Salon Archive

Issue: 219

Summer closure

The Society’s Apartments and Library are now closed to Fellows and visitors until Monday 7 September 2009.

Library news

The Library is currently running a three-month pilot scheme with a view to providing remote access (from your home or office computer rather than being tied to the Society’s library) to a range of electronic journals by the end of 2009. We have been given permission to trial twenty-two journal titles in this way. For a list of the journals and for further information about taking part in this pilot study, please contact Assistant Librarian Jo Carter.

Lost Fellows

The Society has lost contact with the following Fellows and Giselle Pullen, the Society’s Accounts Assistant, would be grateful for any news of their current whereabouts: Charles Walker (last known address in Swanage), Geoffrey Munn (Albert Embankment, London SE1) and Peter Hill (Isle of Whithorn, Wigtownshire).

Society meetings and events

The programme of meetings for the period 1 October to 17 December 2009 is now posted up on the Society’s website.

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.

Destruction of cultural heritage should not be left out of the Iraq Inquiry

Leading heritage organisations (including our own Society) have called on the Committee of Inquiry looking into the UK’s role in the Iraq war to include cultural heritage in its investigation. A letter signed by representatives of the UK National Commission for UNESCO, the British Academy, the British Institute for the Study of Iraq, the Council for British Archaeology, the European Association of Archaeologists, the Institute for Archaeology, International Council of Museums UK, the Museums Association, the Society of Antiquaries and the UK & Ireland Committee of the Blue Shield has been sent to Sir John Chilcot, Chair of the Inquiry, urging the Commission to investigate the damage and loss inflicted on the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad and other museums, libraries and archives, the looting of archaeological sites and the damage to historic monuments that took place during the war and subsequent occupation.

The signatories encourage the Inquiry to look at the extent of provision of cultural property awareness training given to the armed forces and they raise the pressing issue of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict and its two Protocols of 1954 and 1999, which the UK, alone of all the major international powers, has yet to ratify.

Sir Adam Roberts, President of the British Academy, said: ‘The Iraq Inquiry must not neglect the damage, destruction and Iooting of Iraq’s archaeological sites and ancient artefacts. In this, as in other matters, it will need to look at the adequacy of plans made in the run-up to the war, the particular problems faced by UK forces in their areas of responsibility in the occupation and post-occupation phases, and the extent to which the UK acted in accord with its existing legal obligations. Fifty-four years after the UK signed the text of The Hague Cultural Property Convention, it is time that we took the key step of ratifying it, as the United States finally did earlier this year.’

UK National Heritage Science Strategy Report 2 now available

The development of a national strategy for heritage science in the UK continues with the publication of the second of three planned reports, this one addressing the use of science to enhance our understanding of the past (copies can be downloaded from the National Heritage Science Strategy website. The report reviews the uses that heritage practitioners make of science in asking questions about the past and furthering public understanding and engagement with historic buildings, collections and sites. It makes recommendations for the future under three main headings: the development of new and current tools and improving access to existing equipment; raising awareness of existing techniques and their application; and issues surrounding data use, curation and management.

Feedback on the report can be given by means of an online form, and the NHSS website also has a summary of the responses received after the publication of the first report. A stakeholder meeting is to be held in London on 25 November (venue to be confirmed) and potential participants are asked to register their interest in attending this meeting by sending an email to the strategy co-ordinator, Jim Williams, or by filling out the relevant section on the report 2 response form.

The Art Fund logo: clarification from the Fitzwilliam Museum

Earlier this summer, Salon reported on the dilemma faced by the Fitzwilliam Museum when the Art Fund withdrew a grant following a disagreement about the display of the Art Fund’s logo alongside the picture that it would have helped to purchase. Our Fellow Timothy Potts, the Director of the Fitzwilliam, here explains to Fellows what actually happened, and makes clear the extent to which the Fitzwilliam itself was surprised by the Art Fund’s actions.

‘The Fitzwilliam did not (as some of the press stated) reject the Art Fund grant. A grant had been made and accepted by the museum on the basis (as for previous acquisitions supported by the Art Fund to us) that we would provide other forms of recognition, including their logo, in other spaces of the museum and in our most widely distributed publications — but drawing the line, as we always have, at the labels themselves. (We do of course always list the donors’ names in the credit line of the labels; it is only logos to which we object.)

‘We were therefore very surprised, and taken aback when the Art Fund retracted their grant at the last minute — to our knowledge, the first time they have done this to any institution, although others (including the National Gallery, Tate, etc) likewise do not show the logo on their labels and continue to receive Art Fund support. It is entirely unclear why they have chosen to apply this sanction solely to us, and now. We had also offered to place a wall panel in each gallery with a list of all the works supported by the Art Fund, and to increase their visibility (with logo) on our website and in our foyer; but all of this was apparently not enough.

‘When the Art Fund’s contribution was withdrawn we had, of course, to notify the other principal funder (the MLA/V&A Fund) that we could not proceed with the acquisition and therefore could not accept their contribution. It was not, therefore, withdrawn by them; indeed they were equally startled by the Fund’s behaviour and very sympathetic to our predicament.’

Since Salon last reported on this story, Stephen Deuchar, formerly Director of Tate Britain, has been appointed Director of The Art Fund, replacing Dr David Barrie, who stepped down at the end of May after seventeen years as Director of the charity. Dr Deuchar, who is chairing this year’s Turner Prize, will take up his new post in January 2010. He said of his new appointment: ‘I am simply thrilled to have been offered the opportunity to direct the UK’s leading art charity. Its vital support of art galleries and museums across the UK, and the role it plays in galvanising support for the visual arts in Britain, make it a truly exceptional organisation. I cannot wait to start work. I am very proud of my time at Tate Britain … but The Art Fund represents an important new chapter for me and an exhilarating challenge.’

The fourth plinth

Our Fellow Mike Pitts took his turn on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square between 1am and 2am in the morning on 29 July 2009, using the opportunity to draw attention to the three human species that have inhabited and shaped the British Isles over the last 700,000 years. Mike did so by taking with him on to the plinth ten Perspex boxes containing stone artefacts that symbolise key moments in the British story, beginning with a flint flake from Pakefield, site of the earliest known occupation of Britain 700,00 years ago and proceeding via a handaxe from Boxgrove (500,000 years ago) and a piece of Stonehenge (3000 BC) to part of a block from Hadrian’s Wall (AD 122) and another from Lincoln Cathedral (11th century) and ending with Mia’s stone, donated by Mike’s two-year-old daughter and representing future generations.

You can read all about it (and listen to interviews that Mike gave to the BBC) on Mike’s own website.

And the fifth

Fellow Mark Horton reminds us that there was once a fifth plinth in Trafalgar Square and he has started a campaign to bring it back. The plinth supported a statue of Edward Jenner (1749—1823), the pioneer of smallpox vaccination and father of immunology whose garden in Berkeley, Glos, Mark has been excavating for several summers in order to try and find evidence for the Saxon royal minster. Jenner’s statue was moved to Kensington Gardens in the 1880s, ‘apparently’, says Mark, ‘in the mistaken belief that a man of science, whose achievements have helped save billions of lives, was no longer felt worthy of a place in the square’.

Mark wants everyone to sign a Downing Street petition, whose citation reads: We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to restore Edward Jenner's statue to Trafalgar Square in time for the 30th Anniversary of the Eradication of Smallpox in 2010'.

Gough’s Cave was one of the first sites inhabited by humans after the last Ice Age

New radiocarbon dates on bones from Gough’s Cave, in Cheddar Gorge, show that our ancestors were living there some 14,700 years ago, descendants of populations that survived the Ice Age in refuges in southern France and the Iberian Peninsula. The newly dated bones were excavated in the 1980s, and caused a sensation when it was realised that some of the bones bore cut marks and fractures that suggested cannibalism; ‘the fractures look remarkably like the patterns of breakage you get on the animal bones in the cave, which we have assumed to be for bone marrow extraction’, says our Fellow Roger Jacobi of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (AHOB) project, which has dated the bones, adding that another possible interpretation is that ‘people who died away from the cave had their bones defleshed and broken to make them more portable so that they could be brought back to the cave for deposition’.

According to our Fellow Chris Stringer, the new dates correspond precisely to a period of very rapid climate warming in Europe: ‘this really is right on the cusp of the warming which we can see in Greenland ice cores’, he said, ‘when Europe starts to defrost and the animals move; the humans are right there with them.’

On the basis of the Gough’s Cave evidence, horses formed the main food source. Professor Stringer believes that hunter-gatherers expanded out of southern France following herds of horses across Doggerland, circumventing the large river system in the bed of the English Channel which was blocking the way from France by taking a detour into what is now Belgium and the Netherlands, then moving into eastern Britain across land that is now submerged under the North Sea.

As the previously frozen land became colonised by birch forests, creating a less attractive habitat for horses, human presence becomes harder to detect as they move out of caves and become more scattered across the landscape. North-west Europe was then plunged into the ‘short, sharp shock’ of the Younger Dryas, a cold climate period which seems to extinguish the signal of human occupation altogether until further recolonisation around 12,000 BC.

8,000 year old dwelling unearthed at Isle of Man airport

Fast forward six millennia to 6000 BC, and human settlers have returned to the Isle of Man, occupying a shelter surrounded by thousands of pieces of worked flint, the charred remains of wood and hundreds of hazelnut shells that has been excavated at Ronaldsway, in the path of a planned extension to the island’s airport.

Our Fellow Andrew Johnson, of Manx National Heritage, told the Isle of Man’s local media that ‘archaeologists hesitate to call a structure of this kind a “house”, because the received wisdom is that 8,000 years ago people constantly moved through the landscape as nomads, gathering their food from the land, rather than staying put and farming and harvesting it … but this building was constructed from substantial pieces of timber, and had a hearth for cooking and warmth. Its occupants lived here often, or long enough to leave behind over 12,000 pieces of worked flint together with the tools needed to flake them, and food debris in the form of hundreds of hazelnut shells.’

Oxford Archaeology North has carried out the excavation on behalf of the airport developers, supervised by Manx National Heritage. Last year, the team uncovered the remains of a Bronze Age village, three burials and numerous artefacts at the same site, which was already known to be unusually rich in prehistoric and historic landscape remains when the island’s airport was constructed in 1935.

Silchester: the oldest town in Britain?

The Iron Age people of Britain tended not to go in for large town-like settlements on the whole, but our Fellow Mike Fulford has reached a point in his long-running excavations at Silchester where he thinks he has found evidence for something that looks like a thriving town laid out almost a century before the Romans occupied Britain in AD 43. In an interview with our Fellow Maev Kennedy published in the Guardian, Mike says that Calleva Atrebatum (the Roman name for Silchester, meaning ‘the place of the Atrebates in the woods') had all the characteristics of a town whose arrival in Britain is usually credited to the Roman invaders: a regular grid of streets and narrow alleys dividing plots, supplied with water from wells and springs. The town was a wealthy place, minting its own coins and trading in luxury goods with continental Europe.

Of course, the town was not exactly ‘British’. Professor Fulford believes it was founded by Commius, leader of the Gaulish Atrebates, who fled to Britain after falling out with his former Roman allies in 50 BC. ‘The site he chose, in an area where his people probably already had links, was far enough inland to be safe from Roman galleys, on a low spur of defensible land which still has remarkable views in every direction, with ample water and surrounded by forests full of game’, says Maev. The site was subsequently redeveloped and surrounded by Roman walls in the first century AD, before being abandoned in the fifth century, its wells deliberately filled in, and never again occupied by anyone.

Excavating the Emperor Vespasian’s house

British and Italian archaeologists excavating the ancient Roman village of Falacrinae, where the Emperor Vespasian was born in AD 9, have uncovered a house that they believe might have been the emperor’s country home. Its discovery coincides with events in Rome and elsewhere in Italy marking the 2,000th anniversary of Vespasian’s birth.

‘We’ve found a monumental villa with elaborate floors made of marble brought from quarries in Greece and North Africa’, said our Fellow Dr Helen Patterson, of the British School at Rome. ‘It’s the only large villa in the area, and the size and dating fits in perfectly with Vespasian. Until we find a stone or marble inscription saying “Vespasian lived here” we can’t be 100 per cent certain, but it seems very likely. It’s in a perfect position, overlooking a river and the old Via Salaria trade route’, she added.

‘The villa is in what would have been a very small, very remote village’, said our Fellow Andrew Wallace-Hadrill, the British School’s Director. ‘Vespasian was a local boy made good, and the first of a series of emperors who did not come from Rome itself.’

Vespasian’s military career included a spell commanding the Second Legion during the occupation of Britain in AD 43. He is best known for ordering the construction of the Coliseum in Rome but is also remembered for taxing the collection of urine, which was used in leather making. Public urinals in Italy are still known as vespasiani as a consequence.

Locating the lost Roman city of Altinum

Further north, on the mainland overlooking the Venetian lagoon, Italian archaeologists have produced the first detailed map of the city of Altinum, the once bustling harbour city that was abandoned in AD 452 when the inhabitants sought a refuge from barbarian attack among the more easily defended offshore islands, on which they founded the city of Venice. The ghost-town they left behind was revisited from time to time for building stone and lived on in Venetian folk tales, but memories of its exact location gradually faded as the city disappeared under agricultural fields.

Now a team from Padua University has recovered the detailed layout f the city by piecing together aerial photographs of the fields to the north of Venice airport. Led by Professor Paolo Mozzi, a geomorphologist at the University of Padua, the team took advantage of the particularly dry summer of 2007 when buried walls and canals showed up clearly in crop marks, revealing the outlines of temples, theatres, a basilica, the marketplace and city walls. To the south of the city centre ran a wide canal, probably used to take imports to the inland cities of the Veneto plain and a clear indication that the Roman forebears of the Venetians had already incorporated waterways into their urban fabric.

A detailed map of the city has now been published in the journal Science (and can be seen on the online magazine version, ScienceNow). Commenting on the new map, our Fellow Dr Neil Christie, of the University of Leicester, said it provided a rare opportunity to see what a thriving Roman town looked like without the imposition of modern infrastructure. ‘It’s extremely unusual for a town to go out of use like this and that is what makes it absolutely invaluable for archaeologists’, he said.

Mozzi and his team are now planning a LIDAR survey to create a higher-resolution topographic map of the site to assist with conservation plans for the ancient site, though future excavation depends on the availability of funds.

Inscribed slate discovered in Jamestown well

Meanwhile in the USA, our Fellows Bly Straube and Bill Kelso are excavating a well that was probably dug under the direction of Captain John Smith in early 1609 at James Fort, Virginia, and coming up with a rich haul of finds that are throwing light on the early history of the first permanent English settlement in America.

One find in particular, a slate tablet covered with sketches of birds and flowers, has captured everyone’s imagination because, as excavation director Bill Kelso says, the drawings offer ‘dramatic evidence of how captivated the English were by the natural wonders of the New World’. The sketches also include a portrait of a man in ruffled collar as well as the words ‘A MINON OF THE FINEST SORTE’ and the letters and possibly a date ‘EL NEV FSH HTLBMS 1598’ interspersed with symbols that have yet to be interpreted. ‘Minon’ could refer to a servant (minion) or to a type of cannon of the kind that was used at the James Fort site.

Bly Straube, the archaeological curator for Preservation Virginia at Historic Jamestowne, said that broken roofing tiles were often used as notebooks in seventeenth-century England because they could be reused over and again; ‘some of the drawings are quite sophisticated while others are crude, indicating that more than one person used the slate’, she said.

The slate was found a few feet down in a well located in the centre of the fort. The excavators believe that it is the fort’s first well and that it was dug in early 1609 (almost two years after the establishment of the fort). Records suggest that a new well was dug by 1611 and the old shaft was then used as a rubbish pit. ‘We are discovering more and more every day as we excavate the well’, said Bill Kelso, who added that ‘the full analysis will go on probably forever’. The datable finds from the well, including trade beads, Native American ceramics, locally produced tobacco pipes, London coarsewares, German Bartmann jugs, and Anglo-Netherlandish apothecary jars, confirm a probable date of 1611 for the fill. Another star find is a baby’s coral and silver teething stick which, said Bly Straube, could have belonged to one of the handful of children who arrived with women in the summer of 1609.

Shy Englishman beat Galileo in mapping the Moon

In the same year that the James Fort well was dug, an Englishman named Thomas Harriot made an accurate map of the features of the Moon, beating Galileo’s astronomical recordings by four months. The evidence comes from the map, dated 26 July 1609, that is one of the highlights of a new Science Museum exhibition concerned with the history of astronomy called Culture & Cosmos.

There is a lesson for us all in the story of Harriot, a shy nobleman who never saw the need to publish his work, and hence is now forgotten and unknown, unlike Galileo. Harriot was also the first to describe the refraction of light through a lens, but, once again, his failure to publish his findings means that Willebrord Snellius gained the credit twenty years later for what is now known as Snell’s Law.

Imprisoned and interrogated because of his links to some of those involved in the Gunpowder Plot, Harriot denied all knowledge of the conspiracy and said ‘Everyone knows I prefer a life of quiet and devoted study’. ‘He had a nice annual pension from the Earl of Northumberland and he was just interested in the pursuit of knowledge’, said Alison McCann, Assistant County Archivist for the Sussex Record Office, which holds all of Harriot’s Moon drawings.

Other exhibits at the Science Museum’s exhibition include replicas of the telescopes used by Galileo and Newton, and the telescope used by Jocelyn Bell to discover pulsars in the 1960s.

Oliver Cromwell’s grave revealed for the summer

One of London’s more unusual and lesser-known sites is the penultimate grave of Oliver Cromwell, rarely seen by the public because the nineteenth-century stone tablet marking the spot in the RAF Chapel in Westminster Abbey is normally covered by a blue carpet bearing the RAF crest.

Beneath that carpet lies the spot where the late Lord Protector’s remains were interred for three years before being dug up in 1661, ritually hung and mutilated like a common criminal. The grave’s recent exposure, according to our Fellow Maev Kennedy, writing in the Guardian, has less to do with a desire to add the site to the Oliver Cromwell trail, and more to do with the mundane fact that the abbey’s historic textiles are being attacked by moth grubs, and so have been put in the deep freeze to kill the pests, leaving the chapel’s hidden history exposed until the end of August.

When he died of malarial fever in September 1658, aged 59, Cromwell was buried in the abbey in a ceremony modelled on the funeral of James I. After his subsequent ‘execution’ in 1661, Cromwell was supposed to have been reburied in quicklime at the foot of the Tyburn gallows, but a persistent story says that his embalmed head was stuck on a spike outside Westminster Hall, from where it was stolen by a sentry some twenty-five ears later. Since then, several skulls claiming to be that of Cromwell have emerged: Maev quotes our Fellow Arthur MacGregor as having tried to work out whether any of them might be genuine.

One skull claimed as Cromwell’s was displayed for money in London in the eighteenth century; another was once in the Ashmolean but has since vanished. A third surfaced in the 1990s, in a family collection in Kent, but is probably not genuine because the fractures suggest a spike smashed through from above rather than from inside an impaled skull. The one with the best claim was examined at a meeting of our Society in 1911, when it was said still to have part of a spike embedded in the bone. That skull was buried in 1960 in the courtyard of Cromwell’s old college, Sidney Sussex at Cambridge, in an unmarked spot to dissuade souvenir hunters.

By splendid irony, says Maev, Cromwell’s space in the vault at Westminster Abbey was soon filled with the bodies of a troop of illegitimate offspring of Charles II and their families, including the Earl of Doncaster, son of the king and his mistress Lucy Walter, and Charles Fitzroy, Duke of Cleveland and Southampton, his son by Barbara Villiers, the woman described by Bishop Burnet as ‘a woman of pleasure … vastly expensive and consequently very covetous’.

£1.5 million HLF grant for the Museum of the Order of St John

The Museum of the Order of St John has had its £1.5 million HLF grant confirmed and will now go ahead with a project to increase and improve the museum’s exhibition areas, create a new learning space aimed at schoolchildren and a new research centre. The collection, which includes paintings and illuminated manuscripts, decorative furniture, ceramics, metalwork, jewellery, textiles, medals, armour and Islamic artefacts, all associated with the Knights Hospitaller, or the Knights of Malta, whose headquarters moved to England from Jerusalem in AD 1140, are currently displayed in the sixteenth-century St John’s Gate and a further space in the nearby twelfth century Priory Church.

Our Fellow Dr Alan Borg, who is the Priory Librarian, said: ‘The Museum of the Order of St John is one of the great hidden treasures of London, tracing the continuous history of a charity which dates back more than 900 years … We are now going to open the Gate fully, so everyone can see our amazing historical collections and follow the story of St John Ambulance up to the present day.’

Further news of Fellows

The Revd Professor Peter Galloway, OBE, another Fellow with close links to the Order of St John (he is the Order’s Registrar, and was the Deputy Director General), was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Letters by Brunel University on 24 July in recognition of his outstanding scholarly achievements and services to the community. Peter is Visiting Professor in Politics and History at the university, as well as being Chaplain of The Queen’s Chapel of the Savoy and Chaplain of the Royal Victorian Order. Among his many other responsibilities, Peter is also Provost of The Imperial Society of Knights Bachelor, a Justice of the Peace for the City of London, a Governor of Heythrop College, a Trustee of the League of Mercy Foundation and Chairman of the University of London Convocation Trust. He served for many years as a member of the councils of both the University of London and Goldsmiths College.

He is also a distinguished scholar with an international reputation as historian of the state honours of the United Kingdom. His publications include The Order of St Patrick (1983), The Order of the British Empire (1996), Royal Service (1996), The Most Illustrious Order (1999), The Order of St Michael and St George (2000), Companions of Honour (2002), The Order of the Bath (2006) and The Order of the Thistle (2009).

On a separate note, it was interesting to see that two of our Fellows — Christopher Chippindale and David Gill — featured in the Times Higher Education Supplement’s recent list of the ten most frequently cited articles in the field of classical studies. The piece that everyone is reading is their joint review article in the American Journal of Archaeology entitled ‘The Illicit Antiquities Scandal: what it has done to classical archaeology collections.’ You can see why: their extended review of The Medici Conspiracy: the illicit journey of looted antiquities from Italy’s tomb raiders to the world’s greatest museums, by Peter Watson and Cecilia Todeschini, discusses the ‘dirty and wicked world of theft and criminality’ that lies behind many of the wonderful new finds that have been unveiled at such museums as the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

Our reviewers praise the book for what it reveals about the conspiracy between looters, bent but celebrated and successful antiquities dealers, the famous auction houses and the curators of great collections, ‘all of whom are bound together into one giant crooked enterprise’. But they rightly say this is not a book you can just put down once you know are aware of its contents: ‘the time has come for those in the museums who know about these things to come clean’, our reviewers say in a clarion call to the trustees of the world’s great museums to live up to the trust placed in them and to stop the ‘grand conspiracy’ that is the illicit antiquities trade.

The review can be downloaded from the online version of the American Journal of Archaeology.

Death and memorial notices

The Society is sad to have lost several Fellows recently, including Christopher Elrington, Honorary Research Fellow and Professor Emeritus of History at the Institute of Historical Research, who died on 3 August 2009, Ken (John Kenneth) Major, who died on 25 July 2009, David Learmont, who died on 21 July 2009, Peter Edmond Leach, who died on 4 July 2009, and Michael Farr (date of death not yet known).

Obituaries for Ken Major and David Learmont are summarised below, and an obituary is in preparation for Christopher Elrington, which Salon will report in due course.

Ken (John Kenneth) Major (1928—2009)

A Memorial Fund has been set up for Ken Major by the Mills Archive Trust, of which he was a trustee and from whose site you can download a copy of Ken’s autobiography, in which he writes of his life as an architect and author and of his pioneering role in the development of molinology (mill studies) and industrial archaeology; a brief summary can be read on the Wikipedia website.

In addition, an obituary appeared in The Times on 8 August 2009 from which the following excerpts have been extracted (the full obituary has been posted on the Obituaries page of the Society’s website).

‘Kenneth Major was an architect who drew up the schemes that preserved for future generations many of the windmills and watermills that were in danger of disappearing for ever from the British landscape. The revival of interest in working windmills and watermills from the early 1960s onwards owed much to the dedication of Major, who was one of the first people to whom the Government turned when it decided that it must start auditing the condition of Britain’s mills with a view to preserving the best ones.

‘As a result of this initiative, Major designed some of the best working-mill restorations, such as Stainsby watermill in Derbyshire for the National Trust and the cast-iron water wheel and pumphouse, built by the firm of Bramah in the 1830s, at Painshill, near Cobham, Surrey, which involved the repair and restoration of its 36ft-diameter wheel. Other notable restorations included Sacrewell mill and miller’s house in Peterborough, Cambridgeshire, and Gelli Groes mill in Gwent.

‘John Kenneth Major (known to all as Kenneth) was born in Reading, Berkshire, in 1928. He studied architecture at Durham University after the war. His growing interest in heritage architecture was encouraged in 1952 when he was awarded the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings’s Lethaby scholarship. This enabled him to travel the country for six months to study historic building repairs on site, visit quarries and meet craftsmen.

‘Having qualified as an architect in 1953 he got a job at Imperial College London in its planning department. He joined London Transport in 1956 and spent the next five years designing bus garages.

‘His enthusiasm for restoration work was encouraged in 1961 when he got a job as an assistant to the prominent heritage architect Louis Osman. However, the conservation movement had yet to really get going and there was not enough work to keep him and he left in 1963.

‘The market for heritage architecture began to improve after the public outcry — led by the poet (later Poet Laureate) John Betjeman — at the demolition of the original entrance to Euston station, the Euston Arch, in 1962. This marked a turning point in public policy towards the preservation of industrial architecture.

‘The Ministry of Public Works decided to carry out a national survey of industrial monuments and Major was engaged to carry out an examination of mills in Berkshire. He would later carry out similar surveys for the Isle of Wight, Wiltshire and Northumberland. The 1965 Planning Act enshrined the protection of the best examples of historic industrial buildings and Major was invited to join the ministry’s wind and watermill committee.

‘Meanwhile, he continued to work as an architect in London for Hammersmith Borough Council and then Westminster City Council, where he was assistant city architect until the department was closed down in 1984. At this point he was finally able to put aside the day job and set up a private practice that concentrated solely on the restoration of mills and other historic buildings.

‘He would often be brought in as an adviser on listed building applications for mills and for the application of restoration grants to the Heritage Lottery Fund and other bodies. He was an active member of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings — serving as chairman of its mills committee — and was a founding member of the International Molinological Society. Major was a founding trustee of the Mills Archive and all his records have been donated to the archive at Watlington House, Reading, where his wife now works.’

David Murray Learmont (1935—2009)

The following obituary written by Tam Dalyell was first published in the Independent on 28 July 2009.

‘David Learmont was the first holder of the position of curator in the National Trust for Scotland. A gifted man, of demonic energy, dedicated to the aims of the Trust, and of good, if controversial taste, Learmont was never in the inner councils of NTS headquarters at Charlotte Square, in the way that the curator in England was central to the decision-making of the English Trust. He was a “doer”. He loathed sitting in long-winded committee meetings. He was on the proverbial road, at properties, often preparing for public viewing houses that had been allowed to become chaotic and shabby.

‘David Murray Learmont was born in Hovingham, where his father was a doctor; among his patients were the great Yorkshire family of Worsley. Childhood familiarity with their beautiful house, full of treasures, gave him a love of furniture and elegant objets d’art. After school at Sedbergh, at the time under the inspirational headmastership of Bruce Lockett, Learmont went to Switzerland to learn the culinary arts at the celebrated Hotel School at Lausanne. Among his life-long abilities was that of being a superb cook.

‘Returning to Britain, he applied for posts in the private sector of primary schooling, and was appointed a master at Isleden Court preparatory school and spent 12 happy years there from 1955 to 1967. When he was passed over for the headmastership he went to Dulwich College prep school, between 1967 and 1970, then came to the notice of the long-term director of the National Trust for Scotland (later Sir) James Stormonth Darling. He became a founder member of the Furniture History Society.

‘By 1970, Stormonth Darling and his chairman, the Earl of Wemyss, a shrewd judge of character, were becoming impatient with scholars and dilettantes. They wanted as their first curator a man who would actually roll up his sleeves and get down to work in presenting the properties — which NTS was acquiring thick and fast from a Scottish aristocracy whose next generation, as Wemyss acidly put it, “were deserting their posts”. Stormonth Darling and Wemyss took a chance on Learmont and his wife, Ann, a descendant of the Granville family who had been alongside William Wilberforce in the anti-slavery campaigns. Learmont was to fulfil their requirements for the next twenty-seven years.

‘During the ten-year period in which Lester Borley was director of NTS (Borley having succeeded Stormonth Darling), it did not matter that the curator was absent from important committee meetings since Borley himself, later the driving force in the British section of Europa Nostra, supplied the scholarship and expertise in art which was sometimes necessary in putting the curatorial case.

‘He did not claim to be a scholar of the calibre of the curators who worked in the English Trust. But as an “action man”, leading the dedicated team of Christopher Hartley and John Batty, he achieved necessary transformation at an array of houses, ranging from the mighty Culzean Castle on the Ayrshire coast to the House of Dun, Kellie Castle and Falkland Palace in Fife. He also turned his attention to the great Aberdeenshire properties such as Castle Fraser, Crathes Castle, Craigievar Castle and smaller properties such as Hugh Miller’s Cottage in the Cromarty Firth Black Isle and the little houses at Dunkeld in Perthshire. One of his many triumphs was setting up the fascinating kitchen of the Georgian House, near NTS headquarters, in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square.

‘Learmont had a particular gift, invaluable in a curator of National Trust for Scotland houses, of an absolutely outstanding eye for the right carpet. As NTS’s first curator, he was asked to furnish — or in Scots parlance, “find furnishings” — for rooms in recently acquired houses that had either been neglected, or had lost contents to the extended families of previous owners. Learmont’s astonishing capacity to remember the ambience of many rooms and their exact dimensions was a tremendous attribute in his many, many visits to Edinburgh sales rooms on behalf of NTS.

‘He was responsible for a great deal of outstanding acquisitions. His detractors would mutter that “David is a first-class interior decorator” and would use the somewhat derogatory term “Learmontising” to describe what they perceived as the stereotyping of the interior of NTS properties. In my opinion, and that of my wife as property managers at the House of the Binns, given by my mother in 1944, this was unfair. Learmont’s aim was to show NTS houses as the sort of homes in which people would wish to live, surrounded by paintings, and plenishings of cultural and historic interest and importance.

‘Learmont also had an asset that perhaps can be misinterpreted, but was, in fact, an inestimable benefit to NTS. He charmed elderly ladies, with a cocktail of teasing and respect. But he was genuinely, and not synthetically, charming. One result was that NTS was bequeathed a lot of serious money in the form of legacies which the trust would not otherwise have had.’


In the obituary for our late former Fellow Derek Linstrum, the last issue of Salon referred to his having been ‘an active participant in the International Centre for Conservation (ICOMOS), based in Rome’. Henry Cleere points out that ‘the correct but unwieldy title of that worthy inter-governmental body is “The International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property”, wisely abbreviated to ICCROM’, whereas Derek Linstrum was mainly involved in the work (and contributed to the Monumentum journal) of The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), the non-governmental professional organisation based in Paris.

Many Fellows responded with shock and concern at the news that the Courtauld Institute is planning to close its photographic libraries. This response from our Fellow Charles Tracy speaks for many: ‘The closure of this unique library of over 1 million photographs is devastating, and will be a huge set-back to the art-historical profession, which was begotten and nurtured by the Courtauld Institute’s pioneering teaching profession.

‘The Conway Library is a unique visual cultural map of Europe from the early Middle Ages to the present day. In this digital era, some may think that it is no longer needed, but they are profoundly wrong. In my own field of church woodwork, the superb black and white photographs of Fred Crossley, to name but one early twentieth-century executant, constitute an invaluable record of the state of our church furnishings eight or so decades ago. Similarly the early photographs of stone monuments speak to us unequivocally of the shocking conservation depredations which have occurred over the last century.

‘I shall be losing the essential tools of my profession. This will effect the quality of the significance reports I prepare, which help to weigh in the balance the merits or otherwise of an ever-greater number of church re-ordering schemes.’

Almost as much correspondence was generated by the issue of the correct manner of addressing a Church of England vicar or rector — perhaps a clerical Fellow would like to tell us what they consider to be correct practice. For Richard Reece, this is a simple matter of common sense: ‘the objection to “the Revd Jones” is that reverend is an adjective, but you still need a means of distinguishing a clerk in Holy Orders, hence the modern practice of softening the bare adjective by adding the forename as in “the Reverend Peter Jones”’.

Fellow Richard Rastall makes the same point, which is that ‘most titles, such as Mr, Mrs, Dr, Lord, etc, are nouns, and therefore go with the surname in the way that other nouns would (Archdeacon Grantley, Chief Constable Blair, Prime Minister Brown, etc). “The Reverend” is, however, an adjective: and “the Reverend Taylor” is wrong simply because it would be impolite to refer to him or her, or address him or her, just as “Taylor”. Hence the correct reference would be to “the Reverend Mr/Mrs/Miss Taylor”, just as it would to “the Right Reverend Bishop Wilberforce”.’ ‘This is an old problem,’ adds Professor Rastall, ‘and the battle for the correct use of “the Revd” was lost long ago, although those of us who are interested in these things will continue to address and refer to the clergy properly!’

On the new circular concerning the status of World Heritage Sites within the English planning system, our Fellow Susan Denyer, Secretary ICOMOS-UK, writes to say that Salon was incorrect in saying that the circular ‘corrects the anomalous situation whereby the top tier of heritage designation — World Heritage Site status — has no statutory force in English law’. The reality, says Susan, ‘is that World Heritage status still has no force in English law. Had the Heritage Protection Bill come into force, World Heritage sites would have been acknowledged in English law, through their appearance in the proposed Register, but they would still not have been given any statutory legal protection. World Heritage status is already a material consideration in the planning system, so the circular has not introduced this concept, but it does endeavour to clarify how the outstanding universal value of WHSs should be sustained within the planning system.’

Sue Cole, of English Heritage, amplifies this latter point by writing to say that ‘one of the main benefits of the new circular is to re-emphasise to regional and local authorities the role that they play in protecting the Outstanding Universal Value inherent in World Heritage Sites and in their settings, and the need to put policies in their statutory plans and to use them. Another is the recognition of management plans and steering groups.’

Some Fellows thought that Salon was too generous towards the new draft Planning Policy Statement. Alison Taylor has contributed this critique of the new PPS15.

‘Though the overarching PPS basically only states what has already been achieved (at least for archaeology), the accompanying EH guidance is better, but is still very limited. There are some references to publication, community involvement and deposition, but these are weak. The section on publication probably contains the main essential elements, but needs far more detail (including reference to specialist knowledge, editing and peer review, and they have chosen to ignore grey literature, which is the major output for work of this nature).

‘It is good to have community involvement mentioned, but this approach is rather passive. Outreach work is already being done better (than providing viewing platforms and interpretation boards) in many places, and EH should be encouraging something beyond just-about-acceptable practice.

‘The deposition and storage issue is barely addressed. Of course archives can be offered to institutions, but local authorities need to have the right facilities in place, and archaeologists must ensure there is funding available and archives are ordered correctly. Appropriate deposition of archives must be an obligatory part of the process. There is no reference at all to conservation of artefacts or displaying them, so public benefit is ignored again.

‘Minimal reference to standards, etc, is obviously worrying, especially if authorities are basically reduced to HER officers, with the assumption that their records contain pretty much all we need to know. We all know that this is not the case, and that local authority services are required with a range of significant expertise if the historic environment is to be protected and to provide public benefits.

‘DCMS may argue that this PPS is intended purely to address planning issues, but developer-led archaeology that arises from planning decisions obviously requires a wider approach than this. Somehow we must escape from the restrictions that most archaeologists have recognised in the last twenty years that have had the effect of limiting both the research value and the public benefit to be derived from the work undertaken with developer funding.’

English Heritage, meanwhile, has announced a series of heritage–sector events to be held in Bristol (7 September), Leeds (21 September) and Leicester (23 September), and in London (11 September), but only for planning and development personnel, at which those attending can learn more about the principles and content of the PPS and of the supporting practice guide. Places at each event are limited to 100: to register your interest, send an email to Rachel Prosser at English Heritage .


25 and 26 September 2009: Great Tower: the building and evolution of Henry II’s keep at Dover Castle. Our colleagues at English Heritage tell us that this conference is now close to being fully booked, so if you wish to attend you are advised to sign up without further delay. For further information, contact Maud Guichard-Marneur at English Heritage.

Books by Fellows

Have forgeries ever been accorded such respect or such a well-produced monograph? Louis Marcy: Oggetti d’arte della Galleria Parmeggiani di Reggio Emilia, by Fellows Claude Blair and Marian Campbell (Turin: Allemandi 2008), is a gorgeous book full of pictures of medieval caskets, jewellery, reliquaries, lecterns, chalices, portable altars and statues of the Virgin and Child all convincingly Gothic of the eleventh to fifteenth centuries, but all in reality the work of some of the world’s greatest master forgers.

As the book is published in Italian, Claude Blair has kindly supplied Salon with a summary, and it tells an intriguing story, worthy of a Wilkie Collins novel. Until now these forgeries have been attributed to an Italian revolutionary anarchist calling himself Louis Marcy who, after a period in prison, lived in London in the 1890s, operating from a gallery in Bedford Square and later, after being rumbled here, as a dealer in Paris.

Claude Blair establishes, however, that the antiquarian knowledge and finance behind what are widely known as ‘Marcy pieces’ were provided by the once-famous Spanish artist, Ignacio León y Escosura (1834—1901), and that Marcy was the front man for their sale and not their maker. In fact, Escosura commissioned the works from a number of skilled artists, and Marian Campbell further establishes that the most remarkable of the fakes were, in fact, made by Henri Husson (1852—1914), an artist now known as a distinguished legitimate exponent of the Art Nouveau style in metal.

Claude adds that ‘On stylistic grounds it seems clear that at least one other, unidentified, craftsman or workshop, specialising in enamels, was involved, but it was Escosura who was the real Master Faker, since he must have designed and controlled everything that was produced, the craftsmen merely being his operatives, just like one of the major modern artists, in fact!’

To add further twists to the plot, Marcy was itself a pseudonym: in reality, Louis Marcy was Luigi Parmeggiani (1860—1932), and when, in the 1920s, he eventually inherited all the pieces that hadn’t yet been sold from Escosura’s widow, he returned to his birthplace, Reggio Emilia, near Bologna where, says Claude Blair, ‘he resided amongst what appeared to be a mini Wallace Collection’.

When Marcy subsequently found himself in financial difficulties, he managed to sell his house and its contents to the commune, who, believing that everything in the house was genuine, turned it into a public gallery, the Galleria Parmeggiani. Only some twenty-five years ago did the author of the catalogue of arms and armour in all the museums in Reggio, published in 1984, draw attention to the fact that nearly all the examples in the Galleria Parmeggiani were fake, suggesting that the same might be true of other parts of the collection.

This, of course, proved to be true but to their credit, the Musei Civici di Reggio Emilia decided to publish catalogues of all the fakes, starting with the handsome book that Claude and Marian have produced, which pays tribute to Escosura’s astonishing achievements and his considerable antiquarian expertise, particularly in the field of late medieval metalwork and enamels. Obtaining a copy of the book itself might prove as elusive as tracking down Escosura: but the authors have donated a copy to the Society’s Library and copies can be purchased from the museum itself: Uffici Musei Civici, Piazza Prampolini 1, 42100 Reggio Emilia, Italy; tel: 0522 456477; fax: 0522 456476; email:

Also donated to the Library is a copy of the latest work in the mighty but slim Shire Library series, consisting of books that manage to pack a huge amount of fundamental information into a mere 64 pages. Monumental Brasses (Shire Library) is the work of our Fellows Sally Badham, who wrote the text, and Martin Stuchfield, who took the superb colour photos especially for the book. Sally describes it as ‘an introductory guide targeted at the intelligent non specialist, covering the production of brasses from the thirteenth century to the present day and taking account of the great advances in the knowledge of the subject over the past fifty years. It aims to show that brasses are of interest not just to “brass rubbing anoraks”, but are fascinating in their own right and provide rich visual imagery for those interested in other subjects, including armour, costume, jewellery and heraldry. They also offer reliable contemporary evidence for the study of social and local history and genealogy.’

Many aspects of the study of brasses are covered in the book, including their origins and manufacture, the organisation of the industry and the cost of brasses, the scale of production and losses, the self-image of the commemorated, and the function and design of brasses. Finally — an important point — the authors have generously agreed to donate all their royalties from the book to the Monumental Brass Society’s Conservation Fund, so the proceeds will be used to help in the good work of preserving the brasses themselves.

At the other end of the scale, weighing in at 673 pages, is the International Handbook of Historical Archaeology, edited by Fellows Teresita Majewski and David Gaimster (Springer). The book’s thirty-five essays approach the subject of historical archaeology on a global scale, charting the spread of the discipline from its origins in the study of post-Columbian societies in the United States and Canada to its expansion into the post-medieval archaeologies of Europe and the post-imperial archaeologies of Africa, Latin America and Australasia. A consistent theme of the first part of the book, dealing with the key themes, ideas and issues, is the tension between the material remains derived from archaeological fieldwork and the evidence from contemporary texts and images, while the second part consists of a series of case studies charting the development and current state of historical archaeological practice around the world.

Gifts to the Library, April to June 2009

This brings up to date the list of gifts made to the Library in recent months. The Society is very grateful to all the donors of these books, full records of which can be found in the online catalogue. All these books are now available in the Library.

• From Alan Aberg, Fellow, Velislavova bible by Zdenek Uhlíř (2007) and Pictoria by Pavel Dvořák (2006)
• From the author, Sally Badham, Fellow, Monumental Brasses by Sally Badham with Martin Stuchfield, Fellow (2009)
• From the author, Christopher Evans, Fellow, Grounding Knowledge/Walking Land (2009)
• From the Director, Maurice Howard, Parham: an Elizabethan house and its restoration by Jayne Kirk (2009)
• From Peter Kuniholm, Fellow, Considering Questions of Market Infill in Medieval English Towns, a dissertation by Jennifer Diane Watkins (2009)
• From Vincent Megaw, Fellow, Studien zu Sozialen Strukturen der Historischen Kelten in Mitteleuropa aufgrund der Graberanalyse (2005), Keltische Funde (1980) and De la Meditérranée vers l’Atlantique, by Dominique Frere (2006)
• From the editor, John Owen, Fellow, The Manor of Davington in Kent (2006)
• From the author, David Phillipson, Fellow, Ancient Churches of Ethiopia (2009)
• From the author, Peter Saunders, Fellow, Channels to the Past: the Salisbury Drainage collection (2nd edition, 2009)
• From the author, Dale Serjeantson, Fellow, Cambridge Manuals in Archaeology: Birds (2009)
• From the editor, Brendan Smith, Fellow, Ireland and the English World in the Late Middle Ages (2009)
• From the author, Pamela Jane Smith, Fellow, A “Splendid idiosyncrasy”: prehistory at Cambridge 1915—50 (2009)
• From the co-author, Tim Tatton-Brown, The English Church: England’s 100 finest parish churches, by Tim Tatton-Brown and John Crook, Fellow (2005)
• From Dorothy Thorn in memory of James Thorn, Fellow, A Gazetteer of the Cyrene Necropolis, by Dorothy M Thorn and James C Thorn (2009)
• From Maurizio Tosi, Honorary Fellow, The Shahr-I Sokhta Graveyard (Sistan, Iran): excavation campaigns 1972—8, by M Piperno and S Salvatori (2007); Animali tra Uomini e Dei, by A Vitali (2006); L’immagine tra mondo Celtico e mondo Etrusco-Italico, by D Vitali (2003); Varia Archaeologica Hungarica X, by C Balint (2000); Scamuso: per la storia delle comunita umane, by F Biancofiore and D Coppola (1997); Excavations at Tepe Ghabristan, Iran, by Y Madjidzadeh (2008); Terre terreni territori, by M Gallina (2008); Le Fornaci e le anfore di Albinia, by D Vitali (2007); Primi Popoli d’Europa, by M Molinos and A Zifferero (2002); La Pittura Cristiana in Egitto, by S Pasi (2008); Guida al Museo Archeologico di Monterenzio “Luigi Fantini” (2006); Bere e Mangiare tra Etruschi, Celti e Romani nella Valle dell’Idice (2008); I bronzi degli Etruschi e dei Celti nella Valle dell’Idice (2006); and Ricerche intorno Gereonium (2008)
• From Pamela Tudor-Craig, Fellow, Love and Marriage in Renaissance Florence: the Courtauld wedding chests, by Caroline Campbell (2009)
• From the author, Tom Wilson, Fellow, A Narrow View across the Upper Thames Valley in Late Prehistoric and Roman Times (2008)
• From the author, Christopher Woolgar, Fellow, Wellington: his papers and the nineteenth-century revolution in communication (2009)