Salon Archive

Issue: 121

Corrections

Salon 120 contained a couple of errors, for which we apologise. One article said that 40,000-year-old human footprints had been found on the shores of Valsequillo Lake in New Mexico. As Carol Farr, FSA, has pointed out, Valsequillo Lake is near Pueblo, in Mexico, not in New Mexico, which is a state in the United States.

Another article invited readers to join North Yorkshire County Council’s Archaeology Service in celebrating its thirtieth anniversary on 12 November 2005, at the Hambleton Forum in Northallerton, North Yorkshire. The correct email address for further information is archaeology@northyorks.gov.uk.

News of Fellows

Last week’s Salon story about a 3,000-year-old burial site on the South Pacific island of Viti Levu, the earliest known evidence for human settlement on the 340-island Fiji archipelago, prompted Matthew Spriggs to write with news of his current season of work at the Teouma site in Vanuatu, where an excavation team from the Australian National University and the Vanuatu National Museum has found the earliest ancient cemetery yet known in the Pacific Islands, at somewhere between 3,200 and 3,000 years old, and at least four complete decorated Lapita pots which doubles the total number of complete Lapita pots ever found in the Pacific.

These burial pots are unique in the Pacific at this early period but are common in insular south-east Asia, starting about 5,500 years ago in Taiwan, and slightly later in the Philippines and Indonesia. They may give clues as to the origins of the Lapita culture, and therefore the origins of all Pacific peoples south and east of the main Solomons. The Lapita people were the first people to settle Vanuatu, New Caledonia, Fiji and West Polynesia (Tonga and Samoa). Experts disagree about where they came from originally. Some think that the culture arose in the New Britain and New Ireland region of Papua New Guinea, whereas others believe that it goes back to early farming peoples in Taiwan who later spread out across the Pacific, recruiting more migrants along the way. The excavation of a number of skeletons of early Lapita settlers at Teouma holds out the prospect that this argument can be solved by measuring the bones and by extracting DNA from them. DNA studies will allow direct comparison with people living today in the Pacific.

Further details can be found on the website of the Vanuatu Cultural Centre.

Obituaries

Many Fellows have expressed their sorrow at the news that Joseph (Joe) Trapp, FSA, scholar and librarian, died on 13 July 2005, a few days before his eightieth birthday. Joe is universally remembered as a kind and generous man, who, as assistant librarian at the Warburg Institute from 1953, Librarian from 1966 to 1976, then Director from 1976 to 1990, gave help and stimulus to several generations of Warburg Institute students, including many who are now Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries. He edited numerous Institute publications and was Editor of the Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes from 1956 to 1976, continuing until his death to be a member of its Editorial and Advisory Board, of which he was made Chairman in 1991. Professor Trapp was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Institute in 1990.

Frank Kermode’s obituary in The Guardian said that ‘there can be few students of the Italian and English Renaissance who have not sought Joe out’. He was the embodiment of founder Aby Warburg’s principle that the Warburg Institute library should ‘provide its users not with the books they were looking for, but with the books that they needed, without necessarily having prior knowledge of them. As librarian, Trapp made this quixotic pursuit quite rational; he knew where everything was and led one to it with the speed and penetration of the rugby player he had once been.’

Kermode writes that ‘the daring transfer of Warburg's library from Hamburg to London under the noses of the Nazis had been bound to alter its style, but its purpose remained what its founder had called das Nachleben des Antike (roughly speaking, ‘the survival of antiquity’). When Trapp arrived there, the place was still staffed by formidably learned, refugee German-speaking scholars — very unlike anything he could have known in his native New Zealand — but he proved himself equal to the challenge. He became librarian in 1966 and, ten years later, succeeded Ernst Gombrich as Director and London University Pofessor of the History of the Classical Tradition, a post he held until retirement in 1990.

‘It used to be said that Trapp wrote no book of his own because he spent his life working on other people's. This was not true: his work on the English humanists, especially John Colet, and his study of Petrarch, were published in the Warburg Institute journal over many years, and in book form. The Apology of Sir Thomas More appeared in 1979, and his Cambridge History of the Book in Britain, 1400—1557 followed in 1999. His most recent publication was Studies of Petrarch and his Influence (2003).

‘Trapp's mild demeanour concealed a deep commitment to learning, and he was also a skilful, unostentatious boss. His talents as an administrator were reflected in his roles as foreign secretary of the British Academy (1988—95), chairman and trustee of the Lambeth Palace library (1987—98) and in membership of the council of the Victoria and Albert Museum (1977—83), the British Library (1980—7) and the Panizzi lectures selection committee (1996—2000). He lectured all over the world, and was Reader in Bibliography at Oxford University in 1994.’

Nicolas Barker’s obituary in The Independent said that ‘the arrival of the Warburg Institute in London in 1933 brought with it a vision new to its adopted country. The Courtauld Institute had only just been founded and with it the study of art history. The Warburg added something more, a co-ordinated vision of text and image transcending the conventional boundaries of time and space. It was a vision that took root and flourished under the hand of Warburg's first librarian, Fritz Saxl. His successors enlarged and transmuted it. The institute was naturalised by adoption into London University in 1944, but its German accent remained, agreeable but alien. It was J B Trapp, who, succeeding the great Ernst Gombrich as Director in 1976, assimilated the Warburg definitively in its adopted home.

‘Succeeding Gombrich in 1979 was a surprise to him, as also to some others. The series of Germanic heroes, Saxl, Henri Frankfort, Gertrude Bing and Gombrich himself, seemed to predicate another in that mould. But Gombrich himself and others in the institute had had time to observe how efficiently the library ran, new acquisitions amplifying its original strength. Not only that, they saw the real scholarship in Trapp's work, his articles, short or long, carefully and imaginatively expressed. But, more important than all these, they recognised one on whom they could rely to maintain the old Warburg tradition, but lead it into closer connection with London University.

‘This was not an easy task. The Warburg was surrounded on all sides by the university, now Proteus, now the Hydra. Without being in any way insular, the Warburgers fiercely defended their individuality, and were determined neither to be changed nor swallowed up. It needed all Trapp's patience and diplomacy, suffering long meetings (which he could not bear) in a good cause, overcoming obstacles laid in the path by the acquisitive or disapproving, rallying the very varied troops on his own side, to bring this off. But he did it. The staff were given positions within the university (he was himself Professor of the History of the Classical Tradition).

‘Increasingly lame from arthritis, most days saw Joe Trapp's little car parked outside the Warburg [after he had officially retired]; he never intruded on his successor, but welcomed the many who called to ask for advice and help. He was always glad to see them, even if they interrupted his work. They found him the same, even if his mane of hair went from dark to white. The Eeyore grunt of sympathy if things were not as they should be, the delighted chuckle when they were, were worth coming for, but there was much more: facts unknown, drawn from his vast reading, advice on organising work, sympathy and encouragement. Humanity came naturally to one to whom the humanities were second nature.’

Stonehenge tunnel and visitor centre run into the buffers

Plans to resolve the ‘national disgrace’ of the Stonehenge environment were dealt what the popular press would no doubt call a ‘double whammy’ last week when the future of the new road tunnel and the English Heritage visitor centre were both put in jeopardy.

Both are seen as necessary measures to improve the Stonehenge World Heritage Site landscape, which is blighted by the sight and noise of traffic using nearby roads, and which lacks adequate visitor facilities. Expectations were high in 2004 that the problem was approaching a solution, with the Government apparently willing to countenance the cost of a bored tunnel to take the A303 away from Stonehenge, which would revert to being a road-free landscape. A planning inquiry was held, but that was seen as being a decision about the length of the bored tunnel, not about the justification for a new road scheme.

Even so, concerns were expressed as early as January 2005 about the unexplained delay in delivering the planning inquiry’s findings, which had been expected by September 2004. These concerns proved to be well founded when the Transport Minister, Stephen Ladyman, MP, announced last week that ‘a detailed review of the options to ease congestion on the A303 and improve the setting around Stonehenge is to be carried out’. He said that the estimated costs of the scheme had risen from £284m when the draft Orders were published in 2003 to some £470m now. The increase was due to the discovery of large quantities of soft weak chalk and a high water table along the tunnel route, factors that would significantly complicate the tunnelling process and extend the overall construction period of the scheme. ‘Given the scale of the cost increase’, he concluded, ‘we have to re-examine whether the scheme still represents value for money and if it remains the best option for delivering the desired improvements’.

The Minister went on to say that the Government intended to carry out a detailed review of the options, consulting relevant environmental interests, including English Heritage and the National Trust, before taking a final decision on the report of the inspector of last year’s public inquiry (which is said to be unequivocally in favour of the short bored tunnel).

Once it was known that the Government was getting cold feet about the tunnel, it was almost inevitable that English Heritage’s application for new visitor and access facilities at Stonehenge would be refused planning permission. Those who are close to the politics of the road scheme said that Salisbury District Council views the visitor centre as a bargaining counter: in effect, there will be no visitor centre unless and until the problem of the A303 is satisfactorily resolved.

English Heritage expressed itself to be ‘very surprised and disappointed’ by the decision when it came. A statement put out by the organisation said that ‘we believe that the grounds for refusal are ones which can easily be addressed and [we] will be discussing with Salisbury District Council when to re-submit the scheme’. This seems to be somewhat optimistic given that Salisbury District Council has said that its decision is final, and that it will never agree to a scheme that involves the closure of the A344 without a resolution of the capacity problems on the A303. That leaves open the interesting possibility that English Heritage might go to appeal.

Stonehenge: where next?

Anyone who approaches the topic of Stonehenge in the hope of coming to some definitive view about the way forward needs the wisdom and judgement of several Solomons. On the one hand there are those who, to borrow an American Presidential phrase, would say ‘it’s the A303, stupid’. To them it is a simple issue of increasing the capacity of this major trunk route to solve the traffic jams and accidents for which this stretch of road is notorious. On the other hand there are those who would say ‘it’s the archaeology, stupid’, pointing to Stonehenge as a litmus test of the way that a civilised nation treats an iconic World Heritage Site.

Solomon would have no difficulty in deciding between these competing views and would unhesitatingly entrust the future care of Stonehenge to the archaeologists. But where Solomon would falter is in deciding which archaeologists should be given the baby to nurture. For there are those idealists who want nothing less than the longest possible tunnel, and there are those pragmatists who are prepared to look all the issues in the eye and reach a compromise.

Finding the right compromise is a task that has vexed successive chief executives of English Heritage since the organisation was formed in 1984. That was the year in which the first proposal was tabled to turn the A303 into a dual carriageway. Archaeologists rightly fought this proposal as wholly unacceptable. It then took fifteen years to reach a compromise involving a cut-and-cover tunnel. Even this was not good enough for some campaigners, who lobbied for a bored tunnel and secured a public inquiry to examine the pros and cons of shorter and longer alternatives.

Now the Government has said that it cannot underwrite the cost of even the shortest tunnel and that other options have to be considered. Back in February 2005, Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust wrote to the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, to ask why his department had just announced the downgrading of the A303 road from a trunk route to a local road. The Department explained the downgrading of the road as ‘coinciding with the recent decision that transport aspects of the roads scheme will now be shaped by regional priorities’. Such a decision surely raises the very real possibility that a solution will be imposed that meets local political desires for the cheapest and fastest solution, not one that will properly address the international importance of Stonehenge.

So, after twenty-one years and the expenditure of millions of pounds, we are back to facing the possibility that the original dual carriageway proposal will be implemented. Perhaps archaeologists have themselves to blame for being just a little too precious about Stonehenge. After all, professional archaeologists have to make compromises every day between the competing claims of archaeology and development. The national and international status of Stonehenge is so great that on this occasion we seem to have been unable to face the possibility of compromise.

It needs a brave person to stand up now and cut through the confusion and delay surrounding Stonehenge. That person might have to speak the unpalatable truth that any affordable solution to the traffic problem at Stonehenge is going to involve some destruction of the archaeological resource. We should embrace that fact as an opportunity to excavate, record, and learn more about Stonehenge. If the tunnel is not now an option then perhaps we need to reconsider the cut-and-cover scheme (which all parties agreed at the time was feasible and financially affordable). At all costs we need to avoid doing nothing, or going back to the 1984 dual carriageway scenario.

Research framework for Stonehenge

Whether by accident or by design the announcement by English Heritage that it is about to publish a research strategy for Stonehenge could not have come at a more opportune moment. Stonehenge: an archaeological research framework, edited by our Fellow Tim Darvill, highlights serious lacunae in our knowledge of the monument, and calls for a full-scale research programme to update our knowledge of the monument. ‘It is over fifty years since substantial excavations have taken place at Stonehenge and more than two decades since the small-scale excavations,’ the report notes. ‘This research gap needs to be rectified.’

The report was welcomed by our Fellow David Miles, Chief Archaeology Adviser to English Heritage, who told the Observer newspaper last week that 'Stonehenge has not been well served by archaeology. Much of the area was excavated in the nineteenth century, when gentleman amateurs — glorified treasure-hunters, really — would get their labourers to dig great trenches straight into its barrows and graves. Then they would ransack them, taking away the human remains and grave goods. It was Indiana Jones stuff. We need to get that material back.’

'There is no site like this anywhere else and we badly need to improve our understanding of it,' David went on to say. 'This is not a call for an autopsy of the place. We are not going to make a mess. It will be sensitive: more like targeted brain surgery.'

Archaeology enriches us all

We have all come a long way since 1984 in our ability to engage in the political process.No longer just campaigning over single issues, such as Stonehenge, archaeologists now seek an engagement with politicians on the fundamental principles of archaeology, in the hope that funding, legislation, policy directives and ministerial support will follow. In an attempt to encapsulate what it is that archaeologists desire from the political process, The Archaeology Forum (of which the Society of Antiquaries is a member) has just launched a short but succinct pamphlet — called Archaeology Enriches us All — setting out the four main areas where action is needed to harness the full value of archaeology in helping to deliver the Government’s goals for sustainable communities and the cultural heritage. These are: robust, clear cross-governmental recognition of the social, economic and educational value of our rural, urban and maritime historic environment, with DCMS and its equivalents across the UK providing a strong, strategic lead within Government; sustained investment in national and local government historic environment services, including museums; capacity-building and resources for the voluntary sector to improve delivery of social, cultural and educational benefits; and promotion and celebration of the contribution that archaeology and the historic environment make to quality of life in our communities.

The Archaeology Forum hopes that the pamphlet will be used in briefings and meetings between archaeologists and opinion formers, including local MPs and councillors. A copy of the pamphlet can be downloaded from the CBA website, and it is intended that pamphlets will be published in the near future expanding on some of the core themes.

German limes an extension of Hadrian’s Wall

Several national newspapers in the UK reported last week the somewhat puzzling news that Hadrian’s Wall had just been declared a new World Heritage Site (WHS). The story seems to have resulted from an over-hasty reading of a press release put out by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport which gave the impression that Hadrian’s Wall (which has been a World Heritage Site since 1987) has been newly inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List as part of a new ‘Frontiers of the Roman Empire’ World Heritage Site.

Fortunately, our Fellow, David Breeze, can explain all. ‘At its 29th Session in Durban in July’, he writes, ‘the UNESCO World Heritage Committee added the Upper German Raetian Limes to the list of World Heritage Sites. Rather than create a new WHS, the German limes is technically an extension of Hadrian’s Wall: the new site will be called “Frontiers of the Roman Empire”, though in each country traditional names will continue to be used. The aim is gradually to extend the WHS by adding further stretches of the frontier: in UNESCO-speak, this will be a “phased, serial, multi-national World Heritage Site!”. The UK intends to nominate the Antonine Wall in early 2007 at the same time that Slovakia will propose its two forts. Austria, Hungary and Croatia have also stated their intention of nominating their stretches of the frontier, though preparations there are not so far advanced. It is planned that the WHS will eventually include all the Roman frontiers in Europe, and it is hoped that the WHS will also cover Africa and Asia in due course.

‘The European Union, through its Culture 2000 programme, has also provided a grant of 810,000 euros to a project worth 1.35m euros to undertake work on Roman frontiers. The four main aims of the project are to create a Roman frontiers website through which access will be gained to national archaeological databases (a prototype has been successfully tested using the National Monuments Record for Scotland which screened its information so that only Roman sites are accessed), an exhibition, the preparation of guidelines for the conservation, management, presentation and interpretation of Roman military sites, and a range of activities relating to documentation, including the preparation of guidelines for mapping the frontier and a thesaurus of Roman military terms. It is intended that this work will be of value to both lay and specialist users. The project will be led by Historic Scotland with partners in Austria, Germany, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland.’

David adds that a booklet on the two projects, Frontiers of the Roman Empire (in English, French, German and Arabic), is available from Dr David Breeze, Historic Scotland, Longmore House, Salisbury Place, Edinburgh EH16 5NL.

Our Fellow, Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage, said of the new designation that ‘English Heritage welcomes and supports this move towards a transnational World Heritage Site for Roman frontiers, encouraging international co-operation and a proper recognition of the Roman contribution to Western civilisation. English Heritage is pleased that this development is based on the existing Hadrian's Wall World Heritage Site and that the tried and tested methods of site management and co-operation developed on Hadrian's Wall are being used as the basis of a wider initiative.’

Culture Minister acts to protect wreck site in Dorset

Culture Minister David Lammy announced last week that the wreck site of what is believed to be an early seventeenth-century ship has been designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. The Order will protect the site from unauthorised interference. The site in Lyme Bay, Dorset, was reported to English Heritage in 2004 by local diver, Richard Edmonds. Two dive investigations by Wessex Archaeology confirmed the presence of a bronze gun as well as a large quantity of iron bars, a small iron gun and a small anchor. David Lammy said that ‘this is an important wreck site both in archaeological and historical terms. It is rare for such a well-preserved and potentially important bronze gun to have survived historical salvage attempts in situ’. The designation of the West Bay site brings the total number of historic wreck sites designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act in the UK to fifty-seven.

National Archaeology Week launch of Wreckmap Britain 2005

The Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) used National Archaeology Week as an opportunity to ask divers in the UK to help locate and record Britain’s shipwrecks for its WreckMap Britain 2005 project, which will run until 31 August 2005. The project asks divers to photograph, video and sketch shipwrecks as part of their normal dive. The NAS will collate the findings, plot shipwreck locations on to a map to be available online, and share information with the national archive services operated by English Heritage, Historic Scotland and Cadw.

The NAS has records of 40,000 historic ship losses around the coast, but estimates that at least 100,000 shipwrecks exist around the UK’s shoreline. Of those, it has co-ordinates of just 6,000. It hopes the project will both uncover previously unknown shipwrecks, and add to the quality of existing information about documented sites. Recording forms are available from the NAS website.

The Commonwealth Institute

Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell confirmed on 22 July that she was not prepared to de-list the Commonwealth Institute in London, despite the wishes of the Institute’s trustees, who want to develop the site of the Institute and use the proceeds for educational purposes, in line with the Institute’s charitable remit. This distinctive building, with its tent-like green copper roof, which has been a part of the Kensington cityscape for more than forty years, will retain its Grade II* listed status, which was given in 1988 as part of the move to identify the most significant of England’s post-war structures, but the list entry will be amended to make it clear that the iconic main exhibition building is of more interest than the linear administration and conference building. Ms Jowell has also agreed to meet the trustees of the Commonwealth Institute and other interested parties to ensure that the implications of listing and the options open to them are fully understood.

In his Monday architectural column in The Times, our Fellow Marcus Binney described the Commonwealth Institute as ‘a landmark of modern London and the capital’s first important public building erected after the Royal Festival Hall … like the Festival Hall, the Commonwealth Institute expresses the surge of optimism in British architecture after the immediate post-war years of austerity. It was designed by leading figures of the period: the architects Robert Matthew, Johnson-Marshall and Partners, the engineers A. J. and A. D. Harris and the great landscape architect Sylvia Crowe. Its informality is the exact antithesis of the portentous Edwardian Imperial Institute in South Kensington, which it replaced.’ Marcus concluded that it should be ‘restored in time for use in connection with the London Olympics in 2012’.

Consultation on listed buildings criteria

At present listed buildings earn their place by virtue of their ‘special architectural or historical interest’. Last year’s review of the heritage protection regime decided that these criteria were too vague and the Government called on English Heritage to clarify the principles it used when assessing buildings for listing. The result is a fascinating consultation document published last week which makes explicit for the first time in print how exactly English Heritage goes about the task of sifting which buildings and groups of structures should be listed and which not.

The consultation document (Revisions to Principles of Selection for Listing Buildings: Planning Policy Guidance Note 15) can be downloaded as a PDF file from the DCMS website. The meat of the document is to be found from page 13 onwards, where the new criteria for listing buildings are spelled out. This text is intended to replace the current Principles of Selection paragraphs 6.10 to 6.16 in PPG15.

The revised Principles of Selection has two sections. The first is concerned with general principles (age and rarity, aesthetic merits, selectivity, national and local interest, state of repair, historical associations). Under age and rarity, for example, the assumption is that all pre-1700 buildings should be listed if they contain a significant proportion of their original fabric, whereas buildings of less than thirty years old are normally listed only if they are of outstanding quality and under threat.

The second section sets out a comprehensive overview of twenty different building types (agricultural, commemorative, commercial, communications, cultural and recreational, domestic (with subsections on the country house, suburban houses, town houses, twentieth-century houses and vernacular houses), educational, buildings in parks, gardens and open spaces, health and welfare, industrial, legal and governmental, military, places of worship, street furniture, transport and utilities). These overviews set out what characteristics of a particular type of building make it of special interest by comparison with others of the same type. For example, under agricultural buildings, the criteria include specialist functional interest, technological innovation, the survival of original or significant agricultural machinery, rarity, the extent of their alteration, the coherence of a functionally related group, and architectural quality.

As a final underpinning to the general criteria, English Heritage promises to publish technical essays on each building type, which it will commit to updating regularly, as research adds to and alters our existing knowledge. Two sample essays are published in the form of an Annexe: on agricultural and commemorative structures.

Views are being sought on whether the revised approach to the Principles of Selection (i.e. the general principles coupled with specific building types, underpinned by detailed technical essays) represents an improvement on the current PPG15 guidance, and whether it makes the listing process more transparent and simpler to understand; and whether the building types selected cover the field adequately and appropriately.

The deadline for responses is 17 October 2005.

Review of PPGs 15 and 16

Salon readers with long memories might recall that a committee was established way back in 2002 to review and merge PPGs 15 and 16, the two planning policy guidance notes that underpin the protection of England’s architectural and the archaeological heritage. The excitement that this generated (because of the opportunity it presented to revisit the guidance and put right what was not working well in practice) fizzled away in 2003 when the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister admitted that it had overestimated the scale of the work involved in revising all the Planning Policy Guidance notes and that it would now focus only on those it considered to be most in need of review (which excluded the revision of PPGs 15 and 16). Now we learn from the consultation document on Revisions to Principles of Selection for Listing Buildings that the Government ‘sees no merit in undertaking a full review of PPGs 15 and 16’ until the proposals in the Heritage Protection Review have all been implemented. This will require primary legislation by means of a Heritage Bill timed for 2007 (which will probably be preceded by a Heritage Protection White Paper in 2006), so a review of PPGs 15 and 16 is now unlikely to take place before 2008.

Ecclesiastical Exemption: the way forward

The Government has published a decision document resulting from last year’s consultation on the future of Ecclesiastical Exemption, the system whereby some church denominations are exempt from Listed Buildings and Conservation Area controls but instead operate their own systems of control. The document says that it has no plans to abolish Ecclesiastical Exemption, but neither does it intend to extend exemption to faith groups not already covered. Instead it makes the case for bringing all listed places of worship, regardless of denomination and faith, under new Heritage Partnership Agreements.

One suspects that the benefits of the new parallel system of Heritage Partnership Agreements (HPAs) will be such as to tempt church managers into the new system, so that Ecclesiastical Exemption will eventually become irrelevant. The carrot being offered to church managers is a reduction in their administrative burden because they may not need to seek separate consents every time they wish to make changes to their buildings, so long as the changes are consistent with policies set out in the HPA, which will be negotiated with English Heritage and local authorities.

HPAs will probably appeal most to cathedral Deans and others who manage complex listed sites, or groups of sites, with some components covered by Ecclesiastical Exemption and some not. The agreements will enable a longer-term view to be taken of how sites can be developed for religious worship, whilst ensuring that heritage concerns are also addressed.

Pilot studies to look at how the new arrangements will work are starting during autumn 2005. Copies of Ecclesiastical Exemption: the way forward can be obtained from the DCMS website.

Greenside decision sends message to those who ‘wantonly destroy listed buildings’

The owner of Greenside, the Grade-II-listed modern movement house designed by Connell Ward and Lucas that was demolished without consent in 2002, will not be allowed to profit by his actions. The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has supported the recommendations of the planning inquiry that was set up to look into the circumstances surrounding the demolition and has refused planning permission for the construction of a new house. With the original house gone, he now owns an almost valueless patch of land.

The decision is a vindication of the actions of the Twentieth Century Society, whose Director, Catherine Croft, refused to let the issue die when other heritage bodies decided that it was a lost cause. At the Planning Inquiry, the Twentieth Century Society was alone in arguing that planning permission for a larger 'replacement' home should be refused. Catherine now says that the decision will ‘send out the clearest message to anyone who might contemplate wantonly destroying a listed building in the future’.

Amongst reasons given for refusing planning permission, the Deputy Prime Minister said that ‘in demolishing the building without consent, the applicant has by his own actions returned the site to open land in circumstances where he could not be said to have had any legitimate expectation that a new and different building could be erected on the site. In this way, the applicant has himself brought about a state of affairs where there is no building on the land which the proposed new dwelling could properly be said to replace.’ That land had in effect reverted to Green Belt, and the new house was considered to constitute an inappropriate development in the Green Belt, contrary to the development plan and to PPG 2.

He also said that 'Greenside' was a building of some significance within the International Modern Movement in Britain and came within the definition of a 'key exemplar' of houses of that period and style. The building was capable of occupation as a dwelling until its demolition and there was no evidence of serious structural problems. The estimated costs of repairs were not greater than those that any prudent building owner of a listed building might incur over time. When the owner tried to sell the house, he did not price it realistically, and the asking price did not reflect its condition.

Further details can be found on the Twentieth Century Society’s website.

Holiday resort in national park to go ahead

You win some and you lose others. To offset the good news about Greenside, the bad news is that Bluestone has been given the go-ahead to build a holiday village on a 200-hectare (500-acre) site within the Pembrokeshire National Park. The news is a blow to the Council for National Parks, which believes the development will create an unwelcome precedent for other national parks. The Bluestone development will comprise 340 lodges, a spa and a sports club. The project will create an estimated 900 jobs during construction and operation. Thousands of locals have signed petitions supporting the development.

The court of appeal ruled that the scheme was consistent with national park development guidelines because of the park’s obligation ‘to foster the economic and social well-being of local communities within the national park’. Lord Justice Maurice Kay, giving the decision with three other appeal court judges, described the Pembrokeshire National Park as ‘characterised by rural poverty, unemployment and deprivation’.

Ruth Chambers of the Council for National Parks said that the organisation was now considering an appeal to the House of Lords. She said that permitting development on this scale within a national park on the basis of job creation effectively opened the door every type of development, which was inconsistent with national park designation.

Review of Pathfinder plans to demolish 400,000 homes

There is slightly better news on the Pathfinder front, following a meeting between officials from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and Government agencies, academics and conservation groups in east Lancashire to discuss proposals to demolish and replace up to 400,000 pre-1919 homes in the north of England. The meeting agreed that demolition would be removed from a list of ‘key performance indicators’ that local authorities have to meet in order to qualify for money under the Government's £500 million Housing Market Renewal Initiative scheme. The ODPM has also promised that a survey of historic properties would be carried out before any more were demolished. Some 20 per cent of the homes currently proposed for demolition in Pathfinder areas are considered to be of national or local historic significance.

Our Fellow Simon Thurley, chief executive of English Heritage, said that the meeting had been ‘positive and constructive’, but Adam Wilkinson, of Save Britain's Heritage, said: ‘They still seem to see a link between knocking down Victorian properties and improving people's lives, even though this has never succeeded in the past.’ Commenting on the design of the new buildings that are planned as replacement homes for those demolished, architectural historian John Harris said: ‘These look like the weakest interpretation of 1980s post-modern architecture. There is no reference to local historic buildings or patterns. The rhythm and scale is completely different.’

The demise of the front garden

Boundary walls were vandalised in the name of the war effort and denuded of their Victorian and Edwardian railings, but a recent survey suggests that even the walls, lawns and flowerbeds of our suburban gardens are now endangered. The survey, carried out by an insurance company concerned about the potential risks incurred by people who drive over the pavement to reach private parking spaces on paved-over front lawns, said that 32 per cent of people questioned admitted to having created car parks on their gardens and a whopping 50 per cent of the remainder said they were minded to do the same.

The Changing Face of London

The Building Centre, at 26 Store Street, London, which has recently reopened after a major refurbishment, now contains a new exhibition space called NLA (New London Architecture), dedicated to showcasing future projects in the capital. The inaugural exhibition — The Changing Face of London — consists of an overview of the thirty-one substantial developments proposed for the metropolis over the next twenty years — change on a scale not seen since the 1930s. Some 400,000 new homes and around 8 million square metres of office space are planned to provide for the expected 700,000 growth in the city’s population. Projects on show range from the new towers in the City of London 'cluster', the redevelopment of White City, Paddington, King’s Cross, Elephant and Castle, Battersea Power Station and the creation of Stratford City. For more information, see the NLA website.

£38m for Olympic museums

Keen to counter concerns that the 2012 Olympic Games will draw funding away from arts and heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced last week that three museums are to be refurbished so that they will be better able to cope with the influx of visitors expected during the lead-up to the games and the Olympic fortnight. The Museum of London and the Victoria and Albert Museum will receive £10.6m and £9.7m respectively and a further £15.8m has been awarded to Edinburgh's Royal Museum. Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said: ‘This is precisely the kind of cultural legacy that we hoped for from the London Olympic and Paralympic Games.’

The Museum of London will use its grant to help pay for its Capital City project, aimed at revamping its lower ground-floor galleries and updating its learning centre. It will also be able to find space for its post-1914 collection of objects, putting twentieth-century collections on permanent display for the first time, including the Olympic torch from the 1948 Games. Its concrete facade will be replaced by a transparent front, which will display the lord mayor's gold-leafed coach.

The Victoria and Albert Museum will use its grant to transform its medieval and Renaissance galleries, and to establish two ‘discovery areas’ — a film theatre and a study centre.

The Royal Museum in Edinburgh has collections ranging over world cultures, ancient civilisations, natural science and the applied and decorative arts. The HLF money will be used to redevelop sixteen of its existing twenty-eight galleries and to double the number of objects currently on display.

Government and charities at odds over Lottery Bill

The Lottery Bill currently making its way through the committee stages of parliament continues to be controversial. According to the charity-sector magazine, the Third Sector, Lottery minister Richard Caborn admitted last week that there is no ‘meeting of minds’ between the Government and charities over the future direction of the National Lottery. At a meeting with voluntary sector umbrella groups at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in mid-July, Caborn dismissed a request that the National Lottery should contain a definition of additionality, saying that any attempt to define the principle would result in a ‘purely academic debate’. He also said that a proposal to monitor breaches of additionality was ‘excessively bureaucratic’. Caborn also rejected requests s to modify the clause in the Bill that gives the Government the right to dictate ‘persons and purposes’ to which the Big Lottery Fund may or may not give grants.

Nick Aldridge, director of strategy at the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations, said: ‘We are disappointed that widely shared concerns at the gradual erosion of the lottery's independence have yet again been rejected by the Government. We want the lottery to provide genuinely additional money for communities and charities, not to plug holes in departmental budgets.’

MLA calls for a single strategic body for the museums sector

The Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) has just published its response to the DCMS consultation on the future of England's museums. MLA says in its response that the museums sector would benefit from the creation of a single strategic and funding body with a remit similar to Arts Council England and the Sports Council. It suggests MLA itself should evolve into that role. MLA Chairman, Mark Wood, said: ‘Having one body providing leadership, funding and a strong, unified voice for the sector will increase collaboration between museums and deliver more consistent improvements in collections, services and standards. Better centralised data on economic and educational impact will strengthen the case for funding. It will also enable museums to identify, through benchmarking, the areas where changes will yield the most benefit.’

Key recommendations from MLA also include better tax breaks for people and organisations making donations of money or objects to museums, integration and standardisation of back-office functions to release administrative costs for the funding of collections and service developments, a sustained programme of investment to digitize more objects and collections and to make digital resources easier to access, and co-ordinated investment in research and in training and development of the museum workforce. MLA also recommends a more co-ordinated approach to storage and collections management. ‘Millions of pounds are spent every year on storage in this sector,’ said Mark Wood. ‘A well co-ordinated national loans scheme and shared storage facilities will cut storage costs considerably. It will also get items that many smaller regional museums and educational bodies would die for out of the cellar and onto public display.’

Museum offers free entry to naked visitors

Here is a lively little idea for perking up museum visitor numbers that MLA has not thought of: the Associated Press agency in Vienna reported on 30 July that Vienna's prestigious Leopold Museum is offering free entry to The Naked Truth, its exhibition of early 1900s erotic art, to visitors who attend in the nude. The scheme has been particularly popular because the Leopold Museum’s cool, climate-controlled interior is proving an ideal retreat from the midsummer heatwave that has descended on Vienna. Peter Weinhaupl, the Leopold's commercial director, said the aim was to ‘create a mini-scandal, reminiscent of the way the artworks by Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele and others shocked the public when they were unveiled a century ago’.

Cambridge Illuminations exhibition throws light on early Christian history

The sixth-century gospels brought from Rome by St Augustine to convert Britain to Christianity are to go on display for the first time in the biggest exhibition of illuminated manuscripts for a century. The gospels usually leave Corpus Christi College in Cambridge only for the inauguration of archbishops of Canterbury, who swear their oaths over them, but will be on show at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge until 11 December 2005. The exhibition aims to tell the history of illuminated manuscripts using 200 medieval and Renaissance texts, all of which come from Cambridge colleges or university institutions.

‘Madness’ of King George was caused by arsenic

An article published in the medical journal The Lancet says that the severe attacks of the hereditary illness called porphyria suffered by King George III late in his life were probably triggered by his medicine, which contained enough arsenic to cause chronic poisoning. Professor Martin Warren and his colleagues at the University of Kent at Canterbury have analysed a lock of the king's hair that had been kept at the Science Museum in London. They found that the concentration of arsenic in the hair was 17 parts per million (ppm), compared to typical levels of between 0.05ppm and 0.25ppm. Professor Warren and his colleagues say that the king was given an ‘emetic tartar’ medicine made from antimony, which contains relatively high levels of arsenic. ‘We propose that exposure to arsenic would exacerbate attacks of porphyria in a genetically predisposed individual’, Professor Warren writes, adding that ‘there were other possible sources of arsenic, such as the powered wigs worn by the king; these may have caused the initial symptoms that were then exacerbated by his medicine.’

Cambridge to halt decline of history teaching

The Daily Telegraph reported last week that the Specialist Schools Trust, which represents more than three-quarters of England's secondary schools, has asked the Cambridge exam board to review the history courses taught in its schools following concerns that the content is too narrow and repetitive. Sir Cyril Taylor, the chairman of the trust, said that new exams might emerge from the process, including combined GCSEs in history and classics, history and literature and history and citizenship. The development grows out of concerns that pupils are increasingly ignorant of the broad sweep of British history; the popularity of thematic studies, such as the rise of Nazism, has, according to the Historical Association, robbed young people of any real sense of chronology and left large gaps in their knowledge.

Thracian treasures revealed

The Associated Press news agency reported last week that a team of archaeologists from the Bulgarian Archaeological Institute had found a Thracian tomb near the village of Zlatinitsa, some 290 kilometres (180 miles) east of the capital, Sofia. The body of the deceased was laid in a large wood-panelled pit together with two horses and a dog. Most Thracians tombs were looted in antiquity but this one survived intact because it was not covered by the earthen burial mound that normally marks the tombs of Thracian rulers. The tomb contained an exceptional assemblage of grave goods, including a golden ring and laurel wreath, silver rhytons (drinking vessels) and many pieces of armour and horse trappings. Greek pottery in the tomb has enabled archaeologists to date the whole burial to 360—70 BC.

Professor Daniela Agre of the Bulgarian Archaeological Institute said it was an unusual site because the deceased was not buried according to normal Thracian traditions, but all the objects in the grave bear Thracian imagery. ‘The period of the grave is exceptionally important’, she added. ‘It was a peak moment in the development of Thracian culture, statesmanship and art. They had very strong contacts and mutual influences with Greece, Anatolia and Scythia. Most of what is known about the Thracians, a nation of illiterate and loosely organised tribes, comes from the written accounts by the ancient Greeks who called them barbarians. The finds and architecture of this tomb suggests that the Thracians were more sophisticated than was thought.’

Private Eye takes issue with the National Trust

In his ‘Nooks and Corners’ column in Private Eye this week, Piloti takes issue with the National Trust’s decision to save some £60,000 a year at Sutton House in Hackney by restricting public opening hours to weekends only. Sutton House was once the flagship of the National Trust’s social inclusion policy, a sixteenth-century house in a deprived inner city location that was the base for much good community work, with an education centre that used to buzz with the sounds of excited children learning about life under the Tudors. Piloti thoroughly approved of this departure from the National Trust norm of aristocratic Georgian country houses and shops full of lavender bags. He admits that he ‘really doesn’t like knocking the Trust, with its admirable and necessary aims, pursued by a dedicated staff’ but he wishes they would remain true to their aims and not be corrupted by ‘self-serving managerial culture’. He adds that ‘the Trust is currently advertising for an assistant director of strategy and foresight, and a head of foresight planning, at salaries that would, with foresight, easily cover the losses at Sutton House’.

Steptoe & Son in the care of the National Trust

Another insight into our perceptions of the National Trust comes in the form of a new stage play based on the popular BBC comedy of the late 1960s, Steptoe & Son. In ‘Murder at Oil Drum Lane’, which premieres at York Theatre Royal in October, the younger Steptoe, Harold, returns from South America to look for his deceased father’s rag-and-bone shop (famously described by Harold as ‘a festering fly-blown heap of accumulated filth’). What does he find? That’s right: now cherished as a precious piece of inner-city heritage, it has been carefully tidied up and turned into a visitor attraction by its new owners — the National Trust.

Walking on cobbles is good for your health

David Miles was one of several Fellows who wrote to Salon (in response to the story that the mayor of Rome was planning to tarmac the city’s cobbled streets) to say that the Chinese have long been aware of the therapeutic benefits of walking on cobble stones. Apparently, walking on cobbles stimulates acupoints in the feet. Recent trials conducted by scientists at the Oregon Research Institute () have also shown that walking on a cobbled surface results in significant reductions in blood pressure and improvements in balance and physical performance among adults aged sixty and over. David adds that ‘I am glad to report that, on a recent visit to Prague, the city authorities were undertaking a major programme of cobble restoration throughout the old city.’

But Rome still goes ahead with its controversial scheme

Immune to the protest of conservationists, the city council in Rome has said that it will go ahead with its plan to cover the basalt cobblestones used to pave the city’s streets. The roads that run along the Tiber will be the first to be given a new surface, followed by the Via dell Botteghe Oscure, another major thoroughfare. The policy seems to be popular with Romans themselves who have complained of their inability to sleep at siesta time because of the noise of tyres on cobbles, and of the danger to scooter riders and pedestrians from the potholes created when stones become loose. Laid in bare earth, the sampietrini, or ‘little stones of St Peter’, used as a road surface since the seventeenth century, are also blamed for causing vibrations that are damaging frescoes and historic buildings. Despite calls to do so, the Roman authorities say they have no plans to remove the cobbles from the historic Piazza Venezia and Via dei Fori Imperiale.

Archaeological pubs

Martin Henig, FSA, writes to say that Julian Munby, FSA, is personally responsible for intervening in the renaming of the pub in Hythe Bridge Street in Oxford that now glories in the name of Antiquity Hall. Some years ago, when the Oxford Unit (as it was then called) was based in Hythe Bridge Street Julian noticed that the nearby canalside pub, then called the Nag’s Head, was being refurbished. Fearing that it was likely to be given a 'Pig and Lettuce' sort of name, Julian talked to the licensee, reminding him that the pub on the site in the early eighteenth century was called Antiquity Hall and was frequented by Thomas Hearne (Keeper of the Bodleian Library) and other antiquaries of the day. George Vertue, engraver to the Society of Antiquaries (from 1717), even made a satirical print of the pub (at the instigation of Francis Wise, Hearne’s deputy at the Bodleain) done to look like one of Hearne's own archaeological prints, with labels marking the wall, entrance, path, seats and the 'Zythepsarium' (brewery) round the back, plus an inset of a knucklebone floor labelled as a Roman mosaic and another of Hearne being carried home drunk. Apparently Hearne did not see the funny side, but Julian did succeed in persuading the landlord to reinstate the historical name.

Books by Fellows

Jane Moon, FSA, has published an account of her excavations at The Early Dilmun Setttlement at Saar in Bahrain, jointly edited with Robert Killick (ISBN 0953956113; further details from orders@archaeology-international.co.uk). The large format hardback book, packed with colour illustrations, reveals the results of fieldwork carried out between 1990 and 1999 by the London—Bahrain Archaeological Expedition at ancient Saar, shedding light on the everyday lives, houses, possessions, food and commercial activities of the Early Dilmun people who lived in Bahrain 4,000 years ago. At this time, the merchants of Bahrain were ranging far and wide, trading as far as the River Indus and Iraq, and buying and selling a range of commodities and luxury items. The economic success of their trading ventures led to increased prosperity at home, with stone-built temples and settlements springing up in the well-watered northern half of Bahrain.

Comprehensive reports on single monastic sites are rare these days, but Charmian Woodfield has just published the results of work undertaken over twenty-five years on the Carmelite Friary and its setting in Coventry. Charmian writes that: ‘there is a widely held misconception that friaries, outside London, are small, insignificant buildings, of little architectural consequence. The Coventry Whitefriars church proved to be the size of a small cathedral (88m long internally) with architecturally important surviving conventual buildings. Large quantities of stamped floor tiles, painted window glass, sculpture and architectural stonework are covered, together with imported exotic pottery and intriguing small finds. The well-illustrated 400-page volumes is produced by BAR (British Series No 389), and includes a detailed study by J Cattell (of the RCAHM of Scotland) on the standing cloister building, and on two gatehouses by Paul Woodfield. The book contains illustrations that supplement our Fellow Charles Tracy’s earlier study of the extant choir stalls of the highest quality. Contributors also include G Egan, FSA, S Ratkai, P Woodfield, H List, H Willmott, J Rackham, FSA, and I Goodall, FSA, with help from R Marks and Fr R Copsey O Carm. It remains to be seen whether this will eventually influence or reverse the years of neglect that this important site and building has suffered.’

Sadly, it seems that the truth never sells quite as well as fraud and quackery, otherwise The Treasure of Rennes-le-Château (Sutton Publishing, ISBN 0750942169, £6.50) by our Fellow Bill Putnam and his co-author John Edwin Wood, would be at the top of the best-seller list rather than The Da Vinci Code. The latter repeats (as if true) the claim that the Priory of Sion is a real organisation preserving the ‘secret’ that Christ married Mary Magdalene and did not die on the Cross, but lived to a happy old age with wife and children in the south of France. By contrast, Bill’s book proves this to be ‘the greatest historical hoax ever carried out’. From the Vatican to Tony Robinson of ‘Time Team’, everyone who has shown up the historical and archaeological flaws in The Da Vinci Code has drawn on Bill’s book, which has just been published in a second (paperback) edition, so if you want to know how, when and by whom the Priory of Sion was invented, Bill has all the details.

The long-awaited catalogue of the fifteenth-century printed books in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, has just been published by Oxford University Press (3,088 pages, 6 volumes, ISBN 0199513732). The Bodleian houses the fifth largest collection of incunabula in the world, and the largest university library collection.

The cataloguing project (funded from external sources) began in January 1992, and the cataloguing team consisted of Kristian Jensen, FSA; Alan Coates, FSA; Cristina Dondi, Bettina Wagner, Helen Dixon, Carolinne White and Elizabeth Mathew. Blockbooks and single sheet wood- and metalcuts have been described by Nigel Palmer, and an inventory of the Library’s Hebrew incunables has been compiled by Silke Schaeper. A team of academic advisers, including Fellows Richard Pfaff, Richard Sharpe and Julian Roberts, and late Fellow A C de la Mare, acted as consultants for the project.

The new catalogue describes the books to the same standards expected in the best modern catalogues of medieval manuscripts, and represents a major contribution to the study of the history of the book. It records and identifies all texts contained in each volume, and describes in detail the book’s copy-specific features (binding, hand-decoration, marginalia and provenance). The analysis of the texts is an innovative feature, as is the extensive index of names of authors. The attention given to copy-specific information is distinctive, and the provenance index will be of great value to anyone interested in book history from the 1450s to the present day. This new catalogue builds on the draft catalogue on slips prepared between 1954 and 1971 by the late L A Sheppard, FSA, formerly Deputy Keeper in the Department of Printed Books at the British Museum.

Vacancies

English Heritage, Regional Director: West Midlands
Salary c £55,000, closing date 12 August 2005

The Regional Director is responsible for the delivery of the corporate, group and regional objectives of English Heritage in the West Midlands through decisive leadership, the delivery of casework and advisory services and by ensuring that the expectations of stakeholders are managed successfully. For an application pack, email recruitsw@english-heritage.org.uk, quoting ref no H/25/05.