The Society of Antiquaries of London’s Online Newsletter (Salon) 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. A copy of Salon’s editorial policy can be found on the Society’s website and feedback should be addressed to the Editor, Christopher Catling.

Burlington House staff day and Christmas closure

The Society’s apartments and library at Burlington House will be closed until noon on Tuesday 27 November 2012 for staff development and from 5pm on Friday 21 December 2012 until 10am on Wednesday 2 January 2013 for the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Forthcoming meetings

Tea is served from 4.15pm, and meetings start at 5pm

29 November 2012: ‘“The Daily Dungeon”: the practice of medieval and Renaissance school life’, by Annamarieke Willemsen, FSA
Recent excavation on the sites of schools and boarding houses has revealed the objects used by pupils and teachers for reading, writing, mathematics and school life in general. Combining those finds with texts and hundreds of depictions of school scenes in manuscripts, frescos, sculpture and prints, it is possible to reconstruct the practice of education and show how school was experienced by the pupils themselves, who called it ‘the dungeon’.

This paper results from an interdisciplinary study published in 2008 (Back to the Schoolyard), which revealed a specific material culture of school life that made school children stand out as a large and recognisable group in medieval society, impossible to ignore. Based on this research, existing ideas about the accessibility of schools, especially for underprivileged groups (the poor, orphans, girls), must be revised. Evidence suggests that more than half of the children went to school, at least in late medieval towns. A new and ongoing research project into the material culture of student life — again using archaeological, pictorial and literary sources — indicates that our image of medieval universities might also be revised by this interdisciplinary approach.

6 December 2012: ‘The day Parliament burned down’, by Caroline Shenton, FSA
In the early evening of 16 October 1834, to the horror of bystanders, a huge fireball exploded through the roof of the Palace of Westminster, creating a blaze so enormous that it could be seen by the king and queen at Windsor and from stagecoaches on top of the South Downs. In front of hundreds of thousands of witnesses the great conflagration destroyed Parliament’s glorious old buildings and their contents. No one who witnessed it would ever forget it.

Caroline Shenton will examine the fire’s progress and its far-reaching consequences, based on her new book of the same name, which is the first full-scale study of the disaster. The talk will be followed by a book signing.

13 December 2012: Miscellany of papers and mulled wine reception
‘The Conservation Management Plan for Kelmscott Manor’, by John Maddison, FSA, and ‘Dismantling William Morris’s bed at Kelmscott’, by Nigel Bamforth, Senior Conservator at the V&A. Admission to the mulled wine reception following the meeting is by ticket only (£10: please book by contacting Jola Zdunek, the Society’s Executive Assistant; tel: 0207 479 7080).

2010—12 Report and Accounts

Stephen Johnson, the Society’s Treasurer, writes to say that ‘the Society’s 2010—12 Report and Accounts, covering the period from 1 October 2010 to 31 March 2012, have been posted on the Society’s website. This is an independently audited statement of the Society’s activities and financial position compiled to a format that is set by the Charity Commission and required to fulfil the Society’s obligations as a registered charity. In this case it covers an eighteen-month period because of Council’s decision last June to change the date of our annual reporting cycle from a calendar year end to a financial year end.

‘This is a public document that reports on key achievements and performance during this period, including a summary financial review, a glimpse of some of our future plans and a full set of accounts for the eighteen-month period compared, so far as they can be, to the previous twelve months (October 2009 to September 2010). In the past, we have produced a briefer overview document for the Fellowship to give the salient points from the audited annual report, but since our new-style audited report is now crisp, brief and, we hope, helpfully informative, Council have agreed that we should commend the whole of this to all Fellows to read. If there are questions about the report that Fellows or any other readers of Salon have, please send these to John Lewis, our General Secretary, in the first instance. There will, of course, also be an opportunity for Fellows to ask questions about the Society’s performance and accounts at the Anniversary Meeting on 23 April 2013.’

Glastonbury Abbey conference report

The Society played host to a day-long seminar on the archaeology, buildings and cult of Glastonbury on Friday 16 November, and the papers given at the seminar can now be viewed online by going to the Glastonbury Abbey page on the Society’s website (equally, most of the papers given at the Society’s weekly meetings and at the John D Evans Memorial Seminar held in September can be viewed by going to the ‘News and Events’ page.

The papers given at the seminar derive in large part from a project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council and led by our Fellow Roberta Gilchrist of Reading University that has catalogued and analysed the Glastonbury Abbey excavation archives of St John Hope (who worked at the site in 1904), Bligh Bond (1908—21), Peers and Clapham (1928—39) and Ralegh Radford (1951—64). It is intended that the results of this study will be published by the Society in due course, making available for the first time the excavation data from a site of central importance to medieval scholarship.

Until now the site has been viewed through the filter of an interim report published by Radford in 1981 in which he argued for a series of Anglo-Saxon monastic churches and an early Saxon cemetery, all set within a ditched enclosure (the vallum monasterium), associated with Britain’s earliest formal monastic cloister and with a series of early glass furnaces. In her paper, Roberta Gilchrist examined the evidence for each of these claims and cast doubt on Radford’s interpretation. There is pottery evidence of something going on here in the late fifth and early sixth centuries, but nothing that can be securely characterised as monastic. Dating evidence is lacking for the vallum and the churches, and stratigraphically the graves are cut through a clay platform of probable tenth-century date. The masonry that Radford thought was part of the cloister consist of fragments that do not align, and that probably belong to separate buildings: the supposed cloister would, in any event, have been huge — built on a scale not paralleled anywhere else. The glass furnaces are oddly located close to church and cloister: by analogy with other early monastic sites, one would expect them to be located away from the central religious area, in a separate industrial zone.

Roberta’s iconoclastic paper concluded that there was evidence of sixth-century occupation, and for a major campaign of church building in the late seventh century, but an almost total absence of the sort of material culture that one would expect for the mid- to late Saxon periods (compared, for example, with the large numbers of finds from Lyminge, about which Fellow Gabor Thomas had given a lecture to the Society the previous evening). Clearly there was an early monastic presence at Glastonbury (and not only at the abbey site: there is evidence for small monastic communities at the nearby hamlet of Beckery and at Glastonbury Tor), but that we had yet to locate the main structures, which might well lie north of the churches, not to the south, which is where Radford mainly excavated.

The evidence also pointed to a monastic community observing Roman traditions (dedicated, like other Roman monastic churches in England, to Saints Peter, Paul and Mary; with an axial rectilinear plan for the churches and associated funerary structures, rather than circular / concentric as in the Celtic tradition; with opus signinum (crushed tile and mortar) floors and with glass windows, all comparable with other early Roman-style monastic institutions at Canterbury, Jarrow, Reculver, Repton, Hartlepool and Barking).

Another paper that set out to demolish received ideas was given by Tim Hopkinson-Ball, author of the recently published Glastonbury: origins of the sacred (Imagier Books), on the cult of the Virgin at Glastonbury Abbey. Tim outlined what little is known about Glastonbury Abbey as a place of pilgrimage in the Middle Ages. For a place that carefully cultivated its image as a pilgrimage destination, that attracted royal pilgrims, had a very large collection of relics (including those of St Patrick and St David, patron saints of Ireland and Wales, not to mention St Dunstan, the abbey’s founder (despite Canterbury’s claims to have the real body)) and that became very wealthy on gifts and bequests from pilgrims, we actually know very little about the pilgrimage experience: what numbers of pilgrims came, where they came from, by what routes, how they were accommodated, how they were conducted around the monastic precinct, what they were able to see and do there, what souvenirs they were likely to purchase (no pilgrim’s badge has ever been found that can be securely associated with Glastonbury).

On one subject, Tim was adamant: it was a miraculous statue of the Virgin (venerated because it was once seen to come to life and move) that pilgrims came to pray before, not Arthur (whose tomb in front of the high altar was located in a part of the monastic church to which no ordinary pilgrim would have been admitted) nor yet Joseph of Arimathea. Arthur was a royal obsession, Tim said, not a popular one. Joseph of Arimathea was seen only as a precursor figure, founder of the first church in England, carver of a statue of Our Lady that was displayed in the crypt, but secondary to the miraculous image of the Virgin displayed behind the high altar that was the fundamental attraction.

As for the Thorn of Glastonbury, that was only one of several miraculous plants that were mentioned in a sixteenth-century work as being amongst the wonders of Glastonbury: another was a walnut tree that reliably burst into leaf on St Barnabas Day (11 June in the modern calendar). There were three thorns that were said to come into leaf and bloom on Christmas Day, and none was specifically linked to Joseph of Arimathea at that point.

Asked in the subsequent question-and-answer session when Glastonbury first became associated with the Holy Grail, Tim Hopkinson-Ball groaned theatrically and refused to answer, which was a little bit disappointing given that he had just shown a slide of Richard Pynson’s Life of Joseph of Armathia (1520), showing the Crucifix, a chalice and drops of blood on the cover, proof that the Grail association was already evident in the sixteenth century. But hunger for information on Glastonbury’s heady mix of Arthurian legend, Christian myth and esoteric theory was amply satisfied by Rhianedd Smith’s paper on ‘popular perspectives on Glastonbury’s Arthurian heritage’, which drew the seminar to a close.

To an audience of antiquaries, it was sobering to realise that serious archaeological excavation carried out at Tintagel and South Cadbury, for example, and serious academic books with ‘Arthur’ in the title are now avidly read by those who are want to believe that Arthur was a real historical figure, and that Bernard Cornwell’s popular Arthurian trilogy, The Warlord Chronicles, draws heavily on work by Philip Rahtz and Lorna Watts, Leslie Alcock, John Morris and Raleigh Radford himself. Speaking from the audience, Fellow Peter Fowler observed that this was ironic as ‘I do not recall the words “Arthur” or “Camelot” ever being uttered at any meeting of the South Cadbury Archaeological Committee’.

Rhianedd Smith reassured us, however, that Arthur was, in any case no longer an important figure in today’s alternative Glastonbury, because he is seen as being too male, Christian, aggressive and imperialist for the New Age, and having become too commercialised. The town has played a very important part in the development of occult ideas (and has done so for more than a century, beginning with the Avalonians in the first two decades of the twentieth century, the first wave of people attracted to the town for its sacred geography). The members of today’s Community of Avalon are more interested in this aspect of Glastonbury — its spiritual energy — than they are in Arthur. To them, Glastonbury is a place of transformation where ‘seekers’ can walk their own personal spiritual path, and attempt to ‘re-enchant the modern world’.

Recruitment of organisations to host community archaeology workplace trainees

The Council for British Archaeology invites archaeological and heritage organisations to apply for the opportunity to host twelve individuals on year-long workplace learning bursaries in Community Archaeology from September 2013. The Community Archaeology Bursaries Project are managed by the Council for British Archaeology and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund through the Skills for the Future programme with additional support from English Heritage, CADW and Historic Scotland. Full details of the application process and selection criteria can be downloaded from the CBA website and any questions concerning a prospective application can be addressed to the CBA’s Community Archaeology Training Co-ordinator, Tara-Jane Sutcliffe.

All Our Stories

Earlier this year Salon reported on the involvement of several of our Fellows in a Heritage Lottery Funded initiative to engage people in local history research, through a project called ‘All Our Stories’. Last week the HLF announced that it had awarded £4.5m to more than 500 successful projects across the UK. Grants ranging in value from £3,000 to £10,000 have been given to community groups and heritage charities to pay for resources to research some aspect of local history, guided by a mix of established academics and early career researchers whose professional support is being funded in part by the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

The scheme was so popular that HLF quadrupled the amount it had originally set aside for projects. Among the projects to be awarded grants are those looking at the history of Raleigh bikes in Nottingham, football heritage in Cambridge, the lost pubs of Salford, the experiences of the first Chinese migrants to live in Swansea, the Fenland in Roman times, tile making in the Potteries, and life on the Llangollen Canal.

Fellow Michael Wood, whose BBC2 series ‘The Great British Story’ helped inspire people to get involved with the heritage in their own backyard, said: ‘I’m certain many surprising stories will be uncovered which will not only bring to life the excitement of local history, but will illuminate every community’s connection with the national narrative.’

The HLF’s Catalyst Endowment programme

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has also announced a second opportunity for UK heritage organisations to apply for grants of £500,000 or £1m to help them build an endowment fund or develop an existing one. Dame Jenny Abramsky, Chair of the HLF, said: ‘With Catalyst, the Heritage Lottery Fund is offering heritage organisations the tools to develop longer-term financial independence.’ Among those who were awarded grants in the first round were Arnos Vale Cemetery Trust in Bristol, the Holburne Museum, Bath, HMS Victory (National Museum of the Royal Navy) and Sir John Soane’s Museum. Applicants have until 31 December to register to apply for this second (and final) round.

Keep searching the attics and archives

You never know what might be hiding in the attic as a couple of recent news items from European newspapers spotted by Fellow Cliff Webb demonstrate. One was the discovery in a Brussels attic of an illustrated manuscript from 1468 listing the poets and actors who were then members of the Brussels Chamber of Rhetoric. Admittedly this was no ordinary attic: literary historian Remco Sleiderink found the document, which has now been transferred to the Archives of the City of Brussels, at the meeting house of the city’s Guild of Crossbowmen, the Brotherhood of St Sebastian. Meanwhile in Bavaria, the long-lost manuscripts of three of Frederick the Great’s flute compositions from his ‘Coburg Sonatas’ series have turned up in the Art Collection at Veste Coburg — just in time to be performed again as part of this year’s 300th birthday celebrations for the Prussian king. Of his 121 flute sonatas, only two autograph copies were previously known.

Campaigning for Berlin’s gaslights

Photo: a five-arm gas-lit candelabrum in Berlin’s Charlottenburg; © Gaslicht-Kultur

Also clipped from the European press (in this case the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung) is an item on the gaslight heritage of Berlin: the embers of an organisation called Gaslicht-Kultur is calling on mayor Klaus Wowereit to halt the removal of the city’s historic gas lanterns and their replacement with electric lights, which the city says is a necessary part of its green energy policy.

According to Gaslicht-Kultur, Berlin has more than half of the world’s working gas lamps — some 44,000 — and Berliners are deeply attached to them for their golden glow, calling them silent witnesses to the eventful history of Berlin and an essential part of the nocturnal cityscape. Until recently Berlin’s gaslights enjoyed protected status but the company now responsible for their maintenance has announced plans to replace them. Gaslicht-Kultur is calling on this large and historically important collection of street lamps to be protected in law, and has won the support of many heritage bodies, including Europa Nostra. Despite public protests, an open-air concert and a 20,000-signature petition, the city’s Senate has refused to halt the dismantling of the gas lanterns, saying that ‘a representative selection of gas lanterns will be preserved’.

News of Fellows

Fellow Neil Cossons writes in his capacity as Pro-Provost and Chairman of the Council of London’s Royal College of Art to remind us that the exhibition ‘The Perfect Place to Grow: 175 years of the Royal College of Art’ is on at the RCA, Kensington Gore, London SW7 2EU, until 3 January 2013. The exhibition offers an insight into Britain’s only postgraduate college of art and design and the world’s oldest art and design school in continuous operation, revealing the politics and polemics behind the perennial question of how Britain should train artists and designers, and interrogating the purpose of publicly funded art schools.

The exhibits include a fascinating mix of historic and contemporary works of art and design by leading RCA alumni and staff, past and present, including Christopher Dresser, Gertrude Jekyll, Elizabeth Thompson (later Lady Butler), Kate Greenaway, Edwin Lutyens, Sylvia Pankhurst, Charles Sergeant Jagger, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, John Piper, Ruskin Spear, David Mellor, Bridget Riley, David Hockney, Zandra Rhodes, James Dyson, Tracy Emin (whose work, A Perfect Place to Grow, supplied the exhibition title), Ron Arad and Thomas Heatherwick, among many others. The exhibition is open daily, free of charge, from 10am to 5.30pm, and 8pm on Fridays (closed 24 and 25 December).

Our Fellow Susan Alcock, Director of the Joukowsky Institute for Archaeology and the Ancient World at Brown University in Rhode Island, gave the Second Raymond and Beverly Sackler Distinguished Lecture in Archaeology at Boston University on 8 November 2012. Her subject was ‘Bicentennial Petra: celebration and trepidation at a Wonder of the World’, and dealt not only with research at Jordan’s ‘Rose-red city half as old as Time’, but also with the threat to this increasingly popular tourist destination.

The Lectures are endowed by the Sackler Foundation in honour of our Fellow Norman Hammond, Professor Emeritus of Archaeology at Boston University, and were inaugurated last year by Professor Mary Miller, Dean of Yale (and Slade Professor-elect at Cambridge in 2015), who spoke about the famed Maya murals of Bonampak in Mexico. The intention is to alternate New and Old World topics, so the third Distinguished Lecture in 2013—14 will be on some aspect of the ancient Americas: the speaker has yet to be elected.

Fellow John Schofield has been awarded the London Archaeological Prize 2012 for his book London 1100—1600: the archaeology of a capital city, published by Equinox in 2011. His book, judged to be the best publication on London’s archaeology to be released during 2010 and 2011, was praised by the panel of judges as being a scholarly yet very readable synthesis of the archaeological discoveries relating to medieval London.

Because of the high quality of the field of ten nominations submitted (probably the strongest field in the history of the prize), a second award was made at the ceremony to Fellows Julian Hill and Peter Rowsome for Roman London and the Walbrook Stream Crossing, published as MOLA Monograph 37 in 2011, described by the judges as ‘an exceptionally informative narrative of the No 1 Poultry site in the City’.

The London Archaeological Prize is administered by London Archaeologist magazine and awarded every two years, so the next prize giving will take place in 2014 for the best publication of 2012/13.

Fellow Paul Stamper is very concerned about the future for photographs and slides in this era of digital photography, and of the potential for important records of past archaeological excavations to be discarded or (as Paul puts it) to ‘slide into oblivion’. He has therefore decided to embark on an archiving project, beginning with Wharram Percy, and is appealing for photographic material, especially in colour, that anyone might have who visited or worked on the first twenty years of the excavation, through the 1950s and 1960s. Paul has two aims: to digitise such images before they deteriorate, and to archive those images as part of the main excavation archive. With the owners’ permission, he would also like to create a ‘Wharram in Colour’ website, with pictures (and commentaries) arranged site by site, as a contribution to the historiography of Wharram, and more generally to the history of British archaeology.

‘So far’, says Paul, ‘half a dozen groups of photographs have been identified, typically of ten to twenty slides each. More slides, colour prints and black-and-white photographs would be welcomed — even single shots.’ Paul can be contacted by email at English Heritage or by telephone: 01832 280746.

Lives Remembered: Peggy Drower (Margaret Hackforth Jones), FSA (1911—2012)

Jan Picton has written the following appreciation of the life of our Fellow Peggy Drower (born 8 December 1911) who died peacefully (on 12 November 2012), a month away from her 101st birthday.

‘I doubt if there is anyone left who remembers her working at Amarna and Armant in the 1930s but there are many who were taught by her at UCL where she was the lecturer in Ancient Near Eastern History, and even more who know her from her biography of Flinders Petrie. With Hilda Petrie, Peggy can take credit for creating Petrie’s public persona. I asked her once if she would write her autobiography and she said that autobiographies should only be written by interesting people. She wasn’t often wrong, but she was in not considering her own life interesting.

‘The daughter of diplomat Sir Edwin Drower and his wife Ethel Stefana Drower, an anthropologist and specialist on the Mandaeans (and a witness to Woolley’s discovery of the Royal Tombs of Ur), Peggy was taught by Petrie and Margaret Murray and Stephen Glanville. She was awarded a First in Egyptology — one of the first Egyptology degrees awarded by UCL. She worked at Armant with Myers and Mond and Ali Suefi, and at Amarna with Pendlebury. Glanville recommended her for the post in the History Department at UCL, a post she held until the war. As an Arabic speaker she was sent out to work with Freya Stark in the Baghdad Ministry of Information. After the war she developed the Ancient History / Egyptology degree, which has produced generations of rounded scholars who see the history of their specialist discipline in the greater framework of the ancient world.

‘By the time she retired, she was Reader in Ancient History at UCL, Honorary Professor at the Institute of Archaeology, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (elected on 4 May 1975) and Vice-President of the Egypt Exploration Society. She contributed to many books, especially the Cambridge Ancient History series, and to documentary programmes on the ancient Middle East. She is, of course, the author of Flinders Petrie: a life in archaeology (London: Victor Gollancz, 1985); and Letters from the Desert: the correspondence of Flinders and Hilda Petrie (Oxford: Oxbow Books, 2004). Peggy was a lovely person who never lost her smile, a generous supporter of the Petrie Museum and of the Friends of the Petrie Museum and of her many, many students and colleagues.’


Fellow Sarah Staniforth asks whether by the smallest chance anyone who has tickets to see Alan Bennett’s play ‘People’ at the National Theatre, and who subsequently finds that they are unable to use them, to offer them to her. Sarah and her National Trust colleagues have been frustrated in their attempts to buy tickets for the play, which is now fully booked until the end of its run in March 2013. ‘We would very much like the opportunity to witness how we are being portrayed’, she says.

Sarah also writes to say that the National Trust has a new London office, having departed Queen Anne’s Gate for 20 Grosvenor Gardens, close to Victoria Station. The Grosvenor Gardens houses were built between 1865 and 1867. The architect was Thomas Cundy. Previous occupants include Viscount Castlerosse and Allen Bathurst, 6th Earl Bathurst (1832—92), the Conservative Member of Parliament for Cirencester until he succeeded to the earldom and entered the House of Lords. During the First World War the house was appropriated by the army and used as the Expeditionary Force canteen. Immediately after the war the building became the headquarters of the SE division of the Ministry of Pensions. It sounds very much the sort of house that Alan Bennett might like to feature in a future play, imagining all those ghosts and their conversations.

One final piece of news from the National Trust: sadly our Society did not succeed in being elected to the National Trust Council at the Trust’s recent AGM. There were thirty-four candidates for twenty-six vacancies. Of the twenty-six bodies recommended by the nominations committee, twenty-four were elected. The two recommended bodies not elected were the Joint Committee of the National Amenity Societies and the Statutory Advisory Councils, Northern Ireland. Instead, the National Farmers’ Union and the John Lewis Partnership secured places from the list of eight bodies that had not been recommended to members for election. In addition to our Society, Sustrans, the Linnean Society, the British Ecological Society, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Countryside Alliance failed to gain enough votes to be elected. However, the heritage sector is well represented by (among others) the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, the Garden History Society and the Council for British Archaeology.

Fellow Robin Milner-Gulland, author of The Russians: the people of Europe (1999, Wiley-Blackwell), says that ‘it is always a treat for a veteran Slavist like me to have Heinrich Harke’s “Letters from Russia”, and his lively report, describing the events of the rather surprisingly chosen Russian “Year of History”, is no exception (at least it shows a rather more “pluralist” side to modern Russia than some would credit). But when it comes to the background, I think he oversimplifies — the best part of 300 years have passed since the “Normanist” controversy erupted — to refer to modern historians in such terms is perhaps as quaint as it would be to categorize historians of seventeenth-century England as “Cavaliers” or “Roundheads”.

‘Such basic facts as exist regarding the Scandinavian contribution to Russian state formation are not seriously denied by anyone — even if historians (as historians do) lean interpretatively in one direction or another — and this has not just been the case since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. Archaeology has turned up many finds (Varangian trading-posts; hundreds of Slav written documents) since the eighteenth century, and — perhaps more interestingly for problems of statehood — modern philology now indicates that the word “Rus” (hence “Russia”) is cognate with “oar” and “row”; in other words, “Rus” is not an ethnic identity, but a description of what the Russians did: they were “oarsmen”, engaged in trading activity on a major scale. No doubt the first oarsmen were Scandinavians, but they were quickly joined by (and assimilated with) Slav, Finno-Ugrian and Baltic tribes. What constituted a “state” in those times has to have a more nuanced answer than the eighteenth century could provide!’

Apropos the conference report on Roman Ireland in the last issue of Salon, Fellow Alan Johnston asks if any Fellow can recall with whom it was that Christopher Hawkes had a £1m bet that a Roman site would (or would not?) ever be found in Ireland — apart from Lambay Island?

Reading Salon’s report on Richard Hingley’s new Hadrian’s Wall book reminded Fellow Andrew Oddy of a woodcut by Thomas Bewick (1753—1828), which reminds us that not everyone was a respecter of the Wall’s great antiquity, and that Bewick had an earthy sense of humour, and was not just the artist of sweet singing birds. In fact, according to our Fellow Jenny Uglow, Bewick’s biographer, ‘admirers arriving to pay homage were astonished to find everything about Bewick almost aggressively plain, blunt and ordinary except for his magic fingers.’

Short courses for historic environment professionals at Rewley House

The Oxford University Department of Continuing Studies has announced its 2013 programme of short courses aimed primarily at historic environment professionals, supported, and in many cases taught, by English Heritage staff. This is the latest in a series of professional training programmes that have been run successfully for many years, with the support of the Archaeology Training Forum (ATF), the Institute for Archaeologists (IfA), the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers (FAME) and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC).

The courses are designed to address recognised skill gaps within the historic environment sector, to provide expert training on the implementation of new developments in policy and approach, and to meet the sector’s Continuing Professional Development needs. Typical examples include ‘Archaeology, Planning and Development’, ‘Analysing and Recording Historic Buildings’, ‘Managing the Industrial Heritage’ and ‘Practical Applications of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in the Historic Environment’. There are also courses on managing community archaeology projects and giving evidence at public inquiries.

For full details of this year’s programme are on the OUDCS website.


26 November 2012: ‘Collecting the English Songscape: Cecil Sharp, folk music collector and photographer’, by our Fellow Yvette Staelens, 5.30pm, in the Lecture Theatre at The Wallace Collection, Manchester Square, London W1U 3BN. Lovers of English folk song and dance amongst the Fellowship should not miss this lecture in the seminars in the History of Collecting series that will take place a few hours hence — no need to book — just turn up.

From 28 January 2013, a new season of History of Collecting seminars begins, details of which are on the Wallace Collection website: launching the series on 28 January 2013 is Dorothy King on the no doubt ironically titled ‘Collecting the Parthenon’, while on 20 May 2013 our Fellow Paul Holden, of the National Trust, will be talking about Charles Robartes, the 2nd Earl of Radnor, and his collections at Lanhydrock.

28 November 2012: Personal Histories: Martin Carver, at 4.30pm in the Archaeology Division in the North Lecture Room, Downing Street, Cambridge. Tea will be served at 3.30pm. Come and hear Martin talk about his military career, Sutton Hoo and Antiquity, at the latest in Fellow Pamela Jane Smith’s series of seminars designed to record the personal histories of influential figures in archaeology and anthropology.

The film of an earlier seminar, addressed by Jane Goodall, with Robert Hinde, William McGrew and Richard Wrangham, speaking on the history of primatology at Cambridge in April 2011, is now online and the transcriptions can be downloaded from the Cambridge Archaeology Division’s website: Part 1 and Part 2.

A short film of our Fellow Charles Higham, speaking at the November 2011 seminar on ‘The Bone Room’s Past: revolution in palaeoeconomic studies’, with comments from a number of Fellows in the audience, can also be viewed online.

Lined up for future seminars in 2013 are Fellow Francis Pryor, remembering Flag Fen, Tony Robinson, remembering ‘Time Team’, and Lord Rees, remembering black holes — dates to be announced in due course.

13 December 2013: ‘Timbuktu under Threat’, the annual ICOMOS-UK Christmas Lecture, to be delivered by Kevin MacDonald, Professor of African Archaeology, University College London, 6.30pm, at The Gallery, 77 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ. The lecture will explore the background to the destruction of Malian heritage sites by rebel groups in Timbuktu, including saints’ tombs and mosques that recall the city’s golden age in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Professor MacDonald will look at the long history of Timbuktu and the River Niger Bend region, its involvement in the great Sahelian empires, and in the trans-Saharan gold trade, and Timbuktu’s role as a remarkable centre of learning, reflected in the significant archive of hundreds of thousands of scholarly manuscripts produced between the thirteenth and twentieth centuries.

The booking form can be downloaded from the ICOMOS-UK website; it is also possible to book online.

14, 21 and 28 January and 4 and 11 February 2013: ‘Painters and Players from Hogarth to Olivier’, on the relationship between British art and the theatre, by our Fellow Robin Simon, at the National Gallery at 6.30pm, being the biennial Paul Mellon Lecture series for 2013. The lecture series kicks off with the very topical subject of ‘Richard III on Stage, Screen and Canvas’, which will no doubt be very popular, so book now using the National Gallery website.

Spring 2013: Research seminars at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, to be given by distinguished historians of British art and architecture on Wednesday evenings from 5.30pm to 8pm (hour-long talks, followed by questions and drinks). In order to help with the planning for these events, it is essential that anyone intending to attend a research seminar should email the Centre’s Events Co-ordinator, Ella Fleming, at least two days in advance.

9 January 2013: Mark Hallett (The Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art), on ‘Point Counter Point: Sir Joshua Reynolds, female portraiture and the Great Room at Somerset House’
23 January 2013: Christine Stevenson (Courtauld Institute of Art), on ‘Architectural Husbandry: “rough materialls” and tough clients in eighteenth-century Britain’
6 February 2013: Caroline Arscott (Courtauld Institute of Art), on ‘Colour as Lure and as Provocation: William Morris’s tapestry, “The Woodpecker”’
20 February 2013: Michael Hatt (University of Warwick), on ‘Edward Carpenter and the Domestic Interior’
6 March 2013: Fellow Paul Binski (University of Cambridge), on ‘The Heroic Age of Gothic and the Metaphors of Modernism’

Books by Fellows: Britain Begins

Britain Begins (ISBN 9780199609338; Oxford University Press), by our Fellow Barry Cunliffe, is an eminently readable book that covers the archaeology of the British Isles from the Mesolithic to the eve of the Norman Conquest, packing a huge amount of recent research into a compelling and convincing narrative. By addressing such a long period of time, Barry is able to ignore our conventional period divisions, and although he uses familiar terms — Mesolithic, Neolithic, Copper, Bronze and Iron Ages, etc — he shows that there are important underlying themes in human history that are common to all periods and that there are no sharp boundaries between one age and the next, just the slow emergence to prominence of various trends that dominate for a while and then decline as others come to the fore.

‘A Dance to the Music of Time’ is the phrase that Barry’s book calls to mind (the name of the painting by Nicolas Poussin that Anthony Powell took as the overall title for his Proustian novel cycle), as he shows, for example, that the end of what Barry rightly calls ‘the Roman episode’ around the turn of the fourth and fifth centuries AD did not at all mark the beginning of something new in British history, but rather the continuation of social and political processes that were under way long before Caesar visited these shores. In fact, Barry’s chapter on the so-called Dark Ages (AD 350—650) is worth the £30 price of the book alone, for its masterful summing up of all we know from recent research (though Barry does occasionally lapse into old-style language: he is normally good at avoiding partisanship, and in general you are not allowed to feel that the Romans have a monopoly on civilisation, but he occasionally adopts a Roman perspective in characterising the people from without the Empire as ‘predators’ (page 403) or of talking about the ‘decay of what had once been Britannia’ (page 413)). But such value judgements can also be highly entertaining: some of those who attended the Society’s Glastonbury seminar last week will no doubt agree wholeheartedly with Barry’s quoting our late Fellow Noel Myres on the subject of King Arthur: ‘no figure on the borderline of history and mythology has wasted more of the historian’s time’, Myres opined in The English Settlements.

Barry calls himself a myth maker in his Preface, someone who makes stories of the past from today’s perspective, and he says that the amount of new data pouring in from archaeological research, especially from the bio-chemistry of human remains, means that the story will have changed next year. In truth this is too modest: Barry’s account of the last 12,000 years of Britain’s history is rooted in common sense and stable human values and he synthesises a good 150 years’ worth of antiquarian and archaeological endeavour: it is likely that new findings will reinforce the themes of this book rather than knock them into the realm of the fabulous and the erroneous.

Books by Fellows: Pathfinders to the Past

Another 150-year retrospective comes in the form of a volume of essays entitled Pathfinders to the Past (ISBN 9781846823459; Four Courts Press), published to commemorate the 150th anniversary of our sister body, the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, with contributions from a number of distinguished Irish scholars who are also Fellows of our Society, including Elizabeth Shee Twohig, ideen Ireland and the late Ann Hamlin.

The volume consists of fourteen studies of the careers of individual antiquaries who have had a significant impact on our understanding of Irish history and antiquities and whose work continues to resonate, or whose archives continue to be studied. One that we share in common is Augustus Henry Lane Fox Pitt Rivers (1827—1900), who spent only four years in Ireland (1862—6) on military service, but who nevertheless made his mark. Based in Cork, Pitt Rivers was warmly welcomed by local antiquaries, including Robert Day, who wrote that ‘it is not often we find Englishmen valuing Irish Productions’. Pitt Rivers was as fascinated by ancient Irish bronze work and the ‘vexed question’ of how ‘Celtic aborigines’ gained their knowledge of bronze. He visited a huge number of sites, seeking out especially cuttings through monuments that had been exposed by railway and road construction. He excavated a ringfort at Roovesmoore, and shipped three ogham stones off to the British Museum that he had found reused as capstones for the fort’s souterrain.

Summing up the impact of his Irish sojourn, Elizabeth Shee Twohig says that the fieldwork that he undertook in Cork gave him new directions to follow at a crucial point both in his own development as an archaeologist and the development of the discipline, and it perhaps consolidated his decision to retire on half pay and devote himself full time to research.

While he was living in Cork, Pitt Rivers joined the Cuvierian Society, the subject of Aideen Ireland’s contribution to the volume; her paper reconstructs the collection of objects that the society exhibited as a major component of the 1852 Cork National Exhibition, the first large public exhibition to be mounted in the world inspired by the success of London’s Great Exhibition of the previous year, and one that did a huge amount to kindle interest in Irish antiquities and to foster a network of scholars and collectors with Cork as its focus.

A theme running through many of the book’s essays is the question of what it means to be an antiquary, a question that was also addressed by our own Society’s tercentenary essay volume, Visions of Antiquity. Charles Doherty, President of the RSAI, defines it thus: ‘the ancient passion for attention to detail, for intense study of a particular object or theme, and for the pursuit of the obscure [all of which] can throw light on even the most remote aspects of the past’.

Books by Fellows: The Pinecone

Proof of the rewards that can come from ‘intense study of a particular object or theme’ comes in the form of a book from our Fellow Jenny Uglow that is riding high in the best-seller list at the moment and that has received nothing but positive reviews: The Pinecone (ISBN 9780571269501; Faber and Faber) tells the story of Sarah Losh (1785—1853), whose rebuilding of St Mary’s Church, Wreay, in Cumbria, would never get approval from any Diocesan Advisory Committee today (and she hoodwinked the Dean of Carlisle at the time by submitting a plan to ‘re-edify’ the church, a nicely chosen euphemism that disguised her real intention to raze it to the ground and start again) but that has resulted in a masterpiece that any modern DAC would be immensely proud to have in their diocese.

Known until now only to those very few church-crawlers who have explored the beautiful and varied countryside north of the Lake District and south of Carlisle, St Mary’s, Wreay, is now firmly on the map and will no doubt be inundated by visitors enthralled by Jenny Uglow’s account of its charms: ‘It looks’, she writes, ‘like a small Romanesque chapel from northern Italy … the closer you get the odder it seems. The gargoyles are turtles and dragons. Instead of saints and prophets, the window embrasures are carved with ammonites and coral, poppies and wheat, caterpillar and butterfly. Inside the light is filtered through strange stained glass, bright leaves on black backgrounds, kaleidoscopic mosaics, alabaster cutouts of fossils. The pulpit is a hollow tree trunk made from black oak, dug from the bog. An eagle and stork of ferocious energy hold up the lectern and reading desk and on the altar table, instead of a cross, are two candlesticks in the shape of the lotus, immortal flower of the East.’

Sarah Losh not only conceived, planned and paid for the church (as a memorial to her sister Katherine), she managed its construction, employing local masons, and carved those two lotus candlesticks herself, as well as the stone water lilies of the font. She also created an entire landscape around the church, of cottages, well, school, schoolmaster’s house, family grave enclosure, village cross, mausoleum, sheep fold, walled cemetery and mortuary chapel, sexton’s cottage and earthwork mounds and ramps. Telling the story of this extraordinary creation demands gifts of creativity equal to those of Sarah Losh herself, and all the reviewers agree that Jenny Uglow rises brilliantly to the challenge. The result is a book (says Miranda Seymour in the Sunday Times) that is ‘evocative … impeccable in the choice of a vivid anecdote and a memorable image … a quiet masterpiece: a book to savour and treasure’.

Books by Fellows: The Medieval Peasant House in Midland England

Salon’s editor has yet to see this book by our Fellows Nat Alcock and Daniel Miles, but is reporting on it now because the publishers of The Medieval Peasant House in Midland England (ISBN 9781842175064; Oxbow) are offering the book at a special pre-publication price of £34 (regular price £45) for orders placed before the end of January 2013 (publication is imminent and pre-ordered copies will be sent out in the week beginning 3 December 2012, so you can ask for it as a Christmas present!).

The book, says Nat, ‘provides an in-depth study of the many medieval peasant houses still standing in Midland villages, which are principally cruck-built. The combination of tree-ring and radiocarbon dating, detailed architectural study and documentary research illuminates both their nature, their status and their historical context, and the results are brought together to provide a new and detailed view of the medieval peasant house. The book also examines how the social organisation of these houses developed in the period before we have extensive documentary evidence for the use of space within them. An accompanying CD contains almost 150 reports on individual houses.’

Books by Fellows: The Society of Antiquaries and the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce

Fellow David Allan gave a paper to our Society in 2011 giving an account of the shared memberships of the Society of Antiquaries and the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (today’s RSA) during the eighteenth century. David has continued and extended his research in this field and his work has now been published as Occasional Paper 23 by the William Shipley Group for RSA History. Order forms are available from the Group’s Honorary Secretary, Susan Bennett.

David traces the history of the two societies during the 250 years since the RSA’s foundation in 1754, drawing on such diverse sources as the correspondence of Henry Baker (1698—1774), naturalist and son-in-law of Daniel Defoe, the minute books of both societies and the career of Henry Benjamin Wheatley (1838—1917), the ‘Pepysian’ Editor of the Society of Arts Journal, Council Member of the Antiquaries and friend of William Morris (and a pioneer of indexing). The book includes a map showing the location of the premises used by the Societies for meetings, lists of members common to both societies, portraits of prominent early members and facsimiles of documents that provide valuable adjuncts to the main narrative. Our Fellow and Honorary Secretary, Brian Ayers, FSA, FRSA, provides the Foreword.

Books by Fellows: Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum: Medieval Catalogue Part 4

Edited by our Fellow Peter Saunders, the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum: Medieval Catalogue Part 4 (ISBN 9780947535261; Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum) has just been published (though it has yet to appear on the museum’s website or in online book catalogues), completing this major series of four volumes covering the museum’s entire collection of medieval objects, a publishing achievement that is perhaps unique for a UK museum. In his introduction, Peter Saunders recalls that the series began in the 1970s, modelled on the pioneering London Museum Medieval Catalogue of 1940. The justification for a Salisbury catalogue, if one is needed, is that the medieval collection, ranging from objects dredged from the city’s rivers and drainage canals in the 1850s through to finds from more recent excavations at Clarendon Palace, Old Sarum, Gomeldon and Salisbury itself, has resulted in a museum collection of national importance.

Part 4 deals with 1,400 objects, more than half of which are illustrated, with descriptions and analysis by leading specialists, most of them familiar names from the Fellowship, covering alabasters, architectural and sculptural stonework, church bells and cast copper alloy vessels, leather shoes, window glass and objects of copper alloy, iron, wood and porphyry. In addition there are addenda and corrigenda to the first three volumes, covering everything from arms and armour to seals and textiles.

Books by Fellows: Thirst: Water and Power in the Ancient World

On top of his day jobs as Pro-Vice-Chancellor (International and External Engagement) and Professor of Early Prehistory at the University of Reading, Fellow Steven Mithen has found time to write a book on a vast and highly topical subject. Thirst: water and power in the ancient world (ISBN 9780297864790; Orion Books) examines the role that water management has played in the rise and fall of ancient civilisations. The book argues that water has been a neglected topic in accounting for the rise of early agricultural and urban societies; scores of examples from all over the world are given to exemplify the ingenious ways in which water has been collected across vast catchment systems, purified and delivering to where it is needed — including ancient Roman systems that still supply water to Rome, Athens, Lisbon and quite a number of other places around the Mediterranean.

The book ends by asking how our current world is going to cope with the water shortage that some climate change scenarios suggest could occur. Civilisations have been brought down in the past by the failure of essential water supplies: are we too heading for disaster and extinction in a world of rapidly growing populations and the likelihood that freshwater shortages will affect 75 per cent of the global population by 2050?


Institute of Historical Research / Victoria County History: Editor and Training Co-ordinator; closing date 17 December 2012; secondments will be considered
Fixed term for 2 years at £31,383 to £38,073 per annum, incl LW

The VCH is looking for a proactive and enthusiastic individual to assist in maintaining the standards of excellence for which the VCH is renowned by editing VCH content and by guiding and training VCH contributors in research and writing. The ideal candidate will have a strong interest in the Victory County History, plus research and writing skills to a high level of scholarship and strong experience in academic research, editing and publication. In addition a good knowledge of British history is required, with a particular focus on the medieval period.

For further information and to apply, please visit the University of London website.

University of Glasgow, College of Arts, School of Culture and Creative Arts: Lecturer in Art Law and Business; ref: 002981; closing date: 4 January 2013
Salary: Grade 7 £31,948—£35,938; Grade 8 £39,257—£45,486 per annum

To undertake research of world-quality in Art Law, Art Business or Art Markets and lead the University’s teaching in this area. The post will be part of a new development in Art, Law and Business within the School of Culture and Creative Arts, in collaboration with Christie’s Education in London and with colleagues in the Schools of Law and Business. The post holder will work with the MSc Programme Director in Art, Law and Business at Christie’s Education to deliver teaching in Art Business, Law or Art Markets. For further details see the Glasgow University website.