Salon Archive

Issue: 203

Christmas closure

The Society’s apartments and library will be closed on Wednesday 24 December 2008 and will re-open on Monday 5 January 2009.

Forthcoming meetings

15 January 2009: ‘Two Decades of Field Research at the Hominin Sites in Murcia, Spain, of Cueva Negra del Estrecho del Río Quípar and Sima de las Palomas del Cabezo Gordo’, by Michael Walker, FSA

22 January 2009: ‘Timely and Timeless: the first century of the Royal Commissions’, by Diana Murray, FSA, and Peter Wakelin, FSA

29 January 2009: ‘From Barrow to Bunker: integrating the historic environment with defence needs’, by Phil Abramson, FSA

12 February 2009: ‘Getting to know the Society introductory tour’. Coffee in the Council Room from 10.30am, tour starts at 11am and ends at 12.30pm with a light sandwich lunch for those who wish to stay (and for which a charge of £5 is made). Numbers are limited to twenty-five Fellows per tour. To book a place please tel: 020 7479 7080 or email:

Gift aid your subscriptions for 2009

As the subscriptions renewal season is upon us, don’t forget that completion of a simple gift-aid form enables the Society not only to claim back the amount of income tax that you have paid on the subscription, but also to claim seven years’ back tax — a substantial and important source of income for the Society. Gift-aid forms can be obtained from the Society’s Accounts Assistant, Giselle Pullen.

Meeting report: Christmas Miscellany

Our former General Secretary, Dai Morgan Evans, used to remark on the speed with which innovations become traditions, and it was Dai himself who invented the Christmas Miscellany meeting that is now so firmly embedded as a Society tradition that Christmas does not begin for many Fellows until Burlington House is filled with the spicy scent of mulled wine and mince pies.

At this year’s meeting, there was yet another innovation that might yet become a tradition: the sound of people singing. First Tim Darvill spoke about the origins of the Cirencester Excavation Committee, born in that very room on 16 December 1958, with Professor Ian Richmond, then the Society’s Vice-President, in the Chair. Salon’s editor then spoke about the ‘Golden Years’ of Cirencester archaeology, when excavations in the town served as a nursery for the archaeological careers of many people who are now at the top of the profession.

He observed that Cirencester diggers had once hit the newspaper headlines for their bad behaviour: not sex, nor drugs, not even rock and roll, but folk-singing: as the Daily Sketch (forerunner of the Daily Mail) reported in one 1970s edition, the good people of Cirencester took exception to ‘Diggers’ Ditties’ being sung around the campfire until the early hours of the morning; very early one morning they took revenge by visiting the diggers’ campsite and waking everyone by banging pots and pans. That served as the cue for the first song of the evening — sung to the tune of ‘When this lousy war is over’, the Cirencester diggers’ anthem (written in 1972) concluded with the verse: ‘When this lousy dig is over, there’ll be no more barrowing for me; I’ll go home and put my feet up, and watch Barry Cunliffe on TV’.

Neil Holbrook, Chief Executive of Cotswold Archaeology (CA), the successor body to the Cirencester Excavation Committee, then brought the story up to date showing a map of England (‘or the “Greater Cotswolds”, as CA staff like to call it’) showing all counties where Cotswold Archaeology has worked in the last ten years. Neil concluded by presenting a copy of the newly published Cirencester Excavations Volume VI to our Fellow Alan MacWhirr, in recognition of his service and commitment to the archaeology of Cirencester as Director of Excavations during those golden years.

The serious singing then began with Yvette Staelens, who gave an account of her work following in the footsteps (or, rather, bicycle tracks) of Cecil Sharp, filling in the background to the traditional songs and dances that he collected before the First World War. Fellows all relaxed when Yvette sang one fine example, but furtive glances were shot towards the exit when Yvette announced that it was the turn of Fellows to sing a song. Very soon one could tell which Fellows had been brought up with ‘Singing Together’, campfire songs or Saturday mornings at the ABC Minors — the ones for whom communal singing holds no fears, and who now opened their mouths with gusto to sing ‘The Two Magicians’, a song about a shape-shifting maiden who turns herself into various birds, animals and insects in order to escape the amorous clutches of a ‘nasty, husky, dusky, fusky, musky coal blacksmith’, who outwits her in every verse by changing himself into an appropriate predator.

Judging by the comments after the meeting, the singing was a great success, and Fellows would like more meetings with a musical theme. Given the large number of Fellows who are scholars of music and performers of international renown, it ought to be possible to put on a decent show: perhaps even starting a new tradition of a musical meeting once a year.

Our President honoured

Our Fellow Dr Friedrich Lüth, Director of the Römisch-Germanische Kommission des Deutschen (RGK), was admitted a Fellow at the start of the meeting. He then turned the tables on the President and made his own announcement: that Professor Wainwright had been elected a Corresponding Member of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut in recognition of his eminent archaeological career and his contribution to the international cultural heritage, and not least his presidency of the Society of Antiquaries. Geoff responded by thanking Dr Lüth warmly, and saying that he regarded the award as being bestowed on the Society as much as on himself, and that , following on from the colloquium held jointly with the RGK in February 2008 exploring European collaboration in archaeological research, a stronger partnership was being forged between our two organisations.

Sevso Treasure on TV

A ‘Time Team Special’ programme will be shown on Channel 4 at 7pm on Boxing Day called ‘The Mystery of the Roman Treasure’; the programme will present the evidence for the provenance of the Sevso Treasure, which includes some of the finest silver plates and ewers to have come down to us from the late Roman period. This was the subject of the Society’s Annual All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group Lecture on 14 February 2008, when our Fellow, the Hungarian archaeologist Dr Zsolt Visy, argued from iconographic evidence that most of the items in the Sevso hoard were manufactured in the mid-fourth century, that Sevso might have been the owner of one of the very large villa estates located around the shores of Lake Balaton, and that their concealment might have coincided with the Quadian–Sarmatian invasion of AD 374, or the early fifth-century raids on Pannonia by Radagaisus.

The Research Assessment Exercise 2008

Throughout the summer, colleagues blamed their inability to attend meetings or respond to emails on the grounds that they were immersed in adjudication work connected to the Research Assessment Exercise, the once-in-seven-years assessment of the quality of research being carried out in UK universities, the results of which are used to allocate research funding of £1.5 billion to universities.

This week the results of all that effort were announced, though there were several different accounts of who came out on top. Depending on which newspaper you read on 18 December, you would have learned that Cambridge was top (the Guardian and the Telegraph), or the London School of Economics (the Independent), while The Times decided to avoid the question altogether and focus on the outstanding performance of some former polytechnics.

In total, 159 universities submitted more than 200,000 pieces of work for peer review and these were graded from 4* (world leading) to 1* (nationally recognised). When the scores of all the those who were assessed in every department are expressed as a grade point average (GPA) it does seem that Cambridge (fifty departments), with a GPA of 2.98, is the top research university, while second is the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine with a GPA of 2.97 (but with only three departments) and third is Oxford (fifty departments) with a GPA of 2.96.

More than half (54 per cent) of all the research submitted by all universities was graded as being of 4* quality — in effect of international significance — and twenty-four institutions had at least 40 per cent of all of their submissions rated as 4*. On the other hand these high-scoring academics are carrying some under-performing colleagues: close to a third of research by the top six universities was rated 2* or 1* — including some 28 per cent of Cambridge research.

Debate about the accuracy of the rankings centred around the fact that universities and departments did not have to enter all their staff into the RAE; institutions were able to take a view on whether submitting only a select handful, or a broader cross section, was in their best interests. That small numbers can distort the averages was illustrated by the fact that Imperial College came top of the history table, even though Imperial is a scientific and technical university, on the strength of the history of science research of just five staff.

In the archaeology league table, Durham came top with a GPA of 3.09 and thirty-five staff graded at 4*, while Reading was in second place (2.95) with forty 4* researchers, and Cambridge was third (2.9) with thirty at that level. Cambridge came top for classics and ancient history, anthropology, Celtic Studies and geography, while Glasgow, the Courtauld Institute and Sussex headed the art history table. The highest ranked faculty of all in the UK was University of Leicester’s Museum Studies department.

For the tables in detail, by university and by subject, see the Guardian’s 'Education' webpage.

Archaeological employment and salaries

In this seasonal Salon, it would be good to be able to report only positive news, but as our Fellow Roland Smith, Chair of the Federation of Archaeological Managers and Employers (FAME), warned in the last issue, ‘these are some of the toughest economic conditions archaeological employers have had to face for many years’. We must not forget those many archaeological colleagues who have been made redundant in the last few weeks as the flow of development-related work has dried up, leading to cuts of some 10 per cent in the overall size of the contracting workforce.

Last week the Institute for Archaeologists issued a statement saying that ‘it is clear that the UK is entering a period of recession. This is already having a severe impact on the construction sector and the knock-on effect on archaeology is now being felt. The IfA recognises that this is a very worrying time for members and registered organisations, as the fear of job losses and even business failure grows.’

The statement is backed by a recession plan listing the ways in which the IfA will assist members. This includes fee reductions for unemployed members, fee waivers for members upgrading over the next twelve months and bursaries for IfA members registering for the NVQ in Archaeological Practice. In addition, the IfA plans to host a seminar to explore ways of helping Registered Organisations and members survive the recession and keep skills within the profession, to take place in February 2009.

The IfA has also issued a statement on its policy of seeking to increase minimum salaries, saying that ‘the current economic climate has seriously constrained the extent to which employers can implement above inflation increases to minimum salaries in the short term. It should be noted however that IfA Council remains committed to increasing minimum salaries by 13 per cent above inflation over the next five years and, if economic conditions allow, we will aim to get the process back on track in 2010’.

Housing starts lowest since 1924

An indication of why developer-funded archaeology is suffering from such a sudden and deep downturn is to be found in the latest housing start statistics. Figures from the Construction Products Association (CPA) and Ernst & Young reveal there have been 135,000 housing starts this year, compared to 203,500 in 2007. This figure is the lowest since 1924 when there were 87,000 housing starts (excluding the Second World War, when few houses were built at all. Even these figures are rosy, because housing starts did not start to slow down until towards the end of the period. There are fears that homebuilding will grind to a virtual standstill next year, leading to tens of thousands of job losses in the building trades and the possibility of 6,400 building firms failing by the middle of next year. Commercial property developments are also falling; it is predicted that office and retail construction activity will slow to 24 per cent of this year’s level next year and 19 per cent in 2010.

The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and Housing Minister Margaret Beckett, held a meeting with industry bodies, including the Home Builders Federation and the Council of Mortgage Lenders, last month to discuss the problem: the consensus of the meeting was that not much could be done until banks start lending again.

More on heritage protection

The day after Salon warned that the forthcoming Planning Policy Statement that will replace PPGs 15 and 16 might not be the document that we all need and hope for, the Scottish Parliament issued a statement that seems to reinforced the message that ‘heritage is important but prosperity more so’ (it is a pity these are seen as mutually exclusive alternatives).

The statement, from Scotland’s Culture Minister, Linda Fabiani, said that Scottish Ministers are to consult next year on a draft Bill to amend existing heritage legislation. It went on to quote the Minister as saying: ‘Scotland has a rich heritage that plays a central role in the country’s identity, education and tourism. At the same time the country needs sustainable development and economic growth. It is the government’s priority that the bill achieves the correct balance — without complication or delays to the planning system — and further demonstrates our commitment to protecting Scotland’s heritage.’

‘We believe in a lighter-touch approach and by introducing the bill will make the existing heritage protection system more effective and efficient. Combined with the improvements we have already made to the system, including removing duplication, devolving responsibility, developing capacity and understanding within a clear, concise policy framework, the Bill will align the management of the historic environment with the country’s need for sustainable economic growth, while meeting our international commitments.’ Of course, we would all love ‘a more effective and efficient heritage protection system’; why then do these words sound more like a threat than a promise? And the reference to ‘meeting our international commitments’ reinforces Salon’s warning that we might be about to see an attempt to scale back environmental protection to the minimum required under EU law.

Meanwhile in England ...

A new draft bill has been published which makes clear that planning decisions will have to promote economic development in future. The draft Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill places a new duty on local authorities to ‘undertake an economic assessment of their area’ to ensure that they have ‘the right evidence to make informed decisions about promoting economic development’. Local authorities are also given the powers to create ‘Economic Prosperity Boards’ to promote economic development in their region, and the centrality of economic issues to planning is again stressed in the bill’s emphasis on ‘a new breed of regional planning document’ to be developed by Regional Development Agencies ‘in partnership with a new local authority Leaders’ Board’.

Once again, it is difficult not to feel that stewardship of the environment — historic and natural — is being swept aside in this single-minded emphasis on economic development, and it further highlights the absence of effective environmental checks and safeguards in the planning system. The tone and thrust of the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill shows just how much hangs on that key Planning Policy Statement that will replace PPGs 15 and 16 next year.

Historic ships left high and dry

Maritime archaeologists are hoping that, if the Heritage Protection Bill is ever brought before Parliament, it will be amended to include reference to historic ships. Martin Heighton, Director of National Historic Ships, laments the fact that while historic buildings and landscapes, archaeological monuments, battlefields and gardens all stand to get statutory protection — as do wrecks so long as they are on the seabed — the draft bill does not afford protection to physical ships, with the exception of the Cutty Sark and City of Adelaide (so the Mary Rose, HMS Victory, SS Great Britain and HMS Belfast, to name just a few prominent examples, have no protection). Writing in the Museums Journal Martin calls for some fundamental changes to the bill to recognise the significance of historic vessels as heritage assets of great importance to a nation that owes more to its relationship with the sea than any other, to extend the provisions of the bill to cover static and permanently berthed vessels and to recognise the status of the National Register of Historic Vessels and the components of the National Historic Fleet.

WMF 2010 Watch nominations sought

The World Monuments Watch is seeking nominations for cultural heritage sites under threat. The Watch list identifies places of significance in need of timely action. Every two years, WMF accepts new nominations, from which one hundred are selected for listing. Watch listing provides an opportunity for sites and their nominators to raise public awareness. The Watch nomination process also serves as a vehicle for requesting World Monuments Fund assistance for selected projects. More than 500 sites from over 110 countries have benefited from the seven cycles of the Watch so far and nearly half of these have received WMF grants totalling US$50 million. Guidelines and Nomination Forms are available on the WMF website.

Heritage Lottery Fund announces £15.6m for UK heritage

The Beaney Institute in Canterbury, the City Varieties Music Hall in Leeds, Antrim Castle Gardens in Northern Ireland and Preston Hall Museum in Stockton-on-Tees have all had major grants confirmed by the trustees of the Heritage Lottery Fund. All four had previously been awarded development grants to help them draw up detailed proposals and compete for a full funding.

The elegant Grade-II-listed Beaney Institute, combining a museum, art gallery and library and named after its benefactor, J G Beaney, has been awarded £5.98m to conserve and extend the building and attract more visitors. Leeds City Varieties Music Hall, the largest and most complete of the UK’s four remaining Victorian music halls (with Wiltons Music Hall and Hoxton Hall in London and the Britannia Music Hall in Glasgow), receives £2.7m for restoration work to the Grade-II*-listed building and to create a home for the theatres archive of leaflets, handbills, posters and photos of the artists who have appeared there.

The HLF is contributing £3.35m to the £6m restoration of the late seventeenth-century gardens at Antrim Castle and £3.58m to the cost of work to enable the Preston Hall Museum of domestic life to open up more of its collections.

Development funding has also been awarded to four further projects to enable them to work towards the fully developed proposals that will enable them to compete for a firm award. They are the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland (new visitor facilities), Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (for the redisplay and reinterpretation of the Birmingham History Collections), Stowe House, Buckinghamshire (for the final phase of restoration work to the south front of the house and the principal State Rooms), and Cardigan Castle (restoration of the building and its gardens).

Museum news

The Victoria and Albert Museum has announced plans to open a new theatre gallery in March to display some 250 historic documents, playbills, stage props, costumes and set designs from the Covent Garden Theatre Museum, which closed in 2007. September will see the opening of new ceramics galleries at the museum and new Renaissance and Medieval galleries will open in November.

The former Commonwealth Institute building in Kensington is being tipped as a possible home for a new Design Museum, which would relocate to the much larger space from its current premises in Shad Thames. Meanwhile, the Bristol-based British Empire & Commonwealth Museum, currently housed in Brunel’s Temple Meads railway station, might be on its way back to London. Formed from the ethnographic collections of the former Commonwealth Institute, the museum is now favourite to win a contest for a new cultural institution to be built opposite the Tower of London.

The British Library has been winning plaudits for ‘Taking Liberties’, the temporary exhibition that runs until 1 March 2009. This charts the development of human rights and freedoms through key documents, starting with Magna Carta and including such varied exhibits as the 1707 Articles of Union and a notebook detailing various designs for the new Union flag, the Laws of Hywel Dda (Wales’s answer to Magna Carta) and the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath, in which the Scottish signatories declared they would never ‘on any conditions be brought under English rule’, the Holloway prison diary of suffragette Olive Wharry, Hogarth prints and election leaflets and film footage of Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty, debating the rights and wrongs of holding suspects without charge.

The exhibition’s guest curator, Linda Colley, says she has selected material from a multiplicity of sources because ‘the UK differs from most modern states in possessing no single document setting out the fundamentals of government, the limits of executive power and the rights and duties of its individual citizens’.

Visitors with a keen eye for irony might enjoy the fact that the exhibition — many of whose exhibits serve as a powerful reminder of how the British people have so often had to fight (literally) for their freedoms — is sponsored by the Ministry of Justice, which many commentators hold responsible for attempting to erode liberty with its 42 days’ detention plan and its refusal to accept the human rights ruling that DNA taken by the police must be destroyed if suspects are not convicted. The exhibition cleverly plays on this by giving visitors an electronic wristband as they enter: a symbol of surveillance society, the tag also allows you to vote on using touch screens on a wide range of issues, from whether CCTV keep us safe to the future of the monarchy, with the results being displayed on screens at the exit.

Iron-Age brain found in York pit

An intact human brain has been found inside a skull excavated from a pit on an Iron-Age site at Heslington, the site of the University of York’s planned campus extension. The find was made by Rachel Cubitt who was cleaning the skull, found something inside and remembered a lecture on ancient brain material found at a site in Hull that she had attended at Bradford University some years ago given by our Fellow Dr Sonia O’Connor, Research Fellow in Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford. Confirmation of the find came from Consultant Neurologist at the local hospital, Phillip Duffey, who used a CT scanner to take a closer look.

Dr O’Connor said: ‘The survival of brain remains where no other soft tissues are preserved is extremely rare; this brain is particularly exciting because it is very well preserved’. The brain material that Dr O’Connor’s team unearthed in Hull a decade ago was between 400 and 600 years old, but this skull comes from an Iron Age farming landscape dating back to 300 BC. A team of experts from universities across northern England is now lined up to undertake further tests said our Fellow Dr Richard Hall, Director of Archaeology at the York Archaeological Trust. The skull and two vertebrae came from a small pit; one of the questions that will now be asked is whether there is evidence of decapitation.

‘Acceptance in Lieu’ donations decline

The value of art objects accepted in payment of inheritance tax fell last year by £10m, according to the annual report of the Acceptance in Lieu scheme. More than £15m of paintings, furniture and archives, including paintings by Turner, Burne-Jones and Rossetti, came into public ownership between 2007 and 2008, but that is a large decrease from the previous year’s total, which recorded £25.3 million of historic and artistic treasures given in place of inheritance tax. In launching the report, Andrew Motion, Poet Laureate and Chair of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, which administers the scheme, urged more potential benefactors to consider utilising what he called ‘a vivid and important means of enhancing collections across the UK’.

‘We believe this to be an important part of developing the heritage and wealth of our cultural life at any time, but we see it as especially crucial now, in the midst of economic recession,’ he said, adding that ‘we are working with government to develop further measures that enable tax-efficient giving, including an extension of the Acceptance in Lieu scheme to cover lifetime philanthropy and encourage gifts of cultural value from living donors’, a hint that perhaps at last some of the recommendations of the report by our Fellow Sir Nicholas Goodison on fiscal incentives for cultural philanthropy, similar to those that prevail in the US, should be introduced to the UK.

Online archaeology receives funding boost

The US-based Andrew W Mellon Foundation has awarded US$250,000 to the Archaeology Data Service team led by our Fellow Julian Richards, Head of the York University’s Department of Archaeology, to look at ways of publishing a range of archaeological research material online linking databases, video, audio and graphics files. The latest research will build on work completed as part of the LEAP (Linking Electronic Archives and Publications) project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, which won Best Archaeological Innovation and was highly commended in the Best ICT Project category at the 2008 British Archaeological Awards. Professor Richards said: ‘We are very excited about this project as it will allow us to work with North American archaeologists to create novel ways of publishing their research findings.’

Cracks appear in the Brandenburg Gate and in Buckingham Palace

Large and growing cracks have been observed in the pillars of Berlin’s symbolic Brandenburg Gate, restored recently at the cost of €4m. Conservation experts are blaming the construction work to extend the underground transportation system and on ‘shoddy restoration work’ carried out on six years ago. ‘It is not going to fall down’, says Torsten Wöhlert, of Berlin Culture Ministry: ‘the cracks are only external’. Even so, emergency repair work is under way to prise open the cracks to renew the mortar bedding, and prevent further deterioration.

In London, Buckingham Palace needs a new roof costing £16 million, while at Windsor, a similar sum needs spending on extensive roof repairs and on the replacement of the water mains at the Castle. These figures come from a report from the Commons Public Accounts Committee, which is critical of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport for having let the repairs bill mount up instead of undertaking much-needed maintenance and repair. The report was also critical of the lack of regular fabric condition surveys at these and other royal palaces, which also include St James’s Palace, parts of Kensington Palace, Hampton Court Mews and Windsor Home Park. Planned maintenance work is typically six years behind schedule on the occupied palaces, while the £3 million restoration of Victoria and Albert’s Frogmore mausoleum is now fourteen years overdue.

The DCMS, which is responsible for paying for the maintenance of the buildings, is accused of lacking a firm grasp of the state of the royal palaces and of having no strategy to deal with maintenance. In response, a DCMS spokesman said: ‘We recognise that the Occupied Royal Palaces are a unique collection of buildings of great architectural and historic importance and we work closely with the Palace to ensure that they are protected for the nation. We are currently working with the Royal Household Property Services to form a comprehensive picture of the state of the Royal Palaces so that further improvements can be made to the way in which maintenance can be prioritised and monitored.’

Our Fellow Dr David Starkey thought the problem might lie within the republican sentiments of government ministers, but pointed out that even Republican France looks after its former royal palaces, which are now official residences that play host to visiting heads of state. ‘People need to look past the fact that Buckingham Palace is a royal residence and treat it like a national treasure’, he said, adding that ‘Buckingham Palace is a national disgrace. I have filmed there extensively and it has got to the point now that they are just slapping magnolia paint on the grubby bits. It needs some serious money spent on it. All the palaces are in various states of repair, but Buckingham Palace is in the most dire need of help.’

Fifty years of the motorway

In the week that the Highways Authority announced that the M1 motorway was entirely free of traffic cones and road works for the first time in three years, motorway heritage enthusiasts (and yes, there are some) also celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of the first motorway. For the record, this was the M6 Preston Bypass (which now stretches from junction 29 of the M6 to the M55 junction), opened on 5 December 1958 by Harold Macmillan, then Prime Minister; it was originally of two lanes and extended for 8.26 miles. Motorway speed limits were not introduced until December 1965, but a typical family car in 1958 had a top speed of around 64mph.

New signage was designed specifically for motorways by Jock Kinneir and Margaret Calvert, based on a new typeface called Akzidenz-Grotesk and later renamed Transport and intended to be legible from 600 feet. New words entered the English lexicon, including ‘central reservation’ and ‘hard shoulder’. In fact, the shoulder proved not to be hard enough as jacks inserted beneath cars and lorries sank into the ground. In the first months of its life, this motorway became a tourist attraction, and so great was the number of highways specialists paying a visit from County Councils across the UK that that Lancashire County Council appointed retired engineers to act as tour guides.

Even so, the motorway had to close briefly for resurfacing only forty-seven days after opening when, in the bitterly cold winter of 1959, hard frost and an unusually fast thaw cracked large areas of the road surface. On 28 January 1959, the Minister for Transport faced a blizzard of questions on ‘the collapse of the Preston motorway’.

Britain was not, of course, the inventor of the motorway: America had been building multi-lane highways since 1914; Germany built its first dual carriageways, with a central reservation, west of Berlin in 1921; and Italy began opening its autostrada network in 1925. By the outbreak of the Second World War, Germany had nearly 2,000 miles of dual carriageway in use, with 1,240 more miles under construction.

Dame Liz Forgan to chair the Arts Council

Dame Liz Forgan has been appointed to chair Arts Council England, created in 1946, with the economist John Maynard Keynes as its first Chairman. Dame Liz will take over when Sir Christopher Frayling retires in February, taking on one of the most powerful jobs in the arts world at a time when critics say that the Arts Council’s grant giving ‘lacks a coherent intellectual framework’, largely because of the way that it handled cuts to some 200 arts groups last year, some of which subsequently had their grants restored.

Dame Liz is no stranger to the challenges of shaping policy, having been founder Director of Programmes at Channel 4 before joining the BBC in charge of radio where she shook up Radio 5 before leaving because of a disagreement about the planned relocation of BBC Radio from its long-standing home in Bush House. She went on to be Chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund, posts from which she recently retired to be succeeded by former BBC colleague, Jenny Abramsky.

Memorial service for Sir Bernard Feilden

The Thanksgiving Service for the life of our late Fellow Sir Bernard Feilden will be held in Norwich Cathedral on 7 February 2009, at 2pm. If you plan to attend, please notify

Obituary: Cornelius Vermeule III

From our Fellow Norman Hammond comes the news that our Fellow Cornelius Vermeule III died on 27 November 2008 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the age of eighty-three, having recently suffered a stroke. The following obituary is based on one that appeared in the New York Times on 9 December.

Over four decades, as Curator of Classical Antiquities at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Cornelius Vermeule III built a reputation for astute acquisitions, prodigious scholarship and exuberant eccentricity (his office had a working model of Cyprus’s national railway). Dr Vermeule (the last syllable is pronounced ‘mule’) took charge of Greek and Roman art in 1956 and breathed life into a classical department then rivalled in the United States only by that of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He added new lighting, new cases and a new, eager staff, dreamed up popular exhibitions such as ‘Romans and Barbarians’, acquired hundreds of treasures and donated important artefacts himself.

‘He blew through those musty old galleries like a fresh wind,’ according to Michael Padgett, Curator of Ancient Art at the Princeton University Art Museum. Carlos A Picon, Head Curator of Greek and Roman art at the Met, lauded Dr Vermeule’s success in working with his staff to produce what he called an unmatched body of literature on Boston’s classical collection. Dr Vermeule’s own bibliography listed 800 works and filled sixty printed pages.

Dr Vermeule’s personal style was marked by an idiosyncrasy reminiscent of old-style gentlemen curators who knew their entire collection intimately, courted rich donors and disdained talk of trivialities such as salaries (in fact, he drew the line at disdaining pay, explaining that he had too many mouths to feed, particularly those of his Dalmatian dogs, each named for a Roman emperor or empress). He favoured a single frayed suit, a tie depicting Mickey Mouse as a pharaoh and worn-out white shoes with black spots in honour of his Dalmatian pack, numbering a half dozen at its peak. Dr Vermeule’s own gifts to the museum, including a significant Etruscan statue, were often given under pseudonyms, one being Sir Northwold Nuffler. He retired in 1996 so that his museum could use his salary for employees facing dismissal in a cost-cutting campaign.

Born on 10 August 1925, in Orange, New Jersey, Cornelius Clarkson Vermeule III started collecting Roman coins at the age of nine. He interrupted his studies at Harvard to serve in the army as a Japanese interpreter, and returned to earn his degree in 1949. The University of London awarded him a doctorate in 1953. That year, he met archaeologist Emily Dickinson Townsend at the 75th anniversary of the Archaeological Institute of America in Boston. They married in 1957 and as a couple they formed a dashing team at digs around the world. Emily went on to write what many consider her generation’s textbook on the Bronze Age, Greece in the Bronze Age (1964).


7 February 2009: The Neolithic of the Thames Valley: exploring regional diversity
This Prehistoric Society Day Meeting takes place at the Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London; speakers include Alistair Barclay, Nigel Brown, Paul Garwood, Jane Sidell, John Lewis, Gill Hey, Steve Ford and John Cotton. Prices from £15. Further details on the Prehistoric Society’s website.

30 May 2009: The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: searching for the Mesolithic
The Prehistoric Society’s 2009 Europa Day Conference and AGM takes place at the Tempest Anderson Hall, The Yorkshire Museum, York, and it celebrates the achievements of the 2009 Europa prize winner, our Fellow Professor Peter Woodman, who retired in September 2006 after twenty-three years as Professor of Archaeology at University College Cork. Speakers include Hein Bjerck, Caroline Wickham-Jones, Roger Jacobi, Rick Schulting, Alison Sheridan and Doug Price. Further details on the Prehistoric Society’s website.

11 and 12 June 2009: Short Course in Radiocarbon Dating
This course is aimed at radiocarbon users (including Quaternary geologists, palaeobiologists, archaeologists and marine geoscientists) and it aims to cover the key issues essential to the reliable production and interpretation of radiocarbon dates, including sample selection, laboratory processes and Bayesian analyses of the results. The course will be taught by members of the NERC radiocarbon facility, based at Oxford and East Kilbride. Further details are on the website of the University of Oxford Department for Continuing Education.


English Heritage: Chair
Salary £45,000 for 90 days a year; closing date 20 January 2009

This high-profile public appointment requires a person with a record of strong leadership in a large organisation in the public, private or voluntary sectors, supported by proven ability to work with personal authority at the highest political levels, so as to act as a persuasive link between English Heritage, UK Ministers and Parliament. Further details about the post and how to apply are available from the website of executive search advisers Saxton Bampfylde using reference AAHC.

The Methodist Church: Heritage Officer
Salary £39,532; closing date 12 January 2009

The challenge here is for someone to draw out from a variety of national and local bodies a single strategic vision for the role that local historic sites in the care of the Methodist church can play in contemporary life and mission. The successful candidate will be expected to embrace fully and advocate the ethos of the Methodist Church. For further details and an application pack see the website of the Methodist Church.

Atkins Heritage: two permanent posts based in the main London office
The London and South East Team Leader will lead and build the small multi-disciplinary team of senior heritage experts, through winning new commissions and delivering a very wide range of projects for diverse and often high-profile clients. The person sought will be a senior expert in archaeology, heritage management or historic buildings, with at least ten years’ postgraduate experience, and will have held a senior position within a commercial or consultancy environment.

The job of the Senior Historic Buildings Specialist will be to deliver expertise in the assessment and conservation-planning of historic buildings and places. The person sought will have a background in archaeology or historic buildings conservation, with a postgraduate qualification in historic buildings conservation and at least eight years’ postgraduate experience and full membership of an appropriate professional institute. Ideally the candidate will have held a senior post within a consultancy environment.

For further details of both posts, contact our Fellow Janet Miller, Director of Heritage, Atkins (; tel: 01372 726140).