Salon Archive

Issue: 185

Forthcoming meetings and events

4 April 2008: Women in the Heritage Day. Tickets are still available for the Women in the Heritage Day 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. New contributions are being added all the time and further contributions can be sent to Christopher Catling, the website manager (by email to or by post to Society of Antiquaries of London, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BE).

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.

15 April and 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.

23 April 2008: Council elections, Anniversary meeting and President’s Address. For those voting in person, the election of Council members and officers will take place between 3.30pm and 3.45pm in the Society’s Meeting Room at Burlington House (and not, as stated in the recent mailing to Fellows, at the Geological Society of London). Tea will be served at 4.15pm and the President will deliver the Anniversary Address at 5pm. This will be followed by a reception in the Library, for which tickets are required (price £15, available from the Society. Fellows are welcome to bring guests to the meeting and/or the reception.

1 May 2008: The Taming of Nature: changing relations in the human environment. Martin Jones, FSA, will give this sixth lecture in the Society’s Tercentenary Festival series, which takes place at the National Museum, Cathays Park, Cardiff, starting at 6pm, followed by a wine reception. Fellows should book tickets through the Society; members of the public should book online.

Archaeology has moved a long way from the study of artefacts such as stones and pots, and now includes the analysis of ancient plant and animal remains, tissues, cells and even molecules. Martin Jones, Professor of Archaeological Science at Cambridge University and at the forefront of bio-archaeology, with research interests in the bio-molecular archaeology of early crops and food, will describe how cutting-edge archaeological science has revealed in intimate detail the story of our changing engagement with nature.

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.

Francesca Ridgway

The last issue of Salon reported the recent death of Francesca Romana Serra Ridgway and might have confused Fellows by referring to her as Serra Ridgway, whereas she was better known as Francesca Ridgway, Serra being her maiden name.

Christa Grössinger

Christa’s funeral will take place at St James’s Church in Didsbury, Manchester, on 2 April 2008, at 1pm. Her friends and colleagues hope to hold a celebration of her life in the summer and are liaising with Manchester Cathedral about this as Christa was working on the history of the cathedral at the time of her death.

In reporting the death of Christa Grössinger in the last issue of Salon, Sophie Oosterwijk’s name was mistyped, for which we apologise. Salon might also have given the impression that Sophie wrote the whole of the brief and inadequate notice that appeared in the last issue, whereas it was hastily penned by Salon’s editor, and it contained some errors which Dorothy Clayton, Head of Scholarly Publications and Editor of the Bulletin of the John Rylands Library at the University of Manchester, has written to put right.

Dorothy says that Christa died not from the small stroke that she suffered in hospital, but from kidney failure, brought on by the drugs she had taken for years to treat her arthritis. Dialysis proved unsuccessful, ‘though Christa’s health did improve in mid-February and she herself was extraordinarily optimistic: the evening before her death she was choosing tiles for the new bathroom which she was having installed for her return home. Though she suffered from severe disabilities all her adult life, she never complained, always thought of others first and was a very special person.

‘She was very proud of her Fellowship of the Society of Antiquaries and thought the “Making History” exhibition was tremendous; she advertised it widely in Manchester and the north and was very irritated when she thought not enough people went to see it. A wonderful anecdote is that on Christmas Eve she took into hospital with her a book on St George in art. A few days later when she was moved into a different ward, I was collecting her things together and mentioned the book. She told me that she had met a cleaner who was retiring from the hospital. He had liked the book and she had given it to him as a retirement present! So, even in her hospital bed, she was finding new converts to medieval history.’

Nicolas Coldstream

The website of the British School at Athens has announced the sad news of the death on 21 March 2008 of our Fellow Nicolas Coldstream, who was Vice-President of the School and husband of our Fellow Nicola Coldstream.

President and Vice-President dig Stonehenge

At about the same time as this issue of Salon goes out, the world’s media will be seeking sound bites from Geoff Wainwright, our President, and Tim Darvill, Vice-President, as they cut the turf to inaugurate the first archaeological excavation at Stonehenge in forty-four years. Tim and Geoff have obtained scheduled monument consent for a two-week excavation in the south-eastern quadrant, where a small trench, measuring 3.5 metres by 2.5 metres, will be used to try and obtain stratified material for dating the erection of the Double Bluestone Circle – the first stone structure on the site. They also hope to find out how long the circle was in use, when it was dismantled and when it was reused in later stages of the evolution of Stonehenge.

Professor Wainwright said: ‘This small excavation is the culmination of six years of research which Tim and I have conducted in the Preseli Hills of north Pembrokeshire and which has shed new light on the eternal question as to why Stonehenge was built. The excavation will date the arrival of the bluestones following their 250-km journey from Preseli to Salisbury Plain and contribute to our definition of the society which undertook such an ambitious project. We will be able to say not only why but when the first stone monument was built.’

More precise dating will allow the construction of the Bluestone Circle to be placed in context and compared with other events of the mid-third millennium BC, which is when archaeologists currently believe the relatively standard henge at Stonehenge was transformed by the arrival of the bluestones.

Survey work carried out by Tim and Geoff has revealed that the landscape around Carn Menyn in the Preseli Hills of Pembrokeshire is replete with monuments, including stone circles, standing stones, cairns, portal tombs, rock art and numerous modified springs. They have argued that this spring-filled landscape, with its rare and unusual spotted dolorite outcrop, was associated with healing, and that the builders of the Bluestone Circle at Stonehenge hoped to recreate something of the same properties by replicating that landscape on Salisbury Plain.

The excavation at Stonehenge will last until 11 April. During this time Stonehenge will be open as normal and visitors will be able to observe the excavation as it happens on plasma screens inside a special marquee. Daily video updates of the dig are also viewable on the English Heritage website. Tim will be delivering a series of lectures on the Preseli Bluestones in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne on 13, 14 and 15 May 2008 as part of the Society’s Tercentenary Festival lecture series, and the first results from the excavation are likely to be revealed in a BBC 2 ‘Timewatch’ programme on Stonehenge, to be broadcast in the autumn.

Draft Heritage Protection Bill to be published this week

A milestone in heritage protection reform will be reached on 2 April 2008 when the new Heritage Protection Bill for England and Wales will be published in draft form. The overall aim of the bill is to put in place a unified heritage protection system, remove the distinctions between different designation regimes and deliver a system that works for the whole historic environment, maximising opportunities for public involvement. Specific measures include a statutory requirement for local authorities to have access to Historic Environment Records, and the revocation of Class I Consents, permitting the destruction of sites under cultivation.

How to Care for Places and People: IHBC consultation document

Vital to the success of Heritage Protection Reform is a programme of training to equip heritage and conservation professionals with the skills and knowledge to meet the new statutory challenges. The Institute of Historic Building Conservation has set out to define those skills in a consultation document called How to Care for Places and People, available from the IHBC’s website, and is looking for responses by 2 May 2008. At the core of the document is a matrix setting out the gamut of skills needed by professionals working in historic environment conservation, especially those working for local planning authorities. As such these represent a microcosm of the services that should be available through the local authority if it is to fulfil its statutory duties and civic obligations to historic environment conservation.

Consultation on marine historic environment in Scotland

The Scottish Culture Minister, Linda Fabiani, announced in January that Scotland did not intend to embark on a similar programme of legislative reform but would instead focus on improving the workings of the current system. However Scotland lacks specific legislation relating to the marine historic environment, in common with other parts of the UK, so a new draft Scottish Historic Environment Policy paper (or SHEP) has just been published which sets out general policy and specific proposals for new legislation (see the Historic Scotland website). Responses are invited by 30 May 2008.

The policy document argues that Scotland’s underwater heritage should be managed, protected and investigated as carefully and thoroughly as its terrestrial equivalent, and that marine sites (including the remains of human settlement and activity, the remains of ships and aircrafts lost at sea, and harbours, lighthouses and other structures relating to transport and trade by sea) should be designated and protected, just like terrestrial monuments.

Scotland's policy on Scheduled Monument Consent

The newly published Scheduled Monument Consent (SHEP) incorporates the results of an earlier consultation, and sets out Scotland’s policy on the consent process for works affecting any of the nation’s 8,000 scheduled monuments.

Culture Minister Linda Fabiani said: ‘Scheduled monuments are of real importance to Scotland, not only as part of our cultural identity but as a resource for understanding our past, for education and for tourism. The Consent process has a vital role in protecting this small group of monuments, to ensure that future generations can appreciate and benefit from them.’ Our Fellow Malcolm Cooper, Chief Inspector at Historic Scotland, added: ‘The aim of the SHEPs is to deliver policy in a transparent way, so that people can understand what we do, and why we do it. These monuments are of great cultural and historical importance and Historic Scotland’s remit is to ensure that they receive the most appropriate treatment.’

Further details can be found on the Historic Scotland website.

Scotland's policy on Gardens and Designed Landscapes and Properties in Care

Last week also saw the publication of two further SHEPs in the planned suite of twelve that will eventually cover all areas of Scotland’s historic environment.

The new SHEP on Gardens and Designed Landscapes says that Ministers will continue to identify nationally important Gardens and Designed Landscapes to add to the 386 sites that are already included in the online Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes, and that inclusion in the register means that a site receives recognition and a degree of protection through the planning system.

The SHEP for Properties in Care (PIC) sets out a range of policies relating to care, maintenance and educational use of the national portfolio of Scottish Properties in Care, consisting of some 345 historic sites and buildings. The SHEP says that such assets are taken into care to ensure the long-term preservation, for the public benefit, of a collection of monuments defining significant aspects of Scotland’s past. They will be used ‘as a showcase for Scotland, for demonstrating exemplary practice in conservation, for enhancing understanding and for improving the provision of access and interpretation in a way which can stand comparison with the best in the world’.

Culture Minister Linda Fabiani said: ‘These two SHEPs continue our efforts to provide a coherent structure for identifying and safeguarding Scotland’s historic environment.’

Further information can be found on the Historic Scotland website.

Heritage Lottery Fund awards £4 million to Great Dixter

There can be few more alluring combinations of historic house and garden than that at Great Dixter, where the original mid-fifteenth-century building was extended and turned into an arts and crafts idyll by the architect Edwin Lutyens for Nathaniel and Daisy Lloyd from 1910. Also designed by Lutyens, the gardens were the pride of Daisy Lloyd who passed her love of plants to her son, Christopher (known to all his friends as Christo), one of a small handful of truly innovative gardeners of the twentieth century, who used Great Dixter as the laboratory for his constant experimentation with new plant combinations, writing about the results in witty and highly literate books and columns in Country Life and the Guardian.

Before Christo died at the age of 84 on 27 January 2006, he had already announced plans for the future of the house and garden, which involved setting up the Great Dixter Charitable Trust and buying from the other surviving members of the Lloyd family their share in the estate. He had also picked on the young Fergus Garrett as his friend, sparring partner, pupil, Head Gardener and heir as guardian of the spirit of Great Dixter.

All that was needed to complete the succession plan was money – some £7 million in total – and so the announcement on Friday that the Heritage Lottery Fund has agreed to contribute over £4 million towards the Trust’s objectives will be one of the most popular decisions that the HLF trustees have ever made, at least amongst those who know and love this inspirational and enormously influential place.

Announcing the award, Carole Souter, Director of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: ‘Great Dixter is one of England’s most wonderful gardens and a permanent reminder of the vision of Christopher Lloyd. The estate is run by a dedicated team who are passionate about its legacy.’

Christo was renowned for nurturing people as well as plants and the project aims to develop Great Dixter’s potential as a unique place for training horticultural students. The project will also provide access to the Dixter archive, which contains a wealth of original drawings, journals and historic photographs and correspondence between Nathaniel Lloyd and Sir Edwin Lutyens, not to mention Christo’s own records, which make Great Dixter one of the best documented historic gardens in the world.

British Library campaign to save the Dering Roll

The last issue of Salon reported that the Dering Roll has been placed under a temporary export bar to allow a UK buyer to match the price offered by the overseas bidder. The British Library subsequently contacted the Society to say that it has launched a campaign to raise the necessary funding, and hopes that Fellows will contribute.

The Dering Roll sold at auction at Sotheby’s in December 2007 for £226,188, and the Library has until 19 April 2008 to show that it has a serious intention of raising this sum by the export bar deadline of 19 July 2008. If you would like to make a contribution to the Library’s campaign please contact Gabrielle Filmer-Pasco, Trust Fundraiser at the Library’s Development Office (.

The Dering Roll was awarded a starred rating by the Reviewing Committee on the Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest because of its outstanding significance for the study of early English heraldry. The acquisition of the Dering Roll by the Library would add a manuscript of enormous importance to its already strong collection, which includes Cooke’s Ordinary and the Balliol Roll (now Add. Roll 77242), for which it successfully bid on at the same Sotheby’s auction. This and the Dering Roll had both been on loan to the British Library from 2001 to 2007, when they were withdrawn for sale by the owner.

Our Fellow Dr Scot McKendrick, Head of Western Manuscripts at the British Library, told Salon: ‘The Dering Roll would be an outstanding complement to our very strong existing heraldic collections. We are therefore making every effort possible to raise the money to keep it in the UK.’

The Dering Roll provides a vital documentary record for the study of knighthood in medieval England and depicts the coats of arms of approximately a quarter of the English baronage during the reign of King Edward I (1272–1307). The Roll is believed to have been commissioned by Stephen of Penchester, who served as Constable at Dover Castle from 1268 to 1299, and it may be surmised that this manuscript served a political purpose, bringing together in one place the coats of arms of Stephen’s feudal followers.

The British Library will make the Dering Roll permanently available and accessible to researchers via the Library’s Manuscripts Reading Room and will provide the ideal place for scholars to take forward research and study on the content and history of this extremely important document. The Library also hopes to generate great interest and enthusiasm from the general public by making it available free of charge in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library, where it will be displayed alongside the Library’s other medieval illuminated and historical manuscripts.

TAF asks English Heritage to think again on archaeological science cuts

The Archaeology Forum (TAF), of which the Society is a member, has responded with dismay to an English Heritage proposal to reduce by half the number of Regional Science Advisers (RSAs) it employs: the existing nine RSA posts will be reduced to four territorial science advisers and a single RSA post for Greater London.

Writing to the Chairman of English Heritage, Lord Bruce-Lockhart, our Fellow, Pete Hinton, TAF Convenor, said: ‘These posts provide front-line advice to local authority archaeologists and conservation officers, and to consulting and contracting archaeologists on all aspects of historic environment science, especially for developer-funded archaeology. They provide independent advice in a crucial specialist area that is not available from other sources and which is important to ensure the latest science research and techniques are fed into developer-funded archaeology.’

The letter emphasised how highly the role of the RSAs is regarded within the historic environment and development sector as ‘one of the most effective aspects of English Heritage’s strategic support for local historic environment services’, and pointed to the growing importance of science-based archaeological understanding for meeting environmental pressures on land use, coasts, river systems and wetlands, particularly in the context of managing climate change impacts.

English Heritage has responded by saying that it will consult widely before taking a final decision, and that the points made in TAF’s letter will be taken into consideration.

Barbary lion skulls found at the Tower of London

The application of science to archaeological finds was illustrated last week by an article in the journal Contributions in Zoology, which reported that two lions’ skulls recovered from the Tower of London moat belonged to Barbary lions, a subspecies of lion from the Barbary (or Berber) Coast of North Africa that is now extinct in the wild. The lions formed part of the collection that made up the Royal Menagerie, set up by King John to receive gifts of wild animals given by other European monarchs, but also to breed animals to give as gifts in turn.

The skulls were excavated in the 1930s; recent radiocarbon tests dated one of the skulls to between 1280 and 1385 and the other to between 1420 and 1480. Western North Africa was the nearest region to Europe to sustain lion populations until the early twentieth century, making it a practical source for medieval animal traders. Further tests are planned to determine whether the lions were born and trapped in North Africa or bred from captive stock, perhaps at the Tower itself.

Hugh Despenser’s remains

Another story involving bones was published in the March 2008 issue of Antiquity: this one makes grim reading as it concerns the identity of an individual whose remains exhibit ‘numerous perimortem cut marks’; initially thought to be battle wounds, these cut marks have been re-examined by Mary Lewis of Reading’s Department of Archaeology, and she has concluded that they are evidence that the body had undergone hanging, drawing and quartering, the brutal form of medieval execution reserved for criminals deemed to have committed multiple heinous crimes and hence deserving of multiple deaths.

Putting all the osteological evidence together – including the date of the remains, the age and sex of the victim, his height and the location of the lesions – Mary Lewis suggests that the partial skeleton, excavated from the medieval abbey graveyard at Hulton Abbey, in Staffordshire, is that of Hugh Despenser, allegedly the lover of Edward II.

The injuries displayed by the bones accord precisely with Froissart’s account of Despenser’s execution, and the bones that are missing from the Hulton Abbey burial (the skull, a thigh bone and some vertebra) exactly match those known to have been recovered by Despenser’s wife, Eleanor, and buried on the family estate at Tewksbury in Gloucestershire.

What isn’t clear is how and by whom the quartered remains of Despenser were gathered together for burial at Hulton Abbey: perhaps, Mary Lewis suggests, the threat to despatch the quartered body to four corners of the realm as evidence of his execution was never carried out.

David’s dodgy legs and golden hair

Two further science stories from this week’s press concern two of the best-known works of the Florentine Renaissance, both of them statues of David. In the case of Michelangelo’s monumental statue, stress-scanning techniques have born out Vasari’s account of its carving: such was Michelangelo’s skill that he took on the challenge of creating a figure from a block of Carrara marble so flawed that no other sculptor would touch it. Using new techniques that help medical scientists detect bone weaknesses in living humans, Professor Vadim Shapiro, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has found weaknesses in Michelangelo’s David in his left thigh, right shin and ankles which could eventually lead to the sculpture’s collapse without pre-emptive repairs. The findings match the position of cracks found recently during cleaning of the sculpture.

At the other end of the scale, Donatello’s diminutive David is being cleaned of the thick layer of wax and oil that was applied to the statue in the eighteenth century. Conservators using the sort of laser equipment that is normally deployed to treat the eye condition glaucoma say that they have found gold leaf on the statue, which they believe was applied to David’s wavy hair, his sandals and the helmet of Goliath to highlight these areas and emphasise David’s nudity and vulnerability. Donatello used the same technique in another work, Attis, which was restored in 2005 and is also on show at the Bargello.

The benefits of the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund

A major review of the benefits of the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund has been published, summarising the knowledge gained from over 360 projects funded by the ALSF through bodies such as English Heritage between 2002 and 2007 (for details see the ALSF website).

The heritage impacts are considered in three separate reports. The first, Rich Deposits, looks at the archaeological knowledge gained directly from quarrying and aggregate extraction on land and at sea through fieldwork and excavation. The second, Sustainable Heritage, argues that the heritage community has helped to mitigate the destructive impact of the aggregates industry through ALSF projects aimed at developing guidance, standards and best practice for that industry. The third report, The Sands of Time, written by our Fellow Julian Richards, contains some thirteen detailed case studies describing archaeological outreach projects funded by the ALSF among communities impacted by quarrying and extraction and arguing that the ALSF has fundamentally changed the nature and extent of archaeological outreach work in England over the past six years.

HLF grant for Thames Discovery Programme

One of the case studies in Julian’s report concerns the ‘London before London’ gallery, created by the Museum of London with funds from the ALSF, which showcases the extensive collections of prehistoric artefacts found in the Thames valley around London, many of which have come from aggregate extraction sites. Now a separate outreach project – the Thames Discovery Programme – has been given funding of £421,500 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to add further to our knowledge of the river’s archaeology, by investigating what has been characterised as ‘the longest archaeological site in London’.

The Thames Discovery Programme is a collaborative project run by the Thames Estuary Partnership and the Thames Explorer Trust, with support from the Museum of London, English Heritage and University College London. The project will engage volunteers in an archaeological survey of the river foreshore, monitoring twenty sites of particular interest, setting up a website and blog, running community events and holding an annual forum to discuss and disseminate each year’s findings.

For further details, see the website of the Thames Estuary Partnership.

Telling the true story of the Knights of St John

Another worthy recipient of Heritage Lottery Fund largesse is the Order of the Knights of St John, whose Clerkenwell gatehouse, crypt and museum are about to have a £3.3 million makeover, having launched an appeal for £1.7 million, to go with the £1.4 million from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Our Fellow Alan Borg, the former director of the Victoria and Albert Museum, is the order’s official librarian, and he told The Times last week that one aim of the new museum would be to dispel some of the myths surrounding the order: ‘They were not the Templars, who were a quite different order set up to protect Crusaders, and there is no connection whatever with the Freemasons; the Hospitallers were wholly devoted to healing and care, as their descendants are today,’ he said.

When the Knights Templar were disbanded in 1309, the Pope gave their property to the Hospitallers, allowing them to build the Clerkenwell priory that is depicted in Wenceslas Hollar’s 1661 view of London, resembling the courtyard of an Oxford or Cambridge college. The church and gatehouse are all that now remains. The church, modelled on Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulchre, like the Temple church (see ‘Conferences’ below), on the Strand, hides behind an anonymous 1950s frontage, but the twelfth-century crypt is one of the finest medieval buildings in London. The gatehouse once served as the offices of the Gentleman’s Magazine, and as a pub, before being reacquired as the headquarters of the revived Order of the Knights of St John in the 1880s. The new museum will tell the story of the Order from its foundation in eleventh-century Jerusalem to the brigade’s role as the official first aiders at the 2012 Olympics, now the largest voluntary aid organisation in the world.

New Blaenavon visitor centre

Product of an earlier HLF funding decision, a new visitor centre has opened at Blaenavon (Blaenafon in Welsh), housed in the former St Peter’s School, a Grade II* listed building of 1815, This now houses displays explaining why Blaenavon is a World Heritage Site, and how it evolved from a remote farming area to the driving force of the industrial revolution.

This is the first dedicated world heritage visitor centre in the UK, and it can be seen as a response to the idiosyncrasies of a site that is not easy to understand or appreciate. At the launch of the visitor centre, Councillor Bob Wellington, Leader of Torfaen Council, said: ‘What we are trying do here is to tell how this area, and south Wales in general, helped to build the modern world. The iron manufactured here and the coal mined here helped create the world as we know it. And it’s also about telling the world of the struggle that miners and other working people faced.’

About 160,000 people a year currently visit Blaenavon, primarily to see the Big Pit, the Welsh National Coal Museum. Some £40m has been spent restoring the town’s buildings and promoting Blaenavon as Wales’s second ‘book town’ (after Hay-on-Wye). Café culture has also arrived, as has a specialist cheese shop, the Blaenafon Cheddar Company, which matures its cheese 300 feet underground in the Big Pit.

Time and Mind: the Journal of Archaeology, Consciousness and Culture

Salon’s editor has been browsing the inaugural (March 2008) issue of this new journal which has a fair few Fellows on its international advisory board, and which, for the time being at least, is making papers available on open access. Included in Volume 1 Issue 1 is an interview with our Fellow Peter Fowler in which he discusses the connections between archaeology, landscape and art. Peter says that ‘I think that I’ve become aware as a painter of the limits of what you can get out of straightforward, conventional archaeology. And I’m thinking in particular of what you might call the aesthetic sense. I’ve felt for a long time that there must have been an aesthetic dimension to what people in the Neolithic and Bronze Age thought. And it seems to me that you’ve just got to allow that, because of the very subtle and sensitive placing of the elements and sites and the interrelation between them in a great landscape like Avebury. And I suppose that’s what I’m trying to explore, even release, in paintings, in a way that you can’t do with soil analysis for example.’

The interview also includes an interesting account of the early days of landscape archaeology, the influence on Peter’s development of W G Hoskins, O G S Crawford and Collin Bowen, and the sense of purpose that existed in the Royal Commission’s Salisbury office in 1959, as part of a team with our late Fellow Desmond Bonney and Fellow Chris Taylor. ‘I can’t tell you how “way out” [landscape archaeology] was at the time. The Salisbury office was the intellectual hotbed of all this,’ Peter concludes.

The thoughts of Nicholas Penny

Another Fellow being profiled in the press last week was Nicholas Penny who rarely seems to have been out of the news since his appointment to succeed Charles Saumarez Smith as Director of the National Gallery. Not long after taking up the post, Nicholas announced the death of the blockbuster exhibition at least as far as the National Gallery was concerned, saying that the gallery would, under his management, promote good and neglected artists rather than chasing visitor numbers and courting popularity.

Then, last week, he was reported in the Guardian as saying that young, wealthy British art collectors should turn their backs on contemporary art and collect ‘Old Masters’ instead, admitting that he hoped they would then donate or bequeath such works to the National Gallery. Having worked in the US for the last seven years, Nicholas Penny said he was interested in replicating the close relationships that exist between American museums and major collectors who lend works to the museum, help buy works for the museum and who might also bequeath works. He also pointed to specific gaps in the gallery’s collection that he was anxious to plug, notably from the nineteenth-century German and Italian schools.

Then a longer profile in the Guardian (for the full story see the Guardian website) described the Director as ‘the least pompous, most down-to-earth museum curator I’ve ever met, as well as being strikingly learned’, borrowing a phrase from Lord Clark to characterise him as a ‘fighting highbrow’. The profile was timed to coincide with the publication of Nicholas Penny’s new catalogue of paintings in the National Gallery made by artists active in Venice between 1540 and 1600 (The Sixteenth-Century Italian Paintings Volume II: Venice 1540–1600), which includes some of the most important Italian paintings in the National Gallery’s collection.

The profile emphasises three strands in Penny’s approach to art history. One is his interest in the materials of art, the techniques of oil painting, and the way that the artist went about creating a particular work, all of which helps to distinguish between a painting like Veronese’s The Family of Darius Before Alexander, which Penny argues is almost entirely by the artist’s own hand, and those that are less convincingly the work of the artist to which they are attributed. Another is his interest in the meaning of the work, and the way that that meaning can change over time, and thirdly there is the history of the work, how it was received, what impact it had on other artists and on culture at large – his collaboration with the late Francis Haskell on a book called Taste and the Antique (Yale, 1982) showed how a series of classical statues, excavated in Rome and put on view in collections such as the Vatican’s, shaped European culture from 1500 to 1800.

The profile concludes that Penny will be good for the National Gallery and the larger art world because he challenges clichés and assumptions (‘There is a large element in my catalogue which people aren’t necessarily supposed to agree with, they’re just supposed to think about’) and because he really does believe that art matters and is a persuasive advocate for the difficult, who wants to ‘make us look at art with more patience, in a more nuanced way’.

Conferences and events

‘Creative Approaches to Museum Interpretation and Curriculum Delivery’, 28 and 29 April 2008 at Kelmscott Manor
This two-day professional development event for teachers and museum educators forms part of Kelmscott Manor’s ‘Inspiration for Learning’ programme, is facilitated by museum and education training agency ‘Art Matters’ and is financially supported by MLA’s Renaissance Museum Development Fund. It aims to provide course participants with the knowledge and skills to work more creatively with museum collections. Hands-on creative sessions will introduce participants to a range of techniques and approaches to curriculum delivery, including writing journals, painting pictures, making furniture and more. Facilitators include Ghislaine Kenyon, previously Head of Schools at the National Gallery, and Mark Hazzard, an arts specialist with twenty years’ experience in primary schools. Further details and booking information can be obtained from Jane Milne at Kelmscott Manor.

‘Britons in the Celtic World: contrasting perspectives’; 17 May 2008, Oxford
The Prehistoric Society’s Europa Lecture 2008, to be given by our Fellow Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe on A Race Apart? Insularity and Connectivity, will form the culmination of a day-long conference to discuss archaeological, linguistic and genetic evidence for the origins of the British and how they relate to the other peoples of Europe. Full details are on the Prehistoric Society website), under ‘Lectures & Events’.

‘The Architecture of Death: from Ancient Egypt to nineteenth-century Italy’, 22 May 2008, London
Dan Cruickshank will give this talk in aid of the Mausolea and Monuments Trust at the Art Workers Guild, Queen Square, London WC1N 3AR, starting at 7.15pm. This is based on Dan Cruickshank’s new BBC2 series on the history of architecture, divided into themes, one of which concerns the architecture and rituals of death and features Hatshepsut’s Mortuary Temple in Egypt, Maya structures at Yaxa, the Day of the Dead rituals in Guatemala, the cremation ghats and temples at Varanasi, the ossuary and chapel at Selec in the Czech Republic and the Staglieno Cemetery in Genoa. Tickets cost £15, including a glass of wine, and can be booked through Leanne Targett-Parker.

‘Cultural Landscape Management’, 12 to 14 June 2008, University of Cumbria, Ambleside
This ICOMOS-UK conference aims to draw together thinking and practice from around Europe on how the forces that shape cultural landscapes can be sustained and harnessed to deliver positive benefits and contribute to sustainable development and regeneration. Further information from Camilla Massara, Office Manager, ICOMOS-UK.

‘“In despight of the devouring flame”: The Temple Church in London’, 14 June 2008, Kenneth Clark Lecture Theatre, The Courtauld Institute of Art, London
Seven hundred years ago the Order of the Temple was in turmoil, its members under arrest, and its Grand Master soon to be burned at the stake. Its main church in England, at the New Temple in London, survived the suppression of the Order in 1312, and escaped (by a whisker) the Great Fire of London in 1666, only to be ravaged by fire during the Blitz in 1941. Nevertheless, it remains one of the most important surviving medieval monuments in London, with superb late Romanesque sculpture, luminous early Gothic architecture, a magnificent series of medieval monuments, and major post-Reformation furnishings by Sir Christopher Wren and others.

Although the subject of much antiquarian study in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, its significance in terms of artistic, liturgical and conservation developments has never been the subject of comprehensive scholarly study. The present conference aims to address this gap. Celebrating the 400th anniversary of the grant of the Temple’s Charter by James I, the conference is held in association with an exhibition at the Temple Church from 31 March to 15 June (see the Temple website for further details).

The conference is being organised by our Fellows David Park (Courtauld Institute of Art) and The Revd Robin Griffith-Jones (Master of The Temple), and the speakers include our Fellows Christopher Wilson, Philip Lankester, David Park, Thomas Cocke and Rosemary Sweet. The conference will conclude with a reception at The Temple. For further information, send an email to


Eagle-eyed readers of the Society’s recently distributed Annual Report might have been confused by the reference in the 2007 Presidential Address to the British Academy’s Winter General Meeting on Archaeology and Forensic Science. True enough, the meeting was held at the British Academy, but it was, of course, organised and hosted by the Council for British Archaeology.

Apropos of the removal of historic pews, benches and choir stalls from churches, Linda Hall writes to ask whether there are not guidelines on the subject. There are indeed (see the Church of England’s website and select ‘Making Changes to a Listed Church’ from the list of resources), but while they stress the importance of wide consultation, they stop short of saying that historic furnishings should never be removed. Thus damaging schemes will continue to come forward and the debates will continue to rage.

The problem is not limited to the removal of pews: some of the screens that survived the iconoclasms of the Reformation and the Puritan Revolution are now threatened by congregations who say they block their views of the chancel. But there is nothing new in this: ‘the Victorians whose pews are now being stoutly defended were guilty of the most horrendous acts of vandalism and destruction in our medieval churches, and what is worse, they gloried in it! One only has to read their self-congratulatory accounts in The Builder to see how they hated anything old and irregular – roofs, floors, pulpits and (especially) box pews and west galleries were torn out with glee. It’s amazing there are any left at all!,’ writes Linda, adding that: ‘In some churches change is undoubtedly necessary, and may actually improve the building. The challenge is to make sure that any alterations are done sensitively and that they respect the architecture and the spirit of the building.’

To which our Fellow, practising musician and musicologist, Judith Blezzard would add ‘and the acoustics’. Judith says that: ‘few people realise that wooden pews and choir stalls resonate with music, whereas plastic chairs do nothing of the sort, even on a wooden plinth. I used to rehearse my choir in a lovely church with lots of wood, which was ripped out to “create an open space with movable facilities”. After these alterations, members of my choir were puzzled about why it had become so much more difficult and less rewarding to rehearse in there. So I told them. But the damage was done.’

In the light of this debate it is interesting to read Country Life magazine’s shortlist of finalists in its ‘Village Church for Village Life Award’. Launched in December 2007 by our Fellow Sir Roy Strong, the idea of the award is to highlight historic places of worship that have successfully adapted to the wider needs of the community. The six short-listed entries were selected from eighty nominations, and will compete for a £10,000 prize, donated by the Mercers’ Company. The award is in relatively safe hands as the judging panel includes present and former Fellows (in the first category, the Bishop of London, Richard Chartres, Richard Halsey, Marcus Binney and Sir Roy himself; in the latter category John Julius Norwich).

Pictures published in the magazine show that three of the six have managed to adapt to new uses (including talks, quiz evenings, concerts, courses, film screening, meetings, art exhibitions and even private parties) without sacrificing their Victorian pews and benches. The other three have lost all or part of their pew assemblage in order to accommodate more space-hungry activities, such as arts and crafts workshops, indoor sports, adult education, fashion shows, coffee mornings, produce stalls and a farmers’ market.

Summing up the finalists, our Fellow John Goodall, the magazine’s Architecture Editor, says that they provide ‘inspiring examples of how the future of some churches can be assured’, but members of the pew protection society will no doubt be praying that the ultimate winner will be one of the six that has managed to adapt without loss to its historic furnishings.

Books by Fellows

Will Martin Jones mention retsina when he gives his Tercentenary Festival lecture in Cardiff on 2 May? That question arises because the blurb for his latest book – Archaeology Meets Science: biomolecular investigations in Bronze Age Greece, edited by Yannis Tzedakis, Holley Martlew and Martin K Jones, tells us that the resin-flavoured wine was being made and consumed as far back as the second millennium BC in Bronze-Age Mycenae. Based on bone isotope analysis and the chemical analysis of residues in ceramic artefacts the book tells us what people in Bronze Age Greece ate and drank.

And approaching some of those same ceramics from a different perspective is Nicoletta Momigliano, of Bristol University’s Classics and Ancient History Department, who is the editor of the Knossos Pottery Handbook: Neolithic and Bronze Age (Minoan) (British School at Athens Studies 14, 2007; for details go to the School’s website and click on the link under ‘BSA Studies’ heading).

The new volume presents the most up-to-date synthesis of the Neolithic and Bronze Age pottery sequence at Knossos, which has formed the backbone of Aegean prehistoric chronology for over a century. Written by a small international team of archaeologists with extensive and first-hand knowledge of Knossian ceramics, the volume presents a thorough re-examination of the stratigraphic and stylistic evidence for the dating of these important ceramic assemblages, covering well over five millennia (c 6500 to 1100 BC) – an indispensable work of reference for archaeologists working in the prehistoric Aegean and other Mediterranean and European regions.

For information on what those ancient Aegeans might have worn while sipping retsina from their drinking bowls one would turn to the astonishingly comprehensive Worldwide History of Dress, by our Fellow Patricia Anawalt, which covers every notable geographical region, historical period and style of costume in the world, from Upper Palaeolithic plant-fibre skirts and Roman togas to more recent kimonos and saris, dirndls and burqas.

Patricia is the founding Director of the Center for the Study of Regional Dress at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, Los Angeles, and faced with such a massive subject, she has divided the world into regions and the regions into periods, and then scoured every possible source for evidence of clothing. In Europe, for example, we are shown skirts made from twisted plant fibres on so-called Venus figurines dating from c 20,000 BC (similar in many ways to contemporary woven grass skirts worn by women in Irian Jaya), and fur clothing (with tails still attached) worn by women depicted in a rock shelter painting dating from 8000 BC at Lérida, in Spain. Evidence for Minoan dress comes from the Knossos palace murals and statuettes, as well as bronze armour and a boar’s tusk helmet excavated from 1400 BC Mycenae.

Every page of the book is bright with colourful photographs of garments, statues and paintings, people and production processes. The picture research alone, let alone the scholarship needed to write such a conspectus, is quite astonishing, and many of the pictures tell a story not just of the sheer variety of human creativity in the fields of fashion and textile design, but also of the accessories worn with the garments, and the context for their use – from market to temple, hunting expedition to battleground.

This is a definitive work that is also an enormous pleasure to read and one that is not just about clothing, but about human creativity in pattern and design, featuring garments that deserve to be considered as works of art on a par with more conventional forms of artistic output, such as paintings, ceramics or sculpture.


English Heritage, Head of Publishing
c £45,000, closing date 1 April 2008

Working with the Director of Research and Standards (our Fellow, Edward Impey) the challenge is to develop and articulate a Publishing Strategy for English Heritage, develop and maintain a forward publishing programme within the framework of the Strategy and with the advice of the English Heritage Publishing Board, and to manage, direct and motivate the publishing team and oversee the smooth running of its operations. Further details are on the English Heritage website.

English Heritage, Head of Social and Economic Research
c £42,000, closing date 13 April 2008

This high-profile post is responsible for managing English Heritage’s programme of social and economic research, for taking lead responsibility within English Heritage for demonstrating the economic and social value of the historic environment, and for working to ensure that this is taken into account in Government policy. Further details are on the English Heritage website.

Southwark Cathedral, Cathedral Archaeologist
Closing date 25 April 2008

The Cathedral Chapter wishes to appoint a Cathedral Archaeologist as its professional adviser on all matters for which it has archaeological responsibility as required by The Care of Cathedrals Measure 1990. For further details, contact the cathedral’s administrator, Matthew Knight.