Salon Archive

Issue: 149

Forthcoming meetings

5 October: Beyond Stonehenge: Carn Meini and the Preseli bluestones, by Timothy Darvill, FSA, and Geoff Wainwright, FSA

12 October: Industrial Archaeology: the challenge of the evidence, by Sir Neil Cossons, FSA

19 October: Ballot, at which David Breeze, FSA, will mark the publication of the fourteenth edition of the Handbook to the Roman Wall by exhibiting books by John Collingwood Bruce and talking about Collingwood Bruce’s contribution to the study of Hadrian’s Wall.

Those who are not Fellows are welcome to attend ordinary meetings (excluding ballots) as a guest of a Fellow. If you would like to attend a meeting but do not know any Fellows, please contact the Society for help (tel: 020 7479 7080).

Missing Fellows

The following Fellows have not responded to recent communications from the Society and

Sale of Tony Baggs’s books

A sale is to be held of books owned by the late Tony Baggs, FSA, on Saturday 14 October 2006, at Queens’ College, Cambridge, from 10.30am. Our Fellow Thomas Cocke, who is helping to organise the sale, says that: ‘the relatively few “smart” volumes that he had are being sold by Bonhams but on the whole Tony bought his books for use, not bibliographical display ─ and nothing would give him greater pleasure than to know that his volumes were being recycled for use by current scholars’.

Memorial service for Norman Pounds, FSA

The life of our late Fellow Norman Pounds will be celebrated at a memorial service and gathering of his friends and colleagues to be held on 4 November 2006, beginning at 2.30pm in the chapel at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge.

Remembering Professor Leslie Alcock, FSA (1925─2006)

On 25 November 2006, colleagues, students and friends will gather to commemorate the accomplishments of Leslie Alcock, FSA, the first holder of the Chair of Archaeology at the University of Glasgow and authority on the early Middle Ages. The day will begin with a memorial service held in his local church ─ St Mary’s Cathedral, Great Western Road, Glasgow ─ followed by a buffet lunch at the cathedral.

In the afternoon, at 2pm, a symposium will be held to celebrate his career and reflect upon Leslie’s contribution to scholarship. The symposium will consist of a number of short talks by former colleagues on subjects where Leslie’s impact was greatest, including early historic Scotland, South Cadbury/Arthurian archaeology, hillfort studies and archaeological science. The symposium is intended to be an open forum to which all of those who knew and worked with Leslie will be encouraged to contribute.

Following the symposium there will be a reception, at 4pm, to mark the opening of the Leslie and Elizabeth Alcock Centre for Historical Archaeology.

Anyone who wishes to attend the lunch and/or the symposium should inform Professor Stephen Driscoll at Glasgow University’s Department of Archaeology.

Fr Francis Edwards, SJ, FSA

The Society has been informed of the death on 14 September 2006 of our Fellow Fr Francis Edwards, SJ, whose funeral was held at Farm Street Jesuit Church in Mayfair, London, last week. Father Francis entered the Society of Jesus in 1947 and studied philosophy at Heythrop College, education at London University and theology at the Gregorian University in Rome. He subsequently served as archivist and historian of the English Province of the Jesuits and as director of the Roman Archives of his order. He was the author of numerous articles in learned journals and of six books on Elizabethan and Jacobean history, including Guy Fawkes: the real story of the Gunpowder Plot? (1969), Robert Persons, SJ: the biography of an Elizabethan Jesuit 1546—1610 (1995) and Plots and Plotters in the Reign of Elizabeth I (2002).


The speed with which the Fellowship changes as new Fellows are elected (and as (sadly) some depart our world) means that the published List of Fellows 2004 is no longer an entirely reliable guide to who is and is not a Fellow; nor is Salon’s editor’s memory infallible ─ which is a long-winded way of apologising to Fellows whose status was not acknowledged in Salon 148: namely our Fellow Peter Robertshaw, Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology, California State University, whose work on tracing the spread of the banana from Asia to Africa was summarised in the last issue, and our Fellow Dr Steve Burrow, Curator of Neolithic Archaeology at the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, whose Tomb Builders book is one of those short-listed for the Archaeological Book Award, sponsored by the Ancient and Medieval History Book Club, as part of the British Archaeological Awards.

Our Fellow Dan Woolf, Professor, Department of History and Classics, and Dean, Faculty of Arts, at the University of Alberta, writes to add to the obituary for our late Fellow Levi Fox that appeared in Salon 148. Dan writes that: ‘Levi Fox’s edited volume on English Historical Scholarship in the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Centuries, published in 1956 ─ half a century ago ─ is a work full of gems for the student of the history of historical thought and antiquarianism. Some major historians of the day are featured in essays on practically every aspect of antiquarianism; there are particularly notable essays on public records (by R B Wernham), on antiquarian thought (by Stuart Piggott), on genealogy and heraldry (by Michael Maclagan) and others. The work has held up well even though there has been half a century of research since then, and it was among the very first works on the subject I was pleased to read and then own early in my own career as a historian of history (my own copy having had only two owners, both in the same family ─ it was given to me by my uncle, the European historian Stuart Woolf, who inscribed it in October 1957).’

Our Fellow Roberta Tomber, of the Department of Archaeology, University of Southampton, writes with further information on the recent finds of late Roman amphorae from Elephanta Island in Mumbai. Roberta says: ‘The director, Alok Tripathi, kindly showed me the late Roman amphorae, which are a mixture of Eastern Mediterranean types of the fifth through to the early seventh centuries. Interestingly, however, the assemblage also contains a sizeable proportion of amphorae produced in Mesopotamia ─ either late Sasanian or early Islamic in date. It seems that the Mediterranean and Mesopotamian vessels may be contemporary in date, although because of the nature of the assemblage this is not conclusive. Nevertheless, the presence of this material is of great interest in demonstrating links with both the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf.’

Roberta adds that she believes that the finds indicate direct trade contact between Rome and India rather than intermediate trade via Byzantium and the Persian Gulf, and that she hopes to publish an article in Antiquity in the near future, giving her reasons for this conclusion.

Sir David Attenborough and Lord Sainsbury launch Burlington House Cultural Campus

The Burlington House Cultural Campus was officially launched at a reception held on 18 September 2006, signalling a new period of collaboration and public engagement between the six learned societies that have occupied Burlington House for almost 150 years. Sir David Attenborough, guest of honour at the launch, described Burlington House as ‘an oasis of learning, which brings together the arts, science and heritage in a unique site which has no comparison in any other city in the world’.

Sir David Attenborough is distinguished by being a member of both the Linnean Society and the Geological Society ─ two of the six bodies that have signed up to the new joint venture, the others being the Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Astronomical Society, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Royal Academy of Arts.

As well as sharing a magnificent building and courtyard, all six have in common the fact that their Fellows and Academicians are elected by their peers from the pre-eminent practitioners, professionals and academics in their respective disciplines, many of whom have led the world in pushing forward the frontiers of knowledge. Until now the six societies have co-existed as respectful neighbours, but a new spirit of communication and co-operation has been fostered by the recent refurbishment of the Burlington House courtyard, and all six societies now wish to go further by crossing disciplinary boundaries, exploring intellectual connections and collaborating in a broad range of activities aimed at encouraging greater public interest in the heritage, the arts and the sciences.

Such collaborations have been very successful in the past: for example, the Royal Academician Antony Gormley gave a lecture to the Society of Antiquaries in 2003, tracing the many different inspirations for his art ─ artistic, archaeological, astronomical, geological, chemical and botanical ─ manifested in such works as ‘Tree Seed’, ‘Rhizome’, ‘Quantum Cloud’, ‘Creating the World’ and the body sculptures inspired by terracotta warriors and Pompeian volcano victims.

Our General Secretary, David Gaimster, said that the Society of Antiquaries intended to play a full part in the development of the Cultural Campus idea, and that the Royal Academy’s offer to host an exhibition in 2007 to celebrate the Society’s tercentenary was typical of the kind of initiatives that the campus was set up to encourage. The tercentenary will also include a series of public lectures that will, in their choice of subject and speaker, reinforce the links between different branches of learning.

Referring to the tercentenary in his speech at the campus launch, Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science and Innovation, said: ‘I am delighted that you have plans for a major exhibition exploring milestones in the discovery, recording, interpretation and communication of Britain’s past, which will be jointly organised by the Royal Academy and the Society of Antiquaries.’

The Linnean Society has already arranged a joint meeting with the Geological Society in 2007 and hopes to hold a similar meeting in conjunction with the Society of Antiquaries. The Darwin bicentenary celebrations in 2009 will also offer further potential for Courtyard collaboration.

3.3 million year-old infant found in Ethiopia

The discovery of the nearly complete skeleton of a 3.3 million year-old Australopithecus afarensis child will help to answer important questions concerning human evolution, say the scientists who published the find in Nature on 21 September 2006.

The three year old (nicknamed Selam ─ meaning ‘peace’ in most Ethiopian languages) was found lying where she drowned in a river bed in what is now the Dikika desert in northern Ethiopia, not far from where Lucy, the first A afarensis skeleton, was discovered in 1974. Like Lucy, Selam has skeletal features that are intermediate between human and humanoid ape anatomy, with lower limbs adapted to walking upright and upper limbs and torso suited to tree climbing.

Selam was found on 10 December 2000, by Zeresenay Alemseged, Director of the Dikika Research Project and a former postdoctoral researcher at the Arizona State University’s Institute of Human Origins. Alemseged is now at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, in Leipzig, Germany, where he has spent seven years recovering the fragile fossilised bones from their sandstone matrix, and returning to the find site to recover further remains.

Future analysis of Selam’s skeleton will help to answer questions about the preferred mode of locomotion for this species. Some researchers have argued that the ape-like features of the upper limb are vestigial, while others argue the features are functional and indicate that the species spent some time climbing trees. Alemseged has also uncovered a hyoid bone from Selam’s larynx ─ the first time that such a bone has been discovered in the early hominid fossil record: this one is primitive and more similar to hyoids found in apes than humans, ruling out the possibility that Selam was capable of complex speech.

Further insights are expected to come from comparing Selam and Lucy; according to the Max Planck Institute’s press release: ‘understanding growth and development and how it has changed in human ancestry is central to the study of human evolution ─ information about growth and development can help answer questions about the mechanisms that drove the changes in body form that we see in the fossil record’.

This week’s Neanderthal news

The last issue of Salon reported the discovery of a very late group of Neanderthals surviving in a Gibaltarian cave on the fringes of cold Europe and the warmer Mediterranean some 24,000 years ago, and another group using a watering hole at Lynford Quarry in Norfolk as a butchery site 60,000 years ago. Now a further find has been announced by French and Belgian archaeologists working at a site at Caours, near Abbeville, close to the mouth of the River Somme. Here they have found evidence of Neanderthal butchery dating back 125,000 years: the remains include flint tools and cut-marked bones of rhinoceros, elephant, wild boar, auroch and several deer species. Several bones had also been split or smashed to extract marrow.

This is the only known find from this time in northern Europe, which was then enjoying a 15,000-year warmer interval between two ice ages. Jean-Luc Locht, a Belgian expert in prehistory at the French government's archaeological service, and a researcher at Caours, suggested that Neanderthals might have been much more numerous in the region but that ‘the erosive action of the last ice age wiped the record clean’.

Canadian ‘Quarry of the Ancestors’ is the source of prehistoric tools

Archaeologists in Edmonton, Canada, have also found evidence of butchery, this time from about 10,000 years ago, in what is being dubbed the Quarry of the Ancestors located 75 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, one of the first places where humans put down roots in northern Alberta after the retreat of the glaciers.

Alberta’s provincial archaeologist, Jack Ives, says that the find has solved one question already: it has been identified as the hitherto unknown source of the sandstone tools that are found at hundreds of sites in northern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Not only is there a rich concentration of artefacts in the quarry ─ including spear points, knives, scrapers, stone flakes and micro-blades ─ the unusually deep soils of the area are also helping archaeologists to separate material from different time periods.

The earliest finds date from 12,000 years ago, when glaciers gradually retreated north into what is now the Northwest Territories. People followed their retreat, passing through the quarry area as part of their nomadic rounds, stocking up on the excellent stone and hunting when game presented itself. Human occupation was then interrupted about 10,000 years ago when a massive flood from glacial Lake Agassiz inundated the area. People returned as the floodwaters abated, and the quarry became a centre of occupation for thousands of years.

Neolithic news form Syria and Turkey

Danielle Stordeur, joint head of a French─Syrian archaeological mission excavating a burial site near Damascus, reports that the team has uncovered 9,500 year-old decorated human skulls. ‘Lifelike faces have been added to the skulls, modelled with clay then coloured to accentuate the features,’ she said. Five such skulls were found in a pit resting beneath the remains of an infant at the Neolithic site of Tell Aswad, at Jaidet Al Khass village, 35 kilometres from Damascus. ‘The realism of two of these skulls is striking,’ Stordeur said: ‘The eyes are shown as closed, underlined by black bitumen. The nose is straight and fine, with a pinched base to portray the nostrils. The mouth is reduced to a slit.’ The decorated skulls were probably ‘devoted to important individuals, chosen according to social or religious criteria’.

In Turkey, a team of archaeologists working at the Ulucak tumulus, located in Izmir's Kemalpasa district, have unearthed a Neolithic settlement area dating back some 8,400 years. Archaeologist Fulya Dedeoglu of Ege University said that excavations had been under way in the area since 1995. She said they believed their latest discovery could be the oldest settlement dating from the Neolithic period unearthed to date and added that further excavations on the lower levels could reveal even older remains. Workshops, storage facilities and furnaces are among the most significant structures unearthed in the tumulus. Mother goddess figures and pieces of ceramics were also discovered.

The Nebra sky disc: evidence for a professional priesthood in the Early Bronze Age?

Our Fellow Dr Euan W MacKie, Hon Senior Research Fellow at the Hunterian Museum of the University of Glasgow, has just published a paper in the proceedings of the 2004 Oxford International Conference of Archaeoastronomy at Flagstaff, Arizona, that looks again at the remarkable bronze and gold ‘sky disc’ found near Nebra, in eastern Germany, but from a different perspective than that adopted by its German discoverers and interpreters. Dr MacKie says that: ‘broadly the German team have tended to treat the disc as if it was something wholly unexpected and unique, and as if our eyes have been opened by it for the first time to the skills in sky watching possessed by our Early Bronze Age ancestors. By contrast, I prefer to see it as only the latest ─ though the most spectacular ─ of several discoveries over the years which have shed light on ─ and are best interpreted by ─ the theories of Alexander Thom concerning the sophisticated astronomical and geometrical knowledge which, Thom suggests, was possessed by certain groups in Neolithic Britain.’

Dr MacKie’s paper sketches in the background to Thom’s researches and ideas and he takes issue with the widespread belief among British archaeologists that Thom’s theories about the existence of accurate long alignments (to the rising and setting positions of celestial bodies) imply the existence of some kind of scientific research in prehistoric times, writing that: ‘This false equation between accurate alignments and “science” is probably the main reason that Thom’s ideas are so out of favour among British prehistorians. No sensible archaeo-astronomer or archaeologist should believe this any more; all such esoteric activities among ancient tribal and urban societies took place in the context of religious activities, and there are numerous examples from anthropology of chiefdoms with professional priesthoods with much astronomical skill. The Druidical orders of western Europe in the pre-Roman tribal Iron Age are a classic example.’

The unique ‘sky disc’ from Nebra was recovered from looters in 2001 and its provenance traced back to a ditched enclosure on a hill top known as the Mittelberg near Nebra in Saxony-Anhalt; it had apparently been found in a pit together with a set of bronze objects of well-known type which could be dated stylistically to the seventeenth century BC. The gold leaf patterns on the bronze disc include a crescent moon, a sun or full moon, two ‘horizon arcs’ at opposite sides, a curved boat symbol below and thirty-two small gold discs, assumed to be stars.

Professor W Schlosser of the University of the Ruhr devised the astronomical interpretation, first published in English in National Geographic (January 2004). In essence this supposes that the two golden ‘horizon arcs’ ─ which subtend angles of 82 degrees from the centre of the disc ─ represent the annual movement along the horizon of sunrise and sunset; this angle is indeed 82 degrees at the Mittelberg (latitude 51.3 degrees north).

Dr MacKie asks whether the Nebra disc makes more sense if it is interpreted in terms of a known prehistoric intellectual system ─ namely the sixteen ‘month’ solar calendar detected by Thom in his study of British standing stone sites ─ and also to ask whether any other Bronze Age metal artefact is known which can be interpreted in a similar way. The gold lozenge from Bush Barrow in Wiltshire, not far from Stonehenge, also dates from the Early Bronze Age (early second millennium BC) and was controversially interpreted as a record of the Thom solar calendar some years ago; the narrow angle of the accurately scribed diamond-shaped pattern on it is 81 degrees, and other angles could be pointing at subdivisions of the solar year. Stonehenge is at about the same latitude as the Mittelberg and it is rather remarkable that these two metal objects ─ the Nebra disc and the gold lozenge ─ seem to have been designed for use on that latitude and yet are completely different in design. The similarity between the two objects only appears if they are interpreted in terms of the Thom calendar.

Two other interesting conclusions could follow, says MacKie. In the first place the dating of the Nebra sky disc and the Bush barrow lozenge imply that the intellectually advanced religious culture of the Neolithic was still flourishing well after 2000 BCE and that the Iron Age Druids of western Europe ─ learned orders which were above tribal loyalties ─ seem even more likely now to be directly descended from the Neolithic priesthoods of the same area. Secondly, Thom’s controversial dating of large numbers of the British standing stones to the Early Bronze Age (based on astronomical evidence) might be correct after all. Some evidence has already appeared since the Flagstaff conference that this is indeed the case, and that many of them might belong to the Bronze Age rather than the Neolithic.

Oxford’s earliest visible medieval roof

From our Fellow Martin Henig comes news that the chancel roof of St Giles’s Church in Oxford has been dated by local tree-ring expert, Dr Dan Miles, to 1288, making the very fine rafter roof the second oldest in Oxford and the earliest that is visible. Another Oxford-based Fellow, Julian Munby, said: ‘This is an excellent specimen of medieval oak carpentry, demonstrating typical techniques used in the late thirteenth century. Although the Chapter House at Christ Church has a roof with different jointing methods that is about twenty years earlier, it is hidden from public view by vaulting.’ Julian believes that the St Giles roof was provided by Godstow Nunnery, then the rectors of the church, as part of a major rebuild that took place 720 years ago.

Dendro-chronological work at St Giles was funded by a grant from the Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society. Our Fellow George Lambrick, President of the OAHS, said: ‘This is just what our scheme for tree-ring dating old buildings in Oxfordshire is meant to achieve. Knowing that the timbers were felled in the spring of 1288 is so much more vivid than just that they are probably late thirteenth century. The technique provides really solid precision dating of old buildings and helps us understand the origins and development of basic carpentry methods which are still in use.’

Martin Henig says that the chance to date the roof was the realisation of a student dream. ‘Working with Julian on his first major project, the recording of the late medieval/early post-medieval 126 High Street, Oxford in the 1970s, we both thought the St Giles chancel roof deserved further study. Thirty-five years later or so I found myself involved in St Giles and on its PCC so when the project to re-slate the chancel came up, I was able to suggest we got the roof dendro-dated and was very warmly backed by the vicar, Andrew Bunch (who is a keen carpenter himself), and our wonderful church-warden, Catherine Barrington-Ward, who has written a splendid guidebook to the church now due to be updated.’

Mapping the origins of the British and the Irish

Bryan Sykes, Professor of Human Genetics at Oxford University, is about to publish a popular book explaining the results of ten years of research into the ancestry of people who live in Britain and Ireland today. The book, called The Blood of the Isles and subtitled ‘Exploring the genetic roots of our tribal history’, draws on the work of The Oxford Genetic Atlas Project which, with funding from the Wellcome Trust, has taken and analysed blood and saliva samples from 10,000 volunteers in order to settle scientifically questions about migration and interbreeding in these islands.

The results are presented in a series of maps that will have archaeologists arguing for years. Professor Sykes has found, for example, that all but a tiny percentage of the volunteers in his study were originally descended from one of six ‘clans’ who arrived in the UK in several waves of immigration prior to the Norman conquest.

The most common genetic fingerprint links Britons not to central European ancestors, but to Iberian fishermen. ‘The majority of people in the British Isles have an almost identical genetic fingerprint to the inhabitants of coastal regions of northern and western Spain’ says Professor Sykes, who adds that ‘about 6,000 years ago Iberians developed ocean-going boats that enabled them to cross the Bay of Biscay and push up the Channel. Before they arrived, there were some human inhabitants of Britain but only a few thousand in number. These people were later subsumed into the larger Celtic tribe migrating from Spain.’

People with Spanish Celtic origins are spread throughout the UK and Ireland, but are most concentrated in Wales. After that, the next most widely shared genetic fingerprint links us to Danish and Norse Vikings, again spread across all of Ireland and the UK but with Viking concentrations in Shetland and north and west Scotland. Smaller numbers of today's Britons are descended from north African, Middle Eastern and Roman migrants.

Professor Sykes regards the fact that ‘Celts’ are everywhere on his map is significant: ‘Although Celtic countries have previously thought of themselves as being genetically different from the English, this is emphatically not the case,’ he said: ‘The idea of a separate Celtic race is deeply ingrained in our political structure, and has historically been very divisive. Culturally, the view of a separate race holds water. But from a genetic point of view, Britain is emphatically not a divided nation.’

He also believes that the people with the oldest ancestry in the UK live in mid-Wales, where he found bloodlines stretching back 12,000 years, to when humans first began repopulating Britain after the last Ice Age.

Publication of phone books aids family historians

If Professor Sykes’s data were to be correlated with the data showing the geographical origins of British surnames reported in Salon 147, it is quite likely that he would reach a different conclusion: the surname data suggests that genetic entropy is the product of the last eighty or so years; if surnames were highly localised as recently as 1880, the geographical separation between people of ‘Celtic’ and ‘Danish/Viking’ origin was probably much more marked in the past.

Further exploration along these lines might well be aided by the decision by British Telecom to publish a database of historic telephone directories in partnership with the commercial organisation, Family historians can now look for relations by typing in a name or place and searching 72 million telephone directory entries published between 1880 and 1984.

Genealogists say this will bridge a frustrating gap between the 1901 census and living memory, providing clues that can be followed up by researching electoral rolls and census returns. The first records to appear on the website cover London, Surrey, Herts, Essex, Kent and Middlesex, with the rest of the country following next year, when the database will comprise 250 million entries.

The UK’s first telephone exchange opened in London in 1879 and the directory was issued on 15 Jan 1880: the country’s entire telecommunications network was then contained in a single, four-page directory of only 248 names.

Beyond 1984, directories are of more limited use: the proportion of ex-directory numbers has risen from fewer than 25 per cent in 1991 to more than 60 per cent today. A BT spokesman said: ‘People seem to value their privacy more than when Laurence Olivier (Kensington 6505), Noël Coward (Sloane 2965) and Alfred Hitchcock (Frobisher 1339) were happy to have their numbers in the directory.

British Library’s anger at map thief's 'soft sentence'

The British Library has reacted angrily to the sentence passed on Edward Forbes Smiley III, a renowned American antique dealer found guilty of stealing historic maps from various libraries around the world. A court in New Haven, Connecticut, sentenced him to be jailed for three and a half years and ordered him to pay £1 million compensation.

A press release issued by Dr Clive Field, Director of Scholarship and Collections, British Library, said: ‘The British Library is extremely disappointed by the leniency of the sentence imposed on E Forbes Smiley III at the sentencing hearing in New Haven today. In the Library's view, a term of imprisonment of 42 months, equivalent to around 12 days for each of the 98 maps Smiley admitted to stealing, and financial restitution of $1.926 million dollars do not adequately reflect the seriousness of the offences; nor do they represent a commensurate punishment of Smiley for his serial thefts, or a serious deterrent to other would-be thieves of cultural property.

‘As a result of Smiley's actions, six maps have been permanently lost to research, and many of the maps he stole were altered to remove identifiable detail and provenance. Confidence in the libraries' capacity to protect their material has been compromised. Their ability to attract gifts and support from donors has been diminished.

‘Under a cover of serious scholarly purpose, Smiley betrayed the trust, goodwill and professionalism of the library staff with whom he dealt. Thousands of hours of library staff time have been diverted from necessary duties to examine all volumes viewed by Smiley. Legitimate researchers and the general public will now find it more difficult to gain access to historic maps in future as libraries are forced to reconsider the balance between access to and the security of their collections.’

The Library’s anger can in part be explained by Smiley’s failure to make a full declaration of the extent of his thefts. The press release went on to say: ‘The British Library was visited by Smiley over two periods in June 2004 and March 2005. We attribute to him the loss of four maps from volumes which he consulted at those times. Our computer records show that Smiley is the only reader to have consulted all four volumes since 1997. Smiley admitted to the theft of only one of these maps, the Peter Apian world map of 1520, an uncoloured woodcut worth around $100,000. The three other maps whose theft Smiley does not admit to, but which our records link to him, are a George Best world map of 1578 and two different editions of the Alexander map of New England and the Canadian Maritimes dating from the 1620s. All four maps, in addition to having great historic and cartographic significance, have very distinguished pedigrees, in two cases from the Royal Library.

‘The Apian map is in the hands of the FBI, and we look forward to its return. Despite notification of the trade, libraries and collectors, and co-operation received from them, the whereabouts of the other three maps remain uncertain. The Library will continue to take all necessary steps to attempt to recover them.’

Outcry as Theatre Museum to close

Campaigners fighting to save London's Theatre Museum expressed outrage last week at the decision to close the museum from January 2007. Salon 143 reported that the Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum, which runs the Theatre Museum as an outstation, were considering two options for its future: developing the museum on its current Covent Garden site in partnership with the Royal Opera House, or closing the museum and bringing its collections back to the V&A, where space would be allotted for temporary exhibitions based on the collection.

The V&A has now announced that neither it nor the Opera House has the money to run the museum. The V&A said that it was instead exploring the possibility of touring displays and a new gallery in South Kensington to house the best of the collection.

Campaigners say this is a ‘disgraceful’ way to treat ‘an art that has shaped our language, our literature and our national character’. Sir Donald Sinden expressed the frustration of many in the acting profession when he told The Times: ‘Of course it costs money — everything costs money. It’s so absurd to close it over a piddling bit of money’, while Vanessa Redgrave, whose father had campaigned twenty years ago to get the museum opened, said: ‘I call upon the Minister for Museums to now halt the V&A plans for closure’.

An encounter with Betjeman’s Archiebald

Listeners to A N Wilson’s recent portrait of John Betjeman, broadcast on BBC Radio 4, will be aware that the Poet Laureate’s teddy bear, named Archiebald, was a surrogate for Betjeman’s own feelings: Archie travelled everywhere with Betjeman and thoughts that Betjeman could not bring himself to express directly were attributed to Archie, so that ‘Archie isn’t happy’ became a convenient way for Betjeman to express his own discomfort.

Now Archie (who was an archaeologist and a Strict Baptist, according to Betjeman) is to star in a new exhibition at The Sir John Soane’s Museum, celebrating Betjeman’s love of architecture, which has been arranged and curated by our Fellow, Ruth Guilding, along with William Palin, Assistant Curator, and Alan Powers. Among the other exhibits is the Osbert Lancaster cartoon drawn for Betjeman while he was living at Kelmscott showing William Morris, Janey and Rossetti seated companionably on an antique three-seater outdoor lavatory, plus many drawings of churches made by Betjeman’s collaborator on the Shell Guides, the artist John Piper.

‘First and Last Loves: John Betjeman and Architecture’ is on until 30 December 2006, and is accompanied by a new catalogue featuring contributions by Dan Cruickshank, Alan Powers, Ruth Guilding, FSA, Mark Girouard, FSA, Anthony Symondson, Gavin Stamp, FSA, Edward Mirzoeff and Ptolemy Dean. See the Soane museum’s website for further details.

Imminent demolition of historic rollercoaster

Betjeman would have been appalled at the mindless vandalism taking place at Southport’s Pleasure Land where a historic Cyclone rollercoaster ─ an important survival of an increasingly rare type of historic amusement park structure ─ is being demolished. SAVE Britain’s Heritage, ever the champion not just of the academic but also of the popular heritage, is calling for demolition work at the unlisted park to stop and for English Heritage to be allowed on site to inspect the structure for listing. SAVE’s Secretary, Adam Wilkinson, said: ‘the unlisted 1937 Cyclone rollercoaster is, in our view, eminently worth preserving and has plenty more thrills to give willing punters. It is a beautiful and intricate structure, like a cat’s cradle, made from 100,000 ft of timber.’ The rollercoaster is one of only five remaining pre-war timber rollercoasters in the UK, and one of nine built before 1960 (of 127 that once existed, the majority were demolished in the 1960s and 1970s).

According to Southport’s local newspaper, hundreds of local people took part in a demonstration on 20 September outside the Southport site, undeterred by the attempts of security guards to smash protestors’ banners. One of those who took part was archaeologist Dr Rob Travis (Vice Chair of CBA Northwest), who said: ‘This ride is over seventy-five years-old and should be recorded prior to being pulled down. Better still, it should not be pulled down but kept as part of our heritage. Apart from being a unique structure it is also home to the Great Crested Newt!’

Peter Cromton, of the Save the Cyclone campaign, added: ‘Built to the design of Charles Page of the Pennsylvania Roller Company, this is a classic figure-of-eight with a maximum height of 60ft and a top speed of 42mph; structures such as this are of great interest in their own right, as well as holding great meaning for the many people whom they have thrilled and scared.’

Government’s Middlesex Guildhall plans branded ‘a threat to the nation’s heritage’

Country Life’s lead article in its 21 September 2006 issue reads as if it came straight from the campaigning pen of our Fellow Marcus Binney, founder of SAVE. The leader deplores the Government’s plans (given provisional approval by Westminster Council) for converting the Middlesex Guildhall into the new Supreme Court, which is to take over the judicial functions of the House of Lords. Conversion of the building to this new purpose involves stripping out the handsome Victorian and Edwardian furnishings of this Grade-II* listed building.

According to the new Heritage Protection regime, which the Government intends to publish in the form of a White Paper towards the end of October, ‘significance’ will become the key criteria for judging whether change to listed buildings should be permitted. In the case of the Guildhall, there is no doubt that the significance lies in the quality and completeness of the ensemble of buildings and furnishings, described in the listings schedule as representing ‘the finest craftsmanship [in] stone, wood, plaster and stained glass’.

It is this point that Country Life rams home: ‘Destroying its character goes against long and well-established policies and guidelines promulgated in recent Government planning guidance. If the Government can cavalierly over-ride its own planning policies, what faith can anyone else have in them? If these proposals proceed, the damage will not be limited to the Guildhall as the case will be cited by everyone else who perceives a “need” to strip out inconvenient features of a listed building. This travesty must be stopped ─ it represents one of the most sweeping and most arrogant threats to the nation’s heritage in years.’

A ray of hope lies in the fact that the Guildhall is not in any sense a redundant building: it continues to perform the function for which it was built and is one of London’s busiest criminal courts. Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, has yet to find an alternative home for the court. Country Life cites Government planning guidance that: ‘the best use [for a building] is usually the original use’, and argues that a far better alternative would be to build a brand-new purpose-designed Supreme Court and to create a new work of architectural significance rather than destroying an existing one.

Liverpool compulsory purchase order judged to be illegal

Critics of the Government’s Pathfinder regeneration schemes are hailing as an important victory a London High Court ruling that John Prescott acted outside the law when he approved an urban regeneration scheme that would have demolished nearly 500 homes in Liverpool's Edge Lane West area.

The judge, Mr Justice Forbes, found that the proposed demolition of her home had not only compromised 60-year-old Elizabeth Pascoe’s right to an undisturbed private and family life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, but also that the compulsory purchase order used to sanction the acquisition and demolition of the homes to make way for a new road and housing was illegal. The order that English Partnerships sought to use could only apply if the land on which the Edge Lane houses stood was ‘unused or ineffectively used’. The judge found instead that it was ‘predominantly’ so, which was a watering down of the required test.

Lawyers acting for Elizabeth Pascoe said the judgment was a test case that would help 2.5 million people who face the loss of thousands of homes in nine areas of the Midlands and the North under the Government's controversial Pathfinder regeneration schemes. A Government spokesman disagreed and claimed that the judgment's implications were narrower and more technical and had no relevance to the Pathfinder schemes. A further decision has to be made by the court as to whether the compulsory purchase order is quashed, requiring the whole process to start again, or whether it will go back to Ruth Kelly, the Communities Secretary, for determination.

Miss Pascoe said: ‘This is a pyrrhic victory for me. It is bittersweet because much of my community has already been destroyed as a result of the initiative.’ She and her neighbours wanted to keep their ‘perfectly fine’ homes but also see their area ‘truly regenerated’.

UK’s oldest surviving purpose-built youth centre to be brought back to life

More good news from Liverpool: the Heritage Lottery Fund has announced in its latest list of grants for heritage projects that it has allocated £3.9 million of funding for the Florence Institute, affectionately known in Liverpool as ‘The Florrie’, where the local community plans to bring the country’s oldest surviving purpose-built youth club back into use.

‘The Florrie’ was built in 1889 by the philanthropist, Sir Bernard Hall, in honour of his daughter, Florence, to ‘provide a place of instruction and recreation for the poor and working boys of this parish’. Since then, generations of Liverpool teenagers have passed through the Florrie’s doors, latterly used as a sports centre and music venue for up and coming bands, such as ‘Gerry and the Pacemakers’, whose first gig was at the Florrie in the 1950s, and the 1960s comedy group the ‘Scaffold’, whose founder member, Mike McCartney, brother of Paul, commented: ‘I am delighted … nay chuffed … to hear that the Heritage Lottery Fund has decided to support this great building’. The building has been closed since a fire in 1998, since when a community charity, The Friends of the Florrie, has been battling to save the building.

The HLF has also announced grants of £4.97 million to turn No. 1 Smithery, at The Historic Dockyard Chatham, initially constructed in 1806 and now a Scheduled Ancient Monument, into a centre for the display of material from the reserve collections from the Imperial War Museum, the National Maritime Museum and the National Museum of Science and Industry; of £3.3 million to create new galleries, flexible learning spaces and a library at the Bowes Museum at Barnard Castle in County Durham; £3.5 million for the restoration of the eighteenth-century Antrim Castle Gardens in Northern Ireland; and £390,000 for vital restoration work on the Great East Window at York Minster, which is now buckling and in ‘real danger’ according to the Minster.

Chedham’s Yard, Wellesbourne, wins ‘Restoration Village’ poll

Chedham’s Yard, Wellesbourne, in Warwickshire, was voted winner of this year’s BBC ‘Restoration Village’ poll on 17 September, when presenter Griff Rhys Jones announced the result of the public’s choice from twenty-one rural buildings at risk that have been championed by their local supporters over the summer months.

Chedham's Yard dates from the early nineteenth century and consists of a blacksmith's forge, a wheelwright's workshop and a drying shed. Of less architectural distinction than some of the featured buildings, its interest lies in its unique state of preservation. When Bill Chedham, the seventh generation of Chedhams to own the site, downed tools in the 1970s, he left behind all the accumulated contents, which have since been catalogued by Oxford Archaeology. The near-derelict buildings will now be restored and the site returned to use as a working forge, with interactive displays and educational areas.

Heading up the Welsh bid in the poll was our Fellow David Gwyn, who was campaigning to restore former quarry buildings at Pen Yr Orsedd in Gwynedd’s Nantlle Valley and to use them as workshops to repair and manufacture heritage engineering products, such as decorative ironwork. Dr Gwyn said that the scheme was likely to go ahead in any event, and the BBC said that the projects featured in the final might receive funding even though they did not reach the top three, because so much money was raised from viewers.

More than half a million votes were cast in the third series of the heritage programme, and £456,329.63 was donated by viewers. Together with support pledged by the Heritage Lottery Fund, this represents a pot of more than £2.35 million. As the winner ─ Chedham’s Yard ─ requires approximately £1 million, the balance of the cash is available for allocation to some of the other buildings featured, including the runner up, the Watts Gallery, at Compton in Surrey.

Irish Heritage Trust board and budget approved

One year after announcing that the Irish government had approved the establishment of an independent Irish Heritage Trust with a mandate to acquire heritage properties at risk, Dick Roche, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, has announced a budget of €500,000 for 2006 to meet the establishment and initial running costs of the Trust. Kevin Baird, until recently the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Regional Manager for Northern Ireland, has been appointed to run the secretariat. As expected, Sir David Davies of Abbey Leix has been appointed Chairman of the Trust: Sir David, former Chief Executive of Hong Kong Land and a banker by profession, headed the group that produced the report on ‘The Future of Irish Historic Houses’ in 2003 that led to the establishment of the Irish Heritage Trust.

The Trust will have a mandate to acquire properties of significant heritage value for which no suitable economic use can be found and that are at risk. It will provide for their conservation and maintenance and the public will have access in perpetuity. The Trust’s remit is to operate under ‘a strong commercial ethos’ to build up income from individual membership, corporate support, commercial ventures and to encourage the involvement of volunteers. Tax incentives will be given to private and corporate donors.

The Irish Government has also promised generous support, at least for the first five years. The Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has earmarked up to €5.5m for the first property. The proportion of state funding will diminish as the Trust establishes itself sufficiently to maximise its fund-raising capabilities.

One of the Directors of the Trust is our Fellow Desmond Fitzgerald, current president of the Irish Georgian Society and one of the authors of the Vanishing Country Houses of Ireland (1988).

CgMs Consulting acquires John Samuels Archaeological Consultants

In June 2004, Salon reported the death of our late Fellow, Dr John Samuels, who ─ as well as being the joint author with our Fellow John Pugh-Smith of Archaeology In Law (Sweet & Maxwell 1996), and a member of TV’s ‘History Detectives' team ─ was also the founder of a well-regarded archaeological consultancy based in Newark. Two years on, this has now been acquired by CgMs Consulting; all existing staff at JSAC have transferred to CgMs and Forbes Marsden has been appointed as Director in charge of the business in Newark.

The combination of the CgMs and JSAC teams brings the total archaeology team to twenty-three. According to Rob Bourn, CgMs Director of Archaeology, this makes the company the largest independent archaeological consultancy in the UK. Rob also says it is the first acquisition and merger of one archaeological consultancy by another that he is aware of in the UK. ‘CgMs are a good fit for us in terms of style, outlook and client base’, he told Salon.

Asked whether this might be the first of many mergers, with sole-traders and small archaeological consultancies joining forces in greater numbers in the years to come, he said: ‘It is undoubtedly true that you need capacity and resources to compete successfully in what has become a multi-million pound business, providing archaeological advice to commercial clients. With the JSAC team and the Newark office to complement our existing London and Cheltenham bases, we are definitely in a stronger position to respond to the challenges of that market’. Further details can be found on the CgMS website.

Marc Fitch Fund awards

The deadline for applications to the next meeting of the Marc Fitch Fund is 1 March 2007. This Fund was established in 1956 by our late Fellow Marc F B Fitch, CBE, to provide financial assistance with research and publication, principally within the field of British local and regional history.

Applications must be received by 1 March or 1 August and are welcomed from both individuals and organisations. The Fund’s Council meets twice a year to consider applications under the following heads: Archaeology, History, Historical Geography, History of Art and Architecture, Heraldry and Genealogy. It also makes occasional Special Project awards to assist with on-line publishing, and with the conservation and cataloguing of archives and collections of art and artefacts. Awards are not made in connection with higher degrees or any individual educational courses, nor for foreign travel or research outside the British Isles unless the circumstances are very exceptional. The Fund does not contribute to appeals.

Before making an application, it is essential to provide a brief outline of the project so that its eligibility may be assessed. Standard application forms are available for research and publication awards, and guidelines will be provided for the submission of Special Project applications. The Executive Secretary, Elaine M Paintin, FSA, may be contacted by email, and further information is available on the Fund’s website.

Books by Fellows

Two great new books were published last week: one full (literally) of carnage and debauchery, the other a measured overview of the current state of thinking and research in historical archaeology.

The ‘gore, girls and gallantry’, as the Sunday Times’s book review headline had it, comes in the shape of a door-stopper of a book from our Fellows Roy and Lesley Adkins called The War for All the Oceans (see the Adkins’s website). This tells the story of ‘the Great War’: not the First World War, which later acquired that title, but the war of 100 years prior to that, in which the British navy fought and defeated Napoleon’s French navy and emerged in charge of all the world’s sea lanes ─ thus Britain was set fair to build her own global empire where Napoleon had sought and failed to establish his.

That great and perhaps unplanned result was built upon numerous bloody battles in which Sir Sydney Smith played a crucial part. His contemporaries were not kind in their judgements of Smith: Nelson and Napoleon both thought him ‘half mad’, Sir Edward Pellew found him ‘gay and thoughtless’, while Wellington observed that: ‘of all the men whom I ever knew who have any reputation, the man who least deserves it is Sir Sidney Smith … a mere vaporiser. I cannot believe a man so silly in all other affairs can be a good naval officer’.

The Adkins, however, have a soft spot for Smith’s mix of strength and guile, his astonishing acts of bravado, involving the sort of Boy’s Own tactics that today we would associate with the marines ─ he built the navy’s first ever catamaran, for example, and used it to stage a sneak attack by night on the French invasion flotilla at Boulogne (in the event, bad weather and heavy swell foiled the attempt to blow the fleet up using Congreve's newly invented rockets and Robert Fulton's equally novel mines).

Where Smith led others later followed and the Adkins’ book is full of explosive encounters that were modelled on ─ and more successful ─ than his. Indeed, one of the compelling features of the book is the constant counterpoint between Smith-like acts of astonishing intelligence, energy and courage on the part of individual sailors, and the corporate and bureaucratic character of the Royal Navy in whose service they were pressed.

That is where the girls and debauchery come in: even the ruthlessly disciplined navy occasionally turned a blind eye ─ and one of the many strengths of this book is the way that it is not just the captains and commanders who speak to us through the numerous first-hand accounts that the authors weave into their narrative, but also the seamen and the prostitutes ─ thus conveying a sense of the Great War’s human dimensions, as well as the official history, the black humour as well as the bravery, the devilry as well as the sheer dogged determination to survive and win this hellish war.

The lives of the poor and ordinary are also a theme of the Cambridge Companion to Historical Archaeology edited by our Fellow Dan Hicks (see the Cambridge University Press website). According to Mark P Leone, of the Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland, that is because the book ‘shows that the right and the left in historical archaeology make a preferential treatment of the poor and of their place in an improved society. Thus, historical archaeology is far more unified than supposed.’ Put another way, the historical record is the product of elite aristocrats and professionals, so if you want common humanity you have to turn to archaeology and the material world.

In order to show what archaeology can tell us about the period from AD 1500 to the present day, Dan Hicks has assembled essays by seventeen leading researchers on key themes in historical archaeology, including documentary archaeology, the writing of historical archaeology, colonialism, capitalism, industrial archaeology, maritime archaeology, cultural resource management, urban archaeology, landscape archaeology and the archaeology of buildings and the household. Case studies from North America, Europe, Australasia, Africa and around the world capture the breadth and diversity of contemporary historical archaeology.


The Stained Glass Museum, Researcher/Assistant to the Curator
Salary: £17,500; closing date 3 November 2006; interviews 20 November 2006

Founded in Ely in 1972, the Stained Glass Museum is the only one of its kind in the UK and was established to rescue and display stained glass under threat from loss or destruction. It now has a permanent exhibition of over one hundred original fine stained-glass windows covering eight centuries of stained glass, from medieval glass from Soissons Cathedral to William Morris designs.

The Trustees of the Stained Glass Museum are now able to make a second professional appointment to support the Curator and are seeking a graduate with an MA or other relevant qualification for a full-time post researching the collection and assisting the Curator in the running of the museum. The post is funded initially for up to three years, with the possibility that it might become permanent.

For further details, please see the museum’s website or contact the Curator, Susan Mathews.

Yorkshire Archaeological Society
Volunteers wanted to serve as editors of the Wakefield court rolls

Our Fellow Paul Harvey has written with a plea for people with appropriate skills to take on the editing of the Wakefield court rolls under the direction of the committee that he chairs. Paul writes: ‘The court rolls of the huge manor of Wakefield are one of the most impressive series of surviving manorial archives in their completeness and in the wide area of West Yorkshire that they cover, a wonderful record of society and economy over a long period. The earliest rolls, from 1274 to 1331, were published by the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, mostly in English translation, between 1901 and 1945. Since 1977, the Society has published a further fourteen rolls in a special series, selected from between 1331 and 1792.

‘We are anxious to continue, but currently have no volumes in preparation for want of suitable editors. A roll can be selected from any period from the fourteenth century to the nineteenth. The rolls themselves are in the Society's library in Leeds, but microfilm or photocopies of the chosen roll could be made available. Many of the eighteenth-century rolls are fragile and unsuitable for handling. Publication is in calendared form, meeting most specialist needs while giving access to the non-specialist.’

The work on a roll will give a fascinating insight into the society, the legal forms and the life of the period ─ an interesting and rewarding task for anyone with the appropriate skills and interests. Anyone who might be interested in undertaking this work should contact the Editor of the Series, Dr C M Fraser, FSA, 39 King Edward Road, Tynemouth NE30 2RW.