Salon Archive

Issue: 104

Forthcoming meetings

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.

9 December: Kelmscott before Morris and Afterwards, by Nicholas Cooper, FSA.

Kelmscott Manor is dominated by the figure of William Morris, and Morris’s association with the house is of course why, under the terms of May Morris’s will, the Society now owns it. But Kelmscott is of unusual interest in its own right as a remarkably well-preserved house of early-seventeenth-century minor gentry, with associated farm buildings of high quality and of the same date. A fresh examination of the fabric — and of documents that have not hitherto received the attention that they deserve — has produced a more complete picture than before of the history of the house up to the time that it was acquired by the Society.

Feedback on last week’s Salon

Re the story in Salon regretting that there were no heritage projects in a recent poll to find the most popular Lottery-funded projects, Bryony and John Coles write to say that surely both of the winners (the national cycle network and the Welsh coastal protection scheme) allow huge numbers of people to be in and appreciate landscapes full of heritage in all its diversity.

John Hemming writes to say how grateful he was to Diarmaid MacCulloch for ‘unblocking the story of Martin Luther's loo’. He adds that ‘your readers might need to be reminded that he was hidden in the Wartburg by his patron the Elector of Lower Saxony to save him from murder by the Church authorities after being reprimanded at the Diet of Worms. He was disguised as Junker Georg, one of the knights. Eisenach is in the south-western corner of the old East German DDR, a delightful place well worth visiting (partly because Bach had his schooldays there) as are nearby Erfurt, Jena, Weimar and Naumburg. Wartburg Castle was heavily restored in the Kaiser’s day, but it is a Mecca for German tourists. They go to see the cell, and lectern and quill pen with which Luther translated the New Testament from Greek into vernacular German. It is hailed as the first major work of literature in German. That is how Luther spent his months as a knight — not just struggling with constipation!’

Speaking with all the authority of a former President of the Rainforest Club, John also says that ‘the MP and author Mark Fisher was unfair to condemn the tropical zone in the Eden Project as “a few dripping plants that fail to evoke the majesty of a rainforest”. I have spent far more of my life in rainforests than Mr Fisher, as has Sir Ghillean Prance, the chairman of the Eden Project, and Robin Hanbury-Tenison who lives nearby and is a strong supporter of it. Obviously, nothing artificial could replicate a true rainforest, but the hundreds of living trees and plants in the Eden Project, in a controlled hot and humid environment, get closer to doing so than any other attempt I have seen in any other country.’

Paul McCartney saves Conservation Awards

Sir Paul McCartney has agreed to sponsor The Conservation Awards, the UK's leading awards in the conservation field, rewarding excellence and innovation in preserving our heritage. His generous offer of support secures the future of the awards until 2009. Sir Paul agreed to fund the awards after meeting Ian Clark, the joint winner of the 2002 Conservation Award for his restoration of the Royal Navy's first submarine, Holland 1. The 1901 vessel was saved from rampant corrosion, and the conservation work included design of a humidity-controlled gallery to allow public display.

Sir Paul said: ‘It's really important that the objects, pictures, documents and buildings we've inherited are properly looked after, for us and our children after us to learn from and enjoy. People don't realise how lucky we are to have such brilliant conservation specialists in this country. I've seen them in action. The Conservation Awards draw attention to those wonderful skills, and I'm delighted to help ensure they continue.’

Welcoming Sir Paul's involvement, our Fellow David Leigh, Director of the UK Institute for Conservation, commented: ‘It's wonderful that Sir Paul has decided to champion these Awards and secure their future. Our cultural heritage gives enormous pleasure to people of all ages and reminds us of who we are and where we have come from. In our throwaway society, it has never been more important to preserve “the real thing”, and that’s what conservators do. The Awards have recognised the triumphs of conservation over the past decade, and Sir Paul's generous support will help us celebrate many more.’

Ian Clark, winner of the 2002 Conservation Award, said, ‘I was very fortunate to have the chance to discuss the future of conservation and the Awards in particular with Sir Paul, and was thrilled by his response.’ He added, ‘This is a very significant show of support from Sir Paul, who is somebody who believes strongly in conservation.’

The Awards are open to projects completed by conservators working in every heritage field. They attract entries from national and regional museums and galleries, libraries and archives, and major organisations such as the National Trust, English Heritage and Historic Royal Palaces as well as smaller firms such as Ian Clark's which do outstanding work. In addition, the Digital Preservation Award, new in 2004, attracts entries from across the world.

Tessa Jowell says TV viewers should decide on more lottery funding

At present if you apply for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund your application will be scrutinised by expert advisers and go before a board of trustees. You must prove that your scheme not only benefits the heritage, but also yields important training, access and education dividends, and represents real value for money. In future, you will need a raft of celebrity supporters, cheering banner-waving crowds and a sweet pensioner with a compelling human interest story to speak for your project, like the former cross-Channel swimmer who helped Manchester’s Victoria Baths win the prize in the first Restoration television show in September 2003.

You will need all this razzmatazz because the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, believes that Lottery funding should be allocated in future by viewers voting for their favourite schemes on television. The Independent reported on 27 November that ministers believe the Restoration programme, fronted by Griff Rhys Jones, has already helped to restore public confidence in the Lottery. Tessa Jowell told the Independent that her office was negotiating with broadcasters to extend the Restoration approach to new areas of Lottery grant giving.

She said: ‘We are looking at how we might award grants on Restoration-style programmes with public participation — you could do it with the arts, and sport. We are also looking at the possibility of people ticking boxes when they buy their lottery tickets for how they might like money spent in their region. All this is about strengthening the relationship between lottery players and the good causes. The Government wants to increase confidence in the lottery by getting people more directly involved in how the money is spent.’

Ms Jowell’s comments coincide with the publication of the Lottery Bill, which merges several funds into the Big Lottery Fund, and gives ministers the power to prevent surplus funds remaining unspent.

Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, said the Bill raised ‘grave concerns’ about political interference. He said: ‘There is no duty to consult with the voluntary sector, or anyone else outside government.’ Don Foster, the Liberal Democrat culture spokesman, said the Bill would give the Government much greater powers over how cash raised by the Lottery was spent. ‘The National Lottery is fast becoming Gordon Brown's lottery,’ he said.

Rejecting the criticism, Ms Jowell said the Lottery's future was part of a bigger debate for a Labour third term about how the Government could allow people to make their own choices over public services.

Rural crafts will soon earn more than farming

Meanwhile Restoration Man himself — alias Griff Rhys Jones — was helping to launch the Countryside Agency’s handsome and copiously illustrated report on rural crafts last week at the Building Crafts College in London. Rather optimistically, the report concluded that such crafts have the potential to bring more wealth and employment to the rural economy in fifteen years’ time than farming, forestry and mineral extraction put together.

The report was produced under the Chairmanship of Professor Ted Collins, former Director of the Rural History Centre at Reading University, and includes a contribution from our Fellow David Viner. It found that the heritage building sector alone was worth £2 billion a year and that around 500,000 people currently make a living from such traditional rural crafts as thatching, dry-stone walling, flint napping, pargetting, earth-walling, timber framing and stone masonry.

The report concludes that: ‘There may be a tendency in some quarters to regard rural crafts as archaic survivals, as attempts to preserve outmoded traditions, and as such largely irrelevant to the needs of modern society … on the contrary, this report shows them to be a vital and dynamic element within rural economies, making an important contribution to the leisure, tourism, construction and consumer goods industries.’

Rural craft products were now high-status items rather than basic commodities, and were deemed more prestigious than mass-produced equivalents, allowing those who produced them to charge a premium. Such crafts no longer exist to service agriculture and the traditional rural community but rather the green consumer, craft enthusiast and ‘the new genus of country dweller’, who attached special value to products with historic or rural associations.

Lest anyone should think that everything in the garden is too rosy, the report’s authors add a warning that lack of training in the craft sector means that many of the people learning rural crafts are middle class and middle aged — many of them well-educated dropouts from stressful urban jobs who have turned to rural crafts as a solution to a mid-life crisis. Whilst there is nothing wrong with that per se, the report’s authors believe that it is not a sustainable or efficient foundation for a healthy rural skills sector. There are already acute shortages of people with specific skills (especially traditional building and construction skills) where the demand currently outstrips the supply, and where formal college courses and apprenticeships are seen as the solution.

A 24-page summary report, English Rural Crafts, Today and Tomorrow, is available in PDF format from the Countryside Agency’s website. The full 325-page report, Crafts in the English Countryside: Towards a Future, costs £20; details from the Countryside Agency’s website.

Historic buildings are not being maintained

It was a busy week for Griff Rhys Jones who also spoke at the launch of a new study of listed buildings published by the pressure group Maintain Our Heritage which has said that owners’ failure to undertake simple maintenance such as cleaning out gutters or fixing broken roof tiles is leading to the deterioration of much of the nation’s heritage. Griff described in graphic detail the dead pigeons, plastic supermarket bags, beer cans and tennis balls that are putting the country's heritage at risk by blocking gutters, eventually causing severe water damage to roof timbers, ceilings and walls.

The report says that routine maintenance on historic buildings — such as the regular clearing of gutters — would prevent them deteriorating to the point that they needed substantial repair work. But maintenance is ‘patchy and chaotic … sporadic, not systematic, a low not a high priority — and in many cases does not happen at all’. Richard Pollard, chairman of Maintain Our Heritage, said that he was issuing a ‘call to arms’ to those responsible for such buildings. ‘Maintenance is simple, common sense,’ he said. ‘Everyone can do it but many owners wait for things to go wrong before acting.’

For further details of the report see the Maintain Our Heritage website.

Landscape Character Assessment database for England

The Countryside Agency has just launched an online database that gives details of all the Landscape Character Assessments (LCAs) that have been carried out to date, amounting to almost comprehensive coverage of England. The database is accessed from the website of the Countryside Character Network. Users can search by local authority (eg Gloucestershire) or countryside area (eg the Cotswolds). Searches then list all known assessments (eg Cotswold District Council’s ‘Assessment of Landscapes Outside the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ carried out in 2000), with details of where the assessment is held, in what form and how to obtain or view copies.

Landscape character assessment is an increasingly used tool in planning and policy making: it aims to identify what makes a place unique, what makes it different from neighbouring areas and what conditions should be set for any new development and change.

Estelle Morris defends Gift Aid

Speaking at the Funding the Future charity conference in London last week, Arts Minister Estelle Morris said that she personally disagreed with the Treasury’s attempts to prevent museums, galleries and historic houses claiming Gift Aid on admission fees. ‘As Minister for Arts I'm with you against the Treasury rather than with the Treasury against you,’ she said, adding that she had told ministers and the Treasury that ‘the voluntary sector can't take this level of turmoil and instability’.

The existing Gift Aid regulations have brought millions of pounds to the heritage sector (and is a very valuable source of income to the Society of Antiquaries through the Gift Aid scheme that operates at Kelmscott Manor) because it has been able to claim the income tax paid on entrance fees by treating them as donations. The Chancellor Gordon Brown announced in his Budget in March that he wished to close what he described as a ‘loophole’, much to the consternation of many in the arts and heritage sectors.

Wentworth house's demolition 'jeopardises national heritage'

An inquiry has begun into the legality of the demolition last November of the Modernist house called Greenside, a Grade-II listed building constructed in 1937 by the architects Connell Ward and Lucas on the Wentworth Estate in Surrey, close to the Wentworth golf course. This demolition, the public inquiry was told, caused a national and international outcry and, if allowed to go unchallenged, would undermine the entire planning system.

Opening the inquiry, Richard Harwood, speaking for English Heritage, said: ‘This is not simply a debate about protecting modernist architecture. It is a debate about whether to have a planning system.’ He added: ‘If the events that led to this inquiry go unchallenged, then what is an historic building today may be a greenfield housing site tomorrow or a supermarket next week.’

The inquiry heard that Mr Beadle, 52, a businessman, had bought the house for £400,000 in 1987; it was listed in 1988. In April 2000, he offered the house for sale for £2m. At one point he was offered £1.8m but after a survey discovered that it needed major repairs, the sale collapsed. About £664,000 was needed to bring it up to acceptable standards, a cost due in part to the fact that plumbing and wiring were buried in the concrete.

Runnymede Council then gave him consent to demolish it, despite opposition from English Heritage, and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister chose not to intervene. However, the council then agreed to reconsider the application after a legal challenge by the Twentieth Century Society. Last year, the council again gave consent for demolition, subject to government approval. But it was demolished before the matter could be considered.

The council argues that its decision to grant permission to knock it down reflected the provisions of the Human Rights Acts that an individual has a right to do what they please with their possessions. If the inquiry finds against the council, Mr Beadle could be prosecuted by English Heritage.

Another architectural icon faces demolition

The Commonwealth Institute in London, designed by the British architect Sir Robert Matthew, is facing the prospect of demolition. The 1960s pre-stressed concrete building, with its curved green copper roof, has been described by architects Avery Associates as ‘one of the most important public buildings erected in London between the time of the Royal Festival Hall and the Hayward Gallery’.

The Grade-II*-listed building was meant to symbolise Britain’s breaking with its imperial past and embracing the diversity of the multi-racial Commonwealth. The building was closed to the public two years ago when the artefacts were transferred to the Museum of Empire and Commonwealth in Bristol. The trustees had hoped to sell the building and invest in a new education centre for Commonwealth students at Homerton College, Cambridge (of which our Fellow Kate Pretty is the Principal). But the cost of maintenance has put off potential buyers, despite a £3m refurbishment three years ago to stop its roof leaking.

Some trustees now see no alternative to delisting so that they can sell the site for redevelopment. They have found an ally in Lord Cunliffe, the architect who supervised the execution of Sir Robert Matthew’s design, who has denounced his own building, saying that ‘the trustees should be freed from this incubus so they can pursue the aims of the institute. Those are much more important and will contribute far more to today's world than a decaying building ever could’. James Porter, the former director who helped to get it listed, describes such a proposal as ‘cultural vandalism’.

English Heritage has been asked by the Culture Secretary, Tessa Jowell, to prepare a report on whether the building’s listed status should be reviewed.

Tolkien’s house is listed

The house in Oxford in which J R R Tolkien wrote The Hobbit and virtually all of The Lord of the Rings trilogy between 1930 and 1947 (voted the 'most popular book in Britain' in a recent BBC TV show) is to become a Grade-II-listed building, Heritage Minister Andrew McIntosh has announced. The eight-bedroomed house at 20 Northmoor Road, Oxford, was built in 1924 by Fred Openshaw, a local architect, for Basil Blackwell, the owner of Oxford's famous bookshop. Though it has no special architectural qualities, it is described as ‘largely unaltered since Tolkien's time, with original doors, door handles and ornate window catches’. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport justifies the listing on the grounds of ‘historical association with nationally important people or events’. The house was sold to new owners in May this year for a sum in excess of £1.5 million.

Eighteenth-century medical manuscripts to be made public

The personal papers of the renowned Scottish physician Sir John Pringle are to be made accessible to the public, despite the strict stipulation in Sir John’s will of 1782 that his papers should never be printed, quoted in print nor taken out of the premises of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh.

The terms of the 223-year-old bequest were modified in court last week when a fellow of the college funded legal action to allow the college to open the collection to the public. Iain Milne, head of library and information services at the college, said the college was very proud of the ten-volume collection, considered to be one of the most valuable manuscript sources of historical information on the practice of medicine in eighteenth-century Europe. ‘We believed it was important to take legal action to make the material available to medical researchers, historians and the public, he said, adding that researchers had been unable to quote or publish extracts from the manuscripts until now.

The documents give an insight into medical thought and practice in the eighteenth century. Sir John writes that in 1769 Benjamin Franklin told him how he used to bathe and swim in the river to fight off croup: ‘During the hottest weather in Pennsylvania (when everybody complained of its croup, in particular during the nights), he used to preserve himself from that inclemency by bathing and swimming in the river for two or three hours in the evening; for he was able to lie cool throughout the night and have refreshing and agreeable sleep,’ he writes. The collection also tells of the scientist’s treatment for whooping cough. In July 1764 he gave the twenty-three-month-old Prince of Wales (later George IV) a powder made from ‘jalappa root, pulverised rhubarb and pure nite’, which had ‘laxative results’.

Napoleonic wreck found off west Wales

Members of the Pembrokeshire Scuba Diving Club have found a previously undocumented warship off Strumble Head in Pembrokeshire. They believe that the ship was one of four that took part in the attempted invasion of Fishguard on 22 February 1797, the last time a foreign invader set foot on the British mainland. Originally the force of 1,400 men (largely made up of pardoned criminals and returned prisoners of war) had intended to land near Bristol, burn it to the ground and march north to Chester and Liverpool. Instead of sailing up the Bristol Channel the fleet was blown off course and landed in Cardigan Bay, in south-west Wales. The invasion force landed safely but became too drunk to fight after looting a cargo of Portuguese wine. Local tradition has it that the intoxicated French mistook hundreds of Welsh women dressed in traditional scarlet tunics and tall stove hats for British redcoats and threw down their arms.

Among the artefacts spotted on the seabed by the diving team were copper keel pins, three cannon, including a swivel gun, and part of the ship’s hold. Cadw plans to send a specialist archaeological team to the site in the New Year.

Tudor ship found in Thames estuary

Parts of a second ship — this one a Tudor merchant vessel carrying tin and iron ingots — have been recovered near Gravesend by archaeologists working for Wessex Archaeology. The wreck was found buried in silt in around 8 metres of water when archaeologists were investigating a shipping lane prior to Port of London Authority dredging work. Over the past eighteen months 15 to 20 per cent of the original vessel has been recovered, including the bow section of the ship and various artefacts, including cannons and a leather shoe.

According to David Keys, writing about the find in the Independent, the 100ft-long vessel was built of East Anglian oak at an east-coast ship-building centre, probably Ipswich or Aldeburgh, around 1575 and its cargo and armaments suggest it may have been illegally trading with England's arch enemy, Spain. Armed with at least four 3-inch-bore cannon, it was carrying a cargo of more than a hundred 8-metre-long folded iron bars, a few tin and lead ingots and a small number of Spanish olive jars, probably containing olive oil, when it sank, almost certainly in the 1580s or 1590s.

Apart from Sweden, northern Spain was western Europe's major source of iron. Dr Wendy Childs, an expert in late medieval and early modern trade at the University of Leeds, said: ‘Current knowledge of late-sixteenth-century maritime trade patterns and the armed nature of the ship would suggest that the iron bars probably came from Spain — and the presence of some Spanish olive jar ceramic material on the ship would be consistent with that. In Elizabethan England demand for iron far exceeded supply — making export of English iron very unlikely. Although the tin and lead could have also come from Spain, it is more likely that those two metals came from England.’

One of the four cannons raised from the wreck bore the mark of Thomas Gresham’s foundry at Mayfield, East Sussex. Our Fellow Nicholas Hall, of the Royal Armouries, said it was one of the very earliest of the mass-produced guns to be found.

Intensive fishing in the North Sea began in AD 1000

Intensive fishing in the North Sea, which has now led to the collapse of populations of cod and haddock, began as early as the eleventh century, according to researchers at the University of York. In a paper published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society last week, James Barrett and colleagues report that their study of fish bones recovered from a range of archaeological sites across Britain show a sudden and dramatic change in the intensity of fishing and the type of fish deposited at the sites in just a fifty-year period, around AD 1000. The team believes that the dramatic rise in sea fishing from 950 to 1050 is a trend mirrored across Europe, and probably occurred as a response to the exhaustion of stocks of freshwater fish. They pinpoint the ‘fish event horizon’ at the turn of the first millennium as ‘the ultimate origin of today’s fishing crisis’.

‘According to climate data, AD 1000 was a warm period, when cod and herring would have been less abundant and the conditions would have been conducive to agricultural expansion on the land, so it is surprising that marine fishing was intensified then,’ James Barrett said. ‘I suspect what happened was that over-fishing of freshwater stocks meant that they became a rarity and only for the wealthy landowners. As a result, marine fishing and trade in salt cod and dried herring became much more intensive and supplied the common market’.

Greek and Roman statues in colour

An exhibition opened last week at the Vatican Museums showing the fruit of years of research into the use of colour to enliven ancient statuary. Setting out to show that the Greeks and Romans lived not in a world of cold white marble gods and goddesses but amid a blazing riot of colours, antique statues are displayed alongside replicas painted as scholars now believe they were originally presented. The famous statue of Emperor Augustus, for example, discovered in Rome’s Villa di Livia, now wears a scarlet toga, a variegated red and blue tunic, and armour decorated with multi-coloured images of gods.

Paolo Liverani of the Vatican Museums told Il Messaggero newspaper: ‘Thanks to the most modern technologies, including ultraviolet photography, microscopic examination and clinical analysis, it has been possible to recover, in the originals of these sculptures, abundant traces of colour.’

The missing link is found in Catalunya

A report was published last week in the journal Science in which the author, Professor Salvador Moyà-Solà of the Miguel Crusafont Institute of Palaeontology and the Diputación de Barcelona, describes the discovery of a near complete ape skeleton, described as the best candidate yet found for the title of ‘missing link’ between apes and humans.

Named Pierolapithecus catalaunicus (after Els Hostalets de Pierola, the village, and Catalonia, the region, where the fossil was found), the skeleton dates from 13 million years ago and therefore lies within the right date range for the missing link, which might more correctly be described as the ancestor of the great apes (orang-utans, chimpanzees, gorillas and humans) at the point where they began to evolve separately from the lesser apes (modern gibbons and siamangs). All current contenders for the title of missing link are more primitive than Pierolapithecus.

Three key characteristics that Pierolapithecus catalaunicus shares with the great apes are an upright posture and muzzle-less face, and a wide, flat rib cage, or thorax, similar to that of modern great apes and unlike the rounder monkey rib cage. ‘It is the first time that the modern ape-like thorax has been found in the fossil record,’ Prof Moyà-Solà said.

The individual found near Els Hostalets de Pierola was probably male, weighed approximately 90lbs and appears to have been a fruit eater. The lumbar section of his lower spine was relatively short and stiff, differing from monkey vertebrae and similar to modern great apes. This would have made it easier for Pierolapithecus to stand upright and climb trees. His skull was also distinctly great ape-like: the face is relatively short, and the structure of the upper nose lies in the same plane as the eyes. In monkeys, a ridge between the eyes interferes with the plane of vision.

Pierolapithecus also had some more primitive, monkey-like features, such as a sloped face and short fingers and toes. Professor Moyà-Solà and his colleagues think this is a sign that various traits emerged separately in ape evolution.

Thefts highlight problems with museum security

Salon 102 reported the theft of Chinese antiquities from the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum during October. Now thieves have returned to the V&A, taking fifteen Meissen figures from the ceramics galleries after levering open a glass cabinet during public opening hours. The figures date from the 1750s and include a gardener with a watering can, a peasant woman carrying a basket and a shepherd playing a bagpipe.

The thefts occurred a matter of days prior to the implementation of new security measures at the museum, following a report by Will Geddes, of the ICP Group of security consultants, who identified the V&A and the Wallace Collection as the least well protected collections in his audit of five national museums (the others were the British Museum, the National Gallery and the National Portrait Gallery).

In both museums, Mr Geddes pointed to the existence of unlocked doors, easy escape routes, a shortage of guards and the lack of alarms and security sensors, saying that security was more evident in the souvenir shops than in the galleries. The V&A said that new security measures were now being implemented and the Wallace Collection said that it was recruiting more security staff.

Exotic food remains from Roman Bath

Food remains found preserved beneath the remains of Roman buildings in Bath provide evidence of the diet enjoyed by the military rulers of Aquae Sulis in the first century AD. The remains of ancient grapes and figs, along with coriander and a peppercorn, were preserved in a waterlogged ditch and are believed to come from a military administrator’s building, which was demolished when the city passed from military to civilian use in the second century AD. The remains were discovered in 1999, but have only just been analysed.

Our Fellow Peter Davenport, Director of Excavations at Bath Archaeological Trust, said: ‘What we are realising from work in the past decade is that Bath grew in a very complicated way during its first hundred years. This is fleshing out how Bath grew up as a mixture of military and civilian. It shows that the military, when they were here in the first century, were living a very comfortable life. They had settled in and were using good quality imports. I suppose an equivalent is the British administrators in India having their Fortnum and Mason jam imported.’

The peppercorn is the first to be found on a British Roman site and only the third in the world, the other two being found at Pompeii and in southern Germany.

Early Bronze Age cemetery found in Scotland

A cluster of twenty-nine cremation pits has been found by workmen constructing a £52m gas pipeline from St Fergus to Aberdeen at a previously unknown settlement at Skilmafilly, north west of Peterhead in Aberdeenshire. Buried in pottery urns, the cremated remains represent at least thirty-five men, women and children who lived between 1900 BC and 1600 BC. The foundations of an even earlier ritual timber circle have also been found, along with stone beads, bone pins and antler toggles for clothing, eagle talons, pottery and an imported flint knife.

Melanie Johnson, post-excavation manager at CFA Archaeology, the organisation that carried out the work, said: ‘This is really a very significant and exciting find, as it is the most comprehensively carbon-dated Bronze Age cremation cemetery in Britain … nothing like this has been excavated for decades.’

Alison Sheridan, the head of prehistory at the National Museums of Scotland, said that the community at Skilmafilly could have been involved in making bronze from tin imported from Devon or Cornwall.

Medieval village discovered on Harris

The Scottish daily newspaper, the Herald, reported on 26 November that our Fellow, Professor John Hunter, has discovered a buried medieval crofting settlement while carrying out general field survey work in and around a harbour village in the Western Isles. Artefacts buried under the clachan of Rodel, on south Harris, may provide evidence that the community was once an international trading centre, with vessels arriving from Scandinavia and the Mediterranean.

Professor Hunter and his team, from the University of Birmingham, conducted a geophysical survey of the buried settlement and found structures ranged along two separate streets with one winding up to the site of the current church of St Clement's. Harris Development, the economic regeneration body which invited the University to undertake the study, is now to seek funding to support further investigation and a possible excavation of the site. It sees an opportunity to turn the lost village into a key area for tourism and is already tentatively considering providing an interpretation centre.

The Herald also pointed out that Professor Hunter, head of ancient history and archaeology at the University of Birmingham, is renowned for his application of archaeological skills to criminal investigations. His interest in this area led him to establish the Forensic Search Advisory Group, which acts as a central support agency for police forces in the search and recovery of bodies. He was named Archaeologist of the Year by the Council for British Archaeology eight years ago for his work in the field.

New Kent archaeology degree combines science and humanities

The University of Kent, based in Canterbury, is hoping to fill a skills gap in the heritage business by launching a new degree programme in heritage science next year. The new programme is being developed by our Fellow, Dr Anthony Ward, senior lecturer in archaeology, after Kent University’s advisory panel of heritage experts advised them that the ideal graduate would combine the historical knowledge to put objects into context with the scientific expertise that is essential if those objects are to be properly understood and conserved.

Our Fellow Dr Justine Bayley, a member of the Kent advisory panel, says the new programme is a very healthy development: ‘The heritage sector needs people with an appreciation of scientific techniques,’ she said. The programme is designed to appeal to students with a love of science and the humanities. ‘When we were planning this’, said Anthony Ward, ‘we looked at A-level combinations and were very pleased to see there are people coming out of schools with a combination of science and humanities A-levels.’

Books by Fellows

Anyone looking for Christmas presents would do well to look at the website of Windgather Press, which has a short but strong list of landscape history titles, most of them written by Fellows. One of their most recent titles is Peter Fowler’s Landscapes for the World: Conserving a Global Heritage, which takes us on a tour of the cultural landscapes so far inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Peter says that the book is complementary to (and less formal than) his UNESCO volume on cultural landscapes published earlier this year.

Another possible Christmas present for Stonehenge fans is Julian Richards’s latest book, Stonehenge: a History in Photographs (published by English Heritage), consisting of hundreds of archive photographs found in the National Monuments Record in Swindon and in other public and private archives. In a witty commentary, Julian notes that arguing over the Stonehenge landscape is a far from recent development. Even in 1930, people were deploring the amount of nerve-shattering traffic passing the monument, and the café near the site was denounced as ‘a cheap flashy little building like the worst type of bungaloid growth’.

The photographs in the book include one of Queen Victoria's youngest son, Prince Leopold, lounging, cigar in hand, on a royal picnic, of the 1,000 druids who experienced a mass initiation in 1905 (described by the Star of the day as ‘a train load of sham druids indulging in childish tomfoolery of cotton-wool beards, calico nightshirts and tin insignia’), and of Stonehenge as a building site, with massive lifting gear hoisting up the stones, while workers pour in tons of concrete in which to re-set them.

Neither has the public always been permitted to wander freely among the stones: one picture shows the people of Amesbury mounting a mass protest against their landowner, Sir Edmund Antrobus, who had fenced off the circle and introduced a hefty one shilling per person admission fee.


The Seventh International Conference on the Mesolithic in Europe will be held in Belfast, Northern Ireland, from 29 August to 2 September 2005. Meso 2005 will explore many of the issues pertinent to the study of prehistoric hunter-gatherers-fishers. It will take place over five days with parallel sessions and two half-day field-trips. As well as providing discussion, it is designed to inform the audience of the many new developments in the evidence for the Mesolithic period in Europe.

Presentations will address the following themes: Transitions, Understanding the Social Context, Environmental Studies, Mobility: meaning; expression; recognition, Moving to New Lands, Dwelling and Settlement, Confronting the Individual, Understanding Mesolithic Technology, Islands: Life on the Edge?, Flint Alternatives, Ritual in Context, Regional Identities and Current Research. It is not too late to present papers, though the organisers would welcome information on potential papers as soon as possible.

Further details and booking information can be found at the Meso website.


The British Museum, Keeper: Africa, Oceania and the Americas
Salary £55,000 to £60,000, closing date 14 January 2005

The museum is looking for a well-respected figure from the fields of social or cultural anthropology or related fields to manage the team of specialists that will be involved in next year’s programme of exhibitions and events surrounding the Africa 2005 project. Visit the BM’s website for further information.

Peterborough Cathedral: Cathedral Archaeologist
Closing date 17 December 2004

Peterborough Cathedral is looking for a Cathedral Archaeologist to succeed our Fellow Donald Mackreth, who is due to retire in March 2005. Further details from The Chapter Office, Minster Precincts, Peterborough PE1 1XS, tel: 01733 343342.