Salon Archive

Issue: 154

Forthcoming meetings

14 December: Miscellany of papers and mulled wine reception. Justine Bayley, FSA, and Andy Russel will present a paper on ‘Gold for Christmas: new evidence from Clausentum’; Christopher Schuler will discuss ‘An Angular Saxon Scholar: John Yonge Akerman 1806─73’; and Jayne Phenton will provide a preview of the Tercentenary Festival Programme. Tickets for the mulled wine reception cost £10.50 and are available from Jasvinder Kaur, Administration Assistant, tel: 020 7479 7080.

11 January: Industrial archaeology: a future for the evidence, by Sir Neil Cossons, FSA

18 January: Prehistoric coastal activity in the Severn Estuary, by Martin Bell, FSA

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).

Library news

Our Librarian, Bernard Nurse, writes: ‘Fellows might think that the Society’s Library already has copies of all the early antiquarian books on British topography. However, Fellow David Phillipson recently pointed out that there was no copy of the first edition of Ralph Thoresby's history of Leeds, Ducatus Leodiensis (1715), and that one was being offered for sale by Unsworth's Antiquarian booksellers at their new premises in Foyles, Charing Cross Road. Through the generosity of those who contributed to the library in memory of John Samuels, late Fellow, we have now been able to purchase that copy.’

Bernard adds that there are other items which surprisingly have never been acquired ─ such as the first edition of Inigo Jones and John Webb’s The most notable antiquity of Great Britain, vulgarly called Ston-Heng (1655) and Thomas Martin's History of … Thetford (1779). If any Fellow knows of others, perhaps they could let Bernard know ─ and, even better, say where copies can be found. Despite the claims of rare and second-hand booksellers on the internet, not all antiquarian books appear on their web sites!

Appeal for information on Overton Down

In connection with the interpretation of an excavation he has been directing, our Fellow Tony Rook would be grateful for information concerning the whereabouts of the archive ─ particularly photographs ─ of the Experimental Earthwork Project on Overton Down. The project started in 1960 under the aegis of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS)’s Experimental Earthwork Committee and is intended to run for 128 years, with observations at regular intervals. The last work (thirty-two years) was published in CBA Research Report 100 (1996), and this states that the archive will be kept at the UCL Institute of Archaeology. Enquiries at the BAAS and the Institute have so far drawn a blank. Tony adds: ‘perhaps a surviving member of the Committee will read this and be kind enough to help. I would also be happy to discuss the problem which I hope to solve’.

Obituary: Pierre Chaplais

Our Fellow Pierre Chaplais, who died on 26 November 2006 at the age of eighty-six, was an expert on the interpretation and decipherment of medieval official documents, a subject known as ‘Diplomatic’, in which he was Reader at Oxford for thirty years until his retirement in 1987. According to obituaries published in the Daily Telegraph and the Independent, from which the following extracts have been taken, the greater part of British medieval historians learned their trade from him, as did a fair number of Americans and others.

Born Pierre Théophile Victorien Marie Chaplais, the son of a postmaster, in Châteaubriant, France, on 8 July 1920, he studied Classics and Law at Rennes University, hoping to become an academic lawyer, but his membership of the Défense de la France resistance movement led to his arrest by the Gestapo just before Christmas 1943, and his incarceration in Buchenwald for the remainder of the war.

Following the war Chaplais moved to Deauville, where his father was now postmaster, and after qualifying as a lawyer was admitted to the Rennes court. But he was more interested in academic law and legal history than legal practice and, in order to qualify to enter the law faculty at Paris University, he set about preparing a substantial doctoral thesis on appeals from medieval Gascony to England. Since the relevant documentation for his thesis was held in British archives, Chaplais travelled to England, where he came under the influence of Vivian Galbraith, then Director of the Institute of Historical Research. Galbraith became a great supporter, and persuaded Chaplais to register for a doctorate from the University of London rather than continue climbing the French academic ladder. During this time Chaplais supported himself by teaching French and translating for the BBC.

Chaplais's gifts as a documentary scholar led to his appointment in 1949 as an external editor of the Treaty Rolls at the Public Records Office — at eight guineas a day. Here, fragmentary and decayed documents classified as ‘illegible’ were routinely given to Chaplais for elucidation. In 1955 he was appointed to succeed Kathleen Major as lecturer in Diplomatic at Oxford, a post upgraded to reader in 1957.

In 1964 he became a Fellow of Wadham, where he played a part in college affairs as Keeper of the Gardens. For thirty years his classes on diplomatic and palaeography served as the main introduction for postgraduates pursuing medieval history, though he was famously generous with his time and was always happy to give advice to anyone wanting help on interpreting or deciphering medieval texts. He also served as Literary Director of the Royal Historical Society from 1958 to 1964, and was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1970 and of the British Academy in 1973.

In 1994 he came to wider attention with the publication of Piers Gaveston, in which he argued that the relationship between Edward II and Gaveston was not a sexual one, but rather one of adoptive brotherhood, a time-honoured convention within the laws of chivalry. Innocent of the iconic status of Gaveston and Edward II as gay icons, he was bemused by the angry and disapproving reviews of his work in the gay press.

His last book, English Diplomatic Practice in the Middle Ages, was published in 2003, although completed some twenty years earlier. A second volume ─ about the mechanisms of medieval diplomacy; how, for instance, you proved you really were the representative of the king of England when you turned up at the papal court ─ is being prepared for publication. Professor Nicholas Vincent, of a much younger generation, has hailed it as a masterpiece, comparable to F Liebermann or F W Maitland. Like Maitland, Chaplais was extraordinarily capable of describing complex technicalities in lucid and indeed pleasurable prose.

Obituary: Bruce Trigger

At its meeting on 9 November 2006, members of the Society’s Council unanimously agreed to support the nomination of Bruce Trigger as an Honorary Fellow. It is therefore a matter of particular regret that Professor Trigger died (of cancer on 1 December 2006, aged 69) before the Fellowship had a chance to vote on this proposal and welcome Bruce into the Society.

The following appreciation of Professor Trigger’s work is an edited version of the citation drawn up by our Fellow Professor Norman Hammond and eight other leading US archaeologists among the Fellowship to support their nomination of Bruce Trigger as an Honorary Fellow.

‘Bruce Graham Trigger was born in 1937, in Preston, Ontario, and took his doctorate at Yale in 1964. He was hired by Northwestern University but after a year returned to Canada, to the Department of Anthropology at McGill University, Montreal, where he spent the rest of his career and served as Professor of Anthropology until his recent retirement.

‘Trigger was a leading expert in three distinct fields of archaeology: as a historian of the discipline, as an Egyptologist and as an authority on the aboriginal cultures of ancient North America. He has placed archaeology as an academic discipline and a practice within a broader context of social and cultural evolution.

‘As a historian of archaeology, Trigger is best known for his monumental History of Archaeological Thought (Cambridge University Press, 1989): the 2006 revised edition is in many ways a new book, and critically analyses not only the distant history of antiquarianism from the Middle Ages and Renaissance to the present day, but dissects the variety of current approaches to archaeology, such as those characterised as ‘processual’, ‘post-processual’, ‘critical’ and ‘feminist’ with even-handed expertise. He has also written an important critical biography, Gordon Childe: revolutions in archaeology (1980), the monograph Archaeology as Historical Science (1985), and numerous journal articles in this field. His works on the philosophy and methodology of archaeology include Beyond History: the methods of prehistory (1968), Time and Traditions (1978), Sociocultural Evolution: calculation and contingency (1998), and Artifacts and Ideas (2003).

‘In Egyptology, his fieldwork has been mainly in Nubia, notably at Arminna West. Apart from papers in professional journals, Trigger’s books and monographs in this area include History and Settlement in Lower Nubia (1965), The Late Nubian Settlement at Arminna West (1967), The Meroitic Funerary Inscriptions from Arminna West (1970), Nubia under the Pharaohs (1976), Ancient Egypt: a social history (co-author, 1983), and Early Civilizations: ancient Egypt in context (1993).

‘Trigger’s works on north-eastern North American Amerindian and Colonial archaeology and ethnohistory have been pioneering, and have assured his position as Canada’s leading prehistorian. Books and monographs include The Huron: farmers of the north (1969), The Impact of Europeans on Huronia (1969), Cartier’s Hochelaga and the Dawson Site (co-author, 1972), The Children of Aataentsic: a history of the Huron people to 1660 (1976), Natives and Newcomers: Canada’s “Heroic Age” reconsidered (1985), and Native Shell Mounds of North America: early studies (editor, 1986), together with numerous journal articles.

‘His most recent book, the substantial Understanding Early Civilizations: a comparative study (2003), embraces Old and New World cultures with impressive breadth and depth of scholarship, and provides a global view similar to that of his History of Archaeological Thought.

Most of his dozen and a half books went into multiple editions, many into translation, and had a significant impact on archaeological thought and practice across the globe, as did his hundreds of articles.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, he won its Innis-Gérin Medal in 1985 and 1991 won the Quebec government’s Prix Léon-Gérin. In 2001 Trigger was made an Officer of the National Order of Quebec and in 2005 an Officer of the Order of Canada (OC). Equally gratifying to him was the volume of tributes, The Archaeology of Bruce Trigger: theoretical empiricism, in which colleagues across North America placed his work into a broad perspective of intellectual history.’


Further thoughts on the naming of English Heritage have come from our Fellow Peter Fowler, who recalls that the debate over the name of the successor body to the Department of the Environment (not the Ministry of Works as reported in the last issue of Salon) took place in 1982 (not 1992). Peter writes: ‘I was at the debates in the Lords all the time, and the issue which much concerned their Lordships and Ladyships was not so much “heritage” or “history” but the words “Commission” and “Historical Monuments”, which they wanted to include in the name of the new body, but in a way that did not cause confusion with the RCHME (the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England, of which I was head at the time). And of course they did exactly that: the formal title of ‘English Heritage’ is, of course, the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission. That unfortunate title was not, as I recall (without checking Hansard), favoured or even used in the debate but concocted afterwards and, I suspect, after a ministerial decision that the RCHME was not to be subsumed within the new body. But someone else will know whether or not my last surmise is correct.’

Linda Hall, author of the CBA’s Handbook of Fixtures and Fittings in Dated Houses, wants to defend morris dancing from the suggestion that it might be an inferior form of heritage to archaeology: ‘why shouldn't archaeology and morris dancing be equally important aspects of “heritage”?’, she asks and reminds us of the words of the folk song (perhaps penned during the Commonwealth era) that says: ‘When England learns to dance again, 'twill be a wiser nation’.

Linda adds that: ‘I agree with the correspondents who feel the word “heritage” has been devalued, but it is still a useful term to cover everything we have inherited from the past, which includes our wonderful inheritance of English music, song and dance. Sadly, few people appreciate that there is such a thing as distinctively English folk music. Television programmes about Scotland are likely to be accompanied by Scottish folk music; ditto Ireland. But England (and Wales) get pop music, or something equally inappropriate. It is time we stood up for our English “heritage” in this field and showed the detractors of folk music the error of their ways!’

Tim Robey writes to say that he finds it sad and worrying that the Director General of the National Trust does not perceive any difference in meaning between heritage and history. ‘To me, heritage refers to the physical objects, be they documents or stately homes, that survive (have been “inherited”) from our past, and also to the sense of place and belonging we get from knowledge of these objects. History and archaeology are in the first instance the study of these remains ─ our heritage ─ in order to interpret and understand them, and secondly the bodies of knowledge that arise from these studies. A Tudor house is a piece of heritage, but is not in itself history: it possesses or has associated a history which is derived from the study of the building and records relating to it.’

Our Fellow Vincent Megaw is not the only person to have received scam mail appearing to come from a worthy archaeological body. Another Fellow had just been reading Salon’s warning about fraudulent emails when he received an invitation to disclose his bank account details to a Mr Gary Robinson, International Grants Officer with the Queen Elizabeth Foundation, who wished, very generously, to donate £3.5 million to help with the Fellow’s valuable archaeological work.

Salon would not normally publicise such emails, were it not for the fact that many thousands of trusting individuals do seem to fall for fraudsters masquerading as charities, according to the Radio 4 ‘Moneybox’ programme broadcast last week. One way that the scammers make money is by asking you to phone for further details: dialling the number takes you to a series of pre-recorded messages which you listen to on a premium-cost telephone line (at least £1.50 a minute) from which the scammers take a large percentage. Another trick is to harass anyone foolish enough to show interest, bombarding them with emotional phone calls from people claiming to be in danger and desperate need of help; needless to say, donating money merely increases the demands rather than silencing the midnight calls.

Barker report proposes a development free-for-all

Conservationists were left wondering last week just what the future holds under a Gordon Brown premiership after the publication of a Treasury-commissioned review of the planning system by Kate Barker, the Bank of England economist. Barker was asked to ‘consider how, in the context of globalisation, and building on the reforms already put in place in England, planning policy and procedures can better deliver economic growth and prosperity alongside other sustainable development goals’.

In response, the Barker report makes a number of radical proposals: green-belt boundaries should be reviewed, and development permitted in return for investment in improvements to the quality of degraded green-belt landscapes; developers should be allowed to make financial payments to householders affected by their development schemes in order to secure their backing and overcome nimbyism; decisions on major development schemes covering transport (airports and motorways), energy (power stations), waste disposal (landfill and incinerators) and water (reservoirs) should not be left to local planning authorities and communities but should be overseen by independent experts; local planning authorities should be given financial incentives to promote development (but developers will pay more in tax to develop green-field sites); consent regimes should be rationalised, simplified and speeded up; planning policy should be based on a presumption in favour of development, except in the rare cases where there are strong social or environmental reasons not to develop; some types of development should be taken out of the planning system (domestic-scale extensions, for example) and controlled only through building regulations.

Condemnation of these proposals was swift in coming: Friends of the Earth called the report a frontal attack on democracy, handing decision making to retailers such as Tesco and Asda (both of whom warmly welcomed the report, as did the Housebuilders’ Federation and the British Property Federation), while Andrew Simms, policy director of the New Economics Foundation, described the proposal as ‘a charter for clone towns, wildly out of touch with what people want … a throwback to the bad old days of the 1980s when the wishes of local people and their councillors were swept aside in favour of what the supermarkets wanted’.

Shaun Spiers, Chief Executive of CPRE, the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: ‘Whatever the Treasury may think, the purpose of planning is not to give business quick, favourable decisions. Its purpose is to advance the public interest ─ not least the protection of our environment and quality of life … our fear is that [the Barker] review could end up shifting the balance of our planning system away from protecting the environment and countryside and towards catering for developers’ profits. Long term, we would all lose out through the sacrifice one of our greatest resources ─ beautiful countryside ─ for short-term financial gain.’

Concern has also been expressed at the lack of joined-up Government: only last month the Department for Communities and Local Government published the new Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing, which promotes the use of brown-field sites in sustainable locations and gives new powers to local planning authorities to stop developers ‘cherry picking’ green-field sites. The long-awaited White Paper on Heritage Protection is also expected to encourage local authorities to make greater use of their powers to designate and protect the historic environment and to ensure that conservation issues are taken into account in Local Development Frameworks.

Such contradictions are being interpreted as the results of shifting policies linked to a change of leadership within the Labour Party. Gordon Brown has made clear his commitment to ‘reforming the planning system to meet today's challenges and make it more effective, timely and certain’ ─ for which we should probably read ‘more certain for developers’.

Conservation area homes to be taxed

Or perhaps the inconsistencies simply arise from the Treasury’s blinkered and obsessive determination to raise tax revenue. It is difficult to know how else to read the news that the million or so homeowners in England who live in Conservation Areas will pay £600 each in extra council tax every year because conservation-area status adds significant value to a property.

Homes are currently being revalued as part of a review of local government finance, which will include recommendations on reforming council tax. The computer model for the revaluation uses various ‘value significant’ codes, of which conservation-area status is one. It is predicted that the council tax for an average Band D property ─ currently £1,268 ─ will rise in any event to £2,027. But for a home in a conservation area, with its ‘value significant’ code, the average bill would rise to £2,655 a year.

One wonders if this is a strategy to make heritage so unpopular that conservation areas whither and die? Self-interested home owners are hardly likely to vote in favour of conservation-area status when they are consulted (as they have to be under Government guidelines for conservation areas). Is this recognition at last that heritage does have an economic value by a Treasury that has so far denied the evidence? Or is it likely to prove the trigger for a popular revolt against excessive taxation on the scale of the Poll Tax ─ will the newspapers declare after the next election that ‘Heritage proves Labour’s downfall?’

Commenting on the news, Caroline Spelman, the shadow secretary of state for local government and communities, said: ‘This is an anti-green stealth tax, punishing local residents for protecting their environment and for fighting back against over-development.’

Wales responds to the Heritage White Paper

For a preview of the main procedural changes to be put forward in the White Paper when (and if) it is ever published, look no further than the summary on the website of the Welsh Assembly Culture, Welsh Language and Sport Committee. The White Paper is intended to cover designation, planning policy and the consents regime in both England and Wales, but the Welsh Assembly members on the committee have already made it clear that the case for reform in Wales is not so strong as in England, because they already have arrangements in place that they consider superior to those being proposed by the White Paper.

In England, for example, the White Paper will recommend a standard pro forma ─ a Historic Asset Record (HAR) ─ to describe each designated asset on the new Historic Buildings and Monuments Register and explain what makes the asset significant. The Welsh committee argues that the majority of historic assets in Wales already have full descriptions of their importance, thanks to ‘a completed survey of listed buildings and a well-advanced programme of scheduling for all the better known monuments’. Again, in England, a new statutory duty will be proposed whereby local planning authorities will need to maintain or have access to Historic Environment Records; in Wales, it is argued, this statutory duty is already met by the records held by the Welsh Archaeological Trusts.

The Welsh Assembly is also determined to hang on to powers of designation: in England, these powers will be delegated by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to English Heritage. The Welsh Assembly, which includes Cadw, intends to keep this as a Governmental function along with the powers to pass additional Assembly Measures to further strengthen the protection of ancient monuments and historic buildings in Wales if it doesn’t think the English bill, once drafted, is satisfactory.

Old Stones in a New Setting

A report on the built heritage in Scotland published last week is a bit of a curate’s egg. Old Stones in a New Setting: breathing new life into Scotland’s heritage, written by Tom Miers, Director of the Policy Institute, argues that conservation of the historic environment should be a higher priority for the Scottish Executive than it is but says that radical changes are needed in the management of the built heritage to give the private sector a greater role.

Miers argues that private individuals, given the chance to manage historic properties, would be more creative and entrepreneurial than Historic Scotland or local authorities, who should offer contracts to independent institutions to manage their monuments and historic buildings. ‘They would bid to operate each monument for a specific period, set out the level of subsidy (or rent) required and agree to maintain existing standards of conservation. This would create a market for heritage contracts leading to lower costs, innovative uses for buildings, new visitors and more effective methods of conservation.’

Miers also argues that grants should be replaced with tax breaks for maintenance or preservation work carried out by listed building owners. On the other hand, he is clearly no friend of the designation system or of planning controls, arguing (with echoes of the Australian Productivity Commission’s report on heritage protection published earlier this year) that tax breaks would ‘force government to share the cost of regulation by exposing it to a loss of revenue every time it imposed a designation’.

Old Stones in a New Setting is available from the Policy Institute’s website.

How not to treat Scottish heritage

Fellow Mark Horton writes that Balmerino Abbey, a little known but important Cistercian abbey on the south bank of the River Tay in Fife, is under severe threat from a large housing development. Although the abbey ruins are owned by the National Trust for Scotland (it was the first property that they acquired), there are proposals to built eight ‘executive-style’ houses and three cottages in the green-field western precinct, not owned by the NTS.

Balmerino was founded in 1229 by Queen Ermengarde (she claimed descent from the original Merovingian Ermengarde), the widow of William the Lion, and mother of Alexander II. She was buried there in 1231 and although no other royal burials in fact occurred the intention might have been to create a Scottish royal mausoleum, giving Balmerino a historical status similar to that of Fontrevauld in France or even Westminster Abbey.

Lending his support to the campaign to prevent the development, Mark told the Scotsman newspaper that: ‘The concept of setting is pivotal to the historical value of a structure. These buildings have survived down the ages, in some cases for thousands of years, then somebody comes along and swamps them with a sea of dross in the form of horrible modern housing developments.’

In a letter to Fife Council, Mark claimed that the development would be obliterate rich archaeological evidence: ‘This was a huge royal abbey, massively constructed with outer precincts, so there will almost certainly be courtyards, guest houses, all sorts of things exactly where this huge housing development is being proposed. No one has any idea what's out there. But it was built parallel to Melrose Abbey, which was the mother house to Balmerino, and recent excavations there produced huge amounts of archaeology.’

Mark adds that: ‘Despite it being in the ownership of the NTS for over seventy years, only last year was a signpost erected, directing visitors to the site, and the ruins are in dire need of conservation.’

Inquiry opens into fate of Stonehenge visitor centre

This week’s Salisbury Journal contains an account of the opening of the two-week public inquiry into English Heritage’s plans to build a new visitor centre for Stonehenge on land east of the Countess Road roundabout in Amesbury.

First to give evidence at the opening of the inquiry on 5 December was the chairman of English Heritage, Sir Neil Cossons, who spoke of the importance of Stonehenge and the need for the scheme. He said that opportunities to interpret at the present site are constrained, with no space for exhibitions, displays or educational facilities, and English Heritage wants the visitor centre to encourage people to spend more time at the monument and its surrounding landscape, including promoting links with Salisbury and Devizes museums. Sir Neil said: ‘This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to turn a national disgrace into a source of national, regional and local pride, and to create an inspiring and lasting contribution to the cultural legacy of the 2012 Olympics.’

Everyone has a view on Stonehenge

Fellows who dislike phone-ins, programmes encouraging members of the public to ‘have your say’ and other forms of populist broadcasting, will no doubt have approved Jeremy Paxman’s comments on ‘Newsnight’ this week, deploring his own producer’s desire to feature material submitted by viewers; as Paxman later explained: ‘viewers don’t want the opinions of Tom, Dick and Harry; they want professional, informed presentation of the views of knowledgeable people’.

Sadly, Paxman’s sensible views are not likely to find favour in an age when expertise is everywhere denigrated. Last week’s article on Stonehenge by our Fellow Simon Jenkins was another perfect example. Simon is a renowned columnist, whose weekly thoughts on topical issues published in the Guardian on a Wednesday usually provoke perhaps half a dozen responses on the newspaper’s web-based bulletin board. Last week Simon chose to write about the lecture on Stonehenge and the bluestone quarry at Carn Meini given by our Fellow Tim Darvill and our Treasurer Geoff Wainwright at the Society’s meeting on 5 October (see Salon 150). Within an hour of the article being published on the website, it was deluged with responses from readers. Instead of engaging with the evidence that Stonehenge might, at one stage in its history, have been sought out as a place of healing, most of the responses sought to assert the superiority of alternative theories, most of them unsupported and only half-understood versions of the astronomical alignments at Stonehenge.

The Telegraph also carried a feature on the discoveries of Professors Darvill and Wainwright, and all this week, the story (‘Stonehenge was a site for sore eyes’: ) has been at No. 2 in the newspaper’s ‘Most viewed’ list of stories on the internet (at No. 1 is another archaeological story, reporting the somewhat exaggerated claims of Israeli archaeologists working in the West Bank to have ‘uncovered one of the world's first churches built on a site believed to have once housed the Ark of the Covenant’ ().

All of which goes to prove that archaeology is not only very popular, but that Stonehenge especially enjoys an iconic status in the popular imagination, though not necessarily based on any real knowledge or understanding of the site.

Newly discovered view of Stonehenge in medieval manuscript

Which reminds Salon’s editor of the survey that Fellow Mike Pitts conducted some years ago when he was curator of the Alexander Keiller Museum in Avebury which showed that a very high proportion of those visitors questioned by Mike estimated the age of the stone circle to be about ‘100 years old’. Back in the fifteenth century, Stonehenge was such an enigma that medieval compilers of historical chronicles known as ‘Scala Mundi’ were not sure whether to place Stonehenge in a Biblical context, as a natural phenomenon (on a par with the Cheddar caves), or as the work of giants and magicians.

Now a newly discovered Scala Mundi, dating from around 1441, not only contains a hitherto unknown drawing of Stonehenge, it places the building of the monument in the later fifth century, and repeats Geoffrey of Monmouth’s tale that Merlin built Stonehenge ‘not by force but by art’ from stones brought from Ireland. The manuscript containing the vignette was discovered in the municipal library at Douai by Christian Heck, History of Art Professor at the University of Lille 3 Charles-de-Gaulle. Written in English and Latin, the manuscript probably came to France with English Catholics studying at the University of Douai, founded in 1559.

Heck made the discovery in 2001 but has only just published his find (in Tributes in Honor of James H. Marrow: studies in painting and manuscript illumination of the late Middle Ages and Northern Renaissance, edited by Jeffrey F Hamburger and Anna Korteweg, published by Harvey Miller/Brepols). Heck writes that this is only the third known medieval illustration of Stonehenge, and the first drawn by an artist who had clearly been to the site ─ rather than the somewhat schematic depiction of the other two, this vignette shows four free-standing trilithons with tenons on the uprights, the first known depiction of this unique design feature.

Mike Pitts features the tiny drawing on the front cover of the newly published January/February 2007 edition of British Archaeology. It will also feature in the exhibition at the Royal Academy next year to celebrate the Society’s Tercentenary.

A bumper British Archaeology

Elsewhere in the same magazine Mike (to whom congratulations are due on the birth of a daughter, Mia, four weeks ago) features the excavation by Bristol University students of the departmental Transit van (see Salon 146), which proved to be a very effective way of teaching archaeological methodology, a report on the Cambridge Archaeological Unit’s excavation in the centre of Cambridge of the lost King’s Ditch (c 1050─1150), and an investigation by our Fellow Anthony Harding into claims that ancient pyramids have been found in Bosnia.

The magazine also features an interview with Barrie Marshall, the award-winning Australian architect whose Stonehenge visitor centre is the subject of a public inquiry which opened on 5 December 2006 (see below), and an Opinion piece by our Fellow Warwick Rodwell, bemoaning the threat to the historic fabric and archaeology of churches and cathedrals by the combination of health and safety, fire precautions and disabled access regulations. Worn medieval steps leading to the Wells cathedral chapter house have been renewed, a masonry ramp now disfigures the entrance to the Romanesque chapter house at Bristol cathedral, historic timber ladders have been ripped out of towers and belfries and historic timber doors have been mutilated or removed in the name of fire prevention, he says.

Launch of English Heritage Historical Review

One timber door that hasn’t suffered the indignity of being clad in fire-resistant material was the focus of considerable interest last week when many distinguished historians and archaeologists gathered at Westminster Abbey for the launch of the English Heritage Historical Review. Despite an echoing acoustic in the Chapter House that made it difficult to hear what any of the speakers had to say, everyone listened intently to Warwick Rodwell’s story of the dating of the Saxon door that now serves the vestibule of the 1250 Chapter House, but which probably came from Edward the Confessor’s original abbey.

Warwick Rodwell’s account of the door is one of ten well-illustrated papers in the review, which has been launched to publish the results of research funded by English Heritage, most (but not all) of which concerns the 420 or so properties owned or managed by English Heritage. Edited by our Fellow Richard Hewlings, the first issue features subjects ranging in date from the Roman amphitheatre at Chester (co-authored by our Fellow Tony Wilmott) to Calshot Castle ─ Tudor in origin but adapted to play a pivotal rile in coastal defence during the Second World War (by Fellow Jonathan Coad).

Back to Warwick Rodwell’s paper on the dating of the Westminster Abbey door ─ what makes the story exciting is the existence of a rival contender for the title of ‘oldest scientifically dated door in Britain’: the door of St Botolph’s church at Hadstock in Essex. You will have to subscribe to the Historical Review to find out the precise detail (£20 from, but Dr Rodwell decides that the evidence favours the Westminster Abbey door (dating from c 1042─65) as the older of the two by a difference of a mere decade.

UK museums at the bottom of the world acquisitions league

A depressing report published by the Art Fund last month demonstrated that UK museums and galleries are at the bottom of the world league when it comes to finding funds for acquisitions, and that the budgets of our national museums are dwarfed by the sums spent on adding to their collections by the world's biggest art institutions. The Met in New York spent more than £53m in 2004/5 ─ eight times more than the National Gallery and seventy times more than the British Museum. While the Met was the biggest spender, MoMA in New York spent £20m, the Louvre £16.8m, the Getty in Los Angeles £10.5m and the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam £9.7m. The biggest UK spender was the National Gallery, at £6.3m. The Tate spent £4.8m, the V&A £1.3m, and the British Museum trailed at £761,000. The Art Fund research showed that nationally 60 per cent of museums allocated no money whatsoever to collecting new work and only 13 per cent said their ability to collect met their aspirations.

The Art Fund believes the Treasury should learn from overseas tax regimes. Donors in the US can give money to museums tax free: such gifts contributed to just over half of the Met's spending. In France companies which make donations can deduct 90 per cent of that money from their corporation tax bill.

David Barrie, Director of the Art Fund, said the Treasury tended to roll its eyes when the idea of changing the tax regime was put to it, on the grounds that ‘everyone was asking for help’. He said the figures were so comparatively small that it would be barely noticeable. ‘If Gordon Brown is trying to improve his public image then showing he cares about the arts is one way of doing it.’

Recent museum acquisitions and appeals

Despite the constant struggle for funds, the UK’s museums and galleries have nevertheless made some important acquisitions in the last few weeks. Our Fellow Peter Broughton, Keeper of Art and Architecture at the Grosvenor Museum in Chester, writes to say that the museum has purchased a fascinating and beautiful sixteenth-century painting of Christ Blessing with the help of grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Grosvenor Museum Society. The painting (in oil on a wood panel) is from the studio of Quinten Metsys (1466─1530), the leading artist in early sixteenth century Antwerp. It was presented to Heswall parish church, fourteen miles from Chester, in 1893, but was sold by the church to help raise funds for a new community centre.

Shrewsbury Museum has just put on display a pair of very rare Iron-Age bronze spoons. Always found in pairs, there are only twenty-three sets in the world and it has been eighty years since the last find. These came from mid-Shropshire and were found by metal detectorist Trevor Brown. One of the spoons is decorated with a carved cross, bearing a circle at the centre, while the other is plain but torn where there was once a perforation (see the 24-hour museum website for a picture.

The Huxley Hoard, named after its finding place near Chester, is a collection of Viking treasure found in 2004 consisting of twenty-two silver objects, mainly bracelets, in the distinctive Irish Sea style, dating from around AD 850─950. A Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £45,000 has enabled National Museums Liverpool, Grosvenor Museum in Chester and Cheshire Museums Service to purchase the hoard collectively.

The Museum of London has acquired a pair of rare medieval paintings known as the Westminster Panels. Commissioned by or for George Fascet, Abbot of Westminster from about 1498, they depict the Archangel Gabriel and the Virgin standing on plinths, one of which bears the shield of arms of Westminster Abbey and other a depiction of the abbot’s own arms.

Our Fellow John Clark, curator of the museum’s Medieval Gallery, says the oil painted panels represent the high quality of religious art available to wealthy medieval Londoners: ‘Illuminated by candles in its original setting, the “cloth of gold” background to the panels would have provided a shimmering backdrop against which the figures would appear to step out toward the viewer with an uncanny lifelike quality’.

The acquisition was made possible with a grant of £100,000 from the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF), £56,430 from the Art Fund, £15,000 from the Pilgrim Trust and generous funding from private donors.

The John Rylands University Library in Manchester is launching an appeal for funds to buy the diaries, correspondence and manuscript volumes of Mary Hamilton, whose portrait by Sir Thomas Lawrence was in turn purchased by the British Museum for £165,000 last year with the help of the Art Fund. Mary Hamilton held a post in the household of the daughters of George III, and her correspondence with Elizabeth Carter, Elizabeth Montague, Hannah More and Fanny Burney, as well as Samuel Johnson, James Boswell and Horace Walpole, contains a great deal of information about the social, cultural and intellectual life of the late 1700s and early 1800s. David Lammy, the Arts Minister, has put a temporary block on plans to sell the archive abroad while the library seeks to raise the necessary £123,500.

Dr Frances Harris, the British Library expert who advised the government on the decision to bar the archive's export, has argued that once the papers have been studied the name Mary Hamilton will become much better known and may even establish her as a figure on a par with Britain's great historical diarists, Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn.

Finally, a Roman gravestone found in Lancaster last year is to stay in the UK, despite the owner’s original plans to sell it abroad. The magnificent late first- or early second-century AD gravestone commemorates Lucius Nisus Vodvilleius, or Insus, son of Vodullus (the precise name is unclear as it is abbreviated), a member of the Treveri tribe who served in the Ala Augusta, the Augustan cavalry stationed in Lancaster in the late first century. The stone depicts a mounted trooper holding a sword and the head of a man he has just killed. Stephen Bull, curator of archaeology at the Museum of Lancashire, where the carving is being conserved, described it as ‘one of the sharpest and clearest I’ve ever seen’. The purchase was made possible by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, among other sources.

‘Inspirational’ 29 million extra visits to national museums

Figures released by Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell reveals the extent of the public’s appetite for serious culture, with an increase of 29 million in the number of recorded visits to England’s national museums and galleries over the last five years, an 83 per cent increase in total visits since 2001.

The Government claims credit for this increase and calls the figures ‘inspirational’, because they ‘completely vindicate our decision to put free admission at the heart of our cultural policy since 1997 when the obstacle of entry fees was swept away’. Whether free entry really is the reason for the increase is difficult to say: the figures also show that visits to the national museums that were already or have always been free, such as the National Gallery and the British Museum, also rose by 80 per cent over the same period.

In previous years the DCMS statement on visitor figures has laid great emphasis on the number of visitors from socio-economic classes C2, D and E and so-called minority ethnic groups, but this year the Secretary of State seems happy to celebrate the increase in all visitors, indiscriminately.

The figures released by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) relate to the twenty-two institutions that it funds directly. Its subsidy to them is £320 million, of which £40 million is estimated to be the cost of free admission. Visits to the V&A were up 122 per cent, the Natural History Museum 112 per cent and the Science Museum 81 per cent.

Some museum campaigners would like to see the principle of free admission extended to all collections designated as nationally important. Peter Saunders, Director of the Salisbury and South Wiltshire Museum, wrote to The Times on 5 December 2006 to ask ‘might not the Government encourage the Lottery to support charitable trust museums by providing one-off grants as endowments with which they could fund free entry? The sums would not be huge and I believe could prove equally or even more effective in improving access than capital developments that give rise to additional running costs and thus increased entry fees.’

The Society’s response to the latest museum strategy consultation

Salon 152 reported on the latest DCMS consultation on museums strategy (Understanding the Future: priorities for England’s museums), since when several Fellows have asked whether the Society intends to respond. In reply our General Secretary, David Gaimster, reports that the Society has indeed set out its concerns in a joint response made by The Archaeology Forum, of which the Society is a member, after seeking advice from the Society of Museum Archaeologists. The Society’s response emphasises the concern of Fellows over the decline of expert archaeological knowledge in museums, calling on the Government to devote resources to the encouragement of a thriving research culture in museums; concern about the deteriorating state of collections as a result of low funding levels for conservation work; the need for a rational acquisitions and disposal strategy, which would include the option of disposal but that would also fund high standards of archaeological archiving; and finally, the apparent lack of specific museums expertise on the Council of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Commission (MLA), a situation that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

Theatre Museum could go north

A ray of light for those campaigning for a permanent theatre museum in the UK is the news that the Victoria and Albert Museum is working with Blackpool Council to relocate its unique collection of theatre memorabilia when the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden closes next month. The two partners are working on a feasibility study for a new National Theatre Museum in the Lancashire seaside town, which has a long theatrical history. The V&A has been criticised by actors for apparently giving up its fight to save its theatreland subsidiary. Mark Jones, director of the V&A, said: ‘A new museum in Blackpool could provide a wonderful platform to tell the story of British theatre.’

V&A to scrap academic reproduction fees

The Victoria and Albert Museum has announced that it will no longer charge publishers for the right to reproduce images of objects in its collections in scholarly publications. The V&A is believed to be the first museum in the world to scrap copyright and administrative charges. It has also said that it intends to take a ‘liberal’ view on what should be deemed scholarly or educational. Reproduction fees currently bring in just over £250,000 a year for the V&A, and it is estimated that around half this sum will be lost. However, administering the system considerably reduces this income. Under the new scheme, publishers will be able to download images directly from the internet. The museum says free educational use of images in the collection is consistent with the museum’s educational role and will help to raise its profile internationally.

Oxford University plans major digs around Dorchester

Residents of the Oxfordshire town of Dorchester on Thames are reported (by the local Herald newspaper) to be delighted that the area's archaeological importance has been recognised and that a team from Oxford University is planning major digs around the village during the next few years because the site is so important. Chris Gosden, Professor of European Archaeology at Oxford University, said the area had a massive concentration of important archaeology, from pre-history to the present and one of the richest concentrations of archaeology in the region outside Salisbury Plain.

One reason for the delight is that archaeological research will delay plans for gravel extraction, which local people have been fighting by undertaking their own fieldwork to prove the area’s national archaeological importance. Voluntary work in the area has been led by local archaeologist Dr John Howell, who formed and led the pressure group Page (Parishes Against Gravel Extraction) and who successfully fought an election to become the area's member on Oxfordshire County Council.

Leicester finds go on display

A major exhibition has just opened in Leicester, revealing the finds that have resulted from excavations in Leicester over the past three years. Almost 9 per cent of Leicester's historic core has been subject to investigation in some form in the last three years by a team of up to sixty archaeologists from University of Leicester Archaeological Services.

One of the more spectacular finds is a curse tablet, dedicated to the god Maglus invoking destruction on the wrongdoer who stole Servandus’s cloak. The tablet lists some nineteen possible culprits, quadrupling the number of named inhabitants of Roman Leicester.

Richard Buckley, co-Director of the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, said that the list includes commonplace Roman names (Silvester and Germanus), Celtic names (Riomandus and Cunovendus) and Roman names specifically associated with Celtic provinces (Regalis). The god's name (Maglus) might be a title ─ ‘Prince’ in Celtic.

Other highlights of the last three years include the discovery of the lost medieval churches of St Peter and St Michael and their graveyards, with the excavation of over 1,600 burials, the excavation of a substantial Roman town house of the second century AD and an adjacent public building, investigation of the northern Roman and medieval town defences and the discovery of part of the town wall, together with an interval tower, excavation of the collapsed wall of the macellum, or market hall, one of Leicester's Roman public buildings, yielding rare evidence for the appearance of a Roman structure in the city, investigation of a deep sequence of medieval and post-medieval properties on Highcross Street, with evidence for a brewery and new evidence for Dark Age Leicester from the discovery of Anglo-Saxon structures of the fifth and sixth centuries AD.

Evidence of Christianity's first foothold in London

MoLAS archaeologists have found a cemetery with some twenty-five Christian graves dating from the time that Bertha was Queen of Kent ─ 590 to 610 ─ close to the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, on the eastern side of Trafalgar Square. The find suggests the area has a much older religious significance than the appearance of the church today suggests. The dating of the cemetery is based on the contents of a grave that has no human remains, but did contain a gold pendant inlaid with blue-green glass, glass beads, fragments of silver (possibly from a neck pendant) and two pieces of amethyst, possibly from earrings.

Our Fellow Ian Wood, of Leeds University, who specialises in sixth- and seventh-century history, believes the empty grave ‘belonged to a relative ─ possibly even a daughter or a niece ─ of the most important woman in Britain at the time, Queen Bertha, the wife of the most powerful ruler in England, King Aethelberht of Kent, overlord of the English’. Professor Wood calls Bertha ‘the unsung heroine of early English Christianity because it was she, rather than the much more famous St Augustine, who was initially responsible for the introduction of Christianity into the Anglo-Saxon world. It was as a result of her activities that St Augustine was sent to England by the Pope to become the first Archbishop of Canterbury’, adding that ‘the discoveries are therefore important because they reveal Christian activity, probably associated with Bertha’s circle, at this very early stage of Christianity in Anglo-Saxon England.’

Bertha was a devotee of the cult of St Martin. Her personal church in Canterbury, presented to her in about 590 by her then pagan husband, Aethelberht, was dedicated to the saint ─ probably at her behest. And her husband was, after about 597, very keen on ecclesiastical development in London, which was technically part of the kingdom of Essex but in reality under Kentish overall control. The empty grave near Trafalgar Square might therefore have been a temporary resting place for a senior Kentish princess during the time that the Anglo-Saxon church of St Martin's was being built.

Equally enthralling, and with implications for the extent of Roman London, is the finding of a Roman limestone coffin dating from the late fourth or fifth century on the same site, along with evidence for a significant Roman building with roof tiles dating from AD 400 to 450. The east to west orientation of the coffin suggests a Christian burial and the limestone would have been sourced in Oxfordshire or Northamptonshire.

Our Fellow Taryn Nixon, Director of the Museum of London Archaeology Service, said: ‘This is an extraordinary eye-opener for us. We thought that we had an impression of what was going on in the area. All of a sudden we have had to rethink Roman London.’

St Paul’s grave and the trophies of Emperor Maxentius

Two spectacular finds were reported in Rome this week. Vatican authorites are claiming to have discovered the tomb of St Paul under an altar at St Paul-outside-the-Walls, Rome’s second largest church (after St Peter’s). Though rebuilt in 1823 after a fire, this stands on the remains of a church built by the Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. Archaeologists say they found St Paul's remains in a sarcophagus marked with a marble plaque inscribed ‘Paul the Apostle, Martyr’ underneath a stone slab in catacombs dating from the fourth century. The sarcophagus is said to date from AD 390 when the Emperor Theodosius ‘saved’ the remains and moved them to the site, near the Appian Way. According to the Bible, St Paul was imprisoned in Rome and eventually beheaded in the city around AD 64.

Constantine famously used the Cross of Christ as his battle banner at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 when he defeated Maxentius, junior emperor in the imperial Tetrarchy, to become ruler of the entire Western Roman Empire. Excavation under Rome's Palatine Hill near the Colosseum has now turned up what are claimed as the imperial insignia of the defeated Emperor Maxentius, consisting of three lances and four javelins along with an imperial sceptre with a carved flower and a globe, and a number of glass spheres, believed to be a symbolic representation of the earth. The items were buried inside wooden boxes and wrapped in linen and silk. Clementina Panella, the archaeologist who made the discovery, said the insignia were probably hidden by the supporters of Maxentius in an attempt to preserve the emperor's memory and to prevent their destruction at the hands of the enemy.

Community Archaeology Forum launched

The Council for British Archaeology has launched a dedicated online resource for community archaeology groups across the UK, enabling them to share the results of their work online using wiki technology, which enables web pages to be built collectively (the same technology that is used to power the Wikipedia online encyclopaedia).

The Community Archaeology Forum (CAF) enables users to create pages and upload material to gain a greater profile for their project, to share ideas with others and to start discussions about the interpretation of the material they have found. They may want to look at other projects to get ideas about how to tackle their own archaeological site, building or survey, or simply because they are interested in what others have found.

Dr Dan Hull, the CBA’s Head of Information & Communications, says that ‘CAF is a developing resource and will, in time, contain advice and guidance pages helping community archaeology projects to achieve high standards of research, fieldwork and interpretation. Useful links, suggested reading and other resources can be added. It is not, however, meant as a formal and final repository of archaeological data ─ rather, it is a forum for displaying and discussing work in progress.’

As well as viewing the CAF website, you can also follow the ‘Discussion List’ link to stay in touch with the latest events and opinions in community archaeology.

New books celebrate Catholic and Jewish heritage

Two new books from English Heritage celebrate England’s unsung and little-known Jewish and Roman Catholic heritage. Jewish Heritage in England is the work of our Fellow Sharman Kadish, Director of the Manchester University-based Jewish Heritage UK, and based on Sharman’s authoritative national survey of architecture and heritage spanning 350 years of the Jewish community in England. The full-colour book reveals more than 300 Jewish buildings and landmarks in every region ─ from Britain’s oldest synagogue, Bevis Marks in London, to Georgian Jewish cemeteries in the West Country and the High Victorian ‘cathedral synagogues’ of Birmingham, Brighton and Liverpool, as well as memorials, schools, clubhouses and Edwardian soup kitchens.

Sharman warns, however, that Anglo-Jewry has shrunk by nearly a half since the 1950s and congregations have moved away from urban centres, leaving some of the country’s most spectacular religious architecture with an uncertain future. Some historic synagogues mentioned in the book have been lost even while the book was being prepared for publication: Birmingham’s Progressive Synagogue and Clapton Federation Synagogue in London were both recently demolished for redevelopment. Clapton’s sister building, the Grade II-listed Art Deco Ryhope Road Synagogue in Sunderland, has recently closed and its future is in doubt, while Manchester’s Higher Crumpsall Synagogue is struggling to match-fund generous grant aid for urgent repairs under the English Heritage and Heritage Lottery Fund’s Joint Repair Scheme for Historic Places of Worship.

At the launch of the book, Dr Kadish said: ‘These buildings include some of the finest synagogues in Europe, especially precious because they escaped the ravages of the Second World War. They may sometimes be geographically isolated from today’s thriving Jewish communities, but they still have great value, both spiritual and cultural, in providing Anglo-Jewry with a sense of history and identity.’

Jewish Heritage in England is available for £16.99 from all bookstores and from English Heritage Postal Sales.

Roman Catholics have long felt slightly inferior in the heritage stakes to their Anglican brethren with their wonderful medieval churches and cathedrals (confiscated, of course, from the Roman Church), but A Glimpse of Heaven, celebrating the beauty and history of more than one-hundred of the finest Roman Catholic churches and cathedrals in England and Wales, is a first step towards restoring Catholic architecture to a higher state of understanding and appreciation. Written by Christopher Martin, the book illustrates the fact that Catholic buildings have a quite separate history and development of their own. Speaking at the launch, our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: ‘It is high time their treasures were recognised by the academic community and brought to a wider audience. As a group, they have been largely overlooked by architectural historians.’

The book explains how, after the Reformation, Catholic worship and the building of Catholic churches became illegal for two hundred years. The Catholic Relief Act of 1791 unleashed a surge of devotion and a huge and diverse programme of church building, resulting in dazzling chapels built by Catholic aristocrats (such as those at Wardour Castle in Wiltshire and Everingham in Yorkshire), masterpieces of sumptuous Gothic invention by such masters as A W N Pugin (St Mary’s, Derby, St Giles, Cheadle, and Birmingham Cathedral), huge ‘landmark’ churches designed to demonstrate the power and authority of Rome and the returned church (The Holy Name, Manchester, and St Walburge, Preston) and classical basilicas to rival those in Rome itself (the Oratory churches in Birmingham and London).

As with Jewish Heritage, the launch of this book was accompanied by a call to action, Simon Thurley warned that the scale of some Catholic buildings and their repair needs are such that they cannot be borne by the parish or diocese alone, and significant sums of money are needed to keep some of the finest Catholic churches in England in a good state of repair.

A Glimpse of Heaven: Catholic churches of England and Wales is published by English Heritage at £25.00. To order call: 01767 452966 or email English Heritage Postal Sales.


McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, Cambridge, Deputy Director
Salary £43,638 to £46,295; closing date 12 January 2007

Applications are invited for the post of Deputy Director of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research. The role of the Deputy Director is to support the Director in overseeing the administration and research activity of the McDonald Institute, the latter including its grant, monograph publication and conference programmes. The post-holder will be actively engaged in research in any field of archaeology and will contribute to graduate research and supervision and teaching programmes in archaeology.

Further particulars and an application form (PD18) may be obtained from Sara Harrop.