Salon Archive

Issue: 126

Forthcoming meetings

20 October: Requiem: the medieval monastic cemetery in Britain, by Roberta Gilchrist, FSA, and Barney Sloane, FSA, followed by a launch party for the book of the same name.

27 October: Nelson at the Admiralty: in the footsteps of the hero in the Royal Navy’s headquarters in London, by Justin Reay.

Ballot

The Society is pleased to welcome the following new Fellows, who were all elected in the ballot on 13 October:

Ian Netton
Philip Davies
Hilary Thomas
Peter Hill
Shiela Broomfield
Tadhg O’Keeffe
Birte Brugmann
Robert Philpott
Ellen Swift
Michael Morrison
Christopher Dobbs
Mark Hall
Sonja Jilek
Nicholas Balaam
Dr Gerald Wait
Janet Miller
Anne Lynch
Anthony Freeman
David Mitchell
Anne Crawford
Maureen Meikle
Elizabeth Horne
Robert Skeats
Vincent Gaffney
Ian Archer

Online balloting

This week’s ballot was notable as the first occasion on which Fellows were able to vote online. Some eighty or so Fellows took advantage of this facility, while around thirty voted by post and some seventeen voted in person. Overall, these figures represent an increase of around 20 per cent on the number of votes cast. Postal balloting numbers have fallen substantially: many Fellows have clearly decided to save themselves the cost of a stamp and envelope and have switched to the internet.

It is also clear that there is a core of around 120 Fellows who participate in the election process — about 5 per cent of the Fellowship. The Society’s challenge now is to encourage more Fellows to play a part, both by voting in ballots and by taking out Blue Papers for colleagues who deserve Fellowship.

The online balloting system can be used for both purposes and it is very easy to take out and sign Blue Papers — five Fellows have already taken advantage of this system, which allows a Blue Paper to be taken out, submitted for registration and signed by supporters of the candidate, all via the internet.

Finally, there is another ballot coming up on 24 November: Blue Papers for that ballot will be available for reading and voting from 21 October.

A rival to Salon?

A short item spotted in the October edition of the Civic Trust Newsletter was headed ‘Consultation Fatigue?’ and invited members to attend a novel forum for debating and responding to the myriad consultations that have been pouring out of Government departments in recent years: the Civic Trust is planning a series of occasional Salons, with ‘provocative speakers’, to debate trends and policy. The series starts on 25 October when David Wilcox will lead a discussion on community engagement. The newsletter promises that the Salon will include ‘games, storytelling, blogs and wikis*’, with audience participation encouraged.

  • ‘wikis’ are programs that allow multiple users to contribute to a website, and the term is (apparently) derived from the Hawaiian word ‘wiki’, meaning ‘quick’, or ‘fast’, because of the speed with which opinions can be published and responded to.

The Society might not yet have adopted ‘wiki’ technology, but it is worth saying that engaging in public policy debate is one of the four central principles of our new strategy. This is to be achieved through 1) providing an independent forum for policy making at Burlington House; 2) developing the Society’s advocacy role; 3) enlarging the Society’s influence with sector organisations and umbrella bodies; and 4) communicating and disseminating news and opinion.

Details of this and the other three core elements of the Society’s new corporate strategy, along with an explanatory commentary, can now be read and downloaded from the Fellows’ side of the website. The full version of the business plan will also be posted on the site as soon as Salon’s editor has mastered the technology of formatting a complex document so that it can easily be read and printed!

News of Fellows

A recent edition of Salon reported on this year’s European Archaeology Association meeting in Cork, but forgot to mention that Anthony Harding (Fellow, and Professor of Archaeology at the University of Exeter) was re-elected as President of the Association.

Obituaries

Salon has learned, through Alan Bell, Fellow, that John Simmons, OBE, FSA (elected in May 1982), died in Oxford on 22 September 2005, at the age of ninety. John joined the library staff at the University of Birmingham in 1932 and worked there (with a six-year gap for war service) until 1949 when he returned to Oxford as Librarian/Lecturer (1949—69), Fellow of All Souls (1965), Reader in Slavonic Bibliography (1969—70), Librarian and Senior Research Fellow at All Souls (1970—82) and finally as Emeritus Fellow of All Souls (1982—2005).

The Independent on 3 October carried the obituary of Francis Lepper, FSA, who died on 7 September 2005 at the age of 92, having been, for much of his life, an ancient history don. Lepper (he himself preferred the old-fashioned formality of addressing people by their surnames) occupied richly furnished rooms in Oxford’s smallest college, Corpus Christi, where a stream of undergraduates came to learn (aided by college sherry) that the study of the ancient world was an intellectual adventure. Those who studied Mods and Greats loved him; other undergraduates were less fond of his disciplinarian approach to college life: as Dean in the 1950s, he was burnt in effigy on Guy Fawkes Night, perhaps, suggests his obituarist, ‘for the dastardly subterfuge of hiding in a dustbin in Thomas Quad to catch malefactors climbing into college’.

The obituary goes on to say that ‘Lepper wrote little, but his writing has stood the test of time. Trajan’s Parthian War (1948) remains seminal for any study of frontier policy. Trajan’s Column (with Sheppard Frere, 1988) provides the best commentary on the scenes of the column and skilfully relates a complex monument to the campaign it commemorates … but Lepper’s writing was not confined to classical books and journals … another tour de force was his review (in the college journal, The Pelican, for 1954) of the Oxford telephone directory’.

The ones that got away

Whilst scanning the newspapers for Fellows’ obituaries, Salon’s editor regularly comes across tributes to people who probably should have been elected to the Fellowship, if we had known more of their work. One such was Katharine Pantzer, former editor of the revised Short-Title Catalogue of Books Printed in England, Scotland and Ireland and of English Books Printed Abroad, 1475—1640 (better known to bibliographers as ‘STC’).

As well as her sheer skill as a bibliographer, Pantzer’s obituary pays credit to her diplomacy, if that is the right word for someone who ‘fought like a tiger’ for the STC to remain the property of the UK-based Bibliographical Society, its original publisher, even though the major part of the work and cost of revision was being borne in America, by Harvard and external donors. The Bibliographical Society matched her loyalty by raising the considerable sum needed to print the two volumes of the revised edition. She then embarked on a third volume of addenda and corrigenda, a chronological list of editions and an index of printers and their addresses. This last awoke a new enthusiasm, the topography of the trade — in particular, St Paul’s Churchyard in all its upstairs-downstairs complexity.

Feedback and corrections

For the second time in successive issues, Salon is revisiting the Heritage Research Presentation Award, designed to encourage archaeologists to communicate their research findings to a non-specialist audience in engaging and accessible ways. In the original report on this Award, Salon might have given the impression that English Heritage was the only sponsor. Salon is very happy to set the record straight and acknowledge that the 2005 Awards were co-sponsored by six organisations: the Royal Archaeological Institute, Cadw, Historic Scotland, the Environment and Heritage Service (an agency within the Department of Environment, Northern Ireland), the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government (Republic of Ireland) and English Heritage.

It is intended that the Awards will be offered again next year at the Festival of Science, to be held in Norwich in early September 2006. The organisers hope for a large entry, and invite Fellows to consider entering on their own behalf, as well as encouraging other researchers to enter. Further information can be obtained from our Fellow, Sebastian Payne.

Was Salon fair to the National Trust?

Salon has received the following contribution from our Fellow David Baker on Salon’s recent comments on the National Trust, which he has requested should be published in full and unedited.

‘Our Fellow David Baker read with interest the items on the National Trust in Salon 124 and 125. David has been the CBA’s nominee on the Trust’s Council for nearly eight years. Our Fellow Simon Timms is a member of the new smaller trustee Board and also an elected member of Council. Other Fellows who are nominated members of Council include Margaret Richardson (National Amenity Societies) and John Sell (SPAB).

‘The 1,350 words devoted — if that is the right term — to the National Trust in the last two issues deserve comment, not least with the interests of the Fellowship in mind. Next year there will be a review of the 26 bodies nominating members to the Trust’s Council, and reselection is by no means automatic. Fellows on the Council have the impression that the great majority of the Society still wishes to be associated with the National Trust, so some evidence of understanding and support for its aims and activities may prove helpful. The uncritical recycling of inaccurate squibs does not meet the standard of source verification the Fellowship might reasonably expect; the hostile glossing of those inaccuracies is hardly an act of critical friendship.

‘Private Eye's reported essay on offices contains a wealth of error. 36 Queen Anne’s Gate is rented, not owned, so the landlord, not the tenant, disposes of it. The new Heelis building at Swindon, praised by many, is also rented, not owned, for financial reasons that precluded buying and converting an existing building. There are no double rentals in the move to the new smaller London base where the policy “wonks” will be housed, not as Swindon refuseniks, but well placed for contacts near the seat of government.

‘Marcus Binney’s recollected “wholly admirable institution” has a breadth of interests reflecting tensions within the environmental sector and society at large. Responding to those tensions is difficult, but ignoring them is no longer a real-world option. The “mire” at Cliveden was largely stirred up by others in a classic local planning controversy. Censured “harsher commercial practices” follow the unexcitingly realistic requirements of the Charity Commissioners, that market values be obtained from property unless there are clear reasons directly in line with the Trust’s charitable purposes, and that a reserve of £20m be accumulated.

‘Rodney Legg’s outrage in becoming a new ex-Trustee, reported in the Guardian, was not shared by most Council members who recognised that a body of fifty-two cannot responsibly exercise modern trusteeship. Indeed, tighter governance arrangements might have minimised problems over processing subscriptions, reported in the Trust’s magazine well before the Eye picked it up. It is a sad fact that Council’s democratic credentials have always been compromised by the fact that less than 4 per cent of the Trust’s membership votes for the twenty-six elected posts.

‘The first meeting of the post-review ex-trustee Council was a promising answer to the “central accusation”. Several well-informed debates — notably over landscape management in the Lake District — indicate that it will give a wide range of firm views to the new Trustees, over half of whom were present as Council members. In fact, Legg’s feared “friction between old Council and new Trustees” is the best “democratic” check against “corporatist” tendencies, and Council’s expert commitment is the best defence against the “management of change” (as some now define conservation) “becoming managerial rather than conservationist”.

‘The Trust has just gone through three major institutional life-threatening events, staffing restructuring, governance reform and an accommodation review. Mostly long overdue, their combined impact was magnified by budget cuts, relocation resignations, and some compulsory redundancies. My personal experience of redundancy following a botched reorganisation of local government taught the obvious lesson that major change, good or bad, affects and upsets people. This has been confirmed by the much-quoted staff survey, but a distinction must be drawn between normal reactions to change and those that reflect deeper problems. Council has requested a report: hopefully it will show how far the problem is one of communication between management and staff at a time of great change, and how far one of deeply committed staff finding it difficult to accept changes, forced upon as well as chosen by the Trust.

‘The Trust is an easy target for straws thrown to the winds by the rumour mill and loosely strung together as scarecrows. Its complex operations regularly generate issues of concern; for me, a current example is the freezing of the Trust’s Sites and Monuments Record Officer post in the recent staff cuts. But before a particular problem indicates failure to keep “in touch with the rest of the conservation movement” and “loss of soul”, cases have to be rigorously justified, and other agendas disentangled.

The Trust and High Yewdale Farm

David Baker concludes that critics of the National Trust have other agendas, which is, of course, true. The critics believe that they are pursuing an agenda based on conservation values; the National Trust is accused of pursuing a corporatist agenda. Each of these labels needs unpacking and defining for the debate to develop beyond name-calling, and Salon is perhaps not the place for such a detailed analysis.

Nevertheless, the difference between the two agendas is vividly illustrated by the current controversy over Beatrix Potter’s legacy. High Yewdale, in Coniston, was one of several Lake District hill farms that Beatrix Potter bequeathed to the National Trust. Potter personally chose Robert Birkett as her tenant because of his sympathy for her aims in establishing the farm, and his son, John Birkett, has just retired after thirty-five years of nurturing the hardy herd of Herdwick sheep that Potter herself introduced.

John Birkett’s retirement was taken by the Trust as an opportunity to rethink the management of the estate, which is to be split up and the land divided between three adjacent farms. The Trust argues that this is the best course of action because the subsidies that form the majority of the farm’s income will be halved within five years following recent Common Agricultural Policy reforms. The farm could not survive as an independent business, whereas the three neighbouring farms — Yew Tree Farm, High Arnside and Boon Crag (two of which were gifts from Beatrix Potter) — will have their viability enhanced by the enlargement of their landholdings. They say that Beatrix Potter herself created High Yewdale Farm by amalgamating two other farms to create a larger, single unit, and would no doubt support the Trust’s decisions if she were alive today.

The retiring tenant, 71-year-old John Birkett, has made it clear that he disagrees and that he believes the farm to be viable as its stands. He has told the media that he is personally distressed at what he sees as a betrayal of Beatrix Potter’s intentions in handing the farms to the Trust. ‘It is a good farm and it is a disgrace that it is being split up,’ he told the BBC. ‘Anyone could work this farm and make a living, as I have proved. The National Trust made its mind up from the start and has been making one excuse after another.’

Prince Charles is amongst those who have expressed concern at what they see as the destruction of a unique part of Britain’s farming heritage. They believe that the Trust has not considered all the options and that the Beatrix Potter estate should be recognised as a valuable asset, around which the Trust could create new forms of tourism, that draw people in to a better understanding of the countryside. Whilst the income from one form of subsidy is on the wane, the farm could well benefit from agri-environment subsidies being introduced specifically to encourage conservation-based agriculture. Above all, they say, the Trust is the one organisation in the country that should stand up for different values than those of the accountant and look for ways of retaining the farm intact rather than adopting what has been described as ‘the easy solution’.

These and other worries have crystallised around the debate about the new governance regime, which Rodney Legg argues weakens the voice of the conservation bodies that sit on the Trust’s Council. The Board of Trustees is now the highest decision-making forum for the Trust, and it is not yet clear how far the Council, which is described as being ‘the conscience of the Trust’, will be able to influence the Trust in future.

That concern was illustrated last week when the Council voted by a narrow margin to ask the Trustees to reconsider the decision to break up the High Yewdale farm. The Trust subsequently issued a press release saying that ‘The Council … agreed to ask the Board of Trustees to look at the decision. In doing so, the Board of Trustees will take account both of the wider context (the issues facing hill farmers, the Trust’s existing subsidies and support for hill farming and the options facing farms like High Yewdale) and of the commitments which have been given to neighbouring farmers who have already taken on the management of High Yewdale’s Herdwick flock.’ It is exactly this kind of statement that worries the National Trust’s critics, because it looks like a done decision. The list of issues that the Trustees will take into account as part of the wider context seems highly selective: indeed they look like a mere restatement of the Trust’s original position.

Heelis — not so hellish

On one point, Salon’s editor is very happy to set the record straight: the Trust’s new Swindon central office is a far more impressive building than Fellow Marcus Binney has led us to believe through his architecture column in The Times. Indeed, it would not be surprising to learn in twenty years’ time that Heelis had been listed for its historical and architectural interest. The statement of significance would state that the building is a brave and forward-looking response to the challenges inherent in the sustainability agenda.

Sarah Staniforth, who once worked for the National Gallery’s paintings conservation workshop but who now, as Head Conservator at the Trust, speaks with great authority about renewable energy, photovoltaic cells and thermafleece (a natural wool-based cavity-wall insulation product), told me on a guided tour of the building last week that nobody really knows yet which engineering solutions to the challenges of sustainability will work. Heelis has been designed as an experiment, to monitor how well various features perform — such as the use of natural ventilation systems in place of energy-consuming air conditioning plants. The results will help the Trust to decide what can be applied to the other parts of the Trust’s estate, from its modern visitor centres to centuries-old historic houses.

That’s all well and good, I hear you say, but what about the aesthetics? Heelis is actually quite a handsome building, in an understated way, built of slate-grey brick, glass and steel, fronted by a portico of slender steel columns, which carries the roof out over a paved area where visitors using the refectory can sit and eat out of doors. The saw-toothed north lights of the roofline pay homage to the site’s history and reflect the similar rooflines of nearby buildings that survive from the Great Western Railway’s former coach and engine-building works. Inside, glass-lined light wells have been punched through the roof to create simple Japanese-style gardens planted with birch and bamboo, bringing the outdoors right into the heart of the building. Blond wooden floors and dividing walls are made from timber grown on National Trust estates and at present are still fragrant with the smell of freshly sawn wood.

All in all, Heelis is a modest but good example of modernist design — the kind of building that architects in the Netherlands, Germany and Scandinavia have been producing for decades: we have too few of them in this country, and Swindon is lucky to have a building that enhances the town’s somewhat impoverished architectural scene.

The National Trust and research

Sarah Staniforth also says that the Trust would like to build closer links with universities and research establishments. There is, she feels, huge potential for researchers in many different fields — in the humanities and the sciences — who might like to base their work on the Trust’s properties, collections and activities. The Trust has already established a relationship with the UCL Centre for Sustainable Heritage, directed by Professor May Cassar, and is involved in research on such topics as climate change and its impact on the historic environment, but there is clearly scope for further links in the future with a great variety of different establishments. Any reader interested in taking this forward is invited to contact Salon’s editor.

The Trust’s new wildlife strategy

As a last word before turning to matters other than the National Trust, it is worth mentioning the launch of the Trust’s first Nature Conservation Strategy. A key part of that strategy is to ‘break out from the management of isolated and fragmented nature reserves and to focus on managing natural resources on a landscape scale’.

The strategy embraces the links between natural and cultural heritage, saying that ‘Our distinctive landscapes and the wildlife they support have been formed through thousands of years of interaction between people and the land; from farming to land reclamation or industry to field sports. Natural and cultural history are indivisible … management within designed landscapes will require an integrated approach in order to take proper account of the relative significance of natural and cultural heritage so as to identify optimum solutions for conservation overall.’ The strategy goes on to say that ‘The Trust will respect and promote the intimate relationship between natural and cultural heritage’ and that ‘in seeking optimum solutions for nature conservation we will take full account of the significance of associated cultural heritage’.

David Bullock, Head of Nature Conservation for the National Trust, explains that ‘the pockets to which British wildlife is increasingly being confined cannot be managed in isolation from the outside world — they are deeply affected by the way we manage surrounding landscapes. We need to develop much wider strategies to improve the quality of our soil, water and air, whilst also giving wildlife the room to move and adapt to the increasing pace of climate change and habitat decline’. He adds that ‘In pursuing its nature conservation strategy, the Trust is also looking to campaign more vigorously to promote public and government understanding of the threats to the nation’s wildlife and to give it greater value and protection. Without more co-ordinated policy and land management, our wildlife will be placed increasingly under threat.’

A copy of the strategy document can be downloaded from the National Trust’s website.

Who controls the future of the countryside?

Instead of its usual bucolic cover photograph, Country Life this week carries portraits of one hundred individuals who, it claims, are the key decision makers in relation to the future of the countryside. It is an odd list — as much for its ranking as for its contents. Fiona Reynolds, Director General of the National Trust (flatteringly captioned ‘keeper of the kingdom’), appears in the number four slot while Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, squeezes into the top twenty at number twelve. Is it really the case that these two heritage management professionals wield more power over rural Britain than Margaret Beckett, Secretary of State for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs? Beckett is ranked at number twenty-six, scarcely higher than Fellow Marcus Binney, described as ‘architectural whistleblower’ and ranked at number thirty-two.

Also missing entirely from the list is Jim Knight, MP, Minister for Rural Affairs, Landscape and Biodiversity, who will be one of two guest speakers (with Tessa Jowell) at the launch of Heritage Counts 2005 on 16 November. The focus of this year’s Heritage Counts — the fourth annual survey of the state of England’s historic environment — will be on England’s rural heritage. Evidence already collected for the report suggests that England’s rural landscapes, while in many ways the country’s greatest historic legacy, face unprecedented pressures. The findings will highlight the extent of loss of the country’s historic parklands, the condition and scale of conversion of traditional farm buildings, the impact of mass tourism on rural areas, the plight of rural churches and the importance of agri-environment funding in protecting heritage assets.

Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, says that Heritage Counts 2005 will provide a solid evidence base for understanding the impacts of changes in the countryside and for devising strategies to manage them’. Salon, will, of course, contain a detailed report in due course.

National Parks get green light to protect green lanes

The Council for National Parks (CNP) issued a press release last week saying that it was delighted with the announcement made on 1 October 2005 by the Minister for Rural Affairs, Jim Knight MP, of new powers to restrict or ban use of ancient byways and highways by ‘off-road’ motor vehicles. To illustrate the damage wrought by such vehicles, the press release was accompanied by a picture of a four-wheel-drive vehicle churning up the Sarn Helen Roman road, in Brecon Beacons National Park.

CNP has long campaigned for new measures, and many other countryside organisations have strongly supported its desire to halt the use of off-road motor vehicles, such as quad bikes and four-wheel drives, within National Parks. The CNP statement said that ‘National Parks were created for people to enjoy fresh air and peace and to get away from the ever-present motor car, and not as testing grounds for all-terrain vehicles’.

The new measures, under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Bill, will give National Park Authorities the power to make ‘Traffic Regulation Orders’ (TROs), enabling non-essential use of routes by motor vehicles to be prohibited, without having to consult local highway authorities. The present requirement for the National Park Authorities to negotiate with local highway authorities is time-consuming and fraught with delays. As the CNP statement went on to say: ‘when vehicles are using ancient monuments as stunt ramps, destroying areas rich in wildlife, and putting pedestrians, cyclists and horse-riders in danger, action to control irresponsible drivers needs to be swift’.

British Archaeology asks: ‘Is this the end for the Somerset Levels?’

The November/December issue of British Archaeology, edited by Fellow Mike Pitts, investigates a new study funded by English Heritage, the Environment Agency and Somerset County Council Heritage Service, which looked at the condition of thirteen of the most important waterlogged archaeological sites on the Somerset Levels. The devastating conclusion is that the water table has dropped so low in parts of the Levels that two late prehistoric wooden trackways, (both scheduled monuments) have been completely lost, an Iron Age wetland settlement (c 400 BC) has been badly damaged and that nine other nationally important waterlogged archaeological sites are at risk.

Ploughing, which exposes peat soils to the air, soil drainage systems and more efficient modern pumps are all partly blamed for the loss of ground-water, along with low rainfall in recent months. English Heritage is calling for farmers in the Levels to join Defra’s Environmental Stewardship Scheme which would reward them for preserving these monuments through converting arable land back to undrained pasture and maintaining raised water levels.

Protection of these vulnerable sites is possible, as demonstrated by the Sweet Track, excavated by Fellows John and Bryony Coles in the 1970s. Part of the site, which dates to around 3800 BC, falls within the Shapwick Heath National Nature Reserve, and here a purpose-built pumping system operated by English Nature protects it from desiccation.

Richard Brunning, of Somerset County Council Heritage Service, is quoted as saying that ‘recent studies proved that there was a potential threat to the waterlogged remains, but it was a shock to see the damage that desiccation has caused. The partnership of the County Council, English Heritage and the Environment Agency needs to act quickly with Defra and landowners if we are going to save these sites that give our most complete picture of the past and are so important to Somerset’s heritage, as every year more information is being lost.’

New guidebooks from English Heritage

This week saw the launch of a new-look guidebook series from English Heritage, which Fellow Simon Thurley announced was key to his ambition to produce the best guidebooks in the world. Simon candidly admitted that Cadw’s books had been the best but that poaching Fellow David Robinson, the brains behind the Cadw series, had levelled the playing field. The new series is different in four important ways: they are not just souvenir guides but are an essential guide to understanding and interpreting the site; they are academically as definitive as it is possible to be; they are intellectually ambitious and range beyond the boundaries of the English Heritage estate to look at the wider context of the site; and they have a much improved design, with striking photography, interpretative graphics and phased plans.

Among the first new guidebooks to be published to the new standard are Birdoswald Roman Fort, by Fellow Tony Wilmott, and Stonehenge by Fellow Julian Richards. Both are compellingly readable; the Stonehenge guide, for example, typifies the new approach in embracing modern paganism, crop circles, twentieth-century farming practices, druidism, the Amesbury Archer, the lichens that have colonised the stones and the graffiti left by centuries of visitors.

Current World Archaeology

Current World Archaeology continues its excellent work of reminding archaeologists what else is going on in the world beyond one’s own obsessions. One highlight of the October/November issue is Fellow Eberhard Sauer’s account of the rituals surrounding the deposition of brooches, beads, rings and coins at the sacred spring at Bourbonne-las-Bains; the 4,000 objects from the spring are not a new discovery, of course (the finds were made in 1874/5), but Eberhard’s account (based on his doctoral thesis and his Leicester Archaeology Monograph) represents the first time the assemblage has been studied systematically. Another highlight is the stunningly illustrated account of the British Museum exhibition, Forgotten Empire: the Word of Ancient Persia, curated by Fellow John Curtis (British Archaeology also has an article on the exhibition, written by John himself).

But most interesting of all is the letter from Professor Saeed Durrani commenting on the ingenuity of fakers in responding to archaeological finds. He recollects that the discovery of double-headed ‘mother goddess’ figurines with inlaid obsidian eyes at Çatalhöyük in the 1960s led local potters to turn out modern versions so good that only thermoluminesence dating enabled specialists to distinguish old from new. Similarly, there are many ‘Tang dynasty’ ceramic effigies, figurines and other decorative funerary pieces produced by ingenious local entrepreneurs in China — in some cases cast from genuine Tang dynasty moulds. It all makes you wonder how many objects found in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Britain resulted in a similar response, and just how many objects (perhaps even in the Society’s own collection) are genuine?

Potatoes and noodles: the origin of our staple foods

At the beginning of October newspapers reported that geneticists studying potato genes had traced all the 350-plus varieties of potato grown and eaten around the world today back to one ‘mother’ potato, first selected for cultivation in Peru, some 7,000 years ago.

More astonishing still (because we can see pictures: see the Daily Telegraph website) was the discovery of a bowl of Neolithic noodles in north-western China. The find was published in the journal Nature and was made by Dr Houyuan Lu, of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, with colleagues in Beijing and Louisiana. The researchers discovered the 50-cm (20-in) long and 3mm-diameter noodles inside an overturned sealed bowl under 3 metres (10 feet) of floodplain sediment in Lajia, by the Yellow River in north-western China. The meal was probably left untouched because of an ancient disaster: the settlement was probably destroyed by a major earthquake and flood about 4,000 years ago.

Dr Lu said that the noodles were similar in style to a traditional variety called La-Mian, which are still popular in China, but had been prepared using millet flour, rather than the wheat flour of today. ‘Our findings support the belief that early plant domestication and food production relied on millet in the semi-arid Loess plateau region of China,’ writes Dr Lu. An unanswered question is what the Lajia people ate with their noodles. Dr Lu and colleagues found bone fragments and an oily substance in the bowl and hope to analyse them to determine the recipe.

Bones prove the existence of ‘hobbits’

Also in this month’s edition of Nature is the report that archaeologists from Australia and Indonesia have found the remains of nine more individuals of the species Homo floresiensis as they continue to excavate the cave on the island of Flores where the first individual (nicknamed ‘the hobbit’ after the diminutive characters in J R R Tolkien’s novel of the same name) was discovered in 2003. Dating of the sedimentary layers encasing the latest bones suggests that H floresiensis was living in the cave as recently as 12,000 years ago, long after the demise of all other human species apart from modern man, Homo sapiens.

This month’s article also dismisses suggestions that the bones are of a modern individual with a growth-hormone deficiency or a person with microcephaly, when the braincase does not grow to its full size. ‘Abnormal growth seems an unlikely explanation, as growth hormone-related dwarfism and microcephaly in modern humans result in normal limb and pelvic proportions,’ the authors say. Professor Chris Stringer, head of human origins at the Natural History Museum in London, has also pointed out that ‘the arms, legs and pelvis of the hobbit are in proportion to the size of its skull but they share a greater similarity to fossils of ancient African hominids than to later humans … there are now enough fossils showing these distinctive features to rule out the possibility these are unusual or aberrant modern humans’.

Bones show man wiped out the lynx

Nearer to home, the Journal of Quaternary Science reports this month that the Eurasian lynx roamed the countryside of North Yorkshire as recently as 1,500 years ago, and was either hunted to extinction or lost its habitat in the early medieval period, as farming intensified, rather than being wiped out by a change in climate more than 4,000 years ago, as had previously been thought.

Radiocarbon data on lynx bones found in the late nineteenth century at Moughton Fell Fissure Cave, near Settle in North Yorkshire, show that a lynx was alive there between AD 80 and AD 320; at Kinsey Cave in the Craven area of North Yorkshire an animal was alive between AD 425 and AD 600, while a third set of bones found in Sunderland, came from a lynx that died around AD 300.

Some ecologists have called for the lynx to be reintroduced, citing a European Union habitat directive that obliges member states to consider reintroducing a species killed off by human action. In recent years the lynx has been reintroduced to parts of Germany, Switzerland and Austria, where it is beginning to re-establish itself despite fears among farmers and hunters that the predator is competing for farm animals and deer.

Anchor of Mary Rose raised on anniversary

The iron anchor from the Mary Rose, the flagship of Henry VIII, was lifted from the seabed on 12 October, twenty-three years to the day after the recovery of the hull. Weighing two tons and measuring 16ft long by 8ft 6in wide, it was lifted to the surface after 460 years on the sea floor. Several bow timbers were also recovered.

The operation was funded by the Ministry of Defence, which has spent about £400,000 on dives and excavations of the site in the past three years. The Royal Navy had been planning to dredge a channel for the next generation of aircraft carriers through the area where the ship lay. It has since decided to use an existing channel. For this reason, the ship’s heavily fortified, multi-storey forecastle will be left on the seabed, even though the forecastle, which became detached from the rest of the ship when Venetian salvagers, brought in by Henry VIII, tried in vain to refloat the vessel. The cost of recovering the forecastle would be in excess of £1m, and archaeologists working for the Mary Rose Trust are satisfied that the recently recovered stem timbers from the ship will give them the information they need to understand better the construction of the prow of the ship.

Temporary export bar placed on the Codex Stosch

A temporary export bar has been placed on the Codex Stosch, containing reconstructions by Giovanni Battista da Sangallo (1496—1548) of sixteen ancient buildings in Rome and the temples of Hercules and Castor and Pollux at nearby Cori. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport describes the codex as ‘the most telling record of Raphael’s famous scheme to record the great buildings of ancient Rome at a time when they were under threat of demolition’. The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art, run by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, recommended that export be deferred on the grounds that ‘the Codex is of outstanding significance for the study of architectural history and, in particular, architectural approaches to ancient buildings during the High Renaissance’.

Giovanni Battista was part of a circle studying antique architecture, of which Raphael was at the centre. The highly detailed and carefully measured drawings reflect a standardised drawing method advocated by Raphael which was new and innovative at the time the Codex was created. The buildings are represented in plan, elevation and section and are drawn to the same scale, enabling comparisons to be made.

The decision on the export licence application for the Codex will be deferred for a period ending on 11 December 2005. This period could be extended until 11 March 2006 if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the Codex at the recommended price of £274,417.50 (excluding VAT) is expressed.

For full details see the DCMS website.

Cultural heritage in public ownership through the Acceptance in Lieu scheme

The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA), which runs the Acceptance in Lieu Scheme (AIL), has announced that twelve cultural heritage assets have been accepted by public collections in lieu of inheritance tax in the last few months. They include a full-length Roman statue of the goddess Athena based on a Greek original said to have been sculpted by Praxiteles (provisionally allocated to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), an early twentieth-century marquetry secretaire designed by George Jack of Morris & Co (allocated to the National Trust for display at Ickworth, Suffolk), the archives of the Harpur Crewe family of Calke Abbey, Derbyshire, one of the eminent land-owning families of Britain (provisionally allocated to the National Trust but likely to remain on deposit at the Derbyshire Record Office, Matlock), and of the earls of Coventry which contains hundreds of plant lists and bills from the mid-eighteenth century which record the development of the landscape garden at Croome, the first great work of ‘Capability’ Brown (the Croome items are to remain at Croome and the other papers are to be allocated to Birmingham City Record Office, Somerset Record Office, Warwickshire County Record Office and Worcestershire Record Office where the respective papers have previously been on deposit). Further details are on the MLA website.

The Twentieth-Century Society is confirmed as a statutory consultee

From now on local authorities throughout England and Wales will be required to notify the Twentieth-Century Society of all applications for listed building consent involving the demolition (or partial demolition) of listed buildings. Originally called the Thirties Society, the Twentieth-Century Society campaigns for the preservation of the best of twentieth-century architecture, and has had to rely until now on the good will of local authorities, the Victorian Society and its growing number of members and supporters throughout the country for information on threats to buildings.

Now, says Director Catherine Croft, ‘the expertise of the Society and its positive contribution to finding sustainable new uses for the best examples of buildings of its period has been recognised by central government. We look forward to getting involved in more applications early on, when we can influence owners’ aspirations before they invest time and money in damaging schemes’.

Fellow Gavin Stamp, who is the Society’s Chairman, says: ‘It is cheering that an anomalous situation has been rectified and that we now have the same statutory status as our senior colleagues, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), the Georgian Group and the Victorian Society. This recognition also indicates how important the architectural legacy of the twentieth century has become, and how much casework we now have to deal with.’

The Twentieth-Century Society was instrumental in securing the reuse of Bankside Power Station (Giles Gilbert Scott, 1932) as Tate Modern, and is currently campaigning for the National Sports Centre at Crystal Palace (1960—4), the Commonwealth Institute (1960—2), the Guinness Brewery (1933—5) and a Cold War bunker in suburban Cambridge (early 1950s).

Applying the Planning Acts to the Crown: consultation paper

The Government is fulfilling a longstanding commitment by successive administrations to end Crown immunity from planning controls. The primary provisions were included in the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister is now consulting on measures to bring them into effect in spring 2006. This consultation paper invites comments on the three draft Statutory Instruments and draft Circular needed to give effect in England to the provisions of Part 7 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004. The consultation period ends on December 2005. Copies of the paper can be obtained from the website of the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’: what does it all mean?

Several Fellows have written at length on the possible meanings of Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’, all of which needs digesting, so an article based on their contributions will feature in the next issue of Salon.

Conferences, lectures and seminars

The twenty-third Brixworth Lecture will be held on Saturday 5 November 2005 at 5pm (tea from 4 pm) at All Saints’ Church, Brixworth, Northampton. The speaker will be Professor Susan Rankin, of the University of Cambridge, and she will be joined by singers Jesse Billett and Christopher Hodkinson who will ‘illustrate’ her talk on ‘Music to Adorn the Liturgy of the Anglo-Saxon Church’ with contemporary Anglo-Saxon music. Professor Rankin’s theme will be the ways in which an understanding of Anglo-Saxon music and liturgy can help us to understand the form and function of the remarkable Brixworth church and the community that lived there. Full details are on the Brixworth Lectures website.

Books by Fellows

Salon’s editor was chastised by a hurt Julian Richards at the English Heritage guidebook launch last week for failing to mention one of the most important books by Fellows to have been published this year, so Salon is happy to make amends by recommending to all Fellows that they add Julian’s Amazing Pop-up Stonehenge to their Christmas shopping list: an ideal gift for children, grandchildren, god-children and even grown-up children, the book uses ‘innovative paper technology’ to address such questions as who built Stonehenge, how were the massive stone blocks transported and erected, when was it built and why. Published by English Heritage, the book can be ordered through Julian’s own website.

Julian Richard’s new English Heritage guidebook to Stonehenge ends with an atmospheric photograph of the moon in the sky above the sarsen stones, perhaps reflecting Richard Bradley’s discussion in The Moon and the Bonfire: an investigation of three stone circles in north-east Scotland of the possibility that stone circles were intended for use during the hours of darkness rather than by daylight (an idea first proposed by Aubrey Burl). Reviewing the book in his regular OxeN newsletter, Fellow David Brown says that ‘this study of the sites of Tomnaverie (Deeside), Cothiemuir Wood (Donside) and Aikey Brae (Buchan) is written in an engaging and approachable style with plenty of illustrative material. Whilst the project was geared towards investigating the character, chronology, structural development and wider context of the stone circles, its results go much further in revealing how people used and perceived such sites and the landscape around them. Here, contextual information, discussion of methodology and objectives are combined with factual data and interpretation as the project members examine various aspects of the sites such as the characterisation (shape, colour and texture) of the stones used, construction techniques, evidence of burning, the presence of human remains and possible solar and lunar alignments. The proffering of new insights into the use and symbolism of the monuments is highly valuable and requires us to re-think our preconceptions about monuments in the past. The rewards of painstaking excavation and trudging through muddy fields are evident in a publication such as this. Published by the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland at £25, the book is available at a discount from the Oxbow Books website.

Richard Suggett’s new book — Houses and History in the March of Wales: Radnorshire 1400—1800, published by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, price £30 (+£5.80 p&p) — results from fifteen years of fieldwork during which over a thousand farmsteads were visited, recorded and dated by the RCAHMW. The lavishly illustrated, 350-page book identifies several hundred dwellings of medieval origin. It defines and dates a range of hall-houses, from peasant halls to halls of lordship status, and traces their development over four centuries. Dendrochronology provides evidence for a great rebuilding in fifteenth-century Radnorshire, in the aftermath of Owain Glyndwr’s revolt, and reveals that the oldest dated house in Wales — Hafodygarreg near Erwood in Powys — was built in 1402.

At the launch of the publication, Richard Suggett said that: ‘Radnorshire was selected for survey because preliminary work had shown a large number of interesting vernacular houses and farm buildings of different periods. Changes in farming practice had rendered many farmsteads redundant and liable to alteration or demolition. The need for recording was therefore urgent. The timber buildings of the county provide a strong contrast to the stone buildings of Glamorgan and Caernarvonshire, which have already been surveyed and published in major inventories by the Commission, which has also recently carried out extensive investigations of the working heritage of industrial south Wales and the archaeology of the Welsh uplands.’

Vacancies

British Library, Head of Western Manuscripts
£50,000; closing date 28 October 2005

Salon readers might remember that this job was previously advertised in July 2005 at a lower salary. The vacancy arises from the retirement of our Fellow Christopher Wright and involves leading a team of twenty-five curators with responsibility for the world’s most important manuscript collection and the papers of many of the nation’s leading literary and political figures. Significant management expertise, probably gained in a research library, is required. Further information from the British Library website, reference VMO18405. Informal enquiries can be made through John Tuck, Head of British Collections at the British Library: .

English Heritage, various
English Heritage is currently seeking to recruit a Team Leader for its Manchester office, leading one of two area-based grants and advice teams (salary £31,520 to £36,749, ref: B/010/05), a Manchester-based Historic Areas Adviser/Historic Buildings Inspector (salary £27,520 to £32,749, ref: B/011/05) and a Project Manager for the Historic Environment of Liverpool (HELP) project (salary £27,520 to £32,749, ref: B/012/05). The closing date for all three posts is 26 October 2005, and further details can be obtained from recruitment@english-heritage.org.uk quoting the relevant reference number.