Salon Archive

Issue: 155

Forthcoming meetings

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

25 January: Bishop Roger, St John Hope and Old Sarum Cathedral, by John McNeill, 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).

New Year Honours 2007

Scouring the small print with the help of Fellows Philip Lankester and Claude Blair, Salon’s editor has so far spotted the names of four Fellows in the 2007 New Year Honours List.

John Coales has been appointed OBE for services to conservation, and especially for his work as founder, and lately chairman, of the Francis Coales Charitable Foundation. This Foundation has given very generous financial assistance to several Society of Antiquaries publishing, library and collections projects. The main object of the Foundation is ‘to assist with the repair of old buildings open to the public … preference [being] given to churches and their contents in Bucks, Beds, Northants and Herts’. These are the four counties in which Francis Coales & Son, a corn merchant's business founded by Francis Coales and his son in the latter half of the nineteenth century, once traded. In 1973, following a major fire at the company’s main mill at Newport Pagnell, the business was wound up and the proceeds used to establish the Francis Coales Charitable Foundation.

Also created an OBE is Professor Richard Bailey for services to heritage. Emeritus Professor of Anglo-Saxon Civilization at the University of Newcastle, Professor Bailey was also Chairman of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Committee for the North East until his recent retirement. Coincidentally, he is the co-author of a paper in the Antiquaries Journal 2006 on ‘A miniature Viking-age hogback from the Wirral’.

Dr John Blatchly has been created an MBE, also for services to heritage ─ especially in East Anglia, where he is Chairman of the Suffolk Records Society and former President of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History, as well as being a former member of the Heritage Lottery Fund’s East of England Committee.

Finally Dr Keith Ray has also been created an MBE for services to local government. After several years as an archaeologist in Nigeria, Keith returned to England to establish the archaeological service in Plymouth (1992─8) before moving to Herefordshire in 1998, where he is now the County Archaeologist. One of Keith’s many initiatives in a county richly endowed with archaeology has been to set up the Arrow Valley Project, which encourages farmers to get to know the archaeology on their land so that they do not damage monuments and buried remains out of ignorance.

Among non-Fellows honoured for services to heritage in this year’s list are Robert Crawford, Director-General of the Imperial War Museum (Knight Bachelor), Primrose Wilson, former Chairwoman of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Northern Ireland (CBE), Ian Carstairs, conservationist, for services to heritage in Yorkshire and the Humber (OBE), Richard Verdi, Professor of Fine Art and Director of the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, University of Birmingham, for services to art and art history (OBE), Ida McMaster, for services to archaeology in Essex (MBE), Derek Sharman, for services to heritage in Berwick-upon-Tweed (MBE), and Pearl Wheatley, Chairwoman of the Society for Lincolnshire History and Archaeology (MBE).


Anyone who tried to order a copy of A Glimpse of Heaven: Catholic churches of England and Wales, as our Fellow Jan Piggott did, will have discovered that the telephone number given in the English Heritage press release for their book sales line was wrong: the correct number is 01761 452966.

There was a much more substantial error in the last issue of Salon, in the report on free admission to DCMS-sponsored museums. The report said that national museums that once charged for entry but that are now free have seen an 83 per cent increase in numbers of visits over the last five years compared with an 80 per cent increase over the same period for those museums that have always been free. As Ben Cowell (Head of the Museums Sponsorship Unit at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport) has pointed out, the latter figure should have been 8 per cent (not 80 per cent). Ben adds: ‘I think this does in fact demonstrate that free admission has had a direct impact on attendances ─ though DCMS-sponsored museums of all kinds continue to attract record numbers of visits thanks to the exceptionally high quality of provision on offer.’

Tony Rook’s request for information on the whereabouts of the archives of the Overton Down Experimental Earthworks Project received a swift response from Peter Fowler, FSA, who was Chairman of the project from 1970 to 2000, and who was able to confirm that the project is alive and kicking thanks to the energetic efforts of Martin Bell, FSA, and that the current Chairman is Simon Hillson at the UCL Institute of Archaeology, assisted by Gill Swanton as Honorary Secretary. Peter also confirmed that the voluminous archive had recently been augmented by the discovery of an 18-minute film made by the BBC in 1960, showing how the earthwork was built, and that it was hoped the archive might eventually be indexed and housed in the National Monuments Record Centre in Swindon.

John Blair, FSA, Chris Gosden and Helena Hamerow, FSA (all of Oxford University), and Gill Hey (of Oxford Archaeology) have written as follows to provide some clarification about the proposed excavations at Dorchester on Thames which were mentioned in Salon 154. They wish to stress that, contrary to the impression given in Salon (quoting the local Herald newspaper), the project has no agenda related to mineral extraction or any other political or planning issue. Instead they say: ‘We are attempting to launch a partnership project between Oxford University, Oxford Archaeology and the local residents of Dorchester, and we hope to be able to conduct a major programme of research in and around the town. However, these are very early days and we have only just begun to develop the project with local residents, to discuss access to possible sites and to draft research proposals for funding. If we are successful, the project will focus upon archaeological and historical research into this remarkable area, a significant centre from the early prehistoric into the medieval period. It will provide training facilities, allow opportunities for joint working and sharing knowledge and expertise between academic archaeologists and those in commercial practice, and it will involve the local community in an investigation into the past of place in which they live.’

Salon’s New Year Resolution is to try to be less credulous in the face of journalistic spin: the last issue repeated the claims made in the Independent and in news agency reports that a Saxon cemetery had been found in Trafalgar Square, close to the church of St Martin-in-the-Fields, dating from AD 590 to 610. Our Fellow Taryn Nixon, Managing Director of the Museum of London Archaeology Service (MoLAS), writes to say that the truth is somewhat different.

Taryn says that: ‘most of the twenty-plus burials were probably medieval. One burial, found in a large limestone sarcophagus, was C14-dated to the late fourth or early fifth century AD. Five possible Anglo-Saxon burials included two containing high-status seventh-century AD grave goods. One was the intact burial of a man with a plain glass palm cup and a copper-alloy hanging bowl with ornate enamelled fittings at his feet; there was also a silver finger ring by the left hand. The hanging bowl contained the remains of hazelnuts. The second ─ an empty grave-shaped cut ─ had at the western end what was probably a necklace, comprising a gold cabochon pendant with blue glass setting, two amethyst beads and three opaque glass beads, along with the remains of a number of copper-alloy wire necklace rings.’

The item in Salon 154 on the proposed taxing of homes in conservation areas produced an interesting and varied response. Initial feedback chastised the editor for appearing to stray into party politics and beyond areas of legitimate interest to Salon readers, even though the aim of the piece was to say that using conservation area status as a justification for higher taxation might lead to conservation areas becoming unpopular, so that proposals for creating new areas or extending existing ones might be opposed by residents and lead to even less of our built heritage being protected.

Several Salon readers went as far as to say ‘so what if a few rich people have to pay more tax’. Replying to these comments, Salon’s editor pointed out that it was perhaps a mistake to believe that conservation areas were exclusive preserves of middle-class wealth and privilege. Many less affluent people live in conservation areas in traffic-blighted property on busy roads, in large houses converted to flats by Housing Associations, in accommodation above shops. Some conservation areas (for example, in Lancashire) consist entirely of rows of four-room houses built for mill workers, and others (for example in South Yorkshire) were built for coal miners (and are still largely occupied by retired mine workers).

But perhaps the main conclusion from the debate engendered by Salon’s report was the acknowledgement that we know so little about conservation areas, even though they are a powerful statutory means of conserving and enhancing the historic environment. Salon’s editor is not aware of any study that examines the 9,374 conservation areas (according to Heritage Counts 2005) that have been created since the passing of the 1967 Civic Amenities Act, which first introduced the principle of conservation areas. Perhaps there is a PhD thesis here waiting to be researched, looking at the scale and character (historical, architectural, demographic) of the country’s conservation areas (and asking how effective this legislation has really been in protecting the heritage from damaging change).

Our Librarian, Bernard Nurse, FSA, notes that neither of the obituaries which Salon quoted from in the last issue mentioned that Pierre Chaplais amassed a collection of more than 300 important seals from all periods during his lifetime, which he showed to his students as a teaching aid. These were donated to the Society in 2000 and our late Fellow John Goodall gave a paper on them, arranged them and identified most. Bernard adds that ‘if any Fellow would like to volunteer to finish his catalogue, I should be very pleased to hear from them’.

Referring back to the earlier discussion in Salon concerning the Rollright Stones, Bob Carr of Suffolk’s County Archaeological Service says that around two years ago he noticed large areas of white flecks in the grass ─ almost certainly representing the disposal of cremated remains. He wonders how many other archaeological sites of national importance are used in this way and whether this use might be a potential source of distortion to scientific techniques in the future. Bob also wonders whether the recent phenomenon of ‘point of death’ memorials (sad bunches of cellophane-wrapped flowers beside the road) is indicative ‘of an old and inherent urge, now unconstrained by the village churchyard, and linked to those flat Bronze-Age and Iron-Age burials dotted (seemingly) randomly across the landscape’. ‘Interesting too’, he observes, ‘that such a tradition is spread so quickly by example.’

From Andrew Pike, Fellow, comes strong support for Linda Hall’s view that England's tradition of folk song and dance is a very important part of our heritage, as was appreciated by an earlier antiquary (though never a Fellow), Sabine Baring-Gould, co-founder in 1898 with Cecil Sharp of the admirable English Folk Dance & Song Society. Andrew writes: ‘He realised the importance of our heritage (though I doubt if he used that word) of folk songs and produced Songs of the West (1890), which preserved for posterity such well-known ballads as Widecombe Fair and John Barleycorn. Maybe the time is ripe for another concerted effort to ensure our tradition of song and dance is not lost.’

The UK ratifies the European Landscape Convention

The Government marked the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the Northumberland National Park on 21 November 2006 by announcing that the UK has ratified the European Landscape Convention. Announcing the news, Barry Gardiner, Minister for Biodiversity, Landscape and Rural Affairs, said: ‘Our landscapes reflect a relationship between people and places that has evolved over centuries. Britain is already a world leader in protecting its landscapes, and the Convention is a major step forward. It will ensure that any change and development is sympathetic and appropriate to the environment.’ The Convention will come into force on 1 March 2007, and its main aim is to protect the diversity and quality of European landscapes as part of Europe’s common heritage, recognising both the cultural and the natural values linked to landscape. Further details are to be found on the Council of Europe’s website.

Search still on for a successor to Sir Neil Cossons

With his official retirement date (31 March 2007) fast approaching, our Fellow Sir Neil Cossons still does not know to whom he will hand over the Chairmanship of English Heritage. Newspapers reported just before Christmas that Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State at the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, has interviewed the two shortlisted candidates ─ Lord Marland, the Conservative Party Treasurer, and Lady Cobham, Chair of The British Casino Association ─ and found them both wanting. A spokesman for the DCMS said: ‘Although both were high-quality individuals, neither quite demonstrated the full range of criteria for the post’. Hugo Swire, Shadow Culture Secretary, said that that was code for ‘too Tory for Tessa’. The post will now be readvertised.

Two Fellows nominated for the Parliamentary Charity Champions Award

In the annual awards ceremony held at the Palace of Westminster to recognise charitable work of UK peers and MPs, two out of the four shortlisted parliamentarians in the Culture and Heritage Champions Award were Fellows: Sir Patrick Cormack, FSA, was nominated by the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and Lord Redesdale, FSA, was nominated by the Council for British Archaeology. Lord Faulkner of Worcester was nominated by the Historic Railways Association but the prize ─ presented at the awards ceremony by our Fellow Loyd Grossman ─ went to Greg Clark, MP, a very popular choice, nominated by The Association of Garden Trusts for his private member’s bill intended to remove gardens from the definition of ‘brownfield sites’ for planning and development control purposes. Though his bill was unsuccessful, Greg Clark has vowed to continue a fight that has galvanised a massive campaign of support nationally to prevent large gardens being exploited in this way.

More people visit museums than go to football

Having been told to plan for financial cuts in real terms of 7 per cent per annum from 2008, on top of the diversion of Heritage Lottery Fund money into the 2012 Olympics, national museum directors have responded to the Government by demanding parity of esteem and equity of treatment with better publicly funded sectors, such as sport or the British film industry. Their cause was boosted by a report published on 13 December by the respected analyst Tony Travers of the London School of Economics which shows that more people living in the UK have visited a museum or gallery in the last twelve months (43 per cent of the population) than attended all the football league games in the UK combined (41 per cent of the population), and that the value of the UK's major museums and galleries to the economy is £1.5 billion.

The Travers Report said the UK’s museums and galleries made a major contribution to the UK’s world leadership in creativity and scholarship ─ but would fall behind their better-funded international competitors if they continued to be slowly starved of funds. Museum and gallery income, said the report, has not risen as fast as staff and other inflationary costs and up to a third of museum displays and facilities are in need of significant renovation.

‘The agglomeration of institutions, talent and audiences in Britain has parallels in only a few other countries’, the report said. ‘Britain's museums and galleries underpin the creativity upon which future high value-added economic activity is likely to be based. However, there is a risk they will be taken for granted and not seen as the potential opportunity they represent. The only question is whether there is a national desire to deliver, maintain and expand this particularly creative sector.’

The report, Museums and Galleries in Britain: economic, social and creative impacts, was commissioned by the National Museum Directors' Conference and is available from their website.

Private buyers outbid museums for UK artworks

The scale of the funding shortfall faced by the UK’s museums and galleries was further indicated in the annual report of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest. This shows that nine objects deemed to be important pieces of British cultural heritage were saved from export at a cost of £8.3 million last year, including an Anglo-Saxon gold coin of King Coenwulf of Mercia, purchased by the British Museum for £357,832, the medieval Wenlok jug (Luton Museums Service, £750,000) and the Codex Stosch (British Architectural Library, £274,418).

This figure represents only 12 per cent by value of the works placed under temporary export bar, but eventually sold abroad. The amount of money that museums and galleries were able to raise themselves was tiny. Most of the £8.3 million was accounted for by the £6 million that Sir Peter Moores donated for a pair of Canaletto paintings depicting Ranelagh and Vauxhall Gardens, rival pleasure gardens central to London life in the eighteenth century, now in the public gallery he founded at Compton Verney. Further substantial grants and donations came from The Art Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund, and from members of the public.

Free museums policy questioned

The Travers Report also warns that there is a fundamental problem at the heart of the Government’s free admission policy to the national collections, which is ‘that it appears to condemn museums and galleries to a flow of public resources that is likely to decline in real terms’.

The whole issue of free entry to national museums has stimulated those who are not so designated to plead their cause. Roger Hanbury, Chief Executive of the Waterways Trust, for example, wrote to The Times on 15 December to say that while there are free national museums dedicated to rail, coal and maritime heritage, ‘the National Waterways Museum, which holds the national waterways collection and archive, must charge for entry and is being left behind in this cultural revolution’. Roger argues that free entry to the museum ‘would cost the Government just £450,000 a year. This modest investment would enable us to open our three sites (Gloucester, Ellesmere Port and Stoke Bruerne) to all, and based on other museums that have been in a similar situation, would double visitor numbers in two years.’

Guardians of the Theatre Museum

Campaigners hoping that the Victoria and Albert Museum will think again about the closure of the Theatre Museum have also made their voice heard: Ian Herbert and John Levitt wrote to the Guardian on 19 December, urging readers to join their organisation, called the ‘Guardians of the Theatre Museum’, whose mission is to see the creation of a national museum dedicated to the long history of the performing arts in England.

New alliance of smaller galleries

Finally, our Fellow Rosalind Savill, Director of the Wallace Collection, has joined forces with her counterparts Deborah Swallow at the Courtauld Institute Galleries and Ian Dejardin at the Dulwich Picture Gallery to promote the notion that small is beautiful and to fight what Dejardin described as ‘the blockbusteritis fostered by the national museums’. The huge crowds that attend blockbuster exhibitions have distorted Government expectations of normal visitor numbers, the group argues, so that the very creditable 52,000 people who attended an eighteen-day Wallace Collection exhibition of recent work by Lucien Freud is no longer counted as significant. At a press conference held in November 2006 to launch their new alliance of small museums, the directors stressed their role as educational institutions, as the breeding ground for the curators, keepers, academics and arts journalists of the future. ‘We are about scholarship, we’re about art history, and about making the fruits of research available to the wider world’, they proclaimed.

Berlin’s version of the Louvre shows how it might be done

In contrast to the cuts looming over the UK cultural sector, Berlin’s politicians have stated their ambition to turn the city into one of Europe’s top cultural centres ‘with a choice of museums to rival Paris’ (is it significant that Paris is seen as the model to emulate rather than London?).

The English architect David Chipperfield (designer of the award-winning River and Rowing Museum in Henley-on-Thames) is masterminding the ambitious scheme to restore the city’s Museumsinsel (Museum Island) ─ designated as a World Heritage Site in 1990 ─ by 2015 (though he himself says it might take until 2050).

One step in that plan was achieved at the end of 2006 when the imposing domed neo-baroque Bode Museum reopened, bringing together one of Europe’s most important collections of antique and Byzantine sculpture ─ some 1,700 works amassed by Wilhlem de Bode, the museum’s founder director in the late nineteenth century ─ which had been split up during the Second World War and subsequently neglected as a vestige of Prussian imperialism.

Next in line for restoration is the Neues Museum, dedicated to prehistory and early history including Berlin’s renowned Egyptian Collection, after which it will be the turn of the Pergamon Museum with its antiquity collection, Middle East museum and museum of Islamic art.

Cartographical curiosities

If Berlin is not on your immediate itinerary, consider a trip to the British Library instead to see the exhibition called London: a life in maps, curated by our Fellow Peter Barber. Interviewed by the Camden New Journal, Peter said that the 200 maps that he chose for the exhibition reveal the growth of the city but also ‘go beyond geography’ and reveal ‘what the people who made them deemed important at the time’. One of his favourites is a speculative map of Roman London created by Dr William Stuckley (after whom the street Stuckley Place is named) who was a keen archaeologist as well as being a doctor and a clergyman. ‘He was one of the first people to consider the history lying under the expanding roads and buildings of London’, Peter says. ‘He was convinced that Julius Caesar had a large camp on the site of St Pancras train station so he set out to draw a map of it. It is a good piece of work.’

Among the other maps on display are those drawn up by eighteenth-century developers and speculators with the names of new streets, one dating from 1600 for people hiring cabs to Kentish Town or Hampstead showing the route so that cab drivers could not trick them, early A to Z maps, a psychedelic panorama of Carnaby Street in 1970 from 1970 and Hollar’s famous map drawn in 1667 showing what was left of medieval London after the Great Fire.

The exhibition continues until 4 March 2007; further details are on the British Library website.

Keats House to be restored

One museum with better cause for celebration is Keats House, Hampstead, which is to receive a £424,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The money will help pay for the house to be restored to its appearance in 1818 to 1820, when Keats was resident during the most creative part of his short life. Four years of research prior to the funding bid have established the decor and layout of the Grade I-listed property where Keats wrote ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ and fell in love with Fanny Brawne, the girl next door. It was from this house that he travelled to Rome, where he died of tuberculosis in 1821, aged 25.

The house was one of the first to be built in Hampstead and was three years old when Keats moved in. Renovation is due to begin in April and to be completed by November 2009. Threatened with demolition in the 1920s, the house was saved by donations from around the world. It opened as a museum in 1925.

Heritage Lottery Fund grants for coastal World Heritage Sites

Just before Christmas, the Heritage Lottery Fund announced that £5.5 million was being allocated to two coastal heritage projects. £3 million will be used to restore Victorian Durlston Castle to create a new centre for exploring Dorset’s Jurassic Coast, inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 2001 for its sequence of rocks documenting 185 million years of life on earth. Our Fellow Sue Davies, Chair of the Culture Committee at the UK National Commission for UNESCO, welcomed the news, saying that the HLF grant will be of huge benefit in preserving the UK’s cultural heritage.

Our Fellow Mark Horton, co-presenter of BBC2’s Coast series, also welcomed as ‘fantastic news for our neglected coastal heritage’ a grant of grant of £2.26 million for work to transform Geevor Tin Mine into an industrial heritage centre telling the story of hard rock mining in Cornwall. Geevor Tin Mine is located on cliffs overlooking the Atlantic at the village of Pendeen, on the north coast of Cornwall. Recently declared a Scheduled Monument, it also forms a key part of the Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscapes World Heritage Site, inscribed in July 2006.

Three other projects will benefit from £12 million in grants. Luton’s Stockwood Park will receive £3.7 million for a Discovery centre exploring Luton’s rich pre-industrial history which dates back to its foundation in the sixth century as a Saxon outpost on the River Lea. £4.7 million (the HLF’s largest ever award in Northern Ireland) will be contributed to the £12 million redevelopment of the Ulster Museum, with new history galleries that will cover 10,000 years, from the initial populating of the Irish landscape to the present day. Finally, the HLF confirmed a grant of £3.8 million to South Marine Park in South Shields, South Tyneside, to restore this Grade-II listed Victorian seaside park to its former glory.

Wind farm threat to the Island of Lewis

Our Fellow Mark Horton is one of several archaeologists who have made known their opposition to the construction of a wind farm on the Hebridean island of Lewis. According to the BBC (whose website has a map showing the location of the wind farm and photographs of construction sites), opposition to the construction of 181 wind turbines has so far come mainly from wildlife groups led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which is concerned about the number of birds which could be killed by flying into turbines.

But Mark says the impact of the farm on the island’s archaeology could be equally damaging: ‘The whole of the interior of the island is covered by raised peat bog that can be several metres thick and that has formed since the Bronze Age. We simply do not know what lies below the blanket bog but as most of the known prehistoric monuments on Lewis (such as Callanish) were dug out of the bog in the nineteenth century, there must be the strong likelihood of a whole prehistoric landscape buried below the peat. Indeed, it is possible (although we cannot prove it) that Lewis may contain one of the most extensive and best-preserved prehistoric landscapes in Europe: numerous stone circles, burial mounds and cemeteries, settlements and houses, burnt mounds, fields and field boundaries can all be expected.’

Mark’s knowledge of the island comes from the filming that he undertook in 2006 as one of the presenters of BBC2’s Coast series. Mark adds that the threat to the archaeology comes from the need to dig massive foundations to anchor them to the bedrock, and from the construction of 167km of new access roads and 28.4km of cable trench, all of which will go through the peat to the bedrock. Construction on this scale, Mark believes, will result in hydrological changes that could well cause the whole bog to shrink and dry up.

English Heritage begins Coastal Archaeology Survey in Lincolnshire

Work being carried out by a team from Humber Archaeology, on behalf of English Heritage, aims to identify and survey historic sites on the brink of being lost to the North Sea. The project is examining 137 kilometres (85 miles) of vulnerable coastline from Whitby to Donna Nook, in north east Lincolnshire where rates of erosion have always been very high. Some thirty towns and villages are known to have been lost to the sea since medieval times, and a strip of land at least two kilometres wide has vanished since the Roman period. The area being investigated is known to contain Bronze Age burial mounds, Roman signal stations, medieval enclosures and military installations.

Many more sites await discovery. Peter Murphy, Coastal Strategy Officer with English Heritage, said that similar surveys completed in North Kent and East Anglia had yielded a nine-fold increase in records. Results from the survey will be fed into English Heritage's national Rapid Coastal Zone Assessment Survey and cover an area up to one kilometre inland. By 2010, this survey aims to have produced the most detailed picture yet of the threat posed to the nation's heritage by rising sea levels, coastal erosion and the managed realignment of coasts.

Seabed prehistory

With media experts predicting this week that the internet will render traditional TV broadcasting redundant within ten years, it is good to see Wessex Archaeology taking its archaeological outreach programme into the heart of teenagerdom, with the release of a new video animation on the cult YouTube website, designed to communicate the results of their recent research into prehistoric landscapes submerged under the English Channel.

The four-minute animation with commentary shows the Mesolithic landscape of the Arun Estuary in West Sussex, which, at the end of the last ice age, flowed a further 8 miles out than it does today. The animation shows the landscape populated with people, birds, plants and animals based on evidence gathered using Vibrocores, tubes pushed into the seabed which capture a column of sediment. That sediment includes layers of ancient soil that can be correlated to geological evidence to reconstruct the terrain and analysed for trapped seeds, pollen and mollusc shells to recreate ancient habitats.

The Seabed Prehistory project was funded through the Aggregate Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF) distributed by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and DEFRA and administered by the Minerals Industry Research Organisation (MIRO). The results of the project will inform future proposals for new aggregate dredging licences.

Doggerland ─ lost world of the Stone Age hunters

A still from the Wessex animation features on the front cover of the latest issue of Current Archaeology (No. 207, for January/February 2007) ─ though incorrectly captioned as an image of Doggerland before it was covered by the North Sea. Doggerland is, in fact, the subject of an entirely different British Archaeological Award-winning study by our Fellow Vincent Gaffney and his colleagues at Birmingham University, featured in Current Archaeology along with profiles of all the other award winners. The CA feature tells us that it was Fellow Bryony Coles who coined the term Doggerland as recently as 1998, to describe the vast and unexplored land mass that once connected the present east coast of England with northern Germany, Denmark and Norway. Vincent’s triumph is to use seismic survey data collected by geologists to turn this terra incognita into a recreation of the Holocene landscape and environment. Having got this far, Vincent says, the next big challenge is to model likely areas of Mesolithic settlement and come up with ways of testing the models.

CA’s sister publication, Current World Archaeology, is packed with stories based on Fellows’ research and holiday projects ─ in the ‘research’ category comes an account of the work of Fellows Martin Millett and Simon Keay at Portus, the Roman port at the mouth of the Tiber, and of Fellow David Miles’s work in advising archaeologists in Ghana on the conservation and tourist potential of their heritage; in the ‘holiday’ category, Fellows Tim Darvill and Yvette Staelens write engagingly about a summer spent looking at cave paintings in the Ariège region of France, complete with mouthwatering accounts of local food, in the footsteps of Glyn Daniel’s The Hungry Archaeologist in France (Faber & Faber, 1963).

But the article that Salon’s editor found most thought-provoking was a report by Josep Gibert Clols and Lluís Gibert Beotas on their work at Orce canyon and Victoria cave in south-eastern Spain, where they have found the earliest evidence so far of the hominid colonisation of Europe across the Straits of Gibraltar. This occurred some 1.3 million years ago, at a time when the sea level at this point was perhaps 100m lower than today. Not only did Homo habilis make this journey from modern-day Morocco to southern Spain, so did many different species of animals which proves, say the authors, that favourable conditions existed for such a migration in the early Pleistocene.

The Archaeologist looks at regeneration

Also just published is the winter 2006 issue of the IFA’s magazine, The Archaeologist, edited by Fellow Alison Taylor (from whom copies can be obtained). Tackling the theme of urban regeneration, Lynne Walker gives examples of her work in persuading ‘misguided’ developers not to demolish historic buildings which they perceive to have no future value, while Christopher Catling (who he? Ed) writes about the successful integration of the historic environment into the master plan for the regeneration of Gloucester. In similar vein there are case studies from places as distinctive and different as Malta and Southampton, Cadiz and Leicester, Tallinn and Woolwich, Great Yarmouth and Glasgow.

But the article that really challenges everyone’s concepts of ‘historic environment’ and ‘regeneration’ is by Jonathan Smith, Senior Archaeology Officer with Southwark Council, in which he writes about a housing estate built from 1967 to 1977 and condemned by no less a politician than Tony Blair as the kind of ‘failing estate’ that would not be tolerated under a Labour government. Here the historic environment is one that has been created within the lifetimes of the residents of the estate, about 25 per cent of whom have lived on the estate since its construction. Jonathan’s role as an archaeologist in this situation is very different from that of the stereotypical hole-digger.

His task is to work with the local community to document the estate and find out what residents think about it. A vote will eventually decide which parts of the estate will be retained within the new scheme. As Jonathan says, there is a choice ─ condemn wholesale or celebrate those parts of the estate that work, and that can be retained as an example of 1960s social housing, as an interesting example of visionary Modernist architecture, and as place with its own culture and social dynamics.

Walter Godfrey archive finds new home in East Sussex Record Office

Fellow John Farrant writes with the news that the private papers of Walter Godfrey, FSA, lovingly preserved by his family, have been deposited with the East Sussex Record Office with the help of our Fellow Christopher Whittick who managed their transfer at the recent sale of the family home. The archive comprises roughly 1,000 files and 100 large portfolios and rolls of drawings, plus further as yet unlisted material. Christopher would be pleased to hear from any Fellow with an interest in it.

John Farrant writes that: ‘Walter Hindes Godfrey (1881─1961) was one of the most notable conservation architects and architectural historians of the first half of the twentieth century. He is probably most widely known for Our Building Inheritance: are we to use it or lose it? (Faber & Faber, 1944), in which he argued that “we can solve a part at least of the most pressing post-war problems in a more practical and effective way by reconditioning and refitting our old houses than by condemning them out of hand”. This flowed from his work, since 1941, as the first Director of the National Buildings Record (now incorporated into the National Monuments Record, managed by English Heritage), and to that role he came with forty years’ experience in private practice and in preparing architectural histories for the Survey of London and the publications of the Sussex Archaeological Society. The Sussex connection dated from 1915 when he made his home in Buxted and later in Lewes, moving his office from London in 1932. He was elected FSA in 1915 and served as a vice-president in 1947─51. His son Emil (1913─82) was also a Fellow and succeeded to the architectural practice which continues today as Carden & Godfrey.

‘In Godfrey’s own view the apex of his career was completing the reconstruction of the interior of Herstmonceux Castle from 1932, which was done, in Pevsner’s word, “exemplarily”. By happy chance the Godfrey archive was transferred a few days before a reception hosted at the castle by the Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex on 26 September 2006. The reception was arranged to mark the Record Office’s acquisition, with funds raised through its Friends, of watercolour drawings of the castle made in 1776. Sir Roger Fiennes built Herstmonceux Castle in the 1440s, but the profligacy of the 15th Baron Dacre, heir to the Fiennes family, obliged him to sell in 1708 to nouveau riche George Naylor of Lincoln’s Inn. Naylor’s grandson followed Samuel Wyatt’s advice to reduce the Castle to a picturesque landscape feature by demolishing the interior. Thomas Lennard, 16th Baron Dacre and FSA was sufficiently exercised as to commission the James Lamberts of Lewes to record the building.’

John Farrant himself spoke at the reception about the Lamberts’ work and Godfrey’s, drawing attention to the key role that the Lamberts’ preliminary sketches had played in Fellow John Goodall’s recent analysis of the castle’s significance in architectural history (Burlington Magazine, August 2004).

Archaeologists in Rome uncover sketch of St Peter's dome

Salon 154 reported that a team of archaeologists working at the church of St Paul's Outside-the-Walls in Rome announced in December that they had ‘found’ the tomb of St Paul. It now appears that the tomb had never been lost; consulting various guidebooks to Rome and A N Wilson’s biography of St Paul, all agree that the tomb has been on public display to those willing to seek it out, conveniently labelled ‘Paolo Apostolo Mart’,since the nineteenth century.

With this in mind, it might be sensible to treat with some caution the same archaeological team’s announcement last week that it has now uncovered the marble floor of the sixteenth century church ─ some three feet below the nineteenth-century floor level ─ etched with a full-scale architectural drawing of the dome of St Peter’s basilica. Giorgio Filippi, an architectural historian at the Vatican, said the sketch was the work of Giacomo della Porta, who designed and constructed the dome after Michelangelo’s death. Della Porta ‘needed to do the sketch to work out his calculations’, Filippi said, ‘and the only covered place large enough for him to work in was this church’.

Vatican necropolis opens after three years’ excavation

At the Vatican itself, the construction of a new underground car park has led to the excavation of a necropolis containing some forty mausolea and over 200 burials dating from the end of the first century BC to the start of the fourth century AD. The necropolis was opened to the public in October, as part of the Vatican Museum's 500th anniversary celebrations, and can be viewed from a network of suspended steel catwalks.

Among the inscriptions is one commemorating a tabellarius (letter carrier) and another to a hortator (circus horse trainer). The epitaph of a young nobleman called Publius Caesilius Victorinus indicates his love of hunting while that of one of Nero's slaves, called Alcimus, reveals that his work included designing sets for the theatre at Pompeii. Terracotta tubes have also been uncovered, inserted into graves through which mourners could pour libations.

Brothel and villa restored to glory

Ancient Pompeii's biggest, best planned and most richly decorated brothel ─ the Lupanare (‘wolves' lair’) ─ has also been reopened after extensive restoration. Explicit wall paintings have long made this two-storey building one of the most popular attractions for tourists visiting the site. Most brothels in Pompeii occupied a single room, usually above a wine shop, but the ten-room Lupanare seems to have been purpose-built, with stone beds set into the walls of each room, and an elaborately painted upper floor reserved for better-off clients where wall paintings advertise the various specialities on offer.

Back in Rome, the Villa Torlonia, Benito Mussolini’s state residence in the 1920s, has been opened to the public after being rescued from neglect and vandalism. Built for the banker Giovanni Torlonia by the neo-Classical architect Giuseppe Valadier in 1806, the villa sits in a landscaped park alongside the ancient Via Nomentana and overlies a third- and fourth-century AD Jewish catacomb, which can now be visited as part of a new museum of the Holocaust, dedicated to the 2,000 Jews who were deported from Rome during the German occupation of 1943─4. The villa itself will now house a collection of twentieth-century Roman school paintings.

The Value of Human Remains in Museum Collections

A two-day international symposium organised by the Museum of London, to be held at the Museum in Docklands, Canary Wharf, London, on 3 to 4 March 2007, will look at the different values human remains can have to museum collections as sources of archaeological and medical information, for educational purposes and for their (often contested) cultural and community value. The aim is to reach a consensus on how the international museum community will value its unique collections of human remains into the twenty-first century.

Speakers will include Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Dr Doug Owsley (Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC), Vince Collison (Haida First Nation Community, Canada), Professor Mike Parker Pearson, FSA (University of Sheffield), Dr Rebecca Gowland (University of Durham), Dr Ken Arnold (Wellcome Trust), Stella Mason (Royal College of Surgeons), Brett Galt-Smith (Australia), Dr Salima Ikraam (American University of Cairo), Professor Thomas Schnalke (Charite Medical History Museum, Berlin), Dr Susan Legêne (Royal Tropical Institute, Amsterdam), Professor Jack Lohman, Hedley Swain, FSA, and Bill White (Museum of London).

Full details from the Museum of London website.

Books by Fellows

There has been a positive flood of books from Fellows in the last month or so, and the next issue of Salon will contain a more comprehensive round up. Here, though, are four titles to whet the appetite.

From Bryony Coles comes Beavers in Britain's Past (WARP Occasional Paper 19, Oxbow Books 2006, ISBN 1842172263, paperback, £40), an unexpectedly rich topic of research: Bryony’s book assesses the significance of beavers to the historic environment of Britain and identifies European beaver activity in the archaeological record at a number of well-known wetland sites of prehistoric date. It also looks at the human exploitation of beavers (for their fur, teeth, meat and glands) and at the evidence for their presence in place-names, carvings, illuminated manuscripts, written records and oral traditions.

Fellow Ian Stead, with co-authors J-L Flouest and Valerie Rigby, has produced Iron Age and Roman Burials in Champagne (Oxbow Books 2006, ISBN 1842170945, hardback, £50), which reports on the excavations conducted by an Anglo-French team of archaeologists between 1971 and 1982 at six Iron Age cemeteries in Champagne, France. The report describes the spatial arrangement of each cemetery and its burials, and considers the relative chronology of the series, from Hallstatt and La Tène to the Gallo-Roman period. The cemeteries are compared with other burial sites from the region, and discussed as evidence for changing funerary rituals. Specialist chapters deal with coins, pottery and petrographic analyses, glass vessels, metalwork (including weapons and jewellery), Roman artefacts, human and animal bones, and the Iron Age and Roman landscape and all pots from each burial are described and illustrated in a complete inventory at the end of the volume.

Our former President, Professor Rosemary Cramp, recently published Volume 2 of her eagerly anticipated account of the excavations at the Wearmouth and Jarrow Monastic sites, which is concerned with the description and analysis of the material remains associated with the Anglo-Saxon and medieval occupations. Now the ADS / AHDS Archaeology have announced that Appendix C to Volume 2 is available online. This lists the contexts assigned to periods before the later post-medieval and forms an integral part of this major two-volume publication, offering significant new material for researchers interested in the Anglo-Saxon and medieval periods.

Finally, Edward Chaney’s edition of Inigo Jones's Roman Sketchbook has just been published in facsimile by the Roxburghe Club. Available previously only in a rare lithographic facsimile of 1831, this is the first scholarly publication of the modest, vellum-bound notebook that Inigo Jones began as a self-improving notebook in Rome on 21 January 1614. The text has been fully reproduced in photographic facsimile and accurately transcribed by Professor Chaney for the first time. The sources of Jones's designs ─ mostly Italian prints of the sixteenth century ─ have been identified, with supporting illustrations, and in a lengthy introduction Professor Chaney explores the place the Sketchbook fills in both Jones's life and his legacy. Alas it is too late to buy this as a Christmas present, but as the boxed 8vo two-volume set, bound in purple cloth with slipcase, costs £200, perhaps saving now for next Christmas is the best strategy (for further details, see Maggs Rare Books website.


IFA Workplace Learning Bursary in Museum Education hosted by the Sussex Archaeological Society
Salary: £13,854 for 12 months full-time, or an 18-month part-time post; closing date 15 January 2007

This is an excellent opportunity to receive training in researching and developing new educational workshops in archaeology for different user groups, focusing primarily on secondary schools, but also around family activities. Full details of the post are available from

Year-end gleanings

A tale of two farmhouses: the following item caught the eye of Salon’s editor while browsing the property pages of Country Life recently: ‘The Grade-I listed Manor Farmhouse at South Wraxall, near Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, may have been a Benedictine hospice … the present owner has paved the way for its conversion to a substantial five-bedroomed house through discussions with the local district council, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) and English Heritage … initial proposals were warmly received but further discussions would be required to establish how best to convert the building in the most sympathetic manner.’

Could this be the same Manor Farmhouse, South Wraxhall, that is featured in Cornerstone, SPAB’s membership magazine, where Deputy Secretary Matthew Slocombe writes: ‘The Society was asked to consider an application for the Farmhouse’s re-use as one dwelling. This may be appropriate in principle, but the extent of alteration, lack of repair details, unsympathetic extension proposals and insufficient analysis of the fabric affected and the impact of the change made the scheme entirely unacceptable. The local planning authority’s Conservation Officer, English Heritage and others shared this view. We will be extremely surprised if the application is not refused or withdrawn.’ If that is what Country Life means by a warm reception, what mere mortal could withstand an icy SPAB blast?

Bats in the nave: SPAB’s Winter 2006 List of buildings of historical interest in need of repair and for sale describes the stunning Fenland church of All Saints Benington, which is thirteenth-century in origin, with a magnificent interior of national importance. Now in need of sympathetic alternative use (perhaps as a community, educational, social or cultural centre), the church is described as having a ‘four-bay chancel’ but a ‘six-bat nave’ ─ are those, one wonders, the relatively common pipistrelles or the rarer greater horseshoes?

Chemists serve up a festive biblical test: the Royal Society of Chemistry, our neighbours at Burlington House, took Biblical science to the Star Tavern just before Christmas asking drinkers in the well-known pub in Belgrave Mews whether they could identify some white crystals with a herby smell and bitter taste. Only one person correctly identified the substance as myrrh, the dried sap of the Commiphora myrrha tree, indigenous to Somalia and highly prized in the ancient and medieval world as an embalming agent, and ingredient of perfume, incense, cosmetics and medicines ─ not to mention one of the three gifts, with frankincense and gold, given by the Magi to the infant Jesus.

The seasonal publicity stunt was intended to mark the centenary of the discovery of the analgesic and antiseptic properties of myrrh, and to show how we are surrounded by chemistry every day ─ myrrh is used by millions in toothpaste designed for people with sensitive teeth and gums.

Planning gobbledgook: One of Salon’s goals in life is to try and communicate the key points in Government reports and consultations in lucid English. Usually this means wading through pages of jargon and obfustication to get to the core content. Salon’s editor therefore sympathises with the author of the following letter published in The Times on 18 November 2006.

‘Sir, I have just attended my first PEM (pre-examination meeting) in the new planning system. The list of abbreviations (in a document of more than fifty pages) may allow me to use less paper in making representations. There is an AAP (Action Area Plan) and a CS (Community Strategy) which is not to be confused with the important Core Strategy (no abbreviation). There are Development Plan Documents (DPDs), and a Local Development Document (LDD) — the collective term for DPDs, Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs) and the Statement of Community Involvement (SCI). There is then the Local Development Framework (LDF) — the portfolio of LDDs, consisting of DPDs, SPDs, the SCI, the LDS (Local Development Scheme) and Annual Monitoring Reports (AMRs).

‘The LDS is to be prepared by all Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) for the Secretary of State (no abbreviation is suggested) to approve. The Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) or, in London, the Spatial Development Strategy (SDS), sets out the regional policies. There is a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA). I have omitted one of the most complex aspects of the Examination of a Core Strategy, namely the nine tests of “soundness” against which these various documents have to be assessed (one of which relates to coherence).’ Denys Franzini, Havant, Hants.

French values: the declared mission of France 24, the newly launched French news channel, is to offer an alternative view of the world ‘through the prism of French values’. Alain de Pouzilhac, the President of France 24, explained that the three principal French values that will be expressed by the channel are ‘an insistence that the world is culturally diverse, a love of argument and debate and programmes reflecting the French art de vivre’. Salon’s editor cannot help thinking that this is a perfect summary of the values espoused by Salon itself, and probably by the Society of Antiquaries in general and by most of the Fellowship — and if aspiring to the French art de vivre remains more of an aspiration than an actuality, perhaps 2007 will be different. On that note Salon’s editor wishes all readers a happy New Year and a productive year to come.