Salon Archive

Issue: 159

Forthcoming meetings

1 March: Rocks, plants and antiquity: Sir Joseph Banks in Wales 1763─73, St David’s Day lecture, by Dai Morgan Evans, FSA. This meeting is now fully booked.

15 March: Ballot

22 March: Private view for Fellows of the Society's special exhibition at the British Antiques Dealers Association Fair, Duke of York Square, London SW1.

19 April: Joint meeting with the Kent Archaeological Society on the occasion of its 150th anniversary; Canterbury Archaeological Trust lecture on the Whitefriars excavations.

25 April: Anniversary Address

Online ballot: 15 March 2007

The Blue Papers for the ballot to be held on 15 March 2007 are now online on the balloting page of the Society’s website. Contact Christopher Catling if you would like a password or have forgotten your existing password.

Results of ballot held on 22 February 2007

The Society is very pleased to welcome the following new Fellows who were all elected in the ballot held on 22 February 2007:

Timothy G Allen, Martin Cherry, Henry James Griffin Russell, Edith Margaret Evans, Bruce Edward Christopher Coplestone-Crow, Rebecca Sweetman, Dáibhí Iarla Ó Cróinín, Alan Garner, Jussi-Pekka Taavitsainen, Rebecca Helena Jones, Martin Brown, Neil MacGregor, Victor Grey, Richard John Hunter Pearce, Roy Malcolm Friendship-Taylor, Henry William Hawkes, Christopher Robert Wilson, Joanna Mary Brück, David William Dawson, Kevin Blockley, Donald Clifford Gray, Robert Alexander Frederick Francis-Xavier Ixer, Claudine Marcelle Reine Dauphin and Michael Walker.

Missing Fellows

Staff at the Society would be grateful for any news of the current whereabouts of the following Fellows, whose post has been returned to the Society: Ms Elizabeth A Healey, FSA, whose last known address was Ashburne Hall, Old Hall Lane, Manchester; Dr John B Post, FSA, of The Old Guildhall, The Square, Axbridge, Somerset; and Dr John G L Cole, FSA, previously of 128 Tamworth Road, Sutton Coldfield. If you can help locate any of these Fellows, please send an email to Giselle Pullen.

Obituaries

The Society has been informed of the recent deaths of Terrence Alan James, FSA, and (Mary) Grace Simpson, FSA. Terrence specialised in aerial survey and associated computer applications, and was born in Carmarthen, where he lived most of his life, researching and publishing archaeological and topographical surveys of the town and the county, its rivers and coastline. Grace was famed for her work at Hadrian’s Wall, embracing pottery studies, military metalwork and mills. Her most recent work, Roman Weapons, Tools, Bronze Equipment and Brooches from the Neuss─Novaesium Excavations 1955─1972, was published in 2000 as BAR International Series volume 862. Salon hopes to publish fuller tributes to both in future issues.

On 20 February, the Independent published a tribute contributed by our Fellow Ronald Lightbown for our late Fellow Peter Kai Thornton, who died on 8 February 2007, at the age of eighty-two. Peter Thornton’s career as an art historian and museum curator took him from the Fitzwilliam Museum (1950─2) to the National Art Collections Fund as joint Secretary (1952─4), then to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Department of Textiles (1954─62), the Department of Woodwork (1962─6) and finally to the Department of Furniture and Woodwork (1966─84) as Keeper; from there, Peter spent the final eleven years of his career as Curator of Sir John Soane's Museum (1984─95).

Ronald Lightbown describes him as ‘a star even amongst the brilliant galaxy of curators who transformed the collecting, the display and the scholarship of the Victoria and Albert Museum’, and Salon makes no apology for publishing the entire obituary because of the insights they give into the history of curatorship, and Peter Thornton’s part in it, at two great London museums.

‘The Edwardians had divided the museum among six departments, using technique as their principle of division ─ so that the collections were, so to speak, divided vertically by material, rather than horizontally by period. The result was to create a museum staff of specialists in the decorative arts of an intensity of expertise which in many other museums and galleries is the established privilege only of painting, and which gave the V&A a unique international reputation for connoisseurship and scholarship in its fields.

‘The inter-war years were a period of impoverishment for the museum ─ one annual grant for purchases in the 1930s was said to have been £1,500 (spent on the library). After the Second World War, the task of returning and exhibiting the collections fell on the Director, Sir Leigh Ashton, who fought an amazingly unscrupulous battle with the Ministry of Education to get the galleries redecorated and fit for the public to visit.

‘He took a major decision that was to alter the display of the museum collections and to affect the work of the departments profoundly. The Department of Architecture and Sculpture and the Department of Furniture and Woodwork were charged with assembling, mainly on the ground floor, what were regarded as the finest objects in the museum collections and arranging them by period in what were called Primary Galleries. The departmental collections were kept upstairs in what were mistakenly labelled Study Collections, disguising (to their injury) under a dreary didactic name the beauty and interest of the objects they contained.

‘The pre-war curatorial staff was once said to be divided into those who worked hard and never travelled, and those who never travelled. Peter Thornton's own enthusiasm for art had been first kindled by the Baroque churches he saw in Carinthia, where he was stationed at the end of the war: they ended his projected career as an aeronautical engineer. The post-war curatorial staff of the V&A adopted almost universally an international approach to the appreciation and study of the museum's extraordinarily wide-ranging collections.

‘The difficulties of scholarship in the decorative arts are not generally understood. The only relatively well-documented arts are those of architecture, sculpture and painting. In many of the other arts represented in the museum documentation is very uneven, rich for some celebrated state or princely manufactures, elsewhere often scanty or non-existent, especially in the central question of design. Much has to be reconstructed over many years from chance records, from inventories and from scattered references. Both progress and publication can be slow.

‘After the First World War, moreover, the great wave of European nineteenth-century art research and scholarship in the decorative arts, much of it French, had subsided into feeble ripples, accompanied in Britain by the rise of arbitrary aesthetic canons that condemned the Rococo and Art Nouveau and damned the entire Victorian age.

‘With some difficulty the Regency, largely due to one or two perceptive scholars, established a place for itself in an orthodoxy that, into the 1950s, favoured the 1830s as a terminal date in the arts. Even William Morris had to retrieve a revival masterminded by Peter Flood and the Circulation Department of the museum, one of the major revolutions of taste instigated by the new museum generation.

‘It was into this world of reorganisation and revival that Thornton came in 1954, with an open eye, a creative flair and an inexhaustible capacity for work. After Bryanston he had gone to the Havilland Aeronautical Technical School - to the end he enjoyed working with his hands - and then, after service with the Intelligence Corps in Austria, went up to Trinity, Cambridge. He served a voluntary apprenticeship to museum work in the Fitzwilliam, and then in 1952 took a post with the National Art Collections Fund, where its chairman the Earl of Crawford and Balcarres supplemented a small salary with the occasional crumpled £5 note.

‘Peter Kai Thornton was born in 1925, the son of a distinguished scientist, Sir Gerard Thornton, and a Danish mother, Gerda (daughter of Kai) Nørregaard. His Scandinavian heritage was very important to him. It gave him a strict Nordic sense of duty and under a quiet English exterior a Nordic emotional warmth. It also gave him a knowledge and understanding of German, Dutch and Scandinavian arts that was unique in Britain, and a feeling for the importance of design at a time when modern Scandinavian design was in high vogue in Britain.

‘He first joined the Department of Textiles, where he worked with Natalie Rothstein on Spitalfield silks and produced in 1965 his Baroque and Rococo Silks, still a standard work. Already however, in 1962, he had moved to the Department of Furniture and Woodwork, first as Assistant Keeper, becoming Keeper in 1966.

‘His predecessor, Delves Molesworth, though furniture and woodwork were not the subjects of his choice, had taken two initiatives important for the future of furniture studies - encouragement of the Furniture History Society and the foundation of an archive of photographs. Thornton fostered both of these. Molesworth had begun the rearrangement of the furniture galleries in a more decorative style ─ his introduction of artificial flowers shocked some museum sensibilities ─ but his underlying conception of rooms arranged by period was to be developed by Thornton with flair and with a rigorousness of scholarship based on documents and pictorial evidence that suddenly gave a new and very influential authenticity to his displays as well as a fresh attractiveness.
‘The department had acquired responsibility for three great houses in London and in its environs, Ham House, Osterley Park and, later, Apsley House. Ham House had long been recognised as a sleeping beauty, still pervaded by the atmosphere of the later 17th century. It also possessed early inventories, which made possible a deeper understanding of what should be done to preserve and enhance its unique charm, and the administration of it was formative in Thornton's philosophy of authenticity of display and interpretation. His researches into the house were embodied in The Furnishing and Decoration of Ham House (1980, with Maurice Tomlin). His training in textiles led him to pioneer the study of early upholstery, opening yet another avenue along which others have since followed.

‘In the museum itself he saw display in the Primary Galleries as the main work of his department, and the study of interior decoration as one of its functions. He was virtually the founder of the scholarly study of interior decoration, establishing it as an exact historical science, and giving it prominence as a master art in the evolution of the arts it employs, from architecture to painting and the arts of furnishing.

‘His influence, which became great, was disseminated through a series of groundbreaking works: Seventeenth-Century Interior Decoration in England, France and Holland (1978); Authentic Decor: the domestic interior 1620─1920 (1984), which became an interior decorator's manual; and, perhaps the crown of his work in the field, The Italian Renaissance Interior 1400─1600 (1991).

‘Although now in Woodwork, he kept his interest in costume and the new Costume Gallery he designed with the Textiles Department made a sensation and entranced the public. He was distressed by the state of the musical instruments collection, which by its nature requires special conditions and care, and it was a matter of pride to him that he was able to have it restored and exhibited, and the instruments themselves once more played, then a major innovation.

‘During Thornton's years as Keeper, he assembled around him a team of young enthusiasts and volunteers whom he inspired with his enthusiasm, energy and dedication. Realising that museum assistants, the lowest grade of the curatorial hierarchy, contained graduates and non-graduates of potential talent, he encouraged them to make themselves authorities on aspects of the department's work. Under his aegis, for instance, the late Clive Wainwright became a noted authority on the Victorian age. His Deputy and Assistant Keepers, Desmond Fitzgerald, FSA, Simon Jervis, FSA, and John Hardy, FSA, all made reputations under his encouraging regime.

‘In 1984, as he was nearing 60, it so happened that the two highly distinguished but very elderly curators of Sir John Soane's Museum, Sir John Summerson and Dorothy Stroud, celebrated historians of English architecture and landscape gardening, were now retiring, and Thornton successfully applied for the curatorship.

‘The Soane museum was the very personal creation of a great architect who was also a collector of exceptional taste and flair, and had arranged the interiors of the house he bequeathed to the nation with a Romantic sense of the modulation of light within them and an arrangement of furnishings, paintings and objects which sets them off to perfection and in always harmonious relationship. The museum also houses Soane's own archive, library and collection of drawings.

‘When Thornton took it over, it was in a highly dangerous if poetic state of atmospheric charm that concealed the underlying need for a thorough programme of restoration and conservation. This he undertook with the same skill, knowledge and dedication that he had shown at the V&A, steadily supported by the trustees and their chairman, the Duke of Grafton.

‘He soon discovered the richness of authentic information about the house to be found in its archives, and based his programme on what they revealed. Money, the origin of the problem, he raised with the generous help of the architectural profession and of private and co-operative donors - he had the enviable advantage of seeking financial help for a self-evidently beautiful house requiring projects on not too large a scale. Again he recruited gifted and dedicated assistants, notably his successor Margaret Richardson, and Helen Dorey. Together they saw to the improved recording and cataloguing of the collections and to the opening of a small but very elegantly designed exhibition room.

‘After 10 years Peter Thornton left the Soane a renovated, conserved and reawakened national treasure. His achievement was recognised on his retirement by his appointment as CBE. His last work was to provide in 1998, in Form and Decoration in the Decorative Arts, 1470─1870, the sort of manual that he felt would have helped him as a young man.’

Feedback

Morris dancing has featured in Salon on several occasions recently, but how many of its fans are aware that it was one of the very earliest of English exports to America? When Sir Humphrey Gilbert set sail to lay claim to Newfoundland in 1583, the crew included ‘Morris dancers, Hobby horse, and many like conceits to delight the Savage people’. This insight comes from A New World: England’s first view of America, a compellingly readable new book by our Fellow Kim Sloan published to accompany the forthcoming British Museum exhibition of the same name (which will open on 15 March).

Whether the ‘Savages’ were impressed is open to doubt: six of the exhibition’s seventy watercolour depictions of the New World painted by John White after his voyages to Virginia (now North Carolina) in the 1580s can be seen on the British Museum website. Clicking on the bottom right picture will reveal an animated scene (part of which is shown on the left) proving that the Algonquian people had their own form of dance far wilder and far more deeply symbolic than anything contemporary European Morris dancers could offer.

Memory can play tricks: despite being the author of the guidebook that millions of visitors to Florence use to tour the city’s key sights (Eyewitness Florence and Tuscany), Salon’s editor nevertheless managed to place Leonardo da Vinci’s great lost fresco, the Battle of Anghiari, on the ceiling of the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence ─ where, no matter how hard we look, it will never be found, because it was in fact designed for the walls of the vast Sala dei Cinquecento (the meeting room of the Rupublican Council of Five Hundred). Vasari’s paintings, depicting Duke Cosimo I’s victories over rival Tuscan cities, do indeed cover the ceilings as well as the walls, but, as Fellow Peter Draper points out, Leonardo and Michelangelo were each commissioned to decorate one of the long walls with scenes from the battles of Cascina and Anghiari.

Fellows who tried to sign the ‘No VAT on listed buildings’ petition on the Downing Street website last Monday found that they were unable to access the site. It soon transpired that this was not an attempt to keep heritage dissent under control ─ rather it was a consequence of the sheer weight of people visiting the site to add their name to the anti-road pricing petition that had been publicised on news programmes earlier in the day. Anyone who gave up then, but wants to try again can click here to go the petition page.

Salon 158 wrongly reported that the book by Paul Arthur, FSA, on the Byzantine and Turkish archaeology of the Hierapolis─Pamukkale World Heritage Site was only available in Italian and Turkish, but there is an English-language version too, a copy of which Paul has donated to the Society’s Library.

Some weeks ago Salon highlighted the plight of God's House Tower Museum in Southampton, and concern that it might be closed as a result of local authority budget cuts: the good news is that the Council met last week to set its budget, and the closure of the Museum of Archaeology was dropped from its proposals. Staff at the museum are delighted at the support they received and say that the decision to keep it open must have been influenced by the scale of national and local lobbying ─ the result is that the museum is safe for another year at least.

Salon also reported recently on budget cuts at the British Library which, if implemented, could lead to the introduction of charges and the end to many of the library’s public services. In response to a huge wave of public concern, the library is setting up a supporters’ forum and a newsletter to keep people informed of developments (see the BL website).

One supporter ─ Joanna Bryant ─ has also registered a petition on the Downing Street website. This says: ‘We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to keep the British Library FREE of charge to users! Don't cut its budget!’. The deadline to sign up by is 7 June 2007 and there are already in excess of 10,000 signatures.

English Heritage funding: more cuts to come

Regular readers of Salon will remember that the Government has in the past given ambiguous answers to the question of whether English Heritage funding is increasing or decreasing in real terms (after inflation is taken into account) and whether it is being treated equably by comparison with the museums and arts sectors. In order to obtain a clear and unambiguous answer, Paul Holmes, Liberal Democrat Shadow Culture Secretary, used a parliamentary question on 5 February to ask for the figures for the last ten years comparing the grant-in-aid received by English Heritage, the Arts Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council. This showed that the funding for English Heritage had risen from £105 million in 1997 to £129 million today, an increase in ten years of £24 million, or some 24 per cent. During that ten-year period, the UK index for underlying inflation has risen from 153 to 196, or some 28 per cent, so in real terms EH funding is less today than it was ten years ago.

By contrast, Arts Council funding over the same period has risen from £187 million to £409 million, an increase of 218 per cent, while the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) has seen its grant-in-aid rise from £9 million to £44 million, or 488 per cent. No doubt there are good reasons for these large increases, but the contrast is stark.

But these figures are historic and worse is to come: staff at English Heritage were informed on 5 February that the Executive Board had agreed a package of efficiency savings of £3.65 million, of which £3.35 million would come from cuts to functions and budgets, leading to a number of immediate redundancies, and a restructuring of top management, allied to a more demanding income target from the organisation’s visitor services arm.

EH also announced publicly that it could no longer afford to stage the hugely popular summer concert series held annually in the grounds of Kenwood House in north-west London. Our Fellow, Simon Thurley, English Heritage’s Chief Executive, said: ‘This is a very sad day for Kenwood as well as for all the people who enjoy coming to a beautiful setting to enjoy music on a summer’s evening. The concerts have been running for fifty-five years and have given huge pleasure to hundreds of thousands of people.’ The EH statement went on to say that the concert series was no longer financially viable since new licence conditions were imposed: ‘It costs English Heritage £1.8 million a year to run Kenwood House and in spite of money raised from donations and commercial activity we still lose £1.1 million per annum.’

Discussing EH funding cuts last week at a meeting of the All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group, MPs and peers agreed that a campaign should be launched to highlight the contrast in treatment between the heritage and other Government-funded sectors. Several members of APPAG expressed concern that EH had, as part of its package of efficiency measures, cut £800,000 from the Historic Environment Enabling Programme (HEEP), which is the budget through which English Heritage commissions strategic research, including contributions to hundreds of small but essential archaeological investigations. Members feared that EH might be tempted to make further cuts in years to come by reducing its grants to voluntary sector heritage groups. Through the work undertaken by the Council for British Archaeology, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and other voluntary bodies, the Government gains an expert and active service to support the statutory designation system, at a fraction of its true economic cost. Now even that minimal funding could now be under threat.

Funding for repair of England's cathedrals doubled

An earlier round of cuts in Government funding meant English Heritage was forced to reduce its funding for cathedral repair projects to just £1 million in 2004. Now, however, English Heritage has been able to announce a new partnership with the Wolfson Foundation that will reinstate pre-2004 levels of funding and double individual grant thresholds so helping cathedrals to undertake larger repair projects. This year’s grants, totalling £1.6 million, will be used for a range of projects from masonry repairs at Hereford and Salisbury to the restoration of a Pugin reredos at Leeds.

Our Fellow Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage, said: ‘I am delighted we have been able to double the amount available for the repair of these remarkable and hugely important buildings by pooling our resources with the Wolfson Foundation ─ a major grant-making charity with which we have worked closely and productively in the past on other areas of the heritage.’

Paul Ramsbottom, Executive Secretary of the Wolfson Foundation, said: ‘These are buildings that lift the spirits: monuments that speak to each succeeding generation. They remain central to our country’s history. It has been a particular pleasure again to work with English Heritage, and we have benefited greatly from their expertise. The impact of the two organisations working together is greater than the individual parts.’

The English Heritage Cathedral Grants scheme has been running since 1991 when a survey showed that the country’s sixty-one cathedrals were facing a huge backlog of major repairs that they could not fund alone. Since then the scheme has contributed a total of £43.4 million towards works to overcome that backlog. The focus of the new joint scheme remains on necessary major structural repairs to maintain that good condition, although other work such as archaeological and metric surveys, access audits, conservation plans and the installation of fire detection systems is also eligible.

For further information, see the English Heritage website.

Export bar placed on Neolithic jadeite axe-head

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has placed a temporary export bar on a jadeite Neolithic axe-head that once formed part of the collection of Lt-General Augustus Pitt Rivers. The export bar is designed to provide a last chance for the sum of £24,000 (excluding VAT) to be raised to keep the axe-head in the United Kingdom. Export permission is deferred until 20 April and this period may be extended until 20 July if a serious offer to purchase the axe-head at the recommended price is received.

The Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, run by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the axe-head is so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune, of outstanding aesthetic importance and of outstanding significance for the study of Neolithic Britain.

Further information can be found on the DCMS website.

PARN report on IFA / IHBC marriage

The Institute of Field Archaeologists has decided to publish the contents of the report jointly commissioned by the IFA and the Institute of Historic Buildings Conservation on the pros and cons of closer working between the two Institutes, up to and including the possibility of a merger.

Produced by the Professional Associations Research Network (PARN), the Stage 1 report contains feedback from a survey of stakeholders aimed at gathering views on the archaeology and building conservation disciplines and the two Institutes. This makes fascinating reading because it shows that even within two such closely allied groups, many of whom who share offices and functions within local government, there are fundamental differences in understanding about the meaning of ‘the historic environment’ and deep professional divisions about the deployment of resources.

The IFA’s Council says that it had not intended to release this first report as ‘it is a working document that does not yet include any analysis or recommendations, nor was it intended to’. However, the report has been issued to many IHBC members and so the Council has concluded that ‘it is only fair that IFA members should see it too’. The IFA’s statement goes on to say that: ‘comments on the observations and opinions that comprise this report are welcome, but members may wish to wait until there are clear proposals for them to consider ─ which we hope will be available in late March.’ That stage two report will be based on discussions between the two Institutes ‘with recommendations on ways forward, looking at options ranging from maintaining the status quo to full merger.’

The first stage PARN report can be downloaded from the IFA’s website.

Is this a disguised attack on London’s listed buildings?

Faced with a common enemy it really is time to bury differences: Ken Livingstone’s London Assembly has just launched an investigation into listed buildings in public ownership. This looks like a thinly disguised attack on the concept of designation, because it seeks to examine the impact of listing in relation to ‘the delivery of public services’. The Assembly’s press release announcing the investigation offers the view that listed buildings should only be protected from damaging interference so longs as there is no impact on the ‘ability of public bodies to deliver a service fit for the 21st century’ ─ no matter what the law might say and no matter that ‘the delivery of public services fit for the 21st century’ is a vague and malleable concept compared with the clearly defined statutory duties of local authorities in relation to listed buildings.

For a local authority to seek to undermine, rather than uphold, the concept of listing is bad enough, but the inquiry ─ to be led by Tony Arbour, Chairman of the Assembly’s Planning and Spatial Development Committee ─ will also ask ‘Should the Mayor of London have a role in the management and protection of listed buildings?’ ─ which again looks like a challenge to the status quo and an attempt to usurp the roles of English Heritage and the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Announcing the inquiry, Tony Arbour told the press: ‘Publicly owned listed buildings are important landmarks and features of the townscape and give local identity. But, it can be difficult to manage and operate these buildings within the constraints imposed by listing. We want to ensure that they continue to have a useful life.’

The full press release can be seen on the London Assembly website.

English Heritage consultation on Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance

Perhaps the members of the London Assembly inquiry committee should be asked to read the second draft of Conservation Principles, Policies and Guidance, which English Heritage has just published. This new draft takes account of feedback on the first draft of the Principles, published in 2005. Full details can be found on the EH website and there is a closing date of 11 May 2007 for responses.

Writing in the Foreword to the revised Principles our Fellow Sir Neil Cossons says that ‘our main purpose in producing these Principles, Policies and Guidance for the sustainable management of the historic environment is to strengthen the credibility and consistency of decisions taken and advice given by English Heritage staff, but our success will also be measured by the extent to which they are taken up by the sector as a whole. Over time, we hope that the document will help to create a framework for managing change in the historic environment that is clear in purpose, and transparent and sustainable in its application.’

Help solve the puzzle of the posy ring

Our Fellow Mark Hall, History Officer at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, is hoping that Fellows will be able to help solve a puzzle. He is seeking suggestions as to the meaning of a love message engraved on the inner face of a post-medieval posy ring that has been allocated to Perth Museum and Art Gallery under Scottish Treasure Trove law. Found by detectorist Mr J Crombie in the Kinnesswood area of Perth and Kinross, it consists of a plain, slightly distorted, gold band, 16.7mm in diameter, weighing 1.55gm. If worn on the finger it would fit a juvenile or the little finger of a woman, though it might equally have been worn on a chain, or sewn into clothing or worn on a toe. The inner face of the hoop bears an inscription composed of the words and symbols shown above.

This is clearly a love token but the precise meaning remains elusive and any suggestions that Fellows might have about the meaning or of parallel examples would be most welcome. Mark can also supply photographs by email.

Launch of website to support the Dealing in Cultural Objects (Offences) Act 2003

A new website has just been launched ─ called Cultural Property Advice ─ to help people buying and selling art, antiques and antiquities to stay within the law. Funded by the DCMS (Department of Culture, Media and Sport), the MLA (Museums, Libraries and Archives Council) and the MDA (Museum Documentation Association), the site sets out what the law requires of individuals and business to ensure that they collect, buy and sell, import and export objects and works of art legally and legitimately.

It also carries news concerning stolen and illicitly traded objects, and it has a series of checklists and fact sheets detailing the sorts of questions that buyers need to ask before making a decision to purchase art, antiques and antiquities. Different sections of the website are aimed at the trade (dealers and auction houses), private individuals and those who buy on behalf of public collections, including museums, libraries and archives.

Twentieth-century Society campaigns to halt destruction of Thorpeness …

The Twentieth-century Society (whose trustees include our Fellows Bridget Cherry and Gavin Stamp) is objecting to plans to demolish Barn Hall, the neo-Tudor former estates office located at the heart of the village of Thorpeness, in Suffolk. This key building, which is now operating as a café, is to be replaced with three new residential units — a development which the Society says is the latest in a recent run of proposals threatening the unique character of a magical place.

Thorpeness, says the Society, is a unique fantasy holiday village on the Suffolk coast themed on Peter Pan, with an artificial lake and islands with cannons, Peter Pan’s and Wendy’s hideouts and a crocodile. Founded in 1909, it was an early precursor to such themed resorts such as Disneyland. Further details of the campaign (with pictures) can be found on the Society’s website.

… and to keep public sculpture public

In a separate campaign, the Twentieth-century Society has teemed up with the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association to object to the proposed removal and sale of Dame Elisabeth Frink’s Desert Quartet group of four bronze heads, which have become a familiar local landmark outside the Montague shopping centre in Worthing. Desert Quartet was specially commissioned in 1985 as a condition for granting planning consent for the building of the Montague Shopping Centre; the planning permission stated that the sculptural group should be ‘permanently placed’ at the site. The Avon Group, owners of the Montague Centre, has now announced its desire to remove the heads, which could fetch a multi-million pound sum if sold.

Catherine Croft, Director of the Twentieth-century Society, said: ‘There is a principle at stake here. Where sculpture is installed as a condition of a planning consent we want to make sure that it stays in place. The intention was that the Frink heads should bring pleasure to the public permanently. Public sculptures should stay where they belong ─ in full view of the public.’

Jo Darke, Director of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, which campaigns for public art at risk, said the Worthing case was one example of many where sculpture was at risk from neglect, theft, vandalism or sale. Of the Avon Group’s offer to replace the Frink statues with new works of art, she said: ‘the PMSA vigorously supports new public sculpture of good quality, but never at the expense of a unique example such as Desert Quartet

Cold weather link to Neanderthals' demise

A paper in Quaternary Science Review, by Professor Clive Finlayson, of the Gibraltar Museum, and Francisco Jimenez-Espejo, of the University of Granada, Spain, argues that cold weather drove Neanderthals to extinction, some 24,000 years ago, rather than genocide or competition with Homo sapiens. The authors have studied sediment cores drilled from the sea bed near the Balearic Islands, which show that the average sea-surface temperature fell to 8C (46F), compared with modern-day sea-surface temperatures in the same region of 14C (57F) to 20C (68F). This climate downturn was accompanied by a drought, evidenced by decreasing amounts of river water running into the sea, placing pressure on the supplies of fresh water and killing off the animals that Neanderthals hunted.

Professor Finlayson told the BBC that the cold snap they traced in the sediment record was ‘pretty severe and also quite short’, and that the cause of the chill might have been cyclical changes in the Earth’s position relative to the Sun, the so-called Milankovitch cycle. The result was a rare combination of freezing polar air blowing down the Rhone valley blocked by Saharan air blowing north, which cooled this part of the Mediterranean.

The authors argue that the small groups of Neanderthals who survived in southern Iberia, sheltered from the worst effects of cold weather in northern Europe, succumbed when conditions deteriorated further, about 24,000 years ago. This would help explain why Gorham's Cave on Gibraltar shows evidence of occupation by groups of Neanderthals until 24,000 years ago but not thereafter.

However, in a separate study published in the journal Geobios, Jose Carrion and Santiago Fernandez Jimenez, from the University of Murcia, say that sediments from the Carihuela cave contain Neanderthal tools dating from 45,000 years ago until 21,000 years ago, suggesting a later date for the survival of Neanderthals in south-east Spain. Professor Carrion told BBC News that these dates might not contradict the evidence for earlier extinction because they are based on material ‘recovered in different excavation campaigns over fifty years … the dates I provide must be treated with caution’, he said.

Tracing the first Americans

A challenge has arisen to the ‘Clovis-first’ model for the peopling of America, which theorises that the first migrants belonged to the Clovis culture — hunter-gatherers with distinctively shaped spear points first found in Clovis, New Mexico. Crossing into northern America roughly 13,000 calendar years ago via the land bridge linking Siberia and Alaska, they dispersed to carry the Clovis culture as far as southern America within a 1,000-year period.

The new study (published in the 23 February issue of the journal Science) counters this orthodoxy by re-evaluating the age of Clovis artefacts, many of which were dated in the 1960s and 1970s using carbon-dating techniques that are now obsolete. Michael Waters, of Texas A&M University in College Station, and geochemist Thomas Stafford Jr, of Stafford Research Laboratories in Boulder, Colorado, have now re-dated the artefacts using accelerator mass spectrometry, which delivers more precise dating results. Clovis technology turns out to be younger than previously thought — 13,100 years old, rather than 13,600 — and to have lasted only 200 to 350 years ─ too short a time for people to make the 14,000-kilometre journey to the southern tip of the Americas using prevailing models of migration and dispersion. Instead, Michael Waters believes that Clovis culture spread through a pre-existing population.

C Vance Haynes of the University of Arizona, Tucson, who has studied Clovis culture for more than forty years, said that the findings were important but pointed out that finds from some of the oldest Clovis sites (such as the Aubrey site in Texas) had been excluded because of concerns that the samples might have been contaminated. He also believes that Clovis people, driven by curiosity and an abundance of game, would have spread rapidly to infiltrate the Americas. ‘This is exploration of a new world by a fairly sophisticated group’, says Haynes. ‘I don't believe people who say it takes hundred of years for this culture to spread.’

Michael Waters argues instead that: ‘We need to stop thinking of the peopling of the Americas as a single event … instead I think we need to start thinking of the peopling of the Americas as a process with people arriving at different times, taking different routes and coming from different places in northeast Asia.’

Native American populations share gene signature

Another study published last week in Biology Letters adds further complexity to the picture, by suggesting that Native Americans can all trace their ancestry to a common founding population. Kari Schroeder, of the University of California in Davis, sampled the genes from 1,500 people ─ including people from eighteen Native American populations ─ and compared them to samples from populations all over Asia, including Siberia and Japan. They found a high prevalence of the 9RA gene among native populations of North and South America. Two populations in eastern Siberia, where the Bering land bridge once connected Asia to North America, also tested positive for the 9RA sequence, but it did not appear in any of the other Asian populations examined in the study, including those from other parts of Siberia, from Mongolia or Japan.

Jeffrey Long, at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, who also contributed to the new study, said that the evidence pointed to the existence of a founding population but did not rule out the possibility of multiple migrations potentially occurring thousands of years apart.

Barley domesticated at least twice

As in the human realm, so in the plant world: evidence that barley has undergone domestication more than once is published this week in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Archaeologists have long debated whether the Neolithic barley found at sites around Central Asia all came from one founder crop, or whether barley was domesticated at different times and in different places independently. To find out, evolutionary biologists Peter Morrell and Michael Clegg of the University of California, Irvine, have compared the DNA from ancient barley with that of wild barley growing in the same region. They looked at barley from 10,500-year-old deposits in the Fertile Crescent (stretching from the Nile to the Tigris and Euphrates), and from 9,000-year-old deposits from sites between 1,500 and 3,000 kilometres further east in Central Asia. They found in all cases a much closer match between the domesticated barley and its local wild version than between the domesticated strains, suggesting that the 9,000-year-old deposits had been independently domesticated and were not descended from the Fertile Crescent ‘founder crop’.

Archaeobotanist George Willcox of the National Center for Scientific Research in Lyons, France, says that the paper demonstrates that the origins of agriculture ‘are far more complex than the simplistic view of a single event’.

On the origin of the Etruscan civilisation

Another origin puzzle has been investigated tangentially: the mystery of where the ancient Etruscans came from might have been solved studying the genes of the famous white Tuscan and Umbrian cattle, valued in Roman times as sacrificial animals and today as the source of steak Florentine.

Having analysed DNA in modern herds of cattle in the north, south and central regions of Italy, Marco Pellecchia of the Animal Genetics Laboratory at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Piacenza, Italy,has found that Tuscan bovines are genetically closer to Near Eastern than to European gene pools, with a 60 per cent match between the mitochondrial DNA of cows in central Tuscany and Turkey, whereas there was little or no genetic convergence between cows from the north and south of Italy and those from Turkey and the Middle East.

The evidence, published in the Journal of the Proceedings of the Royal Society: B, corroborates the hypothesis of an eastern origin for the Etruscans, first claimed by the classic historians Herodotus and Thucydides. The paper ends by quoting Seneca: Asia Etruscos sibi vindicat (‘Asia claims back the Etruscans’).

Tracing the roots of the ‘English' apple

Tuscan cattle and barley are not alone in having eastern origins: English apples are direct descendants of fruit trees growing in the mountains of central Asia, according to Dr Barrie Juniper of Oxford University's Department of Plant Sciences. In a new book, called The Story of the Apple, Dr Juniper writes of his ten-year search for the origins of the large, sweet fruit we know today, which involved collecting samples from around the globe and sequencing their DNA to determine the parentage and lineages of this important crop.

Dr Juniper found the best match for English fruits ─ such as Cox's Orange Pippin, Discovery and Beauty of Bath ─ in wild trees growing in the Tian Shan forest which lies on the border of Kyrgyzstan and China, in a part of Asia that did not suffer total glaciation and is thus rich in very old tree and shrub species. This is also the area from which domesticated horses derive, and Dr Juniper theorises that people gathered and stored the wild apples to feed the horses more than 7,000 years ago; apple seeds then spread in horse manure along the ‘Silk Road’ trade routes that extended from China towards the Middle East and into western Europe, eventually arriving in Britain in about 2000 BC. Mr Juniper claims that these apples then flourished in the rich British soil and damp climate, where they became a valuable food source due to their high nutritional value and hardy nature. Now Britain has more than 1,000 of its own varieties of apple and more than 4,000 have been identified around the world.

£250,000 grant to save Scott's Antarctic hut

The British Government has announced that it will give £250,000 to the £3 million appeal launched by the UK Antarctic Heritage Trust to conserve the expeditionary hut used by Captain Robert Scott at Cape Evans in Antartica. An earlier request for funds, made in 2005, was turned down but referred to the Heritage Lottery Fund, which also said it could not support the project because the huts were not in Britain. Helen Clark, the prime minister of New Zealand, is credited with convincing Tony Blair that the hut is a key part of British national heritage and a symbol of Scott’s determination, endurance and bravery.

Scott's hut is exactly as it was when he began his ill-fated attempt to reach the South Pole in late 1911; his sleeping bag even remains where he placed it on a bench (see the Wikipedia website for pictures of the hut and for links to further photographs). Another hut, built by Ernest Shackleton during his 1907─9 expedition, located 10km north of Cape Evans, at Cape Royds, also has its original supplies and equipment preserved, and has already been conserved as part of an earlier project.

Our Fellow Simon Jenkins, who visited the huts four years ago, described them as being among ‘the most evocative historic buildings in the world’, adding: ‘No other continent retains the physical evidence of man's first attempt at settlement, and of his eviction by Mother Nature.’

Giles Worsley Travel Fellowship

The Architectural Journal reports this week that a travel fellowship is to be established in memory of our late Fellow, the architectural critic and historian Giles Worsley, who died of cancer last year at the age of forty-four. The Giles Worsley Travel Fellowship will address one of Worsley's chief concerns ─ that architectural history is being taught less broadly ─ and will send a newly qualified architect or architectural historian to the British School at Rome for three months. Each year the fellow will give a public presentation on their return, which Worsley's three young daughters will attend when they are older.

The fellowship will be administered by the RIBA, and applications will be judged by a panel consisting of an RIBA and a British School representative. The aim is to raise an endowment of £200,000, which will allow the fellowship to continue indefinitely.

Historic environment guidance for the offshore renewable energy sector

With Parliament giving the go ahead on 20 February for 140 wind turbines to be erected around the Inner Gabbard and Galloper sandbanks, 23km from the Suffolk coast, the Collaborative Offshore Wind Research Initiative (COWRIE) has just published a timely document, prepared by Wessex Archaeology, containing historic environment guidance for the offshore renewable energy sector. The report can be downloaded from the COWRIE website.

IFA consultation document on Maritime Archaeological Archives

‘Currently, there is no system for the preparation, deposition and curation of maritime archaeological archives’, says the IFA Maritime Affairs Group, which has produced a discussion document ─ Slipping through the Net: Maritime Archaeological Archives in Policy and Practice ─ which maps out the current situation through a range of case studies (downloadable from the IFA website.

These demonstrate that marine archaeological archives are falling through a gap in policy and practice, are being dispersed, are deteriorating, remain un-interpreted and un-curated, are sold and sometimes simply abandoned ─ and that action is needed to resolve these issues. The document is open to consultation to all stakeholder organisations, groups and individuals, particularly within the archaeological, museum, archive and heritage sectors. The consultation period closes on Friday 20 April 2007 and the responses will be used to help generate a series of recommendations as part of an integrated strategy for maritime archaeological archives.

EH guidance on industrial archaeology and on historic cemeteries

Science for Historic Industries: guidelines for the investigation of 17th- to 19th-century industries is a new guidance document from the English Heritage Industrial Archaeology Panel that contains information for local authority archaeology officers and archaeological contractors on current practice, techniques and methodologies for studying the remains of more recent industrial buildings.

Paradise Preserved is an updated version of the 2002 report that first introduced and raised awareness of historic cemetery conservation management. The new edition is intended to complement the Government’s review of Burial Law and Policy in the Twenty-first Century (Home Office 2004), and its Cleaner, Safer, Greener campaign for parks, open spaces and streets. It also takes into account the Guidance for Best Practice for Treatment of Human Remains Excavated from Christian Burial Grounds published in 2005 by English Heritage and the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division of the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England and the statutory duty of public bodies and statutory undertakers to have due regard to the conservation of biodiversity.

Both sets of guidance can be downloaded from the HELM website.

ADS launches site dedicated to ALSF-funded research

The Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF) was introduced in April 2002, initially as a two-year pilot scheme, to provide funds to tackle a wide range of problems in areas affected by aggregates extraction. English Heritage, along with English Nature and the Countryside Agency, is a major distributor of the fund, which has been used to support research as diverse as shipwreck survey, the publication of the Creswell Crags Pleistocene Archive, a multi-disciplinary landscape study at Catholme, in Staffordshire, and an aerial photographic survey of the Thornborough Henges.

The results of these and other surveys are now accessible via the ASLF-Online site, created by the Archaeology Data Service as a dedicated area for disseminating research and management documents produced for English Heritage by a wide range of ALSF-funded projects.

The Cressing Conference 26 May 2007: The Knights Templar and the Legacy of the Crusading Orders

The Knights Templar and the Knights Hospitaller were the two great military orders that played a pivotal role in the establishment, defence and eventual loss of the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem. Accused of malpractices and envied for their wealth, the Templars were arrested in 1307 and suppressed in 1312, their property passing to the Hospitallers. The two orders had extensive European lands which generated revenue to support their operations in the Holy Land, the organisation and management of which has left its mark on today’s landscape. This conference to mark the anniversary of the arrest of the Templars and held at Cressing Temple, well known for its two thirteenth-century Templar barns, will examine the idea of a holy war, the reasons for the arrest of the Templars, the organisation of the Templar and Hospitaller estates and their buildings in the Holy Land and England. To book a place for £45, including lunch, contact Katie Seabright, Historic Buildings, Essex County County Council, Chelmsford, Essex CM1 1QH (tel: 01245 437 672; email: traditional.building.skills@essexcc.gov.uk.

The Last Man Who Knew Everything

The Royal Institution is hosting a lecture on Wednesday 21 March 2007, at 7pm, on the Enlightenment polymath Thomas Young (1773─1829), who coined the term ‘Indo-European’ and began the decipherment of the Rosetta Stone, later taken up by Jean-François Champollion. Described as having ‘a wider range of creative learning than any other Englishman in history’, Young was celebrated for his work in physics, physiology, linguistics, astronomy and philosophy, as well as Egyptology and medicine. Andrew Robinson, author of a newly published biography of Young, will ask whether such an unbridled pursuit of knowledge is possible today — and whether polymathy is still seen as a good thing. Further details from the RI’s website

Spotted in the Guardian: wizards and diviners abound in Britain

Reading a story in the Guardian last week set Salon’s editor to wondering how many wizards there might be among the Fellowship. Miranda Aldhouse-Green might qualify ─ she writes with passion as well as immense erudition on the subject of ancient religious practice, and might well know how to wield a divining rod to good effect ─ but there ought to be another 250 or so Fellows with similar powers, concentrated especially in Sussex, Kent, Essex and Yorkshire, according to a survey that says 10 per cent of the British population ‘believe they can teleport their neighbours as well as read minds, crystal balls and tarot cards’.

The author of the article, Martin Wainwright, goes on to say that: ‘The scale of a return to an island of ley lines and Merlin comes to light in a survey of psychic organisations backed by polling and research into cases of supposed witches, enchanters and close encounters of the third kind’. The project was supervised by the Revd Lionel Fanthorpe, an Anglican priest who chairs numerous bodies concerned with unidentified flying objects and ‘anomalous phenomena’, and involved asking people whether they possessed powers of telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation or time travel or saw themselves as mediums, psychic healers, astrologers, palm readers, tarot card readers, crystal experts, wizards and enchanters, and water diviners.

Explaining why there are more people claiming supernatural powers in Yorkshire than in the more down-to-earth East Midlands, the Revd Fanthorpe said: ‘Yorkshire boasts a rich genetic history of British, Celtic, Roman, Angle and Norse settlers and it is quite possible that the present-day citizens there owe their status as superpower capital of the UK to this rich mixture. It follows that at the other end of the scale the East Midlands doesn't have such a rich genetic diversity and this may well have an impact on it [having] the least residents with extraordinary powers.’

The findings also reveal that Essex is the home of almost one in ten of all people in Britain formally affiliated to a recognised pagan association, while Kent has three times the national average of people claiming to be psychic healers.

Books by Fellows

The first item in this week’s list of books is not a book as such, but rather a libretto, score, recording and live concert. Some years ago our Fellow Andor Gomme prepared a performing version of Bach’s St Mark Passion for the choir that he then chaired. As Andor explains: ‘the full score is lost and the music has to be reconstructed partly from the surviving music written for the original performance in 1731, partly speculatively and partly from using appropriate music taken from existing cantatas─ in this case using recitatives from the St Mark Passion of Reinhardt Keiser, which Bach himself performed in 1726.’

It is Andor’s version that will be used at this year’s traditional Good Friday performance on 30 March 2007, at St John’s, Smith Square, London SW1, when the Whitehall Choir and the London Baroque Sinfonia under conductor Paul Spicer will begin their performance at 7:30pm. Tickets (£17, £15, £13, £10; concessions £1.50 discount) can be booked by credit card at the box office, tel: 0207 222 1061. Alternatively, the score has been published by Baerenreiter and recorded on the Gaudeamus label by the choir of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and the Cambridge Baroque Camerata ().

Fellow Bill Putnam has poured his years of experience of archaeological work in Dorset into a new Tempus book called Roman Dorset, which tells the story of the Roman conquest of the Durotriges, with copious illustrations, based especially on his own excavations at the Dewlish Roman Villa and his exhaustive study of the Roman military aqueduct at Dorchester. He suggests that there may have been a Roman fort at Dorchester although no direct trace has ever been found, arguing its presence from the road system, amphitheatre, aqueduct and military finds, such as the bone handle of a Roman sword found on the site of the present post office.

Vacancies

Cambria Archaeology (Dyfed Archaeological Trust Ltd), Trust Director
Salary range £32,487 to £46,116, closing date 7 March 2007

Following the appointment of the present Director, our Fellow Gwilym Hughes, as Chief Inspector at Cadw, Cambria Archaeology is now inviting applications for the post of Trust Director. The Director has overall responsibility for managing the day-to-day running of the Trust and for the strategic direction, policy, promotion and operations of the Trust in its curatorial and contractual work in south-west Wales and elsewhere. Applicants should have a thorough knowledge of British archaeology, extensive financial and managerial experience and an empathy for Welsh culture, language and governance.

Further particulars may be obtained from Jackie Jones, Senior Administrative Officer, Cambria Archaeology, tel: 01558 823121, email: jackie@cambria.org.uk.

English Heritage, Chair
£45,000 for 90 days a year; closing date 13 March 2007

The search is on again for a suitably experienced individual to serve as Chair of the sixteen-strong board of Commissioners who are responsible for setting EH’s strategic direction, delivering on targets and ensuring that EH’s assets are used to best effect. The advert says that candidates must have exceptional skills in leadership, external representation, influencing and partnership building, will be comfortable operating at the highest political level, having led a significant and successful operation in the public, private or voluntary sector, and possessing a high degree of financial acumen. Full details can be obtained from the website of the recruitment consultants Saxton Bampfylde Hever, using reference AAHB.

AHRC research posts: the Early Modern Parish Church and the Religious Landscape
Deadline: 12 March 2007

Our Fellow Andrew Spicer, of the Oxford Brookes University History Department, has secured AHRC funding to appoint two postdoctoral Research Assistants and a research studentship to work on a three-year project looking at the ‘Early Modern Parish Church and the Religious Landscape’, centred on an examination of dioceses in Denmark, England, France and the Low Countries.

Full details of the project can be found at www.landscape.ac.uk.

Specific job details can be found at www.jobs.ac.uk/jobfiles/JL580.html and www.jobs.ac.uk/jobfiles/JL579.html for the two Research Assistants and at www.jobs.ac.uk/jobfiles/RG405.html for the studentship.