Salon Archive

Issue: 164

Forthcoming meetings

17 May: Ballot with exhibits. There has been a slight change of programme since the last issue of Salon. Michael Lewis, FSA, who was due to speak on ‘The mystery of Charles Stothard, FSA, and the Bayeux Tapestry fragment’, will now do so at the 7 June ballot (see below). In his place, Michael Thompson, FSA, will now exhibit ‘The letters of Thomas Wright’, and our General Secretary, David Gaimster, will exhibit ‘A Sunderland lustreware plaque with its portrait of Adam Clarke, FSA (1762–1832), and its motto “He that believeth shall be saved”’.

24 May: Patterns and Processes in English Vernacular Architecture, by Matthew Johnson, FSA

7 June: Ballot with exhibits. Michael Lewis, FSA, will speak about ‘The mystery of Charles Stothard, FSA, and the Bayeux Tapestry fragment’ and Temma Berg, Professor of English at Gettysburg College, will speak about ‘The lives and letters of an eighteenth-century circle of acquaintance’, which is also the title of her latest book (Ashgate Publishing, 2006). Temma’s research draws on thirty-one letters in the Cely-Trevilian Collection housed at the Society of Antiquaries. This paper will introduce Fellows to some of the letter writers, including the novelist Charlotte Lennox and Captain Charles Clerke, the naval officer who took command of Captain Cook’s expedition and of HMS Resolution when Cook was killed in Hawaii. Temma will explore the pleasures and anxieties of archive research and show how the letters provide an intimate glimpse of rural and urban life in eighteenth-century England.

New website for the Society

The next time you visit the Society’s website you will see some considerable changes to its appearance and content. The old site was launched a decade ago and has remained relatively static over the last ten years because of the cost and difficulty of making changes without technical support. Web technology has moved on and the Society has now invested in the software that allows staff to create and update web pages with relative ease, and to incorporate pictures and downloadable files – hence the new look, whose potential will be used to maximum effect over the coming months to promote the Society’s Tercentenary Festival of public lectures and the special Royal Academy exhibition.

Some additional new features will be implemented during the course of May and June: we will bring the Publications section up to date and develop an online shop for booking ticketed events. We are very close to producing an up-to-date list of Fellows with contact details, so that Fellows can look each other up.

As a matter of principle, more and more of the website content will be available on the public side, where anyone can read it: this includes Salon, for example, which has, until now, been hidden on the password-protected side of the site. Council feels that Salon deserves wider circulation and is an admirable shop window for the Society, chronicling the achievements of Fellows and serving as an essential guide to policy initiatives that impact the whole of the heritage sector.

The Fellows’ area will henceforth be used only for material that is truly confidential, such as Fellows’ contact details. In order to enhance the security of this section of the site Fellows will now be required to input their unique username and password – the old generic password (our first President’s name) will no longer work. Over half of all Fellows have already been issued with usernames and passwords, and if you have forgotten yours, the login page to the Fellows’ Area allows you to request a reminder. This will be sent automatically by return to the email address you supplied to the Society when you registered, so it is important to let us know if your email address has changed. The login page also tells you how to apply for a password and what to do if all else fails.

You can also gain access to the online balloting system via the Fellows’ area; you will be asked to re-enter your username and password before being allowed into this area of the site. Entering the details twice might sound onerous, but is a necessary precaution against unauthorised use of the ballot, and most browsers will let you store your username and password, so that you will only have to enter it once for the system to remember it on future visits.

The Society’s Annual Accounts

One of the pages of the new website is devoted to the Report of the Council and Financial Statement for the Year Ended 30 September 2006. This is an independently audited statement of the Society’s activities and its year-end financial position, compiled to a format that is set by the Charity Commission. One of the last duties of our President Geoff Wainwright in his capacity as Treasurer was to present the report to Fellows at the Anniversary Meeting held on 25 April 2007. In doing so, he made the following observations.

‘The format of the Financial Report and Report of Council has been substantially reviewed to take into account the Statement of Recommended Practice, Accounting and Reporting by Charities (SORP) 2005. In particular the financial report is now related more clearly to the Society’s objectives.

‘Three points stand out: our income exceeds expenditure for the fourth year in succession; there was a capital gain of 6.5 per cent during the year, to £10.7m at the end of September 2006 and to £11.1m as of yesterday evening [24 April 2007] – this is after draw down as part of the Total Returns Policy (£55,000) and for Exceptional Items (£151,000) and is the first time I can recall the capital value of our investments exceeding £11m; our income increased by 21 per cent to £1.2m, and 24 per cent of this was delivered from subscriptions, a percentage that has remained constant over the past six years.

‘For the future we expect to require draw down of £500,000 from capital, partly to finance the refurbishment programme, and of £150,000 towards the costs of our Tercentenary exhibition, which will otherwise be funded from grants, admissions and sales.

‘Kelmscott is doing very well. The sale of two residential properties will produce a Trust Fund of at least £800,000, the income from which will be dedicated to the Kelmscott Manor Estate.

‘Finally, at the end of six years as Treasurer, I would like to thank all staff for embracing the Financial Management Systems that have been introduced. I owe a particular debt to David Gaimster, Lesley Favager and Giselle Pullen for their loyal support.’

The Society’s Medal 2007

The Anniversary Meeting was also the occasion for the annual presentation of the Society’s Medal, which is awarded by Council to those who have provided outstanding service to the Society. Last year the medal was awarded to our Fellow Peter Locke for his work on the restoration of Kelmscott Manor from 1962. This year the Council has returned to Kelmscott to acknowledge the contribution to the Manor’s restoration made by Janet and Alan Frost, the recipients of the Society’s Medal for 2007.

In presenting the medals, President Eric Fernie said: ‘Janet Frost’s association with Kelmscott goes back to 1965 when (as Janet Smith), she was a new employee of Donald Insall Associates and became Peter Locke’s assistant at Kelmscott. Janet’s contribution to the restoration included the joinery, the detailing of the new oak door and the well-known divided stair to the attic, as well as the more down-to-earth repairs and improvements to the kitchens and the village cottages.

‘Alan’s involvement with Kelmscott began with his appointment as inspecting architect in 1989, working with Janet. The Programme of Maintenance and the Inspection Reports which they produced for the Management Committee throughout the years of their appointment enabled both the Manor and the estate buildings to be kept in good order.

‘Alan had previously been with the historic buildings section of the Department of the Environment. At Donald Insall Associates he had charge of the Windsor contract following the fire of 1991, for which he was appointed LVO. His CV includes work in Shanghai and Bangladesh. He is a member of the Worshipful Company of Architects and is a bell-ringer (technically an amateur, but Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s are his normal haunts, including occasions of national significance). He also maintains and drives a steam engine, which he exhibits across the country.

‘At Kelmscott his specialist knowledge and experience of conservation are particularly evident in the repair to the South Road barn, in the sophisticated way in which the roof has been stabilised with the minimum of intervention, exactly as William Morris would have wanted it. It is also reliably reported that, if by some mischance he cracked a tile while inspecting a roof, the firm could accurately attribute this to ‘Frost damage’.

‘Both Alan and Janet worked on the conversion of several buildings on the estate, chiefly to improve visitor and staff facilities, as with the barns, which became respectively the Tea Room and the Shop, both of which have made major contributions to the experience of visitors and the financial health of Kelmscott.

‘They retired as consultant architects in 2006. Summing up their work for the Society, I will quote Peter Locke’s words: “I think it is fair to say that the ‘Frost era’ of care and dedication has been a signal period in Kelmscott’s history, bringing much deserved credit to the Society and its custodians”.’

William Morris’s Kelmscott: landscape and history

More than one hundred Fellows and guests gathered at Kelmscott on a blustery day on 8 May for the launch of William Morris’s Kelmscott: landscape and history, published on behalf of the Society by Windgather Press. Edited by Fellows Alan Crossley, Tom Hassall and Peter Salway, the book represents the fruits of the Kelmscott Landcape Project (KELP) established in 1996, an initiative originally conceived by Past-President Simon Jervis as an exercise that would bring together the whole range of disciplines represented by the Society and focus them on Kelmscott with the aim of providing a model study of an entire parish, as well as informing the Society’s management of Kelmscott Manor and the wider Kelmscott village estate.

The result is a multi-disciplinary book that embraces every aspect of Kelmscott, including the geology and its relationship to prehistoric settlement on the Thames gravel terraces surrounding the Manor, field names and boundaries, the vernacular buildings, the church, the Manor and its garden, the people of the village and the rich legacy of art and furnishings that had its origin and inspiration in the village (the front cover of the book, which can be seen on the Society’s website, for example, shows a watercolour of the back yard at Kelmscott Manor painted by Marie Spartali Stillman in c 1904, which the Society was fortunate to be able to purchase at auction last year).

The result is a vivid portrait of Kelmscott that serves both as a guide to house and village for those who want to go beyond the guidebook, and a model of how to undertake and present a comprehensive study of a typical English landscape.

White Paper seminar

As part of the Society’s ambition to provide a forum for the discussion of current policy issues impacting the heritage, we played host to a lively seminar on 30 April 2007 to debate the proposals in the Government’s White Paper on Heritage Protection for the 21st Century.

Harry Reeves, the senior civil servant at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport responsible for heritage, and the main author of the White Paper, opened the discussion by emphasising that the intention was not to diminish the degree of protection given to the heritage, but to improve the efficiency and transparency of the protection regime, and to take into account important ideas that have developed over recent years about the different kinds of heritage that we now value.

He explained that drafting of a new bill had already begun, with the aim of making a bid for parliamentary time in the 2007/8 parliamentary session, though 2008/9 was a more likely timetable. He acknowledged that additional resources would be needed to implement some of the measures and said that a robust estimate of the costs had been drawn up by English Heritage and was now being discussed with the Treasury as part of the Comprehensive Spending Review, whose preliminary conclusions would probably be available in late July 2007.

Peter Beacham, FSA, and Sarah Buckingham then explained how the English Heritage team responsible for implementing the White Paper would ‘seize the moment’ through a phased strategy of advocacy, to promote understanding of the issues and sustain consensus from now until the end of 2007, then of capacity building at all levels throughout the sector during 2008 to 2010, and then of consolidation to ensure competence and consistency as the new system beds in from 2010 to 2015. English Heritage, they said, was determined that adequate training would be given to everyone involved in working with the new unified designation system, with Heritage Partnership Agreements and Historic Environment Services, and that the whole system should be underpinned by a robust, intellectually rigorous suite of policy and guidance documents.

Paul Drury, FSA, introduced Draft 2 of the English Heritage Conservation Principles, which form part of that planned suite of guidance, and said that he personally wished that the White Paper had gone further towards recognising spiritual, symbolic, associative, social and commemorative values as well as the historical and architectural. He also hoped that an opportunity would be taken under the new regime to recognise the heritage value of areas (in addition to battlefields, parks and gardens), drawing together associated heritage assets into one designation and counteracting the tendency for the historic environment to become fragmented.

Paul also wanted the eventual bill to go further and to create a statutory duty of care towards the environment, both built and natural, and to impose a positive responsibility on owners of heritage assets to undertake essential care and maintenance. He stressed the role of statutory minimum standards in ensuring that decision-making was consistent across all local authorities, otherwise there was a danger that there would be not one heritage policy but 300; minimum standards were also an essential lever for dealing with what Paul described as ‘under zealous’ local authorities.

Peter Hinton, FSA, speaking for TAF (The Archaeology Forum), said that most of the proposals in the White Paper were very welcome, but that they were principally about the designation of heritage assets and that the White Paper was far less specific about the treatment of heritage within the planning system. Worrying rumours had been circulating to the effect that the forthcoming Planning White Paper would recommend the relaxation of many of the planning principles that have helped to protect the historic environment in recent decades.

The Archaeology Forum wanted to be reassured that the Government would continue to put its full weight behind the heritage protection regime, and that the strength of the guidance given in PPGs 15 and 16 would not be diminished, especially if such guidance came in future from English Heritage rather than from central Government; ‘the closer it is to Government’, Peter said, ‘the more clout the guidance has’.He added: ‘we do not want to see the guidance written on less-authoritative notepaper’.

Peter also asked for reassurance that the system would be funded to ensure quality outcomes: ‘to deliver a robust historic environment service, not just a record’, and he asked English Heritage to make sure that in formulating future training programmes and benchmark standards, they made full use of the expertise represented by the members of The Archaeology Forum who, after all, have the most experience of delivering the current service.

Gill Chitty, FSA, speaking for the Council for British Archaeology, echoed all the previous speakers in saying how welcome was the breath of fresh air that would result from a more consultative and democratic designation system. Acknowledging that members of the public might not be equipped to make fine decisions, and that designation could not proceed on the basis of a popular vote, she nevertheless believed that the public would give a strong steer in the direction of the heritage that they value and she looked forward to some interesting and challenging results. She also welcomed the strong encouragement given in the White Paper to local planning authorities to compile local heritage asset registers and to make more of their conservation areas, saying that this presented a potentially huge opportunity to provide protection for the undesignated and commonplace heritage that has enormous meaning for local people.

Stewart Bryant, FSA, of the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers, warmly welcomed the White Paper’s proposal to impose a statutory duty on local authorities ‘to maintain or have access to a Historic Environment Record (HER)’ and argued that HERs not only had a central role to play in the delivery of the new heritage protection system but were also a key resource for learning about the historic environment; in fact the educational use of HERs was the fastest growing area of expanding use experienced by ALGAO members.

Along with several other speakers he said that the moment when historic asset records could be accessed via the internet could not come soon enough – discussion had been going on for decades and it was time for real progress. He gave an impressive demonstration of a typical modern GIS-based HER, with all the wealth of information that it contains, and pointed out that that ALGAO members had been in the vanguard of developing Geographical Information Systems as the basis for HERS and that members welcomed the opportunity to go further – for example, by expanding the range of historic environment data held within HERs to include the built environment, to address the needs of an expanding range of stakeholders/customers (including planners, historic environment professionals, developers, owners, consultants and local communities), and to include information on the management and planning casework of designated assets.

Fiona Newton, for the Institute of Historic Building Conservation, was worried that the Promised Land of the White Paper would never be attained because of the low esteem in which conservation was held in many local authorities. According to the IHBC’s own recent survey, one in five local authorities has no conservation officer in post, and conservation tends to be a low priority service, lacking a powerful voice within the Cabinet system of local government, despite English Heritage’s work to identify heritage champions in all local authorities. Even the existing statutory responsibility of local authorities to ‘formulate and publish proposals for the preservation and enhancement of conservation areas’ was widely ignored, and pressure on local authority budgets meant that conservation was regarded by many elected members as ‘an unnecessary luxury’.

Finally, Ian Dungavell, speaking for the Joint Committee of the National Amenity Societies, addressed three specific questions set out at the end of the White Paper consultation document. He welcomed the encouragement given to developers to hold pre-application discussions with heritage stakeholders, and the implication that developers would have to demonstrate, as part of their planning application, that they had consulted stakeholders and taken account of the heritage aspects of the site, but felt there was a danger that applicants would only consult those they considered to be the most powerful and influential stakeholders, and that the amenity societies would lose their statutory voice and influential role within the planning system.

As for Certificates of Immunity (a legal guarantee that the building will not be statutorily listed as being of special architectural or historic interest during the five years from the date of the certificate), Ian argued that the granting of these should be subject to the same degree of transparency, consultation and rights of appeal as designation. He also asked how Certificates of Immunity would operate in relation to buried archaeological sites where it was not possible to certify that the land had no heritage component without excavation.

Finally he felt that there was an inconsistency between the White Paper’s statement that future designating activity would focus on thematic programmes and the resource-heavy day-to-day demands of ‘spot listing’, arguing that spot listing was the ‘true reflection of public concern’.

Responding to the many points raised in the course of the debate, Harry Reeves emphasised that the White Paper was a pragmatic one based on a realistic assessment of what it might be possible to achieve by way of reform. Nevertheless he said that the Department of Culture, Media and Sport was very alive to the sector’s concerns and very committed to ensuring that the White Paper proposals would have the status and resources necessary to give them real bite.

Peter Beacham said he was very heartened by what he had heard and reassured everyone that some of the concerns were already being addressed in the drafting of the legislation. He argued that the bill would be an enabling one rather than a limiting one: it would not set limits to what could be designated, and future pilot programmes might reassure everyone that exciting large-scale area designations, for example, could be accommodated under the new system.

Blitzed cinemas and mixing up your HERs and your HARs

The latest issue of Current Archaeology provides an interesting commentary on some of the issues raised at the Society’s seminar. Gill Chitty’s view that our concept of heritage will be challenged and widened if members of the public have a greater say in what is designated is echoed by the story in the NEWS section of the magazine reporting that the bombed ruins of a cinema in Hull have been given a Grade-II listing. The former National Picture Theatre ‘took a direct hit on the night of 18 March 1941 during a heavy bombing raid’, the news item says, adding that all of the 150 people who were in the cinema watching Charlie Chaplin in The Great Dictator when the air-raid alarm sounded survived the raid by taking shelter in the undamaged foyer. This, along with the stair turrets and booking office, are all that survive of the red-brick 1930s cinema, and yet Keith Miller, Ancient Monuments Inspector for English Heritage, insisted that it deserved its listed status as only one of a handful of ruined WWII buildings remaining in Britain, and perhaps the only civilian building, the others being churches and military structures.

The National Civilian WWII Memorial Trust has campaigned since its formation in 2001 for the site to be preserved, arguing that it is ‘a tangible reminder of a tumultuous time … a fitting memorial to the spirit and fortitude of ordinary people across the nation’. The Trust would now like to see the ruins consolidated to stop further deterioration and an area created within the bombed auditorium for educational use.

Back to the White Paper seminar, Ian Dungavell was one of several contributors who expressed concern with the alienating language of the White Paper: ‘“designated historic asset”’, he said, ‘does not convey the love and affection that people have for their heritage’. Further (albeit unconscious) support for this view can be found in Current Archaeology’s commentary on the White Paper written by our Fellow Andrew Selkirk. Andrew clearly doesn’t understand the difference between a HAR (Historic Asset Register; the list of designated assets, such as buildings, monuments, parks, gardens and battlefields) and a HER (Historic Environment Register; what used to be known as a Sites and Monuments Register).

But saying that is not to find fault with Andrew; on the contrary: if someone so knowledgeable is confused, then what will the public make of the White Paper? If public consultation is to work in the future, we are all going to have to try to be more lucid and to develop a new vocabulary to describe the material remains of the past and why we value them – perhaps this will prove a considerably greater challenge than that of drafting a new heritage protection bill.

16 May: Planning White Paper publication day

We will have a better idea on 16 May how the proposals contained in the Heritage Protection Review White Paper will mesh with planning considerations when the Government publishes its long-awaited Planning White Paper. It is widely predicted that the White Paper will propose sweeping changes to the planning system, and Gordon Brown has already made it clear that he will make the provision of affordable housing in the UK a major priority if he is elected leader of the Labour Party and thus becomes Prime Minister. How this will be achieved, and at what cost to the historic and natural environment, will become clearer next week.

The end of Ancient History?

One important reason for studying the past – and especially ancient history – is that it provides a solid introduction to the civic values that our Government claims to hold dear (democracy, freedom of speech, the role of law, the rights and responsibilities of the citizen) but in a context – classical Greece and Rome – that is sufficiently remote from us to be politically neutral. Thus argued Tom Holland (author of Rubicon and Persian Fire and the adapter for BBC Radio 4 of works by Herodotus, Homer, Thucydides and Virgil) in an impassioned article published in the Guardian on 5 May 2007.

Tom’s article went on to argue that ‘the study of ancient history has served, over the centuries, as the midwife of almost everything that makes the west politically distinctive today’, supporting his argument by citing the Renaissance, the English Civil War and the French and American Revolutions and as having been rooted in an exploration of civic identity inspired by the works of the ancient Greeks and Romans, pointing to the political and moral ambiguities posed therein as the inspiration for writers and thinkers from Machiavelli and Shakespeare to Thomas Jefferson and Karl Marx.

The need to state this arises from the announcement by the OCR (Oxford, Cambridge and RSA) examination board that it no longer intends to offer an A-level in Ancient History. The OCR’s website explains that similar content to the Ancient History syllabus can now be found within the Classical Civilisation syllabus. Not everyone agrees: in a letter published in the Daily Telegraph on 31 March 2007, our Fellow Graham Shipley argued that Classical Civilisation was not a satisfactory alternative because it did not involve an in-depth study of ‘the source material for topics once regarded as central to our civilisation, such as Xerxes’ invasion of Greece, the Athenian empire, and the Roman republic.’

In a separate letter published in the Independent, Graham wrote: ‘the Classical Civilisation A-level does not share the emphasis on understanding primary source materials that is such a hallmark of the Ancient History syllabus, and which prepares students so well for university courses’. He pointed out that the scrapping of Ancient History could not be justified by lack of demand: ‘the numbers taking OCR Ancient History have trebled to around 1,000 in recent years, a trend paralleled by a rise of 65 per cent in the past seven years in the number of students taking the subject at university (now over 3,000). Classical subjects are not in decline; the reverse, in fact. Anyone who wants to know the scale of interest in the ancient world need look no further than the audience ratings for Boris Johnson's series on Rome.’

Graham concluded that ‘the loss of Ancient History will probably mean the complete disappearance of classical subjects from many further education colleges, which for various reasons cannot offer Classical Civilisation. This in turn may mean that the Greek and Roman world is no longer available for study at A-level in entire regions of the UK. So much for equal opportunity and widening access.’

The campaign to persuade OCR to reverse its decision is taking many forms. There will be a demonstration outside parliament today (14 May) from 5pm to 7pm, when sixth-formers currently studying for their Ancient History A-Level will hand in a petition calling on the Prime Minister ‘to halt plans by the OCR to abolish the Ancient History A-level’. The online petition (see the 10 Downing Street website has already garnered close to 4,000 signatures, including those of playwright Tom Stoppard and a significant number of the peers in the House of Lords.

Parliamentary lobbying, co-ordinated by the Joint Association of Classical Teachers (JACT), secured an adjournment debate on 25 April 2007, introduced by Michael Fallon (MP for Sevenoaks), the former Education Minister (see the parliamentary website. In the course of that debate, the current Education Minister, Jim Knight, announced that OCR ‘is seriously considering whether it would be appropriate to reinstate ancient history as a title’, and he has promised to facilitate a meeting with the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA) so that MPs who participated in the debate can express their concerns directly.

If you are interested in following the progress of this campaign, the best source of up-to-date information is the website of the Joint Association of Classical Teachers.

Has Anglo-Saxon History also been abolished?

As a worrying addendum to the Ancient History report, Peter Jones, of the National Coordinating Committee for Classics, wrote to the Times on 27 April 2007 to say: ‘Sir, All teachers and students of history at school and university should be concerned at the news that the Oxford and Cambridge Examination Board (OCR) has proposed to scrap Anglo-Saxon History at A level with exactly the same insouciance as Ancient History. Why OCR should wish to chip away at our schoolchildren’s study of their past in such a secretive and unco-operative manner remains a complete mystery.’

Salon’s editor could find no further details on the OCR website to explain this decision, but would be happy to reproduce any further information that Fellows might have.

Elisabeth Frink's Desert Quartet is listed at Grade II*

Another adventurous listing decision was announced by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on 11 May when Elisabeth Frink’s Desert Quartet sculptures were designated Grade II*. The campaign to secure the listing was backed by leading figures from the art world, including our Fellow Loyd Grossman, and is a first for a group of public sculptures that are less than thirty years old.

The work, consisting of four giant heads, was commissioned from Dame Elisabeth Frink in 1985 and installed in 1989 at the Worthing shopping centre; planning permission for the building was conditional on the provision of public sculpture but their estimated current value of approximately £2 million led the developer to seek to replace them.

According to Catherine Croft, Director of the Twentieth Century (C20) Society, the listing decision establishes a benchmark for the future and sends a clear message to developers and planning departments about the importance of public art. ‘The original intention was that they should be a permanent fixture for the benefit of the public, and listing should ensure that the local public and visitors can continue to be able to enjoy them’, she said. Jo Darke , Director of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association (PMSA), added that: ‘This approval is of crucial importance to public sculpture, firstly in acknowledging that rare and deserving cases like this can circumvent the Thirty-Year Rule, and also in the unprecedented decision to list an unremarkable building for the sake of its remarkable sculptures.’

The C20 Society and the PMSA hope that this decision will assist their campaign to save several other examples of public art, including Dorothy Annan’s purpose-made murals for BT in the City of London (1960), and the abstract tiling on the exterior of Sunderland’s threatened Wearmouth Hall (1963). The PMSA (established in 1991 with Sir Eduardo Paolozzi as its founding patron) says that its National Recording Project, a survey of all public sculpture in Britain, is now 65 per cent complete.

Feedback and Fellows’ news

Salon 163 incorrectly said that the owner of Dumfries House (currently subject to an ambitious rescue plan by SAVE Britain’s Heritage who have launched a £25 million appeal to acquire the house and its contents) was the Marquess of Dumfries whereas, of course, the current owner is the Marquess of Bute. Thank you to Fellows Peter Broughton and John Coales for pointing that out.

From Fellow Malcolm Wiener, Salon learns that our Fellow Philip Betancourt has just been elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Philip, who is Laura H Carnell Professor of Art History and Archaeology at Temple University, USA, is one of eight new American Academy Fellows elected in the Archaeology, Anthropology, Sociology, Geography and Demography class in recognition of his pre-eminent contributions to the discipline.

Our Fellow John Nandris is keeping up the pressure on the Home Office not to make the possession of Japanese swords illegal under the Offensive Weapons Ban proposed by the Home Office as a measure to defeat violent crime. John has written to the Home Secretary arguing that legislation must not be framed so as to impede and distort the legitimate activities of those who study and conserve Japanese swords in the context of Japanese culture and that a specific ban on ‘samurai swords’ or ‘Japanese swords’ is an unwarranted restriction on the freedom of those who appreciate the Japanese sword as a historical art object.

Fellow David Sherlock noted details of the following on-line petition in his parish leaflet and wondered if Fellows would be willing to support it: ‘We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to arrange for the cost of repairs to C of E church buildings to be reimbursed to help preserve our archaeological and historic heritage for the future.’ The petition has 9,364 signatures and the deadline is 3 July 2007.

Fellows John Prag and Alan Garner were to be seen on BBC1’s ‘Countryfile’ programme on Sunday 13 May, which featured the work of the Alderley Edge Landscape Project and included a walk past some of the area’s fine Victorian villas and a trip down the ancient mines that John and Alan have been studying in a joint project with the National Trust.

John has also contributed a story to the growing stock of Fellows’ Swan Hellenic reminiscences. On one trip aboard the Orpheus (née Munster), John missed seeing the archaeology for which Santorini is renowned because the ship was called upon to help pull a sister cruise ship – the Jason (née Leinster) – off the rocks onto which she had been blown. ‘It was a fascinating and sometimes alarming experience’, writes John. ‘In the end the wind began to blow us towards the same rocks, and the crew took an axe to the last cable joining us (all the others had snapped by then). We made off to collect the passengers who had gone ashore rather than witness these excitements. It then took the two salvage tugs (which had been hovering like vultures) all night to get the Jason off the rocks and tow her back to Piraeus, where we met her again, rather the worse for wear and out of commission.’

The Council of the American Institute of Archaeology has voted to elect our Fellow Colin Renfrew to Foreign Honorary membership, one of three distinguished archaeologists to be so honoured this year. The other two new members are Donny George Youkhanna (former curator of the Iraq National Museum) and Wang Wei of the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Science. All three were chosen for their outstanding contributions to archaeology in their countries and abroad and join the ranks of thirty-two living foreign archaeologists who have been so honoured.

It is not often that monarchs and presidents show an interest in archaeology, but this week our Fellow Bill Kelso played host to a string of VIP guests as part of the 400th anniversary celebration of the first permanent English settlement at James Towne in 1607. Over a period of just one week, Bill gave guided tours of his excavation on the site of the James Towne’s first fort to President Bush, Vice-President Cheney and to our Royal Fellow, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

During the Queen’s visit Bill’s team uncovered a cache of early seventeenth-century armour; whether this a genuine new discovery, or one that was ‘found earlier’ and covered up again to be revealed at a suitable moment, will perhaps never be known until Bill publishes his memoirs. Whatever the truth, the Queen seemed happy and amused by what she saw and was particularly struck by exhibit 15, a foot-long black spatula whose accompanying placard said that it was designed by the settlers' surgeon, John Woodall, to treat constipation – ‘a disease that killeth many’. ‘You should have some things like that’, the Queen is said to have told her doctor, Commander David Swain, who customarily travels with her on such visits, though she forbore to say on whom she thought it might be used.

The US Postal Service is commemorating the founding of the first permanent English colony in North America with a special 41-cent stamp. The stamp depicts the three ships that brought the colonists to Virginia – the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery – and will be triangular in shape, to represent the three-sided fort built by the first English settlers in 1607 – only the third triangular stamp to be issued in US postal history.

The last issue of Salon mentioned that the London Archaeologist, London’s long-lived quarterly magazine devoted to the capital’s archaeology, was about to be relaunched some thirty-nine years after its first issue. More than 100 guests gathered at the Museum of London from local societies, archaeological units, museums and London-wide and national bodies to help launch the bigger and brighter magazine, with new features, a larger format, colour throughout and a new outlook. The Editor, our Fellow Clive Orton, spoke of the rationale behind the new-look journal: ‘With the extra space of the new format we are able to include features that go beyond the excavation reports and artefact studies London Archaeologist is famed for, and look at the people, issues and developments across London. The new spring issue shows that we can also break the latest news – the painted Roman wall plaster from Lime Street which features on our cover has literally just been taken out of the ground – and present leading-edge technology like that used by our author Fiona Tucker to investigate the use of mercury in the treatment of syphilis.’

Our General Secretary, David Gaimster, Managing Editor of the London Archaeologist, said that looking back at the magazines produced since 1968 he had realised that every single important excavation and phase of London’s archaeology had been reported. ‘London Archaeologist is a journal of record and a mirror of the times’, he said. ‘With new developments such as the creation of a CBA regional group for London coming up in the next few months I know London Archaeologist will be there, at the forefront, involved with pushing the field forward.’

London Archaeologist is published quarterly: annual subscriptions of £16 include the popular annual fieldwork and publications round-up covering work in all London boroughs. To subscribe, contact the Subscriptions Secretary, Shiela Broomfield, 8 Woodview Crescent, Hildenborough, Kent TN11 9HD.

London Archaeologist Annual Lecture and AGM, 22 May 2007

When Pre-Construct Archaeology began excavations at Bermondsey Square, Southwark, in 2005, the prospect of locating the medieval abbey church was known. But the state and extent of preservation they found was both unexpected and problematical. Can ancient places be preserved successfully as part of a commercial development? Alistair Douglas of Pre-Construct Archaeology examines the archaeology and the issues. Tuesday 22 May 2007, 6.30pm for wine and refreshments; 7pm for AGM and annual lecture; Institute of Archaeology, 31–34 Gordon Square; free of charge; all welcome.

‘A Passion for Churches’, 22 May

There is a rival attraction on the same evening as the London Archaeologist lecture: a short way south at Sir John Soane’s Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London, Eddie Mirzoeff will be introducing a screening of ‘A Passion for Churches’, the film he directed for the BBC in 1974 written and presented by the late Sir John Betjeman. The film follows Sir John as he returns to the Norfolk of his childhood, where his passion for churches was first kindled. Places are limited, and must be booked in advance by contacting William Palin, Assistant Curator. A contribution of £5 is requested.

'Data sans frontières: web portals and the historic environment', 25 May 2007, British Museum

Organised by the Historic Environment Information Resources Network (Heirnet) and supported by the AHRC ICT Methods Network and the British Museum, this one-day conference takes a comprehensive look at portal technologies and Web 2.0 approaches to the dissemination and integration of historic environment data. Speakers from national organisations, national and local government and academia will explore options for co-operation at national and international level and create a vision for a way forward for joined-up UK historic environment information provision.

Online registration and payment facilities are available on the Heirnet web page. It is also possible to pay by cheque or cash on the day, but please reserve your place in advance by email.

ASPRoM symposium, 2 June 2007

ASPRoM (the Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics) is holding its 2007 Summer Symposium at the Lincoln City and County Museum, from 2pm to 5pm on Saturday 2 June. The speakers are Steve Malone on ‘The Romans in Lincolnshire’ David Neal on ‘The mosaics of Lincolnshire’ and Mavis Nwokobia on ‘Ancient mosaics in Victorian paintings’. All are welcome: for further details see the Association's website.

The Marine Bill White Paper: exploring the detail, 3 July 2007

The Brunei Gallery lecture theatre at the School of Oriental and African Studies, Russell Square, London, is the venue for this one-day conference whose aim is to help a diverse range of stakeholders gain a better understanding of the detail involved in the Marine Bill and with the developing proposals. It will allow key issues to be raised and discussed with both the Defra Marine Bill team and the major stakeholders in the process. Online booking available via the CMS (Coastal Management for Sustainability) website.

The Harlaxton Medieval Symposium 2007: the Friars in Medieval Britain, 23 to 26 July 2007

The 2007 Harlaxton Symposium is being convened by our Fellow Nicholas Rogers at Harlaxton Manor, near Grantham, and will be devoted a study of the mendicant orders in the British Isles from the first half of the thirteenth century. Papers will be devoted to particular orders, as well as more general surveys focusing on the relationship between the friars and regular and secular clergy. Local studies will feature, among other areas, London, Kent, East Anglia and York. The contribution of individual friars to theology, preaching, science and literature will be examined. There will also be papers on the archaeology, architecture, iconography, stained glass and manuscripts of the mendicant orders. Negative views of the friars, both before and during the Reformation, will also be considered.

Further details can be found on the Harlaxton Symposium website.

Books by Fellows

William Hunter and the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, 1807–2007, written by our Fellow Lawrence Keppie, Professor Emeritus of Roman History and Archaeology at the University of Glasgow, describes the life and achievements of the eighteenth-century Scottish physician and outlines the history of the museum that bears his name – Scotland’s oldest public museum. The book is published by Edinburgh University Press and it utilises a wealth of unpublished source material to tell the story of the man and his museum in the context of the University’s history and development over the following two centuries. Lawrence says: ‘The Hunterian Museum was at first greeted by the University with acclaim, but increasingly constituted a drain on often straitened financial resources, as the generations passed. But it has endured, and expanded with numerous additions, most vividly the treasures of Mackintosh and Whistler, and is now one of the University’s most prized resources.’

David Breeze shares with us his passion for the Antonine Wall and its southern counterpart, Hadrian’s Wall, in two recently published works. One is a completely revised and re-written fourteenth edition of J Collingwood Bruce’s Handbook to the Roman Wall – still an authoritative guide a hundred and forty years after the very first edition. The other is a retort to the implication in the title of Collingwood Bruce’s work that there is only one wall: David’s new study of The Antonine Wall is as comprehensive an account of its subject as Collingwood Bruce’s is of Hadrian’s better-known border, as David explains why the wall was built, how it functioned, and why it declined, set within the context of the wider Roman Empire and the aims of policies of its builder, the Emperor Antonius Pius. The construction of the wall, from the work of surveyors and builders, to the actual make-up of the wall, the building of forts and fortlets, workshops, barracks, stables and stores, bath-houses and latrines, are all discussed, as is the life of those stationed along the wall and the civilian population surrounding it.

A very handsome book has arrived on the desk of Salon’s editor which demonstrates just how difficult it is to define and limit the sphere of interests that fall within the realm of the antiquary. The Downright Epicure: essays on Edward Bunyard (Prospect Books) is a book dedicated to England’s foremost pomologist, Edward Ashdown Bunyard (1878–1939) and it is written with enormous enthusiasm and knowledge by a team of authors who clearly share Bunyard’s passion for the apple.

A substantial part of the book, including the opening biographical essay, came from the pen of our Fellow Edward WilsonEnglish scholar and Fellow of Worcester College, Oxford, where he is also the Garden Master, but there are important contributions from our Fellow Richard Sharp, Edward’s predecessor as Garden Master, who is best known as an ecclesiastical historian, but who writes here about Bunyard’s Epicureanism in the context of inter-war gastronomic writing, from Joan Morgan, England’s foremost authority on the history of apples, writing about Bunyard’s contributions to horticulture, from Fellow Alan Bell, formerly Librarian of the London Library, writing about Bunyard’s role in the founding of the Saintsbury Club, and from Simon Hiscock, Senior Research Fellow in Botany at Worcester College, Oxford, writing about Bunyard’s scientific work in plant genetics, all topped and tailed by apple-related poems from Arnd Kerkhecker and U A Fanthorpe.

Fellow Edward Wilson’s skills as a photographer are also on display on the front cover of the book, which features a painterly photograph of a bowl of golden-skinned Allington Pippin apples, streaked with crimson ribs and looking good enough to eat.

Vacancies

Society of Antiquaries of London, Office Manager
Salary £25,000 per annum plus £2,330 London weighting; deadline 1 June 2007

This is a substantial post with responsibility for serving as the first point of contact for enquiries, for providing secretarial support to the General Secretary and administrative support to the Head of Administration and Communications, for the management of room hire and events, for the preparation and circulation of agendas and papers for Council (Board of Trustees) and committee meetings, for taking draft minutes, preparing and processing grant applications for the Research Committee and the Morris Committee (conservation grants), for preparing ballot papers for Fellowship elections and for general facilities and buildings management and day-to-day management of the Society’s IT.

For a full job description and details of how to apply, send an email to the Head of Administration and Communications.

The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, Proceedings Editor/Managing Editor
Salary £18,000 to £22,000 (pro rata for part-time Proceedings Editor); closing date 25 May 2007

The Society is seeking an enthusiastic and experienced part-time Proceedings Editor or a full-time Managing Editor and Sales Manager. The successful candidate will primarily be an excellent editor of the Society’s Proceedings, published every year, but a full-time post, including duties as a Sales Manager, is also available to a suitable candidate. Further information is available by email.

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Director
Competitive salary, closing date 31 May 2007

The Trust maintains five historic houses in and around Stratford connected with Shakespeare and his family, plus library, archive and museum collections. The Trust is looking for a Director with a commitment to all things Shakespearian and the intellectual credibility to work with other academic communities. They will also relish the opportunity to work with the town, the Regional Development Agency and other key stakeholders and potential funders. For further information, see the Saxton Bampfylde Hever website using reference ASHA.