Salon Archive

Issue: 113

Forthcoming meetings

14 April: Ballot with exhibits. Brendan O’Connor, FSA, will talk about ‘A Late Bronze Age spearhead in the Albert Way manuscripts rediscovered and the antiquities of Abraham Kirkmann’, while Peter Clayton, FSA, will present ‘Giovanni Belzoni: the Society of Antiquaries and its medals’.

28 April: Managing the Periphery: the role of the Ushnus as a link between Inca people, their deities, ancestors and environment, by Dr Frank Meddens, FSA, and Dr Nick Branch (Department of Geography, Royal Holloway, University of London), in collaboration with Dr C Vivanco (University of Ayacucho, Peru), N Riddiford and Dr X Meng (both Royal Holloway).

The Inca state required a mechanism that tied the aspirations of its diverse ethnic groups to the needs of the ruling elite. This was achieved by providing local elites and groups with incentives, such as increased status and personal resources, which were channelled in a formalised ritual/religious system using Ushnus (a stepped platform). Ushnus were distributed throughout the Inca state, and are believed to have formed a link between the ruling elite, Inca people, deities, ancestors and the environment.

Many questions concerning the precise role of Ushnus remain unanswered. Were Ushnus constructed to resemble the environmental characteristics of the surrounding landscape (for example, mountains), thereby forming a physical and ideological link with ancestors and deities? If so, were Ushnus and the landscape characteristics interconnected along pre-determined sight lines? Was the system of child sacrifice (Capac Hucha), used to link distant parts of the state, actively employed?

This paper summarises the findings of recent archaeological, ethno-historical and scientific investigations. The investigations demonstrated a clear relationship between the structural and sedimentary architecture of Ushnus and their environmental context, and between Ushnus and the ideological framework in which the Inca state was organised. An improved testable model for understanding the role of Ushnus is presented.

5 May: English Vernacular Art c 1650—1841, by James Ayres, FSA

Painting and sculpture at the vernacular level may have been part of ‘the little tradition’ but they were, for this reason, a component in the visual culture of most people in early modern Europe. In Britain these arts were the products of artisans trained in a relevant craft, commissioned by ‘customers’ whose needs were practical — a sign for a shop, a figurehead for a ship, or an armorial device for a carriage. Similarly, easel paintings within this milieu could be no less functional in intent — a portrait of a ship for a mariner, a prize cow for a grazier or a child in an age of high infant mortality. It is this sense of purpose that gives works of this kind their vitality.

News of Fellows

Professor Matthew Spriggs, FSA, is travelling from the Antipodes to Cambridge to deliver the 2005 David Clarke Lecture entitled ‘Ethnographic parallels and the denial of history: a critique from Melanesia’. This will take place in Lecture Room 1, at the Mill Lane Lecture Theatre, Cambridge, at 5pm on Thursday 28 April. All are welcome. Further details are available from Martin Jones, FSA, at .

Congratulations to John Coles, FSA, who has recently been elected as an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Irish Academy.

Feedback on Salon 112

Alex Gibson, FSA, writes to say, apropos of Vincent Megaw’s obituary of Derek Simpson, that Derek was born in Glasgow, according to his widow, not south of the border (though he did go to school there) and he was aged sixty-six when he died, tragically departing three days before his birthday. He also took up the Chair at Queen’s in 1984 (according to the Queen’s University Belfast website) and not 1986.

Periodicals available to good home

Richard Charlton has written to the Society to say that he is looking for deserving homes for various periodicals from the library of his father, our former Fellow John Charlton, who died on 29 October 2004. If any Fellow or organisation would like copies, please email Richard Charlton: Antiquaries Journal 1947 to 2004; Archaeological Journal 1946 onwards; Archaeologia Aeliana, some copies from 1927 onwards and more recent editions; Britannia 1970 to current; Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 1939 to 1948; Journal of Roman Studies 1942 onwards (with a missing period).

Richard has also sent the Society an account of his father’s ninety-five-year life; this is too long to reproduce in Salon, but Richard would be happy to email a copy to anyone who requests it.

What’s in it for the heritage — Labour manifesto promises

Public spirited as ever, Salon’s editor has risked his sanity by wading through the Labour and Conservative party election manifestos (the Liberal party manifesto had not been published at the time of writing) to see what the politicians have to say on the subject of heritage.

The Labour Party manifesto devotes a whole chapter to ‘Quality of Life’, which is subtitled ‘Forward to Olympic gold, not back to cuts in sport and culture’. That subtitle is typical of a theme that runs through the entire Labour manifesto, which presents the past as bad and the future as good. Reinforcing this impression is the repeated use of such phrases as ‘British creative talent is gaining [editor’s italics] global recognition and generating real wealth’ to imply that this is a recent phenomenon and therefore part of the Labour success story. The idea that British creative talent might actually have been making a major contribution to the economy for decades, if not for centuries, is unthinkable to a regime that wants to imply that the world began in the watershed year of 1997 — so it is hardly surprising that Labour has difficulty in coming terms with the heritage.

One searches the Labour manifesto in vain for any new ideas. In place of concrete commitments, the manifesto uses fine sounding but non-committal rhetoric: ‘we believe in this’, ‘we will work to improve that’, ‘we will strive to do this’, ‘our challenge is to do this’, and ‘we will fight to do that’ are the phrases that appear in place of precise outcomes — of course, such vagueness would not matter so much if this were not the Government that has repeatedly demanded evidence-based precision and clearly expressed outcomes from the rest of us. Where figures are quoted, we are never given any context or comparisons to enable us to decide whether the amounts quoted are good, bad, up, down, new spending commitments, or old money wrapped in new guises.

We are told, for example, that ‘by 2008 we will have invested £147 million modernising museum collections, broadening access to new audiences and providing a comprehensive service to schools’. We are no doubt expected to draw the conclusion that this is a very real achievement; in fact, it is just one of hundreds of statement in the manifesto that implies that all is well with the world, but that differs from the reality of the world we actually inhabit. The fact that £1.5 billion is being invested in sports facilities over the same period (ten times the amount spent on museums) nevertheless provides some kind of context.

So what can be salvaged from this blancmange of a manifesto? That the Lottery will remain an important part of the funding for the heritage, but that its future is itself in doubt: ‘Our Lottery Bill’, it says, ‘will give a duty and a power to every Lottery distributor to involve the public more radically in decision-making at every level. By the end of 2005 we will put in place a new, national consultation on the way that the National Lottery good causes proceeds are spent after the new Lottery Licence is awarded in 2009.’

The Labour manifesto is as much about mocking its opponents as it is about putting forward its own programme of policies. The manifesto concludes by asserting that: ‘The Tories have always neglected the arts, seeing them as an easy target for cuts. They do not understand the role that culture can play in the lives of individuals, in the futures of our towns and cities, and in the prosperity of our country. The choice is forward with New Labour to more sport in schools, arts for all children and young people, and continued investment in culture. Or back to the Tories and cuts of £207 million across culture, arts and sport.’

Conservatives pledge £150m museums and galleries acquisition fund

The Conservative party manifesto wins the prize for brevity (it has only nineteen pages of text and lots of those have some very large pictures) and is more of a sorbet than a blancmange in that being tart and to the point, it only addresses a very small number of key issues, leaving you wanting to know more. It, too, agrees that the Lottery is a really big issue for the election campaign, saying that: ‘A Conservative government will support creativity and excellence in the arts. Instead of Labour’s centralised bureaucracy and political interference, including in the National Lottery, we will devolve funding and decision-making while ensuring that the lottery supports the arts, heritage, sport and charities.’

In search of more substance, one has to read the separate manifesto called ‘Action on Arts and Heritage’, in which John Whittingdale, Conservative Shadow Culture Secretary, says that: ‘The next Conservative government will recognise the value of the arts, heritage and creative industries for themselves, not as tools of social engineering. By returning the National Lottery to its original purposes, we will release significant extra resources to benefit the cultural life of the UK.’

He goes on to say that abolishing the Big Lottery Fund and cutting back drastically on bureaucracy at the Arts Council and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport would release £4 billion for arts and heritage over seven years. Specifically, the Conservatives say they would use £150 million a year to create a new National Acquisitions Fund to help museums and galleries to acquire objects and works of art for their collections, and a smaller Overseas Heritage Fund to support ‘neglected but important relics of our great history, such as the outposts of the polar explorers Scott and Shackleton and war graves in Afghanistan’.

Vive la difference: Labour might also abolish DCMS

Hints have emerged this week that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport could be under threat even if Labour wins the election. The Independent revealed on 13 April that DCMS could be abolished in a shake-up of ministries ‘masterminded by Tony Blair’s blue-skies-thinking adviser, John Birt’. The party is looking for efficiency savings and one easy way to cut bureaucracy is to abolish a whole government department. There was no culture department until Prime Minister John Major created the Department for National Heritage in 1992, giving the arts a place in the Cabinet for the first time. Gerald Kaufman, chairman of the DCMS Select Committee, commented on the possible demise of the Department by saying that ‘Secretaries of State, whether under Conservative or Labour governments, have not realised the primacy of the department both in terms of the economy of the country, but also in terms of the soul of the country.’

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister could take over responsibility for sport, which is seen as a major force for urban regeneration. The Department of Trade and Industry could assume responsibility for broadcasting and the creative industries. Having said that, each of these big departments could itself be under review after the election — especially if the Labour Party wins, and Tony Blair persuades Gordon Brown to head up a new cross-cutting super-ministry.

Big Lottery Fund confirms new funding programmes for England

The bill to create the BLF, as the Big Lottery Fund is already known, was one of those that fell when the Prime Minister announced the forthcoming election. Neither this, nor Conservative hostility, has prevented the BLF from announcing its funding framework for 2005 to 2009.

One third of all the BLF’s funding will be allocated to ‘demand-led programmes’. In other words, anyone can apply for any project, but the emphasis will be on projects that ‘identify needs and offer solutions to local issues’. The Fund is also committed to the principle of full-cost recovery and will provide funding for all relevant costs associated with delivering the projects that it supports.

The remaining two-thirds of funding in England will be allocated to five strategic programmes, namely Voluntary and Community Sector Infrastructure (£155 million a year to fund financial advice, resource centres, the development of generic infrastructure in areas currently without it, sharing learning and best practice, governance and influencing cross-sector partnership); Children’s Play (£155 million for projects to develop, create, improve and design innovative children’s play facilities); Wellbeing Programmes (£165 million to encourage healthier lifestyles through community sport, physical activity and healthy eating); International Grants (£60 million a year for projects focusing on health, education, natural resources, human rights and economic empowerment); and Environmental Programmes (£354 million to fund improved rural and urban environments, which communities are better able to access and enjoy, including £90 million of funding for parks, which will be run in conjunction with the Heritage Lottery Fund, building on its successful parks programme).

Heritage bodies are most likely to be able to benefit from the open demand-led funding, and from Environmental Programmes, though BLF and HLF will no doubt be seeking to ensure that clear distinctions are drawn between the types of project that each will fund. The BLF has already said that its environmental funding will focus on projects that support and develop community spaces; local community enterprises, local food production and farming; and the conservation and enhancement of the natural landscape with improved access for everyone — though none of these necessarily precludes an archaeological element.

Hadrian’s Wall is threatened by too many visitors

Despite all the momentous events that could have commanded the front page of The Times last week (the death of Pope John Paul II, the announcement of an election, the wedding of the heir to the British throne), it was a measure of archaeology’s new-found popularity that the newspaper decided to make Hadrian’s Wall the subject of its lead story on 11 April, featuring comments and responses from several Fellows and IFA members to the news that the Roman wall could be placed on the World Heritage ‘in danger’ list.

The newspaper reported that 400,000 people have already marched along the Hadrian’s Wall Long Distance Path Trail since it was fully opened eighteen months ago, compared with the 20,000 visitors that had been expected when plans for the path were drawn up in the early 1990s. This volume of use is causing severe erosion to the wall itself and to the surrounding soil, which in turn can expose archaeological deposits and structures to further wear and tear. In some areas, part of the stonework is already collapsing.

Our Fellow, Peter Fowler, an adviser to the Unesco World Heritage Site Committee, was quoted as saying that he had opposed the trail’s creation. ‘We were told that the structure and earthworks would be protected, and that there would be effective management of the route. That hasn’t happened’, he said. ‘There is one person responsible for the whole 73 miles. It’s unacceptable. This is not the way for Britain to meet the obligations. This needs more close management of the trail on the ground so that people can be moved a few yards one way or the other and to encourage people not to walk along the wall itself.’

Things are likely to deteriorate, according to Mike Pitts, FSA, editor of British Archaeology, who said that some people wanted to make the site an international attraction, ‘using words that bring fear to some archaeologists — product development, marketing, branding — they recommended investment of £56.25 million, predicting visitors would increase by a third’.

Jim Crow, FSA, senior lecturer in Roman Archaeology at Newcastle University, said that the trail had not been accompanied by resources to ensure the wall was protected.

Adding a location to the ‘in danger’ list is something the World Heritage Site Committee takes extremely seriously (at present there are twenty-nine sites out of 600 on the list). ‘Were something not done to stop the erosion, Hadrian’s Wall could be added to the list’, Peter Fowler said. ‘I’m surprised that this should happen in an advanced country which apparently takes the world’s heritage seriously.’

Hadrian’s Wall: letter to The Times

A letter on this same subject was published on 13 April 2005 from our Fellow Paul Bidwell (Head of Archaeology, Tyne and Wear Museums). Paul made the point that ‘there can be no question of closing the trail: it makes a vital contribution to the economy of nearby communities and allows visitors to appreciate one of the largest and most important archaeological sites in the world’. Instead, he advocated doing more to ‘encourage people to visit parts of the wall where there is less risk of causing damage. More than a quarter of the wall runs beneath Carlisle and Newcastle and their suburbs, and much of its length through rural Cumbria and eastern Northumberland is not much visited. Given sufficient resources, other sites could be opened up for visitors in less sensitive settings than the Whin Sill ridge, west of Housesteads, which attracts most of the visitors, with consequent damage.’

£70 million plan to save lost Machu Picchu

The Peruvian government is facing even bigger problems in its attempts to preserve the mountain-top Inca citadel of Machu Picchu, which is also suffering from erosion by ‘badly managed tourists’. Machu Picchu is the most visited archaeological site in Latin America, with over half a million visitors a year. There is concern about the pollution caused by minibuses shuttling tourists up and down the mountain between Aguas Calientes and the site, as well as the uncontrolled development of the town. Another concern is the possibility that a landslide could bring the citadel crashing down because of fissures below the ruins. About a dozen people were killed last year by a landslide in Aguas Calientes. Working with Unesco and the World Bank, a £70m plan has now been presented by the Lima government for consultation.

England’s Past for Everyone — a new HLF-funded project from the VCH

The Victoria County History has announced that it will shortly begin an ambitious new £5-million pound, five-year national project, part- funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, to involve local volunteers in producing local history materials for use in schools and on the internet.

Ten specific projects have been set up. They include a Bristol-based study of ‘Immigrants and Minorities in Bristol, 1000—2000’, a gazetteer of medieval religious sites in Cornwall, a study of change and community in the Wiltshire village of Codford, a survey of the settlement of Exmoor and an account of people and work in the Lower Medway Valley, 1750—1900. Not only will each project result in a range of innovative educational materials, as well as publications and web-based resources, the intention is that each of the ten studies will provide a model for similar work by voluntary groups all over the country.

Further details are on the VCH website at website.

Warning as Danson House is opened to the public

At a press conference to launch the official opening of Danson House, the magnificent eighteenth-century Palladian villa in Bexley, south London, Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, warned that the agency no longer had the funds to mount major rescue operations to save threatened architectural gems because government cuts have left it short of money. ‘As things stand’, he said, ‘this will be the last project of its kind that we will be able to do.’

Ten years ago, Danson House was on the point of being lost. After decades of neglect in the hands of the local authority, the villa was on English Heritage’s register of buildings most at risk. The fixtures and fittings that contributed to its Grade I listing had been stripped out and were saved from export only by the intervention of the police. Dry rot was crumbling the highly decorative dining room and the octagonal salon. Specialists warned that the building was just months away from being beyond repair. Faced with its collapse, English Heritage embarked on a ten-year, £4m restoration programme, which has saved the Georgian villa for the nation, along with its lavish wall paintings by French artist Charles Pavillon depicting the fable of Pomona and Vertumnus as told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.

A dozen more historic mansions stand in public parks in London alone, but after standstill funding for a decade, there is no money to restore them. ‘It’s a tremendous triumph’, said Thurley, ‘but it’s an end not a beginning of the way English Heritage is going to deal with these buildings. We do not have the resources any more to take them on.’

Ditherington Flax Mill saved

This gloomy prognosis did not prevent English Heritage from announcing just a fortnight later that it had acquired Ditherington Flax Mill, the world’s first iron-framed building, thanks to a grant from Advantage West Midlands, a private-sector developer which intends to regenerate the site with a mix of residential, business, community and heritage uses.

The Grade I-listed Ditherington Flax Mill was built in 1797, and its fireproof combination of cast-iron columns and cast-iron beams developed into the modern steel frame that made modern skyscrapers possible. Despite its global importance, the mill has stood empty since 1987 and has fallen into a state of dangerous neglect and decay. Our Fellow, Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage, said: ‘Ditherington Flax Mill is an outstanding building of international importance and one of the most significant monuments of the Industrial Revolution. It is one of those rare structures that changed the world of construction and design. With its revolutionary iron frame it was the predecessor of the modern skyscraper. To see it in its current state, lying decayed and neglected, windows smashed and roof leaking is little short of scandalous.’

Mark Pearce, Director for Shropshire at Advantage West Midlands, said: ‘Eventually, the Flax Mill should provide the focus for a vibrant gateway into the heart of the town centre.’

SAVE publishes its annual inventory of important threatened buildings

SAVE’s annual report, published last week, highlights the plight of ‘intriguing and appealing buildings crying out for new owners or new uses’, and it differs from the English Heritage register of buildings at risk by including undesignated and Grade II-listed buildings — as well as the Grade II*- and Grade I-listed buildings covered by English Heritage.

One of the most surprising structures on the list is a multi-storey car park in Gateshead, designed by Owen Luder in 1964 and famous as the setting for the Michael Caine film Get Carter. Doomed to demolition, to be replaced by a new car park, SAVE argues that it should be restored, and that its original futuristic rooftop restaurant should be reopened. Adam Wilkinson, the secretary of Save, believes that ‘bright young things would flock to such an alternative venue’, and that ‘though not cuddly, it is nevertheless a very interesting structure’.

More typical of the type of buildings that SAVE normally campaigns for is a rare surviving example of a Dartmoor long house at Lower Sessland, Devon, Grade II*-listed and only held together by the tarpaulin protecting the roof, and a mainly seventeenth-century Grade II-listed manor house at Edwinsford, Talley, Dyfed.

Further details of SAVE’s sixteenth annual report, entitled Damned Beautiful, can be found on SAVE’s website.

Fire sweeps through Jordans meeting house

One of several historic buildings to have succumbed to fire this year, Jordans meeting house in Buckinghamshire has had a large part of its original seventeenth-century roof tiles, window glass and benches destroyed by a fire that broke out in the caretaker’s flat in the last week in March. The Grade I-listed meeting house was built by local Quakers, who started within weeks of James II’s 1688 Declaration of Indulgence, and completed it within four months. G K Chesterton called it ‘of enormous significance in the history of my country’. William Penn, founder and first governor of Pennsylvania, was a meeting member. His grave, as well as those of his redoubtable wife Hannah, who took over as governor of Pennsylvania when his health broke down, are in the burial ground, as are the graves of important figures from early Quaker history, including Thomas Ellwood, the friend of John Milton who found the poet a cottage in nearby Chalfont St Peter as a refuge from the plague in London.

Reporting on the fire for The Guardian, Maev Kennedy said that the plain, beautiful interior was known to people who never set foot in the building because it was the setting for the famous nineteenth-century painting by the artist Walter West of a Quaker wedding, prints of which hang in meeting houses all over the world.

Historic buildings experts believe that the building can be restored.

Maritime heritage ‘dangerously dependent’ on Lottery Funding

The Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee Enquiry into Maritime Heritage published its report on 17 March and concluded that the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is an enormously important source of funding for the historic ships sector — so much so that organisations committed to preserving our maritime past have become dangerously vulnerable to shifts in funding and policy at HLF. HLF itself was quick to confirm that it would continue to support maritime heritage, though Carole Souter, Director of HLF, warned that ‘HLF alone is unable to meet all the demands of this sector’.

Among the many projects that HLF has supported over the last ten years are HMS Trincomalee, Chatham Historic Dockyard, the Cutty Sark and, most recently, the last coal-fired Clyde Puffer in operation.

Rabbits came with the Romans, says Norfolk Archaeological Unit

The question of whether the Romans or the Normans introduced rabbits to Britain seems to have been answered, according to Jayne Bown, of the Norfolk Archaeological Unit, which has found the remains of a rabbit in a sealed context at Lynford, near Thetford, dated to the first or second century AD from the pottery fragments found beside it. The bones appear to have been butchered, and are associated with domestic pots which could have been used for cooking.

Evidence that rabbits might have been brought to Britain by the Romans rested previously on literary sources: Varro (116—27 BC) wrote that the legions serving in Spain reared rabbits in walled enclosures and regarded them as a gourmet dish.

Gordon Square to get a facelift

The many graduates among the Society’s Fellowship of the Courtauld Institute, the Warburg Institute and the Institute of Archaeology will no doubt be pleased to hear that Gordon Square and Woburn Square Gardens, the scene of many a youthful croquet match and impromptu end-of-exam party, are to share in a £1-million funding package targeted by the Heritage Lottery Fund at restoring the two squares to their original Georgian glory. Additional funding for the project comes from the University of London, English Heritage and the Wolfson Foundation.

First laid out as formal spaces in the 1830s, the two squares have fallen into disrepair in recent years. Restoration work will include replacing missing historic features, improving paths, planting new trees, shrubs and rose beds, replacing furniture, converting the gardener’s building in Gordon Square into a refreshments kiosk and enclosing the gardens with railings based on the original design.

New signage and information boards telling the history of each square will be put up, and leaflets distributed to explain the importance of their historical and natural heritage. A Bloomsbury heritage trail leaflet will also be produced, highlighting areas of interest between the British Museum and the gardens. The University will employ an Education Development Officer for one year to get schools involved through a learning pack and a range of heritage and nature conservation activities.

Are National Parks adequately protected?

Salon reported some months ago that the developer Bluestone (no connection with our Fellow Geoff Wainwright, whose consultancy operates under the same name) was given outline planning approval in 2004 to build a brand-new holiday ‘village’, consisting of 340 timber lodges, a sports club and sewage-treatment works, within the confines of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park. Now the CNP (Council for National Parks), the national charity that works to protect and enhance the National Parks of England and Wales, has been given permission to appeal against the decision, in what is seen as a crucial test case for answering the question whether National Parks are adequately protected by the planning system. CNP will argue in the Court of Appeal that ‘local economic benefit’ should not be allowed to take precedence over planning policies established to protect National Parks.

Institute of Conservation appoints new Chief Executive

The newly formed Institute of Conservation has appointed Alastair McCapra as its first Chief Executive. Alastair joins the Institute from the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health. With this major step forward, says Carole Milner, Chair of the Institute’s Interim Board, ‘a corner-stone is now in place for the founding bodies [the Care of Collections Forum, the Institute of Paper Conservation, the Photographic Materials Conservation Group, the Scottish Society for Conservation and Restoration and the United Kingdom Institute for Conservation] to join together effectively into the one strong, new organisation that we have all been striving for’.

The Institute is the primary membership body for conservation professionals and the lead voice for the conservation of the cultural heritage in the UK, having taken over the role of the National Council for Conservation-Restoration in September 2004. The Institute operates a professional accreditation scheme (PACR), maintains the Conservation Register and runs the Conservation Awards (supported by Sir Paul McCartney). Further information can be found on the interim website.

Familiar bodies, new names

Two other organisations have recently announced name changes as part of a wider restructuring and refocusing exercise. CHNTO (the Cultural Heritage National Training Organisation) is in the process of being metamorphosed into Creative & Cultural Skills (abbreviated to CCSkills), the new sector skills council for the cultural and heritage sector. The range of skills covered by the new council includes archaeology, museums, galleries and heritage organisations as well as music, the performing, visual and literary arts, designer makers of contemporary crafts and some heritage crafts, and graphic, spatial and domestic products design. CCSkills is one of three councils who support training in the heritage sector, the other two being LANTRA, for land-based industries, and ConstructionSkills (as the Construction Industries Training Board is now known).

Just before Parliament broke up for the election, Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, announced that the name of the new agency that will emerge from the marriage of English Nature, the access, recreation and landscape elements of the Countryside Agency, and the agri-environmental parts of the Rural Development Service will be Natural England (with the strapline ‘for people, places and nature’). The new organisation will be formally established by January 2007, subject to Parliamentary agreement. Until the necessary legislation is passed, the existing bodies will form a confederation, working to deliver joint outcomes in partnership. For further information see

Case studies wanted from archaeologists with disabilities

Tim Phillips, MIFA, writes to say that the universities at Reading and Bournemouth have recently been awarded funding from the Higher Education Council for England for developments in teaching and learning concerning Archaeology and Disability (for further information, see the website at ). New disability legislation requires employers and educational institutions to make reasonable adjustments to ensure that ‘disabled persons are not placed at a substantial disadvantage to persons who are not disabled’, and the aim of the project is to widen participation in archaeology as a field discipline, as well as raising the awareness of disability issues within the profession.

‘We will be working with experts in Inclusive Environments and we also have the support of the IFA, CBA, English Heritage and Oxford Archaeology’, Tim writes. ‘We will be starting with questionnaires to establish current practices; but what we most want are stories and case studies from individuals within the profession with disabilities. This includes registered disabled and physical or mental difficulties that could impair working, as well as people who have become “disabled” in some way during their career or through age. If you have a story to tell, we would love to hear from you at’

New listings service provides information on talks taking place anywhere in the UK

The Lecture List is a new web-based service providing a centralised source of information on public talks taking place anywhere in the UK. The service is free to organisations posting information on talks and to those who use the service to browse the vast range of interesting talks taking place every day in all parts of the UK.

Users can search the site by date, topic, speaker, location or region and they can sign up using an online form so as to receive regular email messages about events according to individually pre-selected categories. Organisers of talks or lectures can use the site to register and post information about forthcoming events using an online form. Any talk that is open to the public, from large events at major institutions through to small-scale events in local community venues, may appear. Submissions are moderated before being included on the site.

The Lecture List is funded by NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts), with The Guardian newspaper as its media partner. The service aims to benefit society by spreading awareness of this enormous and underused resource for public education and enjoyment.

Conferences and seminars

Castles and their Context: ICOMOS-UK is hosting this one-day seminar on 21 May 2005, at the Celtic Royal Hotel in Caernarfon, in North Wales. The seminar will consist of a series of presentations in the morning, followed by workshops and discussions in the afternoon. Speakers include Dr David Longley, Director of Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, Richard Avent, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings, Cadw, and Dr Nicola Coldstream, President of the British Archaeological Association. The seminar will discuss the context in which the castles of North Wales were built, how attitudes to the castles have changed over the centuries and how we interpret and present castles to the general public and key stakeholders today. Please contact ICOMOS-UK for tickets, which are priced at £45 per person / £30 for students, to include lunch and tea/coffee.

Warfare and Violence in Prehistoric Europe: this is a conference to raise three cheers from our Fellow Andrew Selkirk, who is renowned for standing up at conferences and accusing archaeologists of being peace-loving ex-hippies whose version of the past pays too little attention to the stark reality that many people faced (and continue to face) warfare and violence in their daily lives. This international conference, to be held in the School of Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen’s University Belfast, on 27—29 May 2005, will take a multi-disciplinary approach to the evidence for prehistoric violence, from the Mesolithic to the Iron Age, including consideration of skeletal trauma, weaponry, architecture, iconography and settlement patterns. The conference fee is £25 waged, £10 student/unwaged, which includes two wine receptions, optional evening lectures and a film screening as well as the academic sessions. For further information contact Ian Armit. To register, send a cheque to Ian Armit, School of Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen’s University Belfast, Belfast UK BT7 1NN.

Apothecaries, Art and Architecture: Interpreting Georgian Medicine: this joint symposium in honour of the late Roy Porter takes place at the Apothecaries’ Hall, Black Friars Lane, London, on 24 and 25 November 2005. The aims of the symposium are to foster research into the history of medicine and pharmacy by exploring different aspects of health and sickness in Georgian England, to promote collections ranging from archives to artefacts that are unknown, under-exploited, under threat, or not normally accessible and to encourage the use of these collections through lectures, discussions and displays. There will be four sessions over the two days: People in Practice; Art and Architecture; Medical Trade and Treatments; and Aspects of the History of Medicine and Pharmacy.

Abstracts in English (maximum 300 words) are invited for submission by Tuesday 3 May 2005 under the following headings: papers (30 minutes and 40 minutes); demonstrations/handling sessions (15 minutes); and case studies (20 minutes). For further information, contact Dee Cook, Society of Apothecaries, or Natasha McEnroe, Dr Johnson’s House ().

Fellows’ books and websites

Decoding Flint Flushwork (ISBN 0 9521390 4 9, 120 pages), by John Blatchly, FSA, and Peter Northeast, FSA, will open your eyes to the forgotten meaning of heraldic displays, coats of arms, names of people and saints, initials and inscriptions wrought in flushwork on towers, porches and clerestories on churches in Suffolk and Norfolk. The authors’ detailed survey of ninety-two churches has enabled them to demonstrate the links between the original wills of benefactors and building projects carried out between 1440 and 1540, including those of several abbots of Bury St Edmunds. Copies are available at a special discount to Fellows (£13, including postage within the UK, compared with the normal price of £15 plus postage) from Flushwork, 11 Burlington Road, Ipswich, Suffolk IP1 2HS. Cheques should be made payable to the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History.

Dick Foster, FSA, writes to say that he has been working for the British Library for the last three years as Editor and Content Producer of the Library’s new ‘Collect Britain’ website, a £3.2-million project, financed by the New Opportunities Fund. The website gives online access to over 90,000 items arranged into virtual collections, themed tours and virtual exhibitions.

As well as illuminated manuscripts, it includes maps, early photographs, topographical drawings and prints, stamps, ethnographic wax cylinder recordings, dialect recordings from the 1950s, Victorian popular music, the complete run of the Penny Illustrated Paper, images and writings from the Caribbean in the colonial era, and prints and photographs from the collections of the former Oriental and India Office.

One part of the site — entitled ‘The Unveiling of Britain’ — is given over to 800 digitised maps from the Library’s pre-1600 collections. Each map is accompanied by detailed explanatory notes, establishing the historical context of the map’s creation, with insights into emerging technologies used in its production and the political background to what it might contain or exclude.

‘The Unveiling of Britain’ is just one of a number of map collections available on the site. Also included are digitised items from the Crace Collection of Maps of London, charting the development of the capital from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries and ranging in scale from large engraved ‘show-piece’ maps to detailed landlords’ plans of long-lost city properties.

Maps are also the subject of one of the website’s themed tours — ‘On the Trig’ — which uses digitised maps, texts and animations to explore the origins of the trigonometrical survey of England and Wales, later known as the Ordnance Survey. The collection of original large-scale drawings by the surveyors of the Ordnance Survey in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries is of particular value to antiquaries as they frequently include topographical details omitted in the published maps. The tour was produced in collaboration with the Society of Antiquaries, which permitted the inclusion of several drawings from the Prattinton Collection. In return, the British Library digitised all the drawings in Prattinton V portfolio and provided the Society with a CD-ROM of the images.

More on previous Salon stories

One of the proposals in Tessa Jowell’s pamphlet on the future of the historic environment, Better Places to Live, caused consternation amongst building conservationists. Ms Jowell argued that the demolition of a listed building was no longer such a devastating loss because digital technology enabled us to make a very detailed photographic record for posterity. Our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, responded by saying that: ‘a record is never a substitute for a particular place. No matter how advanced the technology, records only tell half the story’. Architect Robert Adam dismissed the idea as complete nonsense: ‘Would we burn the Mona Lisa and keep a digital record because it gets in the way?’, he asked. ‘This is barmy and dangerous. You will end up destroying works of art because people think you can preserve them digitally.’

Last week’s Salon revealed that Ealing Borough was planning to cut down its historic lime trees, but the problem of disappearing Victorian trees from England’s cities was revealed this week to be far wider: the Telegraph reported that eleven city councils (including Newcastle, Birmingham, Nottingham, Cardiff, Oxford, Bristol and Manchester) and five London boroughs have felled some 30,000 trees recently, replacing turn-of-the-century oaks, planes, lime, sycamore and ash trees with smaller species because of maintenance costs and compensation claims. Councils are playing safe and reacting to the threat of litigation by removing large trees that could give rise to subsidence claims. Zurich, the main insurer of local authorities, says that subsidence claims cost councils £199 million last year.

The Independent reported that the Duke of Edinburgh, who should jolly well know better, is also waging war on innocent lime trees. Prince Philip, who is the Steward of Windsor Great Park and patron of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, has dismissed as ‘tree-huggers’ conservationists who are opposed to his plans to fell a stand of twelve 400-year-old limes. In the BBC documentary about Windsor, called ‘The Queen’s Castle’, he describes the trees as ‘a few decrepit old things’, though Matt Shardlow, conservation director of Buglife, the Invertebrate Conservation Trust, says they are Britain’s most important site for saproxylic (dead wood) insects such as the violet click beetle (Limoniscus violaceus), a protected species. Because of Crown immunity from prosecution, Prince Philip can ignore the provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act and does not have to comply with legislation relating to sites of special scientific interest.

Salon could fill a regular column with examples of vandalism against the heritage committed at the behest of insurance companies and health and safety officials. The latest lunacy is the closure of Britain’s last Cake Walk (or ‘‘moving staircase’) fairground attraction, which has fallen foul of the Government’s Amusement Device Inspection Procedures Scheme. The ride has operated in complete safety for the past seventy-two years, since the amusement park opened at the Butlin’s holiday camp in Felixstowe in 1933. Inspectors from the Health and Safety Executive have nevertheless ruled that it must be closed because it no longer meets modern safety standards.

Opposition continues to grow to the Government’s Pathfinder plans under which so-called ‘low-demand’ housing in the north of England is demolished at the expense of the historic environment and local communities. Ironically, some of the fiercest opponents are councillors in John Prescott’s Hull constituency, who have accused their own MP of pursuing a policy that neglects the potential of historic buildings to make an important contribution to regeneration plans.

Geoff Brandwood, Chairman of the Victorian Society, took up the argument that older buildings are less environmentally sustainable than new in a letter to The Times published on 6 April in which he wrote: ‘good roof insulation, draught-proofing and secondary glazing make a world of difference to any traditional home. The real waste comes with demolishing existing properties and rebuilding with new bricks, tiles, glass, metal piping and plastic windows, all of which consume resources and use large amounts of energy to create.’

Meanwhile the local authority in Milton Keynes seems to have come up with an answer to all those who have been campaigning for the removal of the financial incentive for demolition by harmonising VAT on new build and refurbishment. Rather than exempting refurbishment from VAT, it intends to impose a ‘roof tax’ on new buildings, requiring developers to pay a planning fee of around £20,000 for each new unit in return for planning permission. The levy, between five and ten per cent on the cost of an average house, could bring Milton Keynes more than £60m a year and will be used to build schools, health centres, roads and other community facilities. Other growth areas, notably Ashford in Kent, are watching with interest.

For archaeologists, such a move could be problematical. Developers have long been lobbying the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister to adopt a simple land levy scheme, like that widely used in the US, to create a fund that can be used for schools and hospitals, arguing that this would have more voter appeal than what developers call the ‘random’ cost of archaeological mitigation.

Finally, Alison Taylor, FSA, writes to say that the IFA Annual Conference 2005 on the theme ‘Working in Historic Towns’ was attended by well over 400 archaeologists. The keynote paper by Martin Biddle included a challenge to archaeologists (especially the curators) working in a developer-funded world to match the research objectives of earlier work. The speech by Tessa Jowell (see last Salon) also created interest, though perhaps not as much controversy as feared. In between there were at least three parallel sessions on each of the three days, covering issues that included the problems of working on road schemes, how to deal with archaeological archives, the results of recent work in our smaller towns, post-medieval burials and (most popular of all) some of the outstanding discoveries of 2004. Write-ups of some sessions will appear in the summer issue of The Archaeologist, and papers will be published on the IFA website.


British Museum, Keeper, Department of Conservation, Documentation & Science
Salary £55,000—£60,000; closing date 27 April 2005

Managing a large team, principally of conservators and scientists, you will balance the need for conservation with the calls on the collection for displays, study, outreach and loans. From improving storing techniques, to helping make the collection ever more accessible through a collection database ultimately available to the public, you will make sure artefacts are superbly preserved and ever more widely used. You will also develop the Museum’s direction in the scientific understanding of the collection. As a vital member of the senior management team, you will be a key adviser, developing policy for your department and beyond. With a degree in a relevant area of science or conservation, considerable experience and a good reputation in your field, you have the knowledge and credibility to build strong relationships throughout the Museum and the external Museum and academic community.

Further details from People Media Response, tel: 020 7420 2087, email: or visit Please quote reference 70290.

Kent County Council, Conservation Officer / Conservation Architect
Salary £26,540 to £37,860, depending on experience and qualifications

A dynamic and well-motivated individual is sought with a relevant qualification and experience in historic buildings conservation (preferably with an architectural background) to join Kent County Council’s Heritage Conservation group to help protect and manage the rich and varied historic environment of Kent and in particular to provide specialist historic buildings input to all aspects of planning policy formulation and implementation, project development and design advice; advise on the maintenance of KCC’s historic buildings, including the supervision, care and repair of KCC’s eight historic windmills; and promote best conservation practice. For an application form and job description, email