Salon Archive

Issue: 218

Summer closure

The Society’s Apartments and Library will be closed to Fellows and visitors for the annual summer conservation and cleaning programme from Monday 27 July 2009. They will re-open on Monday 7 September 2009.

Society meetings and events

31 August 2009: Visit to the Stonehenge Riverside Project. Our Fellow Mike Parker Pearson has greed to give a tour of this year’s Stonehenge Riverside Project excavations at 2pm on 31 August 2009 (Bank Holiday Monday). If you would like to join the tour, we will meet at the entrance to Woodhenge, which is signposted on the western side of the A345 just south of Durrington Walls and a mile north of the Countess Farm roundabout. Parking is available along the side of the old road, now a cul-de-sac, just north of Woodhenge.

1 October 2009: ‘Ship in the Desert: the Namibian treasure wreck’, by Dr Bruno Werz, followed by a ‘meet the team’ reception to mark the launch of Volume 89 of the Antiquaries Journal.

A new planning policy framework for England

Planning Policy Statement 15 (PPS15), the document that the historic environment sector in England has waited seven years to see, has finally been published as a consultation draft. The new PPS is intended as a ‘streamlined’ replacement for PPG15: Planning and the Historic Environment and PPG16: Archaeology and Planning. Unlike existing guidance, PPS15 seeks to separate over-riding Government policy from changeable practice guidance; the latter is contained in a number of supporting documents produced by English Heritage where they are described as ‘living documents’ that can be adjusted according to need. The draft PPS is itself much shorter than the PPGs it is replacing, and very different in appearance.

Uppermost in everyone’s mind will be four questions: does the PPS deliver on the Government’s promise not to weaken existing guidance; does it protect jobs and potentially expand the level of developer investment in the historic environment; does it give adequate weight to the accompanying guidance to ensure that developers and planning authorities know what is expected of them; and does it deliver on the sector’s desire to see the ‘developer pays’ principle extended to cover not just the recording of any part of the historic environment impacted by development, but also to provide resources for access, research, publication, education, presentation and archiving of the results of fieldwork.

At a first and very quick reading, the PPS does seem to address all four points in a very positive manner. The policy statement places great emphasis on the need to understand the impact of any development on the historic environment — both the immediate environment of the development site but also its impact on the wider landscape or setting. It emphasises the need to gather adequate information as part of the pre-planning process and places the onus upon the applicant to prove that the historic environment has been taken into account positively as part of the pre-planning process. It also singles out ‘the views of the local community’ as part of the consultation process, and requires local planning authorities particularly to seek those views when ‘the evidence suggests that the asset may have a historic, archaeological, architectural or artistic significance to the local community that may not be fully understood from records or statutory consultees alone.’

The PPS emphasises that good design and positive ‘place-making’ results from integrating the historic environment into development schemes, rather than eradicating the past and rewriting the landscape in a wholly new way. It stresses that the best outcome of any development proposal is that the historic environment should be enhanced by the development, and not harmed.

But where destruction is unavoidable, the policy states that ‘local planning authorities should ensure that developers maximise opportunities to advance understanding of the asset’s significance before this is lost. Developers should publish the outcomes of such investigations and the advancement in understanding that those results bring. They should deposit copies of the reports with the relevant historic environment record. They should also offer the archive generated to a local museum or other public depository. Where appropriate, local planning authorities should impose planning conditions or obligations to ensure such work is carried out before commencement of the development.’

Several contentious issues are firmly knocked on the head: it is amusing to see, for example, that (pace successive Secretaries of State for Culture who have argued that modern technology enables a virtual record to be made of any building, so there is no need to keep the building itself), the guidance states that ‘a documentary record of our past is not as valuable as retaining the asset. The ability to record evidence of our past should not therefore be a factor in deciding whether consent for development that would result in a heritage asset’s destruction should be given.’

Other very positive statements include the requirement on local planning authorities to ‘use appropriate expert advice to inform decision making relating to heritage assets where the need to understand the significance of the heritage asset demands it’, to satisfy themselves ‘of the likelihood that the proposed new development will proceed before approving the application’ and the instruction not to be persuaded by ‘deliberate neglect of the heritage asset in the hope of obtaining consent’, but rather to ‘disregard any deterioration resulting from such neglect when determining consent’.

Perhaps where the PPS is most vulnerable to attack from those who are keen to avoid its requirements is in the emphasis on ‘significance’ in relation to the assets affected by a development. The PPS borrows much of the language of the English Heritage Conservation Principles in its use of the term ‘significance’ and emphasises that ‘the more significant the heritage asset, the greater the presumption in favour of its conservation’. Advocates for a development will no doubt seek to diminish that significance, and heritage champions will no doubt want to argue the opposite position: thankfully for archaeologists, it is recognised that significance is not always obvious until the resource is excavated. There is also a welcome clause that says that ‘the absence of designation does not necessarily indicate lower significance. Non-designated assets of archaeological interest equal in significance to that of scheduled monuments should be treated according to the same principles.’

The consultation period for the PPS and for the guidance notes runs to 30 October 2009; Salon will publish full details of how the Society plans to respond in due course.

The protection of World Heritage Sites in England

Circular 07/09 has been published by the Department of Communities and Local Government containing guidance on the protection of World Heritage Sites in England, replacing and expanding upon the somewhat brief guidance given in PPGs 15, 16 and 9 (Biodiversity and Geological Conservation).

The main impact of the circular is to increase the protection of World Heritage Sites and ensure that the outstanding universal value for which any site is inscribed is properly reflected in development proposals. The circular corrects the anomalous situation whereby the top tier of heritage designation — World Heritage Site status — has no statutory force in English law. From now onwards, World Heritage Site status will be a material consideration in the planning system, and this will apply to the setting of the World Heritage Site as well as the site itself.

The circular also gives English Heritage the right to object to developments that would have an adverse impact ‘on the outstanding universal value, integrity, authenticity and significance of a World Heritage Site or its setting, including any buffer zone’. Where English Heritage does object, planning authorities will have to consult the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government before approving any planning application made on or after 20 April 2009. The Secretary of State then has the discretion to call-in that application for determination. Like PPS15, the circular is accompanied by detailed further guidance from English Heritage, which has been endorsed by the Secretaries of State for Communities and Local Government and for Culture, Media and Sport.

Published at the same time as the circular is an analysis of responses to the consultation on the draft planning circular that preceded the final version. This says that almost all of the responses were favourable in commenting on the draft circular and the commitment to protect World Heritage Sites. The majority of the detailed comments received related to strengthening the wording of the circular and giving it statutory force (which, the report says, is a matter outside the scope of the consultation). It also says that the most significant points have been taken into account in the final circular or in the accompanying guidance.

Burial law reform and archaeology

Writing in The Archaeologist, the magazine of the Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) edited by our Honorary Secretary, Alison Taylor, Andrew Tucker of the Coroners and Burials Division of the Justice Ministry in England has held out the promise of major changes to the Government’s position with regard to the archaeological excavation of human remains.

Andrew says that the Government plans to put new proposals to consultation later this year. In broad terms, these will ‘reshape the existing licensing regime to facilitate the exhumation of human remains for archaeological purposes and the retention of such remains for scientific study, display or other related purposes’. This contrasts with the temporary scheme introduced in April 2008 whereby exhumation licences were issued requiring the remains to be reinterred by spring 2008. Andrew reminds anyone using such a licence that they can, however, apply to retain the remains beyond that date if there is a need to do so.

He also holds out the prospect that licensing restrictions might be removed altogether for archaeological sites under a new package of measures, saying that ‘the need for [Government] controls seems harder to justify the older the remains are’. He says that the Government is exploring the possibility of allowing remains over a certain age — 200 years is a working hypothesis — to be exhumed without licence, with the possible condition that such exhumation be conducted by, or under the direction of, members of a suitable professional body.

All this could be in place a year hence using a Legislative Reform Order, which enables primary legislation to be amended in circumstances where ‘it is intended to deregulate, modernise or make administrative changes to a regulatory system rather than to introduce substantial or controversial amendments’.

British Museum’s planning application rejected by Camden’s planning committee

The British Museum’s ambitious plans for transforming the north-west corner of its Bloomsbury site to provide a special exhibitions gallery and a new conservation centre have been turned down by Camden Council’s planning committee. The £135 million extension, designed by Richard Roger’s firm, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP), was rejected by five votes to four after a lengthy discussion.

The application was supported by English Heritage and CABE and had been recommended for approval by Camden’s planning officers. Nevertheless, the planning committee was presented with a number of objections to the scheme from the statutory amenity societies, from the Camden Civic Society and Bloomsbury Conservation Area Advisory Committee and from private individuals, including our Fellow David Watkin, who said that ‘the scheme flouts … all the hard-won principles of how to insert new work in the context of listed buildings and conservation areas’.

Opposition to the plan was based on concerns about the scale of the development and its adverse impact on parts of the existing museum. Lib Dem councillor David Abrahams, who voted against the application, said the scheme ‘encroached too closely on the existing buildings’. The new block would have wrapped around Robert Smirke’s spectacular triple-height Arched Library Room of 1839—41 in such a way as to have blocked daylight penetration except through a narrow chimney-like shaft about 2m wide and four storeys high. Access to the new wing would have involved cutting new openings into the northern elevation of the recently restored Great Court, openings that the Bloomsbury Conservation Area Advisory Committee likened to ‘mouse holes in a skirting board’.

Camden Council issued a statement the following day, saying that: ‘After careful consideration the committee decided that the proposed benefits of the scheme did not outweigh their concerns about the design within its context. The Council will continue to respond to the concerns of the community and other interested parties looking to take this project forward.’

In its response, the British Museum said: ‘We thought we had made a compelling case which drew a balance between our responsibility to our great buildings, the historic environment, the museum’s collection and the public benefits that would flow from this scheme … the need for the benefits the scheme would provide has not gone away. The committee have not yet provided their formal reasons for refusal and in the light of this information we shall consider our next steps as a matter of priority.’

£100m ‘black hole’ at Department of Culture

Whether the development could have gone ahead if it had won approval was called into question by news of a £100m shortfall in the Department of Culture’s capital budgets for the financial years 2009—10 and 2010—11. A letter has been sent to bodies funded by the DCMS warning that sums promised for major developments such as the British Museum’s extension can no longer be guaranteed. The DCMS said that: ‘Our capital budget is currently overcommitted. Ministers are examining the reasons for this and looking for solutions. It is possible that difficult decisions will be needed, but none has been taken yet’.

Among projects that might be vulnerable are the new Stonehenge Visitor Centre, new premises for the British Film Institute on London’s South Bank, the £50m extension to Tate Modern intended to increase its capacity by 60 per cent, a planned base for the Royal Opera House in Manchester and the £22.5m earmarked for the British Museum extension.

One senior arts figure described the funding crisis as ‘quite astonishing’ and another said the department deserved its reputation for ‘hopeless management’. A letter to the Guardian signed by the directors of twenty-one South Bank cultural institutions deplored the threat posed by the ‘withdrawal of committed investment to our cultural life’ and said that this would have ‘irrevocable consequences for the creativity and ambition of future generations in this country’.

DCMS issues another blow to liberty and live music

The hapless DCMS delivered another blow to campaigners hoping for a reversal of the legislation requiring live music events to be licensed last week, when it rejected the report of the Commons Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport published in May recommending that venues with a capacity of less than 200 should be exempt.

The ‘draconian’ provisions of the 2003 Licensing Act are opposed by the Musicians’ Union which says that small venues have stopped putting on live music because of the bureaucracy and expense involved, while the educational charity UK Music says that the effects of the act have been felt especially by young musicians, acoustic groups, choirs and charity events. Critics of the licensing regime have argued that there is no evidence to back up the Government’s position that live music events are to blame for unsociable behaviour. The Department of Culture, Media and Sport has simply said that ‘the subject is now closed’.

Commenting in the Independent, columnist Terence Blacker said it was ironic that while socialism and folk music once went hand in hand, ‘those in charge today are wary of unlicensed spontaneity’, and ‘fear the kind of music which is not controlled by sponsors or huge marketing interests’.

‘Human heritage’ is flourishing

Our Fellow Simon Jenkins had some trenchant things to say about these topics in his Guardian column this week in which he contrasted the two cultures of ‘state-funded art’ and ‘the art of anarchy … Bohemian garret culture’. He described the emptiness of so many state-funded arts institutions, dependent for their income on government and commercial sponsors and little visited by the public, with the thriving state of the UK’s festivals, devoted to everything from archaeology, history, science and architecture to poetry, books, theatre, dance and music of every genre. With only slight exaggeration he says that ‘there is hardly a valley, meadow or disused airfield in Britain that is not hosting some event’ this summer, not to mention such cities as Edinburgh, with no less than 2,100 events, or Brighton, with 300 shows in 33 different venues.

He goes on to conclude that: ‘as the sociologist of the public realm, Barbara Ehrenreich, wrote in Dancing in the Streets, such collective enjoyment “reclaims a distinctively human heritage, of creatures who can generate their own ecstatic pleasures out of music, colour, feasting and dance”. It is truly encouraging that so many people, young and old, are finding goodness in the arts, unmediated by grandiose overheads and a grandiose state. Their art is consorting with nature and the city, and it is prospering.’

The virtual museum

One Fellow has already suggested that the simple answer to the British Museum’s need for more exhibition space is to ‘move most of the museum to the Olympic site in 2013 — good access and all the rest, and just leave the favourites well spaced out in Bloomsbury’. But the BM’s own Director has come up with an even less space-hungry suggestion: in a debate on the museum of the future held at the London School of Economics to celebrate sixty years of the publisher Thames & Hudson, our Fellow Neil MacGregor said that the relationship between institutions and their audiences would be transformed by the internet and that museums would become more like multimedia organisations. ‘The future has to be, without question, the museum as a publisher and broadcaster’, said Neil MacGregor, a view that was shared by the Tate’s Director, Nicholas Serota, who said: ‘I am certain that in the next ten to fifteen years, there will be a limited number of people working in galleries, and more working as editors commissioning online material … the possibility for a greater level of communication between curators and visitors is the challenge now.’

Even so, Neil MacGregor did not see an end to the challenges of transporting museum objects safely around the world. Speaking about the Parthenon sculptures, he said that the question of their return to Greece was ‘yesterday’s question’ and the real question is about ‘how the Greek and British governments can work together so that the sculptures can be seen in China and Africa’. ‘But the Greek government has a clear position that their removal [from the Parthenon] was illegal and therefore this conversation cannot happen, which is a matter of great sadness’, he said.

Trouble at the National Archives

On the other hand, an ongoing drive to digitise records at the National Archives is causing concern to a number of prominent writers and historians who have made their feelings known to the press this week, complaining that online access is a strategy to enable the National Archives to save money by reducing opening hours, limiting access to original documents and laying off a number of specialist staff. Their complaints follow an announcement that the Kew archive will close on Mondays from March 2010, reducing the opening hours from six to five days a week, and that a third of specialist jobs are to be cut (35 out of 105) at a saving of £4.2m a year.

In a letter to the Daily Telegraph, Ruth Wilcock, who has worked at the National Archives for thirty-four years, accused the organisation’s senor management of ‘tearing the very heart out of a respected institution, vital to the record of the nation’s history’ and said the archive was ‘in danger of becoming a glorified family history centre’. ‘There has been a dumbing down and a loss of specialist staff, whose knowledge of records, invaluable to researchers, cannot easily be replaced’, she wrote

Mel Hide, a spokesperson for the archives, responded by saying that: ‘We must continually adapt to customer needs so we will invest in our online service, such as developing our online catalogue, digitising our popular records as well creating online help and expertise tools to assist everyone with their research.’

Dr Nick Barratt, historian and genealogist, told the Independent that he believed the ultimate goal was to reduce visitors to Kew: ‘They want to stop people coming to Kew and they want to restrict access to public records’, while Professor Jane Ridley, prize-winning biographer of Edwin Lutyens, said: ‘I am shocked and saddened by this. One of the UK’s great unsung assets is its huge and accessible public archives. Britain is a world leader here. If digitalisation is to be made a pretext for reducing access to historical records, we are in serious trouble.’

Courtauld Institute plans to close its photographic libraries

News has begun to emerge that the Courtauld Institute is also planning drastic cuts to staff and research facilities in response to the Institute’s ‘difficult financial situation’. The staff of the Witt and Conway Libraries and the Photographic Survey were told in mid-July that they were facing redundancy because these resources were no longer considered to be central to the objectives of the Institute. The two libraries will cease to add to their collections and will continue to open one day a week, but with the help of student volunteers, a decision that has been described by one regular user as ‘a sure recipe for chaos’. The Photographic Survey is to be closed down.

The Witt Library contains some two million photographs and reproductions of paintings of all schools of western art from 1200 onwards; it occupies ten rooms at Somerset House and is maintained by five members of staff. Begun as the private library of Sir Robert Witt, it was bequeathed to the Courtauld Institute in 1952 and has been built up systematically since then to become the only image library of its kind in the world; only the Frick Library in New York comes near to providing as comprehensive a coverage, but is regarded as less user-friendly. Accessible to anyone buying a reader’s card for £10, the Witt is described on the Institute’s own website as ‘an essential resource for the serious study of art history’, and our Fellow Neil MacGregor has described it as ‘probably the most useful research tool for art historians in the world’.

Like the Witt Library, the Conway Library was originally a private archive, set up by Lord Conway and given to the Courtauld in 1932; it consists of one million images of architecture, sculpture, manuscripts and the ‘minor’ arts, including stained glass and seals. It currently occupies two rooms and is maintained by one member of staff. The Photographic Survey was set up by Antony Blunt and has comprehensive photographic surveys of many of our major historic collections (including Chatsworth, Castle Howard, Corsham, Burghley, Goodwood, Alnwick, Syon, Arundel, Deene, Elton and Knole), some of which have subsequently been dispersed and some of which are not otherwise accessible. It is constantly used by the staff of key institutions here and abroad, from the National Gallery and the National Trust to the Louvre and the National Gallery of Art in Washington.

Staff were instructed not to speak publicly about the Courtauld’s closure proposals, but Country Life magazine carried the details in its 22 July issue, calling on the Institute to reverse its decision and to show a better appreciation of the value of its assets. At the moment there does not seem to be any organised response from the art-historical community; instead, Country Life holds out the vague hope that another institution, or a consortium of institutions, will come forward to take over the libraries — the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery are named as possible ‘saviours’.

William Morris’s radical views cause trouble at the palace

William Morris’s views on the right way to repair and extend old buildings have caused a rift between our Royal Fellow HRH The Prince of Wales and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, founded by Morris in 1877. Morris’s manifesto for the SPAB — one of the best statements of conservation philosophy ever penned — is the basis for the Society’s work; applicants for SPAB membership must sign to say that they agree with the manifesto’s conservation principles — one of which is the principle of minimal intervention, and another of which is that repairs and extensions should be carried out in ‘the fashion of the time’, by which Morris meant ‘of the time in which the repairs were carried out’, for to try to recreate some past style was, he believed, a ‘kind of forgery’.

According to a report in the Independent, Prince Charles apparently felt that the issue of ‘honesty’ in conservation, using contemporary design and materials, to which the Society is committed, had been used too often to justify unsatisfactory alterations and ugly additions. In a foreword he had written for SPAB’s Old House Handbook (a guide to repairing and caring for old buildings written by Roger Hunt and Marianne Suhr), he argued forcefully that traditional buildings should be restored using traditional styles, techniques and materials. When Prince Charles was asked to amend the text, he took the view that he was being censored, withdrew it and chose not to renew his Patronage of the SPAB when it expired last year.

A statement issued by the SPAB regretted that Prince Charles and the Society had parted company and said: ‘We share a high proportion of the same objectives on issues like craft training, traditional materials and energy saving. Indeed we commend HRH The Prince of Wales for the various initiatives he has taken. However, we do hold differing views on the best way to repair and extend old buildings, arguing for good, new design rather than reliance on past styles.’

Our Fellow Philip Venning, the SPAB’s Secretary, added that: ‘We were pleased he was our patron, but on the issue of new design there are occasions when we disagree, and we won’t disguise the fact.’

Heritage ‘not to blame for prison suicides’

The Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) has responded angrily to a report in the Independent claiming that patient care at Broadmoor high-security hospital was being compromised by heritage considerations. The report said that suicide rates had been dramatically reduced in other high-security hospitals, such as Rampton and Ashmore, by the removal of hooks, curtain rails and bars from which patients could hang themselves, whereas their removal from Grade II-listed Broadmoor, where five patients hanged themselves between 2001 and 2008, had been ‘forbidden … because it was felt it would damage the nation’s architectural heritage’.

IHBC Director Dr Seán O’Reilly said that there was no evidence to support the newspaper’s allegations in the 82-page report on the West London Mental Health Trust, which runs Broadmoor, and that the suicide allegation had largely been dismissed by the inspecting body that wrote the report, which instead blamed the problems at Broadmoor on ‘seriously flawed’ procedures and ‘wide-ranging systemic failings’ at a health trust ‘clearly identified as dysfunctional’.

Nigel Barker, an English Heritage case officer for Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, said: ‘If there had been cases where patients hanged themselves from the bars we would treat it very seriously. Just because a building is listed does not mean it cannot be changed. We would ask “what is the justification?” and, if it were to reduce suicides, then that would be a robust justification.’

Berlusconi sex scandal reveals Phoenician necropolis

An unexpected by-product of the current scandal surrounding the Italian prime minister is the remark made in conversations said to have been taped by the call girl Patrizia d’Addario in which Silvio Berlusconi boasts of discovering a necropolis of thirty Phoenician cave-cut tombs on his Villa Certosa estate on Sardinia. Leaving aside the fact that Berlusconi’s private paradise on the Sardinian coast is alleged to have been built in defiance of environmental and heritage laws, the prime minister’s apparent failure to report the discovery to the Ministry of Culture in Rome and the local paramilitary police office in charge of artistic heritage is technically illegal and liable to a fine of up to £2,500 and a year in jail.

Giuseppina Manca di Mores, of Italy’s National Association of Archaeologists, said that his association was calling for ‘an immediate examination because the historical significance of these tombs is vital to the study of the Phoenician civilisation … for years historians have debated whether the nearby town of Olbia was founded by the Greeks or the Phoenicians and these tombs could be the breakthrough needed to provide the answer. Greek artefacts have been discovered already in the area but Phoenician tombs would be a new piece to the puzzle and open up a whole new field of historical research.’

Having failed so far to embarrass the prime minister on the basis of his eventful sex life, opposition parties in Italy are now hoping that they can use heritage laws to force him to account for his behaviour.

News of Fellows

Our Fellow Jonathan Marsden has been appointed by Her Majesty The Queen to the position of Director Designate of the Royal Collection. Jonathan is currently Deputy Surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art and will succeed our Fellow Sir Hugh Roberts as Director of the Royal Collection on Sir Hugh’s retirement in April 2010. Jonathan joined the Royal Collection in 1996, having previously worked as a curator for the National Trust in North Wales and Oxfordshire. As Deputy Surveyor of The Queen’s Works of Art, he has been responsible for the decorative arts collections in all the royal residences.

He has published widely on sculpture, especially French bronzes, and on the history of collecting. He has contributed to a number of exhibitions at The Queen’s Gallery in London, including George III and Queen Charlotte in 2004. He is currently working on an exhibition about Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, which opens at The Queen’s Gallery in March 2010.

Our Fellow Thomas Woodcock has been appointed by Her Majesty The Queen as the next Garter Principal King of Arms. He will take up the post when our Fellow Peter Gwynn-Jones retires on 1 April 2010. The office was instituted by Henry V in 1415 when he appointed Garter to be the principal officer of arms of the most noble order of the Garter and the senior king of English arms. As such, Garter is head of the College of Arms; his office entitles him to ‘correct errors or usurpations in all armorial bearings and to grant arms to such as deserve them’.

Our Fellow Ronald Hutton has been appointed a Commissioner of English Heritage, to serve from 1 October 2009 to 30 September 2013. Ronald Hutton has been Professor of History at the University of Bristol since 1996 and is the author of fourteen major books that reflect his interests in the seventeenth century, Charles II and the Restoration, and the history of paganism, witchcraft, druidry and folk ritual in the British Isles — his most recent book being the critically acclaimed Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain (reviewed in Salon 213).

Congratulations are due to four Fellows of our Society who are among the forty-eight new Fellows elected to the British Academy at the AGM on 16 July for their distinguished achievements in the humanities and social sciences. They are Martin Bell, Professor of Archaeology at the University of Reading, Colin Haselgrove, Professor of Archaeology and Head of School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester, John Mack, Professor of World Art Studies at the University of East Anglia, and Susan Rankin, Fellow of Emmanuel College and Professor of Medieval Music at the University of Cambridge.

British Academy to establish a new policy centre

As part of its plans to play a stronger role in public debate and policymaking, the British Academy is to speak out for the humanities and social sciences, said incoming President Sir Adam Roberts at the BA’s AGM, last week. A new British Academy policy centre will be set up to achieve this, with financial support from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Sir Adam (Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for International Studies in Oxford University’s Department of Politics and International Relations and Emeritus Fellow of Balliol College, Oxford) is himself an experienced adviser to UK and international bodies on policy issues, especially international relations. ‘The major problems that face us today, nationally and internationally, will not be solved by science and technology alone’, he said. ‘Indeed the most intractable challenges are likely to rely for their solution on an understanding of human behaviour, of social and political change, and of intercultural understanding — all of which depend on the humanities and social sciences.’

Sir Adam emphasised the need for policy-makers to understand the history, culture and languages of the societies with which they deal and he pointed to the Academy’s 900 Fellows — who encompass psychologists, economists, historians, lawyers, theologians, criminologists, anthropologists, archaeologists and art historians — as people with the expertise to shed light on major topical issues, ranging from climate change to radical extremism.

‘By strengthening the policy engagement capacity located at the Academy, we can give leadership and develop a powerful voice on behalf of our disciplines’, he said, adding that ‘the humanities and social sciences are not luxuries, but crucial contributors to the richness of society, to prosperity and well-being.’

Feedback

Salon 217 included the phrase ‘the Revd Taylor’ in reporting on the achievements of our late Fellow Gordon Clifford Taylor, the former Rector of St Giles-in-the-Fields. Fellow David Parsons has quite rightly asked Salon to avoid this Americanism, which ‘along with other expressions (eg train station) is invading our language and culture’. Salon’s editor now knows that ‘it is definitely wrong to refer or write to the Revd Taylor’, according to Titles and Forms of Address: the correct form is to refer to a Rector as ‘Mr, Mrs or Miss’.

Fellow Robert Harding, of Maggs Bros Ltd, writes to say that ‘it is somewhat disingenuous of your correspondent [Fellow Christopher Whittick] to describe the Huntington Library, a world-renowned research library open to any serious scholar, as “a private library in Pasadena, CA” and to parallel its ownership of the Battle Abbey Papers to the British Museum’s ownership of the Elgin marbles. According to their website more than 1,700 scholars use the collections annually.’

From Fellow Terry Barry comes another endorsement of Fellow Philip Rahtz’s inspiring archaeological career. ‘Like Fellow Ian Burrows, I was privileged to have been taught medieval archaeology by Philip Rahtz, and to have gone on excavations led by him. In my opinion, he was the greatest field archaeologist of the last century: you only had to see him use a fork on a complex Saxon urban site such as Hereford to know you were in the presence of someone who could read and understand any stratigraphic sequence you were digging through. I was doubly privileged to have done a Special Subject with Philip and with the great Rodney Hilton, again the most outstanding medieval economic and social historian of his time. It was an unbeatable combination of talents which stood by me when I excavated a DMV in Ireland many years later. Unhappily Rodney is no longer with us, but I’d like to take this opportunity to salute Philip on my own behalf and on that of the many other students he encouraged into medieval archaeology.’

Responding to the news that the Civic Trust Awards are to continue in England under the leadership of former Civic Trust Built Environment Manager, Malcolm Hankey, Liz Walder, Director of the Royal Society of Architects in Wales, writes to say that her organisation (constituted as the regional organisation of the RIBA in Wales) is working in partnership with the Civic Trust for Wales and the Government’s Design Commission for Wales on a similar scheme that would enable both built environment professionals (or their clients) and community and voluntary sector groups to make nominations for a new Civic Trust for Wales Award Scheme. ‘The intention’, says Liz, ‘would be to recognise good contextual design across a wide variety of project types and scales, encompassing new build and projects that achieve the successful regeneration and conservation of older buildings.’

Our Fellow Jack Ogden, Chief Executive of the Gemmological Association of Great Britain, spotted an item in the press that reveals the enduring appeal of Stonehenge: the monument topped a poll conducted by Google who asked users of its ‘Street View’ database which UK tourist attractions they would most like to be able to explore on their computer screens. Street View uses cameras mounted on cars to take street-level photographs of urban areas, but many UK tourist attractions are not available on the service because they are not accessible by road. Now Google has developed a tricycle with a camera mount that can navigate fields and footpaths. When Google asked web users where they would like the tricycle to go, Stonehenge topped the poll, followed by the interior of Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, the Angel of the North, Loch Ness, the Eden Project and Warwick Castle.

Death notices and obituaries

The Society has learned that our Fellow Elaine Barr died on 7 July 2009. Further tributes to our late Fellow Lawrence Barfield, whose obituary was published in the last issue of Salon, can be read on the ‘In Memoriam’ page of the Antiquity website. Obituaries have appeared in the Guardian for historian Frank Barlow, describing him as ‘one of the most important medieval historians of his time … many of whose books are not only the standard and most influential treatments of their subjects, but are likely to remain so for years to come’. Also in the Guardian is an obituary for Lionel Munby, who has died at the age of ninety and will have been known to many Fellows as a pioneer of local history studies, through his teaching for Cambridge University’s board of extramural studies during the 1960s and 1970s — classes that led to the founding of many local history societies. Lionel’s influence on a generation of local historians was also exercised through his editorship of the Amateur Historian, later the Local Historian, and his involvement in the British Association for Local History, as well as his classic work, The Hertfordshire Landscape (1977).

We have also learned that Derek Linstrum (1925—2009) died on 26 June 2009 at the age of eighty-four. Our former Fellow (who resigned several years ago when he developed Alzheimer’s disease) was an architect, architectural historian, conservationist and educator who lived in Leeds all his life, latterly amongst his extraordinary and ever-growing collection of books on architectural history, many of them rare, autographed or inscribed first editions, which have now found a permanent home as the Derek Linstrum Library within the RIBA Library at the V&A.

The Times recorded that he moved into academia in 1966, after a spell in the West Riding County Architect’s office, as Senior Lecturer at Leeds School of Architecture. There, in 1970, he received his PhD, published as Sir Jeffry Wyatville, Architect to the King (1972). In 1971 he became Radcliffe Lecturer at the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies, University of York, where he set up the postgraduate course in Architectural Conservation. The course received international recognition, and, as its Director, Linstrum travelled widely to lecture and to act as a consultant.

As an active participant in the International Centre for Conservation (Icomos), based in Rome, he lectured for more than two decades on the history and principles of historic buildings conservation, as well as on the conservation of historic gardens. He was editor of the Icomos journal Monumentum, and a joint editor of the Butterworth-Heinemann ‘Conservation and Museology’ series.

After his retirement from York he was appointed an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Advanced Architectural Studies, as well as Hoffman Wood Professor at the University of Leeds. He was also Chairman of the Advisory Committee of York Minster, the founder of the Leeds Civic Trust and Chairman of the Yorkshire Committee for the European Architectural Heritage Year 1975.

Name that country house and find that trumpet

Having already tested Fellows’ collective knowledge successfully with the Cotman painting, which proved to be of the interior of the dormitory of the Ipswich Blackfriars, our Fellow Charles Hind, Associate Director and H J Heinz Curator of Drawings at the RIBA Drawings and Archives Collections at the V&A, wonders if Fellows can help identify this Victorian building. ‘I imagine it dates from about 1860 and it depicts an Italianate country house or very substantial villa’, Charles says. ‘All that is known of it is that it turned up in Suffolk in an album of photographs of similar date. I’ve combed through the usual books on English country houses and it is not to be found there so I wonder if any of our county history-minded Fellows might recognise it.’

Our Fellow Jeremy Montagu requests help from Fellows on behalf of a German correspondent — Dr Dietrich Hakelberg of the University of Freiburg — who wrote asking whether any trace could be found of ‘a medieval trumpet found in its two parts on the tidal zone in Romney (Kent) in 1852. Although it was published in detail by the prominent antiquary Charles Roach Smith (1807—90) in the third volume of his Collectanea antiqua (privately printed, London 1848—80), this instrument appears to have been remained unknown until today. According to Roach’s report, the trumpet came into the possession of Henry Bean Mackeson (1812—94), a keen antiquary, mayor of Hythe for several years and proprietor of the Hythe Brewery.’ Jeremy says that he has made enquiries at local museums with no result and wonders whether any Fellow might have any information.

Events

5 September 2009: Henry VIII: Arms and the Man. To mark the 500th anniversary of the accession of Henry VIII to the English throne the Royal Armouries is holding a one-day conference at the Tower of London at which five eminent authorities will give papers on aspects of Henry and his reign, with particular emphasis on his passion for arms and armour. Speakers include our Fellows Karen Watts, on ‘Tournaments during the reign of Henry VIII’, Thom Richardson, on ‘Henry VIII and the armour workshops at Greenwich’, Alexandra Hildred, on ‘Henry’s ships dressed for war’, and Eric Ives, on ‘I wish I could leave Henry VIII in his grave’. Further details can be found on the Royal Armouries website.

12 September 2009: the annual Deerhurst Lecture will take place at 7.30pm at St Mary’s Church, Deerhurst, Gloucestershire, and will be given by our Fellow Malcolm Thurlby on the subject of ‘Deerhurst Priory: architectural developments in the later 11th and the 12th centuries’. Tickets will be available at the door or from Sue Coggin (tel: 01452 780412). Further information can be found on the website of the Friends of Deerhurst Church.

2 to 3 October 2009: Is England’s Past for Everyone? Learning and Outreach in the Historic Environment. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage and the Council for British Archaeology, this conference marks the conclusion of the Victoria County History project, England’s Past for Everyone (EPE), and is concerned with passing on the lessons learned from the project about setting up and running successful outreach projects. The conference will cover such topics as identifying local funding partners, running volunteer projects and working with schools. Further information can be found on the EPE website.

Books by Fellows

Robert McCrum, Assistant Books Editor at the Observer, remarks in the newspaper how much he has been enjoying The National Gallery: A Short History (Frances Lincoln £14.99), by our Fellow Charles Saumarez Smith, the Gallery’s former Director, now Secretary of the Royal Academy. ‘As was widely reported at the time’, McCrum writes, ‘Saumarez Smith’s tenure came to an unhappy end in 2007 amid mutual discord between the Director and his trustees, and he is too good a historian to disguise his vexations. In a lethal parting shot, Saumarez Smith records his dismay at the tendency of the board “to second guess the ideas … to decide and criticise acquisitions, to ignore changes in public taste, and to treat their directors with ill-concealed contempt”.’

Well done then to the National Gallery, under the direction of our Fellow Nicholas Penny, for having the courage to publish and promote a book that is described on the National Gallery’s own website as ‘a behind-the-scenes look at the enduring tensions through the centuries between the management and the board that have always been a feature of the National Gallery and, indeed, many of our best-loved, publicly funded cultural institutions’. The blurb goes on to remind us that the antiquary and collector James Dennistoun (1803—55) turned down the post of Director on the grounds that ‘no one in their right mind would want to accept a post which involves endless squabbling from bigwigs and blackguards’.

Something entirely different has popped into Salon’s in-tray this week from Cambridge University Press, in the form of a flyer for an educational puzzle-cum-work of art called A Cambridge Palimpsest that draws upon the work of our Fellow Chris Evans and his colleague Andrew Hall of the Cambridge Archaeological Unit. The blurb says that ‘A Cambridge Palimpsest allows you to look back in time to the base geology that shaped where people first settled and built, to the town before the University was established in 1209, passing on through Custance’s 1798 map showing a city of crowded alleys and yards contrasting with the university and college quadrangles, to the expanding city of the 1940s and beyond.’

Only slightly more conventional in form is Chris Evans’s monograph on Grounding Knowledge/Walking Land: Archaeological and Ethno-Historical Researches in Central Nepal (McDonald Institute Monographs/Oxbow Books), written with J Pettigrew, Y K Tamu and M Turin. Based on research partially funded by our Society, this is one of the first volumes ever to be published on Nepal’s archaeology. It documents a decade of investigations of fort and settlement sites within the Annapurna highlands, focused on the extraordinary ninth- to thirteenth-century ruins of Kohla Sombre, the ancestral settlement of the Tamu-mai (Gurung) community, who hosted and instigated the fieldwork programme in a unique collaboration between archaeologists, anthropologists and a shaman.

Chris says that ‘only one season’s excavation was conducted before the project was cut short by political insurgency within the country. The project concluded with the holding of a great shamans’ meeting in Pokhara in 2002, at which their historical “oral texts” were presented, narrating the long migration of the Tamu-mai into the region and down from a distant north.’ The present volume includes the full translation of one of these oral epics, the Lemako Roh Pye, as well as interviews with members of the Tamu-mai community alongside rich archaeological data and ethnographic source-material. ‘Not only is this book crucial for Himalayan culture studies generally’, says Chris, ‘it is also relevant for anyone concerned with the construction and context of the past in the present, and the active forging of ethno-historical identities.’

As indicated by the title — Your Noblest Shippe — the Mary Rose was also a key artefact in the forging of the identity of the English navy and for thirty-three years she frequently served as the flagship of the English fleet in battles with the French before she capsized in the Battle of the Solent on 20 July 1545. Edited by our Fellow Peter Marsden and packed with papers from Fellows, this new work is Volume II in a five-volume series on the archaeology of the Mary Rose, and it is concerned with the structure of the ship as she was in 1545. The volume takes the reader on a tour of the vessel, deck by deck, explaining the layout, construction and function of every part, from hold to rigging.

From our Fellow Rod Thomson, Professor of History and Honorary Research Associate in the School of History and Classics at the University of Tasmania, comes A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval Manuscripts of Merton College, Oxford (with a description of the Greek Manuscripts by N G Wilson) (D S Brewer for Merton College). This first catalogue of the medieval manuscripts to be produced since 1852 offers full and detailed descriptions of some 328 complete medieval manuscripts (plus several hundred fragments in, or extracted from, the bindings of early printed books) dating from the ninth to the late fifteenth century. The introduction provides the first detailed history of Merton’s medieval library, including an account of the building and design of the College’s Old Library, built in the 1370s, western Europe’s oldest library room still in use today. Together this material provides an important window on intellectual life at the University of Oxford between the thirteenth and sixteenth centuries, and on the manufacture, acquisition and use of the books that supported it.

Metal Detecting and Archaeology, edited by Suzie Thomas and our Fellow Peter Stone (Boydell), is the second volume in the new ‘Heritage Matters’ series (The Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Iraq being the first in the series), which was established by the International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies (ICCHS) at Newcastle University under the editorship of Peter Stone to address the issues that confront the cultural heritage sector in the twenty-first century.

True to this aim, this book looks at metal detecting in the round, including the experience of archaeologists in countries where metal detecting is illegal (or rather, where interference with archaeological sites is illegal and where all buried artefacts are state property) to the testimony of metal detectorists themselves. Neither makes comfortable reading — the former because banning detecting doesn’t work, and there is little enforcement of the law; the latter because it reveals the antipathy that still exists between detectorists and archaeologists, with enmity on both sides.

Most of the papers, however, serve as case studies of what can be achieved if archaeologists and detector users drop their mutual hostility. As Peter Addyman writes in his contribution examining the background to the formation of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, better results have been obtained by pragmatic compromise than has been achieved by the ‘high-minded’ legislation of our European neighbours, with the result that the PAS has produced a ‘rich harvest of information about artefacts’ that we would not have had otherwise.

In Literacy and Identity in pre-Islamic Arabia (Ashgate), Fellow Michael Macdonald, of Wolfson College, Oxford, analyses the scores of thousands of inscriptions and graffiti left by the settled and nomadic populations of western Arabia in the 1,500 years before the birth of Islam, and finds in this extraordinary flowering of literacy vivid evidence for the way of life, social systems and personal emotions of their authors, information not available for any other non-elite population in the ancient Near East outside Egypt.

Michael describes the many different languages and the distinct family of alphabets used in ancient Arabia, and discusses the connections between the use of particular languages or scripts and expressions of personal and communal identity, dealing from several different perspectives with the question of what ancient writers meant when they applied the term ‘Arab’ to a wide variety of peoples throughout the ancient Near East.

Vacancies

Research into Women’s History and the Historic Environment; closing date 7 August 2009
The Women’s Library and English Heritage invite tenders for a freelance researcher to develop draft web content for the English Heritage web resource ‘Women’s History and the Historic Environment’. The researcher will identify up to four additional topics that can be supported by the collections of the National Monument Record, The Women’s Library and the TUC Archive and draft web pages introducing these topics. The researcher will also draft a short, accessible ‘How to …’ guide on researching women’s history within the historic environment. There will be a launch seminar at the Women’s Library in 2010 to which the researcher is expected to contribute.

Day-to-day supervision of the research will be through the Women’s Library subject specialist staff, and the researcher will be based at the Library. English Heritage is offering a fee of up to £10,000 based on 12 weeks’ work, which must start on or before 14 September 2009 and be completed in March 2010. For full details and application requirements, please contact the Project Manager, Rachel Hasted.

The United Kingdom National Commission for UNESCO, Secretary General
Salary £41,000 to £45,000; closing date 12 August 2009

The United Kingdom National Commission (UKNC) for UNESCO is part of the global community of 195 UNESCO National Commissions, and is the focal point in the UK for UNESCO-related policies and activities in promoting the goals of peace, mutual understanding and equitable and sustainable human development. Reporting to the Board, the Secretary General will lead, manage and develop UKNC’s secretariat and operational functions, play a key role in the development of policy and strategy and engage with and develop relationships with key sponsors and stakeholders across government departments, partner organisations and UNESCO National Commissions. For more information see Hudson’s website or contact Simon Shobrook and quote job ref: UK580630.

Director, Tate Britain
Salary c £85k; closing date 14 September 2009

A new Director is being sought by Tate Britain to succeed Stephen Deuchar, who has been appointed Director of The Art Fund. Application details can be found on the Tate’s website.