Letters to the Daily Telegraph re Stonehenge

Letters from David Gaimster, FSA, MIFA, and Mike Pitts, FSA, MIFA, were published in the Daily Telegraph on 24 June. In both cases the edited letter as published bore little resemblance to the letters as sent, so, for the record, here are both versions.

The letters as published:

Sir: As an archaeologist and guide committed to Stonehenge for some 25 years, I see the proposed 1.3-mile road tunnel as the solution to existing road and traffic desecration (‘Romancing the Stones’, Weekend, June 17). The approved tunnel would transform the landscape around Stonehenge both for the wildlife and for millions of people. To achieve Adam Nicolson’s suggestion would require a 3.5-mile tunnel at a cost of, who knows, some £1.5 billion? Stonehenge is wondrous, but to solve real problems we have to think in the real world.

Mike Pitts, Marlborough, Wilts

Sir: As well as taking into consideration conservation issues around Stonehenge, we believe it is important to focus on the problems of the A303. The road is noisy, the junction of the A303 and A344 is dangerous, and many motorists are inconvenienced by traffic jams. Building a short tunnel along the line of the existing road would harm only that part of the World Heritage Site that has already been compromised, and will offer many benefits. Opposition from the National Trust to the short-bored tunnel could lead to government delays in making any kind of a decision and will not help the people whose lives are blighted by the existing A303.

David Gaimster, General Secretary, Society of Antiquaries of London, London W1

The letters as submitted:

Sir: All who know the countryside around Stonehenge will have appreciated Adam Nicolson’s evocative and informed description (Weekend, June 17). His rejection of the proposed 1.3 mile road tunnel is the more puzzling, as many who have similarly engaged with that landscape, in my case for over 25 years as a committed archaeologist and guide, see it as the solution to existing road and traffic desecration, not their harbinger.

‘At first light’ and ‘a mile or so upwind of the road’ (depending, of course, on which way the wind blows), there can indeed be still, unworldly grandeur. Closer to Stonehenge, where two roads cut the monument from its rightful place like a pinned butterfly, that never is. The approved tunnel would transform for the better the stones and landscape for wildlife and millions of people. A longer tunnel would place the western portal in yet more precious landscape (the world heritage site boundary is a bureaucratic line through paradise). Contrary to what Nicolson says, the eastern portal can only be inside the WHS. To achieve his suggestion would need a 3.5 mile tunnel at a cost of, who knows, some £1,500 million? Stonehenge is wondrous, but to solve real problems we have to think in the real world.

Mike Pitts, Marlborough, Wilts

Sir: In his description of Stonehenge (Daily Telegraph, 17 June 2006), Adam Nicolson paints an evocative portrait of what the restored landscape could be like without roads, but tellingly his magnificent landscape is also empty of people; indeed, he mildly mocks the plans that English Heritage have for providing land-train access to the site for people unable to walk from the proposed new visitor centre.

In addition to the conservation issues, the Society of Antiquaries of London firmly believes that the people are central to the debate: the people who live along the A303 route (principally in Winterbourne Stoke) who deserve to be relieved from traffic noise and pollution; the people who are involved in accidents every year at the dangerous A303/A344 junction; the people whose journeys along the A303 are inconvenienced by the traffic jams; and the millions of people whose visits to Stonehenge fall short of the life-changing experience that it might be because of the poverty of the setting and the interpretation facilities.

Building a short tunnel along the line of the existing road, we argue, harms only that part of the World Heritage Site that has already been compromised archaeologically, and offers manifold ‘people’ benefits. Like Adam Nicholson, we would love a longer tunnel, but that isn’t an option on offer from the Highways Agency and we have to be realistic in accepting the Planning Inspector’s conclusion that a doubling of the cost does not deliver proportionate benefits.

What worries us is that opposition to the short-bored tunnel from the National Trust will lead not to a better solution, but to Government delays in making any kind of a decision. Quarrelling archaeologists will be blamed for the continued failure to resolve the Stonehenge traffic problem. That will do no good for the image of archaeology, and nor will it help the people whose lives are currently blighted by the existing A303, even if it does mean a kind of victory for the National Trust.

David Gaimster, General Secretary, Society of Antiquaries of London, London W1

Cross-party support for Stonehenge scheme

On 27 June, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on World Heritage voted unanimously to back the published scheme for the A303 at Stonehenge, giving strong cross-party support for the short-bored tunnel. Chaired by Labour’s David Wright (MP for Telford), with Don Foster (LibDem, Bath) and Hugo Swire (Con, Devon East) as Vice-Chairs, the All Party Parliamentary Group has also agreed to write to the Department of Transport with a strong message of support for the tunnel.

UK National Commission for UNESCO: annual report

The UK National Commission for UNESCO has also reiterated its support for the published scheme in its newly published Annual Report (2006). The same Annual Report has information on the work of the UNESCO Conventions Working Group, recently set up under the Chairmanship of David Gaimster, FSA, MIFA, with the remit of providing advice to Government with respect to the UK’s position on UNESCO conventions.

The Working Group has identified six priority conventions: the Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict (1954 and 1999), the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export & Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property (1970), the Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage (2001), the Convention on the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage (2003), the Convention for the Protection of the Diversity of Cultural Contents and Artistic Expressions (2005), and the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (1972) ─ this last convention being the only one that the UK has so far ratified.

How about a Human Habitat Directive?

Countryside Voice, the magazine of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, prints extracts in its summer 2006 edition from a Presidential speech given by Sir Neil Cossons, FSA, to the Royal Geographic Society earlier this year. As is his habit, Sir Neil makes a number of points well worth pondering, including the suggestion that there is a certain amount of irony in protecting the habitats of great crested newts but not those of human beings.

Sir Neil’s aim is to tackle the label ‘nimby’ that is so often used as a term of derision by politicians for conservationists. The acronym was popularised in the UK by the late Nicholas Ridley when he was Secretary of State for the Environment in 1986─9 under Margaret Thatcher, but the American origins of the phrase are obvious in the use of the phrase ‘back yard’, and the Oxford English Dictionary credits the Christian Science Monitor in 1980 as the source. The original point about nimbyism was that it accepted the necessity for development, but wanted it put elsewhere: the term was used to imply the selfishness of people who opposed affordable housing, drug rehabilitation centres, landfill and incinerators, hospitals, new roads or industrial developments in their area, but were happy to see them built elsewhere.

Sir Neil argues that much development is actually elective and has nothing to do with any social good. Instead it is undertaken in the name of ‘choice’, a favourite term of the current generation of politicians of all parties. But, as Salon argued in the last issue in relation to the question of political support for what people really value, the ‘choice’ equation is often unbalanced. Sir Neil argues that the choice of some people to eat green beans or strawberries in the middle of winter is often achieved at great social cost: these choices are achieved in return for airports, roads, pollution, armadillo-like sheds spreading across the Midlands, polytunnels marching across the hills of Herefordshire (see next story), the over exploitation of water resources in Kenya, the closure of small shops and farms, the orange halo in the night sky, the roar of traffic never absent from our lives and the sound of birds or the sight of butterflies threatening to become a memory.

Sir Neil describes these degraded human habitats as ‘choice-driven landscapes’ and says that the problem lies with a planning system biased in favour of the ‘choice’ mentality and oblivious to the potentially disastrous consequences. He wants a new planning mentality that is based on respect for intrinsic quality and that genuinely puts liveability and sustainability first ─ words that are repeated by politicians almost as often as the word choice, but not ones that seem yet to be embedded in the instincts of decision makers. Sir Neil argues that fiscal measures are an important tool for forcing decision makers to make sustainable choices. And sometimes those choices might not be the obvious ones: who would have thought, for example, that one might ever hear Sir Neil praising Tesco and suggesting that online shopping might be the key to reducing traffic in urban areas?

Strawberry fields forever? The polytunnel debate

Anyone who has visited Leominster recently will be only too well aware that the beautiful green hills surrounding this loveable market town have turned plastic: the Arrow Valley, a quintessentially English landscape, is slowly being covered in polythene, in part because the local authority seems to have decided that polytunnels are permitted agricultural developments that do not need planning permission. In Waverley, Surrey, the local authority has taken the opposite view: the Hall Hunter Partnership is going to the Court of Appeal to fight a decision by the council that polytunnels do require planning permission.

What needs to be understood in this debate is that the simple erection of polythene tunnels as a protective environment for soft fruit and salad crops is not the only issue: objectors also point to the large-scale earth-moving operations that precede the tunnels, designed to create level growing areas and install the large scale drainage works needed to accommodate rainwater run-off and irrigation systems (goodbye archaeology), the sterilisation of the soil and its saturation with pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and fertilisers, the lorry movements in and out of the farm that increase as production rises and what Bill Wiggin, the MP for Leominster, recently described as ‘the makeshift villages of 400 caravans, leisure centres, football pitches and saunas ─ all built without planning permission’ to accommodate the casual labourers employed to work in the tunnels.

The MP for Leominster also happens to be the Conservative spokesman for agriculture, and his decision to speak out on behalf of constituents who object to the polytunnels has led to a political storm in a teacup: the National Farmers’ Union predictably described Mr Wiggin’s as unpatriotic for not supporting British farmers and claims that his concern for his constituents is ‘in direct conflict’ with his Shadow Cabinet role. Representatives of the fruit-growing industry say that people want to buy grade-1 British fruit from May to September and that polytunnels help them meet supermarket demand.

All this might seem a long way from the concerns of an antiquary, but, as Sir Neil Cossons has pointed out, this is a prime example of consumer choice driving changes that have major consequences for the landscape. This is exactly what planning law was designed to measure and adjudicate: what is needed now is for the Government to end the inconsistency and uncertainty over whether polytunnels do or do not need planning permission. Meanwhile, concerned antiquaries might like to do their part by boycotting tasteless supermarket strawberries ─ as all fruit connoisseurs know, there is only one kind of strawberry ever worth eating and that is the home-grown variety.

The future of London’s Theatre Museum

John Earl, FSA, is a published historian of theatre architecture and the origins of the music hall, a former director of the Theatres Trust, a specialist in the conservation of historic theatres and an occasional contributor to Theatre Museum exhibitions and lecture programmes. Naturally enough he therefore has a high regard for the Theatre Museum and he has written to Salon to draw readers’ attention to the current debate concerning the museum’s future.

The Theatre Museum has a varied and wide-ranging collection: John Piper’s model for the set of Benjamin Britten’s Rape of Lucretia, costumes by Bakst for the Russian Ballet, eighteenth-century theatre paintings and play bills, designs by Edward Gordon Craig, photographs and memorabilia, videos of all genres of theatrical performance, from Shakespeare to rock opera. For a long while the collection was held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, and used as the basis for occasional exhibitions. Only in 1987 did the collection get its own separate building and a permanent display space in the heart of Theatreland, in Covent Garden. Since then attendance has been lower than expected, running costs have remained high and the museum building itself, consisting of a series of cramped basement rooms, has always been problematic. Ambitious plans for the redevelopment of the building were announced in 2003, but were dependent on a grant of £12m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which proved not to be forthcoming. A revised application made in 2005 was also turned down.

In April this year, the Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum issued a consultation paper putting forward two possible options for the Theatre Museum’s future. One is a return to the situation that prevailed before 1987: abandonment of the Covent Garden site and the return of the material collections to the V&A, where space would be allotted for temporary exhibitions. The second would be to try to redevelop the Covent Garden building in partnership with a major performing arts organisation, such as the Royal Opera House; in this event, most of the collection would still be hidden away at the V&A, because the Theatre Museum itself would be devoted to events, workshops and educational facilities, with only temporary displays.

Numerous voices of concern have been raised about both options, and the common cry of all the critics is for a permanent national museum dedicated to an art form in which Britain has led the world for more than four centuries, and that allows the full riches of the collection to be displayed, within a context that also allows for performance as well as the display of static objects. To realise this vision requires boldness and imagination on the part of the V&A Trustees and a change of heart on the part of the Government which seems to have rejected the idea of funding a new national museum.

When the V&A’s Trustees last met on 18 May to consider responses to the options outlined above, they appear to have reached no conclusion. Apparently a number of proposals have emerged and further possibilities are being explored. John Earl, who has himself been a passionate advocate for a museum that does full justice to ‘an art that has shaped our language, our literature and our national character’, says that a decision is expected this autumn and that the present delay in making a decision may be seen as hopeful. His own advice to the V&A Trustees is ‘to rediscover a little of the adventurous spirit that brought the V&A into existence in 1852. It is time to champion the Theatre Museum, not to emasculate it.’

Legislation to ban samurai swords

In his capacity as European Vice-President of the Society for the Preservation of Japanese Art Swords (the NBTHK, or Nihon bijutsu token hozon kyukai), John Nandris, FSA, has written to the Home Office to express concern at a possible blanket ban on the ownership of ‘samurai swords’, because of their use in violent crime. The Government is considering adding ‘samurai swords’ to the list of offensive weapons that it is an offence to sell, manufacture or import under the Criminal Justice Act 1988 (Offensive Weapons) Order.

John Nandris has pointed out that an indiscriminate ban would severely hamper the academic work of learned bodies such as the Japan Society, the Japanese Departments of the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum, the School of Oriental and African Studies, the Sainsbury Institute and other bodies committed to the study of the Japanese sword and its cultural context. ‘In addition to these institutions’, John says, ‘there are many knowledgeable collectors, here and in Europe and America, who also study the Japanese sword and have legitimately invested major sums of their money in the process. The Japanese sword has an important place in the Asiatic art market, in which London is the leading centre outside Japan.’

For its part, the Home Office has promised to consider carefully how it defines ‘samurai swords’, to consult relevant bodies and to consider exemptions for certain types of activities.

Vote of confidence in the Heritage Lottery Fund

Now for some good news: the Department of Culture, Media and Sport announced last week that the respective shares of Lottery proceeds given to the arts and film, sport, and heritage will remain unchanged until 2019 at the earliest. Although the absolute amount of money received by the Heritage Lottery Fund is likely to fall, in part because of reduced lottery income overall and in part because lottery funds will be used to finance the 2012 Olympics, the respective shares between arts and film, sport and heritage will remain unchanged, none of these good causes will be abolished and no new ones will be added.

The decision was based in part on a consultation, which DCMS described as ‘by far the most successful consultation the Department has run, with over 11,000 responses’. Over half of these respondents specifically expressed support or strong support for heritage. Respondents gave overwhelming support for the existing share balance, said very firmly that each cause was important and that they wanted stability and continuity.

In announcing the outcome of the consultation, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell also outlined the main priorities that lottery distributors would be asked to address in their strategic planning and grant giving over the period from 2009 to 2019. These will include increasing participation, inspiring young people, involving local communities, supporting volunteers and encouraging creativity among new talent and developing skills.

Dame Liz Forgan, Chair of HLF, commented by saying: ‘This is wonderful news for our heritage and a recognition of its importance to our success as a modern society.’

Lottery largesse

Last week’s good news coincided with a flood of announcements from the Heritage Lottery Fund concerning recent grants. The swimmers amongst us will be pleased to hear that restoration grants have been awarded to the Grade-II listed Uxbridge Lido, in north-west London (uniquely designed in the shape of a twelve-sided star), Sandford Parks Lido, in Cheltenham, and Brockwell Lido, in south London.

Carole Souter, Heritage Lottery Fund Director, said: ‘Lidos are extremely popular with young and old. These particular examples are real gems. Lottery money will help make sure that they continue to be enjoyed by everyone.’

Janet Smith, author of Liquid Assets: the lidos and open-air pools of Britain, said: ‘We have already lost more than 300 lidos and open-air pools in Britain and we have to do our utmost to ensure that the remaining 100 pools continue long into the future. The allocation of nearly £2m by the Heritage Lottery Fund to three outdoor pools is a major contribution to that goal.’

The HLF’s long-standing commitment to the restoration of Britain’s public parks was reinforced by the announcement that HLF is joining forces with the Big Lottery Fund (BIG) to launch Parks for People, a new scheme which will see a further £160 million invested in the UK’s parks over the next three years. One park that has benefited recently is the Grade-I listed Croome Park in Worcester, acquired and restored by the National Trust, thanks to a £5 million HLF grant. Croome Parke officially opened to the public last week following a ten-year project to restore 674 acres of land forming the core of the landscape park which was designed by Capability Brown for the sixth Earl of Coventry (for further information, see the National Trust’s website).

SPAB wins HLF funding to help volunteers maintain historic places of worship

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings was also toasting HLF largesse last week having been told that it would receive a grant of £645,000 towards an ambitious £850,000 scheme to train people of all faith groups in England and Wales to care for their listed places of worship. The grant will enable SPAB to run thirty tailor-made courses a year, training over 6,000 volunteers in the maintenance of significant historic structures. In addition, SPAB will provide two special courses for young people (over sixteen), one of these taking place at the Society’s annual summer working party at a church in need.

Volunteers attending SPAB’s new courses will learn about maintenance, the causes of building decay, planning ahead, monitoring and spotting potential problems. The courses will distinguish between work that can be carried out by volunteers and when to call in a professional, and will include advice on managing relationships with professional advisers and builders. The courses will provide opportunities for networking (important for isolated wardens) and enable participants to adapt English Heritage maintenance plans for their own buildings with expert advice to hand.

Philip Venning, FSA, SPAB Secretary, said: ‘Our research clearly shows that there is a very real need for a course of this sort. Volunteers genuinely want to learn about the buildings they care for so that they can do the right things to maintain and protect them. Few churchwardens, for example, have relevant training, yet they are responsible for nearly half of England’s grade I buildings. They already do an excellent job, but this training will enhance their work.’

Stephen Johnson, FSA, Heritage Lottery Fund Director of Operations, said: ‘Volunteers are absolutely vital to the work of the heritage sector and especially to places of worship. This substantial grant will enable thousands of volunteers to gain real expertise and will inspire more people to become actively involved in their local heritage.’

The project is also being supported by English Heritage, which has provided £75,000 towards the total cost, with the remainder being funded by SPAB and other partners.

Online Dictionary of Scottish Architects

Writing in The Times last week, Marcus Binney, FSA, paid tribute to the work of Professor David Walker, FSA, whose online whose online Dictionary of Scottish Architects has just been launched.

Marcus says that, in his capacity as Chief Inspector of Historic Buildings with Historic Scotland, David Walker provided Scotland with the most comprehensive list of listed buildings in Europe, and now he has, in retirement, produced a reference work of world-class relevance, covering the work of many notable Scottish architects who worked beyond the borders of Scotland ─ not just in England, but prolifically in Australia, India and Canada, notably in Montreal and British Columbia.

The dictionary already charts the work of more than 6,300 Victorian and early twentieth-century architects and practices, with details of 33,769 historic buildings. ‘Like Sir Howard Colvin’s groundbreaking Dictionary of English Architects (1660─1840), first published in 1954’, Marcus writes, ‘it is based not just on secondary sources but on first-hand archival research and, in Walker’s case, face-to-face interviews. The database also shows up pupils and assistants working for architects and, thanks to support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the entire dictionary is available online free of charge.

David Walker’s assistant, Abigail Grater, says: ‘You can search by name or building type. You can bring up churches or cinemas in a particular town, or search for buildings in a particular street. If you have an old house plan with the address of the architect but not his name, you can enter that address and find out which architect had an office there. You can also search for clients, including your own family.’

Pertinax and his father: imperial portraits in Britain

Martin Henig, FSA, writes to say that he has come across ‘an interesting and highly plausible article in a German Festschrift that concerns the two very well-known marble sculptures from the Lullingstone Roman villa. In a paper entitled “The Roman portraits from the villa of Lullingstone: Pertinax and his father, P Helvius Successus” (pages 47 to 53 in Ganschow, T and Steinhart, M 2005. Otium: Festschrift für Volker Michael Strocka, Remshalden) Richard de Kind points to the very striking resemblance between the second deliberately damaged Lullingstone portrait and a portrait head in Aquileia generally held to be a portrait of Pertinax before his succession to the imperial throne in AD 193.

Pertinax served as Legatus Augusti after Ulpius Marcellus, and it is possible that Lullingstone served as a luxurious retreat for the governor during his brief sojourn. The bust was damaged as a result of an unofficial damnatio memoriae by soldiers who resented his firm discipline and were unable to find the fleeing governor. The other portrait is explained as probably that of his father, P Helvius Successus, and is mid-second century in date. If this highly plausible paper is correct, we have here a very important marble portrait, one of only a handful from Britain to portray an emperor.’

For sale: Bronze Age site of national importance

Lesley and Roy Adkins (both of whom are FSAs and MIFAs) spotted the following in their local newspaper and thought it might appeal to an archaeologist with a few thousand pounds to spare: ‘Tintagel, former corn mill and derelict cottage close to two magnificent Bronze Age stone carvings dating from 1400 to 1800 BC set in a splendid wooded valley beside a cascading stream only 200 yards from the Atlantic Ocean. Auction 11th July. Auction guide £65,000’. Further information from Stags’ Launceston office, tel: 01566 774999 (ref: C20675/11).

World's oldest necklace: two 100,000-year-old shells

Salon has previously reported the finding of pierced shells from Cyprus and from South Africa as possibly the oldest known examples of personal adornment, at something like 75,000 years old. But now two shells from separate sites have been found whose dating pushes back the date for bead-working to at least 100,000 years ago.

A article in the journal Science published last week reports the conclusions of a study of the beads by a team from Britain, France and Israel, whose members included Chris Stringer, research leader in human origins at the Natural History Museum. The shells were excavated between 1931 and 1932 from the Middle Palaeolithic site at Es-Skhul, Mount Carmel, Israel, and from Oued Djebbana, Bir-el-Ater, Algeria. The original excavators had been concerned with human remains and tools, so the significance of the shells had not been appreciated at the time. Professor Stringer said that dating of the shells ‘supports the idea that modern human anatomy and behaviour have deep roots in Africa’; examples of personal adornment found in continental Europe date from 30,000 years ago.

Microscopic analysis shows that the shells had been artificially pierced, probably with flint tools, and may have been hung on sinew, fibres or leather for use as pendants or in necklaces. Dr Sarah James, an analytical geochemist at the Natural History Museum, confirmed the date of the shells by chemically matching the sediment attached to one of the shells with that from the levels of human burials at the Skhul site, which have already been dated from between 100,000 to 135,000 years ago.

A record-breaking week in the London sale rooms: disaster for national galleries

Writing in the Observer on 25 June, Charles Saumarez Smith, FSA, Director of the National Gallery, argued that the record prices achieved over the last fortnight for works of art (£73m for Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer; £2.9m for David Hockney’s The Splash) is depressing news for those who hold responsibility for adding works of art to the collections of museums and galleries in this country.

Charles asks how a situation has arisen where galleries in the UK cannot afford to invest in new acquisitions (except through the exceptional funding of £965,000 spent by the National Heritage Memorial Fund and £4,039,950 spent by the Heritage Lottery Fund last year) when provincial museums in France, the Netherlands, Sweden or Denmark can mount exhibitions of international significance based on recent acquisitions.

His answer is that the Chancellor has consistently turned his back on fiscal measures that work elsewhere. ‘In 2003’, he writes, ‘Paul Boateng, then Chief Secretary to the Treasury, commissioned a long report from Sir Nicholas Goodison, FSA, on how the Treasury might help museums and galleries fund acquisitions. Nothing was done about it. More recently, the National Art Collections Fund put together a programme called “Living and Giving”, which demonstrated how the Treasury could support lifetime gifts through tax incentives. It was shelved. It was said Gordon Brown thought that this was an issue of no interest to taxpayers. But surely taxpayers understand that it is in the national interest to maintain lively and active museums?’

Charles Saumarez Smith concludes: ‘If museums and galleries are unable to acquire works of art, we limit our intellectual and artistic horizons. We have to rely on a purely reactive strategy of acquisitions, getting works of art only when their export has been blocked. What we need is an effective national strategy whereby museums and galleries are able to acquire works of art systematically ─ in the middle market as well as at the top end, overseas as well as in this country, in design as well as fine art, in new areas of collecting as well as enabling us to buy the greatest and most significant works of art which have been in this country for generations.’

The Archaeologist

A bumper issue of the IFA’s magazine The Archaeologist ─ dedicated on this occasion to the archaeology of medieval Britain ─ arrived in last week’s post (for copies contact the Editor, Alison Taylor, FSA, MIFA). Among many eye-catching articles (illustrated with pictures that show just how beautiful medieval pottery can be) is one that suggests sugar production might have been going on in medieval Scotland. The finds from pottery kilns at Stenhouse include three vessels of a type normally used for sugar refinement and for which there are no known Scottish parallels. The author of the article, Derek Hall, FSA, MIFA, draws a link between these vessels and the Knights Hospitaller, whose preceptory was located at Torphichen, near Stenhouse, pointing out that sugar production in Europe was linked to the Crusades.

Elsewhere in the same magazine, one learns of a catalogue of diseases and conditions to which the medieval body was prey ─ proving that obesity and diabetes are not just modern phenomena and that arthritis and something called Schmorl’s nodes (possibly the result of heavy lifting) were commonplace; Salon’s editor had to consult a medical dictionary to track down the prognosis for sufferers from ‘klippel-feil syndrome’ (a condition that causes the neck vertebrae to fuse, limiting head rotation), and ‘rotator cuff disease’ (a cause of chronic shoulder pain), both of which were found at the seventh- to ninth-century cemetery in Auldhame, East Lothian.

The joys of listed buildings casework

Society newsletters are very much a mixed bag, but that of the Ancient Monuments Society is always a joy ─ something to look forward to reading from cover to cover on a long rail journey. The Summer 2006 issue alone is well worth the modest subscription (see the AMS website for further information). For those who are not yet members, here is a taster: a light-hearted piece written by Frank Kelsall, FSA, case officer for the AMS, on some of the supporting statements that he has collected in recent months from applicants for listed building consent to justify their proposed works. ‘It is surprising how many listed buildings have roofs which need repairing badly’, Frank writes, ‘or cornices that have dental mouldings’ ─ but then, one list description refers to a building with ‘dog-eared architraves’.

‘Why did an owner in Wales think he would help his case by proposing that “all exterior plumbing work will be situated and styled to be as intrusive as possible”? An applicant in Yorkshire sent in a drawing captioned: “conversion of existing bard into a dwelling”; an architectural consultant in Herefordshire must obviously have had self-denying clients for whom she had designed an elevation which “will be more ascetically pleasing”; agents for works at Huddersfield must have had the principle of reversibility in mind and taken the long-term view when they proposed to “cover the décor up for prosperity”, while we were told that the natural creep of the timber in a house in Kent had been “exasperated” by the failure of the wall support.’

Frank acknowledges that automated spell checkers might be responsible for some of these malapropisms, but asks how we account for Amdega Conservatories’ statement, made of a building in Falmouth: ‘the building is a Grade-II Listed Georgian terrace, but it has no architectural or historical interest’. Architects for a proposed extension to a farmhouse in Oxfordshire wrote that ‘we can create a very pleasant kitchen in the spirit of the original pigsty’, while eminent planning consultants supported works to an Oxfordshire public house with the statement that ‘it is proposed to remove some of the partition work on the more modern toilet extension in order to open this up for trading purposes’. Do you think, asks Frank, that they really meant that?

Birthday Honours

Salon’s swift perusal of the Queen’s Birthday Honours List on 17 June failed to spot that Margaret Mullett, FSA, was created an OBE for services to Higher Education. Professor Mullett is the Director of the Institute of Byzantine Studies and Director of the Gender Initiative, at Queen’s University, Belfast.

And double apologies to Sir Barry Cunliffe, FSA ─ first for the extra ‘c’ that wandered into his name in the last issue of Salon, turning him into Cuncliffe ─ an error quickly spotted by Tim Ambrose, FSA, who used to be Barry’s Research Assistant at Oxford; and then for describing him as a ‘Knight Batchelor’, instead of Bachelor. As Lawrence Keppie, FSA, pointed out, this suggests that Barry’s coat of arms might include a tin of processed peas!

News of Fellows and MIFAs

Congratulations to Gordon Barclay, FSA, MIFA, who moved on earlier this year from his role as Principal Inspector in charge of the Scheduling Programme with Historic Scotland’s Inspectorate, into the Policy Group, where he now glories in the title of Head of National Policy ─ an exciting job at a time when heritage is being recognised by politicians as a fundamental part of Scotland’s identity.

Lord Redesdale, FSA, is standing for election to the post of Lord Speaker of the House of Lords. If elected, he has promised ‘to do as little as possible’. Lord Redesdale (Rupert Mitford) is one of nine peers standing for the newly created post, which replaces the role of the Lord Chancellor, who has for centuries sat on the Woolsack to preside over the debates and votes of the second chamber. All nine candidates have pledged to do nothing to change the character of the Lords, which prides itself on being a self-regulating chamber, not given to the kind of barracking and yahoo behaviour of the other chamber, where the Speaker is frequently required to keep order. Peers voted on Thursday 28 June, but the result will not be announced until the new Lord Speaker takes his or her seat on Tuesday 4 July. Though the post is largely ceremonial, it comes with an enviable income: a salary of £101,668, an allowance of £33,990 and ceremonial black and gold robes costing £10,000 ─ all for three hours work on four days a week, for about thirty-five weeks a year.

Obituary: Major-General Viscount Monckton of Brenchley

Viscount Monckton of Brenchley (Gilbert Walter Riversdale Monckton), FSA, died on 22 June 2006, at the age of ninety. Anyone watched the TV documentary made some years ago about the ending of the right of hereditary peers to sit in the House of Lords might well remember Viscount Monckton, who sought election to one of the small number of seats allocated to hereditary peers in the reformed chamber on a manifesto that included the muzzling of all cats to prevent cruelty to mice (his intention being to ridicule the Government’s antipathy to hunting). He failed to secure a seat and retired from politics to the small farm he loved so much in Kent (Runhams Farm, at Harrietsham, near Maidstone), where his habit of dressing in old clothes with bailer twine for a belt gave no hint of his earlier military career or to his standing in the county as Deputy Lieutenant.

Gilbert Monckton was born at Ightham Mote. His father Walter, the first Viscount, was an adviser to King Edward VIII during the abdication crisis of 1936 and a Conservative minister in the 1950s and 1960s. Gilbert read Agriculture at Trinity College, Cambridge, graduating in 1939. His distinguished wartime career saw him awarded the Military Cross in May 1940 for bravery, after his squadron, part of the Second Armoured Reconnaissance Brigade, fought its way to freedom despite being encircled by enemy armoured cars, motorcyclists and anti-tank guns. He subsequently served in Palestine and Italy, in 1944, in Korea in 1951─2, and in the War Office, in 1953, as military adviser to the British delegation at the Geneva Convention on French Indo-China and Korea, for which he was appointed OBE for his services in 1956. He was then appointed to command the Twelfth Royal Lancers with the British Army of the Rhine, before being made Commander of the Royal Armoured Corps.

In 1962 he returned to the War Office as deputy director of personnel administration and was promoted major-general the following year on his appointment as director of public relations for the army. Good-humoured and quick on his feet, Fleet Street came to appreciate his competence and wit, and he set a standard for army press relations that endured beyond his appointment.

He left the Army in 1967, two years after succeeding as the second Viscount. As a crossbencher in the House of Lords he was a frequent critic of Governments of every political complexion for their neglect of rural interests and the Armed Forces. Archaeology and heraldry were long-standing interests and he was president of the Kent Archaeological Society (1968─75) and of the Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies (1965─2000). He was also responsible for the formation of the Order of Malta Volunteers (OMV), which encouraged young Catholics to accompany pilgrims to Lourdes and help the destitute.


Bob Edwards, MIFA, wrote following last week’s report in Salon on the headless burials recently found in York to say that this is a practice by no means confined to York and that similar burials have been found at the Lankhills cemetery, in Winchester, and at Poundbury, Dorchester, further evidence to suggest that they were not the result of mass-murder or, one suspects, gladiators.

Diana Murray, FSA, MIFA, Secretary (Chief Executive) of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS), writes with further information concerning the legacy of the late Dr Brian Hope-Taylor, FSA, and to correct a few of the errors reported in last week’s Daily Telegraph story saying that the Bamburgh sword had been rescued by ‘former students’ from a skip outside Dr Hope-Taylor’s home. The former students who had the presence of mind to investigate what might still be held at his house were, according to Diana, in fact: ‘Professor Ian Ralston, FSA, MIFA, Professor James Graham Campbell, FSA, and myself. We did indeed save material from the skip but not quite in such a dramatic manner as described! The archive comprises excavation drawings, photographs and notebooks, together with the personal and professional papers of Hope-Taylor’s life and work. It includes the records from his archaeological excavations of the late 1940s to mid-1970s, most of which are unpublished (Old Windsor, Farthing Down and Bamburgh Castle, for example).

‘With funding from English Heritage, RCAHMS and Historic Scotland, RCAHMS was able to run a project to do a preliminary sort of the papers and artefacts that we were able to retrieve from the house. We have since been trying to raise funds to catalogue the 31,000 archive items now in the Brian Hope-Taylor Collection held at RCAHMS. A bid to the Arts and Humanities Research Council for funding for a major project to enable the material to be properly listed and the documentary material made available for public and research use and the artefacts allocated to suitable locations was unsuccessful. The AHRC bid would also have enabled research into a largely undocumented period of the history of the development of archaeological thought and practice, which is very well illustrated in the personal papers and correspondence in the collection.

‘Since then RCAHMS has successfully raised small amounts of funding, with the help of local sponsors, adding to its own gradual contribution to the cataloguing some of the key projects contained within the archive. The information that has been catalogued is available on Canmore, and many of the items are digitised. Unfortunately about two-thirds of the collection remains uncatalogued at present. We are continuing to work with other organisations and potential sponsors to raise funds to deal with the rest of the material.’ Anyone interested can contact Diana by email.

Duncan Brown, MIFA, has written to reinforce the point that the Archives Standards document he is working on (and on which feedback is warmly invited; see the IFA website) is an initiative of the Archaeological Archives Forum. Salon gave the impression that this was an initiative of the Institute of Field Archaeologists, which is one of several bodies supporting the current draft. Duncan says: ‘the AAF deserves any mention it can get, as we’re busy promoting a goodly number of initiatives and projects, including the mapping of museum collecting areas and disaster planning for temporary archive repositories’. For further information, see the AAF’s web page.

Books by Fellows and MIFAs

Lecturing to the Society of Antiquaries on ‘Portus Romae: a new survey of the port of Imperial Rome’ in February 2002, Martin Millett, the Society’ Director, characterized ancient Rome’s port as one of those ‘well-known sites’ about which little is actually known. We know a great deal more, however, from the project that forms the subject of Portus: an archaeological survey of the port of Imperial Rome, by Simon Keay, FSA, Martin Millett, FSA, Lidia Paroli and Kristina Strutt (newly published as British School at Rome Archaeological Monograph 15, available from Oxbow Books. The project set out to use non-destructive techniques of topographic and geophysical survey in combination with systematic surface collection to provide a new understanding of the plan of Portus. The work was undertaken between 1997 and 2002 as a collaboration between the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici di Ostia, the British School at Rome and the universities of Southampton, Durham and Cambridge. This volume presents the full results of the survey and uses them as the basis for a re-evaluation of the whole port complex, begun in AD 42 and still the principal port for the city of Rome into the Byzantine period. This key Mediterranean centre for passengers and for the loading, unloading, trans-shipment and storage of products from across the Empire, was also designed to make an ideological statement about the supremacy of Rome in the world.

New from Oxford University Press is just one of the books that has kept Professor Rosemary Cramp, FSA, HonMIFA, busier than ever since her ‘retirement’. The Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture, Volume VII, covers the richly endowed counties of Devon, Somerset, Dorset and Wiltshire, including individual sculptures of the highest quality, such as the angels from Bradford-on-Avon and Winterbourne Steepleton, or the newly discovered Congresbury figures. Most of the monuments in this volume were carved at a time when Wessex art was at its zenith in the tenth and eleventh centuries; the volume sets the sculpture within a historical, topographical and art-historical context, highlighting the close links with contemporary manuscripts and metalwork, and including a full photographic record of each sculpture, with many new illustrations unique to the corpus.

OUP is offering early-birds a discount on the full publication price of £65: orders placed directly with OUP quoting code AAKHCRA06 will only cost £48.75: for an order form ccontact Katie Hellier, in Academic Marketing at OUP.


East Sussex County Council, County Archaeologist
Salary £30,843 to £33,315, closing date 7 July 2006

A successor is sought to Andrew Woodcock, FSA, MIFA, who is retiring shortly from his post as County Archaeologist for East Sussex, a county whose rich historic environment includes medieval shipwrecks, submerged forests, Bronze Age farms, Napoleonic and World War II remains and numerous historic villages and towns. The County Archaeologist is the focal point for all archaeological issues in the county for land developers, government departments and members of the public on a wide range of issues, in particular running an advice service for City, Borough and District Councils.

For further details, please email [email protected] quoting reference TE511.

English Heritage, Conservation Director
Salary c £60,000, closing date 14 July 2006

As the national champion for historic buildings conservation, the post holder will be responsible for developing technical and scientific research programmes and providing technical expertise as well as for contributing to national policy on the historic environment. Demonstrable leadership and presentation skills are essential, as is extensive experience of working with historic buildings.

For further details, email [email protected] quoting R/48/06 only in the subject box.

British School at Athens: Director
Salary to be negotiated (at UK professorial rates), closing date 27 August 2006

Applications and nominations are invited for the post of Director of the British School at Athens from 1 October 2007. Applicants should be established scholars with experience of the archaeology or culture of the Hellenic World and/or other appropriate academic and administrative experience. Adequate knowledge of Modern Greek is essential. Further details from www.jobs.ac.uk/jobfiles/ZB379.html.

English Heritage, Regional Policy Officer based in York
£23,740 per annum; closing date 12 July 2006, interview date 26 July 2006

Supporting the Planning and Development Regional Director and the Regional Management Team for Yorkshire and the Humber, you will organise and support them in policy development and engagement with the key historic environment partners and stakeholders. As the central point for all regional management information, you will establish and maintain internal and external contacts, research, collate and present information with recommendations, and brief outside organisations on regional matters. In particular, you will be responsible for preparing and monitoring regional publications such as Heritage Counts. In addition, you will prepare articles and speeches for the Regional Director, facilitate the internal policy group and co-ordinate the Yorkshire Historic Environment Forum.

For an application pack, please email [email protected] quoting reference C/012/06.

English Heritage, Historic Buildings and Areas Adviser based in York
£28,200 to £31,500 per annum pro rata, 18 to 29 hours per week; closing date 12 July 2006, interview date 20 July 2006

You will provide advice on the development of listed buildings and conservation areas and the rescue of buildings at risk. For an application pack, please email [email protected] quoting reference C/013/06.