Salon Archive

Issue: 112

Salon welcomes the IFA

From today Salon has a new name: the Society’s fortnightly news bulletin will be known as Salon-IFA, which sounds like a long-forgotten pre-war Balkan state, but is the title we have adopted as a result of an agreement between the Society of Antiquaries and the Institute of Field Archaeologists (IFA) to widen the circulation and content of Salon.

From this issue, Salon-IFA will be distributed to IFA members as well as Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries. Just as importantly, Salon will now report on the activities of IFA members and of the IFA’s Registered Archaeological Organisations (RAOs), as well as the activities of Fellows.

One aim of the new combined newsletter is to gather early news of the archaeological discoveries made by RAOs and report upon them as accurately as possible (rather than depending on second-hand, and often erroneous, newspaper reports, as at present). Another aim is to play a role in uniting the disparate strands of academic, curatorial and commercial archaeology — or at least to help in making them better known to each other.

Existing readers of Salon will note that obituaries, information about forthcoming meetings and ‘parish’ news about the Society have now been placed at the back end of this bulletin. The hotlinks in the Contents list should help you go straight to the stories that are most of interest to you — and if these are not working properly or if your copy of Salon-IFA is not displaying correctly and legibly, do contact the editor and ask for the Word version (see Is Salon-IFA legible? at the end of the bulletin).

Finally, a key message for new and existing readers: contributions to Salon-IFA are very much encouraged (see Please contribute at the back end of this bulletin).

Tessa Jowell tells IFA that ‘heritage is at the heart of national life’

Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, chose the IFA’s annual conference in Winchester today (23 March 2005) as the occasion for launching her personal vision of the relationship between Government and heritage, telling a packed hall full of conference delegates that heritage is at the heart of national life, and is important both for its intrinsic value and for its instrumental value in delivering social and economic benefits that are core to Government strategy.

She emphasised her strong personal commitment to heritage and said she was astounded at what she called the ‘the revolution in public interest in archaeology’, citing 63 million visitors annually to heritage sites, and audiences of 3 million-plus for such blockbuster TV programmes as Time Team: ‘that is 3 million people preferring to use their spare time on a Sunday afternoon to watch archaeology on TV rather than engaging in any of the many other forms of leisure activity on offer’, she said, adding that the Young Archaeologists’ Club was ‘the fastest-growing youth movement in the UK’.

The questions for Government, she said, were how to support and encourage the dedicated and indispensable work undertaken by archaeologists, how to allow people to participate in the excitement of archaeology, how to reach out to young people, who have the responsibility for the future of the historic environment. She paid tribute to professional archaeologists, telling the conference audience that they were ‘expert interpreters, skilled at unlocking the stories hidden in the landscape, and making the case for the contribution of heritage to our national life’, describing the historic environment not just as a ‘backdrop’ to national life, but as a ‘bridge’ between past, present and future that helps to define national, regional and local identities.

She accused those who wanted to sweep the historic environment away of ‘robbing communities of their identity and character’ and said that the historic environment was integral to regeneration, which must work to ‘produce places that enrich people’s lives, not diminish them’.

On specifics, she pointed to the Heritage Protection Review as a key reform, bringing all heritage assets under one regime, describing those assets in new ways that made them easier to understand and that brought out their value and significance; she said that new management agreements would make it easier for stakeholders to manage those assets, and she said that English Heritage was piloting new historic environment services at sub-regional level. All these reforms would be brought together in a Heritage White Paper in 2006, to create a heritage protection system that was transparent and accountable.

Summing up, the Secretary of State said that archaeologists were ‘never shy in coming forward with fresh ideas’ and ‘always generating fresh insights into our past’, and so she hoped archaeologists would continue to ‘enrich a debate that sits at the centre of government discussions about the best way to achieve sympathetic and lasting regeneration of our towns and rural areas’.

‘At last the Government understands what we stand for’, say IFA members

The response to the Secretary of State’s IFA conference speech was warm and appreciative. IFA Director, Peter Hinton, FSA, MIFA, thanked Tessa Jowell for finding the time to address the conference and said that her speech was ‘what we have all been waiting a long time to hear’. The historic environment, he said, was about ‘who we are, where we came from, and what our values are; archaeology is a potent social and economic force and has great potential’.

He acknowledged that not everyone has access to archaeology yet, but said that that was changing, thanks in no small part to the work of the Heritage Lottery Fund, which had invested billions in heritage and access and had literally changed many people’s lives as a result. An important role for Government, he said, was ‘gap filling in areas where privately funded archaeology does not go’, and he looked forward to continuing a dialogue with DCMS on that subject, now that ‘it is obvious that Government understands what we stand for’.

The reaction from the conference floor was equally warm, albeit tempered by the realisation that an election is now only forty-three days away. ‘Will we have to start all over again with a new Secretary of State’, asked Rowan Whimster, FSA, MIFA, who added: ‘Ministers have a habit of moving on just as you have got their ear’. Kate Clark, FSA, MIFA, Deputy Director of Policy and Research at the Heritage Lottery Fund, was thrilled: ‘She’s doing the mainstreaming that we have been asking for for years’, she said: ‘now we can move on from the question of whether heritage delivers social and economic benefits, and start asking how to optimise delivery of those values.’

‘Better Places to Live’

Copies of Tessa Jowell’s personal essay on Better Places to Live: Government, Identity and the Value of the Historic and Built Environment can be downloaded from the DCMS website.

With an election looming, the essay might be seen as a message to the Prime Minister asking for permission to continue with unfinished business, assuming that Labour remains in power after 5 May. Even if Tessa Jowell does not remain Secretary of State, the essay nevertheless captures some important issues and would make a valuable starting point for her successor, especially its assertion that we should ‘stand up for what heritage can do for individuals in a way that nothing else can.’

Central to the essay is the notion of identity. Tessa Jowell likens heritage to DNA: something that is core to our being, part of which is common to all humanity, part of which defines the community or family and part that is unique to the individual. ‘Celebrating our plural inheritances’, she writes — whether it be trails celebrating the Sikh impact on Britain, the contribution of a gay man like Alan Turing to the breaking of the Nazi intelligence codes at Bletchley Park or that of women to the 1939—45 war effort — is not just historically important, it says vital things about what sort of inclusive, generous and progressive society we hope to have in this country in the twenty-first century’.

She goes on to say that: ‘Government at every level has an important part to play, providing vision, leadership and support, including public investment as necessary. The need for public intervention is clear: [protecting heritage can require] bold and sometimes unpopular decisions that may go against short-term commercial demands. Only government — as the expression of a democratic society — can regulate development in a way that takes account of this imperative. Protecting our historic environment and widening access requires more than just regulation. In some cases public investment is needed too. And so it is self-evident that Government needs to provide resources for the preservation and improvement of historic sites where market and voluntary provision fall short.’

The Culture Secretary ends the essay by saying that: ‘I look to the heritage sector to engage and respond constructively’ to a series of challenging questions: how can we best capture and present evidence for the value of that heritage? What can we do to create public engagement and widen the sense of ownership of the historic and built environment? How in particular do we introduce true diversity in terms of engagement, workforce and audience? Does the sector have the necessary skills and structures? What in particular should DCMS get bodies such as English Heritage to do differently, to lead the wider sector into a true transformation by example? How can we better define and deliver the role of Government in supporting it [‘it’, here, probably means ‘the heritage’]?

Views and comments are being invited by e-mail to:

DCMS five-year plan

While Better Places to Live is concerned with the heritage, the DCMS five-year plan, called Living Life to the Full, covers the whole of the Culture Secretary’s departmental territory, including sport, tourism, media, the arts, licensing and gambling laws, and the BBC. Published last week, copies can be downloaded from the DCMS website.

Sport commands a very high priority: £1 billion is being invested in new sports facilities nationally, and an even higher proportion of the DCMS budget (and Lottery funds) will be focused on sport if London's bid to bring the Olympics to the UK in 2012 is successful. For heritage, the unspoken message is clear — start promoting participation in heritage as a very healthy pastime, and start majoring on the (so-far neglected) topic of sports’ heritage!

Still no news about Stonehenge

Whilst positive messages pour out of the Department of Culture, heritage bodies have once again expressed concern about the lack of news from the Transport Minister regarding the outcome of the public inquiry into the Stonehenge road improvement scheme that ended in May 2004. At that time, the planning inspector said he expected to submit his report to the Secretary of State for Transport, Alistair Darling, by September 2004. In the event, it reached the Department in January 2005, and when our Fellow Colin Renfrew (Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn) asked for a progress report in the House of Lords last week (on 17 March 2005), he was told by Lord Davies of Oldham that: ‘The Secretary of State for Transport, jointly with the First Secretary of State, is currently considering the inspector's report of the inquiry into the A303 Stonehenge improvement scheme. An announcement will be made in due course.’

English Heritage and the National Trust had hoped that a quick decision would be forthcoming and that work on the scheme to divert roads away from Stonehenge would begin this summer. Now it is feared that a General Election could delay a decision until the autumn, with work commencing late in 2006. Worse still, some fear that the cost implications of the delay could threaten the project. English Heritage’s own application to build a £67m visitor centre is currently being scrutinised by Salisbury District Council. A decision is expected this summer, but the road and visitor centre projects are dependent on each other, and, according to an English Heritage spokeswoman, ‘it would not make sense to start building the visitor centre if the road scheme was still in doubt’.

Pathway to destruction for our terrace heritage

Recent issues of Salon have covered in some depth the regrettable proposals to demolish large areas of terraced housing in Liverpool (not to mention several other cities in the north of England) and the campaign being led by SAVE Britain’s Heritage to persuade the local authority to rethink its decision. Now Marcus Binney, FSA, founder and president of SAVE, has written a piece for The Times (21 March 2005) questioning the rational behind these ‘Pathfinder’ demolition schemes.

‘The call for the bulldozer’s return’, writes Binney, ‘is being led by the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS) in Birmingham. It says that up to 1.5 million homes are at risk from decay and neglect and that 400,000 should be demolished. “Based on current rates over the next ten years some 167,000 homes will be cleared. This is well below the rate required,” runs the now infamous paragraph 9.19 of their report, The Northern Way

‘The original crude arithmetic behind this madness was that the average cost of repairs was £20,000 per house and that the houses would not be worth £20,000 when the repairs were done. But these figures are out of date. As everyone else in the country is aware, house prices in many northern towns have shot up. Many of the houses selected for demolition are now worth between £30,000 and £50,000 — or were, until suddenly blighted by the prospect of compulsory purchase. As the new replacement houses will cost more than the compensation offered, evicted householders are promised that they will be offered a mortgage to help with the cost of buying new houses.’

‘In Salford, Urban Splash, a developer that has won numerous awards for transforming disused warehouses into smart loft apartments, have produced imaginative plans for refurbishing decaying Victorian terrace houses. Initial proposals were to create open-plan living rooms on the upper floors with fully glazed rear elevations looking out on to both private and communal gardens. Now the plans are on hold because Urban Splash has been told that it must pay 17.5 per cent VAT on the work — whereas replacing them, even with replicas, would be zero rated.’

Binney adds that in many northern towns the story of the typical terrace house has never been written. Recent research by English Heritage, intended as guidance to Pathfinder bodies, shows that later Victorian houses in the Anfield and Breckfield areas of Liverpool embodied new standards of ventilation, sanitation and construction. The width of streets was regulated, ensuring plentiful light and air. Minimum window sizes were specified. There were strict controls on the thickness of brick walls and the size of floor and roof timbers. Few of these houses could be characterised as slums: indeed, Binney concludes that: ‘Many of the houses under threat are substantial three-storey houses, with generous bay windows, using good quality red and buff bricks with decorative terracotta details and stone trim’.

Demolition plans are 'an affront to common sense'; VAT issues enter the fray

Others have meanwhile added their voice of protest to the plans to demolish 20,000 Victorian terrace houses on Merseyside and up to 400,000 homes across the north. Dr Ian Dungavell, Director of the Victorian Society, has said that: ‘The slum clearances of the 1960s showed that wholesale demolition merely wrecks historic architecture and destroys communities, heightening the sense of deprivation that it's trying to alleviate’. Shelter’s Director, Adam Sampson, has asked that the planned demolition of properties be reviewed, in case refurbishment could solve the North’s acute housing problems more quickly. Dr Peter Brown, of the Merseyside Civic Society, said: ‘The number of people chasing every available vacancy has exploded at precisely the moment the housing associations and councils are taking thousands of homes out of circulation. Liverpool now has families in bed and breakfast accommodation while public money is used to buy and board up grand five- and six-bedroom Victorian villas — it's an affront to common sense.’ Liverpool City Council admitted that there were 11,174 people on its housing waiting list, but when asked about the planned demolition of 15,000 inner-city homes, said that ‘many of the properties set for demolition are not council-owned’.

Signs that the Government might be having second thoughts emerged when Lord Rooker, the housing minister, made an unannounced visit to Liverpool last week and talked of ‘an urgent review’. Meanwhile, John Prescott seems to have become the latest convert to the long-standing campaign led by English Heritage and the Joint Amenity Societies to abolish VAT on building maintenance and repairs. Campaigners have been calling for a level playing field because the VAT regime unfairly favours greenfield development (zero rated) at the expense of regeneration (charged at the full 17.5 per cent VAT rate).

The Treasury has fended off such calls by claiming that VAT is a European Union issue, not one that national parliaments can decide. Despite this, John Prescott called (unsuccessfully) for the Chancellor to use his budget speech to end the anomaly and exempt big urban renovation programmes from VAT, acknowledging that the VAT regime was a ‘paradox’ that threatened urban redevelopment schemes.

Mixed messages from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister

Whilst we are on the subject of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, how about this for a pair of headlines exposing the contradictions and lack of joined-up thinking at the heart of Government. The first, from the Financial Times of 21 March 2005 says ‘Out-of-town shopping centres set for boost’ and explains that ‘John Prescott will loosen the reins controlling out-of-town shopping centres today, telling local councils to pay greater heed to the business arguments of developers wanting to build retail parks’. The second, published on exactly the same day, on the Government’s own News Network website and emanating from the same Government department, says: ‘Hill Sets Out Vision for Town Centre Renaissance’ and says that Planning Minister Keith Hill will say today that ‘vibrant, thriving town centres should be at the heart of sustainable communities’.

And further madness in the name of sustainability

Salon reported recently that historic headstones in cemeteries across England were being laid low at the behest of insurance companies and risk assessors, and now Ealing Council in west London is threatening to cut down 4,500 lime trees (one on five of its street tree population) because they are ‘too expensive to maintain and are the cause of large insurance payouts’ (allegedly for causing house subsidence). To add insult to injury, the council claims that felling is ‘the most sustainable way of managing these trees’, because the alternative is to ‘keep pouring council taxpayers' money into maintenance’. When nobody was looking, the Council seems to have redefined ‘sustainability’ to mean ‘least-cost option’.

The same spokesman claimed that ‘limes are a problem because of their attraction to insects, whose droppings made pavements slippery’. As all serious tree huggers know, it is nectar from lime blossoms that makes pavements sticky, but a shower of rain is usually sufficient to clear what is a trivial nuisance compared to the gorgeous scent of limes in flower and the factory-like buzz of hundreds of bees busily feeding on the blossoms to make fragrant lime-scented honey — in Berlin they even name important streets after the linden.

The actual cost of maintaining the trees is £55,000 a year. Most of the trees date from the Victorian and Edwardian period when they were planted to create an early garden suburb. Graham Simmonds, chief executive of the Trees for Cities charity, which is aiming to plant a million new trees in London by 2010, has urged the council to ‘think very carefully’ before going ahead with the cull.

Bronze Age shipwreck found off Devon

Several newspapers reported last week the discovery of a Bronze Age ship 18 metres below the surface and half a mile out to sea near Salcombe, off the Devon coast. The boat itself has long since disintegrated, but amateur marine archaeologists from the South West Maritime Archaeological Group have recovered a solid gold torc, a gold bracelet, three bronze rapiers, three spear heads, three axe heads, several dagger blades, an arrow head and part of a bronze cauldron. The items are believed to have come from the Seine Valley and could shed light on the sophistication of Britain’s earliest links with the Continent.

The curator of Bronze Age collections at the British Museum, Stuart Needham, FSA, said: ‘The evidence from Salcombe and other rare sites, such as Langdon Bay, Kent, help us to build up a picture of object movements, the organisation of trade, and the character of seafaring.’ The evidence suggests that there were a number of major Bronze Age ports along the south coast of Britain trading with France and Ireland. The latest discovery suggests that Salcombe's natural harbour was much more important in prehistoric times than previously thought.

The South West Maritime archaeologists found the shipwreck site while they were investigating another wreck site dating from the seventeenth century, which has already yielded the largest collection of seventeenth-century Moroccan gold coins found in Europe.

Puzzling features of the Ferrybridge chariot burial

The Daily Telegraph reported on 10 March 2005 that the warrior found buried in his chariot at Ferrybridge beside the A1 in west Yorkshire probably originated from Scandinavia or the Scottish Highlands (based on strontium tests). The slim, 5ft 9in tall man was thirty to forty-years old when he died. He had good teeth and his skeletal remains showed no evidence of wounding or long-term illness.

The chariot burial took place at the beginning of the fourth century BC. The cattle bones found in a ditch around the burial site were assumed to be the remains of a huge banquet to commemorate the man's funeral. Analysts now say that the cattle all came from different regions, and were deposited in the Roman period, in the second century AD.

Dr Janet Montgomery, a research fellow at Bradford University, said: ‘For some reason these people came together here in their thousands. Our tests show that these animals came from different herds raised in different places. These beasts were driven here and slaughtered for a great feast.’

Angela Boyle, MIFA, of Oxford Archaeology, who led the excavation, said: ‘This site at Ferrybridge would have been venerated for generations. It had been used for burials for thousands of years, there is a henge close by and there is evidence of some building, perhaps a shrine, close to the burial site. The burial mound of this warrior would have been visible for some distance and perhaps his life story was etched in the history of the people as a great leader.

‘We know the Romans were not far away at this time, changing the only world these people would have known. It might have been a gathering of people at the grave of a revered leader from their history, calling for guidance or support in the face of the invasion. It might also have been a council of war, but we know there was little resistance in this area to the Roman colonisation.’

Scottish farmer unearths monks’ underground labyrinth

The Times reported on 8 March 2005 that a perfectly preserved mile-long tunnel had been discovered under Scottish farmland at Linlithgow, in West Lothian. The tunnel, 4ft 9in high by 3ft 2in wide, is constructed from hand-carved sandstone blocks.

Dr Tony Pollard, MIFA, from Glasgow University (co-presenter of the BBC television series Two Men in a Trench) described the tunnels as being similar to drainage channels at nearby Paisley Abbey, which dates from the fifteenth century. ‘This is potentially a very important discovery,’ he said: ‘The one at Paisley had slightly better stonework and ran off a millpond. It was used to flush out the latrines of a number of buildings, which are no longer standing. This one is rougher, which would make it older. The construction seems quite elaborate for what is probably a glorified drain but this sounds like a very important site and should be examined and given a full survey. It may provide evidence of other buildings in the area.’

Bruce Jamieson, a local historian, believes that the tunnels were built by a community of Carmelite monks who established a friary at a place now called Friars Brae at the end of the thirteenth century.

Whitby claims World Heritage status

Whitby wants to be seen as a contender for World Heritage status — and has drawn up a list of reasons why the seaside town on the north-east coast can fairly claim to have had an impact on the world: namely as the host of a synod that changed Christianity, as testing ground for Captain Cook and as the inspiration for the Dracula story.

The Synod of Whitby, held in AD 664, led to the adoption of Roman rather than Celtic traditions for the celebration of Easter, a watershed decision in the spread of Christianity in Britain. James Cook came to town as an apprentice seaman and, after proving himself as a navigator, set sail on three major voyages during which he mapped New Zealand, discovered the Antarctic mainland and landed on the east coast of Australia, leading to the establishment of Sydney. The command module of the Apollo 15 mission to the moon, and the most recent space shuttle, were named after Cook's ship, Endeavour.

The Victorians turned the working town into a resort that became popular with artists, actors, and writers. Among them was Bram Stoker, who found inspiration for settings in his novel Dracula, including the spot where the shipwrecked count lands ‘in the form of a massive dog’ and kisses his first victim, Lucy. Hundreds of latter-day fans of Stoker’s novel now descend on the town for twice-yearly Gothic weekends.

The bishop of Whitby, who is leading the Whitby bid, says: ‘We will submit our application to [the Culture Secretary] Tessa Jowell and assuming her approval we will be placed on the reserve list along with twenty other prospective candidates: to achieve full world heritage status could take up to a decade, but we are confident of success’.

Launch of research agenda for Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site

Patricia Ferguson, Scotland’s Minister for Tourism, Culture and Sport, hailed the publication of a research agenda for The Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site as an exemplary collaboration by Historic Scotland, Orkney Islands Council and Orkney College (part of the University of the Highlands and Islands) last week. The agenda provides the most up-to-date overview of the present state of knowledge of Orcadian archaeology, one of the world’s most important archaeological areas. Patricia Ferguson said: ‘We feel that this research agenda sets the standard and will be a model for World Heritage Site managers throughout the world, as well as others dealing with the challenges and opportunities of their local archaeological inheritance elsewhere in Scotland.’

The research agenda’s aims are to map existing and planned research in and around the World Heritage Site, identify knowledge gaps, outline the area’s potential for answering research questions, encourage inter-disciplinary research into a broad spectrum of topics within the World Heritage Site and its wider context, encourage research that will contribute to enhanced preservation, conservation, management and interpretation, and encourage research with wider methodological and/or theoretical applications.

Copies of the research agenda can be downloaded from Historic Scotland’s website.

Listed status for work of contemporary architects

The Heritage Minister Andrew McIntosh has announced that he is seeking views on the proposed listing of five buildings dating from the 1960s and 1970s. All are the work of leading contemporary architects.

The buildings being considered for listing are: Upper Lawn Cottage (Solar Pavilion), West Tisbury, Wiltshire, designed in 1961—2 as a weekend cottage by Alison and Peter Smithson, incorporating elements of an eighteenth-century building and expressing the Smithsons’ interpreation of Brutalism; the Chapel at St Mary's University College, Waldegrave Road, Twickenham, built in 1962—3 to the designs of Sir Albert Richardson, Houfe and Partners and inspired by the medieval brick cathedral at Albi in southern France with stained glass windows produced by the master glazier to Chartres Cathedral; 38 Millfield Lane, Camden Town, London, built in 1968—9 to the designs of Philip Pank and described as ‘one of his most luxurious and well-appointed designs, richly fitted out and with little alteration; Wildwood, 12A Western Avenue, Poole, Dorset, built in 1973—4 to the designs of Richard Hordern for his parents and a rare example in England of a rectilinear steel-framed house, influenced by the Californian architect Craig Ellwood; and South Winds, Cryfield Grange Road, Coventry, built in 1965—6 by Robert Harvey in the style of Frank Lloyd Wright.

For further details see the Government News Network website.

World’s oldest Bible goes digital

An ambitious international project to reinterpret the oldest Bible in the world, the Codex Sinaiticus, has just been launched. The Codex Sinaiticus was written in Greek by hand in the mid-fourth century AD, around the time of Constantine the Great. Reconstructing it is complicated by the fact that the surviving pages are held in four different repositories: St Catherine’s Monastery, Sinai, the British Library, the University of Leipzig, Germany, and the National Library of Russia, St Petersburg.

A team of experts from the UK, Europe, Egypt, Russia and the US have now come together to conserve, digitise and transcribe the surviving manuscript; leading specialists in Biblical studies will translate and interpret the text. The project will result in a website, digital facsimile and CD-Rom, and it is hoped that it will serve as a model for future collaborations on other manuscripts.

The Codex dates from the period when the Roman Empire split and the Emperor Constantine, who ruled the Eastern Empire, adopted Christianity. Greek heritage dominated this Empire and the Codex was produced in response to the wish to gather together Greek versions of the principal Jewish and Christian scriptures. It is the earliest surviving book to encompass in one volume the great wealth of texts that have come to be recognised as forming the Christian Bible. It marks a dramatic shift from a culture in which texts were transmitted in scrolls to the bound book. It is also highly important for its rich layering of texts, having been written by three scribes and containing important textual corrections and insertions. The digitisation and work on transcription will make it possible for researchers to identify which corrections and additions were made by which scribe at the click of a button, thus enabling them to uncover the different versions of the text that were used at the time.

It is estimated that the project will take four years to complete and cost £680,000. The Stavros S Niarchos Foundation has already pledged a grant of £150,000 and the project board needs to raise funds to match this by 1 December 2005. Further details can be found on the British Library’s website.

Antiquities online: the Society opens up its archives

The Society is pleased to announce that a substantial part of its extensive catalogue of drawings of archaeological finds and portable antiquities can now be consulted via the internet. Supported by the Archaeology Data Service (ADS), the catalogue features over 4,000 entries with some 2,100 images. As well as items from the drawings collection, the database also has some 700 photographs of items from the Society’s museum.

Most of the drawings date from the period 1750—1850, when the Society commissioned such draughtsmen as John Carter and Thomas Underwood (who were especially noted for their skills in accurate recording) to draw archaeological discoveries and historical objects in private hands, either for publication or for study at the Society’s meetings. As a result, the Society's library holds the most important national collection of historic drawings of portable antiquities to be found in Britain.

Many of the drawings are of objects now in national museums, while others show items that have now been lost and for which the drawing is the only surviving evidence, such as a ring presented by Mary, Queen of Scots, and the unique Anglo-Saxon silver hanging bowl from the River Witham (both of which can be seen on the Antiquaries’ website). Drawings from the Romano-British albums will be added to the database by the end of the year, and further entries will follow if funding can be obtained.

The catalogue can be accessed via the Society’s own website, or by going directly to the ADS website.

Thornborough Henges: a partial victory

Campaigners dedicated to preventing mineral and gravel extraction in the vicinity of the Thornborough Henges say their battle will continue, even though Tarmac has announced that it will not seek to have the Moor designated as a Preferred Area for quarrying in North Yorkshire County Council’s revised Minerals Local Plan. Tarmac spokesman, Rob Moore, said the decision was taken after listening to concerns expressed by local people. ‘We have said time and time again and repeat that the henges, which are scheduled ancient monuments within a scheduled protection zone, are not threatened by quarrying’.

The Friends of Thornborough Henges say that Tarmac’s ‘apparent about-turn on Thornborough Moor is merely a publicity ploy to give objectors the impression that the fight to save the setting of Thornborough Henges has been won. People need to remember that the area of the present quarry, where so much buried archaeology has been destroyed, was not designated in the Minerals Local Plan — but that did not stop the county council granting permission for quarrying in 1995. There is still nothing to prevent Tarmac, at a time of its own choosing, submitting an application to mine Thornborough Moor.’

The Friends are also concerned that Tarmac intends to go ahead with an application to quarry the nearby Ladybridge Farm, which campaigners say is part of the henges’ setting. Their preferred solution is for the whole prehistoric landscape around Thornborough Henges to be protected for future generations through public guardianship and for Tarmac to accept as a quid pro quo an alternative quarry at a site already designated by the county council.

Honours List nominations

Nominations are being invited for the New Year Honours List 2006, with an application deadline of 29 April 2005. Honours are normally awarded to people who have made an outstanding or innovative contribution to UK life. Honours can be awarded to people who are still performing the service for which they are recommended, but it is unusual for someone who has been retired for more than six months to be awarded an honour. Guidance on making a nomination can be found on the DCMS website, and forms can be downloaded from the Cabinet Office website.

ICOMOS—UK seminar

This year's International Sites & Monuments Day Seminar will address the theme of New Buildings in World Heritage Sites and will take place on 28 April 2005 between 6.30 and 9.30pm at the RIBA. Speakers will discuss Bath, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Westminster World Heritage Sites, considering how we can promote the highest standards of new design in these sites through fostering a dialogue rather than a shouting match between old and new buildings. The event will also see the launch of the new ICOMOS—UK website, which has been designed and sponsored by boilerhouse communications. For tickets (£15 to include a wine reception) contact ICOMOS-UK admin.

Forthcoming Society meetings

The Society's meetings are held on Thursdays at Burlington House, starting at 5pm and finishing at around 6.15pm. IFA members are very welcome to attend as a guest of a Fellow. If you do not know any Fellows but would like to attend a meeting, you are welcome to contact the General Secretary and ask for help (tel: 020 7734 0193; email:

7 April: The Bayeux Tapestry: propaganda in performance, by Carola Hicks, FSA

The function of the Bayeux Tapestry was probably to help reconcile fraught Anglo-Norman relationships in the years immediately following the Conquest. Less appreciated is its later role as an instrument of nationalistic propaganda. This lecture will focus on two blatant examples. In 1803, when he was planning to invade England, Napoleon claimed to be the new William the Conqueror and had the Tapestry exhibited in the Louvre, from where it even inspired a popular operetta celebrating the work's patriotic spirit. For the Nazis, however, it became an archetype of Germanic art, an object of particular fascination to Himmler and the research arm of the SS. They studied it for publication, and ultimately intended to remove it to Germany, from which it had a very narrow escape.

14 April: Ballot

Annual Report on the SAL website

The Society of Antiquaries’ Annual Report 2004 is now posted on the Society’s website in PDF format from where copies can be downloaded.


Vincent Megaw, FSA, has contributed the following appreciation of the life of his university chum and colleague (and former Fellow), Emeritus Professor Derek Douglas Alexander Simpson, who died at his home in Hillsborough, County Down, on 15 March 2005, aged 67.

‘Derek was a product of what many people see as the golden years of archaeology at the University of Edinburgh where his teachers were Stuart Piggott and Richard Atkinson. Born South of the Border — just — Derek epitomised scholarship as solid as his form. An undergraduate at seventeen, he was admitted a Fellow of the Society ten years later. At the time when his first wife and former fellow student Morna Macgregor (now McCusbic) was Curator at nearby Swindon Museum, Derek’s first post was at Devizes Museum as Assistant to Ken Annable. The Devizes Guide-Catalogue of the Neolithic and Bronze Age Collections remains a monument to this period and a model of its kind. Publications and excavations north and south of the Border continued throughout his life and included that of two Beaker houses — a rarity indeed — at Northton, Isle of Harris, begun in 1964 and, in 1975—6 with John ‘Snails’ Evans, FSA, the second long barrow at Giants’ Hills, Lincs, reported in Archaeologia 109.

‘By then Derek had moved to the University of Leicester where he remained, a dedicated teacher and loyal colleague, until, in 1986, he “received the call” and took up the Chair of Archaeology at Queen’s, Belfast, an appointment described by one Irish colleague as “a breath of fresh air for Irish archaeology”. As one who occasionally not so much burned the candle at both ends but cheerfully attacked the middle with a blowtorch, Derek latterly had undergone major heart surgery.

‘Two recent events give some indication of the high standing in which Derek was held not only by his peers but also by the younger generation of British and Irish archaeologists. In March 2003 Derek was one of three professorial guests of honour, all former students of Stuart Piggott, at a conference held in Edinburgh on the subject of Scotland in Ancient Europe: the Neolithic and early Bronze Age of Scotland in their European context. Then in January of this year, much to his surprise and delight, Derek was presented with a Festschrift entitled From Sickles to Circles: Britain and Ireland at the time of Stonehenge edited by Alex Gibson, FSA, and Alison Sheridan, FSA, two of the many archaeologists who, over the years, have been inspired by Derek’s knowledge and enriched by his friendship.’

Elected a Fellow on 13 January 1938, Anna Mary Hawthorn Chitty (also known as Mary Kitson Clark) died on 1 February 2005, just seventy-two days short of her one hundredth birthday. Mary was the last surviving Fellow elected before the Second World War: Lady Aileen Fox, elected on 10 February 1944, now takes the honour of being the longest-serving Fellow and is one of ten surviving Fellows elected in the 1940s.

The following extracts from Mary Kitson Clark’s obituary appeared in The Independent on 18 March and were contributed by C Stephen Briggs, FSA. ‘Over a long life, Mary Kitson Clark witnessed the decline in influence of the amateur, independent scholar, and the rise of a professional class of archaeologist and historian. Yet her Gazetteer of Roman Remains in East Yorkshire, published in 1935, remains one of the starting points for any study of the Romans in the north of England.

‘From 1929 to 1943 Kitson Clark was Secretary of the Roman Antiquities Committee for Yorkshire (RACY). Founded in 1906, the committee played an important role in the changing perceptions of archaeology. Kitson Clark adhered all her life to the values of the RACY as outlined by Professor Francis Haverfield in a founding lecture: to encourage interdisciplinary studies at university level; to maintain high standards of bibliographic research and fieldwork, and to promote co-operation between amateur and professional. These ideals are as relevant today as they were a century ago.

‘In 1928, she was elected to the Yorkshire Philosophical Society (YPS), then guardian of its own Yorkshire Museum, in York. Eventually the longest-lived Vice-President and member, she was only the second woman to gain full membership in a stuffy hierarchy. In 1941 she became unpaid, full-time Curator of Roman Antiquities. Helped by a band of loyal volunteers, under threat of bombing she supervised an evacuation of important artefacts, and catalogued the Roman collection.

‘From 1944, she nurtured co-operation between the YPS and the RACY through annual summer schools. Around 1950, these were adopted by the academic committee of the York Civic Trust. The Summer Schools directly spawned York's Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies, one of the two institutes on which York University was founded.

‘Admitted Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1938, Mary Kitson Clark was proposed by a group of the most distinguished signatories. She also took an interest in developments abroad, and in 1929 joined Dorothy Garrod excavating palaeolithic sites in Palestine. There, in the Judaean desert, she met her future husband, Derwas Chitty, at his excavations on the monastery of St Euthymius. Marrying in 1943, they settled at Upton in Berkshire (now in Oxfordshire), where he was vicar.

‘In 1985, a new generation of Romanists celebrated Mary Kitson Clark's lifelong commitment to Yorkshire with a conference in Leeds. Its proceedings became the basis of Recent Research in Roman Yorkshire: studies in honour of Mary Kitson Clark (Mrs Derwas Chitty) (1988). She accepted the accolade with characteristic grace, humility and surprise.

‘Her last project was to research and publish (as Mary Chitty) The Monks of Ynys Enlli. The first volume (AD 500—1252) appeared in 1992 but, owing to her declining health, the second (1252—1537) came only shortly after her 95th birthday in 2000. At its launch in Aberdaron Church, she spoke movingly to thank everyone who had helped complete the task.’

Feedback on previous Salon stories

Salon 110 carried a report called ‘From Savile Row to Swindon’ saying that English Heritage would relocate its London office to Swindon at some stage in the near future, and that a site had been acquired for new office premises in the centre of the former railway town. The English Heritage Press Office has asked Salon to say that though many of the agency’s London-based staff will be relocated to Swindon at some stage in the future, no new office premises have yet been identified or acquired in Swindon. A report in Swindon’s Business News saying that English Heritage had acquired the old Post Office site was inaccurate. Quite possibly the site was actually acquired by English Partnerships, the regeneration company. It would not be the first time that the names of the two organisations have been confused.

Salon 111 mentioned Dan Cruickshank’s forthcoming lecture at the Royal Geographical Society on 24 March. The lecture is being given in a good cause — to raise funds for SAVE Britain’s Heritage — but mention of Dan Cruickshank’s current BBC TV series, Around the Globe in Eighty Treasures, provoked a reaction from Fellows who have found the series profoundly disappointing — not least for the presenter’s habit of saying ‘incredible, amazing’, rather than imparting real information. He also stands accused of describing as ‘mysterious’ and as ‘incomprehensible’ manifestations of human activity (such as the Nazca lines) that are in fact well understood. One Fellow was so unhappy with the series that he has written to the BBC to ask whether, in the light of the BBC’s new emphasis on quality programming, programmes that fail to enlighten or inform should continue to be funded from the licence fee.

Please contribute

The Society of Antiquaries of London’s Online Newsletter, better known by its acronym as Salon, was launched in January 2002 to provide a chronicle of the many and varied activities of Fellows of the Society, and to highlight the prominent role that Fellows play in public life, whether as broadcasters, authors, critics, academics and researchers, as field archaeologists, directors of units, museums, institutes and heritage organizations or as consultants and advisers. In the beginning, Salon consisted largely of digests of press releases and newspaper reports illustrating the broad theme of ‘Fellows in the news’ as well as commentary on the policy issues of the day that reflect on the wider context in which Fellows pursue their activities.

Over time, however, Salon has seen a significant increase in the number of Fellows volunteering their own contributions: information about recent archaeological finds, about forthcoming conferences and new publications, exhibitions, websites or TV programmes, job vacancies, obituaries, views on topics for debate or issues of controversy within the heritage that they would like to see aired in Salon.

As a result, Salon has developed from a parish magazine into a lively and varied diary-style portrait of the Society whose readership extends beyond the Fellowship to those in government departments, the press and other decision-making institutions. It is therefore valuable in spreading news, forming opinions and generally expressing respected views from a significant part of the heritage sector.

Now that the IFA is joining the Society in the venture, we hope to make Salon-IFA even more of a participatory news bulletin — subject to space (and often in edited form), all contributions will be used (even strongly partisan views can be accommodated, though we will make clear that we are quoting a source, rather than expressing an official point of view). So please add Salon-IFA to your distribution list for press releases, or send your contribution in an email to the editor, Christopher Catling.

Is Salon legible?

Salon should come through as a well-laid-out newsletter, with links to take you straight from the contents list to individual stories and back again, and embedded links that take you automatically to relevant websites or that launch your email program. If (because of software incompatibility) you are receiving truncated text, odd characters or links that do not work, please contact the editor () and ask to be put on the distribution list for the Word version of Salon.

Because Salon is sent out to so many people, a mass-mail programme is used to handle the distribution. Unfortunately, SPAM mail is also sent out using similar mass-mail software and many organisations have responded by installing firewalls that block all mass-mail emails indiscriminately. If after receiving Salon successfully you suddenly discover that the fortnightly flow of bulletins has ceased, you should again contact the editor and ask to be put on the distribution list for the Word version of Salon, which is sent out ‘by hand’.


Historic Scotland, Inspectors of Ancient Monuments (four posts)
Salary within the range £24,998 to £30,371, closing date 25 March 2005

Historic Scotland is inviting applications to fill four Inspector posts (three permanent and one for eighteen months) based at Longmore House, Newington, Edinburgh. Inspectors provide advice on the preservation and management of sites and monuments of all periods, from the Mesolithic to the twentieth century.

For further details and an application form please e-mail Historic Scotland quoting reference HSC/05/032 for the permanent posts and HSC/05/031 for the eighteen-month post.

The National Archives, Chief Executive
Six-figure package, closing date 18 April 2005

Significant progress has been made in recent years in transforming The National Archives (TNA) into a top online service. Building on this platform, TNA seeks to appoint a Chief Executive who will lead the organisation to continue meeting public needs and develop innovative means of reaching existing and new audiences. This is a unique role that brings together the roles of Keeper of the Public Records, Historical Manuscripts Commissioner and Chief Executive of The National Archives.

Reporting to the Permanent Secretary for Department for Constitutional Affairs (DCA), the Chief Executive will provide policy advice to ministers and senior government officials on records management and archive issues. He/She will also lead The National Archives in advising on the management of records within government and the wider public sector.

To download an information pack with details of how to apply, please visit, reference 19335AA.