Salon Archive

Issue: 237

Farewell party for the General Secretary

There will be a drinks party on Thursday 22 July at Burlington House to say farewell to our General Secretary, David Gaimster, who is leaving the Society to take up the Directorship of the Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery, at the University of Glasgow. If you would like to attend the drinks party or make a contribution to a collection for David, please contact Jola Zdunek, tel: 020 7479 7088.

HMS Victory 1744: options for the management of the wreck site

In our response to the public consultation on the management of the wreck site of HMS Victory 1744, the Society of Antiquaries has pointed out that ratification of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001, which the Society has frequently urged in the past, would help resolve many of the complexities involved in this particular case and be of great benefit to UK marine assets generally, providing a much-needed regulatory framework for their proper protection.

Rule 1 of the Annex to the UNESCO Convention gives the principle of preservation in situ as the preferred option where this is practical and this must be the preferred option for the Victory, the Society says. The degree to which the vessel is subject to damage from natural degradation and storm damage, fishing and trawling, and interference from divers, needs considerable further evaluation. Insufficient survey has been undertaken so far to reveal anything other than artefact scatter and the preservation and nature of the vessel structure; its degree and depth of burial within sediments is unknown. It is therefore premature to do anything other than adopt the precautionary principle of preservation in situ at least until such time as considerable further work is carried out.

The complete text of the Society’s response to the consultation can be downloaded from the News and Events page of the Society’s website.

Statement on the future of the Stonehenge Environmental Improvement Project

At their end of June meeting, English Heritage Commissioners discussed the future of the Stonehenge Environmental Improvement Project following the Government’s decision on 17 June to withdraw its funding from the project. Commissioners decided that English Heritage should continue to explore alternative funding from non-Government sources. Having worked for so many years to achieve the desperately needed transformation of Stonehenge, Commissioners said they were ‘very anxious that every possible funding avenue is pursued’.

In the meantime, as the planning process is so close to completion, the organisation will use money raised from private sources to complete the final few planning stages, without making irreversible financial commitment to the scheme’s future. Formal planning permission has already been granted for the visitor centre. English Heritage will now apply for a Stopping Up Order to close the section of the A344 that goes from Stonehenge Bottom to Byway 12. If the Order is granted, the area immediately surrounding the stone circle would revert to grass in the future.

The future of the Warburg Institute

The Art Newspaper for July contains an article by our Fellow Anna Somers Cocks with the arresting headline: ‘The Warburg Institute is fighting for its life’. This reveals that that the Warburg’s distinctive identity is threatened by proposals to merge the libraries of the constituent parts of the University of London, a move that would destroy the organisational system that is unique to the Warburg’s library and that is fundamental to the Institute’s philosophy and raison d’etre, as well as reducing the number of specialist library staff and curtailing the Institute’s independent governance and administration.

The Institute has played a key role in British cultural life since it was founded in London in 1944, and it has shaped the thinking of generations of cultural historians ever since. At the heart of the Institute is the private library of Aby Warburg (1866—1929), scion of the Hamburg banking family, who believed that knowledge should not be constrained by disciplinary boundaries. His own scholarly research was multi-disciplinary, multi-cultural and omnivorous: in his own explanation of the iconography of Renaissance art, for example, he showed the central role played by astrology, alchemy, fortune-telling and magic, subjects that other scholars had not considered worthy of serious study. In doing so he created a new area of study, the history of ideas.

The circle of scholars influenced by Warburg’s thinking include Fritz Saxl, Warburg’s closest collaborator and first director of the Warburg Library, who showed the importance of the worship of the god Mithras in late classicism, and together with Erwin Panofsky explained the origins and meaning of Dürer’s famous print, Melancholia I. Panofsky’s own most famous work is Studies in Iconology (1939), which showed how to look for the intentional meaning of art hidden in the narrative or in symbolic form. This in turn provoked Sir Ernst Gombrich to consider art and psychology in his book Art and Illusion (1960). Rudolf Wittkower, in his book, Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (1949), studied the relationships between musical and architectural ratios in his study of Palladio, and Dame Frances Yates, who taught for many years at the Warburg, revealed how magic was intrinsic to the development of early modern science and philosophy.

When the Warburg Library and its staff fled the Nazis in 1933, they found a home in London and were part of that great flowering of intellectual and artistic life in the capital that took place as a result of the pre-war diaspora. All this, argues Anna Somers Cocks, is a precious legacy that should be cherished, and she accuses London University of not understanding ‘the human reality of what makes a place of learning and intellectual creativity. Administrative synergies will not do it; money and a fine building do not necessarily do it, as the Getty Research Institute has shown. Despite all its facilities, that has never stirred people’s minds much or aroused affection. The Warburg, on the other hand, attracts scholars from all over the world and from many fields … the archaeologist Salvatore Settis, until recently head of the elite Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa and one of the most influential figures on the Italian cultural scene, says that he used to spend at least a month a year here and now he sends his most talented postgraduates to the Warburg to broaden their minds.’

As an alternative to the present thinking, Anna argues that the University should ‘collaborate with the Institute on a long-term plan for its future in its own building. This certainty would make it possible for the Warburg to launch an international search for the endowment funding that would enable it to carry on its extraordinary work’. Backing such an approach are the members of the Warburg family; in interviews with the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, banker Max Warburg is quoted as saying that the family would do everything possible in law to compel the University to honour the trust deed signed between the family and the University in 1944, which guarantees the Warburg’s independence and independent financing.

Cultural economics

The Art Newspaper also publishes an essay by Robert Hewison, Professor of Cultural Policy and Leadership Studies at City University London, giving reasons why the Government should continue funding the art in periods of recession and austerity. He rejects the arguments of the last two decades in which leading figures in the arts world have sought to convince the Treasury of the economic multiplier effect of arts spending — in plain terms, the extra jobs that are created in the tourism and hospitality industries, for example, by the funding that goes into national museums. He says that the Treasury doesn’t believe these figures and anyway knows that there are much more direct ways of creating employment.

Instead Hewison argues that Government’s role is to protect resources that are under threat: this is the so-called ‘market failure’ argument, which says that governments should intervene to protect and sustain resources that are seen as a public good if the market alone cannot sustain them, and in the present climate, Hewison believes the market is unlikely to continue to provide adequate sustenance: ‘national museums and galleries on average manage on one-third government money, one-third earned income and one-third fundraising and sponsorship’, he writes, then argues that: ‘things are beginning to wobble. Recession reduces disposable incomes, the assets of trusts and foundations shrink, business sponsorship dwindles, local authorities have to cut back, and the Treasury demands savings from the DCMS. Rationally, the resource with the longest purse — the government — should not withdraw support when others begin to fail.’

Even so, he regards this as a short-term argument based on expediency: what is needed is a more fundamental rationale for state funding of arts, heritage and culture, and this he finds in the idea that we are literally dumb without culture: we have no means by which society can make sense of itself and the richer in cultural assets we are the better we are as a society. Culture belongs with health and education as fundamental to civilisation.

He also has a witty line that makes a good thought for the day or possible an Oxbridge entrance exam topic: ‘A symphony played on a synthesiser is not an efficiency gain’ (discuss).

Heritage at Risk rescue rate slows

English Heritage published its annual Heritage at Risk report on 7 July 2010, showing that there had been a significant slowing down in the number of Grade I and II* buildings being saved from neglect and removed from the register. Whereas the number of buildings on the register fell by 17 per cent between 1999 and 2007, there had been no reduction in the last three years. Worse still, there had been a 10 per cent rise in the ‘conservation deficit’ over the same period, that being the difference between the cost of repairs and the end value of the 1,218 buildings and structural scheduled monuments on the Register, which now stands at an estimated £465 million (an average of £381,773 per building or monument). All together, taking all types of monument into account, the number of assets on the at risk register is now 4,955, which represents 1 in 32 grade I and II* listed buildings, 1 in 6 scheduled monuments, 1 in 16 registered parks and gardens, 1 in 7 registered battlefields and 1 in 6 protected wreck sites.

Launching the report, our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, attributed this change in fortunes to decreased house prices, private buyers and small developers avoiding buildings at risk, less being spent on repair and maintenance, and larger developers, construction companies, public bodies and development agencies all halting work or even abandoning sites.

Simon also warned that ‘local authority cuts, both in terms of funding and conservation staff, could result in catastrophic losses. Sixteen per cent of historic buildings at risk are the libraries, schools, hospitals, police stations and other typically Victorian or Edwardian edifices owned by local councils and greatly cherished by local communities.’ Nevertheless, he hoped that the publication of the Heritage at Risk register would focus attention on the most needy cases and encourage local people, local authorities and the larger community of both official and voluntary heritage groups ‘to become actively involved in restoring what is precious to them’.

Good news about historic places of worship

The future for England’s historic churches is not quite as bleak as one might have thought, according to English Heritage, but the balance is so fine that the wrong measures could easily tip the scale. This was the message from the ‘Caring for Places of Worship’ campaign, which our Fellow Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, launched last week by placing a positive spin on the fact that only one in ten of the nation’s 14,500 listed places of worship is defined as being at risk; as Simon put it: ‘let us celebrate the fact that 90 per cent of congregations are being successful in maintaining their buildings’.

Even so, subsequent comment in the press highlighted the fragility of this situation amidst fears that the Government might not renew the VAT rebate scheme on repairs to listed places of worship when the current dispensation comes to an end in March next year. The sums involved are not insignificant: since 2002, English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund have spent £179m on repairs to listed places of worship of all denominations and VAT rebates on this work amounted to another £12m in valuable funds. One in five recipients of EH/HLF funding under the Repair Grants for Places of Worship scheme said that they would not have been able to proceed with their repairs without the VAT rebate and that it was critical to halting the decline of their building and preventing irreversible damage.

The main thrust of the campaign is to offer support, encouragement and advice to congregations in the form of a practical guide (downloadable from the English Heritage website) and a website advising on issues such as how to make the church building more secure, how to attract volunteers to help maintain the building and how to gain permission to make changes to the building so that it can remain at the centre of community life and be used for a growing range of community activities.

New list of potential World Heritage Sites

The UK’s new Tentative List of sites for World Heritage status has just been published by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport and it illustrates just how wide the concept of world heritage is in the minds of applicants. Thirty-eight applications have been received, ranging from towns and cities (Merthyr Tydfil, Blackpool, Lincoln, York and St Andrews) to huge cultural landscapes (the Lake District, the Wye Valley/Forest of Dean, The Flow Country and the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads), taking in specific monuments (Arbroath Abbey, Merton Priory, the Forth Bridge, Chester Rows, Chatham Dockyard, the former RAF base at Upper Heyford and Jodrell Bank Observatory) as well as groups of monuments linked by a person, theme or industry (Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter, ‘The Birth of the Railway Age’ in Manchester, ‘The Heroic Period of Civil and Marine Engineering in England 1822—66’ in Bristol, the Bronte Landscape and Haworth Village, Brunel’s Great Western Railway, the Buildings of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and the Slate Industry of North Wales).

Archaeology is well represented by Gorham’s Cave (the list includes the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies), renowned for its Palaeolithic deposits, Creswell Crags, home of the UK’s biggest assemblage of cave art, The Dover Strait (with its drowned Mesolithic landscape), Navan Fort, ‘The Royal Sites of Ireland’, ‘Mousa, Old Scatness and Jarlshof: The Crucible of Iron Age Shetland’, Colchester, Camulodunum and Colonia Victricensis, Offa’s Dyke and the Tynwald Hill Norse assembly site.

Also on the list are the Island of Saint Helena, in the South Atlantic Ocean, and the Turks and Caicos Islands, in the Caribbean.

An independent expert panel will now be set up to assess each bid, with a view to a new list of potential sites being drawn up for submission to UNESCO in 2011.

Heroic architect takes on Hampton Court plans

A legal challenge has been launched against planning permission given to the developers Glydedale by Elmbridge Borough Council that will lead to the construction of four-storey flats, a hotel and an ex-servicemen’s home on the site of the Jolly Boatman café opposite Hampton Court. Conservation architect Keith Garner (profiled in this Evening Standard article) argues that the planning permission does not take sufficient account of the impact the development would have on Hampton Court and that the plans ignore Government guidelines on building on and excavating into an area of the Thames flood plain.

Garner’s challenge is being backed by Historic Royal Palaces and a local pressure group, the Hampton Court Rescue Campaign. In 2009, our Fellow David Starkey described the plan to develop the site as ‘not only a national scandal but an international scandal’, one that threatened the ‘magical riverside landscape’ of the palace. John Barnes, Conservation Director at Historic Royal Palaces, which manages Hampton Court, said the decision to allow the development would have been ‘inconceivable’ in other countries: ‘Imagine this outside the gates of Versailles’, he said.

Meanwhile at Versailles itself

And yet, things are going on at Versailles that greatly upset campaigners in France who feel that the dignity of the pride and joy of France is being compromised by its use for a series of temporary exhibitions showcasing the ‘vulgar’ art and ‘pornography’ of Japanese manga comics and cartoons and the works of the American artist Jeff Koons, best known for his giant reproductions of balloon animals produced in stainless steel with a mirror finish (an example of his work was displayed in the courtyard outside the Society’s Burlington House apartments last summer, consisting of a cluster of silver balls resembling bubbles in a champagne glass).

A website has been set up protesting at the indignity of such populist exhibitions, which feels like a lost cause, but is worth visiting just for the grand rhetoric of statements describing such art as part of a 'neo-vandalistic pornographic and sexist international conspiracy', complicity with which threatens to devalue the prestige of Versailles and bring ridicule upon France!

Britain’s biggest ever coin hoard

The British Museum announced last week the finding of the largest hoard of Roman coins yet found in Britain in a single container. The hoard of 52,500 bronze and silver coins — equivalent to four years’ pay for a Roman legionary — was found near Frome, Somerset, by a metal detectorist. The coins mainly date from the period AD 253 to 293, and they include some 760 coins minted during the reign of the self-proclaimed Emperor Carausius, who ruled in Britain and northern Gaul for seven years before being assassinated in AD 293.

Our Fellow Roger Bland, Head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, said that: ‘this find is going to make us rethink the nature of such hoards; the traditional thinking was that they represent wealth hidden in times of trouble and invasion — the Saxons were coming, the Irish were invading as always — but that doesn’t match these dates’. An alternative explanation is that the coins represent a votive offering.

Carausius was a great propagandist and highly literate: the high silver content of his denarii was intended to restore confidence in the economy, by contrast with the debased coinage of his contemporaries, the emperors Diocletian and Maximian. With legends such as Restitutor Britanniae (Restorer of Britain) and Genius Britanniae (Spirit of Britain), he appealed to British dissatisfaction with Roman rule. Using the legend Expectate veni (Come long-awaited one) he not only placed himself at the centre of Roman culture, he also implied that he would lead Britain back to the Golden Age.

Happisburgh: ‘the earliest known settlement in northern Europe’

A little bit of local rivalry was sparked by the report published in Nature last week by Simon Parfitt and colleagues from University College London announcing that they had discovered 78 flint tools and flakes at a coastal site near Happisburgh that date from between 814,000 and 970,000 years ago, which makes them at least 100,000 years older than the previous oldest stone tools from a UK site, also found by Simon and his colleagues at Pakefield, Suffolk, in 2008.

As a consequence, Happisburgh now boasts of being the ‘earliest known human settlement in northern Europe’, though settlement is perhaps stretching a point: as at Pakefield, the tools were probably left by hunter-gatherers on what was then part of the flood plain and marshland bordering one of the ancient courses of the River Thames. The Happisburgh hunter gatherers shared the landscape with rhinos, hyenas and mammoths, whose fossil bones have also been found at the site, and endured a climate not unlike that of southern Scandinavia, where the winters are around 3ºC colder on average than in Britain today. The only hominim known to have been living in Europe at this time was the now-extinct Homo antecessor species, which is known mainly from sites in Spain.

Professor Chris Stringer from the Natural History Museum and the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain project said that the discovery showed that ancient humans were better adapted to surviving colder conditions than previously thought, and were almost certainly advanced enough to wear rudimentary clothing, build shelter and make fire.

Has one of the central questions about the British Neolithic been answered?

Despite a century of research, archaeologists still disagree about how farming began in Britain, with some arguing that it was a result of indigenous groups adopting the practice via trade and exchange and others contending that it was the consequence of a migration of farmers from mainland Europe.

Our Fellow Stephen Shennan, along with co-authors Mark Collard, Kevan Edinborough and Mark G Thomas, now think they might have the answer. In a paper published in The Journal of Archaeological Science (Volume 37, Issue 4, pages 671—900, April 2010) they present evidence for a marked and rapid increase in population density in southern England and in central Scotland around 6000 cal BP, which is the time when cultivated grain first appears in Britain. They argue that this finding is best explained by the migrant farmer hypothesis, with two sets of farmers from the Continent independently colonizing England and Scotland at this time.

Based on ethnographic data, the authors argue that farming usually supports much higher population densities in temperate regions than hunting and gathering and that the timing and rate of change in population size should provide clues as to the date and nature of the change to domesticated husbandry. They also reasoned that the number of monuments and settlements at any given period in prehistory could be used as a proxy for population size.

Plotting carbon-dated sites by 100-year time slices revealed that between 8000 and 6100 cal BP all regions of Britain were sparsely populated. Then, between 6100 and 5400 cal BP there was a dramatic increase in population density. South-west England was the first region to experience an increase. It was followed in the succeeding century by central Scotland. Subsequently, nearly all the regions of Britain experienced an increase in population density. Post-5400 cal BP, there were complex and varied demographic patterns.

The maps indicate that the migration to south-west England occurred before the migration to Scotland and not the other way around (as argued by our Fellow Alison Sheridan) and that (based on close similarities in animal bones) the migrants in both cases probably came from the Pas de Calais region or the Paris Basin in northern France.

Because each map covers 100 years, the authors say that it is difficult to be precise about how much time elapsed between the two migrations, but that the gap was probably less than a century. They also argue for rapid adoption of farming practices by the indigenous population of Britain, rather than the model proposed by some archaeologists (such as our Fellow Julian Thomas) that sees domesticated animals and crops used initially for occasional rituals and not becoming economic staples for hundreds of years.

The authors conclude that ‘the case for believing that the Neolithic transition in Britain was mediated by a large influx of farmers from continental Europe is compelling. The migrants’ arrival resulted in sudden and dramatic economic, demographic and social change that seems to have led to a “boom-to-bust” cycle lasting 600 to 700 years, with the initial rapid rise in population followed by an equally rapid decline, heralding the very different cultural patterns of the later Neolithic.’

Lives remembered

An obituary for our late Fellow Carola Hicks was published in The Times on 29 June 2010, and this can now be read on the Society’s website.

Our Fellow Jonathan Horne, passed away on 25 June 2010, aged sixty-nine. Jonathan had been ill for some time and showed great courage in his battle against cancer. A funeral service will be held on 16 July at noon at St Botolph without Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3TL, and afterwards at Armoury House, City Road, London EC1Y 2BQ. Family flowers only. Donations can be made in aid of the HAC Benevolent Fund, St John’s Ambulance or the Princess Alice Hospice via Levertons Funeral Directors, 212 Eversholt Street, London NW1 1BD, tel: 020 7387 6075.

Jonathan’s obituary in The Times (see the Society’s website for the full version) said that he had progressed from a stall in Portobello Road to premises in Mayfair and that for four decades he had been at the heart of the market in antique English and continental Delftware, though his influence on the antiques trade spread far beyond his speciality. He was Chairman of the British Antique Dealers’ Association between 2001 and 2004, was a founder and Vice-President of the Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology, President of St John Ambulance, Kingston Division, a Freeman of the City of London, a Liveryman of the Stationers’ Company, and, in 2008, was instrumental in the founding of a new City of London Guild set up on behalf of all those involved in the decorative arts, serving as Master.

Jonathan was ‘educated at Whitgift School in Croydon, where he developed a passion for history and archaeology, cycling through Kent and taking part in many digs, in particular at Lullingstone Roman Villa, Reculver and Dover Roman forts. Nothing later than the Roman period interested him then, but then he ‘got a job in Croydon where my employers had a property that was going to be redeveloped and I suggested we do a dig. We found some Roman pieces and later wares as well as fragments of delftware. I suddenly realised you could still find pieces of post-medieval pottery in antiques shops’, and thus started to collect. Later he came to consider the seventeenth century as the most fascinating period of English history, ‘with the development of the sciences and the opening up of the New World’.

‘For a time he was a trainee manager at Selfridges, but the prospect bored him, and he soon determined to build on his archaeological foundations. In 1968 he took a stall in the Portobello Market dealing in copper kettles and anything else saleable that came to hand, and putting his inherited theatrical talents to good use in salesmanship. He perfected the art of unpacking very slowly to whet appetites for what was to be unveiled. In less than four years his reputation was such that he was elected to the British Antique Dealers Association (BADA), and in 1976 he moved on to set up in a small shop at 66c Kensington Church Street, where he dealt in early metalwork, needlework, carvings and works of art as well as early English delftware and continental pottery.

Soon, however, the pottery, together with books on English ceramics, ousted the rest. Tiles became a speciality within his speciality. He not only sold books, but from 1985 published high-quality reference works and catalogues on a variety of subjects, but mainly relating to his core interests. He also believed that high-quality, academically rigorous, exhibitions were an important way for knowledgeable and enthusiastic dealers to draw customers into antique shops and counter the glitzy auction house marketing. Among his own notable shows was the last, his “Pirates of the East End” (2008), which displayed artefacts excavated from the Limehouse residences of known seventeenth-century privateers, bringing attention to a little-known corner of London history.’


Apropos the continuing uncertainty about the future of Stonehenge visitor centre and landscape improvements, our Fellow John Collis has come up with an ingenious answer: ‘all planning applications and requests for funding for development on Salisbury Plain must be backdated by 5,000 years, and then refused’, he writes.

And the report in Salon 235 on the discovery of the world’s oldest illustrated Christian manuscript in Ethiopia turns out not to be news after all. Our Fellow David Phillipson points out that there is a fairly detailed discussion of the whole topic on pages 191—2 of his Ancient Churches of Ethiopia, published in May 2009, and that the radiocarbon dates establishing that the Garima Gospels have a likely date of AD 487/8 were published ten years ago.

Two major mistakes slipped into Salon’s report on the restoration of the gardens at Chiswick House last year. As Fellow Jeremy Ashbee points out, ‘the attribution of the conservatory to Paxton is something of a canard that has survived in the traditional literature. Paxton was born in 1803 and sadly not so prolific as to have designed such a building at the age of ten; instead it was completed in 1813 to the design of Samuel Ware, who was employed by the sixth Duke of Devonshire to acquire this particular plot and to design an Italian garden to the south side of his new conservatory (although in the event, the garden was laid out to an alternative design of Lewis Kennedy).’

Then, as Fellow David Wilson points out, Pieter Andreas Rysbrack (c 1685—1748), whose paintings of the gardens at Chiswick helped inform the recent restoration, was misleadingly described as ‘Dutch’. David writes: ‘Rysbrack was in fact born in Paris. His father was from Antwerp in Flanders, then part of the Southern Netherlands (in the Low Countries), which from the late sixteenth century had been ruled successively by the Spanish and Austrian Hapsburgs, and then, when control was secured by the French revolutionary armies, by the French from 1794. From 1815 to 1830, following the Congress of Vienna, the Southern Netherlands were joined with the Dutch Republic to the north (the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands) as a single kingdom under the House of Orange. In 1830 the Southern part of the combined Kingdom created in 1815 separated from the rest and became the independent Kingdom of Belgium. This included Antwerp.

‘The Rysbrack family had certainly returned from Paris to Antwerp by 1688. Rysbrack’s father was himself a landscape painter, who had five sons. While Pieter Andreas is a noted and important painter of landscapes, he is unquestionably overshadowed by his brother, (John) Michael Rysbrack (1694—1770), who came to London by about 1720 (and remained here) and is one of the most important sculptors ever to have practised his art in England. Indeed, he is credited with leading English sculpture out of the provincial backwater in which it had languished for a very long time, and for giving it a very worthy place on the European art scene. Interestingly, two of Michael Rysbrack’s earliest sculptures in England are his statues of Inigo Jones and Palladio, dating from the 1720s, that flank the steps of the main entrance to Chiswick House.’

News of Fellows

Fellow Jacky Nowakowski, Senior Archaeologist at Cornwall Council, writes to say that: ‘Fellow Nicholas Johnson retired on 30 June as Historic Environment Manager at Cornwall Council thirty-five years to the day from when he took up his first post in Cornwall in 1975. Nick has had a long and impressive career in Cornwall as head of one of the largest local authority historic environment sections in the country, which, alongside archaeologists, includes Conservation Officers and Heritage Regeneration teams. Nick’s first appointment as Rural Survey Officer for the Cornwall Committee for Rescue Archaeology in 1975 kick-started three decades of major landscape projects, which, over the years, embraced all aspects of the historic environment, from prehistoric fields and roundhouses to World War II hardware.

‘Since 1988 Nick’s role as County Archaeologist heading the Cornwall Archaeological Unit (whose transition into the county council he successfully managed) the service has grown exponentially and has flourished, with a national reputation for excellence and innovation nurtured by a broad holistic approach to archaeology and conservation. Nick has always been ready to develop the big idea and his legacy also includes major landscape survey projects: Bodmin Moor, West Penwith, the Mineral Tramways Project, Historic Landscape Characterisation, Historic Seascape Characterisation and The Cornwall and West Devon Mining Landscape World Heritage Site. The characterisation projects have a reputation for their innovation and have set national standards. The recent achievement of World Heritage Site status for Cornish Mining demonstrates the imaginative use of GIS and the web.

‘Former Chairman of the National Trust Archaeology Panel and a member of the English Heritage Advisory Committee, Nick was awarded the MBE in 2008 for services to archaeology in Cornwall. Nick’s passion for landscapes and his commitment to the challenges involved in the conservation of monuments and landscapes have forged the Historic Environment vision for Cornwall and inspired all his colleagues. He will be missed and we all wish Nick a very happy retirement.’

Also moving on from his job as Research Director at English Heritage at the end of July is Fellow Chris Scull, who says that ‘I am leaving to swing the work-life balance back in favour of life. The Department of Archaeology and Conservation at Cardiff University has given me an Honorary Visiting Professorship and I am looking forward to reactivating my research interests in early medieval studies.’

Our Fellow Martin Henig joined the very long and distinguished list of clerical Fellows when he was ordained as a deacon (the first step towards full priesthood) on 3 July 2010 at Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford. Martin says: ‘I am serving in West Oxford, which includes Binsey — on which I am co-editing a series of papers — as well as North Hinksey, in historic Berkshire, and a couple of more recent churches. My new life and the old one at last seem to be in harmony — history and archaeology have always had a symbiotic relationship with my faith, which has grown over the years but always been central.’

Present with Martin for his special day was our Fellow Christine Finn, who writes to say that the talk and readings she is due to give at the start of her journey around Britain in the footsteps of Jacquetta Hawkes’s book, The Land, is now confirmed for Monday 2 August, at 6.30pm at Chalk Farm Library, Sharpleshall Street, London NW1. Anyone who is near a radio on 21 July will be able to hear Christine on the Radio 4 ‘Midweek’ programme, talking about her ‘Leave Home Stay’ project for National Architecture Week, and she says she will also be reporting from the Robert Graves conference on Mallorca for Radio 4’s ‘>From Our Own Correspondent’ sometime in the near future.


31 July and 1 August 2010: Weald & Downland Open Air Museum, Sussex, a costumed demonstration in an early hatter’s workshop is being mounted by Rachel Frost, recipient of the 2009 Janet Arnold Award, given by our Society for clothing-based research — in Rachel’s case, into early felted hats. The museum website has opening times and directions.

8 to 10 September 2010, ‘The Peterhouse Partbooks: Music and Culture in Cambridge in the 1630s’, a conference to be held at Peterhouse, Cambridge; speakers will include Fellows Iain Fenlon, Adrian Green, David McKitterick, Graham Parry, Ian Payne, David Pearson, Nicholas Pickwoad, and Nicholas Sandon. The conference marks the completion of work to conserve and digitise the partbooks and will be accompanied by a small exhibition and appropriate musical performances. For further details, please contact Scott Mandelbrote.

4 to 7 November 2010: Costume Colloquium II: Dress for Dance; to be held in the Auditorium al Duomo Conference Center in Florence, this four-day event is dedicated to the international, interdisciplinary and intercultural themes associated with all aspects of the history of fashion, dress and dance. Further information can be found on the conference website.

17 May 2011: Call for papers: ‘Last Orders? The Art and Architecture of Religious Orders in England c 1350—1540’, a day conference to be held at the Courtauld Institute of Art. In contrast to the arts of the so-called ‘golden age’ of English religious life during the High Middle Ages, the visual culture of subsequent generations of monks, nuns and canons has received little attention. Recent scholarship, however, has challenged the long-held consensus that the Late Middle Ages was a period of decline for the monastic and religious orders in England and elsewhere in Europe. Many historians now argue that monasticism adjusted adeptly to changing social, devotional and economic practices and several important studies have recently been devoted to this period of monastic patronage.

Nevertheless, many aspects of monastic art and architecture remain largely unexplored. These include the role of continuity within orders, the expression of particular institutional and confessional identities and the importance of innovation. The ‘Last Orders’ symposium seeks to generate discussion on these questions and others, and 250-word proposals are welcomed for 15-minute papers on all aspects of monastic art and architecture in late medieval England by 1 November 2010. For further information, contact Michael Carter.

23 to 26 May 2011, Fourth Symposium on Preserving Archaeological Remains In Situ (PARIS4), The National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen, Second call for papers. Our Fellow Mike Corfield, who is helping to organise this important symposium, says that he is particularly interested in getting papers that express rational concerns about the validity of in situ preservation, and also for papers about sites that demonstrate the effectiveness (or otherwise) of in situ preservation strategies. Key questions to be addressed by the symposium are: degradation of archaeological remains — can we quantify degradation rates and what rates are acceptable; monitoring and mitigation case studies with a special focus on long-term projects: how, and for how long, should sites be monitored; protocols, standards and legislation for monitoring and management: is it realistic to make multi-national standards when the sites and national legislations are so variable; and preserving archaeological remains in situ: can we document the effectiveness of in situ preservation after nearly two decades of research?

Proposals for papers, with abstracts of less than 300 words, should be sent to the organisers, David Gregory and Henning Matthiesen, by 1 September 2010. More information is available from the National Museum of Denmark’s website.

Grants: City of London Archaeological Trust

The City of London Archaeological Trust (CoLAT) awards small sums towards all kinds of archaeological work in the City of London and its environs (out to the M25). It favours archive, research and publication work; educational and volunteer groups; exhibitions and documentary research when part of an archaeological project. It does not fill any gap left by a developer. The closing date for applications this year is 15 October; the meeting to decide the grants will be in December, and the awards are available for one year only from 1 April 2011, so careful planning is required. Details, including application forms, are on the website, and guidance is available from the Secretary, our Fellow John Schofield.

Royal Archaeological Institute publications for free

The RAI is offering a long list of journals, monographs, offprints and indexes for free to anyone willing to pay the post and packaging charge. If you would like a list of the available titles, contact Oblong Creative Ltd. They include Archaeological Journals 103—108 and 119—159, monographs on Stone Quarrying, Ancient Glass, the Bewl Valley Iron Works, the Sir Alfred Clapham Memorial and the Survival of Gothic in the Seventeenth Century, plus summer meeting reports on Leeds, Exeter, Cardiff, Lincoln, Nottingham, Warwick, St Andrews, Bangor, Lancaster, Worcester, Cirencester, Colchester, Aberdeen, Canterbury, Truro, Finland, Scarborough, Aberdeen and Glasgow.

Books by Fellows

Fellow Elaine Harwood’s book on England’s Schools: History, Architecture and Adaptation (ISBN 9781848020313; English Heritage), published in January 2010, has become topical in the light of the Government’s announcement this week that it is calling a halt to the ‘Building Schools for the Future’ programme planned by the last administration. This had caused a great deal of concern in heritage circles because of its emphasis on the far-from-sustainable emphasis on new buildings rather than on the adaptation of perfectly serviceable historic buildings.

Elaine’s book makes a reasoned case for the retention of existing buildings of merit, and makes it clear what sort of buildings those might be, explaining the history of the education system in England, and the architectural responses. The book explains English Heritage listing criteria for schools and what is potentially of significance and value in existing school buildings.

Our Fellow James Stevens Curl has tackled the fascinating topic of the Spas, Wells and Pleasure Gardens of London in his latest book (ISBN 9781905286348; Historical Publications). The result is a book that is as informative and well researched as you would expect from such an author, but also as racy and humorous as you would expect from such a topic.

Whereas the consumption of mineral water, with all its health-enhancing, purgative or prophylactic properties, was the original motivation for the establishment of spas, it is not long before water becomes part of the entertainment, rather than the main event, and medicine and morality gives way to dissipation and what eighteenth-century moralists referred to as ‘venery’. The pictures that stud nearly every page of this book show that the spa concept rapidly grew to embrace every kind of ‘sport’, from gambling to bear baiting and from archery to pony racing, the consumption of every kind of food and drink, but especially alcohol, and every kind of entertainment, from music, song and dance to lavish theatrical pageant and circus. Above all, spas were places where the English embraced the Italian social ritual of la passeggiata, the art of dressing up to take a walk in order to see and be seen.

The author organises the book by geography — so there are chapters on Clerkenwell, St Pancras, Islington and Hackney, and Hampstead and Kilburn, for example — but the story is too big to be so constrained, and broader themes keep emerging from the local histories of specific spas. Neither is the book just about London; it is rather about spas as a cultural phenomenon that gripped Europe during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, evolving out of medieval pilgrimage and belief in the healing powers of certain holy springs into a focus for mass entertainment available to all who could afford a subscription, a day ticket or the price of quart of water. Spas spawned a rich satirical literature — the book is generously larded with quotations from contemporary doggerel, verse and popular song, such as the mock-heroic poem by a Mr Lockman that makes much fun of the many hours that ladies spent in careful preparation so that they could appear in the evening in an artless state of negligence and tempting dishabille.

Why did it all end? James Stevens Curl suggests that in the end the louche and unscrupulous side of spas and pleasure gardens became so dominant that people began to drift away. Thieves and prostitutes and so-called pleasure gardens that were little more than drinking dens inhabited by practised thieves and conmen drove people to seek the more salubrious atmosphere of the assembly room.

One of the author’s achievements in this book is to make us feel sad that we lack something as colourful and as inventive in the modern age (though perhaps festivals like Glastonbury or the Notting Hill carnival play something of that role); another is to bring back to life in page after page of vivid writing the sounds, smells, sights and atmosphere, the artifice and personalities, the beauty and the ugliness of what he sums up as ‘these remarkable, lively, often lovely and rarely dull places of entertainment’.

The more sober subject of tomb monuments in England and Wales in the long fourteenth century is the theme of Monumental Industry, edited by Fellows Sally Badham and Sophie Oosterwijk (Church Monuments Society). This is another ground-breaking study of an important theme, focusing on the business of tomb production as an industry.

By the period that is the subject of the eight essays (plus an Introduction) in this substantial and well-illustrated book, monuments were no longer the prerogative of royalty, aristocracy, high-ranking clergy and the founders of religious houses: they were increasingly accessible to a wider section of society and the contributors have employed archaeological, art-historical, documentary and scientific techniques to examine the regional workshops that grew up to satisfy this growing demand. Full transcriptions and translations are provided of all the known tomb contracts of the period, together with commentaries on the monuments and the craftsmen who made them, along with information gleaned from wills about where the testator wished to be buried and what type of monument the executors were to commission.

The book traces the development of new iconographical types — including cadaver effigies, and, for the first time, the representation of children on monuments and the commemoration even of children in their own right — and of new materials, including the monumental brass. It also looks at the subject of colour and surface decoration, and the collaboration between mason, carpenter, painter and gilder in the creation of the more elaborate monuments, as well as the benefits to specific churches of attracting prestigious monuments, and the income that thereby flowed to them, not least from those of lesser mortals who wished to be buried close to a well-known figure.

Backwards in time to Europe in the late eighth to late eleventh centuries, Fellow David Griffiths has written a book — Vikings of the Irish Sea (ISBN 9780752436463; History Press) — that asks how the Viking raiders that caused such havoc through their raids on coastal and riverine settlements came to be assimilated and to settle in Britain and Ireland and to turn from opportunistic raiding to trade and manufacturing. He focuses on a region — the so-called ‘Irish Sea Province’, taking in west Wales, Anglesey, the Isle of Man, the north west of England and the south west of Scotland along with Ireland’s east coast — in which Viking influence is still evident in the place names, sculpture and archaeology, and even in the genes of the modern residents of the Wirral peninsula.

He argues convincingly that Vikings faced the challenge of moving into alien territory and living in new lands creatively, often fitting in to unclaimed areas of the landscape, creating political alliances with existing populations and leaders, and bringing benefits wherever they settled, not least in establishing trading and manufacturing centres, some of which have developed as the major urban centres of the region today. The picture that emerges is different from the caricature of the raping and pillaging Norseman; in its place, David likens Vikings to chameleons for their ability to blend successfully into new roles, lands and peoples.

Highly germane to David’s ideas is the newly published report on the Huxley Viking Hoard, edited by our Fellows James Graham-Campbell and Robert Philpott (ISBN 9781902700403; National Museums Liverpool). This is based on the papers presented at the ‘Vikings in the North West’ conference held in 2008 which used the hoard (discovered near Huxley in Cheshire in 2004) as the basis for asking questions about the political, economic and social context for the deposition of this and other similar hoards.

In this case the hoard consisted of one small cast silver ingot and twenty-one silver bracelets or arm rings of a type believed to have been produced by Norse settlers in Dublin during the late ninth and early tenth centuries AD. Thus the hoard could be interpreted as bullion buried for safekeeping by the Viking refugees who settled in Cheshire and Wirral after being expelled from Dublin by the Irish in AD 902.

All of the bracelets had been folded flat. In this respect they resemble other hoards in which the armrings had been cut into smaller pieces to form ‘hacksilver’, probably for use as coinage, and/or as part of the process of melting the silver down to cast ingots that might also have been used for trade. The report includes a chapter by our Fellow Mark Redknap on the evidence from such hoards for Viking commerce and settlement in Wales and the Wirral, as well as an account of his excavation of a Viking-Age silver working site at Llanbedrgoch, on Anglesey.

The Huxley Hoard is due to go on display at the Grosvenor Museum, Chester, from 11 September 2010 to 9 January 2011, as part of the Chester Viking Festival.

Library gifts

The Society is very grateful to the donors of the following books, given to the Library in the period from April to June 2010. Full records for all can be found on the Society’s online catalogue and all the books are now available in the Library.

• From the author, Anne Crawford, FSA, A Yorkist Lord: John Howard, Duke of Norfolk, c 1425—1485 (2010)
• From the author, Øystein Ekroll, Middelalderbyen Nidaros (2008)
• From Emmanouil St Giannopoulos, Manuscripts of Byzantine Music, England: a descriptive catalogue of manuscripts of psalter art preserved in the libraries of the United Kingdom (2008)
• From the translation advisers, Nathaniel Alcock, FSA, Lynn Courtenay, FSA, and Christopher Currie, FSA, ‘Roof frames from the 11th to the 19th century: typology and development in northern France and in Belgium — analysis of CRMH documentation’, Architectura Medii Aevi 3 (2002; translation published 2009)
• From Steven Ashley, FSA, English Nobility: the gentry, the heralds and the continental context, by M J Sayer (1979)
• From Justine Bayley, FSA, ‘Acta of the 12th International Congress on ancient bronzes, Nijmegen 1992’, Nederlandse Archeologische Rapporten 18 (1995)
• From the joint author, Simon Bradley, FSA, The Buildings of England: Berkshire by Geoffrey Tyack, Simon Bradley and Nikolaus Pevsner (2010)
• From the authors, David Caldwell, FSA, and Mark Hall, FSA, The Lewis Chessmen Unmasked, by David H Caldwell, Mark A Hall and Caroline M Wilkinson (2010)
• From the joint author, John Chapman, FSA, The Upper Tisza Project: studies in Hungarian landscape archaeology: Book 2: Settlement Patterns in the Bodrozköz Block (BAR S2087) (2010); Book 3: Settlement Patterns in the Zemplén Block (BAR S2088) (2010); Book 4: Lowland Settlement in North-East Hungary: Excavations at the Neolithic Settlement Site of Polgár-10 (BAR S2089) (2010); Book 5: Upland Settlement in North-East Hungary: Excavations at the Multi-Period Site of Regéc 95 (BAR S2090) (2010), by John Chapman et al
• From the author, John Cherry, FSA, The Holy Thorn Reliquary (2010)
• From John Cherry, FSA: Emery Walker: printer of pictures, by Alan Crawford (2007) and Trondheim — en by I middelalderen, by Axel Christophersen (1987)
• From the author, Gillian Draper, FSA, Rye: a history of a Sussex Cinque Port to 1660 (2010)
• From the joint author, Gillian Draper, FSA, Rye Rebuilt: regeneration and decline within a Sussex port town, 1350—1660, by David and Barbara Martin with Jane Clubb and Gillian Draper (2009)
• From the joint author, Stephen Freeth, FSA, Thomas Gray. ‘Elegy in a country churchyard’: Latin translations 1762—2001, edited by Donald Gibson, Peter Wilkinson and Stephen Freeth (2008)
• From Mark Hall, FSA, Musée National du Moyen Age: the Cluny Thermae by Élisabeth Antoine et al (2003)
• From the joint author, Neil Jackson, FSA, Saltaire: the making of a model town, by Neil Jackson, Jo Lintonbon and Bryony Staples (2010)
• From Adrian Olivier, FSA, Listing Archaeological Sites, Protecting the Historical Landscape, edited by Peter Schut, EAC Occasional Paper 3 (2009)
• From Derek Renn, FSA, Reflections: fifty years of medieval archaeology, 1957—2007, edited by Roberta Gilchrist, FSA, and Andrew Reynolds, FSA, Society for Medieval Archaeology Monograph 30 (2009)
• From the author, Warwick Rodwell, FSA, The Lantern Tower of Westminster Abbey 1060—2010, Westminster Abbey Occasional Papers, Series 3 (1) (2010)
• From the author, Niall Sharples, FSA, Social Relations in Later Prehistory: Wessex in the first millennium BC (2010)
• From the joint author, Martin Stuchfield, FSA, The Monumental Brasses of Herefordshire, by William Lack, H Martin Stuchfield and Philip Whittemore (2008)
• From the joint author, David Went, FSA, ‘Whitley Castle, Tynedale, Northumberland: an archaeological investigation of the Roman fort and its setting’, by David Went and Stewart Ainsworth, English Heritage Research Department Report Series No. 89 (2009)
• From Alan Williams, FSA, ‘Oxhide ingots in the central Mediterranean’, edited by Fulvia Lo Schlavo et al, Biblioteca di Antichità Cipriote 8 (2009)
• From the joint author, Hugh Willmott, FSA, The Glass from the Gnalić Wreck, by Irena Lazar and Hugh Willmott (2006)
• From Stephen Wood, FSA, Morton & Eden auction sale catalogue: ‘The Durham Orders’, London, 10 June 2010


The National Trust: four Regional Directors, six-figure salary, closing date 24 July 2010
The National Trust is recruiting Regional Directors for London & the South East, the North West, Wales and Yorkshire & the North East. The key task will be to deliver the Trust’s new ‘going local’ strategy, which means (in their words): ‘establishing relationships at a local level, so that all people and communities feel closer to us. Free from any operational constraints, you will become a credible ambassador of the National Trust, working with our many stakeholders and customers to further raise our profile, ensure our mission touches the lives of everyone, and truly become a “figure in the landscape”’.

If that means anything to you (does becoming a figure in the landscape mean emulating Antony Gormley by making casts of your own body to place on hilltops and beaches?), if you don’t mind split infinitives and if you think you could fulfil what sounds like an almost super-human role, you can find out how to apply by going to the Trust’s website.