Salon Archive

Issue: 236

Kelmscott Manor Fellows’ Day, 10 July 2010

This year’s Fellows’ Day at Kelmscott Manor will take place on Saturday 10 July, when the gates will open for registration from 1.30pm. Along with the usual access to the Manor and a special seasonal tea, there will be a small additional exhibition on the garden. The programme finishes at 5pm. The event, which is always enjoyable, is open to Fellows and their guests. Tickets costing £14 (£6 for children under the age of sixteen) can be booked by email or by telephone (01367 253348), and as this has proved to be a popular event in past years, early booking is advised.

Morris exhibitions this summer

Our Society has made loans to two exhibitions taking place this summer. At Blackwell, the Arts and Crafts house in the Lake District, we have loaned a selection of the book-binding tools that were used in the making of Morris’s Works of Geoffrey Chaucer and three printing blocks from Morris’s The Story of Cupid and Psyche. These form part of an exhibition called William Morris: A Sense of Place (25 June to 17 October 2010) that explores the way in which the places that formed the backdrop to his domestic life, his writing and design work and his conservation work helped to stimulate his creativity and the formulation of his ideas about nature, beauty and society.

To the exhibition called Calligraphic Masterpieces (19 June to 22 August 2010) at the William Morris Gallery, Walthamstow, we have loaned a late thirteenth-century French Bible that belonged to Morris and the calligraphic manuscripts in which Morris wrote translations of the works of the historian, poet and saga writer Snorri Sturluson (1179—1241) and The Story of the Ynglings. The exhibition explores William Morris’s remarkable achievements in calligraphy and manuscript illumination, focusing on his most intense period of calligraphic activity in the 1870s.

The future of the Stonehenge Visitor Centre

The curse of the stones struck again on 17 June 2010 when the Chancellor of the Exchequer announced that funding for the Stonehenge Visitor Centre was to be axed as part of the Government’s austerity drive. Our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, responded to the news by saying that ‘we are extremely disappointed’ and that English Heritage was ‘urgently exploring alternative sources of funding’. An announcement on the future of the project will be made towards the end of June. The £27.5m project was to have been funded by a mix of public, private and lottery sources, of which £10m had been promised by the previous Government.

Many of the Druids and pagans who gathered at Stonehenge for the solstice on 21 June were also worried by the news. ‘It’s no surprise, but it is a disgrace. This wouldn’t happen anywhere else in the world’, said Arthur Pendragon, Battle Chieftain of the Council of British Druid Orders, who has campaigned for twenty years for a new visitor centre and for the closure of the nearby A344. At the same time he expressed the hope that English Heritage would not meet the shortfall in ways that would commercialise the monument. ‘I don’t want to see Americans going home with T-shirts reading “I’ve been to MacDonald’s Stonehenge”’, he told the BBC.

Marden Henge

English Heritage is hoping that Marden Henge will yield some of its secrets as a result of a six-week excavation that begins on 28 June 2010, under the direction of our Fellow Jim Leary, who last year directed the consolidation work at Silbury Hill. ‘Marden Henge’, he says, ‘deserves to be understood more, partly because of its size, but also due to its proximity to the stone circles at Avebury and Stonehenge. The relationship between the latter two sites — the chronology of their construction, whether they were built by the same people, how they were used — is of immense interest. We are potentially looking at a much more intricate system of Neolithic ritual sites in this part of the world than we previously thought.’

Marden is the largest Neolithic henge in Britain; a substantial and well-preserved bank and an internal ditch encloses an area of some 10.5 hectares. An aerial photograph taken in 1946 that can be seen on the English Heritage website suggests that the River Avon was partly integrated into the henge along its south-western boundary. A huge mound stood at the centre of the henge until it collapsed in 1806 and was completely levelled by ploughing by 1817. English Heritage hopes to find out more about this feature and about a second earthwork in the southern half of the henge with a raised area and a broad ditch and outer bank.

Chiswick House Gardens

Our Fellow Timothy Mowl, the garden historian, once mischievously suggested that any serious attempt to restore an English landscape garden would require every tree to be cut down and replaced by young trees since most eighteenth-century gardens would have consisted of trees no more than fifty years old. The Chiswick House and Gardens Trust has not been quite that brave, but it did succeed in persuading local residents that some 500 ‘weed trees’ (mainly self-sown sycamore, ash and plane) had to go as part of its restoration of Chiswick House Gardens, the results of which were officially unveiled on 14 June 2010.

The 26-hectare garden is renowned as the birthplace of the English landscape movement, which was set in train when Lord Burlington and William Kent began work in 1717 to create a naturalistic setting for Chiswick House, with a serpentine ‘river’ in place of a straight canal, and swathes of green grass instead of geometric beds and clipped hedges.

Managed by English Heritage and supported by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £7.9m, the restoration was guided in part by a set of eight landscape paintings made by the Dutch artist, Pieter Andreas Rysbrack, that document the appearance of the house and gardens in the 1720s and 1730s. One complete set of those eight paintings (of the two sets that were commissioned) are now on display at Chiswick House, thanks to the loan of two paintings from Chatsworth to add to those that English Heritage has been acquiring since 1985.

As well as recovering long-overgrown vistas, opening up historic views, restoring the cascade, repairing statuary and garden structures — including James Wyatt’s classical bridge of stone, decorated with cherubs and urns, of 1788 and the large glasshouse, built by William Paxton in 1813 to rival those he designed for Chatsworth and Kew — the project included building a brand new cafe, designed by Caruso St John, described by Building Design magazine as ‘a single-storey pavilion, encircled by an arcade of Portland stone piers … essentially a little temple that has undergone considerable abstraction … a captivating little building’.

Sarah Finch Crisp, Director of the Chiswick House and Gardens Trust, said that the restoration of the gardens was ‘a major step towards our next goal of re-presenting the house and rebuilding its collection’.

John Penrose blogs

Chiswick House gets a mention in the very first of what the new Minister for Tourism and Heritage, John Penrose, promises will be a weekly bulletin ‘describing what I’ve been up to, who I’ve met and … my thoughts and reflections on issues that I’ve had to deal with in the week’. He praises the newly refurbished Chiswick House as ‘a heritage gem, now sitting in a wonderfully restored landscape and complemented by a finely crafted new cafe designed by Caruso St John demonstrating that high-quality design and craftsmanship are not the exclusive preserve of past centuries’.

He also describes historic buildings as ‘cotton reels in the same box’ as ‘tourism, hospitality, pubs, gigs [the musical variety, one suspects, rather than the rowing boat or the horse-drawn carriage], race meetings and amusement arcades’, these being his other ministerial responsibilities; and defending his use of a tailoring metaphor, he quotes our Fellow Robert Key who, as the first Minister for Tourism back in 1992, described tourism as ‘the golden thread that runs through everything the department does’.

British Archaeological Awards shortlist

Our Society is one of the sponsors of the British Archaeological Awards, a showcase for the best in UK archaeology and a central event in the archaeological calendar — even more so now that the awards ceremony has moved from November to July, where it is one of the key events of the annual UK Festival of Archaeology.

Given how many Fellows are involved in the shortlisted projects (see below for the complete list) there is a very strong likelihood that the Society will be well represented amongst the award winners. Fellow Michael Wood, the historian and broadcaster, will host the event, which is to be held at the British Museum on 19 July 2010 from 2.30pm, to be followed by a reception at about 4pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Our Fellow Mike Heyworth, who chairs the British Archaeological Awards board of trustees, announced the shortlist by saying: ‘The wide-ranging nominations for the 2010 British Archaeological Awards demonstrate the high standard of work going on in archaeology across the United Kingdom. We congratulate all the nominated projects and look forward to a lively ceremony in July when the winners of the Awards will be announced.’

The shortlist of nominations for the six awards is as follows:

Best Archaeological Project:
• Archaeology of Inchmarnock Research Project
• Mellor Heritage Project 2007—9
• The Tarbat Discovery Programme

Best Community Archaeology Project:
• ‘Discover the Lost Bishop’s Palace’: the Wisbech Castle Community Archaeology Project
• Fin Cop — Solving a Derbyshire Mystery
• Mellor Heritage Project 2007—9

Best Archaeological Book:
• Britain’s Oldest Art: The Ice Age Cave Art of Creswell Crags, by Paul Bahn and Paul Pettitt
• Europe’s Lost World: the re-discovery of Doggerland, by Vince Gaffney, Simon Fitch and David Smith
• The Rose and The Globe, playhouses of Shakespeare’s Bankside, Southwark: Excavations 1988—1991, by Julian Bowsher and Pat Miller

Best Representation of Archaeology in the Media:
• Tinderbox Productions for BBC Radio 4: ‘In Pursuit of Treasure’ and ‘The Voices Who Dug Up The Past’
• Time Team Series 16, Episode 5: ‘Blood, Sweat and Beers — Risehill, North Yorks’
• The Thames Discovery Programme website

Best Archaeological Innovation:
• Integrated Archaeological Database
• Lindow Man: a Bog Body Mystery exhibition at the Manchester Museum (April 2008—April 2009)
• The Portable Antiquities Scheme website

Best Archaeological Discovery:
• Late Bronze Age Copper and Tin Ingots from Moor Sand
• Links of Noltland excavations — discovery of Orkney Venus figurines
• The Staffordshire Hoard

Westminster Abbey on ‘Time Team’

There will be a ‘Time Team Special’ on Channel 4 at 8pm today (Monday 28 June 2010) called ‘The Secrets of Westminster Abbey’. The programme will explore the story of the great Cosmati pavement as well as other aspects of the buildings archaeology, and will no doubt feature our Fellow Warwick Rodwell and several other Fellows.

It was sad to see comments in several publications last week concerning the thirty-two new stone heads carved around the base of the pinnacles on the restored chapter house at Westminster Abbey. As well as portraying the masons, scaffolders, engineers and architects involved in the repair and conservation project, and members of the clergy at Westminster Abbey, the heads also depicted eight members of the English Heritage team who researched, commissioned, planned and ran the project, including several of our Fellows.

The editor of the normally rational Building Design magazine demanded to know why English Heritage saw fit to ‘award itself such an honour’ and called the exercise ‘humourless, unimaginative and indulgent’. The Daily Express declared this to be a ‘monument to the vanity of quangos’. Even more over the top was the claim by the Taxpayers’ Alliance that the heads should have depicted the ‘taxpayers who funded the project’, declaring the new heads to be a ‘warning to future generations about the dangers of letting quangos get too pleased with themselves’. English Heritage quite rightly insisted that those who had been depicted ‘had all played a significant role in the project’.

Historic building stones

One of the tasks facing the English Heritage team in managing the restoration of the chapter house was to source stone that matched that used by George Gilbert Scott for his restoration in the 1870s and that used by the original masons during the 1250s. Stone from the Chicksgrove Quarry in Wiltshire was chosen as the source for the 60 tonnes of new Chilmark Stone used in the recent work. Stone from the same quarry is currently being used for the restorations of Salisbury and Rochester Cathedrals.

It is not always quite so easy to source stone that matches so closely the original materials, so English Heritage is working with the British Geological Survey, local geologists and historic buildings experts on the Strategic Stone Study, a county by county audit of the stone used in historic structures, from castles and cathedrals to houses, bridges, kerbs and paving. This data will be used to identify the most important types of historic building stone, and then match this to data on existing and historic quarries. One use for that data will be to support decisions about the re-opening or extension of quarries being taken by local planning authorities: Minerals Policy Statement 1 Annex 3 Natural Building and Roofing Stone (2006), published by the Department of Communities and Local Government, recommends that local authorities safeguard important sources of building stone.

Further information on the progress and results of this project can be found on the website of the British Geological Survey, which includes downloadable and well-illustrated atlases of the principal local building stones for the nine counties that have been completed so far.

Hinton St Mary petition

ASPRoM (the Association for the Study and Preservation of Roman Mosaics) has set up an electronic petition in its attempt to persuade the British Museum to think again about its display of the Hinton St Mary mosaic.

The petition is addressed to the Director and Trustees of the British Museum and it says: ‘We are dismayed by the Museum’s decision, taken in the late 1990s, to remove the Roman mosaic from Hinton St Mary from public exhibition and ask that it be displayed once more, preferably on the floor, and preferably in the location that it occupied from 1965 to 1997. We believe that, given that the mosaic possibly contains the only known representation of Christ in an ancient pavement, it is of unique importance — not just in Britain but in the context of the Roman Empire as a whole, and merits being displayed in its entirety. It is insufficient to show the central roundel in isolation, however important. The full meaning of the pavement can be appreciated only if the whole of it is visible, including the accompanying heads and figure scenes. We would further ask that, if it is impossible to display the complete mosaic in the British Museum, you would consider loaning it to a suitable museum in Dorset, its county of origin.’

To sign the petition, go to the online petitions website.

The future of Stanley Mill

Another cause for concern is the Grade I Stanley Mill, in King’s Stanley, near Stroud in Gloucestershire. A photograph of the mill graces the back cover of the Buildings of England guide to Gloucestershire: The Cotswolds, which describes the building as ‘wholly exceptional’ for a number of reasons, including its exceptional fireproof interior construction, which survives intact from 1813, consisting of a matrix of cast-iron sheets and beams supported by a forest of cast-iron columns and trusses. The effect is church-like, with central passageways creating vaulted naves and side bays where water-driven spinning mules and weaving machines stood until the mill ceased production in 1990.

Dividing up this dramatic internal space would destroy the integrity, significance and readability of the building, but that is what is currently being proposed: Stroud District Council has before it a plan to divide the listed buildings into a total of seventy-six flats and houses, and to demolish all the nineteenth-century weaving sheds to build an additional seventy homes. The historically significant engine room would also be partially demolished and converted into a bin store.

Our Fellow Angus Buchanan, long a champion of the building and of industrial archaeology in south-west England, has written to Stroud District Council’s Head of Planning to protest against the plans and to ask that Stanley Mill ‘be treated with respect and sympathy in any attempt to find a new use for the building’, arguing that ‘any development that detracts from its unique qualities will result in a serious loss to the industrial heritage of the nation’.

The plans for the mill have also been described as ‘too intensive and too destructive’ by the Victorian Society and the Georgian Group. Georgian Group Secretary Robert Bargery said: ‘We support the regeneration of the site as most of the buildings are currently empty and at risk, but a much more sensitive approach is needed. The rows of highly decorative cast-iron columns create dramatic internal views that will be lost forever if the mill is divided into modern apartments’

Victorian Society conservation adviser Heloise Brown said that ‘the weaving sheds are evidence of an important part of the cloth-making process. Demolish them and the history of that process is lost Buildings of a similar date and type have been converted into offices or shops at other mill sites and it is difficult to believe there is no alternative to demolition at a site as important as Stanley Mill’.

Call for sessions for the IfA Conference 2011

The Institute for Archaeologists has opened its call for sessions and training workshops for the 2011 conference. The theme for the conference will be ‘Assessing significance’. Proposals should include a session abstract giving details about what the session will cover and how it relates to the overall theme of the conference, and identify at least three potential speakers. Proposals should be sent to Alex Llewellyn by 6 August 2010.

Eadgyth

Salon can no longer include links to The Times or Sunday Times now that the online version of the newspaper has disappeared behind a pay wall, but anyone who bought the paper last Sunday will have seen an almost larger than life photograph of our Fellow Mark Horton examining the limestone sarcophagus figure of Eadgyth in Magdeburg Cathedral in a feature article that describes the Anglo-German archaeological project to establish the likelihood that the remains found wrapped in costly red and blue patterned silk in a lead-lined tomb in the cathedral were those of the tenth-century Anglo-Saxon princess.

Famous equally for her beauty as for her piety, Eadgyth (910—46) was the bride of Otto, Duke of Saxony, later king of Germany and Holy Roman Emperor, and the city of Magdeburg was her dowry. In AD 937, Eadgyth and Otto founded the monastery in which she was laid to rest after her premature death on 26 January 946, at the age of thirty-six. Mark Horton’s speculation that the reason why most of her skull was missing when the skeleton was found was because ‘people took it for a reliquary’ leads the magazine to dub her the ‘Diana of her day’ and ‘the people’s princess’.

Given that the sarcophagus in which her remains were found dates from 1501, Mark and his Bristol University team offered to carry out isotopic tests on the few remaining teeth to establish whether the remains were really those of Eadgyth and not those of Otto’s second wife, or of someone else all together. The results show a perfect match with the chalkland geology of Eadgyth’s Wessex childhood home; in fact the story revealed by the strontium ratios is more subtle than that: only from the age of nine do the values remain constant; before that, Eadgyth probably moved around the kingdom following her father, King Edward the Elder, during his reign and only after her mother was divorced in 919, when she and Eadgyth were banished to a monastery (perhaps Winchester or Wilton), do the values level out.

The period spent in the monastery and a diet that included a large quantity of fish is given as the reason why carbon dates from the bones come out 200 years too early; a high protein date is often the reason why bones appear older than they are. Study of the surviving skeleton by a team led by Professor Harald Meller of the State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology, in Saxony-Anhalt, found evidence of trauma from disease or an eating disorder at the age of ten, and femur lesions typical of someone who was a frequent horse rider, further hinting at her nobility.

Having established that the remains probably are those of Eadgyth, the bones will be reburied later in this year, 500 years after their last interment in AD 1510.

The Harriett is scheduled

Another cause dear to Mark Horton’s heart is the scheduling of the Purton Hulks, a group of redundant coastal and river boats deliberately beached along the banks of the River Severn, between Purton and Sharpness, between 1909 and 1963 in order to help stabilise the eroding river bank and protect the entrance to the Sharpness and Gloucester ship canal. The eighty-plus historic vessels lining this 1.5-mile stretch of river have been called ‘the world’s largest conglomeration of historic wooden vessels’, and local people have long campaigned for them to be given better protection through some form of designation.

Now one of the vessels at least has had its significance recognised: the Harriett, a rare (perhaps unique) example of a barge built in 1905 specifically for working on the Kennet and Avon canal, was designated as a Scheduled Monument by English Heritage on 9 June 2010 and added to the Historic Ships Register. This follows excavations carried out by local volunteers last summer that established the excellent state of survival of the ship’s waterlogged hull. In a statement about the designation, English Heritage said that it continues to work with local groups who want to see this site protected, understood and valued. As well as being a registered historic ship, the Harriett has also been ‘adopted’ by Judith Hague, a member of the Nautical Archaeology Society (NAS) and Stuart Bryan, a former member of the Government’s Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites, under the NAS ‘adopt a wreck scheme’ which aims to increase awareness of underwater archaeological sites.

Brooking Collection Appeal

An appeal has been launched by Sir William McAlpine, Chairman of the Brooking Architectural Museum Trust, with the aim of raising £20,000 as a matter of urgency to fund the costs of moving Charles Brooking’s unique collection of architectural materials to a new home. Charles Brooking’s unique collection of historic windows, doors, panelling, fireplaces and staircases, cornices, pictures rails, skirtings and dados has been built up over many decades from materials salvaged from demolished buildings, and now forms an outstanding conservation resource that ranges in date from the sixteenth century to the 1930s.

For the last twenty years the majority of the collection (which continues to grow) has been housed in 6,600 sq ft of warehousing at Woolwich, thanks to support from the University of Greenwich. Now that that lease is coming to an end, the trustees need funds to pack and move the collection to a secure site in preparation for the establishment of a permanent museum, which is likely to result from a partnership with the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum near Chichester.

For further details, see the ‘Museum Trust’ page of the Brooking Collection website.

Guidance on archaeological archives

The problem of storing and providing access to vast amounts of material is not one unique to the Brooking Collection: vast quantities of artefacts and excavation records have overwhelmed the storage and management capacity of local and regional museum services, leading to the need to think afresh about ways to make good use of such resources. The Museum of London has led the way towards new solutions with its London Archaeological Archive and Research Centre (LAARC) and this provides the model for guidance and a policy statement on the development of Archaeological Resource Centres series just published by the Archaeological Archive Forum.

The policy statement sets out the current background and argues the case for the development of a network of Archaeological Resource Centres (ARCs) throughout England in response to the current archaeological archive capacity and management crisis. The statement is supported by all the Forum member organisations and is available for download from the Forum's webpage. Alongside its policy statement, the AAF has produced a guidance document to help those seeking to create an ARC; this defines what an ARC is and sets out recommended procedures that should be followed in developing one, from preparatory work, through planning to execution. Reference to this document should satisfy stakeholders that the project will proceed within a nationally accepted framework. The guidance can also be downloaded from the Forum's webpage.

Edith Pretty’s Sutton Hoo home to open

The home of Edith Pretty, instigator of the 1939 excavations at Sutton Hoo, is to open to visitors for the first time this summer (weekends from now to 11 July and every day until 31 August). Tranmer House was built in 1910 as a statement of wealth and influence, with far-reaching views out over the River Deben. It was bequeathed, unfurnished, to the Trust in 1998, but is now partly furnished in appropriate period style following a public appeal for furniture, including the former gamekeeper’s room, which has been furnished in the style of archaeologist Basil Brown’s work shed.

At the nearby Sutton Hoo Visitor Centre, the summer exhibition (until 31 October) consists of a selection of illustrations of Anglo-Saxon archaeological digs and projects by Victor Ambrus, best known as the Time Team artist. The displays include Victor’s drawings of the Anglo-Saxon trading and monastery site at Bawsey in Norfolk, an Anglo-Saxon burial site in the New Forest and an Anglo-Saxon Hall at Nassington in Northamptonshire. They also include illustrations of Sutton Hoo commissioned by our Fellow Martin Carver, during his time as director of excavations at Sutton Hoo in the 1980s.

Sargent and the Sea at the Royal Academy

As our thoughts turn to holidays, encouraged by unusually warm, dry and sunny weather in the UK (not at all what we normally associate with the solstice at Stonehenge, the Glastonbury Festival and Wimbledon fortnight), one of the top exhibitions of the summer is about to open in the Royal Academy’s Sackler Galleries featuring eighty of John Singer Sargent’s drawings, watercolours and oil paintings of the sea.

Co-curated by our Fellow Richard Ormond, the exhibition (10 July to 26 September 2010) has already been shown to critical acclaim in Washington DC. Reviews have contrasted these confident and spontaneous-seeming seascapes depicting the Normandy and Brittany coasts, the island of Capri, Morocco and various Mediterranean ports, as well as those made during two trans-Atlantic voyages, with the more formal studio portraits in which he specialised in later life. These early works (of 1874—9) show Sargent exploring colour and light under the influence of Turner and Courbet and producing work imbued with warmth and atmosphere.

In an article written for the RA member’s magazine, Richard says of En route pour la pêche (1878), the centre-piece of the show, showing a group of women going down the beach to tend the oyster beds for which Cancale is famous, that ‘you can taste the salt-sea air and feel the wind in your face on this brisk and sunny Atlantic day’. But, he argues, for all their plein-air spontaneity, many of the works on show were the result of careful preparation, and sketch books in the exhibition provide an insight into Sargent’s construction of compositions.

Richard also notes that the Royal Academy is an appropriate venue for this exhibition, for it was here, with his stunning portrait of Lady Agnew, exhibited in 1893, that he established his name in Britain, so becoming the greatest Anglo-American portrait painter of his generation. Richard reminds us that it was Sargent’s English and American friends, among them Henry James and Edwin Austin Abbey, who persuaded him that London offered a better chance of patronage than Paris when his now-famous portrait of the notorious Madame Gautreau, painted in a revealing black dress and provocative pose, caused outrage in the French capital. ‘Today it is difficult to understand why this brilliant and original portrait caused so much fuss, but standards were very different in those days’, Richard writes, but France’s loss was Britain’s gain, as a series of masterly portraits then flowed through the 1890s and early 1900s, earning Sargent the sobriquet of ‘the Van Dyck of our times’, in Rodin’s memorable phrase.

Georgian Chester: The City in Art

Our Fellow Peter Boughton, Keeper of Art at Chester’s Grosvenor Museum, has curated an exhibition that opens at the museum on 3 July (to 12 September), celebrating the elegance and grandeur of the city’s Georgian architecture, which, says Peter, ‘though often overlooked in favour of the city’s Roman heritage and its black and white buildings, makes such a vital contribution to the city’s wonderfully rich townscape’.

Peter goes on to explain that ‘Chester’s appearance was transformed between 1714 and 1837 as the medieval gates in the city walls were replaced with new archways, the canal was constructed, and The Groves were laid out. Buildings both old and new were given handsome brick facades, as seen in the terraces of Abbey Square and Nicholas Street, and the era reached a monumental climax in the masterpieces of Thomas Harrison’s castle and Grosvenor Bridge’ These transformations are captured in historic works, including watercolours by the Georgian artists Moses Griffith, John Downman and John Buckler, and in contemporary art, much of its specially commissioned by the museum, ranging from Brian Gorman’s moody evocation of Forest House to Patricia Kelsall’s colourful depiction of 6 St John Street. Pride of place goes to five pictures by retired Chester architect Neale Evans, including particularly beautiful watercolours of Nicholas Street and the City Club.

The programme of accompanying events includes a tour of the exhibition with Peter Boughton on 9 July, a guided walk, ‘Exploring Georgian Chester’, with Paul Hyde on 18 July and a lecture, ‘Change and Continuity: Chester in the Georgian Age’, by Dr Keith McLay on 9 September.

Museums and the role they play in Welsh life

Fans of ‘Dr Who’ sat gripped on Saturday (26 June), as the finale of the current series (involving no less than the destruction of the entire universe) was played out in the halls of Cardiff’s National Museum and on the museum’s rooftops (though with St Paul’s Cathedral incongruously prominent on the Blitz-evoking skyline), providing, perhaps, a fine example of what the Welsh Assembly Government means in its first ever strategy for Welsh museums about ‘finding innovative ways of sharing resources and attracting new, younger audiences’. If the museum can find ways of capitalising on its use as a Dr Who location set, it may well go some way to achieving another of the strategy’s goals for museums, of ‘helping to expand our international profile and contribute to our tourism industry’. In fact, it will be interesting to see whether archaeology as a whole benefits from Dr Who’s current series, which saw Stonehenge (and the subterranean ‘Underhenge’) used last week as the location for a defiant meeting between the Doctor and a deadly alliance of Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans and Stone Angels, not to mention the pivotal role played in this series by the mysterious archaeologist, Professor River Song.

But we digress. The Welsh Assembly Government's Museums Strategy for Wales 2010—2015 sets out a detailed plan of ‘actions, partners and measures of success’ for the next five years designed to ‘demonstrate the benefits of museums to society as a whole, particularly in difficult times’. Launching the strategy, the Minister for Heritage, Alun Ffred Jones, said that: ‘The museums of Wales play a critical part in both preserving Wales’s rich heritage and in sharing the excitement of their stories locally, nationally and internationally … Museums should play an active part in providing education, entertainment and a sense of belonging to everyone in Wales.’

Underpinning the strategy is the continuation of a concept pioneered by Welsh museums of viewing their sites, operations, collections and people as parts of a ‘distributed National Collection’ rather than as separate entities. This approach includes developing a co-ordinated approach to collecting, rationalisation and loans across Wales and undertaking joint research and conservation projects.

Feedback

Two errors in the last issue of Salon deserve to be corrected, for the record: the AIA is the Archaeological Institute of America, not the American Institute for Archaeology as written, and the figurines in the ‘unearthed’ exhibition described as ‘designed to be held in the hand’ should have been described as typically 200mm in height, rather than 450mm.

Andrew Selkirk takes Salon to task for the reference in the last issue to ‘climate-change deniers’. He says ‘how about “climate change normalisers” or “climate change regularisers”?’

Linda Hall read Salon’s review of Francis Pryor’s new book on the Making of the British Landscape and thought of Puck. ‘Long before Hoskins, someone else was noticing the landscape and what it can tell us about our history’, she writes. ‘Rudyard Kipling’s poem Puck’s Song is a brilliant evocation of landscape archaeology (although it rather falls apart in the last verse!) and should be compulsory reading for all budding archaeologists! But first it should be read aloud to all primary school children to arouse their interest and excitement in this country's past.’

For those who do not have it to hand, here is Puck’s Song in full:

See you the ferny ride that steals
Into the oak-woods far?
O that was whence they hewed the keels
That rolled to Trafalgar.

And mark you where the ivy clings
To Bayham’s mouldering walls?
O there we cast the stout railings
That stand around St Paul’s.

See you the dimpled track that runs
All hollow through the wheat?
O that was where they hauled the guns
That smote King Philip’s fleet.

(Out of the Weald, the secret Weald,
Men sent in ancient years
The horse-shoes red at Flodden Field,
The arrows at Poitiers!)

See you our little mill that clacks
So busy by the brook?
She has ground her corn and paid her tax
Ever since Domesday Book.

See you our stilly woods of oak,
And the dread ditch beside?
O that was where the Saxons broke
On the day that Harold died.

See you the windy levels spread
About the gates of Rye?
O that was where the Northmen fled,
When Alfred’s ships came by.

See you our pastures wide and lone,
Where the red oxen browse?
O there was a City thronged and known
Ere London boasted a house.

And see you, after rain, the trace
Of mound and ditch and wall?
O that was a Legion’s camping place
When Caesar sailed from Gaul.

And see you marks that show and fade,
Like shadows on the Downs?
O they are the lines the Flint Men made,
To guard their wondrous towns.

Trackway and Camp and City lost,
Salt Marsh where now is corn
Old Wars, old Peace, old Arts that cease,
And so was England born!

She is not any common Earth,
Water or wood or air,
But Merlin’s Isle of Gramarye,
Where you and I will fare!

In the last issue of Salon, we wished happy birthday to Beatrice de Cardi (ninety-six on 5 June 2010) and to Thurstan Shaw (ninety-six yesterday, on 27 June 2010), but forgot to note that both are medallists: the Society’s Gold Medal for distinguished services to archaeology was awarded to Thurstan in 1990, and the Society Medal for outstanding service to the Society and its aims was awarded to Beatrice in 2003.

On the question of longevity in antiquarian pursuits, Peter Spufford writes to say that he is ‘delighted to see that Cecil Humphery-Smith beats me for continuity’, and then reveals that he and Cecil go back a long way in another field: ‘I was one of the three founder members of the Cambridge University Society of Genealogists in 1953’, says Peter, ‘and I have been involved continuously ever since. The University Heraldic Society then began in 1950 (we celebrate that anniversary next month). I was later responsible for fusing the two societies to form the Cambridge University Heraldic and Genealogical Society, of which I have been the Vice-President continuously ever since, while Humphery-Smith is our senior Honorary Vice-President, and I imagine I must have involved him a very long time back.’

Salon 233 reported on an article in Nature magazine concerning grey literature in archaeology, and our Fellow Mark Taylor writes to explain the policy at West Sussex, where he works.

‘In West Sussex we have all our grey literature scanned onto disks annually and copies are lodged with ten lending libraries in the county and a copy with the West Sussex Record Office and the library of Sussex Archaeological Society in Lewes. Nobody should have trouble with getting hold of a copy of a report required as part of the planning process to inform a local authority planning decision because once it has been submitted to the local authority it should be available for public inspection just like any of the other documents submitted with the planning application.

‘The only circumstance in which a developer might legitimately withhold a report from wider circulation might be when an evaluation is undertaken before a planning application is submitted and potentially before the prospective applicant has secured/acquired the site itself. In this case the information in the archaeological report could be argued to be commercially confidential and of value to a rival. However, once a live application is going forward the information is in the public domain as far as I am concerned and I cannot imagine a curator agreeing to anything less.’

Mark concludes: ‘We do everything we can at West Sussex County Council to ensure that grey literature is readily available, but I realise that the pattern is inconsistent elsewhere. There is a need for the IfA and ALGAO to encourage consistency nationally.’

Addressing some of the same themes, Martin Carver tells Salon that his Rhind Lectures have been posted on the web (‘complete with song and applause’). ‘They are all about field archaeology and the commercial sector’, says Martin, but a quick glance at the website of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, which hosts the Rhind Lectures, given over two days in April 2010, suggests that they are enriched by many personal and biographical observations and a large measure of stylish wit and wisdom gained from a life at the forefront of archaeological thinking, which make them as entertaining as they are thought-provoking.

Biographical too is the series of annual Arts Council England and the Lottery-funded events that our Fellow Christine Finn has been mounting for Architecture Week in and about her home at 58 Golf Road, Deal CT14 6QB, under the theme of Leave Home Stay. This year’s events (22 July, 5.30—7.30pm, 23, 24 and 25 July, 11am—5pm) were inspired by the domestic life, artefacts and anthropology of Haiti’s tented villages, constructed in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, on which Christine reported for BBC Radio 4’s ‘From Our Own Correspondent’ at the beginning of the year. Thirty of the photographs that Christine took in Haiti will be installed in the house to contrast with her own domestic artefacts to stimulate thoughts about ‘what makes a home’ and a tent in the garden will house a domestic audioscape.

If you are in Mallorca over the period 6 to 10 July you can catch Christine talking about Jacquetta Hawkes and Robert Graves at the Robert Graves conference, which is based in Palma but includes a visit to Robert Grave’s house in Deja. After that, writes Christine, ‘I am commemorating Jacquetta Hawkes’s centenary by travelling around Britain, from London to Cornwall, Yorkshire to the Fens, in the footsteps of A Land, hopefully kicking off in Primrose Hill (cf the book’s beginning) in the Hawkes’s garden at Fitzroy Road, London NW1, followed by a talk at the Primrose Hill library and then up on the hill for some readings (date to be confirmed; probably 2 August at 6.30pm). I’ll be photographing my travels, hopefully to show at the Ilkley Literary Festival in October.’

Fellow Kate Taylor, President of the Wakefield Historical Society, writes with an update on the Society’s pilgrimage, which will follow the route of the great funeral procession of Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York, who was killed at the Battle of Wakefield in 1460. At the beginning of the pilgrimage, on the afternoon of 21 July, our Fellow Richard Knowles will give a talk about the Battle of Wakefield, close to the site where it is believed the Duke fell. Between 21 and 27 July Vespers of the Dead will be sung in churches along the funeral route and each service will be followed at 7pm by a talk given by a distinguished medieval scholar. In three cases these are Fellows of our Society. At Blyth on 23 July Jenny Alexander will speak on ‘The Imagery of Medieval Churches and Medieval Devotion’, with particular reference to Blyth church. Philip Dixon is to speak at St Wulfram’s, Grantham, on 26 July, on ‘Medieval Inns on the Great North Road’, and Julian Litten will speak at St Martin's, Stamford on 27 July on ‘The Heraldic Funeral: its purpose and meanings’. On the last evening of the pilgrimage, 29 July, the Duke of Gloucester will attend the service of Compline at Fotheringhay, following in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessor. All are welcome to attend the services and talks (see The Road to Fotheringhay website for further details.

Commenting on the report in Salon 235 on the proposed closure of Stamford’s museum, our Fellow John Smith, the museum’s former curator, writes to share with Fellows a letter that he wrote to the editor of the local paper, the Stamford Mercury, in which he expresses a profound sense of shock at the news.

‘As its curator for twenty years I am particularly concerned about Stamford Museum. It was founded by the old borough council fifty years ago and virtually recreated between 1977 and 1980 when the new museum opened. Even then we realised that the museum was too small for a town of Stamford’s stature and set about compensating in other ways: by making the historic town itself the museum and setting out to interpret it for townsfolk and visitors alike. The town trails we published won a national prize for being one of the best in the country, the annual lectures we started in 1990 and still going strong can draw well over a hundred for each sitting, while schools visits go from strength to strength.

‘For twenty years I persuaded Stamfordians to deposit their precious artefacts in the museum, and the constant phrase I heard was, “I want them to stay in Stamford”. I could not give that guarantee, but could point to a thriving museum and its strength as a public institution with the safety net of a large local authority behind it. This usually allayed the fear that things would “disappear up to Lincoln”, but how wrong I was! I feel a sense of personal betrayal. If the present scheme is proceeded with, it will create an awful precedent and a huge hurdle for any future museum to surmount.’

John concludes his letter by suggesting as a solution the model adopted by ‘our close neighbour Peterborough … There, they have transferred the management of the museum and art gallery, their libraries and sports centres to a newly formed trust that is seeking charitable status. That being so, their institutions will be free from business rates and, being in the hands of a trust, they will be able to apply for grant aid not available to a local authority. Why do we not do the same?’

Concern over the future of the Wedgwood Museum

The Wedgwood Museum, winner of the £100,000 Art Fund Prize in 2009, is facing the prospect of closure and sale and break-up of its unique collection, representing the output of Josiah Wedgwood’s Etruria factory, from the date of its opening in June 1769.

The museum is managed by the Wedgwood Museum Trust, a charity that is independent from the Wedgwood Group, which went into administration on 5 January 2009 and is now owned by the private equity firm KPS Capital Partners. At the time, the museum’s future as a charity was said to be secure, but a new threat to its survival comes from the former company’s pension liabilities towards its 7,000 former employees. A court case to be heard in October will decide whether the collection must be sold to meet the £134m shortfall in the pension fund. Alison Wedgwood, an economist who is married to Tom Wedgwood, a descendant of Josiah Wedgwood, the firm’s founder, said that ‘it would be a tragedy to see the collection sold separately, and a decision against the trust would have damaging implications for similar trusts set up to protect historic items’.

Galleries and museums face summer of protest over BP arts sponsorship

Green activists have begun picketing the National Portrait Gallery’s annual Portrait Award exhibition in an attempt to persuade them to stop taking sponsorship from BP. Protests are also planned at Tate Britain’s annual summer party when Lord Browne of Madingley, chair of the Tate and former head of BP, will lead a celebration of Tate’s twenty-year association with the international oil company.

The main recipients of BP’s arts sponsorship — the Royal Opera House, Tate Galleries, the British Museum and the National Portrait Gallery — have issued a joint statement defending the connection and signalling their determination to preserve the commercial relationship. The statement said that: ‘The income generated through corporate partnerships is vital to the mixed economy of successful arts organisations and enables each of us to deliver a rich and vibrant cultural programme. We are grateful to BP for their long-term commitment, sharing the vision that our artistic programmes should be made available to the widest possible audience.’

The oil company is a generous arts sponsor; the Almeida Theatre, the National Maritime Museum and the Science and Natural History Museums have also benefited from BP’s support. Maurice Davies, of the Museums Association, said: ‘BP has a long and distinguished record of sponsorship. No one will rush to judgment on a company that has been a loyal supporter for such a long time. I don't hear a national clamour for BP petrol stations to be shut down.’

Captain Scott’s hut saved and the Polar Museum transformed

Better news on the museums and conservation front comes in the form of an announcement from the Antarctic Heritage Trust that they have succeeded in raising money for essential repairs to the historic group of huts used by Captain Scott and his companions for the ill-fated Terra Nova Expedition of 1910—13. Scott’s Hut is on the World Monuments Watch List of the world’s 100 Most Endangered Sites. Our Fellow Sir David Attenborough played a leading part in the fundraising campaign, saying that it is ‘a monument to the great age of heroic exploration. It would be a scandal if Britain failed to provide the money to make sure that this astonishing place is protected for future generations’

Sales of a specially produced tea helped to raise £20,000 towards the restoration project. ‘Captain Scott's Strong Blend’ was created by tea makers Typhoo to replicate the blend that was used by the expedition. Promoted by Tesco, each pack sold led to a 5p donation to the Antarctic Heritage Trust.

Meanwhile, the Polar Museum at Cambridge University’s Scott Polar Research Institute has reopened after a two-year transformation as part of a £1.75m redevelopment made possible by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The museum’s reopening on 8 June was timed to coincide with the centenary of Scott’s departure from Britain on the Terra Nova Expedition. The museum plans a two-year series of exhibitions and events to mark the expedition’s achievements (see the Scott 100 website for details).

Among the exhibits on display are the last letters of Captain Scott and his companions and the Terra Nova journals of Henry Robertson Bowers. New displays also showcase the work of scientists and explorers in the Arctic and Antarctic and the wider environmental significance of the poles at a time of melting glaciers and sea-level rise. The museum’s first special exhibition displays examples of recent Inuit art, of which the Polar Museum holds the UK’s largest public collection.

New Warburg Institute Director

The Warburg Institute has announced that it has appointed Professor Peter Mack as its new Director, with effect from October 2010. Peter is currently on the staff of the English and Comparative Literary Studies Department at Warwick University, where he specialises in medieval and Renaissance history and culture, and in particular the impact of rhetoric as taught in grammar schools and universities on such writers as Chaucer, Shakespeare and Montaigne.

Lives Remembered

Last week brought the very sad news that our Fellow Carola Hicks succumbed to cancer on 23 June 2010. There will be a private family funeral; arrangements for a memorial event will be announced in due course.

Carola’s memory will be treasured by many of us for different reasons: she volunteered, for example, to undertake the role of Journal Reviews Editor for the Society in 2008, and many Fellows will therefore have experienced the style and charm that Carola brought to the task of persuading Fellows to write a book review. The fruits of her efforts, and of those Fellows who agreed to her request, will be seen when Volume 90 of the Journal is published this September.

Many more will remember Carola as an immensely popular and successful author, whose book, The King’s Glass, on the stained-glass windows of King’s College, Cambridge, was read by the actor, Samuel West, as Radio 4’s Book of the Week, over the week between Christmas 2007 and the New Year 2008. This was the second of Carola’s biographies of works of art, the first being her book on the Bayeux Tapestry, and she was approaching the completion of a third, on Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Marriage, at the time of her untimely death.

Earlier in her career, Carola had been Curator of the Stained Glass Museum in Ely and then a Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge, where she was Tutor for Graduate Students from 1990 until 1996 and Director of Studies in the History of Art from 1995 until 2007.

Events

10 July 2010: ‘Rethinking the Bronze Age and the Arrival of Indo-European in Atlantic Europe’. This one-day forum, to be held at St Anne’s College, Oxford, will include a contribution from our Fellow Colin Renfrew on the subject of early Celtic and early Indo-European culture in the west, and the launch of a new book edited by our Fellow Barry Cunliffe and John Koch called Celtic from the West: Alternative Perspectives from Archaeology, Genetics, Language, and Literature (Oxbow Books).

For further details and a booking form, contact Angharad Elias at the University of Wales Centre for Advanced Welsh and Celtic Studies.

7 September 2010: The Heritage Science in Scotland Conference, hosted by Historic Scotland at the Glasgow Science Centre. This event will highlight the importance and quality of Scotland’s heritage science output and will demonstrate the close and productive working between heritage institutions and specialist university research groups. The event will have four themes: 1. Using science to understand the past; 2. Monitoring decay and conservation treatments; 3. Public and wider benefits of heritage science; 4. Current research in heritage science in Scotland.

Booking forms are available from the Historic Scotland website.

13 and 14 November 2010: ‘Local Churches and Lordship in the European Middle Ages’, at the Institute of Archaeology, University College London. This conference will feature speakers from across Europe discussing the role of the aristocracy in private and local churches in medieval society. For further information and a booking form please visit the Institute’s website.

Books by Fellows

David Sherlock’s book on Suffolk Church Chests has been published by the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History at the bargain price of £15 (incl p&p) or £10 (by post £12) for members. The book contains an inventory of all the chests in the county (only the third of such county surveys, following those for Essex in 1913 and Herefordshire in 1947), and it tells the story of their construction and use.

Chests survive as witnesses to various dictates: in 1166, Henry II ordered chests to be placed in churches to collect money to fund crusades or for the collection of alms, while the Synod of Exeter ordered the provision of two chests, one for books and one for vestment, for every church. Yet another was required for parish registers under an Act of 1603, later modified by the Act of 1812 requiring registers to be kept in iron chests, now widely known as Waterloo Chests.

Some had secret compartments, and some were used for storing arms and armour by local militias. Others were even used as a form of bank vault by parishioners who wished to enjoy the security of entrusting valuables to a chest that could only be opened in the presence of three separate key holders.

Our Society has played a small role in the book, by making a grant towards the dendrochronological dating of the Poslingford chest, which is probably the county’s oldest dated chest, constructed, we now know, in the last quarter of the thirteenth century from Baltic timber — probably from the same consignment used to construct the presbytery roof at St Alban’s Abbey.

David says that he worried that the book might be used as a burglars’ bible, remembering that only a week or so after a catalogue of Roman finds in Aldborough was published (by Mike Bishop, in 1996), the museum was broken into and practically all the portable antiquities were stolen. However, the opposite has proved to be the case: ‘It is pleasing to report’, says David, ‘that a chest stolen from Badley church in 2002 was identified from the photograph in my book in an antique shop in Devon and has now been returned to Suffolk’

Some twenty-three years after Tim Darvill’s Prehistoric Britain was first published, Routledge has brought out a second edition (ISBN: 9780415490276), which, Tim says, is ‘nearly double the length of the first edition, which goes to show just how much excellent archaeology has been done over the last two decades’. The book aims to provide a comprehensive and authoritative account of British prehistory, examining the development of human societies in Britain from earliest times to the Roman conquest of AD 43, as revealed by the latest archaeological evidence. Special attention is given to the six themes of subsistence, technology, ritual, trade, society and population. Emphasis is given to documenting change within prehistoric communities and to exploring the regional variations. ‘Darvill’s book provides a pleasing introduction to the story of British prehistory’, said the Times Literary Supplement of the first edition and the same is even more true of the new expanded version.

Where Tim’s book looks at the entire sweep of pre-Roman Britain, Niall Sharples concentrates on Wessex in the first millennium BC in his new book, Social Relations in Later Prehistory (ISBN: 9780199577712; Oxford University Press). Explaining his connections with Wessex in the Introduction (Niall directed the English Heritage excavations at Maiden castle in the mid-1980s, having also dug with our Fellows John Barrett and Richard Bradley at Cranborne Chase in the 1970s), Niall describes the book as a contribution to the ongoing debate about the character of the first millennium set in train by the publication in 1991 of Iron Age Communities in Britain by our Fellow Barry Cunliffe.

Four main themes form the structure for the book: the transformation of the landscape of Wessex which, during this period, becomes fully developed, owned and enclosed, in ways that impact on the second theme, the development of a sense of community, and the ways in which that sense is expressed through monument creation and gift exchange, which in turn is based on technology and labour specialisation; the third theme is one that Niall has made his own, the cosmological and cyclical symbolism of the houses of the period, while the fourth theme is the search for ‘the nature of individual personhood’ in the first millennium BC.

There probably is a link between Niall’s book and the next one, but it would take somebody more steeped in archaeological theory than Salon’s editor to tease it out: Fellow Peter Galloway’s new book, The Order of the Thistle (ISBN 9781902040929; Spink) is a large (455-page) and comprehensive history of Scotland’s national order of knighthood, instituted by King James VII (of Scotland) and II (of England) in 1687 to recognise the loyalty of those who governed Scotland in his name.

Like Niall’s book, it looks at the large picture — the origins, development and progress of the order, set against the changing face of political life in Scotland from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries — and at its material culture — in the form of its insignia — and at the many colourful and sometimes eccentric personalities who have featured in the order’s life and contributed to its reputation.

Vacancies

Weald and Downland Open Air Museum: Director
Salary c £50k; closing date 26 July 2010

The Museum is seeking a Director to succeed Richard Harris on his retirement at the end of 2010. For further information see the museum’s website.

University of Cambridge, Department of Archaeology: University Lecturer in Palaeolithic Archaeology
Salary £36,715 to £46,510; closing date 17 September 2010

The forthcoming retirement of our Fellow Professor Sir Paul Mellars will create a vacancy for a University Lectureship in the Department of Archaeology (Faculty of Archaeology and Anthropology) from 1 January 2011. The successful applicant will have research and teaching interests in Palaeolithic archaeology, and will be expected to hold a PhD at the time of appointment. Further information from the Cambridge University website.