Salon Archive

Issue: 213

Society meetings and events

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

At Christmas AD 795, Pope Hadrian I died and Charlemagne commissioned Alcuin to compose an epitaph in his memory. The epitaph survives today in the portico of St Peter’s in the Vatican. Noted by observers throughout the Middle Ages, it was one of very few objects preserved when Constantine’s basilica was demolished in the sixteenth century and subsequently redisplayed in the new church that grew up on the site. Even in the ninth century it was recognised as a masterpiece of early medieval epigraphy, reflecting both the aesthetic innovations of the Carolingian ‘Renaissance’ and the visual culture of Rome under the Christian emperors of late Antiquity. To contemporary viewers, Hadrian’s epitaph proclaimed the Franks as the heirs of Rome; to later audiences, it was a key political document that evoked a powerful bond between pope and emperor.

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 exhibit. Peter Stone will talk about the background to the forthcoming ‘Catastrophe’ exhibition (see below: 15 June) under the title ‘Who was to blame for the looting of the Iraq Museum and the continuing looting of archaeological sites in Iraq? And what are we doing about it?’ The online ballot is now open for voting. If you would like to register for a password to vote online or need a password reminder, please send an email to Christopher Catling.

11 June 2009: ‘The Sir Percival David Collection in the Sir Joseph Hotung Centre for Chinese Ceramics’, by Jessica Harrison-Hall

15 to 26 June, 10am to 5pm: ‘Catastrophe! The Looting and Destruction of Iraq’s Past’, a public exhibition to be hosted by the Society of Antiquaries at Burlington House. Originally intended as a temporary exhibition for display in the Field Museum in Chicago, this exhibition has proved so popular that it has since toured the world. It now comes to London with support from the UK National Commission for UNESCO, Newcastle University and the North East Museums Hub. It charts the looting of the Iraq National Museum in Baghdad and the continuing looting of archaeological sites in the country, and it is complemented by a book on the same theme edited by our Fellow Peter Stone, of Newcastle University’s International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies, and Joanne Farchakh Bajjaly, an archaeologist and journalist from Lebanon called The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq. Now in a paperback edition, thanks to a grant from the British Institute for the Study of Iraq and support from the UK National Commission for UNESCO, the book extends the themes of the exhibition with personal stories from those who were, and continue to be, involved in the protection of the cultural heritage in Iraq.

18 June 2009: ‘The Stonehenge Riverside Project’, by Michael Parker Pearson, FSA

25 June 2009: Summer soirée

2 July 2009: Ballot with exhibits

11 July 2009: Fellows’ Day at Kelmscott Manor, 2pm to 5pm See the Old Kitchen, open to visitors for the first time in 2009, exhibiting 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 from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama. Tickets cost £14 (£6 for children aged six to sixteen). 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 contact Kelmscott Manor (tel: 01367 253348).

New Stonehenge scheme ‘just the start’ says our President

Our President Geoff Wainwright welcomed the announcement by the Government on 13 May that a new visitor centre is to be built at Stonehenge, but he also called for full restoration of the Stonehenge landscape in the longer term: ‘We regard the current proposal as a temporary solution until all roads are removed from the heart of the World Heritage site and Stonehenge is restored to its landscape’, he said.

The scheme announced by the Culture Minister, Barbara Follett, gives the go-ahead for £25 million to be spent on a new Stonehenge Visitor Centre to be built at Airman’s Corner, at the junction of the A344 and the A360 some 2km west of the stone circle, in time for the 2012 Olympics. The Centre is dependent on planning permission, and will be funded by English Heritage, the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Highways Agency and the Departments of Culture and Transport. Transport Minister Andrew Adonis also announced the closure of the A344 — the road that takes visitors to the current visitor centre, passing close to the stone circle and cutting across the course of the Avenue, the ceremonial way linking Stonehenge and the River Avon.

Making the announcement, Barbara Follett said: ‘Everyone agrees the way Stonehenge is presented to visitors is far short of ideal. Consensus on how to improve visitor facilities has eluded stakeholders for far too long, and so I am delighted that we now have plans to move forward.’ Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe, FSA, Chairman of English Heritage, also welcomed the decision, which he described as ‘a pragmatic and affordable scheme, which will make significant and vitally needed improvements’. ‘Our vision’, he said, has always been to restore a sense of dignity to the setting of Stonehenge and to improve its visitor facilities. English Heritage has now secured, through working with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and a group of stakeholders, an agreed location for new visitor facilities in accordance with the World Heritage Site Management Plan.’

The full text of the announcement can be found on the Department of Culture’s website.

Recent export rulings

Also on the Department of Culture’s website are details of recent temporary export bars. One headlined ‘Culture Minister reins in export of statuette of horse’ (revealing a taste for weak puns) concerns a Romano-British statuette of a horse and rider (probably representing a conflation of the Roman god Mars and a native warrior god) found by a metal detectorist in Stow Cum Quy, Cambridgeshire, in October 2006, and due to be exported if a UK buyer is not found to match the sale price of £22,066.81. Our Fellow Catherine Johns, Reviewing Committee member, says: ‘This statuette is of outstanding significance for study because it expresses the complex fusion of native and classical elements in the art and religion of Roman Britain’ (see the DCMS website).

A second, also with an equine theme, is a medieval copper alloy horse mount discovered in Yorkshire. The mount takes the form of an animal with splayed legs and a projecting head. Dating from the eighth or ninth centuries AD, it is thought to be the product of Viking activity, perhaps offering evidence of links between Dublin and Viking York. Again our Fellow Catherine Johns sums up its significance by saying that it is ‘a rare fusion of the Germanic and Celtic art styles of early medieval Britain known as Insular art, but of unique form with unusually complex design motifs. The unmodified condition marks this mount as the best of its type; it is also of outstanding research significance, as there is much to be learned about the function, manufacture and detailed iconography of this class of object.’ The mount is thought to have originally been part of a horse’s harness, although lugs on its reverse have led to conjecture that it may have also been used as decoration on a shrine.

Offers of £52,281.37 are invited by 13 June 2009; for further information, see the DCMS website; for a picture, see the Culture 24 website.

Next, a temporary export bar has been placed on a nineteenth-century Iranian decoration, the Insignia of the Order of the Lion and the Sun (the emblem of the Qajar rulers of Iran), an order of chivalry created to reward foreign nationals who had earned the royal favour. Consisting of a badge, collar and star, the decoration is accompanied by a plaque stating that it was presented by the Shah of Iran to Sir John Kinnier MacDonald, the East India Company envoy to Iran between 1824 and 1830, in recognition of his help in securing a peace treaty during the Russo-Persian war of 1826—8. The insignia, made of gold, enamel and precious stones, is signed by Muhammad Ja’far, one of the leading enamel artists at the court of Fath’Ali Shah.

Our Fellow Simon Swynfen Jervis, Reviewing Committee member, said: ‘These dazzling insignia demonstrate a high degree of quality of workmanship and the ensemble is significant for the study of Britain’s relations with Iran.’ The sum of £1.8m is needed to keep it in the UK (for further information, see the DCMS website).

Last on the shopping list is the journal of the English naval explorer Sir John Narbrough (1640—88), covering the period between 1666 and 1671, including an account of his voyage to South America, with charts and written descriptions and illustrations of the inhabitants and indigenous wildlife of Patagonia and Chile. £310,000 is needed to purchase the journal (for further information, see the DCMS website.

Recent listings

A stroll along the pier definitely counts as high culture these days, but then, so does a spell in prison, thanks to recent listing decisions. Eastbourne’s pier of 1866 has been upgraded from Grade II to Grade II* as one of the finest surviving seaside piers designed by Eugenius Birch, complete with a rare surviving example of a once-popular attraction in the form of a camera obscura (see the DCMS website for full details). The nineteenth-century prison at Wormwood Scrubs has also been uplifted from Grade II to Grade II* because of its innovative design. The west London gaol, whose gatehouse carries the emblems of two prison reformers, John Howard and Elizabeth Fry, was built between 1874 and 1891 by convicts who lived on the site, making it economical to build and therefore an answer to the acute problem of the time of how and where to house convicts before deportation: despite this, and the Dickensian name, the Scrubs was progressive in terms of prisoner welfare and prison management, providing workshops, a hospital and recreational and spiritual support. Pictures can be seen on the Culture 24 website.

At the moment, Wormwood Scrubs is not one of the growing number of historic prisons that are open to the public, but Dartmoor is: ‘celebrating’ (if that is the right word) its bicentenary (the prison opened — again, perhaps not the most accurate description — on 24 May 1809, when (with snow on the ground) it took in 1,000 French prisoners captured during the Napoleonic Wars and previously held in appalling conditions in unsanitary prison hulks in Plymouth Harbour. A two-room ‘heritage centre’ has opened at the prison, whose exhibits include examples of prison uniforms through 200 years, scrimshaws made of meat bones (many of them showing guillotine scenes) by those same French prisoners that were sold to local people in exchange for food, and a video in which today’s staff and prisoners describe their daily routines.

Perhaps joining Dartmoor soon will be the so-called ‘Black Museum’ (officially the Metropolitan Police Crime Museum), which can be visited at present by appointment but which London Mayor Boris Johnson thinks should be open to the public. The museum contains a number of artefacts of significant historical value, some of which also happen to be connected with some of the most gruesome murders that the Metropolitan Police have ever had to deal with, raising ethical questions about just what should be exhibited in relation to victims of such vicious criminals as Jack the Ripper and Dennis Nielsen.

Finally, back with buildings, forty-eight Ordnance Yards and Magazine Depots have been listed or upgraded following a thematic survey by English Heritage, including the Mixing House (building 124) at Bull Point, Plymouth, constructed in 1804 and a unique survival from the Napoleonic Wars, where gunpowder from returning warships was recycled. The buildings selected for designation all contributed to revolutionary advances in naval munitions technology and handling, and are some of the best-preserved structures of their kind. See the DCMS website for the full list.

UK National Heritage Science Strategy

A report focusing on the role that science plays in the management of the UK’s heritage has been published for public comment on the National Heritage Science Strategy website. This is the first of three reports produced to underpin the work of the strategy committee, set up at the recommendation of the Science and Technology Parliamentary Select Committee and charged with the task of developing a national strategy for heritage science.

This first report makes suggestions about where increases in understanding could improve current practice. Specific issues include the need for further investigation of the rate of decay and thresholds at which decay processes are initiated for a range of materials, the need for improvements in display and storage environments for the long-term survival of heritage assets and recommendations relating to monitoring tools and improvements in access to information and equipment.

The other two reports and the strategy itself will be available later in the year, and a stakeholder meeting is planned for November; there is a section on the report response form for potential participants to register their interest in attending this meeting, and further information can be obtained from the strategy co-ordinator, Jim Williams.

Maritime and Marine Historic Environment Research Framework

English Heritage has commissioned the Centre of Maritime Archaeology at the University of Southampton to co-ordinate the development of a research framework for the maritime, marine and coastal archaeology of England. The research framework will be shaped by those from the academic, commercial and voluntary sectors involved in the maritime, marine or coastal archaeology of England who will meet in a series of working groups to assess our current state of knowledge on a period-by-period basis and develop a research agenda outlining the gaps in our knowledge, strengths to build upon and future research priorities.

The resource assessment and research agenda documents produced by the working groups will be open to public consultation through a project website, and in addition a consultation group of ‘experts and practitioners in the field’ will be recruited to comment in detail on them. The final report will be ready for publication in July 2010.

Introductory seminars will take place on 9 June in London and 11 June in York. These short seminars are open to everyone and will introduce the scope, structure and methodology of the project as well as provide opportunity for discussion. If you are interested in participating, would like further project details or wish to book a place on one of the introductory seminars, please contact Jesse Ransley.

New report on local authority historic environment services

A report published last week by English Heritage, the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) and the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers (ALGAO) has revealed, for the first time, the precise number of staff in England employed by local authority historic environment services. The report (which can be downloaded from the HELM website reveals that while staff employed in conservation and archaeological work rose 20 per cent (by 210 people to 1,224 staff) between 2003 and 2006, they dropped by 5 per cent (with the loss of 66 posts to 1,158) between 2006 and 2008.

In the light of anecdotal evidence that there has been a further sharp fall in the last twelve months, the sponsors of the report are calling on Government to use the its promised policy statement on the historic environment to encourage local authorities not to cut historic environment services.

Steven Bee, English Heritage Director of Planning and Development, said: ‘We understand that there is financial pressure in all sectors at present, but a lot of conservation duties are not discretionary for local authorities, they are a statutory duty.’

Our Fellow Ken Smith, Chair of ALGAO UK, said: ‘This report underlines the need for positive action from local and national government to achieve comprehensive and continued management of the buildings and monuments that define the country’s character.’

Dave Chetwyn, Chair of the IHBC, added: ‘It is crucial that local authorities maintain their full commitment to delivering sustainable regeneration and economic development during the credit crisis and recession. This is the worst possible time for local authorities to lose the skills that will be so vital to securing future growth.’

Scottish Castles Initiative

Part of Scotland’s response to the recession is to invest in the repair and refurbishment of the castles and tower-houses that are such an important part of Scotland’s tourist appeal. Michael Russell, Scotland’s Culture Minister, has announced that Historic Scotland will carry out an audit of prospective buildings suitable for inclusion in the scheme and produce a preliminary list by June 2009. The project also aims to create resources for prospective owners and developers drawing on Scottish exemplars and showing best practice in castle and tower-house restoration and to encourage the development of craft-skills. For more information visit Historic Scotland's website.

The Scottish castles scheme comes on the back of a report just published that values the contribution made by Scotland’s historic environment at more than £2.3 billion annually. The new report from the Historic Environment Advisory Council for Scotland (HEACS) shows that historic buildings, monuments and archaeology are a key factor in ensuring sustained economic growth and have a vital role in supporting jobs.

The research found that the historic environment accounted for 2.5 per cent of Scotland’s total employment, including 20,000 employees in the construction industry and 37,000 in tourism, as well as the jobs of those directly involved in the conservation sector. Culture Minister Michael Russell welcomed the research, saying: ‘The historic environment’s contribution to the country’s sustainable economic well-being should not be underestimated and provides yet another reason to celebrate our rich historic legacy.’

Further information can be found on the HEACS website.

‘World Class Places’: the UK Government’s strategy for improving quality of place

In England, the Government has launched a document setting out its strategy for what it calls ‘improving quality of place’, a joint initiative between the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and the Department for Communities and Local Government. The ‘World Class Places’ report is largely concerned not with conservation but with new development. It sets out seven key objectives for public and private projects, arguing that ‘good-quality buildings and ample green infrastructure — parks, trees and waterways — are not a luxury that can be dropped during difficult economic circumstances’.

The report prefigures the content of the Government’s forthcoming heritage policy statement by saying that the current policy guidance (PPG15 and PPG16) has too little to say on viewing heritage as an asset that can promote investment, regeneration or sustainability, all of which is positive, as are the promises of ‘training on quality of place for civic leaders and planning committee members’, ‘new planning policy on the historic environment and green infrastructure’, and ‘putting the public and community at the centre of place-shaping by promoting and funding more user engagement in the design of new public buildings’.

Consultation on Wearmouth-Jarrow’s World Heritage Site bid

Three documents have been published for public consultation public consultation in support of the bid by the Wearmouth-Jarrow Partnership for nomination as the UK’s candidate for World Heritage Site status in 2011. The documents consist of a Management Plan explaining how the site is managed and protected for public benefit, a Nomination Document setting out why the twin Anglo-Saxon monasteries of St Peter’s, Wearmouth, and St Paul’s, Jarrow, deserve World Heritage Status and a booklet summarising the key points from the first two documents. The consultation period runs until 7 July 2009, after which the results will be incorporated into the final Wearmouth-Jarrow Nomination Document and Management Plan, scheduled to be submitted to UNESCO by January 2010 for consideration by the World Heritage Committee in July 2011.

Art Fund Prize shortlist

Four museums are left in the running for the £100,000 Art Fund Prize for museums and galleries, whittled down from the original long list of ten contenders. They are the Centre of New Enlightenment at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow, the Orleans House Gallery, Twickenham, the Ruthin Craft Centre, Denbighshire, Wales, and Barlaston’s Wedgwood Museum, near Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire. The judging panel, chaired by film-maker David Puttnam, will announced the winner on 18 June 2009. Full details can be found on the Art Fund Prize website.

View the exhibits or be fined!

In his column in the Guardian on 13 May, Marcel Berlins calls for rigorous policing of museums as an answer to the annoying phenomenon of people going to a museum or gallery not to study the exhibits but to take snaps to prove they were there. ‘Anyone wanting to snap an exhibit ought to be forced to look at it first for at least a minute — or be fined’, he argues, saying that museum visiting is now becoming all but impossible because of an epidemic of mobile phone owners jostling and pushing other visitors to ensure that no one blocks their desired camera angle, as they snapped partners or friends posing next to, or even in front of, some of the more famous works.

The Swiss Army Knife: 125 years old

One wonders whether such behaviour will be witnessed by visitors to the new exhibition that has just opened at the Swiss History Museum, in Schwyz, devoted to (what else could it be) the Swiss Army knife. Running through to 18 October 2009, the exhibition looks at the ‘importance to cultural history’ of the famous products of the Victorinox company, which celebrates its 125th anniversary this year, and features a selection of historic pocket knives, some dating back to the Roman period.

Angela Merkel opens Teutoburg Forest exhibitions

Another anniversary — the 2000th since 20,000 Roman soldiers were slaughtered in the Battle of Teutoburg Forest in AD 9 — is the subject of much publicity in the German media,, as three separate exhibitions examining the event were visited by the German Prime Minister, Angela Merkel, last week. The main exhibition, at the Haltern Museum of Roman History, is said to be the largest temporary archaeology exhibition to have been mounted by a German museum, with a catalogue weighing in at six kilograms, and thousands of artefacts, ranging from Roman hobnailed boots to nineteenth-century historical paintings. At Kalkriese, one of the possible battle sites, visitors can see swords and clothing recovered from the graves of the Germanic ‘barbarians’ who ambushed and destroyed three Roman legions led by Publius Quinctilius Varus, along with some of the booty that they plundered from the Romans.

The organisers say that one of their aims is to challenge the myth that sturdy Teutonic warriors humiliated an army of inept Italians and ensured that Rome never again dared to tamper with the German heartland. The battle of the Teutoburg Forest was undoubtedly a serious setback for Rome, they say, but it did not forever evict the Romans from the right bank of the Rhine, as is often claimed. Instead, the province of Germania was still described as Roman territory all the way to the Elbe River when Caesar Augustus died in AD 14. Rome probably maintained a system of client states in the area, appointing Germanic tribal leaders it counted on not to revolt. If the tribes became unruly, Rome continued to send in punitive expeditions which did not repeat the mistakes of Teutoburg.

The Neanderthal devoured by humans

Salon seems to be dealing with a series of grim topics this week, and here is another one: Fernando Rozzi, of the Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique in Paris, has published a study in the Journal of Anthropological Sciences of a Neanderthal jawbone that bears cut marks similar to those found on deer bones butchered by Palaeolithic humans. Rozzi says he believes the jawbone provides evidence that humans attacked Neanderthals, and sometimes killed them, using their skulls or teeth as trophies and perhaps even eating the flesh.

Professor Chris Stringer, of London’s Natural History Museum, said: ‘we need more evidence, but this could indicate modern humans and Neanderthals were living in the same area of Europe at the same time, that they were interacting, and that some of these interactions may have been hostile. This does not prove we systematically eradicated the Neanderthals or that we regularly ate their flesh. But it does add to the evidence that competition from modern humans probably contributed to Neanderthal extinction.’

News of Fellows

Congratulations to our Vice-President, Clive Gamble, who was awarded the Henry Stopes Memorial Medal by the Geologists’ Association on 1 May 2009 (this handsome bronze medal is awarded triennially for ‘work on the Prehistory of Man and his geological environment’, and previous recipients include our Fellows John Wymer, Kenneth Oakley, Mary Leakey and Derek Roe); to our General Secretary, David Gaimster, who is now to be addressed as Professor Gaimster, following his appointment as Visiting Professor in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester; to Council member Anthony Emery, who was awarded the Degree of Doctor of Letters by the University of Bristol on 7 May 2009; and to our Fellow Linda Monckton, well known as an architectural historian, who takes up the all-important post of Head of Research Policy for Places of Worship at English Heritage from 1 June 2009.

Deaths and obituaries

The Society has been informed of the death of our Fellow Ian Shepherd, editor for many years of the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and joint editor (with our Fellow Gordon Barclay) of Scotland in Ancient Europe. An obituary will be published in Salon in due course.

The last issue of Salon announced the recent death of our Fellow Margaret Gelling (29 November 1924 to 24 April 2009), the place-name scholar. The following obituary, written by our Fellow Nicholas Brooks, first appeared in the Guardian on 4 May 2009.

‘Margaret Gelling, who has died aged eighty-four, was, for more than fifty years, one of Britain’s leading experts in the study of place-names; she was also highly successful in making that scholarship available to a very wide lay readership. Her election as a Fellow of the British Academy in 1998 — a source of great joy and pride — was a rare achievement for a scholar who bestrode her discipline but had never held an academic post in any university.

‘Born Margaret Joy Midgley, she came from a Manchester family, but received her secondary schooling in Chislehurst, Kent, before achieving a wartime honours degree in English Language and Literature at St Hilda’s College, Oxford, in 1945, where Dorothy Whitelock steered her linguistic interests towards place-name study. After a year (1945—6) as a temporary civil servant in London, she found more congenial employment for some eight years in Cambridge as a research assistant of the English Place-Name Society, when the society’s base had been moved there from Reading.

‘In Cambridge she began the work on the names of Oxfordshire and Berkshire which was to lead to the publication of two volumes of The Place-Names of Oxfordshire (1953—4), building on the materials that had been initially collected in Reading by Sir Frank and Lady (Doris) Stenton. Here, Margaret broke new ground not only by presenting a much stronger geological and archaeological background to the names than was to be found in the society’s previous county surveys, but also in investigating the field-names and minor names of each parish much more fully.

‘Margaret was indeed already involving members of local communities in the task of gathering evidence of these names and of local pronunciations. In 1957 she completed a PhD thesis (supervised by Professor Hugh Smith) on “The place-names of west Berkshire” for the University of London.

‘In Cambridge, Margaret had met and, in 1952, married the young archaeologist Peter Gelling, who came from the Isle of Man and possessed a polymathic range of interests and enthusiasms. When Peter was appointed as a Lecturer in Archaeology in the University of Birmingham, he and Margaret set up their home in Harborne, where she was to live for the rest of her life. That gave her access to a good library and a convenient central location for her place-name studies. In Harborne she became an active member of the local Labour party and created a beautiful garden; there Peter grew the vegetables, which she turned into a constant supply of good food for him and for all visitors to the house. She and Peter had no children of their own, but brought up her nephew, Adrian Midgley, from the age of six.

‘Margaret joined Peter’s excavations in Dorset, the Isle of Man and in Cyprus, and travelled with him to Peru investigating the history of potato use and becoming adept at cooking at altitude in a cave on a fire of llama dung. Her role came particularly to the fore on Peter’s training excavations for Birmingham students for many seasons at Deerness, Orkney; for Margaret was in charge of the excavation’s camp and responsible for the provision of basic and sustaining food. Generations of Birmingham archaeologists have the warmest memories of the good morale she helped to create.

‘The 1960s saw Margaret publishing innovative studies of particular place-names: those denoting pagan Anglo-Saxon gods and shrines; those incorporating the element hamm (“enclosed meadow”); the survival of the Latin settlement term uicus in English place-names using the compound wicham; and the woodland terms found in the Birmingham region. They also saw her undertaking a huge amount of extramural and evening lecturing to groups throughout the Midlands, mostly under the aegis of the University’s Department of Extra-Mural Studies (and its successors).

‘Her three volumes on the Place-Names of Berkshire (1973, 1974 and 1976) consolidated her scholarly reputation and, in volume III, she broke new ground by mapping detailed interpretations of the boundary clauses of Anglo-Saxon royal diplomas from the archives of Abingdon Abbey. But the volume that put her in an elevated position among English toponymists was her Signposts to the Past: Place-Names and the History of England (1978), which set out the transformation that contemporary scholars had wrought in place-name studies and showed us all how we might now understand and interpret the names of our own home areas. It became a fundamental handbook of up-to-date scholarship for all budding geographers, archaeologists and historians. Second (1986) and third (1997) editions met the continuing demand, and the volume is still in print.

‘From the 1980s, and particularly after her husband’s death in 1983, Margaret began to play a greater role within the University of Birmingham, whose traditions of ‘history from below’ suited her political views. She introduced first-year historians to the study of place-names and supervised third-year archaeologists writing ‘parish studies’ of the archaeology, place-names and settlement history of their own home territory. On the basis of Margaret’s growing academic reputation and of the success of Signposts to the Past, other commissions followed.

‘Her Early Charters of the Thames Valley (1979) completed a series that had been initiated for local historians by Herbert Finberg; and her West Midlands in the Early Middle Ages (1992) provided a toponymist’s insights into the settlement history of her home region. She served as president of the English Place-Name Society from 1986 until 1998; as Vice-President of the International Society for Onomastic Sciences from 1993 to 1999; and she was appointed OBE in 1995.

‘But in these years she was also preparing a further revolution in place-name scholarship. Since the foundation of the English Place-Name Society in the 1920s, the attention of scholars had been focused on “habitative” names that denoted settlements, which were thought to be earlier and more interesting than other place-names. As a result of her studies with local groups and audiences, Margaret had become increasingly dissatisfied with this focus. In her Place-Names in the Landscape (1984) — and then in revised form with the geographer, Ann Cole, in The Landscape of Place-Names (2000) — she focused instead upon the topographical names, seeking to show that when they used particular words for a hill or a valley, the Anglo-Saxons were giving precise descriptions of the land-form that they saw, which we can still detect in the English landscape.

‘Up until her final illness Margaret continued lecturing to local audiences, to conferences and symposia, whenever she was invited. Extramural groups in Shropshire, whom she had first taught in 1959, became her research field-troops, providing much of the evidence for her five published volumes of the Place Names of Shropshire (1990, 1995, 2001, 2004 and 2006). Volume VI is at proof stage and she was working every day on VII until illness recently prevented that. In devoting her life to adult education Gelling transformed our understanding of the development of the English countryside and of its nomenclature. Her plain-speaking and warm friendship will be much missed by all who knew her.’


Apologies are due to the (anonymous) author of the Nemesis Republic blogspot for referring to her as ‘him’ in the last issue of Salon. Nem says, in her recent musings, that the gender reassignment operation did not hurt a bit, unlike the cuts that are the subject of her latest offering: an investigation of the scrapping of the historic vessel MV Wincham by the Trustees of the Wincham Preservation Society, a sad story that is also reported by our Fellow (surely the original heritage blogger) who writes under the pen name of ‘Piloti’ in the Nooks and Corners column in Private Eye (15 May issue).

Equally distressing was the earthquake that struck central Italy on 6 April, destroying much of the historic town of L’Aquila, killing at least 294 people and causing damage as far away as Rome’s third-century Baths of Caracalla. Our Fellow Christine Finn visited the region for the BBC recently to report on the impact of the earthquake on the region’s heritage, and her report, first broadcast on Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’, can be heard on the BBC website.

Our Librarian Heather Rowland has responded to the reference in Salon to Heather Sabire’s paper on the antiquarian legacy of the Lukis family (in the English Heritage Historical Review, vol 3) to say that the Society’s Library has a large collection of the drawings of megaliths and stone circles made by William Lukis that form the basis for Helen’s study. She also takes issue with Salon’s reference to the relative absence of the letters SA in Burlington House by comparison with Somerset House. As well as the radiator grilles and etched glass at Burlington House, Heather says ‘If you look up in the library you will see the letters “SA” sixteen times in the plasterwork, painted gold!’

Salon readers have also pointed out that the editor was lulled into a false sense of security by the spellchecker and got his principles muddled up with his principals, said that Frank Norden was Frank Muir’s opposite team leader on ‘My Word’, when of course it was Dennis Norden, and, worse still, got his termini post and anti quems in a twist. Our Fellow Sir Neil Cossons points out that the true post quem date for ‘Ce n’est pa la guerre / gare’ has to be the Charge of the Light Brigade of 1854, rather than the first railway stations of 1840, while our Fellow Henry Cleere (who seems to have a pin-sharp memory) swears he ‘first came across it in the introduction to the French primer that I was given way back in 1937: so far as I can recall, the author was one Collins’.

Sir Neil adds that ‘there was a big outbreak of guerre / gare punning in 1986 when the Musee d’Orsay (the converted Gare d’Orsay) opened in Paris, one of the interesting features being that it is clear that each perpetrator seemed to believe they had seized upon something new, original and amusing. The Gare d’Orsay opened in 1900, in time for the Exposition Universelle, as the new terminus of the Chemin de Fer Paris/Orleans, and closed in 1939 to become a suburban station and later still an auction house and film set (eg for Kafka’s The Trial), so there are a number of opportunities for a first use here, 1900 being the most obvious.’

Another railway station — King’s Cross — featured in the last of the four recent fly-on-the-wall documentaries about English Heritage, views on which are currently the first topic of conversation whenever two or more members of the heritage community are gathered together. Salon’s last issue reported that the consensus amongst a straw poll of Fellows was for Apethorpe to become part of the English Heritage property portfolio, and be opened to the public, rather than being sold to a private buyer. Salon’s editor has since been informed that this option is specifically ruled out by the ‘Statement of Reasons’ used to justify the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO), which said that English Heritage would take the building into temporary custody in order to carry out repairs and then sell it as a single family house; not to offer Apethorpe on the open market now could leave English Heritage vulnerable to a Judicial Review, and to the accusation that it used the CPO to acquire the property for its own portfolio. This still begs the question of what happens if no open-market buyer makes a reasonable offer for Apethorpe; EH has used the site for education, training and limited visiting, and perhaps could go on doing so for some time to come.

The report in the last issue of Salon on the essay by Harvard University’s Daniel Lord Smail in History Today, arguing that historians ignore archaeology at their peril, prompted our Fellow David Cranstone to some thoughts on this topic from the perspective of ‘an archaeologist involved in lively UK debates over the archaeology of the later second millennium AD (whether or not we call it “historical archaeology” is one of several interlinked debates)’.

‘Archaeology in the UK and Europe is, to an extent, descended from history (whereas North American archaeology developed more from anthropology). The disciplinary separation was needed at the time and was not painless — there were elements of a difficult parent—adult offspring relationship, which still rumble a bit below the surface, and though I see disciplinary reunification as a long-term goal, I think in the UK we probably need another thirty years or so before really able to unite as equal adult partners (to mix metaphors rather horribly!).

‘As we work to reunite our approaches, I think it is important that we do not simply and unthinkingly synthesise the archaeological and historical lines of evidence into a seamless whole. To an extent (and I realise this is a rather crude simplification) we are comparing the historical evidence of “what people said” with the archaeological evidence of “what people did” or “what actually happened”, and from that perspective the differences and contradictions become, if anything, more interesting than the concordances.’

For more on this, see Crossing Paths in ‘Books by Fellows’ below.

Finally a piece of feedback about a topic that Salon covered in some depth more than six years ago, when (amongst others) our Fellow Rupert Redesdale fought in the House of Lords against provisions in what became the Licensing Act 2003 imposing onerous licensing responsibilities on the performance of live music. Lord Redesdale succeeded in obtaining an exemption for Morris dancing, but otherwise the Act went ahead with all of its draconian measures intact, to the horror of amateur musicians, church choirs and the organisers of charity events involving any form of live music.

Five years on, the Culture, Media and Sport Committee Select Committee has reviewed the Act, and has just issued its report calling on the Government to think again, and amend the Act to exempt venues with a capacity of 200 persons or fewer from the need to obtain a licence for the performance of live music. It also recommends that non-amplified music performed by small ensembles or groups should be exempted from the Act regardless of the venue size.

The Select Committee says that the fundamental flaw in the Act was ‘the linkage of live music and public order issues’; in the Committee’s view ‘music should not automatically be treated as a disruptive activity, which will inevitably lead to nuisance and disorder’. It goes on to say that some local authorities and police forces have added their own new conditions for the performance of live music ‘in the interests of public order and the prevention of terrorism’, which go well beyond what beyond what the Act requires and that all such unreasonable conditions should be scrapped. It also points out the irony of the fact that ‘small-scale travelling entertainments, such as Punch and Judy and travelling plays by mummers’ have to be licensed, whereas ‘there are no specific provisions in the Licensing Act, or its guidance, to give licensing authorities extra powers to control lap dancing clubs’.

Once again, a select committee has poured the cold water of common sense on a febrile piece of legislation: the question is, does the Government even care and is it likely to take any notice?


18, 24, 25, 31 May and 1 June 2009: The Pre-Raphaelites — a performance of the poetry of William Morris, Christina Rossetti, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, George Meredith, Elizabeth Siddal and Algernon Swinburne, including two of Morris’s poems set to music by one of Ireland’s leading contemporary composers, Jerome de Bromhead, takes place at The Finborough Theatre, near Earls Court; see the theatre’s website for further details.

23 May 2009, Kelmscott Manor: the first of two concerts in the South Road Barn at Kelmscott Manor will feature Emily Burn and her all-female a cappella trio singing early church music, madrigals and European folk songs. Tickets £10 (£6 students and children), to include a glass of wine, from Kelmscott Manor (tel: 01367 253348). The second concert, featuring Castle Brass, made up of players from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, takes place on 22 August and there is a discount if you book tickets for both events.

6 June 2009: ASPRoM (the Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics) Spring Symposium: to be held at the Jewry Wall Museum, Leicester, from 2pm to 5pm. The speakers are Richard Buckley, FSA (on ‘The archaeology of Roman Leicester: evidence from recent excavations’), Sarah Scott, FSA (on ‘Fourth-century mosaics’), and Margherita Carucci (on ‘A mosaic from Pupput reconsidered: a virtual peristyle in the Romano-African house’). All are welcome. For further details see the Association’s website.

10 June 2009, ‘Sir John Soane’s Banqueting House’, 6pm for 6.30pm at Sir John Soane’s Museum: Dr Lee Prosser, Curator of Historic Buildings at Historic Royal Palaces, will present a paper on Sir John Soane’s last large-scale commission, the Banqueting House in Whitehall, a building that he had first encountered as a young student many years before. Much of what we now see in this magnificent building is due to Soane’s careful and considered restoration undertaken in the late 1820s. An important component of the work involved replacing Inigo Jones’s roof with a new design. Studies show that this was equally as revolutionary as the earlier form, and that archaeological analysis can complement the very full records which survive in the Soane Museum. This talk will discuss this roof, and how the structure reveals Soane as a competent engineer as well as great architect. Dr Prosser is an archaeologist by training, with a particular interest in brickwork, timber-framing and historic building technology.

Places must be booked in advance by contacting Beth Walker, Education Manager, Sir John Soane’s Museum. A contribution of £5 is requested on the evening, to cover the cost of wine and postage.

20 and 21 June 2009: ‘The Stephen Bann Effect’. This Bristol University symposium marks the (notional) retirement of our Fellow Stephen Bann (who continues as a highly active scholar internationally, and remains attached to Bristol as Emeritus Professor and Senior Research Fellow in the University’s Institute for Advanced Studies). Stephen was the first Professor of Art History to be appointed by the University (which is now recognised as a world leader in this discipline), and the symposium marks his contribution to the subject with a series of invited papers on the very wide range of topics with which he is associated, including art history, garden history, collecting history, contemporary art, cultural studies and critical theory. Further details are available from the Bristol Art History Department website.

23 June 2009: Mausolea & Monuments Trust AGM with our Fellow Gavin Stamp as Guest Speaker giving an illustrated lecture on the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. To be held at The Gallery, 70 Cowcross Street, London EC1M 6EJ; drinks will be served from 6.30pm and the AGM will commence at 7pm, followed immediately by the lecture. Tickets £10 for members, £12.50 for non-members. Please email the Trust to reserve a place.

18 July 2009: J W Waterhouse and the Pre-Raphaelite Tradition, a Faringdon Collection at Buscot Park Study Day designed to complement the Royal Academy’s major exhibition, ‘J W Waterhouse: the Modern Pre-Raphaelite’ (27 June to 23 September). Speakers include that exhibition’s guest curator, the art historian Peter Trippi. Further details from the Art Pursuits website.

Request for help with puzzle building

Our Fellow Charles Hind, Associate Director and H J Heinz Curator of Drawings at the RIBA’s British Architectural Library Drawings and Archives Collection, has come across a painting by John Sell Cotman of a medieval building with a hammerbeam roof that he is unable to identify. Charles says that Cotman was not a painter of imaginary interiors so this is likely to be a real building. Cotman mainly painted in England, but he did also tour Normandy, so there is the slight possibility that the building could be French. You can see the painting on the Society’s website, along with notes on its provenance, and Charles would be very grateful to hear from any Salon reader who might be able to identify the building.

Books by Fellows

Mentioned already in ‘Feedback’, Crossing Paths or Sharing Tracks? Future directions in the archaeological study of post-1550 Britain and Ireland, edited by our Fellows Audrey Horning and Marilyn Palmer, with contributions from numerous other Fellows (Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology Monograph 5) is a fascinating volume, because running through all the papers is the explicit question of what defines post-medieval archaeology, and what can be done to avoid the fragmentation of this still-small discipline into subfields (such as pre-1750 post-medieval archaeology, post-1750 industrial archaeology). Opening and closing essays by the editors draw out and discuss these issues, and look for the commonality of approach in the diversity of current studies in the field.

A little like answers to such questions as ‘what is an antiquary’ and ‘is antiquarianism a relevant concept in the modern world’, the editors argue that we learn far more from working together than we do from talking only to ‘like-minded’ individuals. What matters, they conclude, is not silos or boundaries, but ‘archaeological narratives that are well grounded in through analysis yet contextualised on a broad enough level to ensure that the relevance of the work is apparent’.

If you are born a Birley, archaeology is your birthright, as our Fellow Robin Birley explains in Vindolanda: a Roman frontier fort on Hadrian’s Wall (Amberley Publishing). Robin tells how, after careers in the Marines and as a teacher, he inherited the mantle from his father, our Fellow Eric Birley, who first excavated parts of this Roman frontier fort in the 1930s, to spend the next fifty years directing excavations here, and at other sites such as Housesteads. Best known for the Vindolanda writing tablets, Robin explains how this find not only transformed our understanding of life at the fort, but also gave financial stability to the fledgling Vindolanda Trust because of the massive increase in visitors the discovery engendered. Robin reminds us that the Trust, which now owns 100 acres of archaeological land, has two museums, forty staff and hundreds of enthusiastic and able supporters, is still funded almost entirely from the visits of the general public; this book explains why they continue to flock and looks forward to another fifty years of dedicated work by the next generation of Birleys.

Our Fellow Ronald Hutton has turned English eccentricity into a research field all his own in a series of fascinating books on the history of modern witchcraft, folklore and ritual, and his latest book, Blood and Mistletoe: the History of the Druids in Britain (Yale) is every bit as entertaining and eye-opening as his previous works. British Druidism has much in common with the Society of Antiquaries: both result from the post-Act-of-Union enterprise to create a British (as distinct from English, Scottish or Welsh) national identity and from the Georgian love affair with the tavern and the club. If today’s Druids seem somewhat pious, sombre, semi-religious, it was not always thus: clubbable joviality made Druidry enormously popular in the later eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, and alcohol was an integral part of many Druidic meetings, which is why the Methodists attacked them — as much for their ‘alehouse conviviality’ as for their heathenism. At 422 pages (excluding notes) this is a big book, but Ronald Hutton writes with such fluency and with such a sure eye for a telling anecdote that the book is a joy to read.

Salon’s editor has yet to read the latest book by our Fellow Barnaby Rogerson, but John Julius Norwich gives it an enthusiastic review in Country Life, saying that The Last Crusaders (Little Brown) tells the story of the titanic struggle between the Emperor Charles V of Spain and Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent in ‘420 densely packed pages of formidable erudition’. John Julius was particularly enthralled by Barnaby’s chapters on ‘The Corsairs of the Barbary Coast’, with its account of the 150-year war between Portugal and Morocco, whose final Battle of the Three Kings of 1578 cost the lives of Dom Sebastian of Portugal and most of his 26,000-strong army.

Dwarfing both of the previous two books — and running to 1,180 pages, The Medieval Account Books of the Mercers of London (Ashgate) consists of the original text of the surviving Mercers’ accounts (from 1347 to 1464) mirrored on the opposite pages by a modern English translation by our Fellow Lisa Jefferson, who also provides a substantial introduction setting the accounts in context. Thus is revealed the income and expenditure and day-to-day workings of one of England’s most powerful institutions at the height of its influence: as the premier livery company, the Mercers Company in medieval England enjoyed a prominent role in London’s governance and exercised much influence over England’s overseas trade and political interests.

Finally, a book that is not the work of a Fellow but that is, says author Scott Newstok, of the Department of English, Rhodes College, ‘informed by the work of the late sixteenth century Society of Antiquaries’: Quoting Death in Early Modern England: the poetics of epitaphs beyond the tomb (Palgrave) looks at the proliferation of epitaphs in the immediate post-Reformation period, not just on tombs and gravestones, but as a poetic and literary form practised by dramatists, poets, rhetoricians and not least by the historians Holinshed, Stow, Camden and Weever.


Department of Archaeology and McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge: MPhil bursaries in Medieval Archaeology. Closing date 3 July 2009
Applications are invited for two bursaries for the new Cambridge MPhil course in Medieval Archaeology from students interested in writing a Masters dissertation on the Migration Period in the west, the Viking Age and/or the Black Death as part of a project entitled ‘Crisis, what Crisis? Collapses and Dark Ages in Comparative Perspective’, funded by the Andrew W Mellon Foundation, looking into the European crises of the ‘long’ fifth, ninth and fourteenth centuries AD. Further details from our Fellow James Barrett at the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research.