Salon Archive

Issue: 226

Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle: funeral arrangements

We begin this issue of Salon with the sad news of the death of our Fellow Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle, wife of our Fellow Martin Biddle. Birthe died on 16 January 2010 after her heroic two-year fight against cancer.

Before she died, on 5 January 2010, our Fellows Martin Henig and Nigel Ramsay were able to present Birthe and Martin with the proofs of a joint Festschrift, to be published shortly in their honour by Archaeopress under the title Intersections: the archaeology and history of Christianity in England 400—1200. Martin Henig says that ‘Birthe was enormously pleased by it — and especially by the tribute paid to her by our Royal Fellow, the Queen of Denmark’.

Obituaries for Birthe are in preparation: Salon, meanwhile, is grateful to David Davison at Archaeopress for permission to reprint extracts from the Festschrift’s encomium by way of a brief interim appreciation of Birthe’s life and achievements (see ‘Obituaries’, below).

Birthe’s funeral will take place at 1pm on Thursday 28 January 2010, in Winchester Cathedral, appropriately enough, since it was this building to which she gave so much of her life (or, rather, to its Saxon predecessor, the Old Minster, and to the grave and shrine of St Swithin, which she excavated with Martin in the 1960s).

Many Fellows will be attending the funeral, and all are welcome, both to the funeral and to the reception to be held immediately afterwards in the nave of the cathedral. Birthe’s family have asked that donations in lieu of flowers should be made to the Ovarian Cancer Action charity or to the Sobell House Hospice via the funeral directors; Richard Steel and Partners, 12—14 City Road, Winchester SO23 8SG.

The Society’s Ordinary Meeting for that day will go ahead as planned, and there are trains from Winchester at 14.48, 14.54, 15.18 and 15.24, all of which should get to London in time to reach Burlington House by 17.00.

Forthcoming meetings

Thursday 28 January: ‘Excavating the Excavator: Jacquetta Hawkes’s biography as archaeology’, by Christine Finn, FSA

Jacquetta Hawkes, FSA, archaeologist, writer and broadcaster, died in 1996, leaving a legacy little known to contemporary archaeologists. This was a life which needed raising and illuminating, and from the moment that Christine Finn became involved with the assemblage of books, papers, artefacts and memories found and gathered in a variety of locations, she has worked with the material as a form of fieldwork. In this paper, Christine will show how the practices of writing biography and doing archaeological excavation intersect and inform each other, and help to reveal the life and work of Jacquetta Hawkes (see also ‘Jacquetta Hawkes, a life online’ and Christine’s article, ‘Carnal knowledge’ — on Hawkes’s relationship with J B Priestley, in the Sunday Times of 24 July 2005.

Thursday 4 February: ‘Finds and Exhibits’ meeting. Maurice Byrne, FSA, and Michael Wright, FSA, will present a newly discovered Iron Age Irish riveted horn, discussing its construction and position amongst the very few other known examples of this type.

Thursday 11 February: ‘“The castle, I am building, of my ancestors”: creating and collecting at Strawberry Hill’, to be given by Michael Snodin, FSA

Thursday 18 February: ‘The International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS): today and tomorrow’, by Donald Hankey

Thursday 25 February: ‘From 1510 to 2012: the challenges of building a new museum for the Mary Rose’, by Christopher Dobbs, FSA

Thursday 4 March: ‘Sark: a sacred isle’, by Barry Cunliffe, FSA

New Year Honours 2010: the one that got away

One honour slipped undetected past the eagle eyes of Salon’s editor (and his various helpers) in the last issue — but our Fellow Henry Russell was created an OBE for his role as Chairman of the National Association of General Commissioners of Income Tax, so we might be forgiven for the oversight. Many of us know Henry better for his conservation work at the Mount Athos monastery and for his huge range of voluntary and professional work, as Chairman of the Gloucester Diocesan Advisory Committee, as Course Director of the Programme in Conservation of the Historic Environment at Reading University, as a trustee of the Georgian Group, the Conference on Training in Architectural Conservation and the Woodchester Mansion Trust, as a member of the boards of the AABC (Architects Accredited in Building Conservation), the ICOMOS-UK Education and Training Committee, the National Heritage Education and Training Working Group and the English Stone Forum … really Henry deserves his OBE for multiple contributions to public life (and a special award for his skills in multi-tasking and time management!).

Salon: non extinguitur

Salon’s editor learned last week that funds have been found to restore Salon to fortnightly publication — at least until the next global economic crisis comes along to force difficult decisions upon our Treasurer. In part we have the generosity of our late Fellow Marion Gilchrist Wilson to thank for this. Marion’s recent bequest of £260,000 was left to the Society specifically to support research and publication. Half of this sum has been allocated to endowing the Society’s Minor Grants scheme (see the Grants pages of the Society’s website, and further sums have been set aside to enable the Society to prepare its picture catalogue and the Henry VIII inventory volumes for publication, but a small amount has also been found to support Salon, which should probably be renamed the Marion Wilson Bulletin in our late Fellow’s honour.

For Salon’s editor, it means fewer weekends off, but it does restore the topical edge to Salon that has been lacking over the last four months — and it means that the large backlog of news and book reviews that has built up over the last few months now stands a chance of being aired — but don’t let that stop you sending in any new news that you might wish to share with Salon readers: of books, awards and achievements, events, job vacancies or campaigns and issues that you feel Fellows should be aware of. It also means the prospect (Deo volente) of reaching issue 250 about this time next year — surely an excuse for a party!

Call for Journal Reviews Editor and advisers

Whilst calling for contributions to Salon, the Society would also like to hear from an aspiring Antiquaries Journal Reviews Editor. Our Fellow Carola Hicks has shouldered this task for the last two volumes, and we are very grateful for her hard work and tenacity in the post. Salon’s editor has also served as the Journal’s Reviews Editor in the past and so knows that the major challenge is to try to achieve a balanced set of book reviews that covers the most important titles published during the year in the many different disciplines that are of interest to Fellows. Fellows themselves are often willing reviewers of each other’s books, but the trick is to get to the right Fellow before they commit to reviewing the book for another publication.

If all of this sounds fiendishly difficult, help is at hand. The Society’s Library staff have agreed to provide a simple monthly report listing new acquisitions. The Reviews Editor’s task will be to send this out to the members of a panel of advisers (each of whom will take responsibility for a period or specialism) whose job will be to identify books they think should be reviewed and suggest the names of suitable reviewers (of course, panel members can also propose books for review that are not on the library acquisition list, and we would also be very happy if panel members felt able to write one of the reviews themselves).

So, if you would be willing to take on the task of Reviews Editor, or to serve as a member of the advisory panel, please send an email to the Journal Editor, Kate Owen.

Remote access to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

Those of us who have signed up to the Society’s ATHENS gateway are now able to gain access to a body of online periodicals to which the Library subscribes, from our own desks. The process of registering is swift and efficient, and the Society’s Library staff are happy to respond to Fellows’ requests for further titles to be added to the ATHENS interface. Already, for example, the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography has been added to the list, following the request of several Fellows. For further information, see the Library page on the Fellows’ side of the Society’s website.

Ædgyth comes home

When Salon 208 reported in March 2009 that the possible grave of Ædgyth, wife of the Holy Roman Emperor Otto I and grand-daughter of Alfred the Great, had been found in Magdeburg Cathedral, our Fellow Mark Horton immediately contacted the German excavation team to offer the services of his Bristol University Department of Archaeology and Anthropology in carrying out further test to confirm her identity. Mark reasoned that if the bones were indeed those of Ædgyth, as the sixteenth-century inscription on her sarcophagus stated, isotopic analysis of her bone and teeth should reflect a childhood spent drinking water from a chalk landscape, as one of the few facts we have about Ædgyth is that she was born in Wessex in AD 910.

Even before the tests have begun, the media seized on the story — less for the archaeology, and more for the ‘royal’ connection. As Mark explained on BBC News on 20 January, the day that a conference was convened at Bristol to discuss the find and its context, ‘her blood runs in the veins of every royal family in Europe … and this find may prove to be the oldest complete remains of a member of the English royal family’.

Ædgyth was born into a powerful royal dynasty. She was the daughter of Edward the Elder (who ruled England from AD 899 to 925) and half-sister of Æthelstan (who reigned from AD 925 to 940, and who was the first to claim the title ‘king of all Britain’ after defeating the Scots at the Battle of Brunanburh in 937). It was Æthelstan who, in the words of our Fellow Maev Kennedy, reporting the story in the Guardian, ‘packed Ædgyth and her sister, Adiva, off to Otto in AD 929 as a diplomatic gift, inviting him to take his pick’. Otto chose Ædgyth, and they had at least two children before she died in 946. Her devotion to the cult of Saint Oswald, the seventh-century warrior king of Northumbria, led to the founding of several monasteries and churches dedicated to St Oswald in Saxony.

Ædgyth’s later monument in Gothic Magdeburg Cathedral was thought to be empty until archaeologists found a stone sarcophagus with an inscription recording the re-interment of her remains in 1510. When opened, the sarcophagus was found to contain a lead coffin, within which were found the bones of the deceased, along with the remains of a silk pall. The project to study the remains is being led in Germany by Professor Harald Heller of the Landesmuseum für Vorgeschichte in Saxony-Anhalt, who said: ‘We are still not completely certain that this is Ædgyth, although all the scientific evidence points to this interpretation. In the Middle Ages bones were often moved about, and this makes definitive identification difficult.’

Stonehenge visitor centre gets green light but road closure decision faces delays

English Heritage is celebrating the fact that Wiltshire Council’s Strategic Planning Committee voted twelve to one in favour of the proposed Stonehenge Visitor Centre on 20 January, but another big hurdle has still to be faced: the associated closure of the A344 road, which leads past the current visitor centre, bringing traffic within feet of the monument.

Public consultation on a separate Traffic Regulation Order to close the road ends on 10 February, and because this is an A road, there is always the possibility that the outcome of the consultation will be a decision to go to public inquiry — a process often favoured by the heritage community for ensuring that conservation arguments get a fair hearing, but in this case likely to cause further delay and uncertainty.

English Heritage is hoping that supporters of the scheme to close the road and restore the Stonehenge landscape, re-uniting the monument and the Avenue, will respond to the consultation in such overwhelming numbers that the expense and delay of a public inquiry will be deemed unnecessary.

Fellows are urged to support the road closure: further details explaining how to respond to the consultation can be found on the Stonehenge Visitor Centre website.

Iron Age torques on display at the National Museum of Scotland

Four Iron Age neck rings are on display at the National Museum of Scotland from now until 10 February 2010. The third- to first-century BC torques were discovered in Stirlingshire in September 2009 by metal detectorist, David Booth. Our Fellow Fraser Hunter says that they constitute the most important hoard of Iron Age gold found in Scotland to date.

Two of the four neck ornaments are ribbon torques, so called because they are made by twisting a long ribbon of gold to create a spiral, which is then bent into a circle and closed by means of interlocking hooks. Around 120 examples are known from the UK and Ireland, and the distribution pattern suggests a manufacturing centre in Northern Ireland. The third piece consists of two broken segments of an annular torque, of a type more common in south-west France, while the fourth is a looped terminal torque made from eight interwoven gold wires decorated with thin threads and chains. This combines local and Mediterranean features and Dr Hunter describes it as a ‘missing link’ between the two styles. ‘It could’, he said, ‘have been made by a smith who had learned his craft in the Mediterranean, but had combined it with the local style.’

Excavations at the site of the find have revealed that the torques were buried within a timber round house, either for safekeeping within someone’s home, or placed within a shrine as a votive offering. Photographs and further information can be found on the National Museums Scotland website.

Fire at St Mel’s Cathedral

Very bad news came out of Ireland in the early hours of Christmas Day 2009, when fire destroyed St Mel’s Cathedral in Longford. The cathedral itself was a fine classical building of 1840—56. An even greater loss was the Treasury, which housed the Ardagh and Clonmacnoise diocesan museum, whose chief treasures are now feared lost or seriously damaged.

They include the tenth-century St Mel’s Crozier, the eighth-/ninth-century iron bell from Co Offaly, a twelfth-century bronze bell, one of only two medieval Limoges crozier heads in Ireland and the sixteenth-century book-shrine of St Caillín. The museum also housed liturgical plate, ‘penal’ crucifixes, papal bullae and a host of other artefacts, including prehistoric bronzes and lithics. Our Fellow Cormac Bourke described the Treasury as ‘the closest thing in Ireland to a cathedral treasury on Continental lines’ and said its loss was ‘second only to that of the Dublin Public Records Office in 1922. The entire collection was photographed in recent years and there is still room for slight hope that some specimens (at least some stone material; conceivably the iron bell) might have survived’.

The police have ruled out arson as a cause of the fire, saying that it seems to have started in a boiler at the rear of the church, close to the Treasury, not long after the Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnoise, Colm O’Reilly, had celebrated Midnight Mass. Fire crews were hampered in their efforts to control the fire by frozen water pipes, due to the very cold weather. Bishop O’Reilly has launched an appeal fund to raise the €10 million required to rebuild the cathedral.

News of Fellows

Salon has a rival: an organisation called The Edge Foundation, whose mandate is ‘to promote discussion of intellectual, philosophical, artistic, and literary issues’. According to its own website, The Edge Foundation has an informal membership made up of ‘some of the most interesting minds in the world’. It is a good job they say ‘some’, because a quick search of their membership reveals that they only have two of our Fellows. Still, well done Tim Taylor and Christine Finn for being recognised by The Edge Foundation as ‘scientists and other thinkers in the empirical world who, through their work and expository writing, are taking the place of the traditional intellectual in rendering visible the deeper meanings of our lives, redefining who and what we are’.

Membership entails engaging in debate about The Edge Annual Question — billed as ‘the one big question that everyone is asking today’. For 2010, that question is ‘How is the Internet Changing the Way You Think?’ Before dismissing the question (you might think that the rise of militant Islam or of an economically and resource-rich China, climate change and the global banking crisis are all bigger issues) bear in mind that this is the week in which Apple will unveil its long-awaited iTablet, which, if it lives up to its promise, could replace the book, newspaper, magazine, computer, TV and telephone, and think of the rising tension between China and the US over internet censorship. The Chinese certainly understand the power the internet has to change the way its citizens think; and if the iTablet takes off globally, how long will it be before everyone around the globe thinks (and speaks) like Americans? That’s one answer to the question. You can read 100 other answers, including those of Christine and Tim, at The World Question Centre.

Our Fellow Ian Burrow, Vice-President of Hunter Research, reports that he has just begun his two-year term as President of the Register of Professional Archaeologists, whose more than 1,600 members, chiefly from North America, are all signatories to a code of archaeological conduct and standards. Ian says that, ‘As President I plan to continue to press for stronger recognition of the Register as a touchstone of archaeological professionalism, and I also look forward to strengthening ties and sharing experiences with such similar bodies as the Institute for Archaeologists in the UK and the European Association of Archaeologists’.

Our Fellow Jeremy Montagu is to be the recipient of the Curt Sachs Award for 2010, given by the American Musical Instrument Society; this is the most prestigious of all awards in the historical musical instrument world (along with the Anthony Baines Prize, which the Galpin Society awarded to Jeremy some years ago).

At the 15 December meeting of the Royal Numismatic Society, our Fellow Richard Reece was presented with the Society’s medal after giving a paper called ‘What are Coin Finds’, using a deceptively simple question to question everyone’s assumptions, in true Reecian fashion. Our Fellow Roger Bland reports that it was ‘a very enjoyable occasion, attended by a whole host of Richard’s former students and colleagues — a remarkable galaxy of experts on Roman coin finds and archaeology (Andrew Burnett, Mike Fulford, John Casey, Sam Moorhead, Peter Guest, Kevin Butcher, Robert Kenyon, Richard Hobbs and Julian Bowsher to name just a few). It reminded us how Richard and John Casey had taught a whole generation of students about Roman coin finds and that their retirement had left a gap that has not been filled.’

Finally, congratulations to our Fellow Giles Mandelbrote who has just been appointed to the post of Librarian and Archivist of Lambeth Palace Library in succession to our Fellow Richard Palmer, who retires at the end of this month. Giles joins the Lambeth Palace Library in its 400th anniversary year, having been founded in 1610 under the will of Archbishop Richard Bancroft. A public exhibition is to be mounted in the Great Hall of Lambeth Palace from 17 May to 23 July: more on this in a future issue of Salon.

Fellows on TV — past and present — and playing in a punk rock band

Series 2 of the excellent BBC Wales ‘Hidden Histories’ television series on the work of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales goes national (should that be UK-wide?) on BBC 4, starting at 7.30pm on 26 January 2010. Programme one features our President, Geoff Wainwright, talking to our Fellow Toby Driver about the links between Stonehenge and the Preseli Hills, while programme three (9 February) looks at the discovery of what was initially thought to be a medieval chapel, but which now looks more like a Roman villa — near Aberystwyth, in a part of Wales where it ought not to be!

Further details of all five episodes in the series — which also look at historic architecture (from medieval to the twentieth century), slate quarries, Iron-Age promontory forts and Strata Florida Cistercian abbey — can be seen on the RCAHMW website.

A number of distinguished Fellows will be able to look back on their younger selves in episodes from the ‘Chronicle’ TV series (including some directed by our equally distinguished Fellow, Ray Sutcliffe) that have just been made available on the BBC Archive website. They include an episode from a programme broadcast in 1966 in which the late Glyn Daniel and Ann Packer (gold medal winner in the 800 metres race at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics) walk along the Ridgeway with a goose to test Pliny’s assertion that geese were regularly herded from northern Gaul to a Rome passionate about foie gras; the late Magnus Magnusson and Richard Atkinson in the 1968 programme on Silbury Hill; Colin Renfrew on Aphrodite’s Other Island (1978); and Martin Carver on Sutton Ho (1989). As for Stonehenge, they reckoned they had its meaning cracked in 1970: in a programme called ‘Cracking the Stone Age Code’, Glyn Daniel, Magnus Magnusson, Richard Atkinson, Humphrey Case, Jacquetta Hawkes, Ewan Mackie and Stuart Piggott join Alexander Thom to ask whether Stonehenge was built as an astronomical observatory.

Also revisiting his younger years is our Fellow Loyd Grossman, man of many parts, who played lead guitar in a punk rock band called Jet Bronx and the Forbidden in the 1970s. Having reformed the band three years ago, Loyd is now aiming to add chart success to his many achievements with the release of a new single called ‘Ain’t Doin Nothin’. Now Salon’s editor is no expert in punk culture, but he does wonder whether the name — now shortened to ‘The New Forbidden’ — isn’t a bit too literary and posh for a punk band. Wotz rong wiv a simple name like Nix, Naff or Bann’d (or Bann’d Band if two syllables are allowed).

Actually the band is quite good (Loyd plays a mean solo): see them perform ‘Ain’t Doin Nothin’ on YouTube at their recent ‘Live at The Inn on the Green’ gig. Maybe Salon should book the band for that 250th issue celebration party!

Appeals for help and information

The request in Salon 225 for information on papier-mâché mouldings in churches led Fellow Adam Wilkinson to observe that there is a flamboyant example of such material (albeit in a far-from-religious context) in the form of the interior decoration of Wilton’s Music Hall, in London’s East End, and to a detailed and helpful answer from Fellow Malcolm Airs, whose own paper on ‘The Strange History of Paper Roofs’ was published in Transactions of the Ancient Monuments Society 42 (1998). ‘I suspect’, writes Malcolm, ‘that papier-mâché ornament in churches was quite common until it fell foul of Puginian strictures against sham materials in the later nineteenth century. It was used in the vaulting of the transepts at Ripon Cathedral around 1840 but was replaced by Scott around 1874. Examples from the eighteenth century include the magnificent baroque ceiling of the church at Witley Court in Worcestershire and the chancel ceiling of 1758—67 at St John, Wicken, Northants.’

This issue’s request for help comes from Fellow Anthony Barnes, who asks: ‘Can any Fellow tell me whether the Captio Seisinae Ducatus Cornubias (the original list of properties of the Duchy of Cornwall) has been transcribed into readable text? I have had the original in my hands but I think even experts would find it hard to read.’ Anthony explains that he is researching ‘the history of a 200-acre Cornish farm which formed part of the Manor of Brannel, which certainly was part of the lands given by William I to his half-brother Robert de Mortain, but this particular farm was in other hands by the fifteenth century and I am interested to know whether its transfer came in 1337 or, for example, when properties tended to change hands in the years after the Black Death’. Anthony adds that ‘someone has written “Lucky you” on the box that contains the manuscript: it was nice to find a joke in the National Archives!’

Fellow Richard Sharpe is also interested to know what the long-term graph on public funding of the heritage looks like for the last decade or two. He, like many of us, is concerned by regular reports in the media to the effect that, whoever wins the next election in the UK, is likely to cut heritage spending by up to 20 per cent; this comes on top of a claim in an article in The Times by columnist Ben Macintyre, which says that ‘over the past decade total public funding for heritage has fallen by 40 per cent’.

In his eloquent argument for the value of the built environment, Macintyre says that: ‘Place is a portal to history more powerful than any textbook. One of the greatest adult treats I know is to take a child of the right age to the Cabinet War Rooms, Churchill’s wartime bunker beneath Whitehall, and watch their eyes widen at the realisation that a war was won from this gloomy underground warren full of Bakelite phones and bare bulbs. Such places are hives of living history, and yet they are dying at an alarming rate. The latest English Heritage list of buildings at risk reflects a serious crisis in Britain’s built fabric. More than 5,000 nationally designated sites are at risk of neglect, decay or misuse. A fifth of scheduled monuments are deemed under threat from decay, environmental change, developers and modern agricultural methods. Over the past decade total public funding for heritage has fallen by 40 per cent. Some of the decay is cynical, with graded buildings left to rot in the expectation that an official body will eventually step in and cough up for repairs.’


Our Fellow John Blatchley has come up with a further contribution to the Salon collection of longevity anecdotes. This one, he says, comes from a history of Ispwich School, published in 2003. ‘During the summer term of 1918, Ipswich School headmaster Arthur Kenelm Watson cycled down to Shotley Gate with a party of masters and boys to witness the moving sight of the surrender of the German U-boat fleet. One of the boys was Irvine Gray (later FSA and co-author of Ipswich School 1400—1950) who, when he got up to Cambridge in 1921, visited the eighty-four-year-old H T Francis, former Fellow of Caius and still Under-Librarian at the University Library, who was a pupil at the school in the 1850s. Francis recalled that, as a sixth former in 1854, he was taken down to Landguard Point to see the British fleet, under Sir Charles Napier, sail for the Baltic during the Crimean War with Russia.’ John notes that ‘Over five hundred years earlier in 1346, Edward III and the Black Prince sailed out of Kingsfleet in the Deben to triumph at Crecy’ and he wonders ‘how many fourteenth-century schoolboys had sufficient notice of that spectacle to witness that for themselves?’

Staying in Suffolk, Fellow Nigel Maslin writes to point out an error in the report in Salon 224 on the return to Dunwich of the sixteenth-century bronze cannon found by local archaeologist Stuart Bacon and his team of Suffolk Underwater Studies divers in 1994. Salon’s report said the cannon had, until it was taken away for study and conservation by the Royal Armouries, stood outside Stuart Bacon’s shop in Dunwich. In fact, Stuart’s shop is in nearby Orford where, above his Orford Crafts Shop, Stuart maintains a display on the work of Suffolk Underwater Studies. Nigel writes: ‘I have just been talking to Stuart and he thinks that on grounds of age it is most unlikely that the cannon was lost in the 1672 Battle of Sole Bay. He thinks it much more likely that it came either from a Spanish vessel in the Armada, or else from a wrecked salvage vessel that might have previously recovered the cannon. Known as the Dunwich Bank Wreck, the ship is a protected site, so although Stuart has the sole licence to dive on the wreck, he is not allowed to lift any of the remaining bronze guns.’

The report on the finding of the Gilray cartoons in Salon 225 drew our Fellow Rory O’Donnell to observe that the story had conflated a number of different moves on the part of the Ministry of Justice (MoJ). ‘I don’t know where the “the criminal law policy unit” office was’, he says, but ‘they can’t have moved into “the former Middlesex Guildhall, on Parliament Square”, because this is the new seat of the Supreme Court (formerly the Law Lords, in the House of Lords), and of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (formerly at 9 Downing Street). The new MoJ headquarters is in the former Home Office building, the office block designed by Sir Basil Spence and Fitzroy Robinson & Partners, completed in 1976 and once known as 50 Queen Anne’s Gate, now as 102 Petty France.’ Salon readers might remember that a number of Fellows, including Simon Jervis, David Walker, Gavin Stamp and Marcus Binney, strongly objected to the changes proposed for the interior of the Middlesex Guildhall in order to convert it into the new seat of the Supreme Court, branding the proposals, in January 2007, as ‘state vandalism’. Marcus Binney’s vituperative verdict on the result can now be read in The Times, where he argues that the words ‘Supreme Court' should now stand for ‘the neutering of the Guildhall’s robust masculinity in favour of a bland, executive lounge look, with the rejection of shiploads of fine craftsmanship in favour of a select number of token artworks.’

Salon 225’s report on a new history of the Society of Dilettanti attracted more emails than any other topic aired in Salon in recent months. Clearly this is a subject of great interest to many Fellows — and many of the emails suggested that the Society should devote a forthcoming meeting to the topic. Several Fellows referred to the splendid volume by our Fellow Bruce Redford — Dilettanti: the antic and the antique in eighteenth-century England — published in 2008 by the Getty Research Institute to accompany the exhibition Grecian Taste and Roman Spirit: the Society of Dilettanti at the J Paul Getty Museum. Others pointed out that our own Society has a substantial part of the Dilettanti archive, though other institutions also own bits, as Fellow Andrew Oddy, who is interested in their various museum benefactions, pointed out.

Among those Fellows who pointed out that the Society of Dilettanti does not need to be revived, as Salon suggested, because it is still very much alive, was Michael Liversidge, who referred to an article published in September 2008 in the Daily Telegraph , written by a recently elected member, Richard Dorment. ‘The Society continues to be a distinguished body of convivial and amiable peers (mostly, if not exclusively, hereditary), cognoscenti and scholars, a few artists and learned critics’, says Michael, ‘who meet regularly to dine and discuss the finer points of art and antiquity at one of the grander London gentlemen’s clubs where their collection is housed. The art historian and, in his day, the doyen of British art studies, Ellis Waterhouse, was I believe one of the Dilettanti’s scholarly members and regarded it as a primary source for any historian of British culture since its grander members, especially the dukes, owned so much of it!’

With specific reference to Martin Folkes, our Fellow Christian Dekesel writes to say that a biography is long overdue, and that Folkes has too long suffered from the character assassination of William Stukeley, Folkes’s near neighbour (they both lived in London’s Queen Square), whose ‘Damnatio memoriae’ proved to be so effective that nobody has ever studied Folkes’s life and works in depth.

In many ways, Folkes was a modern man before his time. David Boyd Haycock’s Dictionary of National Biography entry notes that he detested all forms of racial prejudice (‘In 1747 he explained to his friend da Costa, who was Jewish, that “we are all citizens of the world, and see different customs and tastes without dislike or prejudice, as we do different names and colours”’). It was Folkes’s active atheism that led Stukeley to describe him as ‘in matters of religion an errant infidel & loud scoffer’, but Stukeley goes on to say something else that suggests an acute mind at work: ‘he confesses himself a godf[athe]r to all monkeys … He thinks there is no difference between us & animals; but what is owing to the different structure of our brain, as between man & man’. Stukeley intends to scoff, but the comment raises Folkes to the stature of a Darwinian more than a century before Darwin.

Christian Dekesel thinks that Stukeley’s antipathy was the reason why Folkes left nothing to the Society of Antiquaries in his will — rather than any sense of pique that Folkes might have felt at the defeat of his plan to merge the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society. This negative attitude, says Christian, was derived in part from Stukeley’s disapproval of the relationship between Folkes and Helena Bettenson — another Queen Square neighbour. Bettenson became Folke’s mistress when his wife, the actress Lucretia Bradshaw, was confined to a ‘lunatic asylum’ in Chelsea, having grown ‘religiously mad’ following a trip to Rome in 1735.

Christian also notes that ‘Folkes left the bulk of his estate to his daughter, Lucretia, who later married the brother of Helena Bettenson. On her death Lucretia left all her property to her husband who later left all his property to his sister Helena, and it was Helena Bettenson who left in her will (1788) the princely sum of one thousand pounds for the erection of the monument to Folkes in Westminster Abbey that is still there, on the south side of the choir.’

Deaths and obituaries

Not a Fellow, but Miep Gies, who died on 11 January 2010, at the age of 100, surely deserves a major place in the history books, not only as one of the many thousands of brave resistance workers who helped Jews to escape deportation and death during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, but for her special role in sheltering Anne Frank and her family, and for rescuing Anne’s diary after the Frank family were betrayed by a neighbour and arrested. Miep herself escaped possible execution only because the arresting officer was, like Miep herself, Viennese. Miep later said that she could not bring herself to read Anne’s diary at the time that she found it; had she done so, she said, she would have felt compelled to destroy it, because it gave too many people away. Interviewed on the 80th anniversary of Anne Frank’s birth, in June 2009, Miep reflected that: ‘The past is never over; the past is always with you; and you can learn so much from the past.’

Neither was Kate Hunter (who died on 6 Jan 2010 as the result of a brain tumour) a Fellow, though our Fellow Mike Corfield, who has sent a short note on her life, now wishes that he had sponsored her; she more than earned the right to join the Fellowship for her single-minded determination in ensuring the excavation and conservation of the Newport medieval ship.

Mike writes: ‘Kate was in the first cohort of the Durham University Diploma in Conservation and had a long career in conservation, working successively at Lincoln Archaeological Trust, Cardiff University, the National Museum of Wales and finally at Newport Museum. It was at Newport where she made the greatest impact and where she became involved in ship archaeology, masterminding the recovery of a Roman boat from Barlands Farm.

‘The discovery of a medieval ship during excavations in advance of the construction of the new Newport Opera House galvanised her into action, and as the significance of the vessel became clearer she fought for its proper recovery, mustering support from the Newport community, forming the Friends of Newport Ship and lobbying her friends in the Welsh Government Assembly who were to provide substantial funding for accurate digital recording of the ships timbers.

‘When the decision was taken to keep the ship, she threw her energies into establishing a conservation programme, bringing together an advisory panel that included the leading ship and conservation specialists from all over Europe. She led a successful Lottery bid that provided for much of the conservation work, as well as what has become a textbook outreach programme that has seen thousands of adults and children visit the Ship Conservation Centre where they hear the story of the ship and can see the timbers in the serried rows of tanks. An imaginative education programme is part of the package and important too is the colourful newsletter of the Friends, with regular updates on the progress of the project. Kate also fronted the highly informative “Timewatch” programme about the ship.

‘Archaeology and conservation have lost a dynamic member of their professions, who knew better than many how to get things done and who invariably produced the goods when needed. Kate will be missed by many.’

News has reached the Society of the death in September 2009 of Fellow Edward Johnson. We are grateful to Dr Johnson’s widow, Maureen, for this short note on his life. ‘Edward Johnson was a research chemist by profession but an archaeologist in his spare time. After exploring Sussex churches while at Christ’s Hospital, he met Martin Jope at Oxford and worked with him locally and in Ireland. For several years he worked at the Great Casterton summer schools with Philip Corder, surveying, planning, photographing and digging the villa, town walls and bastions. He later returned there to work for Ian Richmond on the early fort.

‘Over the years he was involved with Peter Curnow at Richard’s Castle and St Briavels, with Michael Thompson at Bolingbroke and with Sheppard Frere at Dunstable Down. At home, in St Albans, he directed several summer digs at Sopwell Priory, and in retirement, with the help of Past Historic, was delighted to be able to publish his report on that work. To the end of his days, Salon and Current Archaeology were (with Chemistry World) his favourite reading’.

From our Fellow Jeremy Knight has come the following obituary for our late Fellow Gwenllian Jones, based on a longer version written for the Monmouthshire Antiquary (reproduced in full on the Society’s website). ‘Gwenllian Vaughan Jones died on 8 December 2009 after a long illness. She had been Secretary of the Monmouthshire Antiquarian Association since 1986, when she succeeded Judith Leslie. In its 160-year history, the Association has had only nine secretaries, the first being its founder, John Edward Lee. Gwenllian did much to illuminate Lee’s life and work and re-discovered his portrait, a copy of which now hangs in the Caerleon Legionary Museum. Her article, “John Edward Lee, a Monmouthshire Antiquary”, appeared in the 150th anniversary number of the Monmouthshire Antiquary in 1997.

Gwenllian was born to a Welsh-speaking family from north Wales in 1935, her father being a Methodist minister in Birkenhead. On leaving school, she read modern languages at Manchester University and spent a year in Strasbourg. On her return, she married David, who was in medical practice. In about 1975 the couple moved to Newport when David was appointed to a post as Consultant Anaesthetist. Gwenllian returned to university, taking a degree in archaeology at Cardiff, took part in a number of excavations and went on to complete an MA. She later organized a dinner in J E Lee’s home, the Priory at Caerleon, now the Priory Hotel, on the exact 150th anniversary (in 1997) of the meeting there of “friends to the formation of a Museum of Antiquities at Caerleon”, which resolved that “a society be formed, to be called the Caerleon Antiquarian Association” (later renamed the Monmouthshire Antiquarian Association).

‘Apart from her indefatigable work for the Association, she became secretary of the Gwent County History Association on its foundation in 1998 and co-ordinated the publication of three volumes of the Gwent County History under the editorship of Professor Ralph Griffiths. She was involved with the Gwent Local History Council, the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust and the Gwent Historic Gardens Trust, where she served as secretary. Last year she was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London for her work on nineteenth-century antiquaries and her contribution to the County History. The Association plans to commemorate her by the planting of a tree or shrub in the gardens of the Roman Legionary Museum, with which she was so closely associated.’

Our Fellow David Phillipson has contributed the following note on our late Fellow Derek Matthews (again, a fuller version can be read on the Society’s website). ‘Derek Matthews, news of whose death on 2 April 2009 has only recently reached the Society, served with the British military forces in Ethiopia during the Second World War. When our late Fellow, David Buxton, drew attention to the urgent need for restoration of the ancient monastery church at Debra Damo, Matthews (who had previously trained as an architect) was available on the spot. Funds were obtained through the good offices of Emperor Haile Selassie, the British Council and the Society of Antiquaries. During a period of less than three months, in 1948, Matthews completed the daunting task of recording and consolidating the ancient building, located on a mountain top, to which access may only be gained by means of a rope suspended over a 17-metre-high cliff.

‘The church is now widely accepted as the most ancient still in use in Ethiopia. Without Matthews’ timely and highly successful intervention, it would have collapsed several decades ago. Matthews (with Antonio Mordini) published a comprehensive account of the church and its restoration in Archaeologia 97 (1959, pages 1—58).

‘In 1995, I acted as Lecturer to a tour of Ethiopia under the auspices of the British Museum Traveller, Derek being one of the participants. It was the first and, it transpired, the only occasion on which he returned to Ethiopia after the late 1940s. Debra Damo was not on the itinerary, but it was wonderful to observe his reaction to the country and the memories that the journey brought back to him. He was very warmly received by priests and other Ethiopians to whom I introduced him. Under extraordinarily difficult circumstances, he had made a major contribution to preserving the heritage of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, and for this he will long be remembered.’

From Fellow Christopher Young comes the following obituary for our late Fellow David Tyrwhitt-Drake Clarke (with a fuller version on the website). ‘David Clarke, formerly Curator of the Colchester and Essex Museum, died on 27 November 2009. He was born in St Albans on 30 September 1923 and educated at Haileybury College. His time at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, was interrupted by war service in the Royal Signals in Italy, attached to the Special Boat Service. After the armistice he took his squad on a tour of classical sites. To provide a pretext for this journey, the squad carried with them a sealed box, full of stones, which they were “delivering” to a mythical army base.

‘David completed his degree in Classics and Classical Archaeology at Cambridge in 1947; during his time at Cambridge he dug for Sheppard Frere in Canterbury, where he met the late Joan Radcliffe Kirk, also a Fellow of the Society, whom he was to marry in 1953. During 1947—8, he held the Sir Charles Walston and Christopher James Studentships at the British School of Archaeology in Athens, whose collections he catalogued. He spent the following year as Lecturer in Classical Archaeology at Farouk I University, in Alexandria, where he again made a catalogue of the collections in Alexandria’s university museum.

‘From 1949 to 1963, David was Keeper of Antiquities at Leicester City Museums, and, from 1963 until his retirement in 1988, he was Curator of the Colchester and Essex Museum. At Leicester, he redisplayed the archaeological galleries twice, originated the project for a museum at Jewry Wall and totally refitted, catalogued and displayed Newarke Houses Museum and Chantry House. At Colchester, he reinvigorated the museum, greatly increasing its staff. The Castle was totally re-fitted and the archaeological displays renewed. After nine years’ effort, Holy Trinity Church was acquired and opened in 1973 as a museum of country life and crafts. Tymperleys was opened in 1987 as a museum of Colchester clocks.

‘David’s influence reached far outside the museums in which he worked, and he was very active in promoting rescue archaeology in response to unprecedented development pressures. At Leicester he carried out excavations in the town before creating the first Field Archaeology post there. In Colchester, in 1964 he re-founded the Colchester Excavation Committee, which led directly to the formation of the Colchester Archaeological Trust, which has since added so much to our knowledge of Colchester and its environs.

‘David combined great knowledge of artefacts and archaeology with a passion for the proper curation and use of museums in their local communities. He believed very much in what is now termed “outreach”, but he also believed that this had to be based on a very firm foundation of scholarship and professional standards of curation. He fought fiercely to maintain the independence of museums as centres of scholarship, learning and their communities.’

Finally, Salon’s editor is grateful to Fellows Martin Henig, Thomas Beaumont James, Anthony King and Nigel Ramsay for the following encomium, extracted from the forthcoming Festschrift for Martin Biddle and Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle, which has been edited to focus on an appreciation of Birthe’s life.

‘Birthe came from a well-known Copenhagen family, her father being Landsretssagfører Axel Kjølbye. Amongst her earliest memories are wartime ones in occupied Denmark, when her parents sheltered Allied airmen at very great risk to themselves. After graduating as a Magister student (the equivalent of a PhD) from Aarhus University, Birthe Kjølbye came to Winchester on her way to study the Early Bronze Age at Edinburgh. In her very first season as a field archaeologist she showed such skill in the techniques and management of excavation that she was put in charge of excavations at the Cathedral. In 1966 she married Martin, and they have been partners ever since in an almost countless series of excavations and publications.

‘Two major sites other than Winchester have claimed the interest of the Biddles. From 1978 excavations were conducted on the site of the new Chapter House at St Albans, which proved the existence of a Roman cemetery on the site and hinted at the possibility of a late Roman martyrium for St Alban. One of Birthe’s many distinctive contributions to the project was to reveal that the St Alban’s Cross of distinctive form was very probably a Coptic antiquity, brought to St Albans in the Middle Ages.

‘Then there was the great Repton project, which revealed not simply the structural history of an important Middle-Saxon church but a history of bloody conflict as Mercians confronted Vikings. Here as elsewhere excavation resulted in major studies of Saxon sculpture and physical anthropology. Work commenced here in 1974, unearthing the remains of the Great Heathen Army that had overwintered there in AD 873—4, their archaeological findings (which included the massacred remains of at least 264 individuals, dated by coins to the Viking period) corroborating an account in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle. The most spectacular find from that excavation, however, was perhaps that of a memorial with a carving of an Anglo-Saxon ruler — possibly commemorating the murdered King Æthelbald, who is known to have been buried at Repton.

‘Famously working together as a team, the Biddles have combined a thorough awareness of all that past scholarship can contribute with the introduction of new techniques of archaeological recording, devised in order to understand the complicated stratigraphy of Winchester. These techniques revolutionised the discipline of excavation itself, replacing the Wheeler system as modified by Sheppard Frere and others, with a far better model — used today but rarely with such skill and intelligence as by the Biddles in all their investigations. Experienced field-archaeologists of the older generation, like Dr Graham Webster, actually came to dig at Winchester in order to re-learn how to excavate and came away enormously impressed. It has rightly been claimed that the Winchester excavations trained a whole generation of archaeologists and that all well-conducted excavations conducted since are effectively tributes to the Biddles’ methodology.

‘Birthe’s publications have frequently been focused on Winchester, but have also ranged far and wide, with essays on a Nubian church at Qasr Ibrim, on the remains of frogs and toads from the excavations at Repton and on the technical problems of excavation in general — and especially on complex urban sites.

‘On a personal level Martin and Birthe have always been great encouragers of other people, having a generosity of spirit which is not so commonly found in these dark days of hectic competitiveness. By their kindness, hospitality and courtesy, they have always maintained an outstanding level of friendship. For decades they have been a famous duo, to the extent that it is often hard to disentangle what each has done; but if that partnership can be compared to a style of dress, it might be said that while Martin has always been very respectably turned out, Birthe has always dressed with distinctive flair and style.’


26 January 2010: Church and Community in South London: St Saviour’s Denmark Park, 1881—1905. This first ‘Locality and Region’ seminar for the 2010 spring term will be held at 5.15pm in the Ecclesiastical History Room on the first floor of the Institute of Historical Research. Fellow Richard Olney’s paper looks at a late nineteenth-century suburb and at the church and parish that were provided to serve it. It considers what parish boundaries meant to local people and how far the church’s efforts to create a ‘friendly community’ were constrained not only by its own social attitudes but also by the prevailing lower middle-class character of the neighbourhood.

27 January 2010: ‘A Renaissance without Order: licentious ornament and the dialogue between architectural prints and drawings’. Though this sounds like something that members of the Society of Dilettanti would have relished, the ‘licentiousness’ referred to in the title of Michael Waters’ paper to the next meeting of the Soane Museum Study Group (6pm for 6:30pm in the Seminar Room of Number 14, Lincoln’s Inn Fields) refers rather to the diversity and ornamental variety that flourished from the mid-sixteenth century, despite fears that the codification of architectural details and the Orders and their transmission through illustrated printed architectural treatises would stifle invention. Places must be booked in advance by contacting Beth Walker.

17 February 2010: Holleyman Archaeology lecture 2010, Chichester Lecture Theatre, University of Sussex, 6.30pm to 7.30pm followed by a reception. Our Fellow Barry Cunliffe has recently published a massive eight-volume work in the Oxford University School of Archaeology Monographs series on the Danebury Environs Roman Programme. This lecture, entitled ‘Country Life in Roman Wessex’, is the condensed version. Tickets are available from Joe Francis, Lecture Co-ordinator.

18 to 20 February 2010: Revealing Medieval and Renaissance Europe: Makers and Markets 1100—1600. This three-day conference, hosted by the Victoria and Albert Museum and related to the new Medieval and Renaissance Galleries, will examine artistic production in the period 1100—1600, how objects were traded and used, and what they reveal about the culture in which they were produced. Continuity and change across the ‘medieval’ and ‘Renaissance’ periods will be highlighted. For the complete programme and for booking details, see the V&A website.

20 March 2010: Sussex Archaeology Symposium 2010, at the Chichester Lecture Theatre, University of Sussex: various speakers on recent fieldwork and research in Sussex, including Fellow Jeremy Hodgkinson on the archaeology of Wealden iron firebacks, and Lyn Palmer on a LiDAR survey of the Weald Forest Ridge. Further information can be found on the University of Sussex website.

22 to 25 March 2010: Old St Peter’s, Rome: a conference to be hosted at the British School at Rome to bring scholars together from a wide variety of academic disciplines (including history, history of art and architecture, archaeology and musicology) to address questions about Old St Peter’s and the ways in which the basilica and its monuments functioned as a theatre for worship, burial and power from the fourth to the sixteenth centuries. Further details from the Open University website.

14 to 16 April 2010: IFA Annual Conference, Southport. The outline programme for this year’s IFA conference has just been published and it contains some not-to-be-missed sessions: very appropriate for the Southport seaside setting is the morning devoted to the heritage of the fairground and amusement park, organised by our Fellow Jason Wood, whose speakers include Nick Laister, of the Dreamland Trust, which has created the world’s first heritage amusement park in Margate. Anticipating the annual IFA party and disco, our Fellow David Jennings is organising a session romantically entitled ‘The Archaeology of Love’, built around the idea that we often encounter evidence of violence in archaeology, so can we detect its philosophical antithesis?

And for sheer provocation, the session on ‘Commercial Archaeological Practice in the UK: the Viewpoint from the Construction Industry’ is difficult to beat: the organisers propose six key discussion themes that are so loaded that they have surely been designed to raise archaeologists’ blood pressure to bursting point: to the question ‘are archaeologists sufficiently educated in matters of construction for the work they are required to carry out’ one can only answer ‘are developers sufficiently educated in matters of archaeology for the work they are required to carry out?’ If you want to be there to make that point, and to hand out aspirins to the poor wee developers who think that ‘archaeological work is a headache for project managers’, you can book online on the IFA website.


‘Books by Fellows’ will be back next week. In the meantime, here is news of a couple of unbeatable offers.

First, the Royal Archaeological Institute is giving away back issues of the Archaeological Journal, Indexes, Summer Meeting Reports, offprints and selected monographs. Recipients will be expected to pay the packaging and postage costs. The items are available in limited numbers and will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. To see what volumes are available and/or to place your order, you should download the ‘Back Issue Order Form’ from the RAI’s website or contact the RAI’s Administrator, Britt Baillie.

Second, Fellow Julian Pooley writes to say that ‘while most of the world was celebrating the anniversaries of Samuel Johnson and Charles Darwin, several of us quietly raised our glasses to Richard Gough, FSA, a central figure in the eighteenth-century antiquarian network, whose bicentenary last year has just been marked by the publication of A Very British Antiquary: Richard Gough (1735—1809) by Philip Whittemore and Chris Byrom. The 72-page book costs £12.99 (inclusive of post and packing; cheques payable to Philip Whittemore and addressed to him at Lynton House, 16 Colne Road, Winchmore Hill, London N21 2JD) and explores his enormous contribution to the study of British antiquities as well as his relationships with topographical artists, engravers and fellow antiquaries.’ Julian adds that the collections that Gough amassed during his lifetime are now in the Bodleian, and that the next issue of the Bodleian Library Record will also focus on Gough’s contribution to English local history and manuscript studies.


London member to serve on the board of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council
The Mayor of London and the MLA Council are seeking a member to represent the London region on the MLA Council, A job description and application pack can be downloaded from the Mayor of London’s website, or you can contact the recruitment team by email, quoting job ref MLA10. Closing date 10 February 2010.