Salon Archive

Issue: 119

News of Fellows

Salon 188 said that Stephen Harrison, MBE, was the only Fellow to be honoured in this year’s Queen’s Birthday Honours List, but closer scrutiny by Bernard Nurse, our Librarian, revealed another familiar name among those created an OBE: that of our Fellow David Jones, the Librarian of the House of Lords, who is due to retire from that post next January.

Congratulations to our Fellow Andrew Fitzpatrick who has just taken up a new post as Head of Communications at Wessex Archaeology and who celebrated by putting out a press release about the naming of a new pub in Salisbury. The local paper, the Salisbury Journal, ran a competition to find a name for the £1.8 million Brewers Fayre pub-restaurant, which is being built as part of a new development called Solstice Park. The winning name was announced last week: it is to be called ‘The Amesbury Archer’ after the Bronze Age man found buried with arrow heads and stone wristguards by Andrew and his Wessex Archaeology team in 2002. Andrew says that he and his colleagues are struggling to think of other pubs named after archaeological sites or discoveries — or indeed after archaeologists — and wonders if Fellows can think of any examples.


Mike Heyworth, FSA, has written to draw our attention to the recent death of Charles Sparrow, QC (born 1925, died 2005, aged 79), who was elected a Fellow in 1972 and who was also an Honorary Vice-President of the CBA, having served as our Honorary Legal Adviser for nearly forty years. Described in his Times obituary as a ‘meticulous and pugnacious barrister, known for his old-fashioned ways and sedate pace’, he was born in Kasauli, North India, volunteered for civil defence duties at the age of fourteen and later joined the Royal Signals. Posted to northern India in 1943, he served as a radio operator in Lord Mountbatten’s HQ. He was called to the Bar in 1950 and joined chambers at 13 Old Square, Lincoln’s Inn. After taking silk in 1966, he become renowned for his meticulous preparation and was frequently asked to take charge of difficult or sensitive investigations, including an inquiry into the running of the RSPCA in 1974 and an internal inquiry into the affairs of the London Playboy Club in 1981.

Sparrow was master of pictures and silver at Gray’s Inn, and acted as a guide for visitors. He was elected treasurer in 1994. He served as legal adviser to the Freemen of England and Wales and was awarded the freedom of York and Altrincham, becoming a Deputy Lieutenant in 1985. Eight years later, he was appointed a Knight of St John.

Henry Cleere, FSA, adds that Charles Sparrow ‘was the sole representative of that rare class of Fellow, a distinguished Queen’s Counsel who gave “Romano-British archaeology” as his recreation in Who’s Who. He was a life-long member of the Essex Archaeological Society, and served as its President from 1975 to 1978. However, his greatest contribution to our discipline was undoubtedly his long service, from 1966 to his death, as Honorary Legal Adviser to the Council for British Archaeology. Charles was interested in every aspect of heritage protection law, but he was especially concerned with the legislative protection of antiquities, above all what he rightly derided as the absurd medieval survival of Treasure Trove. The masterly short bill for its radical revision that he drafted and which was introduced into the House of Lords by Lord Abinger in 1979 triumphantly passed through the Upper House in the face of Government opposition, but was treacherously defeated by a subterfuge in the House of Commons.’

Paul Arthur, FSA, writes to say that anthropologist Trevor Anderson died on 20 June. ‘Though not a Fellow of our Society, I am sure that many Fellows knew him’, Paul says. ‘Trevor worked with the Canterbury Archaeological Trust for many years, as well as working on skeletal material throughout the UK. My own memories and friendship stem from the work that he conducted for me in southern Italy, on the anthropological remains from a number of medieval sites. In 2003, he also began working on family remains from the only classical chamber tomb which has so far been discovered intact at Hierapolis in Phrygian Turkey, whilst working with the Italian Mission run by Francesco D'Andria. I know that he has published over 150 scientific contributions to anthropology and archaeology, and I am sure that he will be greatly missed, not only by my Italian team.’

Salon 117 reported the premature death of Chris Currie, FSA, at the age of 52, whilst carrying out an archaeological survey for the National Trust on the Isle of Wight. His colleagues, Neil Rushton and Martin Locock, have penned an appreciation of his life and work, mentioning his establishment of the Gardens Archaeology Project, which carried out research excavations at Dartington Hall, Devon, and Bushy Park, Greater London, amongst its many projects. ‘Chris was a multi-faceted archaeologist, with an amazing range of knowledge on just about all periods of British archaeology. He published almost eighty journal articles and book contributions, including definitive papers on subjects as diverse as the introduction of the carp to England, ponds as garden features, horticultural ceramics, Saxon charter boundaries, post-medieval environmental archaeology, and woodland management in the eighteenth century.

‘He believed that archaeology belonged to everybody, and always tried to provide opportunities for schoolchildren, students and volunteers on his projects. Although not by nature a “committee man”, he served for long periods on the Society for Landscape Studies and Hampshire Field Club. Chris was never afraid to court controversy in his interpretations and ideas, and fellow professionals and amateurs within the archaeological community will sorely miss his input into many fields of British archaeology.’

Meet the Minister

On 28 June, Salon’s editor was one of 150 or so friends of English Heritage invited to a reception to meet the new Minister for Culture, David Lammy, MP. In the event, we did not meet the Minister: he had to rush back to the House of Commons for the finely balanced vote on the contentious Identity Cards Bill. But we did at least get a speech, and one that was very different from the sort of address that we have come to expect from ministers. There were no saccharine and non-committal phrases penned by bored civil servants with little interest in heritage. Instead we were treated to the vigorous and impromptu oratory of a man who clearly needs neither prepared scripts nor civil servants to tell him what to think.

Plunging in media res, he referred to an interview published in the previous day’s Daily Telegraph (see ‘David Lammy’s interview’ below): ‘The paper’s Environment Correspondent, Charles Clover, asked me “Why should I believe that a young black New Labour Culture Minister should care about heritage?”. “Because I don’t know anyone from a black or minority ethnic background who doesn’t care about heritage”, I replied’.

The minister recalled his schooldays as a Peterborough Cathedral Chorister with great affection, saying that he couldn’t help love old buildings given that this cathedral was, quite literally, his playground as a child; ‘I am grateful,’ he said, ‘to the institution that made me what I am: it is where I discovered my voice, and where I discovered who I am’.

Having established that he has no personal or ideological quarrel with antiquity, he then set heritage and history within the context of the debate about what it means to be British in the first decade of the twenty-first century. The Culture Minister was in no doubt that the answer was to do with the richness, depth and complexity of Britain’s history and its cultural legacy: no-one can beat us for our complex story’, he said (fortunately there was nobody from France or Italy in the audience to challenge him). Being British meant being proud of our deep heritage, and ensuring that ignorance and prejudice did not allow it to be denigrated and neglected. ‘Turning round the disgrace of Stonehenge,’ he said, ‘is an important indicator of our values: this is a problem that we have to solve on behalf of the whole wide world.’

Ritual genuflection then followed, with respectful nods in the direction of John Prescott’s ‘marriage of new and old’ regeneration agenda, and Tessa Jowell’s ‘investment in people and communities’ mantra, but David finished his robust peroration with a few choice phrases of his own: ‘heritage is about discovery,’ he said, ‘and all the great stories that are fundamental to Britishness … we are unique in the world in what we can offer … heritage will play a key role in making this country a confident nation … as well as protection of heritage I care about the protection of you [meaning the heritage bodies represented in the audience] … those are the themes I shall be focusing on’.

Virtuous circles at English Heritage

As the Culture Secretary departed to well-deserved applause, our Fellow, Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage, took to the podium to introduce the English Heritage Strategic Plan 2005—10. He said that the plan was underpinned by the desire to make the past part of our future by creating a virtuous circle: by caring for heritage, EH would help people to enjoy it, and the more they enjoyed the historic environment, the more they would want to know about it, and with knowledge and understanding people would come to value the heritage and the more they valued it the more they would support those who worked to care for it. These four themes — understanding, valuing, caring and enjoying — were therefore at the root of all that EH was planning to do over the next five years.

Next up came our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, who acknowledged that the recent past had been painful, and that EH had lost 11 per cent of its headcount. Cuts in core costs of £38 million over the next three years had nevertheless provided the room for investment and manoeuvre that was necessary for the future: the organisation could now embark on a series of major projects (a new heritage protection regime, for example) whereas without those cuts, EH would have had a larger payroll, but no money to enable the staff to do any work.

Simon also reminded the audience that EH was still the largest historic research organisation in Europe, with 140 staff, a research budget of £7 million and dozens of major academic monographs to its credit. It still pumped £6 million a year into supporting British archaeology, £16 million for secular buildings and £25 million a year into grants for historic places of worship. Some 330 staff in nine offices responded to 15,000 planning applications a year impacting on listed buildings and ancient monuments, and EH managed the UK’s second largest archive, the National Monuments Record. Revenue from members, visitors and other customers grew 8.5 per cent last year, which, said Simon, is ‘as much as Tesco; if we were a PLC, I would want to buy shares in us!’.

Copies of the English Heritage strategy document and of some of the speeches made at the strategy launch, can be downloaded from the English Heritage website.

English Heritage press coverage

Simon Thurley concluded his speech by outlining the scale of the threats to the historic environment, and it was his dramatic claim that Britain's crumbling heritage was facing a crisis ‘on a scale not seen since Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries’ that set the tone for stories in the next day’s Guardian and Daily Telegraph. Both reported that thousands of the churches, schools, hospitals, libraries, town halls, law courts, police stations, farmsteads and Ministry of Defence buildings that made our towns and villages so distinctive were now ‘functionally redundant’ and facing demolition or adaptation. English Heritage was responding with more flexible policies, and a pledge to transform the image of conservation. ‘We need a new code of constructive conservation based on respect, understanding and consent,’ Simon Thurley is quoted as saying: ‘This will be more powerful than one perceived as arbitrary and opaque.’

As part of this new approach, English Heritage was already in discussions with Defence Estates and the NHS about the future use of their listed buildings. It is also holding talks with the Church of England on ‘options for the future of church buildings,’ so that a variety of community uses, such as ‘a crèche or a post office’, could exist alongside worship. Simon Thurley said: ‘This is about guaranteeing the future of the past, it is about making the past part of our future. This is why we exist.’

David Lammy’s interview

Further insights into the mind and character of our new Culture Minister were provided by an interview that he gave to Charles Clover of the Daily Telegraph, published on 27 June. 'My job is to preserve the past to inform the future', said the newspaper’s headline, over an interview that set out by exploring David Lammy’s attitudes to slavery: ‘Find me a country which does not have an uneasy past, find me a country that hasn't got contradictions and points in its history that a generation now might look back on and say, I don't know if we would have done it that way. You'd be on another planet’, Mr Lammy replied, earning from Charles Clover the epithet ‘equable’, by contrast with his predecessor as Tottenham's MP, the left-wing firebrand Bernie Grant.

The interview went on to say that ‘Mr Lammy is known for his rhetorical skills — his maiden speech, about the power of politics to transform people's lives, is talked of as one of the very best — and these emerge when he defines his identity as a black English person. “I am proud of my parents' background in Guyana, their coming to this country, my aunts and uncles building the NHS, working on the London Underground and other things. Believe me Guyanese people are very, very proud of their relationship with Britain”.

‘The young David Lammy's talent was singing, not school work, so he and his mother Rose applied to choir schools all over the country. He won a scholarship to King's, a state boarding school in Peterborough. Singing solos in the cathedral, he says, is what gave him the nerve to stand up at the dispatch box in the Commons. But the two institutions that shaped him were the Labour Party and the Anglican Church. George Carey, when archbishop of Canterbury, asked him to sit on the archbishop's council. So it is perhaps no surprise that he says one of the first things he wants to do as heritage minister is start a dialogue with the Church about whether more could be done for some of the 20,000 historic buildings it owns.

‘As a young, English, black person, his sense of heritage is broad, Christian and inclusive, not least of global black male role models, such as Nelson Mandela, Mohammed Ali and Sydney Poitier. When he married Nicola Green, also 32, earlier this year in St Margaret's, Westminster, he had the London gospel choir alongside the Westminster choir singing Bach and Parry. Mr Lammy is still fond of music, soul not rap, though he says his tastes are broad and Beethoven touches the soul as much for him as Alicia Keys or Marvin Gaye. He is, he says, as comfortable at the Hay festival as at Notting Hill, in the East Anglian fens or on Brick Lane. “Across the piece, this is our culture. All of it. People are free to choose the bits that speak to them. In the end it is all about discovery.”’

New procedures for the temporary export of finds from Scotland

Alan Saville, FSA, Head of the Treasure Trove Secretariat in Scotland, and Ian Ralston, FSA, Chairman of the Treasure Trove Advisory Panel in Scotland, have contributed the following note to Salon, explaining the new procedures being put in place to help archaeologists who undertake fieldwork in Scotland to export finds temporarily for the purposes of post-excavation analysis.

‘Most archaeologists will be aware that the legislation covering archaeological finds in Scotland differs from that elsewhere in the UK. In particular, as far as this notice is concerned, all artefactual finds from excavations and survey work belong to the Crown and must be declared under the Treasure Trove/bona vacantia system. Such material may not be removed from Scotland without the prior written consent of the Crown Agent (the Queen and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer).

‘The recent introduction in England and Wales of the Dealing in Cultural Objects Offences Act 2003 reinforces this difference in respect of archaeologists wishing to remove finds from Scotland for purposes of post-excavation analysis and preparation for publication. Archaeologists based outside Scotland who undertake work in Scotland should be aware that their finds will become ‘tainted’ under the new legislation if removed from Scotland and will in effect be illegally held if so removed unless they have applied for and received prior written consent.

‘There is no intention that this situation should create any disincentive for archaeologists from elsewhere in the UK or abroad working in Scotland, and a simple system has been put in place to cope. Any archaeologist based outside Scotland who is intending to undertake fieldwork in Scotland should register his or her intention in advance with the Treasure Trove Secretariat in Edinburgh. A consent form, signed by the Chairman of the Treasure Trove Advisory Panel and by the Crown Agent, will be issued allowing retention and temporary export of any finds for a specified period (extensions of this period can be agreed when more time is found to be required for finds analysis).

‘The archaeologist to whom the consent is issued undertakes full responsibility for any finds while they are outside Scotland and for their full declaration and repatriation at the appropriate time. This consent is required whether or not the project to be undertaken is in receipt of any Historic Scotland funding. A similar situation arises if Scottish-based archaeologists wish to export finds elsewhere in the UK or abroad for purposes of post-excavation analysis.

‘The above stipulations do not affect excavated finds once they have been allocated to Scottish museums under the Treasure Trove/bona vacantia procedures, when normal museum loan and export arrangements apply.’

For further information see the Treasure Trove Secretariat’s website or contact the Treasure Trove Secretariat, c/o National Museums of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh EH1 1JF.

Minister announces new woodland policy

The Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has launched a new forestry policy that places ancient and native woodland at the heart of future woodland management rather than fast-growing cash crops. Announcing this significant policy shift, Rural Affairs Minister, Jim Knight, said that ‘England’s diverse and beautiful landscapes are justly famous the world over. Our ancient woods are quintessential features of these much loved landscapes, irreplaceable, living historic monuments, which inspire us and provide us with a sense of place and history. This policy statement rightly celebrates the importance of our ancient and native woodlands and sets out the mechanisms by which they can be conserved and enhanced over the coming years.’

The delivery of the new policy will involve a major programme of tree felling and thinning in those ancient woodlands converted to plantations in the twentieth century. Millions of conifers and non-native species will be removed from the English landscape over the next two decades. Most of these are reaching maturity anyway and would have been cropped by 2010, but the new policy says that they will be replaced with native species, such as oak, ash and beech, which will be allowed to seed and regenerate naturally, rather than with mechanically planted rows of ‘alien’ species.

England has a total area of woodland of 1.1 million hectares, of which ancient woodland covers 340,000 hectares (3 per cent of England's land cover). Of this, 46 per cent consists of woodland of 2 to 5 hectares in size — fragments of the extensive 'wildwood' that once covered much of the country. 140,000 hectares were converted to plantations during the twentieth century. The Forestry Commission intends to lead the way in implementing the new policy. It has 53,000 hectares of ancient woodland on its estate. Forestry Commission spokesman, Rod Leslie, said: ‘Most of our plantations on ancient sites will, through careful and gradual improvement, be restored to rich, semi-natural woodland.

New native woodland will also be created, especially where it can buffer or link the many small fragments of woodland that are spread throughout the country. Priority will be given to repairing the damage to, and reverse the decline of, London’s large areas of ancient woodland, such as Highgate Woods and Oxleas Wood.

Copies of the policy document — Keepers of time: a statement of policy for England’s ancient and native woodland — can be downloaded from the Forestry Commission website.

Bill to protect and enhance common land

The Government has published its Commons Bill, which is designed to improve the protection of commons and safeguard the ancient rights of commoners. Rural Affairs Minister Jim Knight said the Bill aimed to ‘update the notoriously complicated and often archaic laws managing our commons by modernising the registration of commons and giving commoners the ability to make decisions locally.’

‘Our common land is an important part of our national heritage, with the roots of commoning set in the Dark Ages, well before Parliament passed the first Commons Act in 1235,’ he said. ‘Common land is an integral part of both agricultural and cultural life in our rural communities, as well as containing some of our most precious landscapes and our rarest wildlife. This Bill will protect our common land, now and for future generations, and produce real benefits in terms of sustainable farming, public access, and biodiversity.’

In England, 3 per cent of all land is common land, while common land covers around 8 per cent of land in Wales. Although most commons are in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or are designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest, much of this land is at risk as a result of overgrazing, abuse, encroachment and unauthorised development.

Mr Knight said one of the Bill's most important provisions was to stop the loss of common land through deregistration, which can occur if a landowner buys out the commoners' rights. Around two-thirds of commons could be at risk of deregistration, which means that the land would lose its special protection and become vulnerable to development. This Bill stops commons from being deregistered, unless the landowner provides an equally good or better piece of land.

The Bill will also ban the ‘severance’ of common rights whereby commoners sell, lease or let their rights away from the property to which rights are attached. Severance often means that common rights end up in the hands of farmers who do not live near the common, have no knowledge of the common itself, and disrupt the livestock management practices there. This makes it difficult to manage agriculture on commons sustainably, causes problems for local rights holders grazing on the common, and reduces the economic efficiency of grazing common land.

The Bill will enable commoners to form statutory Commons Associations, allowing them to manage their commons locally with the power to make decisions by majority. At present, all commoners must agree on a course of action and a single dissenter can obstruct the intentions of the majority. Commons Associations would be flexible in the way they are set up and function, ensuring that they are best suited to the local circumstances. They would have powers to regulate grazing and other agricultural activities, while having regard to the public interest.

The Bill also aims to overhaul the outdated registration system for commons, enabling some commons to be registered now that were originally missed off, affording them continued protection and making them available for public access under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

A full list of measures in the Bill can be found on the DEFRA website.

Campaign to save Britain's suburbs

Among the initiatives announced by English Heritage as part of its new strategic plan is a campaign to alert local authorities to significant suburbs in their area, along with advice on how to accommodate future development without compromising the character of England's historic suburbs. In a briefing on the project English Heritage said: ‘As the search for new housing intensifies, suburbia is coming under pressure. The challenge facing many suburbs in the coming years is how to build on spare ground without adversely affecting the area's character.’

The initiative has been welcomed by the newly formed centre for suburban studies at Kingston University. Nick Hubble, a research fellow at the centre, said: ‘The historic nature of suburbia should be taken seriously. Britain's mass culture grew up in the suburbs and the majority of the population live there. It's an important part of our history and heritage. In terms of social history its significance is vast.’

Mr Hubble added that the character of some areas had already been ruined by the number of residents who had converted their front gardens into concrete parking bays. Hannah Mummery, from the Civic Trust, which co-ordinates ‘In Suburbia’, a partnership of groups campaigning on the issue, also welcomed English Heritage's move, saying that historic suburbs were threatened by insensitive infill and bad design and that ‘everyone has a right not to have their suburb destroyed by poor development’. While change is inevitable, she said, ‘the challenge is how to ensure that change is not at the expense of historic character.’

Scotland’s Cultural Commission advocates more money for museums

The Cultural Commission, set up by the Scottish Executive to review Scotland's cultural provision, has recommended ‘serious and sustained’ investment in museums and galleries in its final report, published last week. The report also wants to see a strategic relationship between funding for museums and education, more capital funding, particularly for the 63 per cent of museum buildings that are listed or scheduled, an increased emphasis on curatorial skills outside national museums, and an emphasis on regional support for museums.

Of the report's 124 recommendations, the most radical was the proposed introduction of two limited companies with charitable status, Culture Scotland and the Culture Fund, which would oversee cultural policy and funding respectively. Under the proposal the Scottish government would retain a golden share in the companies and the culture minister would be represented on the boards, but the administration would be devolved. If the Executive decides to take up this option then it would see the Scottish Museums Council (SMC), along with five other non-departmental public bodies, radically altered. The Scottish Executive is expected to respond to the report in November.

For further details and a copy of the Cultural Commission's report, see the Museums Association website.

Designating Britain's RAF heritage

English Heritage is close to completing its work of examining Britain’s RAF heritage to see which sites and buildings should be designated for their historical or architectural value. A provisional list of 172 buildings on thirty-three sites has been drawn up for ministerial approval as a result of a seven-year process of reviewing aviation sites, involving delicate negotiations with the Ministry of Defence, which was sensitive about listing operational bases. A list of 212 sites worthy of listing was originally presented to the Ministry of Defence in 2000. This has been reduced to the lower number, which ministers have decided should be listed this year, the sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War, though the precise grading of buildings to be listed at Grade 1, II* or II has still to be finalised.

The ‘Ops Room’ at RAF Uxbridge, from which the Battle of Britain was controlled and fought, is one of the buildings likely to be given statutory protection, Other candidates for listing include the Bomber Command bases at RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire, home of the Dambuster squadron, and at Upavon, Wilts, belonging to the original Central Flying School, which was started in 1912. Also likely to be listed are buildings at the First World War aerodrome at Old Farum, Wilts, at the Battle of Britain aerodrome at Kenley, Surrey, and at the former RAF Duxford, now run by the Imperial War Museum. Listing will probably also apply to the seaplane sheds at Lee-on-Solent, a base started by the Admiralty in 1917, taken over by the RAF in 1918, and transferred to the Fleet Air Arm as HMS Daedalus in 1939.

The listing was timely, as many aerodromes are already under threat from development. Airfields are ‘very obvious brown field sites’, according to Roger Bowdler, the head of designations at English Heritage. ‘We have got to think about the long-term future of these sites as they are of growing importance in the eyes of historians’, he said. Some of the lesser-known airfields, such as RAF Bicester, a derelict aerodrome frozen in time, are the most evocative, according to Mr Bowdler. ‘Bicester’, he said, ‘has a terrific resonance. It is the twentieth-century equivalent of a ruined castle.’

Five historic parks share £15 million HLF grant

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) announced on 1 July that five historic parks across the UK will be transformed with more than £15 million of funding, bringing the total amount which HLF has invested in public parks to over £400 million.

Just over £3 million will be spent restoring the eighteenth-century vistas and avenues of Lydiard Park, in Swindon, along with the lake, dam, walled garden and icehouse to create a fitting setting for the Grade I-listed Palladian house and church. The house and surrounding park at Wollaton Hall in Nottingham, built between 1580 and 1588, is to be the subject of a £4.5 million programme of repairs. South Marine Park, in South Shields, is to have almost £4 million spent on the restoration of this fine example of a traditional Victorian seaside park looking out over the mouth of the Tyne.

At Towneley Park, Burnley, £2 million will be used to establish key elements of the park’s historic design and to restore and conserve the character of the eighteenth-century parkland surrounding the Grade I-listed Towneley Hall Art Gallery and Museum. In Lisburn, Northern Ireland, the steeply sloping seventeenth-century terraces running down to the river gardens below Lisburn Castle, a fortified manor house which burned down in 1707, are to be restored at a cost of £2.2 million, along with a nineteenth-century Victorian park on the upper level where the castle once stood.

Visitors demand bones

What do members of the public think about the display of human remains in museums? Writing on the topic in The Times last week, the paper’s Archaeology Correspondent, our Fellow, Norman Hammond, reported on a survey by Cambridgeshire archaeologists, which found that more than 70 per cent felt that showing skeletons was appropriate and welcome, although a similar percentage thought that they should eventually be reburied.

The survey was triggered by an outreach event at which objects from a local excavation were shown, but not the human remains. Quinton Carroll, principal archaeologist with Cambridgeshire County Council, was taken aback by the public reaction: ‘The response suggested that visitors had expected to see the skeletons, and our actions were criticised. This surprised us, as we thought we had reacted according to the prevailing mood.’

To test broader public opinion, the survey was run over a four-month period, and found that 85 per cent of respondents were aware that skeletons excavated by archaeologists were retained rather than immediately reburied. Eighty-eight per cent believed it was appropriate for them to be used for scientific study, and more than 70 per cent of those who felt that eventual reinterment was desirable thought it should take place only when such studies were completed. Only 5 per cent wanted immediate reburial, and 56 per cent of those questioned believed that the assumed religion of the deceased should affect how the skeleton was treated.

Since specialists ‘can often feel besieged by demands for reburial’, these views come as a surprise, Mr Carroll said. ‘What has been perceived as a popular view may be incorrect.’ Although support for reburial at the request of the local community was marked, at 25 per cent of those who wanted reinterment to take place, it was still a minority view, he said.

Almost 80 per cent of those asked expected to see human skeletons displayed in museums, slightly fewer thought it appropriate, and 71 per cent ‘expected to see skeletons at one-off events hosted by archaeologists’, with 69 per cent feeling it appropriate.

Piglets point to winter rituals at Stonehenge

The Daily Telegraph published a story last week saying that Stonehenge was built for midwinter rituals, according to the evidence from pigs’ teeth found at Durrington Walls. Dr Umburto Albarella, an animal bone expert at the University of Sheffield's archaeology department, says that most pigs from the site were less than a year old when slaughtered. Pigs in the Neolithic period were born in spring and farrowed once a year, suggesting they were slaughtered in winter rather than the summer following their first birthday, and that the pigs were consumed as part of a winter solstice festival. Our Fellow, Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University, is quoted as saying that no evidence has yet been found to suggest that anyone was in the Stonehenge landscape in summer.

Current Archaeology Issue 198

Our Fellow Andrew Selkirk is firmly of the opinion that the Society of Antiquaries has been well and truly stitched up by the Government and legal system, and he says so, forcefully, in his diary piece in the latest issue of Current Archaeology. Referring to the court case concerning the nature of the Society’s tenure at Burlington House, Andrew says the terms of the new lease do at least allow the Society an element of security, but argues that it will be hard for the Society to afford an onerous new rent of £60,000 a year, even with a sharp rise in membership subscriptions and a targeted increase of 36 per cent (from 2,300 to 3,000) in the number of Fellows by 2009. He deplores a government ‘of control freaks’ who ‘see learned societies as being elitist and exclusive’, and he says that ‘a strong and independent Society of Antiquaries sustaining independent research’ is of great importance to society; but unfortunately, Andrew does not seem to have a practicable alternative.

Elsewhere in this issue, there is a report of a rock art find from a Bronze Age funerary cairn at Balbair, consisting of a sandstone slab carved with curvilinear designs unlike any other recorded prehistoric art, and an account of two rich Roman cremation burials dating from the mid-second century excavated next to a villa at Turners Hall Farm, near Roman Verulamium. Here, as well as fourteen Samian vessels, nine glass vessels, two silver brooches and the remains of a wooden casket, the graves contained thirteen beautiful bronze pitchers and ritual skillets from the Campania region, a bag of hunting arrows, and, even more oddly, five woodworking planes and a saw. One burial has been confirmed as that of a female and the other is probably a woman as well. What do these finds tell us about the owners? Perhaps, says Simon West, who led the excavations, these were the last people of their family line, and they were buried with all the family heirlooms.

The inspirational effect of the British Museum

The internet search engine Google is an indispensable part of our working and leisure lives, with a market capitalisation greater than that of General Motors and Disney combined. The company is busy digitising some 15 million books from some of the world’s most prestigious libraries, and is renowned for its flexible modern working methods: staff bring their children and pets to work and enjoy unlimited free food. So how do they find senior staff of the calibre they need to stay ahead of competitors and produce innovative new services? According to a profile in the Independent, they take job candidates for a wander around the British Museum: ‘We walk around, we look at the exhibits … a lot of our conversation is about the Rosetta stone’. That is how the US company found its new European Director, Nikesh Arora, who says he likes the museum so much he has based the European head office in Charing Cross Road so as to be close to the museum and visit every day.

Embroidery by William Morris and his Circle

An exhibition of embroidery by William Morris and his circle opened at the William Morris Gallery, at Lloyd Park, Forest Road, London E17 4PP on 2 July and continues until 6 November 2005. Embroidery was the field in which William Morris’s genius as a textile designer and craftsman first emerged in the 1850s, when he would unpick antique specimens in order to discover their techniques. His subsequent work — including several ambitious schemes of interior decoration that are represented in this exhibition — ensured that embroidery regained its status as a serious art form during the later nineteenth century.

The exhibition displays impressive examples of large-scale and more domestic embroideries designed by William Morris himself and by some of his principal associates, including his daughter, May Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Lucy Faulkner Orrinsmith, Philip Webb, George Jack and John Henry Dearle. The earliest exhibit is one of the large ‘Qui Bien Aime Tard Oublie’ hangings, which were probably made for Morris’s own Red House in the early 1860s and were subsequently owned by William Bell Scott, the Pre-Raphaelite painter and poet. The bold, regular needlework technique and wall-length size combine to give the impression of a medieval woven tapestry. The hanging was executed by a number of different embroiderers, among them the women of Morris’s immediate family and his circle of friends.

Similar techniques but more sophisticated designs can be seen in later works, such as Morris and Burne-Jones’s epic ‘Romance of the Rose’ (1874—82) panels, made for Rounton Grange, Yorkshire, and Morris and Webb’s ‘Peacock and Vine’ panel (1870s). Both were originally commissioned from Morris & Company as frieze decorations for grand houses. The firm’s range of smaller embroideries — from firescreens and cushion covers to picture frames — is shown in designs by May Morris and J H Dearle. Catherine Holiday, whom Morris declared he would ‘back for heavy sums against all Europe in embroidery’, is represented by a silk cushion cover decorated with Morris’s popular ‘Poppy’ pattern (1870s).

May Morris, who learned her embroidery skills from her mother, Jane, and her aunt, Bessie Burden, took over the direction of Morris & Company’s embroidery department in 1885, when she was in her early twenties. Her ‘Maids of Honour’ screen (c 1890), with its delicately worked silks on a fine gauze ground, and her ‘June’ frieze panel (c 1895), with its evocative view of Kelmscott Manor and its surroundings, show her accomplishments as both designer and maker. More intimately scaled pieces by May Morris are an embroidered bag to contain one of her father’s treasured medieval manuscripts and a monogrammed tobacco pouch for her friend Robert Steele.

Morris described the art of embroidery as ‘gardening with silk and gold thread’ so it is appropriate that this exhibition also includes Morris’s ‘Flowerpot’ panel, embroidered in natural-dyed silks and gold thread by May, displayed alongside her father’s original design of 1876. With their meticulous workmanship and typically Arts & Crafts love of symbolism, this and the other embroideries on show illustrate May Morris’s dictum that there is ‘no way to perfection except that of care and patience and love of the work itself’.

Further details from the William Morris Gallery website.

Wallace Collection Seminars in the History of Collecting

‘The Gabinetto of Jacopo Francesco Arpino (1607—84)’ is to be the topic of the next Wallace Collection seminar, to be led by Dr Marika Leino and held on 13 July 2005, at 4.30pm. Jacopo Francesco Arpino, physician to the community of Poirino and to members of the House of Savoy, assembled a fascinating, widely admired and uniquely documented collection of fine and decorative arts. Arpino’s catalogues, mysteriously never published in his own lifetime, and now held in Turin’s Biblioteca Reale, demonstrate a high degree of self-awareness regarding his collecting activities and provide remarkable insights into the nature of bourgeois collecting and domestic interiors. The self-conscious labelling of his collection as a Gabinetto followed the contemporary fashion for cabinets of curiosity and included objects as diverse as ancient and modern sculptures, maiolica, plaquettes and medals, paintings, drawings and prints, scientific instruments and objects of natural history.

If you wish to attend please email Rosie Broadley, Museum Assistant, The Wallace Collection.

Anglo-Saxon/Irish Relations before the Vikings

The British Academy and the Royal Irish Academy are hosting a three-day symposium on ‘Anglo-Saxon/Irish Relations before the Vikings’ on 12 to 14 October 2005 at The British Academy, 10 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1. This cross-disciplinary symposium is being chaired by our Fellows James Graham-Campbell and Michael Ryan, with numerous other Fellows among the twenty or so distinguished speakers. Full details of the programme can be found on the British Academy website.

Books by Fellows

The Viking Society for Northern Research (founded in 1892 to promote interest in the Scandinavian North, its literature and antiquities) has just published the Clemens Saga: the life of St Clement of Rome (ISBN 0 90352 1 67 9), edited and translated by Helen Carron, of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, who says that this life of St Clement is taken from a thirteenth-century Icelandic manuscript, and presented with parallel texts (Icelandic with English translation) and an introduction.

Oxbow has just published Vicars Choral at English Cathedrals: Cantate Domino: History, Architecture and Archaeology edited by our Fellows Richard Hall and David Stocker, with contributions from the following Fellows: John Allan, Julia Barrow, Barrie Dobson, Philip Dixon, Frances Neale, Warwick Rodwell, John Schofield and Ron Shoesmith. This sounds terrific fun: the blurb refers to the fact that Vicars Choral were appointed to perform liturgical functions in English cathedrals from the twelfth century, but there was concern about the vicars' morals and behaviour from their first appearance and that cathedral deans struggled to impose discipline on them for more than 400 years! The result was that English cathedral vicars were eventually subjected to quasi-monastic discipline in carefully regulated colleges, which were strategically located within the close and formed a very distinctive group of ecclesiastical buildings, which were ancestors of the Oxbridge colleges. This study looks at all nine of the colleges that survived the Reformation (Chichester, Exeter, Hereford, Lichfield, Lincoln, St Paul’s London, Salisbury, Wells and York). Their wealth of architectural, archaeological and historical information form ‘an extraordinary interdisciplinary resource that can be used to understand, not just the working of individual colleges and cathedrals, but also the life and work of the lower orders of medieval clergy in England’. For further details see the Oxbow website.