Salon Archive

Issue: 103

Forthcoming meetings

25 November: The Archaeology of the Hansa: rediscovering cultural identity in northern Europe, by the General Secretary, David Gaimster. Our Royal Patron, HRH The Duke of Gloucester, will be attending this meeting.

The Hansa formed the principal agent of trade and exchange in northern Europe and the Baltic during the medieval to early modern period. Hanseatic trade reached its zenith during the fourteenth to fifteenth centuries with the foundation of permanent trading posts, or Kontore, at Novgorod in the east, Bergen in the north, and London and Bruges in the west. Together they formed a dynamic economic and cultural network that stretched the length and breadth of Europe and beyond. Hanseatic urban settlements in northern Europe shared many things in common. Their cultural ‘signature’ was articulated physically through a shared vocabulary of town plan, step-gabled brick secular buildings (Backsteingotik) and domestic material culture.

Although the Hansa remains, even today, a monolith in the historical narrative, it is rapidly becoming a multi-period, interdisciplinary field of study combining documentary, archaeological, architectural and iconographic sources, together with the scientific analysis of artefact types, which goes far beyond merely supplementing the gaps in the documentary record. The archaeology of the Hansa — as a case study in historical archaeology — offers the prospect of investigating some of the key themes of pre-industrial European society on the macro-regional scale. Such attributes include the development of urban mercantile capitalism, social stratification, acculturation, Europeanisation, colonialism, adoption and resistance.

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain at the end of the 1980s urban rescue excavation has become a key feature of inner-city redevelopment across the Baltic zone. Crucially, since the fall of Communism, it is now possible to examine Hanseatic urban culture without political prejudice. Previously, with its strong Teutonic overtones and association with the rise of the western European capitalist bourgeoisie, the Hansa was largely censored from the historical record in the East, as new studies of former public archaeological policy in the region are revealing. For the past 15 years or so rescue archaeology has made a profound impact on arcane public perceptions of the past by invigorating a sense of place and a common cultural identity within the New European framework.

2 December: The Roman Middlewich Project: heritage and the regeneration of a community, by Tim Strickland, FSA.

The small Cheshire town of Middlewich has benefited from the presence of brine springs — and the resulting salt industry — since before Roman times. The town and its salt industry developed rapidly with the Industrial Revolution, but gradually declined from the 1950s and was clearly in need of a revival at the end of the twentieth century. How might this be achieved and could the heritage be used as a catalyst for regeneration, reawakening pride in the town, bringing in tourists to stimulate the local economy and putting the town back on the map? Tim Strickland shows how Middlewich’s Roman past is now a force for developing a prosperous future.

News of Fellows

Roger M Thomas, Head of Urban Archaeology at English Heritage, was called to the Bar (formally admitted as a barrister of one of the Inns of Court) by the Middle Temple on 14 October. Roger gained a first-class degree in law from the Open University in 2002, and took the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) at the College of Law in 2004. He hopes to specialise in planning and heritage law, and is seeking a pupillage in this area.

Roger joins a small group of Fellows who are also barristers, including Mrs Lesley Lewis, Charles Sparrow, QC, Giles Clarke and John Pugh-Smith. The Society’s links with the Inns of Court go back to the early years of our history (see J Evans, A History of the Society of Antiquaries) and it is good to see this tradition being perpetuated.

The International Balzan Foundation, based in Switzerland, has awarded its 2004 Prize for Prehistoric Archaeology to our Fellow, Professor Lord Renfrew. The Balzan Prize is one of the highest awards for science, culture and humanitarian achievement, ranking close to the Nobel Prize. Since 1961, only 100 people and humanitarian institutions have been honoured with the prize, which is worth 1 million Swiss francs — half of which must be devoted to projects involving young researchers in the winner’s field. Full details, including the citation, biographical details and an interview with Colin Renfrew, can be found on the website of the International Balzan Foundation at .


Richard Charlton has written to the Society to say that his father, John Charlton, one of our oldest fellows (elected in January 1947) died peacefully on Friday 29 October at the age of ninety-five. ‘Amongst his many positions’, Richard writes, ‘my father was Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments and an archaeologist on the Roman Wall in the 1920s (a photograph in Birdoswald Museum on the Roman Wall dated 1929 shows him with R G Collingwood, Ian Richmond and Eric Birley). He was President of the Royal Archaeological Institute and the Cumberland & Westmorland Archaeology Society. He was publishing articles in Archaeology Today until the last few months of his life, and his membership of the Society was always very important to him.’

George Holleyman, who was elected a Fellow exactly five months after John Charlton (in May 1947), died on 2 October 2004, aged 93. An obituary published in the Times on 10 November described George as ‘an archaeologist whose meticulous excavations in Sussex laid bare the details of life in Bronze Age Britain’. The obituary went on to say that ‘it is almost impossible to discuss the prehistory of lowland Britain without including his exemplary excavations at Plumpton Plain (1934) and Itford Hill (1949—53), which revolutionised our understanding of the British Bronze Age … Holleyman’s interest in landscape archaeology, and particularly the use of the newly developed techniques of aerial survey, were well demonstrated in his classic paper The Celtic Field System in Southern Britain, published in Antiquity (1935). Here he integrated aerial and terrestrial survey to show the intensity of agricultural activity on the South Downs, particularly north of Brighton, during the late Iron Age and Romano-British periods.

‘After the war Holleyman set up an antiquarian bookshop, Holleyman and Treacher, in Brighton (Treacher withdrew after the first year). The shop gradually acquired a high reputation as Holleyman assembled the largest collection of antiquarian books in south-east England. He bought the library of the estate of Leonard and Virginia Woolf, and he regularly located rare books for the Bodleian, British Museum and Eton College libraries.

But archaeology was his consuming enthusiasm … his fieldwork at Plumpton Plain, although nominally a joint project with Dr E C Curwen, was almost entirely directed by Holleyman (Curwen claiming in the report to be only a ‘sleeping partner’). The title of the publication, Late Bronze Age Lynchet-Settlements on Plumpton Plain, Sussex, in the second volume of the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, emphasised the importance of placing settlements in their landscape context, something which few archaeologists were doing at the time.

The excavation of a late Bronze Age settlement on Itford Hill, Sussex, is George Holleyman’s lasting memorial. Itford Hill was a remarkably well-preserved group of settlement enclosures set in a network of lyncheted fields which had survived almost unchanged since they had been deserted about 1100 BC. For the first time on such a site whole enclosures with their fence-lines and ponds were excavated to reveal later Bronze Age life in minute detail.’

More on the stories in Salon 102

Luther’s lavatory seat: Diarmaid MacCulloch, FSA, writes to say that he is a killjoy historian, but then proves that he is not by providing a fascinating gloss on the news of the discovery of Luther's loo. ‘The whole idea of Luther having his theological breakthrough “in cloaca” is a Protestant urban myth’, Diarmaid writes, ‘based on a faulty understanding of the Latin account in which Luther tells us the story. His account speaks of the experience as happening “in the Tower”, a monastic building which actually contained his study — and it is rather more standard for scholars to have deep theological thoughts in their study than elsewhere. The Tower did also contain the monastery latrine, and Luther mentions that, probably for comic or ironical effect — he was a lover of paradox.

The Luther-on-the-latrine idea seems to stem from Erik Erikson’s silly 1950s psychobiography of Luther, Young Man Luther, which inspired a rather good play by John Osborne. Nor did Luther especially suffer from constipation, except during the months in 1521—2 when he was confined for his own safety to Wartburg Castle above Eisenach: not surprisingly, lack of exercise produced physical effects on him. There is good discussion of this in a sensible little book by John Wilkinson, a retired Scottish physician, on the engrossing subject of The Medical History of the Reformers. None of this, of course, detracts from the excitement that we can feel at the latest investigations of the Wittenberg site.’

The Great Caledonian Forest: In relation to the piece about Chris Smout proving that the Great Wood of Caledon of the Romans was a myth, Gordon Barclay, FSA, writes to say that (once again) a Fellow got there first: ‘You should note that our Fellow Dr David Breeze published a paper entitled “The Great Myth of Caledon” in 1992, in Scottish Forestry 46 (pages 331—5); the title tells you all you need to know — he takes the whole case for the wood’s existence apart.’

Bronze Age staircase: Salon’s attempt to be there first resulted in chastisement from Vincent Megaw, FSA, who pointed out that the salt mines of the Dürrnberg region of Austria date from the Iron Age and not the Bronze-Age, as erroneously stated in Salon 102. In his defence, Salon’s editor can point to excavations carried out by Cotswold Archaeology where bronze awls have turned up in Neolithic graves and iron slag in Bronze-Age contexts, so he was just trying to be avant garde in suggesting a realignment of the three-age system.

Lutyens’s New Delhi: Finally some very good news: Delhi’s Central Public Works Division has been told that it cannot demolish the colonial era houses of the Lutyens Bungalow Zone (LBZ) and replace them with modern condominiums. Susan Denyer, FSA, writes to say that the Indian Prime Minister has, at the insistence of S K Misra, Chair of INTACH (The Indian National Trust for Art & Cultural Heritage), squashed the plan. Susan asks, poignantly: ‘Would that ever happen here?’

Review of the National Monuments Record

Unlocking Heritage Information is the title of a newly published report from English Heritage containing the results of its public consultation exercise, carried out in autumn 2003, to which almost 900 responses were received. The Review’s principal recommendation is that a major corporate commitment be made to providing more NMR information on line. The recommendation has been formally endorsed by English Heritage’s Commissioners, and a series of programmes aimed at delivering vastly improved access to NMR archives within three years will be launched in spring 2005, as part of English Heritage’s next Corporate Plan.

English Heritage says that the initiative ‘will be accompanied by a new and vigorous portfolio of digital services and products, and a drive to develop new audiences and partnerships. To resource all these developments, 15 per cent of the NMR’s £2.8 million budget will be redirected towards the new initiatives and a new team will be charged with specific responsibility for driving the changes forward.’

As a mark of these commitments, the NMR has just launched the new PastScape database, containing summary information on every archaeological site in the National Monuments Record (around 400,000 sites, buildings, finds and excavations). Claiming to be the most complete account of England’s archaeology so far available on the internet, the database can be interrogated at

Everyone who contributed to the public consultation will automatically be sent a copy of the report, but further copies can be downloaded from

English Heritage debate in the House of Lords

Evidence that parliament and the real world are different places was provided in abundance during last week’s short debate in the House of Lords on the funding of English Heritage (see the Hansard website.

Everybody in the heritage world knows that English Heritage has recently suffered profound cuts in functions, services and grants. Most of us know English Heritage staff whose jobs have been abolished in the last few weeks. Yet, if you believe Lord Davies of Oldham, English Heritage faces the rosiest of futures.

The debate (on 17 November) was initiated by Lord Montague, who asked Her Majesty's Government what was the reason for ordering a further review of the work of English Heritage soon after the last [quinquennial] review.

Lord Davies breezily dismissed the notion that any such a review was in train. There had been a little study recently into the relationship between English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund — but ‘we decided there was no merit in any merger’, so there’s really nothing to worry about.

Good said Baroness Royall of Blaisdon; so perhaps you could also reassure us that funding for English Heritage will not be cut in the forthcoming financial settlement?

Goodness me no, said Lord Davies of Oldham, couldn’t possibly comment; not my job, not my department, I don’t do forecasts and anyway that’s a few weeks away yet. Now lets get back to my script. Ah yes: it says here that I can ‘reassure noble Lords that there has been no cost-cutting exercise as regards English Heritage’. Of course, you mustn’t muddle up the idea of cuts with that wholesome little exercise that Gordon has given every department called ‘the Government's efficiency programme’. Yes English Heritage has been asked to find 2.5 per cent savings, ‘but the intention behind those savings is that they should be put into the front-line services which English Heritage provides’.

At this point in the debate one longed for a noble Lord to point out that logically a ‘cut’ cannot be put into frontline services: a cut means less money to spend; it does not mean money to reallocate from one function to another. Lord Redesdale nevertheless made a brave attempt at tackling this flawed logic when he pointed out that ‘the efficiency cuts of 2.5 per cent referred to by the noble Lord mean that English Heritage will have no spare funding for grants in areas such as archaeology. If that funding dries up and no other funding is available, how can the Minister say that the money is being put into frontline services? The efficiency saving means that in fact there will be a cut in the heritage services for this country.’

Now look here, young man, Lord Davies replied; you simply are not old enough yet to be allowed to have your own opinion on this subject. Gordon has told everyone to lose 2.5 per cent —it’s nothing personal to English Heritage — and what Gordon says goes in this Government, don’t you know. Anyway, my script says that ‘English Heritage is able to effect such efficiencies — I have not seen a consultants' report which indicates that it cannot do so and the body itself is buoyant about it — so there is no reason to suppose that, in achieving those efficiencies, frontline services are being cut — far from it.’

The Perplexed Lord Bishop of St Albans then stood up to say that he was very confused because he had heard rumours that a major review would be taking place of all heritage bodies, including the Churches Conservation Trust. Lord Brooke of Sutton Mandeville also said that he had been to the Annual General Meeting of the Historic Houses Association the previous day and he was pretty sure that he heard the President allude to ‘the disappointment that it felt about the fall in grants from English Heritage’.

Oh all right then, said Lord Davies of Oldham; I am not supposed to tell you this, but yes it’s true that ‘the grant for English Heritage has been limited over the past couple of years in comparison with a number of other areas for which the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is responsible. This is because areas such as project-based funding for sport and free access to museums have needed extra resources directed towards them. I cannot give the noble Lord a forecast of what the immediate spending arrangements will be because they are still to be decided … however, I can assure the House that we recognise the valuable role played by English Heritage in a whole range of areas … We intend to ensure that funds are provided adequately.’

So that’s all right then. We can all relax. Or can we? It all very much depends on one’s definition of ‘adequate’, and on whether, in the light of all this ducking and weaving one can take any such reassurances at face value.

Tourism and the heritage dividend

If the Government wants to know why its attitude to the heritage is so short sighted it could do worse than turn to page 11 of the Sunday Times Appointments section (21 November) where an article by Gareth Huw Edwards says that local authorities in the UK are beginning at last to take tourism as seriously as their continental counterparts in such cities as Barcelona or Bilbao. ‘Tourism’, he says, ‘is the new talk of the public sector … as council officers all over Britain look for ways to revive local economies and create jobs by promoting hitherto unimagined attractions — like the Birmingham Jewellery Quarter’.

Tourism, it turns out, is worth £76 billion a year, will grow to £100 billion by 2010, and is the fifth largest employer in the UK. In Greenwich, tourism accounts for 25 per cent of all jobs, employs 6,000 people and pumps £327 million into the local economy. Not that heritage is responsible for all of that: shops, restaurants, hotels and transport play a role, but fundamentally these all depend on tourists wanting to see a World Heritage Site with such attractions as the National Maritime Museum and the Cutty Sark.

The article ends by pointing out that salaries in this field are very low: even heads of tourism services for big local authorities rarely earn more than £40,000 for a job that, in the private sector, would command a six-figure salary.

Cutty Sark to be saved from rot

Cutty Sark was itself in the news last week when the trust that owns the ship announced a £13 million plan to restore the landlocked vessel, which in turn is dependent on the success of an £11.75 million Heritage Lottery Find bid. The trust says that without the HLF funds, the ship will lose her safety licence, and have to close. The alternative is to make the restoration process a visitor attraction in its own right, to which end the trust has commissioned a visionary design from Grimshaw architects, for wrapping the ship within a transparent plastic tent during restoration work, and creating an exhibition space beneath the hull.

Britain’s worst tourist attractions

At least Cutty Sark did not suffer the ignominy of being declared one of the UK’s worst tourist attractions in Britain's Best Museums and Galleries, a robust assessment of 350 different collections published last week by Mark Fisher (Labour MP for Stoke-on-Trent and arts minister from 1997 to 1998). Instead the shame of being placed in the ‘worst’ category went to the Jorvik Viking Centre in York, the Royal Academy in London and the Royal Pavilion in Brighton, along with the Eden Project, the Houses of Parliament, the Cabinet War Rooms, the Royal Air Force Museum and the Tate Gallery in Liverpool. By contrast, Fisher lavished praise on the British Museum and Dulwich Picture Gallery.

Fisher dismisses the Palace of Westminster as a ‘somewhat selective celebration of the nation’s history’ and describes the Jorvik Viking Centre as ‘geared to the imagination of a reluctant ten-year-old’. He says that the Eden Project in Cornwall has ‘noble ambitions’ but does not deliver, observing that its warm temperate zone ‘may fail to convince European and Californian visitors’ and adding that ‘a few vines and olive trees’ hardly represent the Mediterranean Basin, while a few dripping plants do nothing to evoke the majesty of the rainforest.

Mr Fisher is critical of the level of government funding: ‘Revenue funding remains poor, undermining the quality of collections, when new acquisitions cannot be funded,’ he writes. He also complains about the Government’s influence over museums, which, he believes, can make exhibitions too political. ‘Today there is a growing danger that those responsible for the governance of our public museums and galleries have become less concerned about objects and more concerned about the contributions that they make to social policy.’

The V&A's new Architecture Gallery

One gallery will be absent from Mark Fisher’s survey as it only opened last week: the Victoria and Albert Museum's new Architecture Gallery is a joint enterprise with the Royal Institute of British Architects. The opening exhibition at the new gallery features highlights from the collections of drawings, models, photographs and architectural fragments owned by the V&A and the RIBA, including sketches by Wren, drawings by Palladio, Islamic fretwork, models of baroque churches, study models of the Palace of Westminster from the 1850s, a 1930s model of Chermayeff and Mendelsohn's De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill, and a minutely detailed model of a 1960s school, complete with coat-racks and desks.

The new gallery is matched by new study rooms, designed by Sandy and Clare Wright, where visitors can explore, by appointment, the national collection of 600,000 architectural drawings and 750,000 manuscripts.

The opening of the architecture gallery coincides with the Architecture Foundation's announcement of a new £2.5m centre to be built near Tate Modern, in Southwark.

History and Place

The National Trust, which is singled out for praise in Mark Fisher’s book, published a pamphlet last week that seeks to articulate the organisation’s philosophy. Called History and Place: informing the future, the pamphlet argues that ‘the Trust offers immediate, direct and tangible contact with the solid evidence of the past’, at a time when ‘public fascination with history is evident in a tidal wave of coverage on television, in magazines and in books’. This is ‘not a niche interest’ it argues, and bangs home the message that ‘our properties are not a virtual experience, but the real thing: places steeped in history’.

In exercising its stewardship over these historic places, the Trust aims to live up to G M Trevelyan’s dictum that the purpose of history is to ‘instruct, enlarge and cultivate the human mind’. To that end the Trust declares its intention to ‘reach beyond current stereotypes of what is safe, fashionable and popular … constantly revise our assessment of what is culturally or politically significant … and explore unfamiliar and uncomfortable history in new ways’.

The rest of the publication is devoted to showing what that means in practice, with a strong emphasis on using the heritage as a resource for learning and skills development, educating people to understand the processes of conservation, and involving supporters as ‘friends and volunteers’.

Copies of the pamphlet can be downloaded from the National Trust website.

Tower's ravens date from 1895

Another hallowed tourist attraction was in the news last week when our Fellow Geoffrey Parnell, the official Tower of London historian and a member of the Royal Armouries staff, suggested on the Today programme that many of the traditions associated with the Tower have no historical basis: no traitors ever went through Traitor’s Gate, few prisoners were ever tortured or executed here and the story of the Tower ravens is a late-Victorian invention.

The Beefeaters, or Yeoman Warders of the Tower, tell visitors that ravens have lived at the Tower of London since time immemorial; if they ever leave, the story goes, the monarchy and the tower itself will fall. Having scoured 1,000-years’ worth of Tower records, Geoff says he can find no reference to ravens earlier than 1895, when, in a piece in the RSPCA journal, The Animal World, one Edith Hawthorn refers to the Tower’s pet cat being tormented by the ravens.

Dr Parnell first became interested in the legend of the ravens while preparing an exhibition about the tower menagerie, the forerunner of the London Zoo. Dr Parnell’s research suggests the ravens may have been a punning gift to the Tower by the Earl of Dunraven, an archaeologist and antiquary fascinated by Celtic raven myths, who added ravens to his family coat of arms.

A spokeswoman for Historic Royal Palaces took the news in good part, saying that: ‘This is a very interesting piece of research, which adds to the history of the Tower. So much of the appearance of the Tower that we see today does date back to the Victorian period that it is quite appropriate that the ravens should be a Victorian legend.’

The glory of the Sixteen Chapel

The last word on the subject of tourism comes in the form of a little light relief, culled from an article in the Times last week containing a list of questions that tour guides in Rome are regularly asked. Among them are such stunners as: did Moses pose for Michelangelo; was the Colosseum built as a ruin; and where exactly in Rome is the grave of Christ? Visitors who ask where Jesus was buried often react ‘sceptically’ when told that the Resurrection took place in Jerusalem and that Jesus never came to Rome at all.

British, French and German visitors are said to be the best-informed visitors. Australians and Asians know a great deal about their own countries but not much about Rome and among American tourists it is — oddly — those of Italian origin who revealed the greatest ignorance. Many rely on supposed ‘facts’ gleaned from Hollywood films. The commonest error is to refer to the Sistine Chapel as the ‘Sixteen Chapel’. ‘We are always being asked where the other fifteen are’, commented one tour guide. Another said that Pantheon staff were so fed up with being asked why they don’t repair the roof, that they have erected a notice reading: ‘The hole in the roof is always open, and when it rains, the floor gets wet’.

NHMF gives £860,000 boost to Macclesfield Psalter campaign

The Fitzwilliam Museum's campaign to keep the Macclesfield Psalter in Britain received a huge boost last week when the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) agreed to give £860,000 towards its purchase. Campaigners now need to raise another £180,000 by 10 February to prevent the psalter, which is subject to a temporary export ban, from being sold for £1.7 million to the Getty Museum in California. The National Art Collections Fund (NACF) has also pledged £500,000 and the Fitzwilliam Museum and its supporters have added £150,000. ‘We are now on the home straight’, said David Verey, the chairman of the NACF: ‘This generous grant has made a tremendous difference as has the fantastic support we have received from the public so far.’

Temporary export bar on oak coffer from Lansdown Tower, Bath

Arts Minister, Estelle Morris, has placed a temporary export bar on an oak coffer, originally from a set of four, believed to have been designed by William Beckford and his architect H E Goodrich. Anyone interested in making an offer to purchase the coffer at the recommended price of £145,000 (exclusive of VAT) has until 19 January 2005 to do so, with the possibility of an extension until after 19 March 2005 if there is a serious intention to raise the funds to make a purchase.

William Beckford (1760—1844) was one of the most remarkable men of his time. The only son of an immensely rich sugar planter he was ostracised by society following a homosexual scandal and lived in splendid seclusion — 'une faste solitaire', according to the French poet Mallarmé — on the Continent and in a series of houses in Britain. An exceptional amateur architect and designer, Beckford built the astonishing Gothic Revival Fonthill Abbey, with its 300-foot-high spire, where he lived from 1807 to 1822.

In 1822 debts forced the sale of the Abbey, where the tower collapsed in 1825, and Beckford moved to Bath, where he lived at No 20 Lansdown Crescent. He bought a strip of land leading up the hill beside the house, which he transformed into a garden known as Beckford's Ride. This was slightly less than a mile in length. At its end he built the Lansdown Tower as a place where he could read, write, reflect in solitude and admire his art collection. From its belvedere, 154 feet high, Beckford could look for some thirty miles across what he called ‘the finest prospect in Europe’.

The reliquary-like coffer that is now for sale is fine and strong in its design, which echoes the so-called marriage coffers of late-seventeenth-century France and Italy and is made of contrasting veneers, used with turned and carved details (partly gilded). It is one of four coffers designed for the Scarlet Drawing Room, the most important interior of the ground floor of the Tower. The rich, glowing decoration of this room epitomised Beckford’s intention to create in the Tower the final, perfect version of the collector’s sanctuary that he had been seeking to create around him throughout his life.

The Lottery: the people’s favourites

Our Secretary of State for Culture, Tessa Jowell, is very keen on allowing ‘the people’ to decide how lottery proceeds should be spent, so it was instructive to read this week of a popularity poll in which lottery players were asked to nominate their favourite scheme from all the lottery projects funded over the last ten years.

Top of the poll came the £43.5m national cycle network and second came the Welsh millennium coastal park, stretching from Pembrey to Penclawdd. The two projects beat much more high-profile ventures, including Tate Modern, the Lowry building on Salford Quays and the Cornish greenhouse complex known as the Eden Project. Worryingly, there were no heritage projects in the shortlist at all.

£3.5m lottery cash for five historic Welsh towns

Bridgend, Holywell, Cefn Mawr, Llandovery and Llangadog are to share £3.5 million under the HLF’s Townscape Heritage Initiative (THI) scheme, which was set up to fund regeneration projects involving the restoration of historic buildings.

In Bridgend, the THI will focus on Dunraven Place, historically the most important part of the commercial town centre, and Elder Street, both of which flourished during the nineteenth century, when most of the town’s historic buildings were constructed.

The majority of the buildings in the Holywell THI scheme are Georgian in date, but the scheme also includes the primary route to the holy well of St Winifred, one of the best preserved medieval holy wells in Europe, and the nineteenth-century Holywell Textile Mill, at one of the gateways to the town, which may be developed as a craft centre.

The Cefn Mawr THI scheme focuses on the commercial centre of the town, which was built and developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries as a consequence of the exploitation of local outcrops of millstone grit, sandstone, coal, iron ore and clay.

Declining agricultural incomes have had a major impact on Llandovery and Llangadog, where low property values have led to the neglect of sites at Stone Street in Llandovery and Queens Square in Llangadog, whose historic fabric will now be repaired.

And £2m for historic Hackney

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded Hackney Borough Council a grant of £1.79m to restore St John’s Churchyard Gardens. An additional £231,000 has been approved to preserve and open up St Augustine’s Tower, which is situated in the Gardens, following a separate application from Hackney Historic Buildings Trust.

Work on St John’s churchyard will restore the eighteenth-century paths and planting, the nineteenth-century gates and garden furniture and the most significant of the tombs and monuments. The Grade-I listed St Augustine’s Tower is Hackney’s oldest building, dating from the thirteenth century. As well as repairing the stonework, lighting and glazing, educational facilities will be introduced and improved safety measures will enable visitors to climb to the roof and enjoy the wonderful panorama over the City of London.

Bishop defends his castle against invaders

Fighting against the Church of England’s trend for moving bishops out of their historic palaces and into far humbler homes, the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Rev Tom Wright, has launched an impassioned rearguard action to preserve his right to live in Auckland Castle.

The sale of historical houses results from a review by the Church Commissioners who argue that the houses are too expensive to maintain and perpetuate an anachronistic image of Prince Bishops living in luxury while parishes struggle. Bishop Wright is adamant that Auckland Castle, the magnificent home of the Bishops of Durham for 900 years, should not be sold because it is one of the deep-rooted symbols of the Church, a place that encapsulates the memory of society and that could enrich future generations.

Buildings such as Auckland Castle are not ‘simply commodities, things that can be bought and sold, shunted around someone’s chessboard in order to play whichever games they are playing’, he said, adding that: ‘The question is whether this house actually enhances the ministry of the bishop or impedes the ministry of the bishop. In my view, it enormously enhances the ministry of the bishop.’

The Bishop points out that he lives in a relatively modest six-bedroom apartment within the building, which also houses the diocesan offices and sits in a park open to the public. Rooms in the castle are hired out for conferences, events and weddings, the income from which contributes to the building’s annual £100,000 maintenance costs. The Bishop believes most of the money raised from its sale — probably in excess of £2 million — would have to be spent on relocating him and the other offices.

The Church's portfolio of episcopal residences is worth an estimated £80 million. The majority of the forty-four diocesan bishops’ houses are listed. The Commissioners announced plans this year to review the future of each house when the resident bishop is 62, to ensure it remains cost-effective and the best way for the bishop to operate. Otherwise, it could be put on the market.

Hafodunos Hall damaged by fire

Neo-Gothic Hafodunos Hall, at Llangernyw, in north Wales, was badly damaged in a fire last week. Designed and built by Sir George Gilbert Scott and completed in 1866, the Grade-I-listed building is renowned for its stained-glass windows and the reliefs in the sculpture room by John Gibson. The Grade-II-listed formal gardens were created by Sir William Hooker.

Hafodunos Hall has been in decline for a number of years, after use as a boarding school, an accounting college, a care home for the elderly and a shelter for the homeless. Six years ago the local authority, Conwy Council, was considering serving an urgent works notice, but the owner of the hall died before the notice could be issued, leaving his estate in debt. Most of the fireplaces have been stolen, dry rot has brought down ceilings in the state room and damp has been rising from the cellar.

The hall was purchased by SFJ Ltd three years ago, with the intention of turning it into a luxury hotel. Dale Dishon, the Victorian Society's northern and Welsh architectural adviser, said: ‘If it was a painting nobody would have allowed it to decay so much.’ The North Wales police are questioning two men about the fire.

Plundered treasures end up on London market

Ninety per cent of the major archaeological sites in Pakistan and Iran have been looted and the spoils are flooding into London, according to Robin Coningham, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Bradford. Professor Coningham’s six-year survey of ancient sites in Pakistan and Iran was conducted in collaboration with the universities of Peshawar and Tehran, and with the backing of the Royal Geographical Society, the British Institute of Persian Studies and the British Academy. His report concludes that: ‘Although the illegal destruction occurs abroad, much of the looted material is channelled here to Britain and is sold in London. The best material is coming to London … the cultural heritage of the developing world is [being] asset-stripped while we serve as a market stall for objects of dubious provenance.’

The survey team found eighteen hitherto unrecorded archaeological sites dating to the first millennium BC in the Hindu Kush region, but fourteen had already been damaged by illicit excavations, and more than 120 sites dating back to 8000 BC in the Tehran plain, of which nearly all had suffered recent damage.

Neil Brodie, co-ordinator of the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research at Cambridge University, estimates that up to 20 per cent of the material being offered in London does not have an archaeological provenance. Dr Brodie has called on the Government to extend to Pakistan and Iran the same kind of emergency legislation passed last year to protect Iraqi antiquities. That legislation forces anyone in possession of such an object to prove it came out legally before UN sanctions were imposed on Iraq. He said: ‘Since the emergency legislation, Iraqi antiquities have virtually disappeared from the London market. Before that, there was a whole load of Iraqi antiquities in London. It’s the only thing that works.’

Italian archaeologists fear ‘looters’ charter’

In Italy, archaeologists were aghast last week over Silvio Berlusconi’s plan to legalise the private ownership of archaeological treasures in Italy. Our Fellow, Lord Renfrew, former director of the Illicit Antiquities Research Centre, called the measure a ‘looters’ charter’, adding that: ‘Italy has a very good tradition of looking after its antiquities. This legislation would be a slap in the face for those in the administration who work for the conservation of its heritage.’

At present, all antiquities found in Italian soil are deemed to be the property of the state and are meant to be handed over to the authorities. Under the proposed legislation, treasure hunters who declare their finds can keep and own them if they pay the state 5 per cent of the object’s estimated value. Supporters have argued that it would bring to light previously hidden treasures.

In an article for the newspaper La Repubblica, Salvatore Settis, rector of the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, said he feared ‘a gigantic treasure hunt all over the country’ if the measures were approved. Filippo Coarelli, Professor of Roman Antiquities at the University of Perugia, called the plan ‘an incitement to theft’. This month’s Art Newspaper illustrates the scale of the problem through the interview it conducted with a robber of Etruscan tombs who said he averaged a break-in every ten days.

Anglo-Saxon glade back on the map

The Guardian told a heartening tale last week about a Wiltshire hamlet that got back the name it had been known by since 1198. Recorded in a Norman census as ‘Penleia’ — Anglo-Saxon for ‘woodland clearing’ — the hamlet’s name disappeared in the 1970s when it was merged with the nearby village of Dilton Marsh. Now local resident Miriam Elloway, 68, has convinced councillors to reinstate Penleigh on the map and to set up new road signs at a cost to Penleigh’s twenty-one households of an additional £2.90 each on their Council Tax bill.

‘I moved here about thirty years ago. When I mentioned to the older people that I was happy to be living in Dilton Marsh, they told me that it was actually Penleigh,’ Mrs Elloway said. ‘They clearly had a sense of loss about their sense of identity being taken away. They were not sure why they had, and it seemed to me to be very disrespectful without people agreeing to it.’

She launched a petition and was overwhelmed by the support. ‘Everywhere I went people backed me, and we have managed to hang on and reinstate the name before it was lost for ever.’

Mosaics conference

ASPRoM (the Association for the Study and Promotion of Roman Mosaics) is holding a symposium at the Institute of Classical Studies, on the third floor of Senate House, Malet Street, London, from 2 to 5pm, on Saturday 4 December. The speakers will be: Henri Lavagne (president of AIEMA, the Association Internationale pour l'Étude de la Mosaïque Antique, Paris) who will review recent work on Roman mosaics, including discoveries at Zeugma and other Mediterranean sites; Helen Whitehouse (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford) on ‘Faithfully Copied: seventeenth-century drawings of Roman mosaics and their use today’; Sara Paton (British School at Athens) on ‘The Villa Dionysios at Knossos, Crete’; and various speakers on recent discoveries of mosaics in Roman Britain. Further information from Roger Ling, FSA.


The Balance Foundation, Director of Grant Making
Salary package to £80,000, closing date 29 November 2004

Here’s a chance to influence — nay create — the grant-making programme of an entirely new charity, set up to dispose of unclaimed assets held by UK financial institutions. The advert says that the job will appeal to a person of intellectual vision and strategic abilities, plus a successful track record in the voluntary sphere. Further details from Myra Farnworth.

The Royal Parks, Director
Attractive salary, which could include accommodation, closing date 30 November 2004

A senior specialist with a strong career record in landscape, heritage or horticultural management is required to join the senior management team of the Royal Parks to be responsible for conservation, landscape management, environmental and ecological issues. The task includes directing the Royal Parks major events policy and representing Royal Parks to professional, governmental and international audiences. Further information from

The Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL), Property Manager for the Kelmscott Manor Estate
Salary range £26,000 to £30,000, closing date 3 December 2004

Kelmscott Manor, near Lechlade, Gloucestershire, was the country home of William Morris from 1871 until his death in 1896. Grade-I-listed, its Registered Museum contains a pre-eminent collection of the possessions and works of art of Morris and his associates. The Manor receives some 14,000 visitors annually between April and the end of September.

The Society of Antiquaries of London (SAL) holds the Manor in trust and is looking to appoint a Property Manager with full day-to-day operation, accounting and custodial responsibilities for this unique estate. The post holder will report to the General Secretary and liaise with its estate managers. He/she will manage the shop, catering, garden, seasonal Volunteer Co-ordinator and Finance Administrator.

The successful applicant will have strong general management experience, a successful track record of motivating and managing staff and volunteers effectively and building positive relationships with all stakeholders. An interest in William Morris and the Arts and Crafts Movement is desirable.

Further particulars can be obtained from the Society of Antiquaries.