Salon Archive

Issue: 146

Obituary: Richard Avent

It is Salon’s sad duty this week to report the death of our Fellow Richard Avent, Cadw’s Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments and Historic Buildings. Richard’s death on 2 August in a diving accident while on holiday in Gozo was doubly tragic because it also involved the death of Richard’s sixteen-year-old son, Rhydian. The Society’s deepest sympathies go out to Richard’s wife, Sian Rees, who is also a Fellow, and to their children, Cerian and Tomas.

When the news of the accident was announced on 3 August, Rhodri Morgan, the First Minister of Wales, said he was ‘shocked and saddened’ by what had happened. ‘Richard Avent made a massive contribution to the protection and conservation of Wales’s most treasured historic sites and buildings’, he said, adding that: ‘His achievements over the past thirty years in the field of archaeology and the historic environment were enormous and he earned an international reputation for his expertise as a champion of Welsh castles.’

In Richard and Sian’s home village of Raglan, Monmouthshire, neighbours also paid tribute to Rhydian, decribing him as a ‘caring and compassionate son’ who, just before the start of the family holiday, had helped to run a week-long series of events and Bible readings for local children as a member of Raglan Baptist Church. Robert Atkins, the minister, said: ‘He was an outstanding young man, very community spirited, and the whole village is shocked at the tragedy.’

His obituary published in The Times on 9 August 2006 described Richard (who was fifty-eight at the time of his death) as ‘a key figure in the development of a distinctive approach to the organisation of archaeology in Wales which recognised the special needs of the country’.

The obituary went on to say that: ‘John Richard Avent was born in 1948 and educated at Reading Bluecoat School, from where he went to University College Cardiff to read archaeology. While a student there he excavated at Cadbury Castle, Somerset, under Leslie Alcock (obituary, Salon 142). Among the excavated objects was an Anglo-Saxon “button brooch”. This led to his study of the whole class of this type of brooch, financed largely by earnings from night shifts at a photocopying firm. He graduated in 1970 and gained his MA in 1974; his thesis was published in 1975 as Anglo-Saxon Garnet Inlaid Disc and Composite Brooches.

‘In 1971 he was appointed assistant curator at Carmarthen Museum, and two years later became an assistant inspector of ancient monuments at the Department of the Environment’s Cardiff outpost. He stayed with the inspectorate in Wales for the rest of his life, and was promoted to principal inspector in 1984 and chief inspector in 1990.

‘Avent was the first principal inspector of ancient monuments and historic buildings, taking on this post shortly after the formation of Cadw (Welsh: “To keep”), when responsibility for the heritage was transferred to the Welsh Office. As chief inspector he was responsible to the Welsh Assembly.

‘Avent was a key figure in a time of constant and often difficult change in Welsh archaeology. He responded well to this challenge, giving a special Welsh angle to the “management of change”. He guided Wales through the implications of “rescue” archaeology in the late 1970s, helping to establish the much-admired system of regional archaeological trusts, which he assisted as they changed and expanded their roles in the following years.

‘On the academic front Avent emphasised that not all castles in Wales were symbols of alien conquest: an important number were built by the Welsh princes. His Cestyll Tywysogion Gwynedd/Castles of the Princes of Gwynedd appeared in 1983. He also successfully fought to keep what can be termed “inspectorate core values” at a time when they were being abandoned in England. This can be clearly seen in the universally admired Cadw guide books, several of which he wrote.

‘Avent was also concerned with new approaches to the past, championing pan-Welsh surveys of classes of monument and structures, the concepts of historic landscapes and the role of heritage conservation in the country’s farm schemes.

‘Castles remained a lifelong passion, and Avent had an international reputation in the subject. He will be remembered for his work on Laugharne Castle, brought back to life through his excavations and research after it came into state care.

‘Avent was sometimes cautious in his official dealings, although in a profession noted for mercurial characters this was probably a good thing. To hear him talk about his experiences with archaeological expeditions in Central America showed just how adventurous he could be.

‘In his earlier years Avent was a somewhat solitary character. This changed when, through an interchange of inspectors between Cardiff and London, Sian Rees arrived in his life. Ideally suited personally and professionally, they married in 1980.

‘Avent had recently been inducted as president of the Cambrian Archaeological Association, but he also played a wider role outside Wales. He became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1979 and served on its council, 1989─92. He was a founder member of the ICOMOS (UK) World Heritage Committee.

‘Richard Avent was a kind, gentle and generous person. Even as one of the Welsh Establishment, he never lost his enthusiasm and schoolboy-like bounce. He was a caring and quietly creative public servant whose contribution to Welsh archaeology is incalculable.’

Writing in the Independent, our Fellow David Breeze added a few further observations: ‘In the late 1970s, in the face of the rising tide of rescue archaeology, he played a pivotal role in the creation and support of the four Welsh archaeological trusts (Clwyd-Powys, Dyfed, Glamorgan-Gwent and Gwynnedd). This was a unique approach to the structural problems of responding to rescue archaeology and it is a tribute to his foresight that the trusts have weathered the vicissitudes of the last thirty years, adapting to the changing circumstances and survive to this day.

‘As head of the Inspectorate, Avent had wide and demanding duties: he was, in effect, the chief archaeologist for Wales, often directly advising his Minister. His value was recognised by his masters in the most clear way. For nine years, Avent organised a conference on Welsh archaeology intended to aid understanding of the subject and seek sensible ways of studying it. Every conference was attended by his Minister: an impressive achievement ─ for both.

‘Avent led his team from the front, but he was always open to suggestions. He supported the distinctive approach of reviewing classes of monuments to determine which should be protected through scheduling, and it was under his leadership that the listing of historic buildings in Wales was completed. Avent also participated in the publication of a new series of guide-books to Welsh monuments, which were received to universal acclaim. He was an excellent representative for Welsh archaeology, thoughtful, articulate, enthusiastic, but most certainly never pompous or bombastic. He was not keen on some of the new structures of British and European archaeology, but he loyally performed his duty at such gatherings, most recently in April when he participated at a forum on the future of state archaeology at the annual conference of the Institute of Field Archaeologists.’

Obituary: Michael Wright

Salon is grateful to our Fellow James Stevens Curl for the following obituary for our Fellow Michael Thomas Wright, who died on 9 June 2006 at the age of sixty-nine.

‘Michael Wright was an influential editor, and for over thirty years made a considerable contribution in the fields of architecture and conservation. Born in Clifton, Bristol, the son of Thomas Manning Wright and his wife, Hilda Evelyn, he attended Bristol Grammar School (1944─56), went up to Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and, after a year at Trinity College, Dublin, became financial analyst for the Ford Motor Company before joining the then Town Planning Institute as Assistant Secretary and Journal Editor.

‘From 1966 he did a two-year stint as Assistant Editor to Country Life before becoming Managing Editor of the Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and then, in 1970, he was appointed Deputy Editor of Country Life, of which he was Editor from 1973 until 1984, and Editor-in-Chief of that magazine and The Antique Dealer and Collectors’ Guide 1980─4. For the next three years he was the Publisher, IPC Magazines Ltd, responsible for Country Life, The Antique Dealer and Collectors’ Guide, Practical Woodworking and Television, and was Editorial Consultant to Country Life Books from 1978 until 1984.

‘As a writer on the fine arts, architecture, garden history, and conservation his writings adorned many journals and newspapers in this country and abroad. Much of his work was published in Country Life, often under his own name, but sometimes under the pseudonym “Thomas Whiting” (based on his mother’s maiden name).

‘A change of direction came when he was appointed Director of the National Heritage Memorial Fund in 1987, but it was not an altogether congenial experience for him, and from 1988 he developed a new career as a lecturer on the Fine Arts at Bristol University Department of Continuing Education and at the National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (NADFAS). He also lectured at the University of East Anglia at Norwich, and made significant contributions (two terms a year for seven years) to several courses at the Institute of Continuing Education of the University of Cambridge at Madingley, including ‘East Anglian Art and Architecture’ and the ‘History of Art’: indeed, his much-appreciated work at Madingley gave him great satisfaction for the last years of his life. As Visiting Lecturer on architecture and conservation he also brought his wisdom, enthusiasm, and knowledge to the Roger Williams University at its British Campus.

‘Wright served on the DoE Working Party on Rural Settlements, and was an active and much-respected member of several committees of The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings where he could always be relied upon for his wise and commonsensical counsel. His passionate interest in the work of Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869─1944) derived from his love of classical art and architecture, and led to his involvement in the great exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, London, in 1981─2, to which Country Life gave massive support: indeed, Wright commissioned the fine photographs of Lutyens’s buildings which graced the exhibition. As a result, Wright was invited to become a Trustee of the Lutyens Trust, and became Chairman of that body during a difficult time when his calming influence helped to steady it and encourage the acquisition of Goddards, Abinger, Surrey, erected 1898─9 to Lutyens’s designs.

‘Wright was a Judge for the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors/The Times Conservation Awards, and indeed conservation was one of his abiding passions over many years. In the last two years of his life he worked on the completion for the Antique Collectors’ Club of a book entitled The English House by his friend, John Steel (1934─98): it is due for publication in November this year.

‘A lifelong interest in music was stimulated by his early years in the choir of St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, where he was Head Chorister. He was an active member of Goldsmith’s Choral Union in London, where his outstanding tenor voice was used to great effect. A Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, he was also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Member of The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn. His sensitivity, good humour, wit, encyclopaedic knowledge, and ebullience contributed to his success as a charismatic lecturer and endeared him to many: he was very good company, especially when exploring districts in London on the look-out for interesting architecture and agreeable townscape.

‘His first marriage (1964) to Jennifer Olga Angus produced two sons and was dissolved in 1990. His second (1990) to Wendela Pascall (née van Manen) brought him great contentment and happiness before his life was prematurely terminated by cancer. He was greatly comforted in his last months by his family and friends and by his profound Anglican faith.’

Obituary: Peter Megaw

Salon 145 carried the news that Arthur Hubert Stanley Megaw, known as Peter, died on 28 June 2006, at the age of 95. Our Fellow Vincent Megaw, Peter’s nephew, contributed the following obituary, which was published in The Times on 4 August 2006.

‘Peter Megaw was a key figure in the development of the now flourishing subject of Byzantine archaeology. He was an architect, administrator, diplomat and scholar, but he never held an academic post. Yet he trained and inspired generations of Byzantinists — indeed, far more students than he would have had as a professor. And all of them saw Byzantium, and in particular Cyprus, through his eyes, and those of his wife Elektra.

‘Arthur Hubert Stanley Megaw was born in Dublin in 1910 into a distinguished Belfast family. His father was honorary secretary of the Linen Hall Library, and like his three brothers (who found “Peter” easier to pronounce) he was educated at Campbell College. He followed his archaeologist brother, Basil, to Peterhouse, Cambridge, where he read architecture.

‘Megaw set up house in London with a fellow architecture graduate, James Mason, but times were hard for architects, so Mason tried acting and Megaw archaeology. Mason succeeded in films, and Megaw took his architecture to the British School of Archaeology in Athens.

‘He embarked on various classic architectural studies of Middle Byzantine churches at Osios Loukas, in Athens and the Mani, as well as assisting at Perachora. In Athens he also met his future wife, Elektra (Eleni) Mangoletsi, and in 1937 they married. An Albanian from Koritsa, born in Thessaloniki, brought up in Manchester and educated at the Slade and University College London, she was an accomplished artist who brought both a strong aesthetic imagination and an interest in ethnography to their marriage and partnership.

‘Megaw briefly served as acting director of the British School before being appointed to the new Department of Antiquities of Cyprus in 1936, where he remained until 1960. Described in Bitter Lemons, Lawrence Durrell’s memoir of life in Cyprus, as “a quite exceptional archaeological officer”, Megaw was a highly competent colonial administrator who built his department with an eye also to his successors.

‘He left digging to his Cypriot colleagues. Instead he directed his own energies towards organising the service with meticulous attention to detail, setting up a medieval museum at Paphos, saving the apse at Kiti and rescuing tomb slabs. His excellent eye was put to use in the conservation of standing buildings, assembling permanent teams of stonemasons and carpenters and buying land to preserve sites. His restoration of churches and monasteries, castles and fortifications all over the island earned him friends in almost every village, and his foresight was responsible for the Archaeological Survey of Cyprus.

‘He stayed on the island during the war. He was appointed CBE in 1951 and, after the earthquake of 1953, he designed the houses provided for those whose homes had been flattened. He was involved in the delicate negotiations leading up to Independence Day on August 16, 1960, and is visible in photographs of the signing of the treaty of guarantee.

‘In 1962 Megaw was appointed director of the British School in Athens. He was a distinguished and much loved director and honorary cultural attaché, creating the conditions for good research. Students recall the family atmosphere of his home; excursions to remote sites, Christmas parties and help with impending marriages.

‘Under his guidance, the school weathered the beginnings of the colonels’ regime, built extensions to a hostel and library and opened up seven new excavations.

‘After retirement from the school Megaw went to the Harvard Centre for Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, as a visiting scholar. The 1960s and early 1970s were a golden age of collaboration between Dumbarton Oaks and Cyprus, in which Neophytos and Asinou, Monagri, Lagoudera and Chrysostomos were cleaned and Saranda Kolones and Kourion were excavated. Places on Megaw’s excavations were greatly coveted, and his team included Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Greeks, other Europeans and Americans. Eventually a permanent base in Cyprus was found at Exovrisi in Paphos.

‘After the coup against Archbishop Makarios and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, Megaw led the first archaeological expedition into the newly divided island with a heavy heart.

‘He became a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, receiving its Frend Medal in 1995. He was an early honorary life member of the Society for Promotion of Byzantine Studies, and in Cyprus was honoured by his colleagues in the Archaeological Service and became an honorary citizen of Paphos.

‘In November 2002 he returned to Belfast for the last time for the opening of a small library in the Institute of Byzantine Studies to house his books and celebrate his work.

Megaw’s writings included his monograph on Kanakaria (1977) — which proved to be of forensic as well as academic importance when the mosaics were stolen. His magnum opus on the Episcopal precinct at Kourion is in press at Dumbarton Oaks.

‘The breadth and originality of Megaw’s achievement, in both crusader and Byzantine studies, were appreciated by archaeologists and art historians alike. But his work made the separation of the two disciplines possible. He always saw Cyprus in the context of the Levant and Anatolia. He discovered a crusader castle previously thought to be a temple of Aphrodite, and made the discovery of stained glass in Istanbul that may pre-date Chartres. With young colleagues he also pioneered kite photography and the scientific analysis of Middle Byzantine pottery.’

Dr Michael Ballance

The Society has also been informed of the recent death of our Fellow Dr Michael Balance ─ also a specialist in Byzantine studies ─ after a long illness. Michael’s daughter, Alexia Ballance (), has written to the Society to say that she has the task of deciding what to do with his archaeological books and papers; if Fellows who knew Michael are able to make use of his research materials, they should let her know the titles or subjects by email.

News of Fellows

Salon has reported recently on the election of several antiquarian Fellows to the Fellowship of the British Academy. Now congratulations are due to our Fellow Daniel Woolf, Professor in the Department of History and Classics and Dean, Faculty of Arts, at the University of Alberta, who was elected last month as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, which is the Canadian counterpart of the British Academy.

Our Fellow Alan McWhirr, Honorary Secretary of the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society, writes to inform Fellows that the Society has a new website, and that one of the several improvements is an online order form that can be used to order the Society’s publications. Enquiries to the old address will be automatically forwarded.

Forthcoming meetings

The Society’s first meeting of the autumn term will take place on 5 October 2006 when Timothy Darvill, FSA, and our Treasurer, Geoff Wainwright, will give a paper entitled Beyond Stonehenge: Carn Meini and the Preseli bluestones.

A provisional list of meetings and dates for the period October 2006 to June 2007 has now been posted on the home page of the Society’s website.

Subscriptions Working Party

In September 2005 the President wrote to Fellows to inform them that Council had concluded that it would be better both for Fellows and for the Society if subscriptions were to be raised annually in line with inflation, starting from 2005. This decision was ratified by the Anniversary Meeting in 2006, which means that the subscription rate will rise from £120, where it has been since January 2004, to £128 from 1 January 2007. Council also requested that the Executive Committee review subscriptions as a whole, including any possible concessionary rates, while acknowledging that any profound reductions would have to be balanced by savings elsewhere.

The Executive Committee has therefore set up a Working Group, chaired by the Treasurer, with the objective of reviewing the Society’s subscription mechanisms and making recommendations on subscription rates. The Working Group has met twice to consider options for introducing reduced subscriptions for certain situations. While most of the options involve issues of cost and fairness, the retention of the status quo is seen as undesirable. It has therefore been agreed that a strategic long-term view is needed, rather than a ‘quick fix’. This will involve forecasting revenue, outgoings and Fellowship numbers ten years hence, and calculating a subscription rate based on a target of subscription income forming at least 25 per cent of operating revenue by 2106. Fellows will be asked to feed information into this process in due course.

Triumph of the Librarians

Fellows who watched the recent series of ‘University Challenge: The Professionals’ will know that the eventual winners were the same Bodleian Library team that knocked the Society of Antiquaries’ team out in the first round. It is some consolation to the Society’s team to know that we lost to the eventual series champions, and that we held them to a far lower score than either of the two teams they met later in the series (for the record, the Bodleian scored 190 against us, 295 against the Crime Writers in the semi-final, and 230 against the Royal Statistical Society in the final). In presenting the trophy, our Fellow David Starkey spoke of the result as ‘a victory for the values and worth of libraries and books’, a comment that might have done equal duty had the Society won.

Desiring to emulate the triumph of the British Library team in last summer’s contest, the Bodleian went to great lengths to secure victory. Team captain Mike Heaney, the Library’s Executive Secretary (i.e. Chief Executive), told the Oxford Times newspaper that they had auditioned 700 staff to choose their team, asking them to answer 100 questions in a set time. ‘We also put a lot of effort into practising for the quiz, and it paid off’, he said. He also felt that the questions in this series were the hardest he could remember in recent years, echoing the views of Nancy Banks-Smith, TV reviewer for the Guardian newspaper, who said: ‘I could hardly understand the jobs that the professional contestants did, let alone the questions they were asked!’.

City of London Archaeological Trust Grants

The City of London Archaeological Trust (CoLAT) gives out small grants once a year for archaeological work of all kinds, but preferably projects concerned with research or education in or concerning the City of London and its environs (generally, out to the M25). This year the meeting to award grants is in early December, and the submission date for grant applications is Friday 6 October 2006. Applicants should download the application form and guidelines from the charity's website. Please note that there are new procedures, including the necessity to arrange for a referee's report on the application to reach CoLAT by this date also. Further guidance can be obtained from the secretary, John Schofield, FSA.

English Heritage plans Conservation Principles seminars

Simon Thurley, FSA, Chief Executive of English Heritage, has written to colleagues in the heritage sector to say that the first stage of the consultation on the agency’s draft Conservation Principles has resulted in ‘widespread support for the scope and general direction of the Principles, whilst offering helpful suggestions for refinement and identifying issues that need to be addressed in the supporting Policies and Guidance which we are developing’.

Simon’s letter goes on to say that the consultation on the Policies and Guidance document planned for this summer is being postponed to enable the draft to take account of ‘new concepts or terminology’ in the Heritage Protection White Paper, which is expected in the autumn. ‘We will take advantage of this time lag to address some of the drafting challenges that have emerged in the first consultation. The second stage of the consultation, once it is launched in the autumn/winter, will run for twelve weeks and be supported by a number of focused seminars to introduce and debate the contents of the document’, the letter concludes.

Select Committee Inquiry: Caring for our Collections

With scarcely a pause for breath, the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, which last month published a comprehensive report on Protecting and Preserving our Heritage (see Salon 145), has announced a sequel, this time looking at the funding of museums, galleries and archives.

The Committee will draw on submissions made to the earlier inquiry, and will focus on the adequacy of the budget for museums, galleries and archives, and the impact of the London 2012 Olympics on Lottery funding for their sector; acquisition and disposal policies with particular reference to due diligence obligations on acquisition and legal restrictions on disposal of objects; and the remit and effectiveness of DCMS, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council and other relevant organisations in representing cultural interests inside and outside Government.

Written submissions are invited from any interested organisation or individual by Thursday 28 September 2006. Anyone who submitted evidence to the earlier inquiry is welcome to submit a further memorandum to supplement or update what they have already said, but there is no need to resubmit the original evidence.

For further information and guidance on the preferred format of submissions, see the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s webpage.

Conserving historic farm buildings

New publications have emerged from Cadw and English Heritage on the challenges of conserving historic farm buildings. The English Heritage publication, called Living Buildings in a Living Landscape: finding a future for traditional farm buildings, is the latest in a huge range of guidance notes available free from the Guidance Library on the HELM website while Cadw summarises the contents of its two booklets on its website and promises that they will be available for downloading shortly. They are Caring for Historic Monuments on the Farm, which looks at sources of guidance and funding, and Traditional Agricultural Buildings in Wales, which provides advice on best practice for the care and conservation of historic farm buildings, drawing on and developing traditional skills.

Domesday goes digital

Great excitement was generated by the publication of William the Conqueror's tax audit on 4 August when the National Archives made a complete transcript of the Domesday Book available for the first time ever on the internet. Now, for a fee of £3.50, researchers can search the book by place name or person and obtain a copy of the original page and a translation of the relevant entry into modern English. Access is free on terminals at the National Archives’ Kew search room. The National Archive project has taken the best part of a decade to come to fruition: translation of the text into modern English took six years alone, with digitisation of the pages taking place in parallel. By the end of the first day online, more than 20,000 people had already logged on to learn what their area was like 900 years ago.

A survey commissioned to celebrate the Domesday Book’s leap from sheepskin to computer screen revealed some inventive ideas about its origins: surely the wags who attributed the book to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were pulling the interviewer’s leg, as were those who suggested it was the latest Dan Brown novel. Our Fellow Adrian Ailes, Domesday specialist at the National Archives, responded to this last suggestion with similar good humour: ‘Sorry to disappoint, but it’s not the case. There is no code. The letters ‘T R E’ recur often but they refer simply to tempus regis edwardi — “in the reign of King Edward” — nothing more significant than that.’

The survey also showed that while 80 per cent of respondents had heard of the Domesday Book, 13 per cent believed it was a Biblical book, while 8 per cent thought it was commissioned by King Harold, 3 per cent credited it to Richard the Lionheart and a further 3 per cent to Henry VIII.

Paddington’s Grade-I listed Span Four saved

Given the possibility that the Great Western Railway might be a future contender for World Heritage Site status, it is very welcome news that Network Rail has decided to drop its controversial plans to demolish Span Four at London’s Paddington Station and to invest in its restoration. The decision came despite Westminster Council’s approval for the demolition on grounds of railway need.

Credit for convincing Network Rail to abandon its demolition plans goes to SAVE Britain’s Heritage, which has fought a long campaign to save Span Four, with support from leading engineers and figures from the railway world. Adam Wilkinson, Secretary of SAVE, said: ‘Span Four is an elegant and dramatic Edwardian extension to the station, dating from 1911─16, designed by the Great Western Railway’s New Works Engineer, W Young Armstrong. Listed Grade I, it complements and enhances Brunel’s original work at the station. For the last thirteen years it has been hidden from the travelling public by a scaffold crash deck. We are delighted at Network Rail’s decision to retain Span Four and excited at the prospect of it being restored. It will once again be a truly magnificent space, returning Paddington to its status as a world class station.’

Tottenham’s Tudor water tower

Our Fellow Maev Kennedy reported in the Guardian on 2 Aug that archaeologists excavating Bruce Castle Park in Tottenham, north London, now believe that an enigmatic Grade I-listed red-brick tower in the park might have been built for storing water.

Pevsner (Buildings of England: London North) describes the tower as: ‘A great puzzle … probably of early sixteenth-century date and of no known purpose.’ Architectural historians have speculated that it might have been used as a vantage point for watching hunting or jousting, as a dovecot, a garden folly, or as a platform for flying hawks. But water storage is emerging as a more likely explanation because archaeologists have discovered that the tower continues for a considerable depth below the ground. ‘What we have here is a Tudor redbrick iceberg’, said Ian Blair of the Museum of London Archaeology Service; ‘it looks as if there's almost as much underground as above.’

Roy Stevenson, who is supervising the excavation, says that the Tudor owners of what was once a courtyard house struggled to cope with water shortages similar to those we face today. The tower might have stored water from an encircling pond, fed by channels controlled by sluice gates from the nearby Moselle River (the origin of the Muswell Hill place name).

The dig began as a community excavation designed to find out more about the relationship between the tower and the present day building, now a local history museum in Tottenham’s first public park. Bruce Castle is so named because the first medieval hall here was owned by Robert the Bruce, though he probably never stayed there, despite the cherished local legend that it was here that he was inspired by a spider’s endeavours to have one more attempt at defeating the English. Transformed in due course from medieval manor to Georgian house, it later housed a school run by the postal-service reformer Rowland Hill and his family.

Volunteer archaeologists, including many schoolchildren, found merit tokens in the rubble and earth surrounding the tower given for good behaviour by the Victorian school. What they did not expect to find was the depth to which the rose-red brick walls continue below ground nor the fact that the walls are pierced by cruciform windows buried several metres below the present ground level. A camera placed through the rediscovered windows revealed a vaulted chamber, which remains to be explored more fully.

That the tower survives at all is partly due to the antiquarian sentiments of an earlier owner, Lord Coleraine, who remodelled the adjacent house from 1684 and wrote that ‘in respect of its great antiquity more than conveniency, I keep the old brick tower in good repair, although I am not able to discover the founder thereof’.

Excavating the departmental van

What do you do with the departmental van once it fails its MOT and is no longer road worthy? Rather than just sending it to be recycled, Bristol PhD student, Cassie Newland, devised a project that involved treating the van as an archaeological ‘site’, and seeing what could be learned from a detailed archaeological investigation of the vehicle's contents and structure. The Bristol University team has also recorded the recollections of people who have used the van in its fifteen years of service, while researchers from the chemistry department have taken samples of seat fabric, door panels and headlining, and dust from behind the facia to assess the pollutants to which the drivers of the van were exposed. A Crime Scene Manager from Avon and Somerset Police has shared the techniques it uses for gathering forensic evidence, such as hair, and when Exeter University researchers got to hear of the project they asked to examine insects and pollens from the interior, the air filter and the radiator.

Our Fellow Mark Horton, Head of the Bristol Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, said: ‘This is an innovative project that brings archaeology really up to date’, while project leader Cassie Newland said: ‘It’s an exercise in methodology.’

Needless to say, the project aroused a certain amount of interest, including a BBC online news item. There is a blog with pictures and a blow-by-blow report, and the British Archaeological Jobs (BAJR) website conducted an online poll, with results that are strongly divided ─ not unlike most issues in contemporary archaeology (it is interesting to note that some of the most forceful objections have come from archaeologists (‘this is not archaeology and will help no-one’); non-archaeological 'members of the public' seem on the whole to be more open to the aims of the project).

Summer drought reveals the hidden history of Wales

Back to more traditional forms of archaeology, and the news from our colleagues at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales that this has been the best summer for a decade for the number of buried archaeological sites revealed by crop and parch marks, thanks to the exceptional drought conditions and July’s record sunshine. Major new discoveries include two Neolithic causewayed enclosures (near Walton in Radnorshire and at St Athan in the Vale of Glamorgan), bringing the number of such structures known in Wales to five (one on Angelsey, and two others near Ogmore in the Vale of Glamorgan). Other significant discoveries include a Bronze Age ritual enclosure at Goginan, near Aberystwyth, and scores of previously unknown hillforts and prehistoric farms across the southern Lleyn Peninsula, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Montgomeryshire.

Two previously unknown Roman fortlets have been discovered guarding strategic passes on the Roman road system near Llanerfyl in northern Powys and near Bala in Gwynedd. Buried lines of Roman roads have also been seen marching through the Welsh countryside near Builth Wells in central Wales, at Corwen in the north east and near Lampeter in west Wales. Major buried Roman fort sites have also been revealed for the first time in thirty years.

Dr Toby Driver, Project Manager for the Aerial Survey programme at the Royal Commission, explained the significance of the results. ‘This summer we have seen a prolonged dry spell across the entire country, despite a very wet May. Cropmarks first began appearing from the air during June, in Gwynedd, Montgomeryshire, and the Vale of Glamorgan, but into July and August we have seen stunning results from all parts of Wales.’

Other rare monument types continue to emerge in drought-stricken fields. Cemeteries of early medieval square barrows have been discovered close to Caernarfon and Bangor in Gwynedd and near Corwen in Denbighshire. Among the most startling discoveries was the outline of a lost medieval church in the Vale of Conwy, once part of a medieval township. What looks to be a lost medieval village was also discovered as crop marks, with field plots and a central road, near St Donat’s in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Dr Driver said: ‘Months of work now lie ahead, notifying local archaeologists, and ensuring some of the most remarkable are visited on the ground and studied further.’

Threats to archaeological sites in Lebanon

Roy Friendship-Taylor, Chairman of RESCUE: The British Archaeological Trust, and Chris Cumberpatch, RESCUE’s Secretary, have sent the following letter to Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, regarding the threats to archaeological sites, standing buildings and other cultural assets in Lebanon. As an apolitical organisation, Chris says that RESCUE does not take sides in this, or any other, conflict, but the continued attacks on World Heritage Sites and other sites of historical and archaeological significance require a response.

‘Dear Ms Jowell,

‘We are writing to you to draw attention to the threat posed by Israeli military action in Lebanon to the cultural heritage of that country. While attention is quite rightly focused on the appalling human cost of the Israeli assault there are also issues to be considered in relation to archaeological sites and monuments in Lebanon. Both Baalbek and Tyre, the targets of recent Israeli attacks, have been recognised by the United Nations as of international cultural significance through the award of World Heritage Site status, as has one of the two castles in Sidon. In the case of both Baalbek and Tyre, the area designated is much larger than the existing towns and encompasses far more than the standing buildings. Any military action in the vicinity of these towns will inevitably have a destructive impact on archaeological and cultural assets. Beyond the areas recognised as of World Heritage status, Lebanon has a rich architectural and archaeological heritage resulting from its important geographical position in the eastern Mediterranean.

‘The Israeli government has demonstrated its cavalier disregard for the importance of this heritage many times in the past with sites in Lebanon (notably Beaufort Castle) being destroyed or damaged through military action and deliberate demolition. The profound Israeli understanding of the political importance of destroying cultural monuments and other assets has been abundantly demonstrated by their actions in Gaza and the West Bank (as documented by Robert Bevan in his recent book The Destruction of Memory: architecture at war). We believe that this is an additional reason for the British Government to demand an immediate cease-fire by all parties in Lebanon and for the protection of cultural assets to be included as part of the remit of any United Nations or other force committed to the region to ensure compliance with the terms of such a cease-fire.

‘Britain has an important role to play in the establishment of peace in the Middle East and given our long-term and continuing involvement in archaeological research in the region, it is entirely appropriate that we should draw attention to this aspect of the ongoing conflict and its place in any potential resolution of that conflict. We look to you to issue a clear statement on this matter and to ensure that it is raised in discussions within the British government and between governments internationally, most appropriately perhaps in the context of the 1954 Geneva Convention on the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict.’

News from Istanbul’s ‘Port of Theodosius’

Our Fellow Professor Peter Kuniholm (founder of the Aegean Dendrochronology Project at Cornell University’s Malcolm and Carolyn Wiener Laboratory for Aegean and Near Eastern Denrochronology) writes with news of his recent work in Istanbul, where the construction of a new railway tunnel beneath the Bosporus, linking Europe and Asia, has led to the discovery of a series of harbours dubbed the ‘Port of Theodosius’ dating from the founding of the city of Byzantium. Archaeologists in Istanbul, led by Dr Cemal Pulak, of Texas A&M University and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology in Turkey, have found a church, a gated entrance to the city and eight sunken ships, as well as a series of stone- and timber-built harbours on a huge site that is four city blocks long by three wide.

Peter Kuniholm reports that the site includes timber pilings from a series of piers or docks which could be fourth, fifth and/or sixth century in date, and are thus exactly what the Aegean Dendrochronology Project needs to fill in its ‘Roman Gap’ sequence. Peter’s team has collected 200 samples of long-lived timber (all but three of them oaks) with preserved bark or waney edge in order to help establish the phasing of the various construction projects in the harbour, as well as to fill out the dendrochronological sequence, which is based on over 40,000 existing wood samples, covering a timespan of some 7,500 years.

Meanwhile city engineers are to consider relocating the railway tunnel to a spot farther outside Istanbul.

Rome’s oldest catacombs prove to be Jewish

Rome is famous for its sixty surviving catacombs ─ intricate labyrinths of burial chambers that extend for hundreds of miles through the city’s tufa substrata, dug between the third and fifth centuries AD and considered among the most important relics of early Christianity. Now archaeologists have determined that the city’s two Jewish catacombs are perhaps a century older, and might have been the inspiration for their Christian counterparts.

Dates for the Jewish Villa Torlonia catacomb have been obtained from charcoal mixed in with the lime used to seal tombs within the catacomb. Leonard Rutgers, of Utrecht University in the Netherlands, who led the team undertaking the analysis, explained in a paper published in Nature last month that lime mortar was produced by burning limestone and that bits of charcoal from this process constitute the only surviving organic remains in the catacombs.

The dating of charcoal from several tombs shows a range of ages, with the earliest(dating from the second century AD) being found near the catacomb entrance, and the dates becoming progressively later deeper into the catacomb. Rutgers believes that similar dating methods could help confirm the uncertain dates of the city’s catacombs, but he believes the Roman Jewish community, which dates back to the first century BC, were the first to bury their dead by excavating the soft volcanic tufa outside the city walls because of a scarcity of land for their cemetery.

He also points to similarities in the architecture of the catacombs, with multiple levels and bodies placed in rows of niches extending from floor to ceiling, as evidence that Rome’s early Christians copied contemporary Jewish practice, and that Jews and Christians co-existed peacefully in Rome for centuries and influenced each other's cultures.

World’s oldest paper found on 2,000-year-old rubbish tip

Archaeologists working in China announced last week that they had found a fragment of paper made from linen fibre in an ancient rubbish tip they are excavating at the Yumen Pass, the gateway between China and Central Asia. Significantly, the paper has been dated to 8 BC, or 113 years earlier than the first documented reference to paper: Chinese history records that paper was invented in AD 105 when Cai Lun, a eunuch and minor courtier, pounded together mulberry tree bark, cloth and fishing nets.

Fu Licheng, the curator of the Dunhuang Museum, said: ‘This is definitely paper and the skill to make it seems quite mature.’ Mr Fu said that more than twenty written characters had been identified and that it was believed to have come from a letter, although there were too few words to make out the meaning. The find showed that China had been experimenting with papermaking long before Cai Lun’s invention. However, Mr Fu said that Cai Lun’s importance was undiminished. ‘Cai Lun’s contribution was to improve this skill systematically and scientifically, fixing a recipe for papermaking.’

The Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage: national perspectives in the light of the UNESCO Convention 2001

Following on from the seminar hosted by the Society of Antiquaries in October 2005 to raise awareness of the 2001 UNESCO Underwater Heritage Convention, Sarah Dromgoole, Reader in Law at the University of Leicester, has gathered together a series of essays looking at the present state of law, policy and practice in sixteen different jurisdictions around the world. The viewpoint of each jurisdiction in respect of the Convention is considered and the impact that the Convention is already having, and is likely to have in the future, is explored. Further details can be found on the publisher’s website.


Third Symposium on Preserving Archaeological Remains In Situ (PARIS 3)
Amsterdam Free University, 7 to 9 December 2006

The preservation and study of archaeological remains in situ has emerged as a new discipline in recent years, with two symposia in the UK organised by English Heritage, the University of Bradford and the Museum of London Archaeology Service. The third symposium will now transfer to the Netherlands, where it will be hosted by the Free University of Amsterdam. Offers of papers are invited for sessions covering research into the Degradation Processes (What decay processes are active in the burial environment? How does degradation affect the information value of an object?); Site Preservation and the Burial Environment (What can we do with monitoring data? Does monitoring lead to adjustments of site management?); Preservation in context ─ the regional, national and international setting (Can archaeological heritage be integrated with the values of the natural and tangible historic environment? How successful and appropriate is current heritage policy?) and case studies illustrating current practices and strategies.

Further details can be found on the PARIS 3 website.

York Spaces, perspectives on developing the 'spirit of spaces' in historic places for cultural tourists, St William’s College, York, 28 September 2006
York Spaces is the first of two seminars being organised by the ICOMOS-UK Cultural Tourism Committee exploring links between the tangible and intangible heritage in terms of the association of people to the spaces and places they experience as visitors. The part played by cultural expression and community participation in creating meaning and memories for cultural tourists will be investigated. Further information from

IFA Finds Research Group AD 700 to 1700: Pots and Pans ─ Domestic Artefacts of Base Metal, 23 September 2006, at Somerset County Museum, Taunton Castle, Taunton
The conference will include a tour of the museum’s display of English bronze cooking vessels, including items from the reserve collection and from its candlestick timeline, and papers from various speakers, including Marian Campbell, FSA, Senior Curator of Metalwork, Victoria and Albert Museum, on ‘The Wenlock Jug’, and from Geoff Egan, FSA, on ‘Highly decorated early pewter ware and other domestic items’. Further details from Jackie Keily, Curator, Department of Early London History and Collections, Museum of London.


Council for British Archaeology, two posts within the Information & Communications team: Information Officer and Publications Officer
Salary £19,000 to £23,000, closing date 13 September 2006

For more information about either of these posts, as well as details of how to apply, contact Dr Dan Hull, CBA Head of Information & Communications.