Salon Archive

Issue: 184

Forthcoming meetings and events

4 April 2008: Women in the Heritage Day. As part of its Tercentenary Festival, the Society will celebrate the achievements of Women in the Heritage with a colloquium at Burlington House on 4 April 2008, from 9.30am to 4.30pm, followed by a wine reception. A copy of the day’s programme can be downloaded from the Society’s website. Tickets costing £10, to cover the cost of lunch and the wine reception, are available from the Society.

A page has been set up on the Society’s website for material relating to the theme of Women in the Heritage. Two contributions have been received so far: from Stephen Briggs, FSA, on the life and achievements of Anna Mary Hawthorn Kitson Clark (Mrs Derwas Chitty) (1905–2005), and from Henrietta Quinnell, FSA, on the life and work of Aileen Fox (1907–2005). Please send further contributions to Christopher Catling, the website manager.

10 April 2008: The Modern History of the First Lambousa Treasure of Byzantine Silverware from Cyprus, by Robert Merrillees, FSA. The modern history of the first treasure of Byzantine silverware from the ancient site of Lambousa on the north coast of Cyprus has never been recounted in detail, largely because of the lack of documentation concerning its discovery, removal from the island and acquisition by the British Museum in 1899. Turned up accidentally by a quarryman in 1897 near the Greek Orthodox monastery of Acheiropoietos, this collection of sixth- and early seventh-century AD recipients [trays] and spoons ended up in private hands in Larnaca, where it was bought by a French nobleman, the fourth Duc de Dino. It was evidently smuggled out of Cyprus and then offered to the British Museum, which revealed its existence for the first time at the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1900.

16 May 2008: Antiquaries in Europe: the role of national antiquarian societies today. Supported by English Heritage, this international colloquium will be held at Burlington House to celebrate the Society’s Tercentenary; it aims to provide an overview of the intersecting interests and future challenges for independent national heritage bodies (NGOs) in Europe today. A presentation on the Society’s history and current role will take place on the previous evening, Thursday 15 May, followed by a wine reception. A copy of the programme can now be downloaded from the Society’s website, and tickets, costing £15 (Fellows) / £25 (public) including wine and refreshments, are available from the Society.

4 and 5 July 2008: Westminster Abbey Chapter House: its history, architecture and context. This Society of Antiquaries Tercentenary Research Symposium will bring together leading scholars to present the results of recent unpublished research and to assess our current knowledge of what the chronicler Matthew Paris described as ‘a chapter house beyond compare’, ranking as one of the spectacular achievements in Gothic architecture. The conference fee is £40 for both days, £20 for a single day. Places (limited to 100) should be booked through the Society. Further details are available on the Society’s website.

Tuesday 15 April and Tuesday 24 June: ‘Getting to know the Society’ introductory tours. Each tour will include an introductory tour of the Burlington House apartments by the General Secretary, David Gaimster, with an overview of the history of the Society and its Fellows over 300 years, a tour of the Society’s library, and the services it offers Fellows, by Heather Rowland, Head of Library and Collections, and a tour of the Society’s pictures and museum collection by Julia Steele, Collections Officer. Tours start at 11am (coffee from 10.30am) and end at 12.30pm, followed, for those who wish it, by a light sandwich lunch, for which a charge of £5 will be made. Numbers are limited to twenty-five Fellows per tour. Please contact the Society to book a place.

Public holidays: Library closure

The Society’s Library will be closed for public holidays over Easter (Friday 21 March to Tuesday 25 March inclusive) and the spring bank holidays (Monday 5 May, Monday and Tuesday 26 and 27 May).

Kelmscott reopens after the floods

Heroic efforts are being made by staff and builders to ensure that Kelmscott Manor is ready to open again for the 2008 season from 2 April until 26 September 2008, fully restored after last year’s floods: see the Kelmscott Manor website for full details of the opening hours. The badly damaged restaurant kitchens have been fitted out with brand new equipment, so no visitor will be deprived of cups of tea and Kelmscott scones, while the Green Room, the one that suffered most damage during the floods, has a new floor and repaired seventeenth-century carved stone fireplace, showing signs of original polychrome paint newly revealed as part of the conservation process.

Writing in February’s Museums Journal, our Fellow Maev Kennedy says that she was asked recently by a Canadian visitor to recommend ‘the main William Morris museum in the UK’. Maev regrets the difficult access and restricted opening hours of all the main contenders for that title – Kelmscott Manor, Red House, Emery Walker House and the William Morris Gallery in Walthamstow. This is an issue that the Society’s Kelmscott Management Committee has, in fact, been debating for some time, having commissioned the National Trust to advise on the best balance of conservation needs versus visitor numbers, and additional opening hours are planned from 2009, along with ambitious plans for improving the overall visitor experience, provided that the funds can be raised.

In the meantime, Fellows are urged to renew their acquaintance with the Manor, either through the normal public opening days (when Fellows are admitted for free) or through the special Fellows’ Day on 12 July when the Manor will be open exclusively to Fellows and their guests to mark the close of our Tercentenary Year.


Salon has received the sad news of the deaths of our Fellows Christa Grössinger and Serra Ridgway. Memories or tributes to our late Fellows would be gratefully received for publishing in Salon and posting on the Society’s website.

Christa Maria Grössinger died in hospital on 14 March 2008 following a stroke she suffered on Christmas Eve last year. Christa was a retired member of the art history department at Manchester University, specialising in the late medieval and early Renaissance art of northern Europe. Christa was a regular Salon correspondent, often sharing insights (not for publication) on matters raised in the newsletter. She also used the Salon network to great effect when, for example, she spotted a Bristol Cathedral misericord for sale in the window of London dealer Sam Fogg in 2006; seeking the editor’s help in contacting various Fellows, she successfully lobbied for grants and financial support to purchase the misericord (which had been banished from the cathedral in the nineteenth century because of its bawdy humour) for Bristol Museum and Art Gallery, where it is now on display.

As well as being an expert on English misericords (the subject of her 1997 book, The World Upside Down) she also wrote extensively on the depiction of women in medieval and Renaissance art and on women and women’s writings from antiquity through to the late Middle Ages and would have no doubt wanted to participate in the forthcoming Women in the Heritage day. Christa’s friend, our Fellow Sophie Oostwerwijk, sums her up when she says: ‘Christa was always kind, generous and full of life, despite her many health problems, and was known to so many friends in the Society of Antiquaries and the British Archaeological Association.’

Francesca Romana Serra Ridgway, wife of our Fellow David Ridgway, died on 7 March 2008 after a long illness. She will be remembered as a distinguished colleague and mentor to many Etruscan archaeologists in Italy, the UK and elsewhere in Europe and in the USA. A brief account of Serra’s academic work can be found on the website of the University of London’s Institute of Classical Studies.

Tributes to our late fellow John Hopkins have been posted on the Society’s website. Fellow Vincent Megaw writes: ‘Surely no one can have had such a store of anecdotes, many scatological and most delivered in a voice worthy of his theatrical son; no minatory notices demanding “SILENCE” in John’s library. When I moved to Sydney – this before email or even the general availability of fax – a response from John accompanying a photocopy or just a reference was a treasured document in its own right, handwritten and often including a copy of John’s latest discoveries in the Society’s archives, including, that is, another one of Those Jokes.’ Vincent also recalls that whenever he visited the Society’s Library subsequently, John would greet him, trailing clouds of tobacco smoke, with the words ‘Ah, Meegan; back from the Antipodes? Let you out have they? Now, have you heard this one …?’

Andrew Pike, FSA, remembers that he was appointed to the post of Library Assistant under John in 1964, initially on a temporary basis, since John’s own appointment as Librarian had to be ratified by Council. ‘At the time’, says Andrew, ‘some members of Council, who had better remain nameless though they are now deceased, were unconvinced that John had the academic background for such a post. Happily for us, they were overruled, John was duly confirmed in his post and so was I!’ Andrew concludes: ‘For the Antiquaries, Fellows and friends, John’s death really does mark the end of an era.’

Andrew’s successor as Library Assistant was our Fellow John Kenyon who was appointed in December 1969. ‘I never regretted taking up the post, for I owe the Antiquaries so much’, writes John. ‘I never would be where I am (or think I am!) in castle studies without the Antiquaries, its Library, and its great Librarian John Hopkins. Time was never dull at the Society with John – bawdy jokes, a wealth of stories about various Fellows … it was a real privilege to have known John and to have worked with him … I think that he will always rank as my most unforgettable character.’

News of Fellows

Dr Patrick Greene has been awarded an Honorary Professorial Fellowship by the University of Melbourne in recognition of his expertise in the management of museums in Australia and Britain. Dr Greene gave his Honorary Professorial Fellowship Lecture at the university on 4 March on the them of ‘What makes a great museum in the 21st century?’, when he spoke about the evolving role of Museum Victoria (founded in 1856) and the increasing need for museums to reflect the communities they serve as well as maintaining a commitment to excellence in research and education.

Patrick Greene was appointed Chief Executive of Museum Victoria in August 2002. The Museum is Australia’s largest museum organisation, and comprises the Melbourne Museum, Scienceworks and the Immigration Museum, as well as the IMAX Theatre and the World Heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building, which together attract 1.5 million visitors a year in a city of 4 million people.

VAT consultation

The European Commission has just launched a consultation on the future application of VAT. Alex Coxen at English Heritage has kindly saved us from the torment of wading through the whole consultation document by pointing to the specific pages that relate to the heritage. The relevant pages are 5, 7, 11 and 12 of the consultation document, which refer to the possibility that Member States should be permitted to apply reduced rates of VAT to the repair, restoration and maintenance of cultural heritage and historical monuments. This is clearly something that everyone who signed that petition to the Prime Minister asking for VAT on historic buildings maintenance to be reduced or abolished should respond to. The deadline for responding to this consultation is 12 May 2008 and the details are on the European Commission’s website.

Joint Committee condemns Heathrow expansion plans

The Joint Committee of the National Amenity Societies, whose members include the CBA, the SPAB, the Georgian Group, Ancient Monuments Society and Victorian Society, have responded to the Government’s Heathrow expansion consultation with a resounding ‘no’ to the central question of ‘whether it is possible to expand the airport’s capacity while minimising environmental damage’. The committee says that ‘the sheer scale of the possible damage to sound, legally protected, historic buildings and sites at Heathrow (as at Stansted) is without post-war precedent’.

It points out that 102 listed buildings and scheduled monuments are at risk from the proposed construction of a third runway, a sixth terminal and associated taxiways, roads and ancillary structures and that ‘under planning law proposals for the demolition of listed buildings or those seriously affecting scheduled sites are normally only granted consent under exceptional circumstances; and almost never when the building is in a sound condition as is the case of those identified as being at risk’.

The committee concludes by urging the Government to ‘think more radically about more imaginative ways of creating a long term, sustainable transport policy that is achievable without destroying large numbers of historic buildings and sites in the process’ and says that ‘it seems clear that completely unchecked growth in air travel bears far too high an environmental price. The Government should acknowledge the need for some control’.

Seamus Heaney laments desecration of Tara by the M3 motorway

Seamus Heaney, the 1995 Nobel Literature Prize winner, whose books are said to account for two-thirds of the poetry volumes sold in Britain, has characterised the construction of the controversial M3 motorway in County Meath as a conflict between two visions of Ireland, the brashly secular economy-driven values of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ versus the quieter spiritual values associated with the harp, the ancient symbol of Ireland. Mr Heaney said that the construction of the motorway close to the Hill of Tara, seat of the Irish High Kings, was a signal that ‘the priorities on these islands have changed; the strings of the harp are being lashed by the tail of the tiger’.

Tara, he said, was ‘a source and a guarantee of something old in the country and something that gives the country its distinctive spirit’. Mr Heaney said that the Irish Government had made ‘a savage choice … acting under pressure from secular motives’.

Despite international criticism from archaeologists, academics and conservationists, and threats of legal action from the European Commission, the Irish Government is determined that the M3 will be completed on schedule within the next two years.

Tara is on the World Monuments Fund’s list of the world’s 100 most endangered sites. Dr Jonathan Foyle, UK Chief Executive of the WMF, interviewed on Ireland’s primetime ‘Today with Pat Kenny’ show last week, said that the Government’s decision to route the motorway through Tara showed that ‘the destructive potential of state-sponsored ignorance is similar to the state-sponsored violence of the Taliban in Afghanistan, when they destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001’.

He accused the Irish authorities of failing to comply with EU planning laws or of considering alternative transport strategies. ‘This entire site’, he said, ‘is the equivalent of Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey for its royal associations and Canterbury for its Christian associations all rolled into one.’

People power and peer pressure saves Brunel pumping station

Following a campaign led by SAVE Britain’s Heritage, our Fellow Mark Horton and the people of Totnes, English Heritage has had a change of heart and has decided to designate Brunel’s threatened atmospheric pumping station at Totnes as a Grade II building, thus ensuring that it cannot be demolished without listed planning consent. According to reports on the BBC, the owners, Dairy Crest, still do not seem to have got the message, however. Claiming the building was unsafe, a Dairy Crest spokeswoman said the company still intended to demolish an adjoining chimney, built in 1935, and would consider further demolition work once they had received official notification of the building’s Grade II status.

Adam Wilkinson, Secretary of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, described the listing as ‘fantastic news’, and Richard Gage, Conservation Officer for South Hams District Council, said ‘the decision to list the buildings reflects what “people power” can do and how enthusiasm and passion for our historic built environment can really influence the decision-making process’, adding that: ‘The town of Totnes and the South Hams as a whole will benefit from the retention of these important reminders of mid-nineteenth-century pioneering and innovative technological development.’

Listing for three-seat privy

Also listed recently is a three-seater privy, not unlike the one that the Society owns at Kelmscott. The news was reported by our Fellow Maev Kennedy in the Guardian, who described it as ‘a small addition to England’s treasury of listed buildings: a tiny oak weatherboarded structure, which speaks of a rural past ignored by costume dramas, a time when parents and child could sit down peacefully together and let nature take its course’.

The little shed is, she writes, ‘far rarer than the handsome Georgian farmhouse in whose pretty garden it stands. The official report by English Heritage for the Department of Culture declares it “a rare surviving example of a late eighteenth-century privy, even rarer because it is a three-seater”’.

Mary Kellett, its proud owner, describes it as ‘a most glorious little building; it faces towards the evening sun, and it is the most delightful place to sit in the evening with a glass of wine and the door open, and just be peaceful and think’.

Palaeolithic hand axes found off Great Yarmouth coast

An assemblage of twenty-eight flint hand-axes has been found in gravel from a licensed marine aggregate dredging area 13km off Great Yarmouth. The find was made by the Dutch archaeologist, Jan Meulmeester, who regularly searches for mammoth bones and fossils in marine sand and gravel delivered by British construction materials supplier Hanson to a Dutch wharf at Flushing, near Antwerp, in the south-west Netherlands. Our Fellow Phil Harding, of Wessex Archaeology and Channel 4’s ‘Time Team’ programme, said that ‘Although we don’t yet know their precise date, we can say that these hand-axes are the single most important find of Ice Age material from below the North Sea’.

English Heritage and the Dutch National Service for Archaeology, Cultural Landscape and Built Heritage are now evaluating the finds to determine their date and possible origin. Bones and teeth were also recovered along with the axes. Ian Selby, Hanson’s Marine Operations and Resources Director, said that as soon as the find was made known, the company was able to identify the area where the finds came from, and ‘as part of our industry’s protocol with English Heritage, we have now moved dredging to another part of the seabed’.

The reporting of the hand-axes demonstrates the level of co-operation that exists between the dredging industry, through its trade association, The British Marine Aggregate Producers Association, consultants Wessex Archaeology and English Heritage. The protocol, signed in 2005, aims to protect archaeological remains discovered in English waters as a result of marine sand and gravel extraction.

Plans to excavate more of Brading Roman villa

Our Fellow Sir Barry Cunliffe, Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology at Oxford University, has announced plans to return to Brading Roman villa, on the Isle of Wight, to explore the 1.6 hectare (4-acre) site around the villa, barely 15 per cent of which has been excavated.

The villa was placed on the World Monuments Fund’s list of the most endangered sites five years ago because of damage to the protective superstructure caused by floods and storms. A £3.1 million single-storey grass-roofed building was opened over the site in 2005 and has won international awards.

The excavation will start in August and will involve local people, particularly the young. The trust that maintains the villa needs £50,000 a year to make that possible and has launched an appeal. Sir Barry said that the excavation could give an insight into the identity of the owner of the villa, famous for its spectacular Orpheus mosaic.

The home of Augustus opens to the public

The Palatine Hill home of Augustus, the first Emperor of Rome, opened to the public last week, some fifty years after the remains were discovered in the 1960s by the Italian archaeologist, Gianfilippo Carrettoni. Octavian, as he was then, lived here in about 30 BC, before becoming sole ruler in 27 BC after the civil wars that followed Caesar’s assassination, following which he built his imperial palace complex higher up the hill. The highlights of the newly restored house are the frescoed walls, such as those in the Room of the Masks, painted like a stage, with narrow side doors standing ajar, comic masks peering through small windows and painted garden vistas beyond.

Francesco Rutelli, the Minister of Culture, said that the opening of the Augustus rooms was ‘an extraordinary event, the fruit of decades of work thanks to state funds but also funding from private bodies like the World Monument Fund’.

Temporary export bar on the Dering Roll

The export of a thirteenth-century roll of arms, crucial to the study of medieval English knighthood, has been put on hold by the Government at the recommendation of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest. The Committee recommended that the export decision be deferred on the grounds that the roll is of outstanding significance for the study of early English heraldry and is so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune. The Committee awarded a starred rating to the roll, meaning that every possible effort should be made to raise enough money to keep it in the country.

The Dering Roll was produced in England in the last quarter of the thirteenth century. It is 8.5ft long and contains the coats of arms of approximately one-quarter of the English baronage of the reign of Edward I. As the earliest surviving English roll of arms it is a key document of medieval English knighthood. As a statement of the knights who owed feudal service to the constable of Dover Castle, it carries outstanding local as well as national significance.

Lord Inglewood, Chairman of the Reviewing Committee, said: ‘This is an extraordinarily iconic object being the oldest complete English roll of arms in the history of English Heraldry.’

The decision on the export licence application for the Dering Roll will be deferred for a period ending on 19 April 2008 inclusive. This period may be extended until 19 July 2008 inclusive if a serious intention to raise funds with a view to making an offer to purchase the Dering Roll at the recommended price of £192,500, excluding VAT, is expressed.

Further details about the Dering Roll can be found in the ‘Sold Lot Archive’ auction catalogue on the Sotheby’s website (sale L07241 lot 46 on 4 December 2007) and on the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s website.

DCMS project team to assess ways to promote philanthropy

February’s edition of the Museums Journal reports that the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is to set up a task force to consider ways of promoting cultural philanthropy. Headed by Keith Nichol, formerly head of museums at DCMS, the new task force will consult experts in the cultural and finance sectors and work with the Treasury on possible tax policy changes.

The move is partly motivated by the findings of the 2006/7 report of the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest, which shows that the system is not effective in preventing the export of the more valuable objects. The lack of income tax incentives for donors is one of the reasons given for the lack of money for purchases under the scheme. Our Fellow Tim Knox, who is a member of the Reviewing Committee, says that ‘unlike the US or continental Europe, we have no incentive for lifetime giving; I would like to see the acceptance in lieu system [which accepts antiquities and works of art in lieu of inheritance tax] extended to lifetime giving’.

Heritage Minister, Margaret Hodge, hinted that the Government was looking again at some of the recommendations contained in the report, called ‘Securing the Best for our Museums: private giving and government support’ and written by our Fellow Sir Nicholas Goodison in 2004. In a speech given to the Arts and Philanthropy City Breakfast on 20 February 2008, she said: ‘We have already introduced substantial incentives, from Gift Aid relief to the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, but I am conscious that there are other recommendations in Nicholas Goodison’s thorough review that have yet to be addressed.’

She went on to say: ‘Whilst there are an enormous number of exemplars of generous giving by private philanthropists, there are some worrying statistics which convince me that we do need a real step change in private giving to the Arts if we are to ensure over time our international pre-eminent place as a centre of artistic and cultural excellence … In the field of private giving we fall way behind the USA, where charitable giving is nearly 1.7 per cent of GDP whilst in the UK it is under 0.75 per cent … we do want to learn from them how we can create a culture where private giving, by the wealthy and the less well off, the multi-national companies and the SMEs [Small and Medium Sized Enterprises], is not seen as an exception but is seen as a normal part of our everyday lives.’

The Whitbread’s turn to wine

If our Society ever repeats the highly enjoyable meeting on wine and archaeology held on 6 March, our Fellow Sam Whitbread should be invited to speak. Though he is the head of a family that is synonymous with beer and brewing, a profile in the Daily Telegraph reveals that Sam and his wife Jane have recently won the prestigious International Wine Challenge bronze award for one of their Warden Abbey wines, twenty years after they planted a vineyard on their 3,000-acre Warden Abbey estate in Bedfordshire.

The archaeological significance of the vineyard is that it stands on the site of a medieval vineyard, which ceased production following the dissolution of Warden Abbey in the 1530s. Finding medieval floor and roof tiles on the estate led Jane to undertake research into the history of Warden Abbey whose clay pits supplied the raw material for the tiles on the floor of Ely Cathedral’s chapter house. This led to the discovery of the existence of a ‘lyttel’ and a ‘greate’ vineyard, and the revival of wine making in Bedfordshire, a county more strongly associated with Brussels sprouts and kale.

Information about tasting days, visits and sales can be found on the Warden Abbey Wines website.

Closure of the last brickworks in Bedfordshire

The brick making for which Bedfordshire was once famous has come to an end with the closure at the end of February of the Stewartby brickworks, once one of the world’s largest producers of bricks, with 130 kilns in the 1930s, now reduced to four, lining the road between Bedford and Bletchley. Stewartby has closed because sulphur dioxide emissions from the kilns breach EU and UK environmental regulations. Thanks to a recent listing by English Heritage, the chimneys and kilns will remain, however, as incongruous industrial relics in what is planned as a nature park.

The Stewart family, of Fife descent, took control of the Bedfordshire brickworks after the First World War and were known for their concern for staff welfare. At their largest Bedfordshire works, next to the railway line near the hamlet of Wootton Pillinge, they built the Stewartby model village, with schools, village halls and sports grounds. After the Second World War, many jobs were filled by German PoWs and the dispossessed of eastern Europe. Then, in the early 1950s, brick factories went recruiting in Naples and Bedford became a partly Italian town. By the 1960s, many of the Italians had left the brickfields for more rewarding jobs. Their replacements came from the Indian subcontinent, mainly Sikhs from the Punjab.

The wrong Blarney Stone

Two months ago Salon reported on the publication of Blarney Castle: its history, development and purpose (Cork University Press, 2007), written by our Fellow Mark Samuel and his architectural archaeologist wife, Kate Hamlyn, saying that it ‘attempts to unravel and illuminate some of the traditions surrounding the famous Blarney Stone’. This week that unravelling seems to have made Mark and Kate just a little bit unpopular with the owner of the castle, Charles Colthurst.

The problem lies in the authors’ suggestion that the stone the tourists flock to kiss today has only been identified as the Blarney Stone since about 1870. They believe the stone that is supposed to bestow the gift of the gab on those who press their lips to its surface lay in a more dangerous position requiring considerable courage to reach. The equivalent of a risk–assessment exercise in the nineteenth century, combined with health and safety considerations and the desire to make the Blarney Stone more accessible, led to a different stone being designated.

Echoing the words of Queen Elizabeth I, who is said to have dismissed the excuses of one of her courtiers as ‘Blarney’, the castle’s owner says that Mark and Kate’s book falls into the same category: ‘a load of Blarney’, he told the press last week, adding that ‘this is the exact location and has been as far back as all records show. The only stone that was ever kissed in Blarney is the stone they kiss today’. Of course, what needs to be added is that the contemporary myth that associates the stone with eloquence is itself a nineteenth-century bowdlerisation: as Queen Elizabeth well understood, kissing the Blarney stone originally meant that you could get away with telling lies. Or, as the Independent put it in its leader on the subject: ‘Baloney is the lie laid on so thick you hate it. Blarney is flattery laid on so thin you love it.’

And the wrong kind of thatch

The Observer reports that thatchers are at odds with local authority conservation officers in England over the type of roofing materials they are allowed to use. A spokesman for the National Society of Master Thatchers (NSMT) says that some local authorities will no longer accept the use of triticale, a wheat–rye hybrid approved by English Heritage that has been used for at least thirty years. The problem is compounded by the NSMT’s claim that last year’s wet summer has left them short of traditional home-grown long straw; some local authorities will not allow the use of materials imported from eastern Europe, which thatchers and clients like because it is cheaper and longer lasting. Marjorie Sanders, chief executive of the NSMT, has gone as far as to claim that: ‘Some councils are victimising thatchers. It’s vital that conservation officers understand how serious the situation is and allow more flexibility.’

English Heritage has called for a compromise. Historic buildings inspector David Brock told the Observer: ‘Most old thatchers would patch roofs rather than replace them wholesale, as is done by younger thatchers. That could be done until the right kind of material becomes available next year. Our advice to owners would be to look ahead and book your thatcher, giving him time to stockpile the required materials because there will be lean years. Owners may need more patience.’

Campaigning Victorian style

How do you get your point across and attract attention in an age where protest has become commonplace, or is circumscribed by anti-democratic laws? The Victorian Society, led by our Fellow Ian Dungavell, has hit on a method to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary: the use of pointed humour. In 1962, protesting against the proposed demolition of the Euston Arch, the Society wrote a letter to the Prime Minister. Recently, to highlight the threat to Victorian and Edwardian schools posed by the Government’s Building Schools for the Future programme (demolishing serviceable buildings instead of converting them), the Society held a Victorian-style East End wake, with a horse-drawn hearse and a coffin that represented schools in Tower Hamlets.

It has also used the tactic of turning up at threatened buildings with hazard tape, white decontamination suits as worn by crime-scene investigators and signs announcing that this is a ‘Heritage Crime Scene’ – all good for generating effective publicity, though, as the Victorian Society’s website warns, using high-visibility tactics like this, you have to be sure that the building is worth saving, that the campaign is worth the fight, that you know what you are trying to achieve and that you know who you need to reach. There is also plenty of scope for celebrating victories: staff marked the actual birthday of the VicSoc with an al fresco formal lunch on the steps of the Albert Memorial, a monument they did so much to protect, and a pub crawl is planned in April (see the Society’s website, taking in authentic Victorian interiors that the Society has done so much to promote.

Conflict over plans to rip out pews

Those of us who sit on Diocesan Advisory Councils know only too well how real is The Archers’ story line in which parish communities are split apart by plans to reorder the parish church, replacing pews and benches with stackable chairs, so as to create a more flexible space within the nave. The Observer reports this week on several non-fictional examples of vicars and parishioners at odds over the issue. In Kildwick, near Skipton, North Yorkshire, objectors are threatening court action to prevent pews being removed from St Andrew’s Church, a Grade I-listed building. ‘It has caused a real rift. It’s a tragedy,’ said Keith Midgley, chairman of Kildwick Parish Council. ‘They want to replace them with chairs. Really they want to make it rather like a concert hall.’

At St Edmund’s Church in Mansfield Woodhouse, Nottinghamshire, vicar Allan Scrivener’s plan to create space for yoga classes and the Women’s Institute by removing a third of the pews has provoked fierce objections from the Victorian Society, which is trying to save the church’s rare ‘poppy head’ pew ends. The VicSoc is also vehemently opposed to plans to remove historic box pews from the Grade I-listed Norman church of St Andrew in Ogbourne, in Wiltshire, where vicar Roger Powell wants to make room for a youth club, concerts and art exhibitions.

Our Fellow Sir Roy Strong has contributed to the debate by arguing that churches should make a bonfire of their pews. He told the Observer: ‘Of course people go bananas with “Oh Aunt Maud made the hassock and granny sat there”, but church interiors have always changed.’ However, Stephen Bowler, who sits on the Church of England advisory committee dealing with the more controversial applications for ‘re-ordering’, says it is getting harder for churches to remove pews without putting forward a comprehensive argument.

New portrait of Catherine Howard

Our Fellow David Starkey has identified the subject of a painting at Hever Castle, Kent, as only the second known portrait of Catherine Howard (1521–42), Henry’s fifth wife, who was charged with treason and executed on 13 February 1542 in the Tower of London. The painting was previously thought to show the future Queen Mary, but David Starkey has linked the sitter’s jewels and costume to those documented as belonging to Catherine Howard. The portrait also bears a striking similarity in facial shape and features to the other portrait, a miniature in the Royal Collection. The Guthrie family, Hever Castle’s owners, have a collection of Tudor portraits second only to the National Portrait Gallery, Dr Starkey said.

British Archaeological Awards 2008

Are you involved in, or do you know about, an archaeological project, book, discovery, innovation or TV, radio or ICT programme that you think deserves recognition and the chance of an award? The British Archaeological Awards is looking for nominations for the 2008 round of awards, and you have until 31 May to download and complete the simple nomination form, which can be found, along with full details of the ten separate awards, on the BAA’s website. Prizes will be handed out to the winners by a special guest celebrity at the awards ceremony on Monday 10 November at the British Museum.


The Council for British Archaeology has asked Salon to point out that the Marsh Archaeology Award, featured in the last issue of this newsletter, was created and is administered jointly by the Marsh Christian Trust and the CBA. Further information can be found on the Community Archaeology Forum website.

In its list of newly elected Fellows in the last issue, Salon incorrectly described Stephen Church as a ‘medieval archaeologist’, which surprised him because, although he is a great admirer of the work of archaeologists, he has never knowingly handled a trowel in his life, and is, in fact, a medieval historian, specialising in the Angevin period. Proving that he does have something important in common with many archaeologists, however, Stephen signs his email with the phrase cervisia vera, veraque historia – the real beer lover’s equivalent, perhaps, to the wine lover’s in vino veritas.

Kirsty Norman has pointed out that Salon was somewhat premature in announcing the publication by English Heritage of guidance on ‘Energy conservation in traditional buildings’, ‘Micro wind generation and traditional buildings’ and ‘Small-scale solar thermal energy and traditional buildings’, as the English Heritage website says these are still in preparation and will not be ready until May. Apologies to any readers who made a fruitless journey to the website and found what English Heritage calls, tantalisingly, ‘taster screenshots’!

Understanding the Archaeology of Landscapes: a guide to good recording practice

This guidance document definitely does exist: Salon’s editor has it on his desk, and it consists of a clearly written, well-illustrated guide to best current practice in historic landscape survey methodology. Twelve case studies illustrate different types of survey, including the creation of a national database of rock art in Northumberland and County Durham, a survey of town commons, of upland landscapes, the earthworks surrounding Jervaulx Abbey and a rocket testing site in Cumbria. Copies are available from the English Heritage Customer Services Department, quoting Product Code 51320.

Conferences and seminars

Recreating the Royal Architectural Museum, 26 March 2008, Sir John Soane’s Museum Edward Bottoms, archivist at the newly established Architectural Association Archives, will trace the development of the Royal Architectural Museum from its foundation in 1851 as a museum of Gothic casts ‘for the education of art workmen’, and intended as the core of a National Museum of Architecture, through to the closure of the museum and its amalgamation into the V&A in 1916. Places must be booked in advance by contacting Beth Kingston, Education Manager at Sir John Soane’s Museum.

Is there a British Chalcolithic? Prehistoric Society conference, 18 to 20 April 2008 The question of the existence of a Chalcolithic period hardly arises in continental Europe where colleagues have little difficulty defining and working with the concept. Why is this not the case in Britain? Is the evidence lacking or do our interpretations of the Neolithic/Bronze Age transition need revising? The conference will address these questions and seek to find an answer through papers from international speakers and plenty of debate. The event will start with a wine reception on the evening of Friday 18 April and be followed by two days of papers and discussion, including an introduction by Ben Roberts of the British Museum and the keynote lecture by Fellow Stuart Needham. The full conference programme and details of accommodation and other essentials can be found on the conference website.

History of Libraries Research Seminars, Institute of English Studies, Senate House, University of London The purpose of these seminars is to encourage further research into all aspects of library history following the publication in 2006 of the Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland. Our Fellows Giles Mandelbrote (Early Printed Collections, The British Library, London) and Keith Manley (Institute of Historical Research, University of London) are the seminar convenors. The seminars are free and open to all.

Forthcoming seminars are on 19 March 2008, when Mark Purcell will talk about the ‘Libraries of the National Trust’; 16 April 2008, when Wallace Kirsop (Monash University) will present ‘Some sceptical thoughts on circulating libraries in the long eighteenth century’; 14 May 2008 when Karen Attar (University of London Research Library Services) will discuss ‘Incunabula collections of the Senate House Library in the University of London’; and 11 June 2008, when there will be a round-table discussion on the prospects for library history research. For details of venues and times, see the University of London’s Institute of English Studies website.

Association of Gardens Trusts 2008 Conference The European Landscape Convention will be the theme of the 2008 conference, to be held in the Geological Society lecture theatre, Burlington House, on 25 April 2008, from 10am to 4.30pm, with Lucinda Lambton as the keynote speaker. Further details from Kate Harwood.

Tony Robinson presents ‘Fifteen Years of Time Team’ This fundraising event for the World Monuments Fund takes place in St George’s Church, Bloomsbury, on 6 June 2008. Drinks will be served on the Portico, and in addition to Tony Robinson’s presentation on ‘Fifteen Years of Time Team’, there will be a chance to see the restored interior and rebuilt North Gallery of the church and to hear a review of WMF projects. Further details from the WMF’s website.

Collecting Revolution: the history and importance of the Thomason Tracts This two-day conference, on 30 June and 1 July 2008, takes place at the British Library and University College London, and will explore a variety of approaches to the collection of Civil War pamphlets amassed by the London bookseller George Thomason. Speakers Sabrina Baron, Maureen Bell, Michael Braddick, David Como, Ann Hughes, Keith Lindley, Giles Mandelbrote, Jason McElligott, Michael Mendle, Jason Peacey, Joad Raymond, Julian Roberts, David Stoker, Elliot Vernon and Steven Zwicker will address the man and his milieu, his role as a publisher and bookseller, his aims and methods as a collector, the fate of his collection, and its significance to subsequent generations of scholars. Further details from the conference website.

Aspects of Twentieth-Century Stained Glass Organised by the British Society of Master Glass Painters, this international conference takes place on 31 July and 1 August 2008 at the Glaziers’ Hall in London. The programme is still being finalized, but it will address historical research and conservation issues and the eminent speakers from around the world will include our Fellows Martin Harrison, Peter Cormack and Donald Buttress. Further details of the event will be posted on the British Society of Master Glass Painters’ website.

Books by (or of interest to) Fellows

The Tomb in Ancient Egypt: royal and private sepulchres from the Early Dynastic Period to the Romans (Thames & Hudson Thames and Hudson/American University in Cairo Press, 2008) by Aidan Dodson, of the University of Bristol, and Salima Ikram, of the American University in Cairo, provides an integrated account of the development of the Egyptian tomb from around 3000 BC to the third century AD, including both the burial installation itself and the offering chapels that were an integral part of the sepulchre.

Not only is the architectural evolution of ancient Egyptian burial sites over three millennia described, analysed and illustrated in rich detail, so is the decoration of the burial chambers and the offering places, including the paintings, reliefs and statues that adorn their walls, and the biographical hieroglyphics that provide give rare insights into Egyptian life: telling, for example, of Harkhuf’s African explorations, returning with the gift of a dancing dwarf for his boy-king, Pepy II, or of General Amenemheb, who saved his king’s life when charged by an enraged elephant.

On a much more serious topic, Boydell and Brewer is about to publish The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq, edited by Peter Stone, Professor of Heritage Studies and Head of School of Arts and Cultures at Newcastle University, and Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly, a Lebanese archaeologist and Middle East correspondent for the French magazine Archéologia. Many of the papers recount the personal stories of individuals who were – and in most cases continue to be – involved in archaeology in Iraq, both under Saddam Hussein and more recently. They provide an overview and context for the issues surrounding the looting, theft and destruction of archaeological sites since the war of 2003 but the papers also reach beyond these particular events to consider the wider issues relating to cultural identity and heritage in theatres of conflict.

Also from Boydell and Brewer is a book that might interest many Fellows called William Camden: a life in context , written by Professor Wyman H Herendeen, Professor of English at the University of Houston, Texas. This presents Camden as a new kind of scholar and a key agent of change in the ‘historical revolution’ identified by our Fellows Graham Parry, Daniel Woolf and others that occurred during the reforming years of the Tudor dynasty. Camden and fellow members of the Elizabethan Society of Antiquaries sought to strip out the mythical, theological and folkloric elements from historical narrative, just as Protestant radicals were seeking to remove superstitious and irrational practices from the new Anglican faith. As Camden says in the preface to his Britannia, his aim was to ‘illustrate what was obscure, and settle what was doubtful; and upon the whole, to recover (as much as possible) a Certainty in our Affairs which either the carelessness of Writers, or the Credulity of Readers, has bereft us of’.

Mention is long overdue of a book by Arthur MacGregor, published to coincide with his retirement from the Ashmolean after twenty-eight years, and encapsulating the results of a quarter century’s intermittent research: Curiosity and Enlightenment: collectors and collections from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries (Yale University Press, 2007). Arthur modestly states that the book has no pretensions to being a comprehensive account of museum development over the course of several formative centuries, but rather a selection of significant topographical details picked out from the broader museum landscape.

What comes over strongly in this richly illustrated prospect is the confidence with which our predecessors set about their task of creating and displaying their microcosms of the wider world in whatever themes they chose to collect, whether holy relics or anatomical waxworks, stuffed animals or engraved gems. Not for them the agonising over outreach strategies; before foreign travel became commonplace and before photography, museums were a prime form of entertainment and attracted crowds that would make today’s museum directors envious.

It is fascinating too to observe how late in the day archaeology became a fit subject for museum research and display. It was the innovative and the contemporary that people wanted to see: art, science and manufacturing dominated. True, the classical and the very remote (ancient Egypt) had their admirers, but it was not until the 1850s that attention began to be paid to the more local antiquities that now dominate many a museum. In 1851, the year in which the Great Exhibition boosted national pride in contemporary British achievements, one commentator observed that there was ‘no collection that can truly be called British. True we have the British Museum, but in vain will you seek, within the walls of that now gigantic building, any collection of British remains’.

The change of focus occurs almost outside the timeframe of Arthur’s book; he notes that archaeology only truly came into its own as a proper subject for public interest and debate once the ‘fundamental truths’ enshrined in the Bible had been overturned, that the ‘high antiquity of man had become accepted fact’, and that archaeology itself ‘had expanded from an essentially Mediterranean and classical arena to encompass the whole development of mankind’.