Salon Archive

Issue: 212

Forthcoming meetings

14 May 2009: ‘Bringing the Past Alive: treasures of the Fellows’ Library, Dulwich College’, by Robert Weaver, FSA

21 May 2009: ‘Remembering Charlemagne’s Pope: Alcuin’s epitaph for Hadrian I in Old St Peter’s’, by Joanna Story, FSA

2 June 2009: ‘The birth of prehistory: commemorating John Evans’s Somme gravels lecture given to the Society on 2 June 1859’; for the full programme and timings, see the Society’s ‘News and events’ web page. Places at the event cost £20, and include tea and a wine reception. If you would like to reserve a place, please contact the Society.

4 June 2009: Ballot with exhibits. The online ballot is now open for voting, and the postal ballot papers will be sent out shortly. If you would like to register for a password to vote online or need a password reminder, please send an email to Christopher Catling.

Fellows’ Day at Kelmscott Manor: Saturday 11 July 2009

This year’s Fellows’ Day at Kelmscott Manor, organised exclusively for Fellows and their guests, provides an opportunity to see the Old Kitchen, opened to visitors for the first time in 2009. Amongst the exhibits in this room is a selection of wood panels from the Society’s collections, including late fifteenth- and early sixteenth-century English oak carvings and nineteenth-century Icelandic bed boards. In the Marigold Room will be a small exhibition of items donated to Kelmscott Manor in recent years. Live music will be provided by the Neil Pennock Trio (clarinet, voice and piano) from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Kelmscott Manor shop will also be open, with several new and tempting lines.

The event starts at 2pm and continues until 5pm. Tickets cost £14 (£6 for children aged six to sixteen), to include wine or a soft drink on arrival and a Kelmscott summer tea. Please send a request for the number of tickets you require, a cheque made out to ‘Kelmscott Manor’ and a return address to: Fellows Day, Kelmscott Manor, Kelmscott, Lechlade GL7 3HJ. The last date for receipt of bookings is Wednesday 24 June. For further information email Kelmscott Manor or telephone 01367 253348.

York Antiquaries dinner 17 June 2009

The York Antiquaries intend to hold their annual dinner at the Bar Convent in York on Wednesday 17 June 2009. On arrival guests will be served sherry in the Convent’s secluded garden (weather permitting), followed by a tour of the Convent given by one of the sisters, which will provide a rare opportunity to see some of the Convent’s treasures. A three-course dinner will follow. York Antiquaries members will be sent full details soon. Other Fellows are warmly invited to attend and anyone interested in doing so should contact Jim Spriggs, FSA, 20 Portland Street, York YO31 7EH as soon as possible (and no later than 25 May), so they can be sent further details as soon as they are available.

Result of Council Elections 23 April 2009

At the Council Elections held on 23 April 2009, the following were re-elected as members of Council: Sir Neil Cossons, Valerie Cromwell (Lady Kingman), Timothy Darvill, Clive Gamble, Maurice Howard, Sarah Jennings, Martin Millett, Alison Taylor, Geoffrey Wainwright, Roberta Gilchrist, Colin Haselgrove, Stephen Johnson, Sîan Rees, Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn and Dominic Tweddle.

The following were elected as new members of Council: Graeme Barker, David Breeze, Anthony Emery, Aideen Ireland and Leslie Webster.

The following were elected as Officers of the Society: Geoffrey Wainwright, President, Martin Millett, Treasurer, Maurice Howard, Director, and Alison Taylor, Honorary Secretary.

Presidential Address 2009

In his Anniversary Address to the Society, given on 23 April 2009, our President Geoff Wainwright addressed a number of policy issues relating to the cultural heritage and historic environment. He spoke of the ‘universal disappointment at the announcement in December 2008 that Parliamentary time was not available for the Heritage Protection Bill for England and Wales’, and said that there was now a real risk that local authorities will cut back on services to historic conservation without the incentive of legislative change and new funding’.

He also said that the loss of that part of the Bill relating to the protection of cultural heritage in times of armed conflict would ‘reflect very badly on the UK internationally’, especially as the process to sign and ratify the Convention was already underway in the United States. ‘Our inability to pass this legislation will mean that the United Kingdom will be the only international power not to have signed and ratified the Convention’, the President said, adding that the Society has ‘written to the Secretary of State asking him to seek a way forward which will enable us to sign and ratify the Hague Convention’, and noting that ‘he has promised to explore this suggestion’.

On the new Planning Policy Statement intended to replace Planning Policy Guidance Notes 15 and 16, Professor Wainwright reminded the Government that the present system results annually in more than £150 million of commercially funded work across the UK, which recent researchers have shown is of enormous benefit to our understanding of the past. ‘The wording of the new document and its guidance notes is therefore of fundamental importance’, he said, and warned that ‘we will argue strongly against any changes to the well-established “developer pays” principle. At the same time we will seek to introduce clauses that will enhance public benefit from the work and ensure that the results are properly archived in a museum.’

The President made reference to the debate in the House of Lords on 9 March 2009, when our Fellow Lord Howarth requested assurance from Government that the implementation of the forthcoming Planning Policy Statement would not be weakened in the current economic recession and that Government should look to local authorities not to reduce the capacity of their historic environment services under financial pressure. ‘The Society has written’, the President said, ‘to the Secretaries of State for Culture, Media and Sport, for Innovation, Universities and Skills and for Communities and Local Government asking them to ensure that archaeological provision is not weakened in forthcoming regulation or by the local authorities who are empowered to implement the protection of our heritage through the planning process. Furthermore, we have asked the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to ensure the security and care of excavation archives which may be at risk if some archaeological practices cease to exist. Finally we have asked the Secretary of State to discuss with English Heritage the provision of funds to publish those excavations which deserve such treatment, thus taking advantage of the temporary lull in development and consequent field-work.’

Looking to the Society’s own future, as we prepare to embark on a major fundraising and development campaign, the President said that ‘We need to continue our progress towards more active participation by Fellows and to keep attracting innovative and engaged people to the Fellowship — thus creating a strong community of individuals who can act as a catalyst for change. I shall be seeking views from Fellows on these important matters in the near future, confident that the energy we are rightly expending on our material world can also be devoted to examining the core values which will underpin our next hundred years.’

The full text of the President’s 2009 Anniversary Address can be found on the Society’s website.

Society’s Impact Report 2008, Financial Statement and Revised Objectives 2009—12

Also available for reading or downloading from the Society’s website are the new-look ‘Impact Report’, which reviews the Society’s main achievements for 2007—8 and outlines our future plans (copies of this will go out to all Fellows in the next mailing), the Society’s ‘Report and Financial Statement 2008’, which is a detailed account of the Society’s operations and financial affairs for the past year, and the Society’s ‘Business Plan for 2009—12’.

Latest job loss report from the IfA

Following on from our President’s call for the ‘developer pays’ principle to be retained in future planning guidance, the Institute for Archaeologists has just published its latest report on the impact of the economic downturn on archaeology. The report says that ‘Over a very short period, archaeology has been transformed from a briskly expanding profession to one that is losing trained staff rapidly’.

Following the loss of 345 archaeological jobs in the three months from 1 October 2008 to 1 January 2009 (reported on 21 January 2009), a further 195 jobs have been lost from the profession in the period from 1 January to 1 April 2009. Since the summer of 2007, approximately 670 jobs have been lost in total, a figure that represents 1 in 6 (16.5 per cent) of all commercial archaeological posts and that equates to nearly 10 per cent of all the jobs in professional archaeology that existed in 2007.

At least one archaeological practice has ceased trading and smaller organisations (employing less than twenty people) have been most heavily affected in the first three months of 2009 (in the final quarter of 2008, it was larger organisations, employing more than fifty people, that were hardest hit).

The IfA says that further job losses are anticipated in the quarter to the end of June 2009 because the employers of 25 per cent of the staff at all respondent organisations do not expect to be able to maintain their current staffing levels. This remains a significantly high figure, though it is a marked reduction from the January 2009 figure, when the organisations employing 66 per cent of the total number of archaeologists working for respondents expected to lose staff. Business confidence also remains poor (although not at as such low levels as were reported in January 2009), with most employers expecting the situation to deteriorate further in the coming twelve months and for more commercial archaeological businesses to cease trading.

The report concludes by pointing to the loss to the archaeological profession of fieldwork skills, with those who contribute to excavation and to historic building and landscape survey being particularly badly affected. The latest report can be downloaded from the IfA’s website.

Antiquaries Journal Online

The first three papers in Volume 89 of the Antiquaries Journal have gone online and can be read or downloaded from the Cambridge Journals Online website. These include an interim report on last April’s excavations at Stonehenge by Vice-President Tim Darvill and President Geoff Wainwright, a paper by our former General Secretary, Dai Morgan Evans, FSA, examining the part played by Sir Joseph Banks, FSA (1743—1820), in the affairs of the Society in the early nineteenth century, highlighting the antiquarian interests of a man well known in scientific and exploration circles, and an account by Margarita Díaz-Andreu, FSA, Megan Price and Chris Gosden, FSA, of their work so far on the Hawkes Papers, kept in the Bodleian Library, being the archive of Professor Christopher Hawkes, FSA, one of the most influential contributors to the development of British prehistoric archaeology before and after the Second World War.

Further papers will be added (and announced in Salon) over the course of the next month.


The Society has been informed of the death of our Fellow Margaret Gelling, OBE, FBA (29 November 1924 to 24 April 2009), doyenne of place-name studies, especially of the relationship between Anglo-Saxon place-names and landscape features. An obituary will be published in the next issue of Salon.

The last issue of Salon announced the recent death of our Fellow Benedikt Benedikz, librarian and scholar, who died on 25 March 2009, at the age of seventy-six. We are very grateful to Christine Penney (who succeeded Ben as Head of Special Collections and University Archivist, University of Birmingham, and who officially retired in 2005, but who has recently come out of retirement to serve as librarian of the Hurd Library at Hartlebury Castle — about which see more below) for the following obituary, a shorter version of which appeared in The Times on 28 April 2009.

‘Ben Benedikz was among the last of the scholar-librarians who have done so much to safeguard and enhance the collections of rare books and archives in their care, patiently maintaining their crucial importance both to scholarship and to the reputation of their parent institutions. When his career began they were often regarded as the “ivory tower” of librarianship; when it ended they were firmly in the main stream.

‘Benedikt Sigurđur Benedikz was born in Reykjavik on 4 April 1932, the eldest son of the diplomat and bibliophile Eirikur Benedikz (1907—88). At the age of twelve, when his father was appointed Chargé d’Affaires to the newly established Icelandic Legation in London (retiring as Minister-Counsellor in 1978), he moved to England, which remained his home for the rest of his life. He was educated at Burford Grammar School, Pembroke College, Oxford (where he also trained as an operatic tenor), and University College London, where he took his diploma in librarianship in 1956. He was already a formidable linguist, always an asset in a librarian and often in other circumstances too. One long vacation his father sent him round the eastern Mediterranean in a tramp steamer. Obliged to spend a night ashore in Turkey, Benedikz accepted hospitality in the tiny cell of an orthodox monk, the only language they shared being Latin.

‘His first post was with Buckinghamshire County Library. In 1959 he was offered two positions: one in the chorus at Covent Garden and one in the University Library at Durham. He chose the latter and here he met Phyllis Laybourn, herself a librarian. They married in 1964, having spent part of their courtship cataloguing the collection of the See of Durham at Auckland Castle. There followed three years in charge of the humanities collections at the New University of Ulster, two teaching bibliography at Leeds Polytechnic and his final move, in 1973, was to the University of Birmingham, as Head of Special Collections, where he remained until his retirement in 1995.

‘Benedikz was equally at home in a library, lecture room or cathedral cloister. His particular forté was in the field of acquisitions. Thousands of rare books and the papers of Charles Masterman, Oliver Lodge, Oswald Mosley and the Church Mission Society came to Birmingham during his tenure. He nurtured and developed the two “star” collections — the Avon and the Chamberlain papers — maintaining excellent relations with the families who had donated them. He taught bibliography, palaeography and Old Norse, thus helping to set the library at the heart of the university, and he was consultant to the cathedral libraries of Lichfield and Worcester and the magnificent library of Bishop Hurd at Hartlebury Castle.

‘His scholarship was many-sided. He edited On the Novel, a Festschrift presented to Walter Allen, in 1971, and published a string of papers on Icelandic history and literature, Byzantine studies, bibliography, modern political papers and medieval manuscripts. The work which gave him most satisfaction was The Varangians of Byzantium. This book was a revision and substantial rewriting of Væringja Saga, by Sigfús Blöndal, a history of the Byzantine mercenary regiment which included Norsemen. Blöndal had died before he could revise and see it through the press and its publication in Reykjavik in 1954 attracted little attention .In 1960 Blöndal’s widow invited Benedikz to produce an English edition. It was published by Cambridge in 1978, has recently been issued in paperback and is soon to be published electronically. For this and other published work the university awarded Benedikz a doctorate in 1979. He was elected FRHistS in 1981 and FSA in 1985. In 1999 the University of Nottingham, in acknowledgment of the family’s gift of his father’s outstanding collection of Islandica, made him a member of their College of Benefactors. He became closely involved with Viking studies there and delivered the first of the biennial Fell-Benedikz lectures in 2000.

‘Genuine eccentrics are fast disappearing from academia but Ben Benedikz was certainly one of them. Before his arrival at Birmingham a colleague remarked of him: “Mr Benedikz always strikes me as the sort of person any self-respecting university library ought to have one of”, and, indeed, no one quite like him had been seen there before. Snatches of grand opera would waft up and down the lift shaft and imitations of Churchill enlivened the reading room. He was a familiar figure every morning in the senior common room, laden with antiquarian book catalogues, picking up on the gossip and keeping the biscuit suppliers in business.

‘A polymath in the tradition of Dr Johnson, whom he resembled both in build and intellect, he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the most diverse facts. He was a walking Who’s Who of theologians, politicians and academics, alive or dead. Cataloguers rarely had to consult reference books, for he could tell them immediately the correct name of a monk at the medieval monastery at Fulda, the author of a long-forgotten Victorian children’s novel or an obscure French dramatist. Occasionally the facts would become tangled. He once memorably confused Virginia Woolf’s Orlando with the children’s classic Orlando (The Marmalade Cat), when it was clear that what he really meant was her biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s dog Flush. He was not always at home with the more tedious aspects of library management, but his devotion to scholarship was never in doubt. He encouraged an entire generation of students, who remember him with gratitude and affection.’

Campaign to save the Hurd Library and Hartlebury Castle

Several Fellows who are involved in the recently launched campaign to save Hartlebury Castle and the Hurd Library would like to publicise their work and appeal for the support of their colleagues. Full details are given on the website of the Hartlebury Castle Preservation Trust, but here are the key facts. Hartlebury Castle, in Worcestershire, has been the residence of the Bishops of Worcester for 800 years but it is no longer considered suitable as an episcopal residence, so the Church Commissioners have put it up for sale.

Not only is the castle itself a building of national significance, it contains a hidden gem in the form of the Hurd Library, a unique example of a working library, formed by an eighteenth-century scholar bishop of wide interests, which remains on its original shelves and in the original room built for it shortly after Hurd moved to Hartlebury Castle, as Bishop of Worcester, in 1781. That Library belongs (and will continue to belong) to the Bishop of Worcester, who appointed Christine Penney as librarian in March 2009, since when Christine has begun work to develop links between the Hurd Library and other libraries and academic institutions.

The members of the Hartlebury Castle Preservation Trust are committed to raising the funds to acquire and manage the Castle to preserve it for public use and enjoyment, but they face the constant threat that the building could sold at any time to a private buyer or property developer, and with it the prospect that the Hurd Library, an integral part of the Castle, would be dismantled and moved.

The Trust is appealing for support from influential individuals and organisations in their task of persuading the Church Commissioners to act in a manner which puts the heritage value of Hartlebury Castle above short-term financial gain and gives the Hartlebury Castle Preservation Trust time to develop proposals, to build on the positive support they have already received from such bodies as English Heritage and the District Council, to secure funding. Letters of support should be addressed to Mr Timothy Walker, Third Church Estates Commissioner, Church House, London SW1P 3AZ. Pictures of the library can be seen on the BBC’s website, along with contact details for anyone wishing to make a visit.

The Pitt Rivers Museum is open again

Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum opened its doors to the public again on 1 May, after a £1.5m redevelopment, supported by an award of £1m from The Heritage Lottery Fund and by generous contributions from the DCMS/Wolfson Foundation’s Museum and Galleries Improvement Fund, The Clore Duffield Foundation, The Monument Trust and from other public and private benefactors.

The principle improvements include the creation of a new entrance from the adjacent Oxford University Museum of Natural History which offers a fine panorama over the historic displays. The Salama, an East African sailing boat, has been raised and suspended dramatically from the rafters and the number of objects on display on the ground floor has been substantially increased, while the Museum’s Lower Gallery Balcony has been freed-up to form a new location for family and educational activities.

Kenilworth Castle garden

Also opening for the first time over the May Bank Holiday is the newly recreated garden at Kenilworth Castle, originally created by Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, to impress Queen Elizabeth I on her visit to the castle in July 1575. The reconstruction is based in part on the eyewitness account of the garden contained in a letter penned by Robert Langham, an official in Leicester’s household, who described the garden in great detail and chronicled the lavish 1575 Kenilworth festivities. Langham records in some detail a terrace with an aviary flanked by arbours of perfumed trees and flowers, looking down on a garden divided into quarters and planted with fragrant herbs, flowers and fruit trees, each quarter having at its centre a fifteen-foot porphyry obelisk capped by an orb. At the garden’s centre was a great fountain of ‘rich & hard white Marbl’, raised on a four-foot high platform, in which a pair of Atlantes supported a globe from which water poured out of spouts into the basin below filled with fish; the eight sides of the basin were carved with erotic scenes from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and Laneham noted that those whose passions were inflamed by viewing the scenes were likely to find their ardour doused by a trick fountain which spurted upwards ‘with such vehemency’ that it ‘moystened [them] from top to toe’.

Archaeological excavations between 2004 and 2006 uncovered the foundations and white marble fragments of the original fountain, confirming Langham’s contemporary description and allowing the garden’s layout to be accurately mapped. Our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: ‘This is to gardens what The Globe was to theatre: Leicester’s garden was as much a work of art as it was of horticulture, and our re-creation, set among the sandstone ruins of his once splendid buildings, is a beautiful reminder of how sumptuous Elizabethan culture was.’ A television documentary on the recreation of the garden will be shown on BBC2 on 8 May at 9pm. There is also a five-minute film about the making of the garden on the English Heritage website.

English Heritage Historical Review Volume 3

Kenilworth Castle is also the subject of a paper by our Fellow Nicholas Molyneux in the newly published Volume 3 of the English Heritage Historical Review, the periodical (edited by our Fellow Richard Hewlings) that presents the results of research undertaken by English Heritage in the process of curating its properties. Nicholas’s paper examines a survey of Kenilworth Castle made for Robert Dudley in 1563, shortly after he was granted the castle which reveals that a number of structures survived Dudley’s comprehensive transformation of the castle, including the great hall, and such distinctive features as the tiltyard on the dam and the ostentatious stable block, long thought to have been built by Leicester, but now known to have been built by his father, John Dudley, Duke of Northumberland, in 1553.

Apethorpe also features in papers by our Fellows Adam White and Claire Gapper. Adam analyses the iconography of the Jacobean chimneypieces in the state apartments, richly carved with figures and ornaments designed to flatter King James (the image of King David and his harp, for example, is not only appropriate to the Long Gallery as a place of music and dance, but refers to King James’s own translation of the Psalms into English and the flattering references to James in contemporary literature as a peacemaker, like David, bringing harmony to Scotland and England). Claire identifies the influential Edward Stanyon as the maker of the plaster ceiling of the King’s Chamber, with its bravura display of enrichments, in contrast to the more sober style of the Long Gallery, which reflects the influence of Inigo Jones.

The archaeological records of the Lukis family of Guernsey (consisting of the father Frederick Lukis, FSA, and his four sons, Frederick, John, William and Francis, all of whom undertook fieldwork during the period 1811 to the 1880s) are the subject of a paper by our Fellow Heather Sebire, who reminds us that the many hundreds of accurate and detailed survey drawings and observations of megalithic monuments made by William Lukis during the 1850s to 1880s (many of which were funded by the Society of Antiquaries) are a rich resource for identifying subsequent losses and changes to the monuments.

Addressing the more recent past, the Review concludes with Roger J C Thomas’s account of the scheduling, restoration and opening to the public of the Royal Observer Corp headquarters in York. Opened in 1961 and closed in 1991, this building was one of a network of twenty-nine ‘protected’ structures, built all over the UK to withstand and monitor radioactive fallout and supply the Government with data on which to make decisions in the event of a nuclear war. EH has not only restored the structure; it has fitted it out with the equipment that would have been used during the operational life of the building, complete with the original Perspex situation boards, with gridded maps for plotting bomber movements, and radio sets, telephones and teleprinters used for communications in the pre-computer age — evidence of just how much has changed in so short a time, and why so recent a structure nevertheless has all the appearance of heritage from an entirely different age.

For abstracts of all the papers and information on ordering copies, see the English Heritage website.

Scottish Antiquaries broadcast lectures on the web

Technology continues to develop in ways that allow the web to be used more and more as a broadcast medium. The Society of Antiquaries of Scotland has taken advantage of this new technology to record this year’s prestigious Rhind Lectures and mount the six lectures on the web.

Under the heading ‘New Light on the Dawn: a new perspective on the Neolithic Revolution’, the 2009 Rhind Lectures were given by our Fellow Trevor Watkins who painted a detailed picture of the emergence of large-scale, permanent village communities, displaying extraordinary architecture, sculpture and symbolic practices, during the Palaeolithic and early Neolithic of south-west Asia and argued that this revolution occurred when and where it did for reasons that are cognitive and cultural, rather than accidental.

With the help of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, our own Society is now investigating how to record and broadcast the papers given at weekly meetings and seminars at Burlington House and hopes to be able to do something similar in the near future.

Peat Moors Centre to close

Somerset County Council has announced that it intends to close the award-winning Peat Moors Visitor Centre, located between Shapwick and Westhay, in October 2009, despite a campaign by archaeologists and others in the local community to keep it open. Somerset County Council’s own literature describes the Centre as an opportunity to discover ‘how our ancient ancestors made their homes in the centre of an extensive wetland. Three full size reconstructions of Iron Age roundhouses have been created to give an insight into living conditions in the unique Glastonbury Lake Village’.

The centre costs £25,000 a year to run, and was established by the Rogers family, owners of the adjacent Willows Garden Centre, with advice from the Somerset Levels Project, in 1982. The centre is a past winner of a British Archaeological Award for the best presentation of an archaeological project to the public and its Warden, Eddie Wills, says it ‘is as popular as ever and many people are unaware of its proposed closure; we welcome about 5,000 people during the season and we are fully booked for school parties’.

A spokeswoman for Somerset County Council said the authority was willing to listen to and consider proposals from anyone interested in taking over the Centre, and it confirmed that Natural England is investigating the viability of creating an Avalon Marshes visitor centre in Westhay in which elements of the Peat Moors Centre could play a part.

RIP The Civic Trust

The Civic Trust, founded in 1957, went into administration last week, an event long anticipated given that the charity has been struggling financially for some years. The Civic Trust was the umbrella organisation for some 700 independent Civic Societies across the country, whose fate is not affected by the closure of the national body. Staff at the Civic Trust co-ordinated two well-supported national schemes: Heritage Open Days (HODs), held over four days in September, when over a million people annually visited historic and architecturally distinctive buildings not normally open to the public, and the Civic Trust’s Award schemes, presented for the best new buildings and renovations in the British Isles, as well as to outstanding parks and public spaces. HODs (which is also supported by English Heritage and the Open University) is not affected by the Civic Trust’s demise, and will go ahead in 2009 as planned, but uncertainty surrounds the future of the Awards scheme.

Consultation on EU plans for a European Heritage Label

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the future of the European Heritage Label (EHL), which was launched in 2007 to increase knowledge and appreciation among European citizens, especially young people, of their common history and their shared yet diverse cultural heritage. Sixty sites in eighteen countries have obtained the label so far. The UK government has so far expressed cautious support for the proposal but has not yet nominated any sites. Despite this, the European Heritage Label was canvassed in the recent DCMS World Heritage Policy Review as a possible alternative to World Heritage nomination.

The EU is now considering transforming the European Heritage Label into an official EU initiative (like the European Capitals of Culture initiative) so as to make the label more visible and effective. This public consultation is one element in a study of the practical steps needed for the implementation of the project. The consultation runs to 15 May and further details can be found on the EU website.

Solar activity and the fall of empires

Writing in the Independent on Sunday on 26 April 2009, our Fellow Felipe Fernandez-Armesto reports that 2008 was the quietest year on record for sunspot activity since 1913 and that so far 2009 has been quieter still: ‘the Sun has not been this lazy for this long since Napoleon was the scourge of Europe’, he says, warning that solar quiescence literally makes the Sun less hot, and so threatens Earth with cooling, and unusual weather on Earth helps to cause freak political and economic events.

Between the 1640s and about 1715, sunspot activity disappeared altogether, resulting in the ‘little ice age’ so beautifully captured in the winter scenes painted by Brueghel, during which the River Thames froze hard enough for Londoners to go skating on fourteen occasions. In the 1640s and 1650s, England, France, the Spanish monarchy, Sweden, the Holy Roman and Ottoman empires and the empires of China and India all collapsed or experienced violent upheavals, and in each case, the severity of climate change seems at least to have been a contributing factor, causing hardship and stirring revolutions.

Global temperature falls associated with a low sunspot count coincided with the French Revolution and the revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, when there were changes of regimes and ferocious political reactions all over Europe. Spain’s empire — the modern world’s oldest and biggest — collapsed. The British Raj effectively replaced the Mughal empire in India. The First World War, which saw the fragmentation of some of the world’s most powerful states, began after a spell of exceptional solar inertia, with more than 1,000 sunspotless days.

‘With precedents such as these’, Felipe writes, ‘it will surely not be long before bloggers start attributing the global economic crisis to a stalling Sun … but before we succumb to the oracles of doom, we should formulate a new scientific law: small fluctuations in scientific data produce disproportionate panic in the populace. Climate scares have become like health scares: there is a new one almost every week, and they get less persuasive as they multiply.’ For the time being, the Sun’s cooling may well be having the benign effect of countering global warming, but, warns Felipe, ‘if we are in for a cool spell it will probably be a short lurch, whereas warming is the long-term trend’.

Archaeology and history: the great divide?

This month’s History Today magazine has a provocative paper by Harvard University’s Daniel Lord Smail in which he chides his fellow historians for ignoring archaeology, and argues that the time has come to reunite the two disciplines. He refers to the exclusion of prehistory from the school history curriculum (which, in any case, he feels is too weighted towards the twentieth century) and he argues that logically many of the documents that historians study give accounts that lag a long way behind the processes that they describe or emerge from: historians like to think in terms of ‘revolutions’, in industry, agriculture, urbanisation and the like, but you need archaeology if you are going to find their origins.

Smail quotes Collingwood’s The Idea of History approvingly, and especially his view that ‘history and archaeology must tackle questions that lie at the place where multiple lines of independent evidence converge’. To reconstruct the past requires not just documents but isotopes, DNA, pots and their lipid residues. Archaeologists and antiquaries will no doubt take issue with Professor Smail’s view that it will take archaeologists longer ‘to figure out that their subject isn’t demeaned by the presence of documents’ as it would for historians to embrace archaeology — see the History Today website for the entire argument.


Salon’s appeal in the last issue for the author of the Confessions of a Conservation Officer blog to come out from the pile of paperwork under which he has been buried, and blog again has succeeded! The CO writes to say ‘thank you to the Society of Antiquaries for noticing’, and has posted up his latest thoughts, which make very sad reading, on the fate of Greaves Hall at Banks near Southport, a Grade II listed Tudor Revival house, with multiple gables and patterned timber framing imitating the local vernacular, which has deteriorated to the point where it is likely to be demolished following recent fire damage and vandalism, while the surrounding land is developed for housing. From the CO’s blog, you can also hop to the blog called Nemesis Republic, written by someone who describes himself as a Grumpy Old Blogger, but then disproves that description with a fine tribute to the late U A Fanthorpe, one of the truly great poets of our time, who should in all justice have been the first female Poet Laureate, and who died on 30 April 2009, a day before Carol Ann Duffy was confirmed as Andrew Motion’s successor in that post. Nemesis heads his tribute with a picture of Kelmscott Manor and then quotes Fanthorpe’s 2003 poem, A Wish for William Morris, which begins with this lyrical description of Kelmscott:

I’d have let him die here
That great lover of things
In the place he loved best.

Not graceless Hammersmith
That he healed in his book
But in the old manor,

Kelmscott by the river,
Where the bed was ready,
That he wrote the verse for,

May curtained, Jane sewed for,
With grass scent, late rose scent,
Invading the window,

Distant shouting of sheep,
A bravura blackbird,
Always his true love Thames.

Worth book-marking and visiting regularly, Nemesis Republic ranges widely over heritage matters and is a corrective to popular opinion: observing, for example, that last week’s fly-on-the-wall documentary on English Heritage presented Apethorpe as if it were a vanity project on the part of Fellow Simon Thurley, when ‘the reality is that we have laws and planning policies in this country which are too often not put into operation, and here was a long-standing problem, a house of exceptional quality left neglected and seriously at risk. Repair orders were ignored, and the inexorable march of the long arm of the law meant that in the end the DCMS had no option other than to step in and take it into state ownership.’

(An informal straw poll taken before the Society’s weekly lecture on 30 April suggests that the majority of Fellows would like to see the fruitless search for a private owner for Apethorpe abandoned in favour of opening this magnificent house to the public as part of the English Heritage property portfolio.)

Two issues ago Salon reported on the controversial delisting of a five-storey residential apartment block at 24—26 Hereford Square, in Kensington, west London, completed in 1958, designed by Colin St John Wilson and Arthur Baker and previously listed at Grade II.

It has since been reported in Building Design magazine that Kensington and Chelsea Council is itself unhappy with the delisting decision and has appealed to Culture Secretary Andy Burnham for a review. The magazine reports that Deputy Council Leader Daniel Moylan wrote to Burnham in March warning that the council was ‘increasingly concerned’ that the delisting was the result of a ‘less than vigorous assessment process’, adding that ‘it would greatly reassure us if in this case you would review the process by which this decision was reached to satisfy yourself and the interested public that ministers were properly advised and to establish whether the decision was robust and defensible’.

The Twentieth Century Society, meanwhile, has issued a press release saying that the case illustrates ‘how poorly resourced English Heritage is’. It says that English Heritage had anticipated being given the final say in listing decisions under the provisions of the now-defunct Heritage Protection Bill, but that in reality ‘they are not in the powerful position they envisaged’, and ‘that their response to listing review cases has proven ineffective and requires revision’.

The C20 Society also accuses EH of ‘dragging its feet’ in response to a threat to a 1936 family house by Giles Gilbert Scott at 22 Weymouth Street. The C20 Society requested a spot listing in November 2008 when the owner first applied for permission to build a roof extension — permission was granted after an appeal last month but EH has yet to come to a decision on whether the building should be listed, and the C20 Society argues that ‘spot listing is taking far too long’. EH denies this and says that it ‘comfortably handles 200 applications for listing every month’, and that ‘80 per cent of investigations’ are dealt with in three months.

Over in Belsize Park, the C20 Society is fighting on behalf of two modernist, steel-framed houses built to a Miesian courtyard plan — single-storey with an internal courtyard — designed by architects Robin Spence and Robin Webster as family homes for themselves in 1978 and completed in 1981. Camden Planning is considering a scheme to demolish these carefully considered buildings designed to sit quietly in the surrounding streetscape, and replace them with two large houses. Our Fellow Neil Jackson, Professor of Architecture at Liverpool University and author of The Modern Steel House, has recently described the houses as ‘an example of a small but particularly interesting late-C20 urban house type [that allows] for modern living within an historic environment without imposing themselves while, at the same time, being true to contemporary design principles and aspirations’.

See the C20 Society’s website for more on its campaigns on behalf of recent architecture.

From serious matters of heritage protection to the slightly less weighty matter of snoring at the Society. Re the satirical portrait of Fellow Francis Grose (1731—91) asleep at a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries, our Fellow John Blair writes to say that ‘Francis Grose was certainly not the last Fellow to snore at the Antiquaries. My own first experience of a lecture at the Society, I believe in my early teens, was to hear one of the most distinguished Anglo-Saxon archaeologists speak about one of the most important Anglo-Saxon sites. I found it interesting, but do remember thinking the delivery rather monotonous. So apparently did the elderly gentleman sitting next to me, who lapsed every ten minutes or so into snores that gradually rose above the speaker’s voice. Acutely embarrassed, I jabbed him with my elbow whenever they reached a certain volume, which did the trick but had to be repeated several times.

‘I also recall an occasion when, while lecturing myself, I developed a probably illusory but very disconcerting conviction that someone in the audience was snoring to the rhythm of my voice. Perhaps suppression of snorers is one responsibility of a good chairman, though it is hard to know who would have suppressed Grose!’

The Victorian Society, as we reported in the last issue, wants Waterloo Station to be listed, but as Fellow Henry Cleere reminds us, not everyone has been so impressed by the building: one French visitor, on viewing the grand new entrance many years ago, is said to have retorted C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la gare. It would, of course, be interesting to know just how old this joke is, and where it first occurs: it cannot — one assumes — pre-date the age of the railway, so we have a terminus ante quem of 1840; on the other hand it does sound very like the sort of pun that was the speciality of the late Frank Muir, team captain opposite Frank Norden in the punning panel game ‘My Word’, which was broadcast in the 1970s. The pun (based on Field Marshal Pierre Bosquet’s description of the Charge of the Light Brigade as C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la guerre) is also attributed to Oscar Wilde and others in a slightly different form: he is supposed to have greeted the neo-Gothic Broad Street frontage of Balliol College (built by Alfred Waterhouse in 1868) with words to the effect of ‘It’s magnificent, but is it not a station?’. Still others claim that Wilde said this of Keble College.

Fellow David Cranstone gently chides Salon for describing Dunwich as a ‘drowned city’, in reviewing the CBA’s recently published Doggerland Research Report. Instead of being submerged by rising seas, Dunwich fell off a cliff, destroyed by coastal erosion of the soft boulder clay and sand cliffs on which it stood (erosion that continues to the present day) The point is important archaeologically because, as David points out, a ‘drowned settlement or landscape will retain a its archaeological stratigraphy, potentially with exceptional preservation in some respects, whereas a city destroyed by coastal erosion will have lost all its stratigraphy, and will only survive archaeologically as an ex-situ artefact scatter, winnowed and degraded by erosion and re-deposition.’

Aerial Archaeology in Jordan Project

Fellows David Kennedy (University of Western Australia) and Bob Bewley (Heritage Lottery Fund) are inviting expressions of interest from anyone involved in research and fieldwork in Jordan whose project could benefit from aerial photography. Together David and Bob have been undertaking aerial survey in Jordan for some years as part of the Aerial Archaeology in Jordan Project (AAJ), which is itself a component of the larger APAAME (Aerial Photographic Archive for Archaeology in the Middle East) project, established 1978 to locate archives of aerial photographs and promote active aerial reconnaissance in the region.

The AAJ aims to record from the air all the surviving archaeological remains of Jordan and to make those photographs available for research in the broader community. Some 25,000 images from various sources (including 35mm colour slide film, 35mm black and white and colour print film, vertical survey diapositives and digital images) are currently held in the APAAME at the University of Western Australia, primarily of Jordan, though a few cover neighbouring countries. A project to make them available via an online database is currently underway, but in the meantime all the images are available to researchers by other means, and further details of both APAAME and AAJ are given on the project website.

If relevant images do not yet exist, Professor Kennedy says that he and Dr Bewley are prepared to add it as a potential target when planning their flying programme — though they cannot make a firm commitment to flying over a particular site or area in any given season. Already, however, archaeologists working in Jordan have taken advantage of the project, and, from the highly successful 2008 flying season, several researchers have received images of sites for which they specifically requested photographs.

Heritage Lottery Fund gives £7.9 million to landscapes

One of the less well-known but very valuable funding streams managed by the Heritage Lottery Fund is the Landscape Partnership (LP) programme, aimed at conserving and enhancing the built and natural assets that contribute to landscape character. Last week, the HLF announced that it had allocated £7.9 million for enhancement work within six landscapes: Windermere in Cumbria, the Llŷn Pensinsula, Derbyshire and North Nottinghamshire’s Southern Magnesian Limestone Area, Lincolnshire’s Coastal Marshes, County Durham’s Magnesian Limestone Landscape and the Faughan Valley, running from the foothills of the Sperrins Mountains along the Faughan River to the outskirts of Derry City. All of these projects have archaeological aspects, especially the Derbyshire and North Nottinghamshire scheme, which includes the extension of the existing ‘Archaeological Way’, consisting of footpaths following railways that were once used for transporting coal and stone and that now link internationally important prehistoric sites, including the cave art sites of Creswell Crags. The County Durham project covers an area important for its Anglo-Saxon settlements and rich industrial heritage, and the scheme here includes summer training excavations.


12 May 2009, Society of Antiquaries, Burlington House 7pm—8pm: Professor Andrew Saint, author of Architect and Engineer: a study in sibling rivalry and Editor of the Survey of London, will give the Construction History Society’s Annual Lecture under the title of ‘“Almost but not entirely without interest”: reflections on the history of concrete’.

22 to 31 May 2009, ‘Leave-Home-Stay’, as part of the RIBA Festival of Architecture: our Fellow Christine Finn will once again be opening the modest Victorian family house in the suburban seaside of Deal, Kent, that she inherited from her parents and that she has been using as the catalyst for her witty and thought-provoking ideas about the archaeology of domesticity. Two years ago, she excavated the front room to discover the life stories built into bricks and mortar, hidden in wallpaper or below the floorboards. Last year she focused on the stories revealed by the choice of objects placed on mantelpieces in the house. This year, she will display new photographs, films and artworks based on the evolution of the project and visitors’ responses to it and will invite participants in two family workshop events to make art or write about the ‘prehistory of a stray cat’ (an unexpected addition to the house, Christine says) and the traces that pets leave of their presence in domestic spaces. For further information see the Festival of Architecture website.

20 June 2009: Hadrian’s Wall Archaeology Forum, at The Queen’s Hall, Beaumont Street, Hexham. This is the first meeting of the Hadrian’s Wall Archaeology Forum, a new annual day-conference where you can learn about the latest discoveries and research in the Hadrian’s Wall frontier zone, including the Cumbrian coast. This public conference fulfils one of the recommendations made in the recently completed Hadrian’s Wall Research Framework and is intended to bring news of new discoveries to the broadest possible audience. As such, the talks given by those at the forefront of Roman frontier studies are designed to appeal to professionals and interested members of the general public alike. Speakers include our Fellows Nick Hodgson, FSA (Tyne & Wear Museums Archaeology), and Tony Wilmott (English Heritage). Enquiries and bookings: the Archaeology Section, Durham County Council.

June 2009: ‘Catastrophe! The Destruction of Cultural Property in Iraq’, a UNESCO-UK sponsored exhibition to be hosted by the Society of Antiquaries as part of the overall effort from the UK National Commission for UNESCO seeking to influence the UK’s ratification of the 1954 Hague Convention. More on this in the next issue of Salon.

Special offer on British Archaeological Association Journal

Michael de Bootman, of Heritage Marketing and Publications, is offering sets of Volume 133 (1980) through to Volume 152 (1999) of the British Archaeological Association Journal for the sum of £36.75, which includes postage (inland UK only), which works out at an average of £1.84 per volume. He has thirty complete sets at this bargain price, all in mint condition. See the HMP website to place an order.

Books by Fellows

On the slimmer side of the scales in this fortnight’s round up of newly published books is Britain’s Oldest Art: the Ice Age cave art of Creswell Crags, published by English Heritage and written by Fellows Paul Bahn and Paul Pettitt. The two Pauls are depicted on page 5, along with colleagues Sergio Ripoll and Brian Chambers, looking triumphantly happy in front of Mother Grundy’s Parlour, the first of the caves they investigated in their search for Ice Age cave art, five years ago almost to the day (14 April 2003). The story of the search, which opens the book, reads like a Boys’ Own adventure, with the almost too-good-to-be-true revelation that an idea hatched at an Oxford dinner in 2002, to hunt for England’s missing prehistoric cave art, led to the discovery of an engraved motif in Mother Grundy’s Parlour within hours of the start of the survey. Another piece of good fortune occurred shortly afterwards when, on investigating what they thought was an unpromising Church Hole cave, Sergio Ripoll climbed on to a high edge representing all that remained of the Palaeolithic cave floor, and found himself staring at an engraved stag. That stag is now one of the finest of the engraved images to have been discovered by the team at Creswell Crags, all of which are depicted in photographs and line drawings in this 80-page guide, along with a full description setting the art into its archaeological and geological context.

On the heavyweight side is a book surely misnamed as the Oxford Handbook of Archaeology (Oxford University Press), edited by Fellows Barry Cunliffe and Chris Gosden with Rosemary Joyce: very large hands indeed are needed to hold this 1,161-page book, which weighs as much as a newborn baby and has a cast of thirty-five distinguished contributors, most of whom are Fellows.

Neither is the Handbook a bland reference manual, carefully summing up everything that everyone has ever said on a particular topic. Instead, the contributors say what they believe to be the case based on the best available and most up-to-date evidence, as does Fellow Steve Mithen, for example, writing on the ‘Peopling of the Globe’, who is sceptical of the idea of out-of-Africa dispersals dating back 150,000 years or more, and says instead that ‘genetic evidence suggests that all living people [are] derived from dispersals out of Africa that took place 60,000 years ago’, and that older dispersals ‘do not appear to have had any long-term significance’ — in other words, they either became extinct or were so insignificant in terms of numbers as to have left no genetic legacy. He is, however, comfortable with the notion that this more recent diaspora was so swift and far-reaching that we reached America well before the 11,500 BC date on which ‘Clovis first’ models of migration are based.

Equally the authors do not hesitate to write in the first person and to talk about their favourite books, as does Kristian Kristiansen, in an entertaining opening chapter on the definition of archaeology (with its brilliantly constructed rhetoric conclusion: ‘Situated in the dialectic between past and present, knowledge and interest, science and the humanities, preservation and excavation, research and public presentation, archaeology remains one of the most challenging and wide-ranging disciplines to engage in’). And all the writers are lucid (our Fellow Matthew Johnson on ‘The Theoretical Scene’, for example, is brilliant at explaining theoretical archaeology while avoiding what makes the worst theoretical archaeology so frustratingly bad: using words that have a very clear meaning in the English language in ways that mean something entirely different and private to the author).

All of this is entirely consistent with the aims of the book, as stated in the editors’ introduction and so superbly delivered by what follows: ‘we have encouraged the contributors to develop their own points of view … to show the plurality of archaeology … [and give] … some sense of the excitement, possibility and controversy of archaeological practices and results’.

It is some two years now since the British Museum hosted the exhibition ‘A New World: England’s first view of America’, featuring the watercolour paintings of John White resulting form his visit to ‘Virginia’ (now North Carolina)in the 1580s, where he made the earliest surviving record of the flora, fauna and people of North America. That exhibition, curated by our Fellow Kim Sloan (Curator of British Drawings and Watercolours before 1880) and Francis Finlay (Curator of the Enlightenment Gallery at the British Museum), provided the opportunity to hold an interdisciplinary, international conference re-examining the work of John White from many different perspectives, and the results have just been published in a volume of essays called European Visions: American Voices, edited by Kim Sloan (British Museum). All of White’s remarkable watercolours are reproduced in full colour, along with essays that range from a consideration of White’s materials and techniques and their accuracy and reliability as documentary records, to the larger questions of the visualisation and perception of native peoples and the impact of White’s depictions on antiquarian thought in Elizabethan England.

In this year when all things Darwinian are being celebrated, our Fellow Michael Thompson has chosen to explore the life of one of our Society’s most influential Presidents, Sir John Lubbock, who was Darwin’s near neighbour and close friend. In Darwin’s Pupil: the place of Sir John Lubbock, Lord Avebury, 1834—1913, in late Victorian and Edwardian England (Melrose Books), Michael tells the story of Lubbock’s close friendship with the great biologist at the time of his studies in evolution and the influence of Darwin’s thinking on Lubbock’s own work in prehistoric archaeology, including his best-selling work, Pre-historic Times (1865), in which he coined the names Palaeolithic and Neolithic to denote the Old and New Stone Ages, and his campaigning in Parliament that eventually led to the first legislation to protect ancient monuments in the UK (an apt moment, too, as Salon’s editor writes this on a sunny May bank holiday, to remember that Lubbock was responsible for the legislation that created bank holidays, and that for all his passion for archaeology, the polymathic banker saw himself primarily as a biologist, specialising in hymenoptera (ants, bees, and wasps), hence the caricature of Lubbock that appeared in Punch in 1882, depicting him as a bumble bee along with the verse: ‘How doth the Banking Busy Bee / Improve his shining Hours? / By studying on Bank Holidays / Strange insects and Wild Flowers!’).

Talking of banks, our Fellow Sally Badham has chosen a wittily contemporary title for her latest work: Northern Rock: the use of Egglestone marble for monuments in medieval England, by Sally Badham and Geoff Blacker (BAR 480). Like the better-known Purbeck and Tournai marbles, Egglestone is one of those well-behaved stones that can be extracted in large blocks, worked easily when freshly quarried while curing to form an attractive grey-brown surface when polished. The builders of Egglestone Abbey were perhaps the first to appreciate its qualities, and to quarry the stone from cliffs on both banks of the River Tees, close to Barnard Castle, but its use spread to include artefacts and memorials commissioned by many of the leading families in the north of England. For this volume, the authors have tracked down a total of 354 surviving worked pieces, including 317 monuments (mainly tomb chests and tomb slabs), three shrines, eighteen fonts, and an altar mensa, along with a wealth of documentary evidence of its widespread employment in churches throughout northern England and the north Midlands.