Salon Archive

Issue: 221

Salon news

The budget cuts to which the Society’s Treasurer alluded in his recently circulated letter to Fellows mean that Salon will appear less frequently in future: there will be fourteen issues over the next twelve months rather than twenty-four, and they will appear on the following dates: 5 Oct, 2 Nov, 23 Nov, 14 Dec 2009, 4 Jan, 25 Jan, 15 Feb, 8 March, 29 March, 20 April, 10 May, 7 June, 5 July, 2 Aug 2010. Bear this in mind when submitting contributions to the ‘Vacancies’ and ‘Events’ sections, so that copy reaches the editor by the Thursday prior to publication.

The main emphasis in Salon will continue to be on Fellows and their activities, along with a digest of informative (and entertaining) heritage news. While less frequent publication also means more pressure on space, contributions are very much welcomed, so do please continue to let the editor know of any news that you would like to share.

The Society’s IT consultants have also been asked to look into improvements to the distribution of Salon, which has proved to be erratic in the case of the last two issues. Many Fellows did not receive issue 220, originally published on 7 September, until three weeks later, when a decision was taken to send it out again because so many Fellows had complained of its non-arrival. A separate problem is the fact that Salon is being blocked by an increasing number of firewalls, which treat all emails sent out using a massmail programme as spam. If you cease to receive Salon, please do inform the editor, because the newsletter can then be sent as a personal email with a Word file attached — at least until a better solution is found.

Online voting in ballots

The ballot papers that were circulated to Fellows recently gave the impression that it was only possible to vote in person or by post and that the website can only be used to view Blue Papers. Alison Taylor, the Society’s Honorary Secretary, wishes to reassure Fellows that online balloting is available on the Fellows’ side of the Society’s website up to 10am on the day of the ballot. If you do not yet have a username and password to access the Fellows’ area and the balloting system, please apply to Jane Beaufoy, the Society’s Communications Officer.

Damaged copies of the Antiquaries Journal

We are very sorry that Cambridge University Press chose to send out copies of the newly published Volume 89 of the Antiquaries Journal in such negligible packaging; perhaps the aim was to impress the postal service with our new pictorial cover, but the resulting damage incurred in transit and when heavy journals land on hard floors, or are left out on the doorstep at the mercy of the rain, has not impressed the many Fellows who have complained about less than perfect copies. We have raised the matter with CUP, who has agreed to place all damaged copies and to review its packaging for next year. If you have a damaged copy and would like a replacement, please send an email to the Society.

Last week’s meeting

By coincidence, the subject of the Society’s first lecture of the year — given by Bruno Werz on 1 October concerning the wreck of the Bom Jesus, a sixteenth-century Portuguese trading vessel lost off the coast of Namibia in 1533 and excavated by an international team under the direction of Bruno Werz in 2008 — is also the subject of a feature in this month’s National Geographic magazine. The text of that article can be seen on the magazine’s website, as can a gallery of photographs taken during the excavation.

Forthcoming meetings

The full programme of meetings for the period 1 October to 17 December 2009 can be viewed on the Calendar of Weekly Meetings page of the Society’s website.

The next meeting takes place on 8 October 2009, when Gustav Milne, FSA, will give a paper on ‘Thames Discovery Programme: charting a new course for community archaeology?’, a joint lecture with the City of London Archaeological Trust. The Thames Discovery Programme is a community-based foreshore archaeology project set up to enable Londoners to take control over their own maritime heritage and play an effective and valuable role in the long-term monitoring and management of the archaeology of the inter-tidal zone. Previous surveys have found a rich array of fragile archaeological sites on the open foreshore, including submerged prehistoric forests, the remains of a Bronze Age ‘bridge’, Saxon fish traps, river stairs and jetties, waterman’s causeways and hulks and vessel fragments from boats barges and ships, often associated with foreshore ship yards. Because these sites are constantly being transformed by the daily scouring of the tidal Thames, many features seen in the past are no longer visible, while a range of fresh features constantly appears. The aim of this programme is thus not to carry out a once-and-for-all inventory, but to train a dedicated group of Londoners — the Foreshore Recording & Observation Group (FROG) — to undertake vital long-term monitoring work and to undertake annual re-surveying of the threatened foreshore archaeology of the Thames.

On 15 October 2009, Loyd Grossman, FSA, Chairman of the Churches Conservation Trust, will mark the CCT’s fortieth anniversary with a paper on ‘English Parish Churches: the next one thousand years’. Since the Trust’s formation in 1969 (as the Redundant Churches Fund), it has saved 342 historic churches, whose architecture, archaeology and history, memorials, wall paintings, woodwork and furnishings attract 1.5 million visitors a year (see the CCT’s website for further details). Public funding has been key to protecting historic churches in the past, but this is now in decline, so the Trust is leading the way in new thinking about innovative community, regeneration and arts uses, craft skills promotion and devolution to local communities. Alongside increased philanthropy and new membership schemes, the CCT believes these approaches will help to ensure the sustainable future of historic churches in the future.

On 22 October 2009, Dr Helen Rufus-Ward, of the Art History Department, University of Sussex, will give a paper on ‘Collecting Byzantium: nineteenth-century responses to Joseph Mayer’s Late Antique and Byzantine ivories’. In 1855 Liverpool goldsmith, jeweller and Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries Joseph Mayer (1803—86) purchased the Fejérváry ivory collection from Hungarian émigré Francis Pulszky. The paper will begin by examining images of Mayer, presented as a gentleman antiquarian surrounded by prized objects from his collection, including the fifth-century Asclepius—Hygieia ivory diptych. This will provide a starting point for an exploration of mid-nineteenth-century collecting of Byzantine ivories and the contrast between the negative response to the arts of Byzantium and the growing market for plaster cast ivory replicas (known as ‘fictile’ ivories).

On 26 October 2009, Professor William Shea, holder of the Galileo Chair of the History of Science at the University of Padua, at which Galileo himself taught for eighteen years, will give a paper in the Burlington House Lecture Series on ‘The New World of Galileo’, at 6pm in the Geological Society’s lecture theatre. Admission is free but by ticket only, available from Alys Hilbourne at the Geological Society (tel: 020 7432 0981). For more details see the Burlington House website.

On 5 November 2009, Simon Thurley, FSA, will give this year’s joint All-Party Parliamentary Archaeology Group lecture on ‘The Cloister and the Hearth: understanding medieval palaces’. Our meeting for that day will be held in the Macmillan Room, Portcullis House at 6pm for 6.30pm. The lecture is free, but numbers are limited. Fellows should contact Jola Zdunek, the Society’s Administrative Assistant (tel: 020 7479 7080) to book a ticket.

Finally, on 12 November 2009, at the Society’s Finds and Exhibits meeting, the spectacular Staffordshire Anglo-Saxon Hoard will be presented to Fellows by staff of the Portable Antiquities Scheme for discussion — for more on this, see ‘The Staffordshire Hoard’ story below.

Introductory tours of Burlington House

Four introductory tours of Burlington House will take place in the next twelve months, on 5 November 2009 and 18 February, 29 April and 24 June 2010. Designed for any Fellow not yet familiar with the Society’s library and museum collections, the tours are very popular and are limited to twenty-five Fellows per tour, so book early by contacting Jola Zdunek, the Society’s Administrative Assistant (tel: 020 7479 7080). Tours start at 11am (coffee from 10.30am) in the Council Room and will last about one-and-a-half hours followed, for those who wish to stay, by a sandwich lunch (for which a charge of £5 is made).

York Antiquaries forthcoming events

All Fellows are warmly invited to join the York Antiquaries at their next two events: a talk by John Hurd on the recently renovated historic buildings at Bootham School on 10 November 2009 (for details please contact Philip Lankester); and a lunch on 5 December 2009 (for details please contact Jim Spriggs).

The Staffordshire Hoard

The discovery of a large hoard of garnet-inlaid gold pommels, plates and collars from the handles of Anglo-Saxon swords was made known to the world at a press conference at the Birmingham Museum on 23 September, and resulted in some spectacular pictures in the press (you can, for example, see a 75-second film on the Daily Telegraph's website , in which our Fellow Kevin Leahy talks about the hoard at the press conference, with footage of the excavation in progress and of some of the objects after cleaning and conservation.

Much of the press coverage, somewhat predictably, focused on the monetary value of the hoard, and on the human-interest angle, made more poignant by the fact that the metal-detectorist who found and reported the hoard was unemployed but now stands to share a seven-figure sum with the landowner. Less was said about the challenge that museums face in raising such a sum to purchase the hoard at a time of straightened finances. As for the significance of the hoard, our Fellow and Council member Leslie Webster summed it up best when she said that the hoard is ‘the metalwork equivalent of finding a new Lindisfarne Gospels or Book of Kells; archaeologists and art-historians are going to have to rethink the chronology of metalwork, and think again about rising and failing kingdoms, the expression of regional identities in this period, the complicated transition from paganism to Christianity, the conduct of battle and the nature of fine metalwork production — to name only a few of the many huge issues it raises.’

The bare fact is that this hoard represents a massive increase in pure numerical terms in the quantity of material available to study from this period: substantial books have been written on the development of Anglo-Saxon metalwork on the basis of examples that can be counted in the tens, rather than hundreds. This hoard has, at the latest count, 1,346 items, of which 655 are of gold and 504 of silver. Stylistically the material dates from between the later sixth and the early eighth centuries AD, though this dating is based on the existing stylistic chronology for metalwork from this period, and it is already clear that these finds challenge that chronology, with motifs and styles that were once thought to be late perhaps occurring earlier than was previously thought.

The find spot is not being disclosed, but is said to lie near to Burntwood, in the Cannock Chase area of south Staffordshire, 4 miles west of Lichfield and about 10 miles west of the Mercian capital of Tamworth. Thorough excavation of the find spot shows that there are no associated structures or evidence of graves. The fact that the material was buried in several pits rather than one suggests ritual deposition, rather than burial with the intent to recover the material at a later date.

One explanation for the assemblage, which is quite distinct in its make up, and quite unlike burial assemblages of the period, is that it represents a ‘trophy hoard’, consisting of material seized in victory from vanquished enemies, perhaps by one of the bellicose kings of Mercia, such as Penda (633—55) or Wulfhere (658—75). If so, the material might well have come from many different parts of England, including Kent, Northumbria and East Anglia, and, if so, has the added potential for providing insights into regional styles at this period.

The hoard is currently on display at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, where visitors have been queuing in their thousands to view the finds (politicians take note: here is clear evidence of the popularity of the heritage) leading to a decision to open the museum earlier and close later until 13 October, when the artefacts are transferred to the British Museum for valuation. The longest opening day will be Saturday 10 October, when visitors are welcome from 9am until 11pm.

Fellows will be able to see and debate the contents of the hoard later this year, when staff of the Portable Antiquities Scheme present the hoard to the Society’s Finds and Exhibits meeting on 12 November. It promises to be an important event. Those unable to travel to Birmingham or attend our meeting can see pictures on the Staffordshire Hoard website, along with many pages of analysis and comment and a downloadable catalogue.

Bluehenge: who spilled the beans?

When our Fellow Mike Parker Pearson showed Fellows round this year’s Stonehenge Riverside Project excavations on 31 August 2009 he asked us not to report what we had seen until after the official press conference scheduled for January 2010. But yesterday (4 October 2009), literally hundreds of reports began to appear in newspapers from Mumbai to Sarasota, proof that it is difficult to keep a good story secret (one of the best reports, because of its clear graphics, is in the Daily Mail.

Mike and colleagues set out to investigate the point at which the Stonehenge Avenue was predicted to meet the River Avon in a paddock south of West Amesbury House. What they found was evidence not only that the Avenue does indeed continue to the river, but that the junction is marked by a ‘mini Stonehenge’, the evidence for which consists of the post pits and packing stones for a circle of twenty-seven stones. Chips and debris from those stones shows that they were of spotted dolerite, or bluestone, and the number of stones added to the number of Aubrey Holes at Stonehenge (which Mike believes originally held bluestones) adds up to the number of bluestones in the current arrangement of stones at Stonehenge. In other words, the builders dismantled this newly discovered stone circle (dubbed ‘Bluehenge’ by the media) and added them to the bluestones from the Aubrey Holes to create the Stonehenge that we know today, with its mix of sarsen trilithons and bluestones.

The dismantling of ‘Bluehenge’ was accompanied by the construction of a henge proper (a near circular earthwork with an external bank and internal ditch), and Mike has thrown out the intriguing suggestion that henges do not always mark the beginning of ritual activity at a site, but the ending or closure of the site. Equally speculative at this stage is the dating of all this activity, but by good fortune, antler picks have been found in secure contexts at ‘Bluehenge’ that mark the construction and dismantling phases of the stone circle: Mike would be very happy if these produce carbon dates of around 3000 BC for the construction and 2500 BC for the dismantling, which ties in with the tentative chronology for the first bluestone circle at Stonehenge and the construction of what survives at Stonehenge today.

What of the source of the bluestones? Our Fellow Rob Ixer is engaged in a petrological study to gather evidence for possible quarry sites; as well as the known source in the Preseli Hills of Carmarthenshire, he has identified that some of the bluestones could have come from the Brecon Beacons. The intriguing possibility is being opened up that the bluestones of Stonehenge might have been brought here from a number of sources in what might prove to be the early settlement sites of early Neolithic farmers.

For there is an increasing body of evidence to show (despite the long-held assumption that all innovation comes to Britain via the south east) that farming spread from the north and west: the earliest securely dated assemblages of charred domesticated grain occur in northern Ireland and further dated examples suggest that farming spread eastward into England via Scotland and Wales. Mike hypothesises that pioneering Neolithic farmers travelled eastwards in search of treeless and easily cultivatable land; they found it in what is now the Salisbury Plain, which, from environmental evidence, seems not to have been recolonised by forest after the Ice Age. They chose to memorialise their landing spot in this new landscape by building ‘Bluehenge’; they may also have found the evidence of older forms of commemorative activity in the form of the Mesolithic posts sited in what is now the Stonehenge car park, as well as periglacial features that by chance are aligned on the winter solstice, convincing them that this was a special landscape.

That, at least, is the story so far, and it is one that will no doubt evolve and be refined in due course; for as our Fellow and Council member Tim Darvill said, responding to the latest discoveries: ‘This adds to the richness of the story of Stonehenge. We thought we knew it all, but over the last few years we have discovered that something as familiar as Stonehenge is still a challenge to explore and understand. It wouldn’t surprise me if there weren’t more circles waiting to be found.’

British Museum amends planning application

Having had its planning application for its proposed new extension turned down by Camden’s planning committee in July, the British Museum has now submitted a revised application. In an interview with the Camden New Journal our Fellow Andrew Burnett said that the objections raised by the planning committee, relating to the ‘excessive bulk, scale, massing and inappropriate design’, had been addressed by putting more of the extension underground, thus countering one of the issues of great concern to the Amenity Societies that objected to the original design, the loss of natural light to the Arched Reading Room.

Andrew Burnett, the museum’s Deputy Director, stressed the need for the extension, saying that ‘we want a purpose-built exhibition space; conditions are imposed on us by lenders regarding temperature control and lighting; this will provide it’. Exhibitions, from which the museum derives valuable income, currently take place in the Round Reading Room, which means that views of what Andrew Burnett describes as ‘one of the finest interiors in Britain’ is compromised by temporary structures. There is also a pressing need to provide conservation workshops for some seventy staff, who constitute the largest conservation department in the UK, some of whom are currently working in basements in former kitchens in the Georgian terraces of Russell Square.

Critics say they support the museum’s wish to establish an exhibition area, transport hub and underground store on the site, and welcome the sinking of the south-west pavilion so that the large window at the west end of the Arched Room will no longer be blocked, but point out that the height of the main extension has not been reduced which means there will still be a loss of daylight to Burnet’s North Stairs and King Edward Building, described by our Fellow David Watkin in his letter of objection to Camden as ‘the finest piece of classicism built in Britain in the early 20th century’.

Our Fellow Hero Granger Taylor, speaking for the Camden Civic Society, said that ‘the trio of new openings to be cut into Smirke’s magnificent and recently restored Great Court north façade remain in the proposal’ and she questioned whether the conservators need to be housed on the Bloomsbury site, adding that ‘the top-lit glass studios proposed in the current scheme are in any case unsuitable for conservation; direct sunlight will cause endless problems for the Museum’s conservators’.

Camden proposes blanket Article 4(ii)s for Belsize, Hampstead and Swiss Cottage

When English Heritage focused on conservation areas at risk earlier this year, it encouraged the use of so-called Article 4(ii) directives as a means of protecting conservation areas, an instrument that adds an extra layer of protection by withdrawing permitted development rights (those that do not normally require planning permission, such erecting a porch, paving a front garden, erecting or demolishing boundary gates, fences and walls, altering the frontage, installing satellite dishes, and so on).

Such directives are seen as a key instrument in preserving the significance and character of conservation areas, but are normally applied to individual houses or a group of properties that are judged to make a special contribution to the character of the area. Now Camden Council has gone a step further and is proposing to remove permitted development rights in the entirety of the Belsize, Hampstead and Swiss Cottage conservation areas.

To do so the council must first consult residents, which it is doing via a website that explains why the special planning measures are being proposed, along with short films of residents talking about their area, why it is important to them and what they think of the proposals, along with clips from English Heritage’s conservation areas campaign.

Camden Council’s Executive Member for Planning, Andrew Marshall, said: ‘It’s vital we do everything we can to preserve the wealth of architectural detail in our conservation areas before it’s lost forever. We want as many local people as possible involved to protect our conservation areas and make them a source of local pride now and in generations to come.’ For further information see Camden Council’s ‘Join the conservation conversation’ website.

Moctezuma at the BM

The man we used to know as Montezuma (the ‘n’ being a transcription error that has stuck) is the subject of the British Museum’s latest exhibition, and the fourth in a series reappraising significant world leaders from the past (the first three being the Emperor Qing, Hadrian and Sha Abbas). Reigning from 1502 to 1520, Moctezuma is principally remembered for the final defining event of his reign, his apparently defeatist response to Spanish colonial ambitions, which brought about the end of Moctezuma’s Mexica empire.

The exhibition succeeds in challenging this interpretation, showing Moctezuma to have been a successful emperor and military leader (judged in terms of military prowess and imperial ambition) whose reign saw the Mexica empire reach its maximum extent. In other words, he was far from being the weak and uncertain leader all too ready to betray his people and surrender the independence of the Mexica to a foreign invader.

The fatal flaw in Moctezuma’s reign perhaps lay not in his character, but in the fifty-two-year calendric cycle of the Mexica. The end of the cycle was always associated with doom and disaster (the British Museum plays upon this with an exhibition soundtrack of ominous-sounding wind and a widescreen audiovisual of the menacing play of sunlight over Lake Texcoco and the distant smoking Popocatépetl), so when Cortés turned up, he was simply treated as an expected guest, possibly a deity, and nothing other than might be expected in a transition period from one cycle to the next.

The exhibition ends, like a John Fowles novel, with a choice of endings. What all make clear is that Moctezuma didn’t simply hand over his throne, and neither did Cortés inflict any kind of decisive defeat. The facts of the end of Moctezuma’s reign are simply not known in detail — he might have died at the hands of the Spanish, having outlived his usefulness as a hostage; he might have died at the hands of his own disappointed people, stoned by a mob. Those same people rose against the Spanish, forced them to flee Tenochtitlan, and elected Moctezuma’s brother, Cuitláhuac, as their new emperor. By the time the Spanish returned to besiege the city a year later, Cuitláhuac was dead, and before long so were 70 per cent of the city’s inhabitants: it was smallpox that did it, and not the actions of the conquistadors.

One leaves the exhibition with an uneasy sense of the brutality of a culture that depended on human blood as the cost of keeping the gods happy: chests are on display with Moctezuma’s monogram that were used for keeping the surgical implements used for royal blood letting; also on display is an urn into which the still-beating hearts of sacrificial victims were once placed. Moctezuma’s own coronation was ‘celebrated’ by the mass slaughter of battle captives. Some critics have condemned the British Museum for mounting the exhibition at all, saying that we should not celebrate such a cruel culture. This seems to blame the messenger for an uncomfortable message; but surely we are mature enough to cope with the unpleasant reality presented here not for celebration, but for reflection and debate.

Unexpected success at the Royal Academy

Equally uncomfortable is the latest exhibition at the Royal Academy. If you were in the shoes of our Fellow Charles Saumarez Smith, the RA’s Director, would you devote two of your rooms to a cannon that uses compressed air to shoot a 20-pound ball of crimson paint, wax and Vaseline at 50mph to splatter paint across walls, cornice and arches? And would you let the artist responsible for this sticky and haphazard mess also use the enfilade of arches linking five of your rooms for a slow-moving train carrying a 10-metre long bar of the same crimson paint, taller and wider than the arches through which it passes so that it squeezes through, spreading further slicks and lumps of thick red paint over floors and walls?

Such are two of the main exhibits at the Royal Academy’s latest show, featuring the work of Anish Kapoor. Elsewhere in the exhibition you can find works whose polished and mirrored surfaces are as clean as the red paint is messy, but distorting what they reflect; and elemental works of mud, rock and concrete. And the public loves it: Charles Saumarez Smith’s bravery has paid off and the exhibition has attracted double the number of expected visitors. ‘At the weekend, if I’m honest, there were too many people,’ he said, but then added: ‘It’s a nice problem to have.’

A tale of two ships: the future of HMS Victory and HMS Victory

The duplication in the title of this next report comes about because of two separate announcements, both concerning ships called HMS Victory. The first concerns the future of the wreck of the Victory that was lost in 1744 under the command of Admiral Sir John Balchin and that the American salvage company Odyssey Marine announced that it had located earlier this year.

Baroness Taylor, Minister for Defence Equipment and Support, has now announced that the Government intends to consult stakeholders on the future of the wreck. Her announcement said: ‘Following a Royal Navy survey vessel’s survey of the site in July, we will be releasing a detailed analysis of the wreck site. Due to the unique importance of this wreck for naval heritage, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Media, Culture and Sport will jointly be engaging in a process of consultation on the approaches that should be adopted for this wreck.’ The consultation process will start towards the end of the year ‘we will be encouraging all of those with an interest in British naval heritage and underwater archaeology to contribute’.

The MoD announcement emphasises that the wreck of Balchin’s Victory is ‘Sovereign Immune’ and remains the property of the Crown and that no intrusive action can be taken on it ‘without our express consent’. Even so, the UK Government is reported to have paid a salvage award of US$160,000 to Odyssey Marine for the two bronze cannon that the firm recovered from the wreck: a 12-pounder featuring the royal arms of George II and a 4-ton, 42-pounder bearing the crest of George I.

Odyssey Marine has since ceased legal proceedings in the US designed to confirm its right to salvage the ship and says that it plans to contribute US$75,000 of the award to support the new National Museum of the Royal Navy — the subject of the second part of this report.

Balchin’s Victory was the direct predecessor of Nelson’s Victory, about which an announcement was also made last month by Baroness Taylor at the launch of the National Museum of the Royal Navy in Portsmouth. The minister said that the ship would ‘remain a commissioned warship and flagship of the Second Sea Lord, fully funded and supported by the Royal Navy, with the new National Museum of the Royal Navy responsible for conservation, management and marketing’, putting paid to fears locally that HMS Victory’s funding could be at risk.

The new National Museum embraces four existing naval museums — the Royal Naval Museum in Portsmouth, the Submarine Museum in Gosport, the Fleet Air Arm Museum in Yeovilton and the Royal Marines Museum in Southsea. The museum’s director is our Fellow and Council member, Dominic Tweddle (pictured in the local Portsmouth newspaper proudly wearing his Society of Antiquaries tie. Dominic told the newspaper that the Royal Navy had been the only one of the armed services not to have a national museum. The aim of the new museum was ‘to retain the strong individuality of each existing museum, but pool resources in administration and management to promote the nation’s naval heritage more successfully’.

The MoD has earmarked £6.5m per year for the first three years of the new museum, where future plans include the possibility of bringing the Battle of Jutland veteran, the 1914 light cruiser HMS Caroline, currently in use as a reservist training ship in Belfast, to Portsmouth as an example of a twentieth-century battleship. Another possibility is putting a cover over Nelson’s Victory, which is currently open to the elements.

A tale of two computer museums

By contrast with the plans for the National Museum of the Royal Navy, campaigners for Bletchley Park say they are still short of the money they need to conserve the site that witnessed the birth of the computer, despite being awarded £500,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with the promise of £4.1m in due course towards a £10 million project to repair key buildings, improve visitor facilities and expand the museum’s educational programmes.

Dr Sue Black, of the Save Bletchley Park campaign and the University of Westminster, stressed that the award was ‘the end of the beginning, not the beginning of the end’, while Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the Heritage Lottery Fund, said: ‘Bletchley Park is an extraordinary part of the UK’s heritage.’ Even so, the Guardian newspaper, which has long backed the campaign, pointed to the very different attitude of US sponsors to the country’s digital heritage, citing the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, which is housed in ‘a magnificent, award-winning modern building, with a 370-seat auditorium and rooms for classes and corporate events, sponsored by high-tech companies and local universities, such as Stanford and the University of California at Berkeley’, with the National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park, which is housed in dilapidated huts and run by volunteers struggling with a massive repairs bill.

‘There is still time to rescue our digital heritage,’ the newspaper concludes, ‘while some of the men and women who created it are still alive, and many electronics components are still available. Ignore it for another five or 10 years, and it may well be too late.’

Personnel changes at Historic Scotland and the Department of Culture, Media and Sport

We welcome back Margaret Hodge, who has returned to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport as Minister for Culture and Tourism (which includes the heritage and museums brief) after a year out of Government on compassionate leave. Margaret Hodge stepped down almost a year ago to look after her seriously ill husband, Sir Henry Hodge, who died in June. Barbara Follett, who stepped into the role, has now been appointed to a junior ministerial job at the Department for Communities and Local Government.

John Graham has retired from his post as Chief Executive of Historic Scotland after a civil service career of thirty-seven years, the last five of which have been spent heading up Historic Scotland. Ruth Parsons has been appointed as interim Chief Executive and details of how the post will be filled on a permanent basis will be carried by Salon in due course.

The end of history?

Salon’s editor finds it very difficult to imagine what it is like to lack a sense of historical perspective. Without some sort of mental framework of what fits where, what came first and what followed, it is difficult to know how and why the world is the way it is; everything just becomes part of a miasmic unsorted ‘past’, which is simply deemed irrelevant, even as we commit errors that could have been avoided if we study similar actions from history.

Such thoughts are prompted by the debate that has been taking place over the summer following the publication of a Historical Association report saying that ‘History faces extinction in English schools’, because the subject has become side-lined in an over-crowded secondary-school time-table. Many secondary-school pupils receive less than one hour’s history teaching a week at the ages of eleven and twelve, and 30 per cent of schools no longer teach history as a stand-alone subject, with medieval history being squeezed out of the syllabus altogether, in favour of twentieth-century history. After the age of thirteen, when history ceases to be part of the core curriculum, only 30 per cent of pupils nationally study history to GCSE level, and that figure is in steep decline. This is despite 70 per cent of the pupils surveyed for the report saying that they enjoyed the subject; schools themselves are to blame for the demise of history, the report concludes, not students’ lack of interest.

Cuts at the National Archives

With that ominous thought in mind, we turn again to the National Archives. The last month has seen campaigners maintain the public pressure on TNA to reconsider its programme of cost-saving measures that will save 10 per cent of its running costs ( £4.2m) over the next three years but that will result in Monday closing and the redundancy of specialist staff. A letter from our Fellows Sir Patrick Cormack and Sir David Cannadine was published in The Times on 10 September, on behalf of the History of Parliament research project, arguing that the cuts are based on a ‘dangerously flawed’ strategy: that of providing online access to the records, rather than access to the real documents in the Kew search room.

‘Accurate cataloguing and indexing is essential if a greater amount of material is to be provided online’, the letter says, but ‘there is no evidence that TNA either currently has the capacity or intends to invest sufficient new resources to achieve this. Its existing digital products are poorly indexed, with the result that much information is, in practice, hidden from the researcher. Few of TNA’s other records are catalogued in a way that would make them easily accessible digitally. Its statistics on usage misunderstand and understate the use made of complex documents that are more difficult to present online.’

The letter concludes: ‘At no time has it been more important or more popular to understand our past. A properly funded and executed programme of digitisation would assist academic researchers and family historians to do just that. An underfunded and unprofessional one will help to shift TNA away from its vital and central tasks of conserving and understanding its collections and making them available to researchers of all kinds, functions for which its predecessor, the Public Record Office, was justly renowned.’

Another letter, this time to the Independent, questioned the soundness of TNA’s financial management, stating that: ‘A recent advert for a new financial director [at a salary in excess of £90,000], the fourth such appointment this year, states “The Finance team is still very much in transition, having got the basics of finance operations right, but still developing (and at an early stage of developing) the analysis and management accounting support that the business needs. To support the challenges detailed above, the Finance team needs to raise its game quickly.”’ The letter concludes: ‘TNA needs to set its house in order and not penalise its users’.

Meanwhile, a group of historians, academics, independent researchers, archive sector professionals and regular users of archives who are concerned about the challenges facing archives in the UK generally, as well as the specific proposals at TNA, have set up a campaign website. The difficulties they face, however, are illustrated by the updates on the website, which chart historian Nick Barratt’s attempts on behalf of the Action 4 Archives campaign to obtain information from TNA management so anti-cuts campaigners can contribute constructively to the consultation process; ‘how can we draw up alternative plans’, he complains, if we don’t have access to the information on how, for example, closing one day a week is supposed to save half a million?’

The campaigners have found support amongst Liberal Democrat MPs: Susan Kramer, the constituency MP for TNA, has taken up the cause and Liberal Democrat Shadow Chancellor, Vince Cable has also backed the campaign, saying that: ‘This is an object lesson on how not to cut public expenditure: poor consultation and disproportionate cuts in service provision relative to senior management, which has created many of the problems.’ The most recent posting on the campaign website urges supporters ‘to continue to write to your MPs with your comments and views’.

Campaigns can win the day

Sometimes it feels as if campaigning for the heritage is futile in the face of the might of organisations and people determined to get their own way and pursue their narrow objectives single-mindedly without regard for the broader issues (in case anyone wants to know what prompted that comment, it comes after reading an especially depressing feature in the latest SPAB magazine, the excellent Cornerstone, reporting on the destruction of a complete seventeenth-century planned village (Doel, in west Flanders), including the Flemish baroque Hooghuis, where Rubens spent his summers in retreat from the heat and noise of Antwerp, to make way for Antwerp’s expanding port).

But here is some news of a victory that shows we should never give up, no matter how apparently hopeless the cause. Salon 209 reported in March this year on the campaign to save the Hotel Lambert in Paris from developers who wanted, laughably, to undertake ‘a radical transformation’ (for which read ‘conversion to modern luxury apartments’) of what has been described as a ‘bravura piece of seventeenth-century Parisian domestic architecture, designed by Le Vau and decorated by Le Brun’ beautifully sited at the tip of the Ile de Saint-Louis. The developers planned to transform the building into ‘an imaginary, idealised version of the original’, begging the question what was wrong with just leaving the original alone?

Well, the good news is that the Association pour la Sauvegarde et Mise en Valeur du Paris Historique has won its legal battle to prevent the development from going ahead. Having applied for the French equivalent of a judicial review of the planning permission granted by the Ministry of Culture on 11 June 2009, the judicial tribunal ruled on 15 September 2009 that the permission should be suspended, accepting all the arguments put to it by the campaigners, which, in a nutshell, amount to a huge body of evidence from conservationists internationally that the plans for Hotel Lambert are the polar opposite of best practice in the field of restoration (for the precise text of the judgement see the campaign website).

Further good news from France is reported in the same issue of Cornerstone as the sad story about the fate of Doel. This time the news concerns the decision of the French President, Nikolas Sarkozy, to include heritage in the package of economic measures designed to stimulate the French economy in the face of recession. Cornerstone reports that 100m euros (£87m) will be spent on repairs to around one hundred châteaux and seventy-five cathedrals to promote employment and maintain craft skills in a sector dear to French hearts. Speculating whether the same could happen here, the magazine argues that both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats have ‘promised millions extra for the heritage sector, with both parties promising to change the way the Lottery is run — this being political code for ‘spending lottery funds on real heritage rather than on social action’, as well as an end to VAT on building repairs and maintenance.

Wales also has a positive vision for the heritage

A new survey to identify twentieth-century assets of historic importance in Wales and a register of Welsh battlefields are among the priorities set out in the Strategic Direction Statement for the Historic Environment of Wales, published by the Heritage Minister, Alun Ffred Jones (see the Cadw website). Speaking about the statement, the Minister said: ‘Nurturing a living sense of what it is to be a citizen of Wales is a key priority for the Assembly Government. Our objective is therefore to help all people in Wales to gain at least some sense of the historic environment in which they live. We are all part of the story and the buildings and the archaeology around us help to give a sense of place.’

The vision statement sets out actions to conserve and protect the historic environment, promote heritage-led regeneration, develop imaginative and stimulating ways for people to access Welsh heritage and to foster new research and learning into Welsh heritage. The Minister also committed to convening a Heritage Summit in 2010 to discuss heritage interpretation and the links between heritage and the arts.

The statement draws on the work of the Historic Environment Group, which advises the Welsh Assembly ministers, a group that includes several Fellows: notably Peter Wakelin (RCAHMW), Gwilym Hughes (Cadw), Richard Brewer (NMGW), Richard Kelly (CCW), Emma Plunkett-Dillon (the National Trust), Andrew Marvell (Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust ) and Bill Britnell (CPAT, representing the Welsh Archaeological Trusts).

Cathedral Grants Scheme to close

Emphasising how urgently needed is what our Fellow Philip Venning, Secretary of the SPAB, refers to in Cornerstone as ‘secure and strategically planned funding for the heritage, and recognition that historic buildings are central to the nation’s cultural, educational and aesthetic wellbeing, and that their sensitive repair and maintenance make good economic sense’ comes from news that English Heritage is to close its Cathedral Grants Scheme at the end of this year. Our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said that the cuts were unavoidable and blamed the Government for squeezing his organisation’s funding. ‘Our budgets are under terrible pressure,’ he said. ‘We are making the case to the Government that we need more money for churches and cathedrals, but at the moment heritage does worse than sport, art and museums.’

In its annual report, published last week, the Cathedrals Fabric Commission (CFC) shows that nearly £200 million is needed over the next decade to carry out essential repairs just to Church of England cathedrals. Frank Field, the Labour MP who chairs the CFC, says in the report that English cathedrals are in good condition and are well cared for because of constant maintenance, but that ‘this finest collection of historic buildings in England will again be at risk if the major repair and conservation strategies planned for the next ten years are not carried through’.

The response from the Department of Culture, Media and Sport said: ‘It’s a competition [for funding] and not everyone can have everything they want. The case made by other sectors was more convincing than that made by the heritage sector.’

DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund to ‘pause’

Another cut — albeit billed as a temporary pause — was announced by Barbara Follett just before she departed from the role of Culture Minister in a statement saying that annual grants of £4m given to museums and galleries to help improve displays and facilities under the DCMS/Wolfson Museums and Galleries Improvement Fund would be suspended in 2010—11 to ‘allow both parties to assess what the Fund has achieved in the last eight years and use this as a basis for looking at how it could add value in future years’.

Morwellham Quay’s future in the balance

Even our internationally designated sites are vulnerable, as the case of the Morwellham Quay open-air museum in Devon illustrates. Part of the West Devon and Cornwall Mining Landscape World Heritage Site, the museum faces an uncertain future, having had its funding from Devon County Council withdrawn, leaving the museum to face an annual deficit of around £1m. According to BBC BBC News, the county council has withdrawn its funding because a requested business plan has not been received. The Trust that runs the site denies this, and says that £5m of investment from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Government Office for the South West and the Regional Development Agency will be lost if the Trust has to go into liquidation.

Morwellham Quay is a complete Victorian mining port on the River Tamar, once the largest inland port in Britain, exporting huge quantities of copper ore from the Great Consul Mine. Part of the mine itself still remains open as an underground tour (with an underground pumping engine powered by a waterwheel). Run along similar lines to the pioneering Ironbridge Museum, visitors have free access to the site, paying only for car parking and the mine tour.

Museums Association ethics committee publishes its advice to Southampton City Council

The last issue of Salon reported the storm of protest whipped up by a proposal by Southampton City Council to sell three works from its collections (After the Race, by Alfred J Munnings, Eve, by Auguste Rodin, and Crouching Woman, also by Rodin) to raise up to £5m in funding for a cultural quarter in Southampton City Centre, including a new Sea City museum telling the story of Titanic.

Members of the ethics committee of the Museums Association have since received information from councillors on the proposed disposals, and have issued advice to the City Council on where they stand in relation to the MA’s Code of Ethics. Caitlin Griffiths, the association’s head of professional issues, said that while the majority of the MA’s requirements for this type of sale had been met, they have not all been met — most especially the requirement that all funding sources should be explored and that any sale should be a last resort.

‘Currently we are not persuaded that the proposed sale of works from the art collection is a last resort’, the advice says. ‘From the evidence presented it appears premature to conclude that all other sources of funding have been thoroughly explored … fundraising appears to be at an early stage and a period of time would seem necessary to demonstrate what funds could be raised from [other] sources. If it has not been possible to raise funds from other sources by mid-2010 we are likely to be more ready to accept that the proposed sale is a last resort.’

UK National Heritage Science Strategy report number three now out

The House of Lords Science and Technology Committee inquiry into science and heritage, held in 2006, recommended that the sector should formulate a UK-wide strategy for heritage science, covering both movable and immovable heritage. This September, the last of three reports written to underpin the development of the strategy has been produced and is now available to download from the National Heritage Science Strategy website.

This third report is about understanding capacity in the heritage science sector. It reviews the numbers of scientists currently working in the heritage field and considers what they do and where they work. It explores gaps in capacity where demand exceeds current provision, along with arrangements for funding and training. Recommendations are drawn up under three general themes covering practitioner capacity and capability, access to information and infrastructure and funding and its public benefit.

The first and second reports are also still available on the website, along with two documents summarising the sector’s responses to these reports. During October and November the steering group will develop some preliminary ideas about the strategy itself. A stakeholder meeting will take place on 25 November at the New Armouries in the Tower of London; anyone wishing to attend should complete the form on the website home page. Further information on any of these matters can be had by contacting the co-ordinator, Jim Williams.

America’s first archaeologically excavated cementation steel furnace

Fellow Ian Burrow, along with Richard Hunter, both of Hunter Research, write to say that they have been engaged over the last twelve months in the extensive archaeological excavation of deep urban deposits on either side of the now-underground stream of Pettys Run in Trenton, New Jersey. Of the multiple eighteenth- and nineteenth-century features on the site, the most significant are the remains of a steel operation established in the 1740s, which operated for about forty-five years. Fewer than twenty steel furnaces are documented from eighteenth-century North America, and this is believed to be the only example to have been archaeologically excavated to date.

Foundations of a large stone-walled building in the south-west part of the site enclosed just enough of what is probably the base of the actual furnace. This was an almost square brick and stone footing that probably supported an overlying chamber within which was a large chest. The ‘cementation’ process, by which steel was predominantly being made in eighteenth-century Britain and America, functioned by essentially ‘baking’ wrought iron bars in a cocoon of charcoal inside such chests. For musings on the project and images, Ian invites Salon readers to visit the dedicated Big Trent Project website, and suggests careful perusal of the item posted on 1 April 2009!


Fellow Nicholas Rogers writes to say that ‘Fellows interested in the post-mortem history of Cromwell’s head will find all the essential facts (except the present location of the head) in a pamphlet, Cromwell and Sidney Sussex, by Christopher Parish, FSA, and myself, copies of which are still available from the College. For a more extended discussion see Jonathan Fitzgibbons, Cromwell’s Head, published by The National Archives in 2008. Both publications contain photographs of the head, which is still on the remains of the spike on which it was impaled on the south end of Westminster Hall.’

Fellow Peter Salway adds a further reference, in the form of an article by Christopher Parish, FSA, in the volume published to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the foundation of Sidney Sussex College: Parish, C 1996. ‘The posthumous history of Oliver Cromwell’s head’, in D E D Beales and H B Nisbet (eds), Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge: Historical Essays in Commemoration of the Quatercentenary, Woodbridge, pp 105—10.

Peter adds: ‘Only one of the persons present at the burial of the head on 25 March 1960 is still alive. However, the exact location is known — but, as you say, unmarked (it was, incidentally, in the chapel, not the court). At the time there was some apprehension that it might be the subject of IRA attention. Christopher Parish comes to the same conclusion as Arthur MacGregor (that the most likely candidate is the Sidney Sussex head). He ends his paper with a brief review of the various mutually contradictory reports about what happened to the rest of the body after Tyburn, none of them including a return to Westminster Abbey.’

Two final witty comments on the question of addressing members of the clergy. Fellow Paul Harvey says that: ‘Crockford and others lost the battle long since in what they see as correct usage with Reverend. In 1995 I concluded a book review with the words: “May the reviewer be allowed a personal postscript? Never, he imagined, would he live to see, in a book published by Oxford University Press under the aegis of Christ Church, the crowning solecism ‘the Reverend Salter’ (p.106). But enquiry among younger lettered friends shows that he, unlike learned institutions in Oxford, has merely failed to move with the times.”‘ And from Fellow Peter Kuniholm comes a stout defence of American linguistic practice: ‘Fellow David Parsons asks Salon to avoid this ‘Americanism’, but I have never seen “Revd X” used in any American newspaper: certainly not in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Wall Street Journal, nor even in any lesser rag. Harrumph!’

Thank you to all those many Fellows who pointed out that the portrait of Prince Arthur that graces the cover of Arthur Tudor, Prince of Wales: life, death and commemoration, edited by Steven Gunn and our Fellow Linda Monckton, is not one of the Society’s paintings, although it is very much in the same style as our own Tudor portraits (including a portrait of Henry VII, which is used inside the book in Fred Hepburn’s contribution); instead, the Arthur Tudor portrait comes from a private collection at Hever Castle.

Death notices and obituaries

It is with more than usual feelings of regret that we have to record the death of our Fellow and Council member, Sarah Jennings, who died on 4 September 2009, having suffered a brain haemorrhage four days previously. Brian Kerr, Sarah’s colleague at English Heritage, is co-ordinating tributes from friends and colleagues: contributions can be sent to Brian so that her family can gain a fuller appreciation of the range and impact of Sarah’s work over forty years, during which she developed an unparalleled expertise in the study of medieval and post-medieval ceramics, but was also an internationally respected expert in Roman and Eastern Mediterranean glass, and was strongly committed to training and outreach work within the archaeological community and beyond.

After working in Winchester, Norwich, London and York she became Senior Archaeologist at English Heritage, where she continued to work on the development of medieval pottery studies as well as taking a leading role in the long-running research project on Whitby Abbey Headland, which she latterly directed. She was a member of the Medieval Pottery Research Group and of the Association for the History of Glass among other groups.

Sarah’s premature death leaves a huge gap that will be very difficult to fill, not only at English Heritage and in the wider world, but also at the Society.

The Society has also been informed of the deaths of Richard Hatchwell, FSA, of Malmesbury, and of the Revd John Reynolds, FSA, of Oxford.

An obituary for our late Fellow Paul Ashbee was published in The Times on 30 September 2009, and can be read on the Obituaries page of the Society’s website. One is also planned for the Guardian, and this will also be posted on the site as soon as it is published. Also on that same webpage is a photograph of Paul Ashbee at Sutton Hoo in 1968, along with a memoir of that excavation contributed by Eric Houlder (Past Chairman of CBA Yorkshire; Archaeology Editor, Royal Photographic Society Archaeology & Heritage Group) who worked as a supervisor for Paul at Sutton Hoo in the late 1960s. By chance, it was Paul Ashbee who wrote the obituary for Humphrey Case that appeared in the Guardian on 18 September 2009, and this too has been added to the website.

We are also grateful to David Dymond and John Blatchly for an obituary for our late Fellow Peter Northeast, which has also been posted on the website.


15 October, repeated on 22 October 2009, Architectural Drawings Study Day, 10:30am—4:30pm, at Sir John Soane’s Museum. Our Fellow Jill Lever, former Curator of the Royal Institute of British Architects Drawings Collection, and author of the Soane museum’s catalogue of drawings by George Dance, is now cataloguing Soane’s large collection of architectural drawings, on which this study day, exploring the history, methods and practice of architectural drawings, will be based. A practising architect will also talk about drawing now and the variety of types and purposes of architectural drawings and Stephen Astley, Curator of Drawings, will show examples from Soane’s collection, including drawings by Christopher Wren, Robert Adam, William Chambers and, of course, Soane and his office. To book a place (£25; £10 for students; price includes sandwich lunch) please contact Satinder Bhatti (tel: 020 7440 4263.

21 October 2009, ‘The Ammonite Capital’, a paper by John Cooper to be given in the Seminar Room of Number 14, Lincoln’s Inn Fields, at 6pm for 6.30pm. Places must be booked in advance by contacting Beth Walker (tel: 020 7440 4254). This talk will chart the origins, rise and fall of the ammonite capital as an architectural device and will consider the careers of the builder/architect partnership Amon Wilds (c 1762—1833) and his son Amon Henry Wilds (c 1785—1857) amongst others, including Gideon Mantell (1790—1852), the dinosaur discoverer of Sussex.

24 October 2009, ‘Time and Tide’, 9.30am to 4pm at the Landmark Theatre, Ilfracombe, a day of talks on the archaeology and history of the North Devon coast, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the North Devon Archaeological Society and North Devon AONB. Speakers include Fellow Frances Griffith (Devon County Archaeologist) on the archaeology of the North Devon landscape from the air, Vanessa Straker (English Heritage), on environmental change in the Severn Estuary and coastal levels in the last 10, 000 years, Fellow Nicholas Orme (formerly of Exeter University) on the medieval church in North Devon, Peter Claughton (Exeter University) on the coastal mining landscape of North Devon, and Richard Bass (military historian) on the North Devon Coast 1943—4. Bookings £12 (including buffet); £5 (without buffet), by cheque payable to NDAS/NDRA, should be sent to Margaret Reed, 58 Littabourne, Barnstaple EX31 1PU (tel: 01272 325276).

24 October 2009, ‘Desperate Romantics: Ruskin, the Rector and the Pre-Raphaelites at Easthampstead’, 7.30pm, a lecture by Dr Cynthia Gamble (Visiting Fellow of the Ruskin Library and Research Centre at Lancaster University and Vice-Chairman of the Ruskin Society) exploring the personalities and social networks that led Ruskin, Morris, Burne-Jones, the O’Shea brothers, Hugall, Jackson and others to become involved in the rebuilding and beautifying of the small manorial church of St Michael in Easthampstead, Berkshire, which is also the venue for the lecture. See St Michael’s Church website for further details.

7 November 2009, The 27th Brixworth Lecture will be given by our Fellow Dr Richard Gem at 5pm in All Saints’ Church, Brixworth (tea in the Heritage Centre from 4pm), on ‘Brixworth and the liturgical ordering of Anglo-Saxon churches’. Full details are on the Brixworth Lecture Series website.

Books by Fellows

Apologies to all those other Fellows who have sent in details of their recently published works: Salon’s editor has run out of time and space, but will try to catch up with the next issue.


English Heritage: two Commissioner Posts; closing date 12 October 2009
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is seeking to appoint individuals with expertise in the management of historic property, and in accountancy as Commissioners of English Heritage. Further details from the DCMS website.

Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites Local Authority Archaeology member; closing date 12 October 2009
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is seeking to appoint a person with a background of working with archaeology for a local authority in the UK as a member of the Advisory Committee on Historic Wrecks Sites (ACHWS). Further details from the DCMS website.