade ports or contact zones for the exchange of goods, not just with other communities in southern and south-west Britain but also with the continent.
In a paper published in the Antiquaries Journal Vol 82 (2002), our Fellow Sydney Anglo demonstrated that medieval treatises based on the De Re Militari of Publius Vegetius Renatus transmogrified this mid-fifth-century AD work into something so stylised and formal that it was utterly impracticable as a military training manual. That did not in any way prevent this remarkable late Roman text becoming one of the most influential classics of the Middle Ages. In The De Re Militari of Vegetius (ISBN 9781107000278; Cambridge University Press), Fellow Christopher Allmand provides a comprehensive account of the manuscript and its author and of the many ways that it was read, understood, transformed, illustrated, translated, glossed, copied and printed over subsequent centuries, its influence extending over the conduct of the crusades, the organisation and training of armies in medieval Europe, medieval concepts of chivalry, and the form, structure and content of Machiavellis LArte della guerra (The Art of War) and The Prince.
Christopher Allmand traces the influence of De Re Miltari not so much to the advice on such practical matters as the recruitment, training and organisation of an army, but rather on the intellectual enquiry that underpins the work as Vegetius seeks answers to the question what made the Roman army successful and his efforts to derive universal laws from the answers and to write something approaching a science of war. This in turn elicits a variety of responses from later readers; Allmands study is concerned with what they found interesting and useful in the work, and what that tells us about the particular concerns of their age, though from this detail emerges a seemingly universal paradox: many medieval and Renaissance commentators believed that ruthless military might was the necessary pre-condition of peace and that armies are necessary as protectors of society and guardians of the public good.
But military strength can easily be abused, as Machiavelli witnessed through the crushing of Republican Florence by the armies of Charles V and Duke Cosimo I. Thus another interesting strand of commentary on Vegetius concerns the use and abuse of power, and what might be termed spiritual warfare, all of which begins to have a very contemporary ring!
Making this a year to remember, Tobias Capwell, Curator of Arms and Armour at the Wallace Collection, was not only elected a Fellow in June this year, he has also seen the publication of his new book on Masterpieces of European Arms and Armour in the Wallace Collection (ISBN 9780900785863; Paul Holberton Publishing), to which our Fellows David Edge (Armourer and Head of Conservation at the Wallace Collection) and Jeremy Warren (Collections and Academic Director) have also contributed.
The book introduces the collection, one of the largest and most important of its kind in the world, a major part of which was acquired by Sir Richard Wallace, co-founder with his father of the Wallace Collection, when he purchased the arms and armour collections of the Comte de Nieuwerkerke, Director of the Louvre under Napoleon III, and Sir Samuel Rush Meyrick, the founding father of the serious study of the subject. The book then looks in detail at seventy of the most interesting items from the collection, including a tenth-century Scandinavian sword the earliest piece the golden tournament helmet of Emperor Ferdinand I from 1555 and a flint-lock pistol dating from c 173844 that belonged to Prince Louis, Dauphin of France, the eldest son of King Louis XV.
Sold on a USB flash drive as an optional addition to the book is a digital version of Sir James Manns Complete Digital Catalogue of European Arms and Armour (1962), plus A V B Normans 1986 Supplement, edited by Tobias Capwell and presented along with 7,000 new high-resolution images, allowing the objects to be viewed from multiple angles and in great detail.
Also new from the Wallace Collection is Fellow Suzanne Higgotts Catalogue of Glass and Limoges Painted Enamels (ISBN 9780900785856: Paul Holberton Publishing).
The book features some sixty examples of glass from the golden age of Venetian glass-making, the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries, plus some thirty examples of painted enamels made in Limoges at the same period.
The vivacious use of colour, and the influence of the works of Dürer, Raphael and the Fontainebleau school mark out the Limoges work, while scenes of merry making contrast with religious subjects on the enamelled and gilded glass.
Medieval Anglesey, by Fellow Tony Carr (writing as A D Carr), was originally published in 1982, when it was hailed as the definitive work and an indispensable guide to the development of the island in during the Middle Ages. This extensively revised and updated edition reflects the new material that has become available during the last three decades (including many hitherto unknown documents subsequently found at Penrhyn Castle) and what Professor Carr calls a substantial amount of further thinking on the part of the author.
A major theme of Medieval Anglesey (ISBN 9780956876904; Anglesey Antiquarian Society) is that the modern landscape is misleading as a guide to the islands past. Isolated farms and churches suggest an aversion to nucleated settlement and a romantic vision of Celtic hermits fleeing a sinful world. In page after page of fascinating detail derived from documentary study, Professor Carr demonstrates that Anglesey had a thriving economy (based on agriculture, fishing, weaving and the manufacture of millstones) and a large and growing population in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
It was the crisis of the fourteenth century, with its long winters and short wet summers, the consequent crop failures and livestock epidemics, human disease and the aftermath of the Glyn Dŵr revolt that changed so much. In Anglesey and in Wales generally, the system whereby every member of the community was jointly and severally liable for land taxes, so that the entire burden fell on one person if he or she happened to be the only survivor, led to the large-scale abandonment of landholdings and the discontinuity that gives the land its appearance today, as hamlets and townships declined into single farmsteads and a busy dynamic landscape turned into the empty landscapes of large estates.
If you only know the Freemasons through the distorted accounts of caricaturists, this new book Freemasonry and the Enlightenment: architecture, symbols and influences (ISBN 9781905286454; Historical Publications) by our Fellow James Stevens Curl is a powerful corrective. By linking Freemasonry with the Enlightenment, the books very title is making a substantial claim for regarding this confraternity, whose first Grand Lodge was founded in London on 24 June 1717, as central to the European intellectual movements of the day, rather than something marginal, obscure and quirky. Professor Curl, always a vivid and entertaining writer, has no doubts on this matter: Freemasonry played a central role in the Enlightenment, he asserts in his introduction, adding: the fact that so many so-called academics have avoided the issue is very peculiar, indicative of cowardice, dishonesty or worse.
Perhaps Professor Curl should offer a prayer of thanks for such cowardice, because the academic failure he detects has allowed him the opportunity to get in first! What follows that pugnacious introduction is a detailed and beautifully illustrated history of the Masons, which examines their disputed origins within the context of medieval craft guilds and confraternities, the different forms of Masonry, and the astonishingly tangled web of myth, legend, philosophy and ancient history that underlies Masonic rituals head-reeling stuff that only begins to make sense as the author leads us through the more concrete aspects of Freemasonry, as encapsulated in buildings and artefacts. Here the book astonishes and delights us with page after page of plates showing the rich material culture of this supposedly secret society. It isnt that Professor Curl has broken any secret pledge to reveal this to us: instead the figures help to make his central point, that Freemasonry was enormously influential on the leading figures of the day and the results are everywhere if we know where to look (for example, Sir John Soanes mausoleum in St Giles-in-the-Fields incorporates a number of Masonic allusions, and was, in turn, the inspiration for the once-ubiquitous cast-iron telephone boxes designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in 1924 and 1935).
Further examples pour out of the pages, including chapters on Mozart and his music, libretti and stage sets and on the influence of Masonic symbolism on cemeteries and landscape gardens, illustrated with numerous continental examples (for, from possibly English origins, Masonry rapidly became an international phenomenon).
Professor Curls book is largely about the eighteenth century, when Freemasonry was most fashionable, but he touches in the closing pages on the rise of anti-Masonic propaganda and persecution that began with the hostility of the Roman Catholic Church to an international organisation that was open to people of all faiths and none and that was thus characterised as anti-Christian and politically subversive; imagery derived from the Old Testament and the large number of Jewish Masons led to the poisonous claims, here illustrated by some vicious Nazi propaganda posters, that Masonry was a secret society manipulated (according to one propaganda leaflet) by such well-known Jewish Communists as Roosevelt, Stalin, de Gaulle and Churchill! This brief allusion to the more recent history of Freemasonry hints at the themes for future studies: this rich book is modestly summed up by the author as a preliminary study, which, it is hoped, may prompt further investigations into what is an enormous subject.
Magic and mystery are essential ingredients too in the Collected Folk Tales (ISBN 9780007445974; HarperCollins) of our Fellow Alan Garner, but whose spare and poetic style is otherwise very different from the grandeur and Cecil B deMille drama of Freemasonry. Alans new book consists of traditional British folk tales, retold by the author, some of which are published for the first time and some of which have been selected from the authors earlier folktale collections. There is nothing quite like these extraordinarily spare and often enigmatic stories, many of which involve interactions between our mundane world and the denizens of a supernatural world of goblins, witches, the devil and the ancient gods and heroes, with entirely different rules and values, that is separated from ours by the thinnest of membranes.
A folklore historian looking for clues as to the regional origins of the stories, where they were collected, by whom from whom and when, will suffer extreme frustration, But Alan is not writing for academics: as he says in his introduction, this book is not technical. It is for anyone that loves a story. Like Grayson Perrys British Museum objects (are they Perrys work, or from the BMs reserve collection?), it is impossible to tell which ones Alan made up and which are traditional. He says that the stories invoke the voice and cadences of his blacksmith grandfather, Joseph Garner, whose dark smithy with its glowing embers was a place of mystery, a boundary between worlds and that too is a very apt description of this compelling book.
Fans of Alan Garner might like to read his recent interview in the Guardian, where he talks about his friendship with Alan Turing. Rumour has it that we can expect a new Garner novel next year (a rare event, given that Alan estimates his own writing speed to be 0.5875 words an hour), about the adult life of the young heroes of Alans first work, the classic Weirdstone of Brisingamen.
Salon inexplicably omitted to mention Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica when they were first published in 2010, edited by our Fellow (and Philip Larkins literary executor) Anthony Thwaite. The reason for revisiting them now is to say that the paperback edition (ISBN 9780571239108; Faber & Faber) has just been published the perfect Christmas present for any Larkin lover that you happen to know.
Anthony Thwaites selection from the 2,000 or so letters (7,500 manuscript pages) that Larkin wrote to his lover and confidante Monica Jones between 1946 and the poets death in 1985 document the poets life, ideas, influences and opinions.
All reviewers agreed that the letters are fascinating as an insight into the complexities of man about whose work John Updike once said the drama hinges on the breaking of Larkins crustiness, his prejudices, followed by a generous, deep-breathing self-transcendence.
At a time when the Government is looking to philanthropy to fund cultural enterprises and when both central and local government are seeking to hand over to charitable trusts responsibility for museums, libraries, inland waterways and who knows what else, this book by our Fellow Merlin Waterson is a timely look at how the National Trust, by far and away the UKs most successful heritage enterprise, got where it is today and what motivates people to give away their most precious possessions. Perhaps the half-title page of A Noble Thing: the National Trust and its benefactors (ISBN 9781857596694; National Trust / Scala Publishing) really says it all, with its quotation from Walter Sickert: The thing is to give, give, give. You always get more back than you give.
If it opens with a Beatles-esque lyric, the books chapters are reminiscent of Peter Greenaway, with such titles as The Bankers (profiles of our late Fellow Sir John Smith, and of members of the Rothschild family), The Grocer (the late Simon Sainsbury) and, more intriguingly, The Traitors, the Countess and Mr Bond (on the Trusts Irish properties and the role of Robert Erskine Childers, executed as a traitor on 24 November 1922, and Constance Gore Booth, condemned to death for her part in the Easter Rising but later reprieved). Each of the chapters then interweaves biographical detail with an account of the properties that the subject donated to the Trust, stories narrated in a lively style and beautifully illustrated.
The author is at pains to dissociate himself from any hint of rosy-tinted pot-pourri smelling hagiography: donors had various motives for giving land, property and objects to the National Trust and Merlin admits, too, that the Trust may sometimes not have been as gracious and as grateful in its behaviour towards donors as it might have been, which makes the kindness and generosity of some donors all the more remarkable. An entire chapter on The Diarist is an important corrective to the impression given by our distinguished late Fellow James Lees-Milne that all the Trusts donors were faded aristocrats struggling to keep the roof mended in the face of punitive taxation and anxious to pass the maintenance burden on to the Trust whilst continuing to live in comfort on the estate.
Current Fellows feature prominently in the later chapters: notably in The Spiritualists and the Volunteer (on Sutton Hoo), and The French Hairdresser (on Tyntesfield and the Fiona Reynolds era). Much that is said here, and in the final chapter on The Rewards of Generosity, is relevant to current Government policy, and not all of it is likely to find favour, but then we are beginning to get used to the idea of the sleeping giant that is the National Trust waking up and rediscovering its radical non-conformist roots, notably with its recent campaign to persuade the Government to think again on national planning policy.
Another apt quote closes the book: giving it all away often comes from the recognition that one is but the temporary steward of something far bigger and more important than one persons life, and this thought is well expressed in Beatrix Potters comment concerning her gift of 4,000 acres of the Lake District to the Trust: those of us who have felt the spirit of the fells reckon little of passing praise … what else could one do?