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).

Kelmscott Manor Property Manager vacancy, £25,000—£30,000 per annum

This issue of Salon is being published a few days earlier than planned (and is shorter as a consequence) in order to highlight the vacancy for a Temporary Property Manager at Kelmscott Manor, for which applications have to be received by 5pm on Monday 21 January 2013. Full details of the vacancy are given on the Society’s website, from which the application pack can be downloaded. Completed application forms may be sent to the Society by email and are the only means of application that will be considered.

New Year Honours 2013

There was one error and one omission from the list of Fellows who featured in the 2013 New Year Honours List in the last issue of Salon. Timothy James Sainsbury, OBE, was incorrectly described as a Fellow; our Fellow is The Rt Hon Sir Timothy Alan Davan Sainsbury. And the omission was our Fellow Gwen (Gwenyth Anne) Yarker, who receives the British Empire Medal (BEM) for her services as Honorary Curator and former Trustee at the Dorset County Museum. An interview with Gwen on the important work undertaken by museum volunteers (Dorset County Museum has no less than 180) can be read on the Culture Professionals Network page of the Guardian.

Forthcoming meetings

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

31 January 2013: ‘Pushing boundaries: Ireland’s relationship with Rome’, by Jacqueline Cahill Wilson
Marking the completion of the first phase of research in the Discovery Programme’s ‘Late Iron Age and “Roman” Ireland’ (LIARI) project, this paper will discuss the exciting new insights that have been gained into settlement, society and ritual practices in Ireland in the first five centuries AD, including key finds and sites where Roman material has been uncovered. The results suggest a high level of engagement between some communities in Ireland and the Roman Empire ― especially with Roman Britain ― from the Claudian invasion right through to late antiquity.

7 February 2013: ‘Must Farm: Bronze Age boats and metalwork’, by David Gibson
The Cambridge Archaeological Unit excavations at Must Farm, near Whittlesey and Peterborough, have revealed an astonishing series of submerged prehistoric landscapes, showing how humans have used this area of rivers and floodplains from the Holocene era (10,000 BC) to the present day. Much attention has been paid to the discovery of six Bronze Age log boats, spanning the period from the middle of the second millennium BC to the early first, but these represent only a fraction of the riches of the site. This paper will put the log boats in context, showing how the 150-metre stretch of prehistoric river bank and channel in which they were found has also yielded dwellings and hearths, watering holes and animal footprints, burnt mounds, fence lines, cremations and barrows, fish weirs and eel traps, woven wool and bark-fibre garments, wicker baskets, a wooden bowl containing the remains of nettle stew and swords and spears of bronze with intact wooden handles and scabbards.

14 February 2013: ‘The Country House Library’, by Mark Purcell, FSA
Mark Purcell is the National Trust’s Libraries Curator, responsible for more than 150 historic libraries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland (around 230,000 books in 400,000 volumes). This paper will look at the histories of some of the more important collections, which are generally preserved in the places where they were originally assembled and read. Many are country house libraries, some collected by wealthy bibliophiles, others containing more practical everyday books, including rare provincial printing. Other collections reflect the interests of middle-class readers, while some were assembled by literary figures, such as Kipling and Shaw. Together these libraries provide an unparalleled resource for the study of the history of private book ownership in Britain and Ireland.

The images hidden beneath Tudor portraits

A new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, curated by our Fellow Tarnya Cooper, reveals the extent to which panel paintings were recycled in the Tudor period, and asks questions about the rise of secular portraiture at the expense of religious narratives in post-Reformation England. One of the works on display is a portrait of Thomas Sackville, 1st Earl of Dorset (1601), by an unknown artist. Reflectography and x-radiography reveals that the portrait was painted over an earlier work, depicting the Flagellation of Christ.

The images were found by experts who were scientifically analysing the portraits in a bid to increase understanding of the working practices of Tudor artists. A portrait of Sir Francis Walsingham was found to have been painted on top of a Virgin and Child. Tree-ring analysis suggests that both panels were painted with their original subjects in the 1570s and 1580s.

Tarnya Cooper, Chief Curator at the National Portrait Gallery, said the discoveries showed the extent to which panel paintings were recycled; the people in the portraits were unlikely to have known that the panels were second hand, and ‘in the case of Sir Francis Walsingham, the Protestant spymaster with the Roman Catholic image of the Virgin and Child beneath, you do wonder if the artist might be enjoying a private joke at the expense of the sitter’.

Hidden: Unseen Paintings Beneath Tudor Portraits is on at the National Portrait Gallery until 2 June 2013.

Celebrating 150 years of the London Underground

Twenty-first-century Tube passengers were treated to the unusual sight and sound of a steam train on the underground on 13 January 2013, when a set of restored Metropolitan Railway coaches, on loan from the Bluebell Railway, in Sussex, was pulled by Metropolitan Railway Jubilee carriage No. 353, built in 1892, from Olympia to Farringdon. The event marked the 150th anniversary of the opening (on 10 January 1863) of what the media calls ‘the world’s first underground railway’, but which more cautious railway scholars prefer to describe as ‘the world’s first urban rapid transport system to run partly in subterranean sections’. The steam trip is to be repeated on 20 January 2013, and the same rolling stock will be used throughout the summer to take passengers on journeys along the line made famous by John Betjeman’s 1973 BBC documentary, ‘Metroland’, from Baker Street to Amersham.

Left: This lithograph of Baker Street Station dates from 1863, the year in which the Metropolitan Railway opened, linking the mainline stations at Paddington, Euston and King’s Cross with Farringdon, on the edge of the City. It is one of a series of illustrations from the London Transport Museum’s collection that can be seen on the Guardian and that feature in the book Underground: how the Tube shaped London, by David Bownes, Oliver Green and our Fellow Sam Mullins.

For our Fellow Sam Mullins, Director of the London Transport Museum, 2013 marks the culmination of years of planning for a series of events that includes a major conference this weekend hosted by the Centre for Metropolitan Studies, at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London, taking the construction and opening of the Metropolitan Railway as a departure point for an exploration of the histories, geographies, cultures, politics and social characteristics of the London Underground. Writing in the IHR’s Newsletter, Sam says that ‘London and its transport system are synonymous ― the Underground roundel, the Tube map or a directional sign in blue Johnstone typeface tell you instantly that you are in London. It is impossible to imagine the city today without its Underground’. This theme is developed in a new history of the Tube, Underground: how the Tube shaped London (ISBN 9781846144622), by David Bownes, Oliver Green and Sam Mullins.

More than just a means of moving people around London, the Tube is ‘a work of art’, to echo the words of Frank Pick, who, as Chief Executive of the London Passenger Transport Board from its creation in 1933 until 1940, steered the development of the London Underground’s corporate identity by commissioning eye-catching commercial art, graphic design and modern architecture. Some of the best work of the Frank Pick era will be on display in a special exhibition, Poster Art 150 — London Underground’s Greatest Designs, which is on at the London Transport Museum from 15 February to 1 October 2013. Details of the exhibition and the associated programme of lectures and events can be found on the museum’s website.

Fellows in the media

For our Fellow Sandy Nairn, Director of the National Portrait Gallery, the Tube system should bear even more of the strain of getting people from A to B in the capital. Sandy was one of the prominent Londoners interviewed by the Evening Standard newspaper recently on what they would do to improve the city. His forthright answer was: ‘remove traffic from central London’. The congestion-charging regime has helped to reduce the traffic problem, but it hasn’t made enough of a difference, he told the newspaper, adding that ‘when I look out of my window, it is still a great traffic jam of lorries and private cars’. He also wants London to be made greener (presumably by planting more street trees) but it isn’t clear how that desire is compatible with his third wish, ‘to find a way of stopping the rain’.

Also in the Evening Standard, our Fellow Mary Beard, ‘Cambridge classics professor and Londoner’s Diary pinup’, is described as ‘having got the bit between her teeth since receiving an OBE in the New Year honours’. She has taken to Twitter to correct presenter Melvyn Bragg over his inaccurate account of life in ancient Greece in his Radio 4 ‘In Our Time’ series: ‘Melvyn Bragg saying everyone in ancient Greece turned up at the plays. Err — everyone except women and slaves, that is’.

And in the Independent, columnist and novelist Howard Jacobson took Fellow Aubrey Burl to task over his recent book, Shakespeare’s Mistress: the mystery of the Dark Lady revealed (ISBN 9781445602172; Amberley Publishing), for being so literal minded as to believe that poetry depicts real-life people and events. ‘Of the misconceptions that continue to bedevil literature’, Jacobson writes, ‘this is among the most obdurate: that it is a record, straightforward or otherwise, of something that actually happened.’

That may be the case, but there is also a huge market for books that purport to crack open a mystery (even when, as in the case of Aubrey Burl’s book, this turns out not be a mystery at all: his Dark Lady, Aline Florio, has long been regarded as the woman most likely to have been the object of Shakespeare’s sonnets 127 to 154, if there ever was such a woman).

The Westminster Treasure: History in Silver 1713—2013

Also coming soon is an exhibition commemorating 300 years of the idiosyncratically named Past Overseers Society of Westminster. Fellow Philippa Glanville, who warmly commends the exhibition, says that the Past Overseers Society of St Margaret and St John the Evangelist, Westminster (to give it its full name), is ‘a part of Westminster’s as yet untold history’. The Society traces its origins to the overseers of the poor appointed in each ecclesiastical parish from 1601 to 1834 to administer the poor rate. What distinguishes the Westminster Overseers is their tradition of commissioning a commemorative tobacco box in silver to mark historic events in the life of the nation, such as the first sounding of Big Ben, or, in 2012, the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics.

The result is an unusual collection of skilfully crafted silver boxes decorated with reliefs or inscribed with etchings of historical events, royal engagements and portraits, along with descriptive texts, that are intriguing, informative and occasionally more than a little scurrilous. The free exhibition opens in the Porphyry Court at the Wallace Collection on 7 February 2013 and continues until 28 April 2013.

Lives Remembered: (Ian) Jonathan Scott CBE FSA

Our Fellow Jonathan Scott died unexpectedly but peacefully on 28 December 2012, at the age of seventy-two. He was, says Fellow Philippa Glanville, ‘an excellent Deputy Chairman of the Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Chairman of the Reviewing Committee for the Export of Works of Art, Chairman, of the Acceptance in Lieu Panel and a trustee of the Imperial War Museum. He was an habitué of our Society’s Library, the author of Salvator Rosa: his life and times (Yale 1995) and The Pleasures of Antiquity: British collectors of Greece and Rome (Yale 2003), as well as shepherd to a flock of sheep at his hilly Gloucestershire home (lambing was always an annual demand!).’

Another of Jonathan’s interests was encouraging schools and other organisations with historic buildings to follow the Stowe model and put them in charitable trusts so that money could be raised for their maintenance. He and his wife, Annabella, were instrumental in setting up the trust at Westonbirt School, for example, near the Scotts’ Lasborough Manor home.

Lives Remembered: Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue

Left: Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue. Photo: Lucy Dickens, National Portrait Gallery London

The last issue of Salon reported briefly on the death of our Fellow Sir Geoffrey de Bellaigue on 4 January 2013 at the age of eighty-one. The following obituary has since appeared in the Daily Telegraph.

‘Geoffrey de Bellaigue was born on 12 March 1931, the younger of twin sons of a French aristocrat, Vicomte Pierre de Bellaigue, an anglophile mining engineer, and his wife Marie-Antoinette Willemin. In May 1940 Mme de Bellaigue was on holiday with her sons in Belgium when she had to flee the German invasion; she and the two boys were among the last wartime emigrants to leave Calais.

‘After some unhappy months teaching in Wales, Marie-Antoinette de Bellaigue was employed by the 2nd Lord Hardinge of Penshurst, King George VI’s private secretary, to teach his daughters French. Thus she came to be recommended to Buckingham Palace, in 1941, to teach French and French Literature to the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret. “In our general conversations,” she later recalled, “I endeavoured to give the Princesses an awareness of other countries, their way of thought and their customs — sometimes a source of amusement. Queen Elizabeth II has always had from the beginning a positive good judgement. She was her simple self, très naturelle. And there was always a strong sense of duty mixed with joie de vivre in the pattern of her character.”

‘Under Mme de Bellaigue’s tutelage, both Princesses became competent French speakers. Mme de Bellaigue continued to tutor the Princesses until 1948, and remained on close terms with them for the rest of her life. Both she and her husband, who fought for the Free French during the war, became British subjects before the marriage ended in divorce. The young Geoffrey thus had an association with the royal family from childhood. He was educated at Wellington, Trinity College, Cambridge, and at the École du Louvre in Paris, where he attended the lectures of Pierre Verlet, an authority on French furniture and the decorative arts. After National Service with the Grenadier Guards, de Bellaigue did a stint with J Henry Schroeder & Co, but more to his liking was working from 1960 to 1963 for the National Trust at Waddesdon Manor, Ferdinand de Rothschild’s “French chateau” in Buckinghamshire. He then transferred to the Royal Household, serving as Deputy Surveyor of the Queen’s Works of Art from 1963 until 1972, when he succeeded Francis Watson as Surveyor. The Surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art has particular responsibility for the care of sculpture, metalwork, porcelain, furniture and so on in the Royal Collection (the paintings are in the care of the Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures). In 1988 he became the second Director of the Royal Collection, responsible for its overall care, taking over from Sir Oliver Millar.

‘His many specialist interests included French eighteenth-century marquetry, the Anglo-French trade in luxury goods at the time of the French Revolution and the furnishing of the royal palaces. He contributed many articles to art historical journals and wrote exhibition catalogues, particularly for the regular exhibitions at the Queen’s Gallery; especially notable was his catalogue for the magnificent Carlton House exhibition of 1991, which displayed George IV’s collection of furniture, pictures and other artefacts.

‘After working at Waddesdon, de Bellaigue produced a book on the furniture, clocks and gilt bronzes in the James A Rothschild Collection held at the house and (with Svend Eriksen) a guide to Waddesdon. He was (with John Harris and Oliver Millar) joint author of the then definitive book on Buckingham Palace (1986). His most important publications, however, concerned the Queen’s collection of Sèvres porcelain. De Bellaigue had become interested in Sèvres when working at Waddesdon and carried out extensive research in Paris. He produced the catalogue for the 1979 exhibition of the Queen’s porcelain at The Queen’s Gallery, devoting the whole of the first volume of the catalogue raisonné to the celebrated service made for Louis XVI of France. Thirty years after the 1979 exhibition, de Bellaigue realised his ambition of publishing his three-volume catalogue as a set, French Porcelain in the Collection of Her Majesty The Queen. In this he extended the scope beyond Sèvres to the other French factories, but included only those pieces manufactured before 1830, the date of the death of George IV, the greatest of the royal collectors, to whom de Bellaigue paid ample tribute.

‘Diligent scholarship and patience were de Bellaigue’s watchwords. A gentle, shy and self-effacing man, he was appointed Surveyor Emeritus of The Queen’s Works of Art on retirement in 1996, served on the executive committee of the National Arts Collection Fund from 1977 to 2005 and was a Trustee of the Wallace Collection from 1998 to 2006. He was appointed LVO in 1968 and GCVO in 1996. The French government appointed him Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in 1987 and Officier de la Légion d’honneur in 1999.’


Vincent Megaw writes to say that Peter Hiscock, described in the last issue of Salon as Professor of Archaeology at the Australian National University in Canberra, is about to become Foundation Professor of Australian Archaeology at the University of Sydney.

How a simple syntactical error can transform the meaning of a piece of text. Salon said ‘An important Viking Age hoard … was recovered by archaeologists from Yorkshire Museums.’ Fellow John Blair comments: ‘I had no idea that Yorkshire Museums were in such a bad state’.

Fellow Alison McHardy writes to say that the men who were imprisoned recently for numerous thefts of metal from churches in the East Midlands struck the village of Norwell, in north Nottinghamshire, last year, but one of the thieves has appealed against his sentence, so the stolen lead, marked with Smart Water, cannot yet be returned to church ownership. Alison adds that Norwell is home to our Fellow Professor Michael (‘Brittany’) Jones who sits on the PCC, and whose wife, Elizabeth, is the churchwarden. Under Michael’s leadership, the Norwell Parish Heritage Group has published a series of booklets which are models of their kind for scholarship and attractive presentation: Norwell Buildings, Norwell Trades, Norwell Mills, Norwell Schools, Norwell Farms, and now Willoughby by Norwell Deserted Village. For more information and orders, see the Norwell Online website.

Fellow Lorna Watts writes to say that, in addition to the archaeological network based around Professor Luis Pericot in Barcelona (the subject of Fellow Margarita Díaz-Andreu’s book on Archaeological Encounters: building networks of Spanish and British archaeologists in the twentieth century), there was another fruitful Anglo-Hispanic partnership: that of our late Fellow Philip Rahtz and Professor Antonino Gonzalez of the University of Murcia. ‘We dug at Fortuna, in Murcia province, after Philip’s retirement, exposing a group of archaeologists from Murcia to Rahtz’s excavation and post-excavation techniques and methodology. This work included the Cueva Negra, a cave c 1km away from settlement, with prehistoric and later evidence, including what was then (? and still) described as the earliest known written evidence of Virgil’s Aeneid, in the form of painted inscriptions on the walls of the cave. Philip was presented with a Spanish festschrift (El Balneario Romano y La Cueva Negra de Fortuna (Murcia): Homenaje al Prof Philip Rahtz, Antiguedad y Cristianismo Monografias Historicas Sobre La Antiguedad Tardia XIII, 1996) containing reports on Roman and Arab Fortuna, as well as an article by Philip on ‘The post-Roman west of Britain’ and by me on ‘The contribution of Philip Rahtz to the study of late antiquity’ (both in Spanish).’

News of Fellows

Congratulations to our Fellow The Reverend Canon Jeremy Haselock who has just been appointed Chaplain to Her Majesty The Queen (both are pictured to the left). Jeremy is Vice Dean and Precentor of Norwich Cathedral, Chairman of the Diocesan Liturgical Committee, a member of the General Synod of the Church of England, and of the Cathedrals Fabric Commission for England. He is a graduate of York University, where he taught medieval iconography and liturgy as well as History of Art from 1974 to 1978, participating regularly in the annual Medieval Congresses at the University of Western Michigan at Kalamazoo. He specialises in liturgy, iconography, stained glass and architecture. He has oversight of the liturgy and music in Norwich Cathedral, supervises liturgical renewal in the Norwich diocese and runs liturgical formation courses for both clergy and laity. At Norwich he has been deeply involved in the £14 million campaign to build a Refectory and a Hostry on the sites of the former monastic buildings: the award-winning Refectory (Hopkins Partnership architects) opened in April 2004, while the Hostry was opened by HM The Queen and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh in 2010.

Congratulations too to the many Fellows who are and have been involved with the Pevsner Architectural Guides, published by Yale University Press: at the annual History Today awards ceremony, held at the Royal Society in London on 7 January 2013, the guides were awarded The Longman — History Today Trustees’ Award, given each year to a person or organisation that has done most to promote history over the last year or years.

Fellow Aidan Dodson says that he is looking forward to spending February to May in the sun, having been appointed Simpson Visiting Professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo for the Spring 2013 semester.

Fellow Iain Gordon Brown has been appointed one of the first half-dozen Honorary Fellows of the National Library of Scotland; and he has been elected Curator of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Scotland’s national academy, ‘an office which gives me oversight of the Society’s collections of all kinds, furnishings, library, archives (including the world-famous and enormously important David Hume papers), and also of its publications’, writes Iain, who goes on to say that: ‘as the Society’s archives and the Hume manuscripts are on long-term deposit in the National Library of Scotland, and as I was closely connected with those great collections when I was on the staff of the National Library until 2011, these appointments have an interesting interrelationship, one with the other. I look forward to promoting the connections between NLS and RSE over the next few years, and between the two institutions and the wider scholarly community both within Scotland and ‘furth of the realm’.

Fellow John Titford recently received a phone call from an American friend ‘who told me that he had succeeded in getting me made an Honorary Kentucky Colonel. I asked whether that put me in good company. My friend assured me that it did, and that present and former colonels include Winston Churchill, Elvis Presley, George Clooney and Johnny Depp —not to mention Colonel Sanders of KFC fame. My commission instructs me to “defend Kentucky against all comers”. Joy of joys, I’m told that I also get first choice of tickets for the Kentucky Derby. I had to get a map out to survey my territory — Frankfort, Lexington, Bowling Green …’.

The picture to the left shows a sign that the Chedworth Roman Villa team presented to our Fellow Peter Salway recently after the new purpose-built education centre at the villa was named the Salway Learning Room in his honour. Peter says ‘it really is a full-size metal casting, not a cardboard mock-up … I was flattered, but not sure whether this made me a national treasure or a decayed property in need of restoration’.

Fellow Martin Henig is very proud at having been elected President of the Friends of Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester, because this not only continues a family link with Leicester (his uncle, Alderman Sir Mark Henig, was Lord Mayor of Leicester in 1967, the year after the museum opened, and was a staunch supporter) but because family visits to excavations in Leicester were enormously influential (as were visits to Verulamium) on Martin’s lifelong fascination with Roman archaeology. Jewry Wall Museum was profiled in the December 2012 issue of the Museums Journal, where the Friends of Jewry Wall Museum, an organisation established in 2004 to fight a proposal to close the museum, is described as ‘one of our greatest assets’ by Senior Curator Laura Hadland. The Friends received the East Midlands Marsh Trust Award for Volunteers in Museum Learning in 2012 for the work they do leading guided tours and putting on events such as Roman cookery demonstrations. The Friends also played a major role in raising the funds for the museum’s most recent acquisition, the Kilby Hoard of 7,000 third-century Roman coins.

Books by Fellows: Time’s Anvil

Time’s Anvil: England, archaeology and the imagination (ISBN 9780297867838; Weidenfeld and Nicolson), by our Fellow Richard Morris, is a very difficult book to classify but a very enjoyable one to read. The unclassifiability is entirely appropriate given that one of Richard’s main arguments is that we should stop dividing time into artificial fragments based on periods, themes, geographical regions, or types of material (stone, bronze and iron) and look at the essential continuity of the very longue durée. Many of the defining characteristics that we ascribe to a period of years prove not to be exclusive at all, but just happen to be more prominent in the cultural mix at that particular time. A musical analogy springs to mind (appropriately, given that, amongst his many accomplishments, Richard is a talented musician and composer): not just the way that key statements or themes become more or less prominent in the instrumental colour as a symphony or a concerto unfolds, but also the way that themes recur throughout the work of a composer such as Bruckner or Mahler, so that each separate symphony also has something of all the others and we learn more about the parts by studying the whole.

The Bruckner/Mahler analogy is also apt for the way that Richard weaves biographical material into his narrative, telling us, for example, about his boyhood as the son of the vicar of the Longbridge car-making suburb of Birmingham, before launching into an essay on the value of archaeology for forcing us to look at the evidence, and not simply to accept the simple narratives acquired from reading 1950s encyclopaedias or Ladybird books. Each chapter deals with one or more of the big themes in the study of the past where we have been given explanations that have subsequently been proved wrong, such as the character of Britain’s Wildwood, or natural forest, economic collapse in the fifth century, the character of Britain during the migration period, the meanness and architectural inferiority of pre-Norman churches, the reasons for so-called deserted medieval villages, the division of Britain into areas of nucleated and dispersed settlement, and so on, right up to relatively recent times, and such questions as Holocaust denial and the archaeological evidence, and the rights and wrongs of excavating the site known as Seahenge.

Richard is very good at demonstrating that we interpret the past through the filter of present-day thought and knowledge. He shows how, as a result, we have been misled by historians who wrote narratives that only have an approximate fit to the evidence. This is all written, of course, with the benefit of hindsight and a huge growth in the amount of data at our disposal, but it stands as a warning to us all. The big question is whether it is possible ever to avoid falling into the same trap — can we ever escape the constraints of our own age and its preoccupations? Richard thinks it is possible to strive to do so but that the result will disappoint readers who want neat explanations: he says that the evidence suggests plurality, complexity and the kind of profusion that does not permit mechanistic cause and effect explanations of what goes on in our world.

This surely fits with our daily experience. A number of challenges will determine how future historians will look back on our own age — including climate change, declining oil production and the rising cost of energy, population growth, China’s impact on the global economy and Islamic fundamentalism — but these often seem like background noise, a slow progression of apparently unrelated events that are often contradictory and difficult to interpret even by those who are living through it. That being the case Richard Morris is justified in challenging historians and asking what right they have to talk of industrial or agrarian or Neolithic ‘revolutions’ or to form from the material of time and events the appearance of order and causation.

Books by Fellows: The Medieval English Landscape 1000—1540

Fellow Graeme White, Emeritus Professor of Local History at the University of Chester, also stresses complexity and diversity in his new account of The Medieval English Landscape 1000—1540 (ISBN 9781441135254; Bloomsbury); any explanation that assumes a single purpose, he warns, is almost certainly wrong. Graeme describes his book as ‘the latest in a long line inspired by W G Hoskins’s brilliantly crafted The Making of the English Landscape that have sought to provide a historical context for the features that we live with every day’. The book emphasises ‘the surviving landscape as a historical source’, but because this ‘runs the risk of skewing the evidence according to the accidents of survival’, he also includes evidence ‘that can only be discerned through archaeological excavation or advanced research’. Another guiding influence on the form and content of the book is Richard Muir’s advice: ‘do not jump to conclusions; stalk them slowly’ (Be Your Own Landscape Detective, 2007).

Writing in a clear and engaging style that assumes no prior knowledge and yet never over simplifies, Graeme stalks the evidence that explains the character of the landscapes of farming, hunting, rural settlement, towns and trade, religion and fortification, Above all he asks over and again who was responsible for what we now see? He does not assume, as many landscape historians seem to have done, that the landscape just evolves: somebody, somewhere took decisions. There is plenty of evidence for the complete re-organisation of landscapes — for example, the consolidation of a patchwork of intermingled strips and enclosures into regulated open fields — and Graeme shows that initiatives such as this could come from the bottom of society as well as the top: from landed peasants and minor lords as well as from lords of great estates or monastic domains. He also avoids explanations that attribute change to ‘the lack of choice’, and factors such as population pressure, weather, soil type or geology. In fact he quite likes the explanation given by Fellow Stephen Rippon, who concludes that differences in landscape management in Somerset came about simply because people in one region ‘thought differently’ from those in another; in every field of medieval activity, Graeme concludes, we must assume that there was ‘good sense behind the decisions taken, however surprising they sometimes seem to us today’.

Books by Fellows: Separate but Equal: Cistercian lay brothers 1120—1350

In Separate but Equal: Cistercian lay brothers 1120—1350 (ISBN 9780879072469; Cistercian Publications) Fellow James France asks what it was like to be one of the conversi, the members of the Cistercian order who took the same vows as the monks but who devoted their lives to work rather than prayer. The Cistercians were not the first to introduce lay brothers, but they did develop the model to a fuller extent than other orders. In the early years of the order’s history, there is no doubt that the conversi, a fit young volunteer workforce with no dependants or needs over and above board and lodging, were the secret of the Cistercians’ phenomenal material success, the growth of the grange system, the agricultural colonisation of the wilder parts of Europe and the establishment of new monasteries, not to mention many craft and industrial innovations.

Over time, however, the conversi system went into decline. Leaving no relevant stone unturned, James builds a detailed picture of the lives of lay brothers, contrasting the ideals found in exemplum stories and vitae, where the model lay brother is depicted as a humble individual devoted to a simple life of service and obedience, with the satirical portraits of lay brothers found in such works as the Life of Waldef, by Jocelin of Furness, where lay brother Sinuin is described as ‘a conversus by profession and habit, but perversus in act and intent’. There is no evidence that lay brothers were any more rebellious or difficult than the religious monks, but there was, nevertheless, a strong literary tradition that portrayed lay brothers as dim-witted, lazy and recalcitrant, coerced into monastic life by economic necessity rather than a sense of religious vocation.

James France attributes the demise of the conversi system to multiple causes, but one in particular seems to have been very influential: a change in Cistercian agricultural practice from direct land cultivation to leasing. Granges were leased to former bailiffs or monks who made their own decisions about who to employ and at what price (a change that came about partly because lay brothers were by then regarded as lax, indulgent and less productive than hired labourers). The lay brotherhood suffered a virtual extinction in many areas, a trend reflected in changes in dormitory arrangements at many monasteries, but a change that also in many ways set the scene for the greater economic diversity and the growing range of employment opportunities that was to characterise the later Middle Ages.

Books by Fellows: Country House Technology

One of many quotable passages in Time’s Anvil is the critique of that form of industrial archaeology that takes refuge in ‘single-interest enthusiasms — for railways, for crashed aircraft, for canals. Such narrowing is reflected in the continuing tendency for the archaeology of recent times to be considered as industrial archaeology, as distinct from the archaeology of the age and society in which industry burgeoned’. Such a warning is hardly necessary in the case of a new book edited by our Fellows Paul Barnwell and Marilyn Palmer on Country House Technology, which looks at the social impact of a very broad range of technologies — from flushing toilets and electric light to telephones, fridges and electric fires — on the denizens of the country house, the place where, for obvious economic reasons, innovative technologies tended in the past to be adopted first.

Thus our Fellow Pamela Sandbrook (in her paper on ‘“The Servants’ Friend”? Country house servants’ engagement with new technology’) tells the story of Virginia Woolf’s inept attempts to sack her cook. Woolf’s use of modern technology in order to achieve a servant-free life at Monk’s House in Sussex reflects her personal desire for privacy, but in a minor way it also stands for the impact of new technology, which was to make redundant an army of servants: whereas in the early days of technology it was cheaper to use servants than to install modern plumbing, by the 1920s and 1930s, technology had reversed that formula.

Pursuing the Woolf theme, another insight into the impact of technology on country houses was the way that electric light changed the appearance of houses built in the era of candle, oil and fire light — as at Knole, for example, where Vita Sackville West wrote in 1922 about the restless flickering of candle flame accentuating the textures of furnishings and textiles, adding lustre to gilding or silk textiles, lending depth to plasterwork or picture frames. It was Victoria (Vita’s mother) who began the introduction of electrical light at Knole in 1902, and unusually, Maureen Dillon points out in her case study on lighting technology at Knole, this included the servants’ rooms at a time when the prevailing opinion was that this was undesirable as ‘it encourages reading there’. Borlas Matthews, in Electricity for Everybody (1909), advised (ironically given the book’s title) that if the servants’ bedrooms were to be lit, there should be a master switch in the dressing room ‘so that the consumer can extinguish their lights when he goes to bed himself’.

These are but nuggets from a book rich in such social and economic insights. Equally intriguing is the degree to which technology itself became part of the country house story: country house owners visited each other to admire each other’s innovations, all of which makes one think that modern managers of country houses such as the National Trust (owner of many of the properties featured in the book) could make more of the technology that survives in the ways that they present and interpret these properties — and if they are looking for still further innovation, perhaps they should consider opening some of them at night to enable visitors to experience the transformation that different kinds of artificial light brings to the interiors.

Books by Fellows: Books, Borrowers and Shareholders

It is a fair bet that the books being read by country house servants in the first decade of the twentieth century came from a public or municipal library of the kind that was set up under the Public Libraries Act (of 1850 in England and Wales and 1853 in Scotland and Ireland), which empowered local authorities to add 1d per £1 to property rates for the purchase of books, newspapers and maps if two-thirds of ratepayers attending a public meeting for the purpose agreed to it.

Just as the 4,540 public libraries that survive in England today owe their origins to that Act, so the public library system spelled the end for many of the subscription libraries that are the subject of Books, Borrowers and Shareholders: Scottish circulating and subscription libraries before 1825 (ISBN 9780957335905; Edinburgh Bibliographical Society), by our Fellow Keith Manley. This traces the history of book lending in Scotland, which flowered in a number of different forms from the seventeenth century, including the loan of books (often salacious) by booksellers to readers for a fee, and community libraries, set up by local benefactors and managed by a local clergyman (hence often religious or improving), but became formalised in the eighteenth century through the creation of subscription libraries. The story that Keith Manley tells is fascinating and serves as a mirror to the social attitudes of the day. Belonging to a select library was seen as a mark of social standing; this is reflected in the elaborate rules surrounding the conduct of the library’s business and the choice of books, and such matters as whether women could and should be members, what happens to shares at death or marriage, what kind of books were considered suitable, or not, and which were the most popular. Even so, the rules suggest that the higher classes of the day included miscreants who lost books, wrote upon them, kept books too long, failed to return them or failed to pay their dues. In these days of servants, theft was also a problem, since valuable books were occasionally ‘borrowed’ by women or boys presenting slips ostensibly signed by a member, never to be seen again.

The cost of leasing and maintaining premises and administering libraries meant that subscriptions either continued to rise, or the library stagnated, unable to purchase new books. The more subscriptions rose, the fewer the number of subscribers, and few of these wanted to spend time attending committee meetings. Eventually, faced with the competition first from commercial libraries, such as Mudie’s, and then from the new public libraries, the older libraries faded away, their collections either sold, burnt, pulped or, in many instances, being handed over to the same public library that had forced them out of business.

Books by Fellows: Roman Chester

Roman Chester: fortress at the edge of the world (ISBN 9780752468761; History Press) is Fellow David Mason’s comprehensive summary of all we know about the city founded in AD 74, taking into account the many new discoveries and research reports of the last twelve years since his first account of Roman Chester was published in 2001. The account is detailed, readable and well-illustrated, and it ends with a plea: why does a city of Chester’s importance (as much to post-Roman and medieval as to Roman archaeology) lack ‘a modern purpose-designed building where the entire history of Chester is presented and interpreted’, David asks, while acknowledging that the Grosvenor Museum ‘continues magnificently to make the best of its space and resources, while being impeded in what it can do by the constraints of its Victorian building’.

Among the aspects of Chester’s past that he feels are largely hidden from residents and visitors are Chester’s re-emergence in the tenth century and the part it played in containing Viking expansion, its role as a major Anglo-Scandinavian port and commercial centre, its use as the base for Edward I’s conquest of North Wales and its many now-vanished industries. David ends by gently prodding the local authority with the suggestion that without the world-class visitor centre it deserves, Chester is forever destined to be inferior to its major rival, York.

Books by Fellows: The Piltdown Man Hoax

Our Fellow Miles Russell has cast a fresh new light on the Piltdown Man Hoax (ISBN 9780752487748; History Press) by asking not ‘whodunit’, since the main culprits were long ago identified, but rather ‘howdunit’, concentrating on the role in the affair of the central figure, Piltdown Man’s ‘finder’, Charles Dawson. To his peers, Dawson was an able amateur archaeologist, co-director of excavations at Chichester and at Hastings Castle, elected a Fellow of our Society in 1895 at the age of thirty-one, deprived only by sudden illness and death of a knighthood that he was to receive in recognition of the Piltdown Man ‘missing link’ between ape and man. Miles shows that he was indeed very knowledgeable, but he was also a practised and habitual forger, the Piltdown Man hoax being the most successful hoax in a three-decade career in which he made multiple attempts at literary, archaeological, historic, anthropological and biological deception.

Miles analyses Dawson’s methods, his many accounts in published papers in county journals of finding objects that have since decayed or been quarried away or lost, so that the only evidence that they ever existed is Dawson’s memory of them, his clever vagueness as to precise locations, combined with very precise descriptions of the circumstances under which the objects were found — usually by a workman who has, of course, long since disappeared. Many of Dawson’s efforts survive in published journals and some are even cited to this day in notes and bibliographies. Some of the papers (such as his study of the Bayeux Tapestry) turn out to be plagiarism, an interweaving of material from several authors so that the sources are cleverly disguised.

On the whole, though, Dawson preferred to expose a new ‘discovery’ to the world by means of the popular press, so as to obtain maximum news coverage and boost Dawson’s celebrity status. If it was hunger for what would now be called celebrity status that motivated Dawson, he certainly achieved his objective with the Piltdown Man find, announced to the world in 1912, named Eoanthropus dawsoni in his honour, catapulting him to the front page of every newspaper in Europe, hailed as the greatest antiquary of his age. He enjoyed his fame for a mere four years before succumbing to pernicious anaemia in 1916. Miles suspects, though, that his tale has not been fully told: the book concludes with Miles’s account of visiting Anne of Cleve’s house in Southover, where his eye is caught by ‘a late sixteenth- or early seventeenth-century Wealden fireback’ depicting two Protestant martyrs being burnt at the stake during the religious persecutions of Mary I. Learning that the fireback had previously been ‘in the collection of Charles Dawson’ leaves the author wondering just how authentic anything associated with Dawson might actually be.


The Friends of the National Archives are looking for keen and efficient individuals for the following volunteering posts.

Editor of MAGNA (the Magazine of the Friends of The National Archives)
MAGNA is published three times a year and contains news and updates on TNA and the Friends and their activities, as well as more substantial articles on topics of interest to historians, genealogists and researchers of all kinds. The editor is a member of Council and works together with other members of Council, the broader membership of the Friends and TNA staff to plan, realise and deliver an informative publication. Together with a small panel of fellow Council members, he or she is responsible for identifying and commissioning contributors, managing the editorial process and delivering copy to a designer and then to the printer on time for distribution to readers in April, August and December.

Events and visits co-ordinator
A volunteer is also needed to create and co-ordinate a programme of two or three speaker events a year, for TNA Friends and the wider public, and two or three visits a year for Friends to external organisations. The co-ordinator, reporting to Council and following up on the suggestions and recommendations of Council members and others, would liaise with the staff of TNA and external organisations to arrange, publicise and deliver events and visits.

If you are interested in filling either of these roles, please contact the Friends.