Cost: Free

Our Cell at Spalding

Ordinary Meeting of Fellows (Fellows and Guests Only)

Our Cell at Spalding: The Spalding Gentlemen's Society and the Society of Antiquaries, 1710-1755

Lecture by Dr Dustin M. Frazier Wood

Of the 23 names included in William Stukeley's list of the 'Founders of the Antiquarian Society London, July 1717', 9 - including Stukeley himself - were also members of the Spalding Gentlemen's Society, founded by Maurice Johnson II 'The Antiquary' (1688-1755) in Spalding, Lincolnshire in 1710. In addition to Johnson and Stukeley those with dual membership included such notable figures as Browne Willis, George Holmes, John Talman, George Vertue, Roger and Samuel Gale, and Lord Colerane. From 1717 until Johnson's death in 1755 the SGS and the Society of Antiquaries carried on a regular and fruitful correspondence, sharing notes on members' activities and copies of the minutes of their meetings. Despite the personal, social and intellectual bonds that linked the two societies, however, the nature and content of the SGS's antiquarian activity remains relatively unknown and has only begun to be explored by modern scholars. This lecture will examine the scholarly methods and interests that characterised the SGS and that linked the two societies, as well as the personal relationships that ensured their mutual support and flourishing in the first half of the eighteenth century.

The lecture will draw on my recent research on archival material surviving at the SGS and Society of Antiquaries. This material includes correspondence, the Minute Books of both societies, and print and manuscript publications on antiquarian subjects by SGS members. A number of parallels emerge from a study of these materials: the keeping of remarkably similar minutes, common arrangements for meetings, and an ongoing overlap in membership (particularly among members engaged in the study of the British Middle Ages). As the driving force behind the SGS's antiquarian activity and an active member of the Society of Antiquaries, Maurice Johnson must loom large. Despite a relative lack of scholarly attention and Joan Evans' analysis of Johnson as 'a gregarious, chatty, and ambitious man who liked to make himself out more important than he was' (Evans, 1956, 54), more than a hundred surviving manuscript dissertations on antiquarian subjects reveal a serious, scholarly and intellectually gifted figure widely admired by contemporaries and later generations of antiquaries. Throughout the lecture I will highlight Johnson's contribution to both societies and the lasting impact of his work.

The lecture will be illustrated with members' portraits, manuscripts, illustrations from the SGS and Society of Antiquaries minute books, and images of artefacts discussed at meetings of one or both societies.

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