The Society of Antiquaries of Londons Online Newsletter (Salon) is a fortnightly digest of news from the heritage sector, focusing especially on the Society and its Fellows and the contribution that they make to public life through their many and varied activities. Like the intellectual salons of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, it aims to amuse and to stimulate debate as well as to inform. A copy of Salons editorial policy can be found on the Societys website and feedback should be addressed to the Editor, Christopher Catling.
The meetings programme to July 2012 can be seen on the Societys website ( 23 April 2012: Anniversary Meeting and Reception
The President will announce the names of Council members and Officers for 201213 and deliver his Presidential Address. This will be followed by a reception in the Hall and a display of items from the Societys collections in the Library. Tickets for the reception cost £8, including drinks and canapés. To book, please contact Jola Zdunek, the Societys Executive Assistant (tel: 0207 479 7080).
23 April 2012: Anniversary Meeting and Reception
Two further introductory tours will take place before the summer recess: the next tour is on 19 April 2012, and the final tour of this session will be on 21 June 2012. Tours begin at 11am with a welcome from the General Secretary and an introduction to the Society and its current activities; this is followed by an introduction to the Societys library and museum collections and services by the Head of Library and Collections and library and museum staff and a tour of the building. To conclude there will be a display of items from the Library. Tours last for about 90 minutes, followed by an optional light sandwich lunch, for which a charge of £5 is made. To book a place please contact Jola Zdunek, the Societys Executive Assistant (tel: 0207 479 7080).
Left: a special case was made for the New Haven exhibition in which to display the Society's Roll Chronicle in its entirety
Writing in The New York Times on 22 March 2012, the newspapers renowned cultural critic-at-large, Edward Rothstein, reviewed two exhibitions: our own Making History exhibition, on at the Yale Center for British Art until 27 May 2012, and Remembering Shakespeare, which runs through to 4 June 2012, at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. Here is an edited version of what he wrote.
It is easy to mock the entire enterprise, as the caricaturist George Cruikshank did in 1812, in a satirical print on display at the Yale Center for British Art here. At a meeting of Cruikshanks Antiquarian Society, its president ecstatically holds forth without anybody paying him the slightest bit of attention.
At the time the real Society of Antiquaries of London was active in the discovery, preservation and interpretation of Britains past. It was busy disinterring corpses, discovering ancient coins and ruins, examining relics, collecting artifacts and sharing its finds. At the meeting of Cruikshanks imagined society the antique wonders are put on display for the antique members. One artifact is labeled Roman Sarcophagus but is really a pigs trough; a Roman Vase is a chamber pot.
Other varieties of fetishism can be found amid the treasures of Yales Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, where you can find kitsch souvenirs, like a modern china teapot in the shape of Shakespeares cottage.
Even while he lived, so effective was Shakespeares brand that it was energetically applied to others plays. And from 1794 we see a tome, Miscellaneous Papers and Legal Instruments Under the Hand and Seal of William Shakespeare an audacious forgery of legal, amatory and religious documents, attributed to the playwright by William Henry Ireland.
But chamber pots, tea pots and forgeries are to be expected in an enterprise as ambitious as the one surveyed in two unusual exhibitions here at Yale, both concerned with a four-century British effort to discover and reinvent its past. This was not a casual project. Britains attempt to define itself as a nation, to characterize its history and to choose its villains and heroes was a project that touched on politics, literature, science, warfare, the arts and social relations. And while every modern nation engages in acts of excavation and imagination to shape its history and identity, and while this chronicle, like others, is full of errors and missteps, Britains efforts were extraordinarily important and had a lasting impact. Shakespeare was part of this. He was writing when antiquarian societies were just developing. His work also played a central role in the drama, guiding how the past would be interpreted, how language was to be used and how political and personal passions were to be understood.
But first, Making History: this exhibition of more than 140 objects is based on one mounted by the Society of Antiquaries for its 300th anniversary in 2007 at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. The curators of the Yale show Elisabeth Fairman, senior curator of rare books and manuscripts at the Yale Center, and Nancy Netzer, professor of art history and director of the McMullen Museum of Art at Boston College are both Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries. They worked with their British counterparts, reshaping and supplementing the original exhibition (which is represented by a revelatory catalog).
In the shows first galleries you see what the Antiquaries faced as they began their work of reinterpretation. Before the seventeenth century, we read, people in Britain had limited understanding of their past and were strongly influenced by pagan or Christian beliefs and ancestral myths. The seventeenth-century book The Annals of the World is here, in which James Ussher, an archbishop, worked out history according to Scripture; he argued the world was created on the evening of 22 Oct 4004 BC.
In a 1676 history by Aylett Sammes we are told that Phoenicians colonized England and worshipped their gods at Stonehenge. Sammes includes an illustration of an enormous hollow wicker figure filled by live men; in a Druid ceremony, he said, this figure would be set on fire, offering a human sacrifice.
This highly inventive approach to the past is also what led the devotees of Henry VI (142171) to create an enormous Roll Chronicle, a stunning genealogical chart tracing the kings origins to Adam and Eve, and including chivalric ancestors like King David, Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar. All 40 feet of it is unrolled here in a room-long display case an eerie, monumental and anxious declaration of Divine Right.
What led to a different way of thinking about history? The impulse to investigate the past may have begun after the destruction of the monasteries by Henry VIII in the sixteenth century, as attempts were made to rescue manuscripts and artifacts from the ruins. And of course the Renaissance and the growth of science played a role.
How, though, did those new ways of understanding history end up shaping Britains sense of itself? This is not really explained here. We see that coins and Roman artifacts were unearthed, that drawings were used to record new finds, that the cult of antiquities also led to forgeries. But the exhibition too quickly drops the idea of chronicling the evolution of British self-knowledge and instead focuses on a series of isolated examples.
We see varied attempts to interpret Stonehenge, including modern imaging technology that maps ancient roads. We see rubbings of tombs and paintings of ruined cathedrals. And we learn too of the medieval revival in the late nineteenth century that inspired William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement.
But we cant pull all of this together. How did the attempt by the Society of Antiquaries and others to study the past scientifically and preserve it end up inspiring Britains extraordinary political culture? What kind of self-image was shaped in the wake of these excavations?
For some hints turn to Remembering Shakespeare, which is part of a university-wide celebration of Shakespeare this spring. The shows curators, David Scott Kastan, a professor of English at Yale, and Kathryn James, a Beinecke curator, have gathered material from many Yale collections, including rare manuscripts at the Elizabethan Club. They have created an exhibition whose range and detail may not be soon equaled.
It includes the first four folio editions of the plays, printed copies of works wrongly attributed to Shakespeare, exquisitely detailed account books of London theaters. There are also a rare 1638 drawing of London by Wenceslaus Hollar that shows the Globe Theater in the distance and Shakespeare souvenirs ranging from playing cards to refrigerator magnets.
This plenitude can also be a weakness: the show can seem unbounded in its intoxication, even a little shapeless. But its attention to the ways in which Shakespeare was remembered is powerful. There are accounts, of course, of forgery and fetishism, but also evidence of rigorous dissections and illuminations.
Shakespeares history plays, we are reminded, chronicled Englands past from 1199 (King John) to the birth of Elizabeth in 1533 (Henry VIII). They were being written while a number of antiquarian societies were looking at the same history. And such plays were understood not just as illustrations of past events, but as ways of comprehending the political present.
We see an eighteenth-century copy of a contemporarys account of a conversation with Queen Elizabeth, who said that she was Richard II (Know ye not that?) because she felt similarly vulnerable to being deposed by a noble rival. Indeed, we learn, supporters of an aborted rebellion against her in 1601 paid to have Shakespeares Richard II performed.
But it isnt only the history plays that are relevant. Shakespeare became inseparable from the national project of self-analysis. Scarcely a century after his death Shakespeares language was already a frame of reference against which English usage itself could be understood. We see a first edition of Samuel Johnsons Dictionary of the English Language in which he used the eighteenth-century equivalent of Post-it notes to add Shakespearean citations.
The plays also inspired a new genre of history painting in the eighteenth century, which treated them as part of Britains pastoral past. (Some examples can be sampled in a small show at the Yale Center.) And Shakespeare, of course, became as important to the evolution of Britains literature as the King James Bible. There is on display a remarkable seating plan that Charles Dickens drew up for his own wedding in which each guest is characterized by a Shakespearean quotation; Dickens could presume such familiarity.
So we can see in the show Shakespeares becoming established as Britains national Bard, the founder of the nations language, the interpreter of its past. In a way he fulfilled the Antiquaries dream, not through scientific excavation, but through other forms of inquiry.
And with his dramatic understanding of a political realm in which human flaws were as rife as virtues, where acts and motives were subject to challenge and inquiry, and where fate was shaped by character, he also laid the foundation for cultural transformations yet to come, in which the Antiquaries played a supporting role, and to which we too are heirs.
In at least one respect, Edward Rothsteins review can be gainsaid: in describing the Remembering Shakespeare exhibition as one whose range and detail may not be soon equaled, he is perhaps unaware of the riches that will be revealed when the British Museums summer exhibition, Shakespeare: staging the world, opens on 19 July 2012. A number of paintings and objects from the Societys collections will feature in the exhibition, which has been curated by our Fellow Dora Thornton, who is also the co-author, with Shakespeare expert and Provost of Worcester College, Oxford, Jonathan Bate, of the catalogue (already published for anyone who wants an exhibition preview).
Running alongside this major exhibition in the Round Reading Room will be a smaller exhibition Angels and Ducats opening on 19 April 2012. Curated by our Fellow Barrie Cook, of the BMs Coins and Medals Department, this will explore the role of money and medals in William Shakespeares world coinage serving Shakespeare and his fellow playwrights as a fertile source of metaphor, a means of giving crucial information on status and character, a plot device and a way of adding local colour in both dramatic verse and comic dialogue.
Then starting on 16 April 2012, BBC Radio 4 will broadcast twenty episodes of a new series, Shakespeares Restless World, in which our Fellow Neil MacGregor will present objects from the period that reveal aspects of the great issues of Shakespeares day and that helped shape his works. Listen out, for example, for Neils explanation on 27 April of the key differences between English witches (domestic and municipal: responsible for sick children and barren cows) and Scottish witches (national and international: responsible for regime change, as witnessed by James VI of Scotland, who personally interrogated Agnes Simpson, who confessed, under torture, to being the leader of 200 witches sailed out to sea in sieves for a rendezvous with Satan who ordered them to raise a storm and sink the kings ship, because, according to the Devil, James is the monarch I fear most).
Both exhibitions and the radio series are part of the World Shakespeare Festival that will see more than seventy performances of all of Shakespeares works in various parts of the UK from April to November 2012.
We will then have four years to recover from a surfeit of all things Shakespearean before it happens all over again for the 500th anniversary of William Shakespeares death, in 2016.
The University of Buckingham has just announced an innovative postgraduate programme in Garden History, in which the seminars will be held in the elegant surroundings of the Oxford and Cambridge Club in Londons Pall Mall, and will be followed by a reception and dinner at which students will have the opportunity to continue the discussion with the seminar speakers.
The course director is our Fellow Timothy Mowl, one of Britains leading scholars of garden history and landscape design (see his biographies of William Kent, Horace Walpole and William Beckford and the Historic Gardens of England series of county garden histories, funded by the Leverhulme Trust). Working closely with Timothy is our Fellow Michael Liversidge, who is also advising Buckingham on the creation of new programmes in art history and heritage. Amongst the distinguished seminar speakers who have agreed to lead seminars in 2012/13 are our Fellows Sir Roy Strong and Professor Stephen Bann, plus garden writer Anna Pavord and architect Robert Adam.
The evening seminars are designed to inform and inspire students as they embark on their own research and writing for a thesis that is the main focus for the degree. The course (which can be taken over one year or two) will include a series of intensive study days on the historical and cultural background to British gardens and landscapes, a residential weekend for visits to major examples of landscape design and sessions given by prominent historians to provide students with a secure basis in historical research methods.
For further details of this and other University of Buckingham London Programmes, see the Universitys website.
How on earth can it happen that such an important house as Belmont can end up empty, decaying and at risk? Belmont is a handsome Grade II* seaside villa in Lyme Regis whose former residents include the remarkable eighteenth-century businesswoman, Mrs Eleanor Coade (who gave the house its distinctive appearance), and the equally remarkable author and museum curator, John Fowles. If the Landmark Trust can raise the £2.1m needed to restore the property (of which £1.3m has been requested from the Heritage Lottery Fund) it will be in safe hands and everyone will be able to enjoy holidays in this inspiring setting. Further information on the house and the Landmark Trust appeal are on the Trusts website in the form of a ten-minute video profile of the house.
Saving buildings like Belmont could become 20 per cent more expensive in future, if a proposal in the 2012 budget to rationalise VAT comes about. The Government has opened a consultation on its proposal to eliminate VAT relief on the cost of alterations linked to Listed Building Consent (LBC) from October 2012.
The proposal has angered many in the heritage sector, especially as the Treasury has long argued that it is powerless to make such changes to the VAT regime, saying that VAT is a European levy and changes to the VAT regime are a matter for the European parliament. With that excuse they have fended off a decade of lobbying on the part of the heritage sector for a VAT regime that does not discriminate in favour of new build at the expense of repairing or restoring historic buildings: the anomaly means that it is often more profitable for a developer to demolish an existing building and build anew than to use adapt the existing structure.
Now the Treasury and HMRC have conveniently discovered that they do have the power after all to vary the VAT regime, and they have used it to remove the exemption that currently applies to alterations to the highest grades of listed buildings: bizarrely, this was presented in the budget as if it were an answer to the demands of heritage groups for a more equal regime!
Those same heritage groups are now warning that this will be a major disincentive to anyone working to rescue historic buildings at risk. Speaking for the sector, our Fellow Loyd Grossman, chairman of The Heritage Alliance, told the Daily Telegraph that The very real fear is that this will discourage people from making improvements to listed buildings. It may make the difference between them having a future and losing them altogether.
Schemes likely to be hardest hit are those that are on the margins of viability. In addition, charities like the Society of Antiquaries who occupy listed buildings could soon find that any planned improvements would attract a 20 per cent charge for VAT.
Salon says: next week will see the launch of the Governments new National Planning Framework. This will lay the stress on sustainable development. What could be more sustainable than adapting historic buildings to new uses, given that they have such a high embodied energy component? If the Government really does care about sustainability and a low-carbon economy, it needs to give incentives for historic building reuse, rather than levying what amounts to a new tax.
Do your children have an interest in history and the gift of a vivid imagination? The Chalke Valley History Prize 2012 aims to encourage aspiring young historians to write the first chapter of a novel. This must include one real historical character and needs to be set in the Classical World, England from the Conquest to the Magna Carta, Tudor England, Georgian Britain, Victorian Britain or Britain in the Two World Wars. Entries must be between 1,000 and 1,500 words plus a synopsis of no more than 500 words outlining the rest of the book. The prize will be divided into two age groups: 11 to 14 years old and 15 to 18. Entries will be judged on the basis of writing skill and historical accuracy. The judges include best-selling author Michael Morpurgo, broadcaster and historian James Holland and the Secretary of State for Education, The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP. Further information can be found on the Chalke Valley History Festival website.
Oxford Diocese is asking everyone for help in recovering a late fourteenth-century alabaster panel depicting the Annunciation that was stolen on 8 March 2012 from a church near Abingdon. The Annunciation scene, which measures some 14 by 7 inches, is one of six panels from a reredos found buried in the churchyard when a vault was dug in 1814, and they are described as being amongst the finest alabaster sculptures to have survived the Reformation. Further information is available from the Oxford Diocesan Advisory Committee.
News of the theft of the alabaster panel comes in the same week that English Heritage published the first comprehensive survey of the effect of crime on Englands historic buildings and sites. The survey shows a worrying rate of damage and estimates that some 70,000 listed buildings (18.7 per cent of the entire stock of listed buildings in England) were last year physically harmed by crime and that for some 30,000 listed buildings (8 per cent of the entire stock) the damage was substantial. Of these, churches and other religious buildings face the greatest threat with 37.5 per cent (three in eight) damaged by crime last year. Metal theft is the biggest single threat, but arson is also a major threat, most often impacting listed farms and public buildings, while anti-social behaviour is the single most common heritage crime facing scheduled monuments.
Heritage Minister John Penrose said: This survey makes for depressing reading. When historic buildings and sites fall victim to vandalism, damage and theft, its not just the owner who suffers. Very often the thing thats been stolen or damaged is literally irreplaceable, and the whole community is the loser.
English Heritage has been running a heritage crime programme for two years with the aim of reducing the amount of damage done by crime to the nations heritage assets. Under the strategic guidance of English Heritage, the Police (through the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO)) and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), a nation-wide network is developing among enforcement bodies, local authorities, non-governmental organisations, professional groups and amenity societies to tackle and reduce offences such as architectural theft, including metal theft, criminal damage, illegal metal detecting, graffiti, vehicle nuisance and arson.
Local history societies, amenity groups, neighbourhood watch and residents associations are all being encouraged to raise awareness of the risk of criminal damage to historic sites and buildings in their area.
Arts Council England has announced that Liz Forgan, currently the organisations Chair, will not be asked to serve for a second term, and will depart in January 2013. Alan Davey, Chief Executive of Arts Council England, said in a statement: Liz has been an outstanding chair and will be much missed. She will leave behind a transformed Arts Council one whose greater transparency and efficiency has been recognised in its being entrusted with a wider remit that includes museums, libraries and cultural education alongside the arts. The process to appoint a new chair will begin after Easter.
In a letter to staff Liz said she was leaving with sadness. Previous chairs have served for two terms. Dame Liz is widely respected and liked in the arts world, and relations with the Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, have always appeared to be positive. Sir Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate, said: I am deeply disappointed. She has led the council with real verve and conviction through a period in which cuts to spending could have resulted in the loss of major parts of our cultural landscape.
Commentators have described the move as political. Jeremy Hunt has been criticised by members of his own party for not creating a sufficiently distinctive cultural identity for the new government: one that places greater emphasis on private philanthropy and less on central government funding for the arts and heritage. Lord Hall, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, said that a new chair would be required to face fresh challenges: in particular in increasing the amount of private giving, and encouraging the sector to make the most of technological changes. A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport was quoted as saying that Jeremy Hunt felt it was better to have a chair to embrace these challenges who has experience of these areas.
Fellow Christine Finn has been commissioned by BBC Radio 3 to make a documentary feature on Jacquetta Hawkes, and Christine is keen to make contact with Fellows who might have known Jacquetta, or who have a knowledge of her work and papers, or for whom she was an influence. The programme will be broadcast as the Sunday Feature on 24 June 2012 and Christine will be recording the programme in the second half of May. Christine stresses that this will not be a hagiography: she is aware that Hawkes had her detractors, and she would appreciate hearing from Fellows who have a strong opinion of her work one way or the other it would also be nice to hear from anyone who took up archaeology as a result of reading A Land or who has views on her relevance to contemporary archaeologists.
Another of Christines programmes (to be broadcast on 24 March 2012, but available thereafter on iPlayer), when she presents an Archive on 4 programme More Than Just Whale Music on the history of natural sound in music, science and broadcasting; this will include the famous BBC recording of the cellist Beatrice Harrison duetting with a nightingale in 1924.
Fellow Robert van de Noort of the University of Exeter has secured an Arts and Humanities Research Council grant to study the ways that sea-level communities have responded to potentially catastrophic sea-level rises in the past, to see what lessons can be learned that will inform current debates on climate change. The research involves a comparative study of four low-lying coastal regions the North Sea, the Sundarbans in the Bay of Bengal, the coastal wetlands of Florida and the Iraq Marshlands to see how people have created sustainable lives in the face of sea-level rise. Professor Van de Noort said: this project came about because of a surprising paradox: whilst the scientific basis of modern climate change science is grounded in our understanding of the past climate, the past is largely ignored when we are trying to understand the impact of climate change on people.
Congratulations to our Fellow Philip Venning who will end his time at the helm of the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings by travelling to Lisbon in June, to receive a Europa Nostra Award from Placido Domingo, Europa Nostras President. The SPAB was chosen for the award from 226 nominee projects and organisations from thirty-one countries. Europa Nostras citation said: What the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings has accomplished in its 135 years of existence is a major example of how to protect heritage for future generations. Its wide range of activities, from training young people to acting as a champion of heritage in danger, made a strong impression on the Jury, which feels honoured to be able to grant due recognition to this highly respected Society.
Fellow Dominic Tweddle, Director General of the National Museum of the Royal Navy, is the proud new custodian of Nelsons HMS Victory, thanks to the transfer of the ownership from the Ministry of Defence to the HMS Victory Preservation Trust, a charitable trust set up as part of the National Museum of the Royal Navy to ensure the preservation of Nelsons flagship at Trafalgar for future generations. The move has been accompanied by the announcement of a £25 million capital grant to support the new Trust by the Gosling Foundation, an amount which the Ministry of Defence has agreed to match with a further £25 million. The Second Sea Lord, Vice Admiral Charles Montgomery, said that this initiative will significantly enhance the way in which Victory can be preserved for the benefit of the nation and future generations, while retaining her links with the Royal Navy. She will be in the hands of an organisation that will look after her unique status and has all the professional experience that her continued and enhanced preservation requires. On behalf of the Service, I am immensely grateful to Sir Donald Gosling and the Gosling Foundation for their generosity in making this possible.
HMS Victory is currently undergoing its most extensive restoration since the ship returned from the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and which has already provided a greater understanding of the material state of the ship than ever. This work will continue and become the responsibility of the new Trust.
Fellows who make use of the riches of the Royal Collection in their research will find it much easier in future to locate information thanks to a new website that has just gone live and that provides access to records for 135,000 objects and works of art. The sheer scale and diversity of the Royal Collection can be gauged from the page that provides access to the collection online, where sample entries to tempt you in range from a photograph (shown left) of Emmanuel Louis Cartigny (17901892), the last survivor of the Battle of Trafalgar, taken by Henry Ellis around 1891, to A catte, an embroidered panel depicting a ginger cat with a mouse on a chequered floor, bearing the cipher of Mary, Queen of Scots (154287), most of whose embroideries were made between 1569 and 1584, when she was held captive in England by the Earl of Shrewsbury. Each entry is packed with information about the object and a zoom feature allows you to examine the object under magnification, so that every stitch of a catte can clearly be seen.
There is also an excellent Learning section, with lectures and activities for adults and children: here you can relive the sights and sounds of Ernest Shackletons Antarctic expedition, listen to Royal Collection curator Jennifer Scott consider the role of women in art through her analysis of Sebastiano Riccis Aurora and Tithonus (c 1705) or listen to Desmond Shawe-Taylor, Surveyor of The Queen's Pictures, explaining the work of Jan van der Heyden (16371712) and arguing that his artistic techniques anticipated those of the Impressionists.
Our Fellow Jonathan Marsden, who is the Director of the Royal Collection, said the new Royal Collection site is just the beginning of our ambition to create a greatly improved online experience for anyone interested in the royal residences and the Royal Collection, and to encourage public participation in our activities.
Fellow Tim Clough was most intrigued to read in your Flauchter report in the last issue of Salon a tantalising hint of a hitherto unrecorded sport associated with the digging of peat: the careful removal of turf that is destined to be relayed. Are the rules, asks Tim, similar to those of an egg-and-spoon race, the flauchter being the spoon and the turf the egg? Sounds like a candidate for a fringe Olympics.
In mentioning the evening that will take place on 29 March to honour the achievements of our Fellow Ian Graham, Salon referred to the early Mayanist Sir Alfred Maudslay. Alas, says Fellow Norman Hammond, while Alfred Maudslay certainly deserved a knighthood, he did not receive one. In fact, an honorary degree from Cambridge was the only public recognition of his heroic role he played in helping to document Maya cities in the 1880s, thus laying the foundations for the study of Maya monuments.
Catherine Johns says she was very happy to see in the last issue of Salon the good news about the home of Hedd Wyn. Although my Welsh is sadly rusty and colloquial, and I struggle with Welsh poetry, the poignant and emotional story of the 1917 Eisteddfod and the Black Chair is now part of every Welsh persons folk memory; I remember my grandfather telling me about it when I was a small girl. And, as you say, its resonance goes much further afield than Wales, as we approach the centenary of the outbreak of that terrible war. Well done, to the Welsh Government, the Snowdonia National Park Authority and the NHMF for helping to save the house for the nation.
Robin Milner-Gulland was recently reminded of a throwaway comment in Salon some issues ago when parallels were being drawn between Palaeolithic cave art and Punk graffiti. At the time Salon speculated that much cave painting could itself be pornographic graffiti and suggested this as a possible subject for a future PhD. Robin was recently given a book that pursues just this theme: R Dale Guthrie, The Nature of Palaeolithic Art (2006, University of Chicago Press), which Robin describes as odd but interesting.
Fellow Mavis Bimson thinks that Salon should introduce a grading system for new books on historical and archaeological subjects as a guide to those like her who are often tempted when visiting bookshops to buy books with historic subjects and historic biographies but am afraid that, through ignorance, I will buy something from the lunatic fringe. In the Antiquaries we have authorities on every period and subject; perhaps new publications might be passed to the relevant authority and simply listed from A to E in Salon: A = a definitive work by a scholar; B = sound, by a writer who does their homework but essentially a popular scissors-and-paste job; C = essentially fiction but giving a fair picture of the period; D = useless but pretty harmless; E = to be avoided like the plague. Books by Fellows would be exempt, Mavis adds: any book written by a Fellow should be regarded as beyond reproach. On second thoughts, Mavis says, the books by Fellows could be graded (one to five stars) by votes from Fellows, so no one could blame Salon that would be fun!
The answer to the spot the artist challenge that Fellow Mark Samuel set Fellows in the last issue of Salon was supplied by Fellow Gordon Campbell, who identified the print of Christ among the Scholars as based on the work of Heinrich Hofmann (18241911), an artist specialising in Renaissance style paintings depicting the life of Jesus Christ, whose work can be seen in art galleries in Germany and New York.
The Society has been informed of the recent death of our Fellow Charles Anthony Hartridge (elected 6 January 1983), architect and architectural historian.
We are very grateful to our Fellow Geoffrey Dannell for the following obituary for our late Fellow Professor John Stewart Wacher, who died on 26 February 2012, at the age of eighty-five.
John Stewart Wacher was one of the foremost archaeologists of his generation. He was particularly interested in the development of towns in Roman Britain and published a number of works on the subject, eventually becoming Professor of Archaeology in the University of Leicester, a remarkable achievement for one whose formal academic training was not founded in classics or indeed history.
Wacher was born in Canterbury in 1927, the son of a GP who had previously been an army surgeon. He was evacuated from his preparatory school in 1938, and spent time in Dorset, where his housemaster encouraged him in the joint interests of butterflies and archaeology. In 1941 he went on to Tonbridge School, where he was the Gustavus John Low scholar, and rowed. It was from there that he took part in excavations in Canterbury, directed by Sheppard Frere and Audrey Williams. He postponed going to university to do his national service in the Royal Marines, returning to civilian life to take a degree in chemistry as an external student of Gillingham Technical College. The next five years were spent as an industrial chemist, first with British Bitumen Emulsions, and then with British Soya Products.
Frere took over responsibility for the Canterbury excavations and Wacher continued his interest in archaeology by digging as a volunteer for him, becoming a site supervisor, before following Frere to Verulamium in 1955, where a seminal series of excavations began. His growing expertise led him to a crossroads: whether to continue working in industry, and use his holidays (which in those days were far shorter than is the custom now) to pursue his interests, or to make the risky leap into full-time archaeology as a jobbing and itinerant director of excavations. Luckily for Romano-British studies, he chose the latter course, and he began operating free-lance, during which time he garnered a wealth of expertise working on a variety of sites for the Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments of the Ministry of Works (now English Heritage), and was appointed to direct the excavations for the Southampton Excavation Committee from 1956 to 1958. His professional advance was recognised by his peers and he was elected Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1957.
The invaluable experience of having been trained by Williams and Frere, the latter a mentor whose style was formative and enduring, added to Wachers scientific training and showed in his strengths as a director. He enforced carefully calculated discipline on his site supervisors, which was offset by an impish sense of humour, founded in the anarchic, logic of The Goon Show.
Equally valuable in his training was the wide range of sites then on offer, from the Neolithic to deserted medieval villages. In 1957 he carried out investigations at the Iron Age Fort of Breedon Hill, while in 1958 he worked on the Roman site of Brough-on-Humber. The results of both excavations were published by the Society of Antiquaries. His work in Roman Leicester was even more revealing, where an extensive redevelopment scheme cleared an area in the centre of the Roman town in what was then Blue Boar Lane. The excavations were the largest to take place in this capital of the native British tribe of the Corieltavi since those of the renowned Kathleen Kenyon in the 1930s. They not only revealed how much was lost by the redevelopment, at a time when planning and resources failed to match archaeological need, but revealed a large public building overlying a town-house. The destruction of its walls left large quantities of decorated wall plaster scattered around, but Wacher had the advantage of knowing the techniques developed for Frere at Verulamium in similar circumstances by Norman Davey (of the Building Research Establishment), and the whole is now reassembled as an impressive display in the Jewry Wall Museum.
The decision to build a bypass for the A1 around Catterick village required very large-scale excavations, the site of 14,000 sq metres comprising densely packed building structures, including a mansio for the imperial courier service. The depth of the sequences can be judged from the walls of a third-century bath-house, which survived to a height of 2.5 metres. Work was also done on parts of the fort, and the defensive ditches. Perhaps one of the most intriguing elements to emerge as a historical story, although its full implications could not be known at the time, was an extensive dense black midden of organic material containing many shoes and what appeared to be substantial parts of tents. It seems that artisan civilian cobblers made use of discarded leather from the fort. The appearance of leather on this scale at Catterick was later to be linked to a passage from one of the world-famous Vindolanda writing tablets, which mentions animal hides that the Roman writer knew to have been at Catterick (Tab Vindol II 343). The inference has been drawn that Catterick was a consolidation point for skins and hides drawn from the vales of Mowbray and York. The Catterick area continued to be investigated over the next forty years (Wacher returned there in 1972) and all of this work was collated by the indefatigable Pete Wilson (Fellow) in 2002 and published as Cataractonium, by English Heritage.
During these excavations, Wacher was to employ his military training: some of the labourers came from a local correctional establishment, and on one occasion a fight broke out, and a knife was produced. Wacher promptly disarmed the miscreant, to loud applause.
In 1960, the University of Leicester appointed Wacher to an assistant lectureship in British Archaeology, with the tasks of teaching a course in Roman Britain, and archaeological technique. This permanent employment allowed him to choose sites which really interested him, and he subsequently worked at ad Pontem and Lincoln, and returned to both Breedon and Catterick.
In the early 1960s the programme of large-scale urban activity at Verulamium came to and end, but a similar redevelopment threat to the one at Leicester emerged, this time at Cirencester. The chairman of the excavation committee there was Sir Ian Richmond and, with the support of Sheppard Frere, Wacher took on the responsibility for the archaeological work, which lasted five years, from 1964, in co-operation with the late Alan McWhirr, another Verulamium veteran. In fact many of Freres Verulamium team joined in the Cirencester excavations, which encompassed work on the town defences, the early fort, the forum and basilica, the amphitheatre and shops and houses. The results were contained in a series of reports published from 1982 onwards.
By this time Wacher was fully established in his profession, and eventually his university created a separate department with a full degree in archaeology, Wacher being appointed first to a Readership in 1970, and then to a Chair in 1982. He was greatly in demand as a committee member, serving those of the university, the Society of Antiquaries and the Roman Society, and he was a founding member of the Institute of Field Archaeologists. He also turned to using his knowledge and experience to produce synthetic works. His first foray was to organise a conference on the Civitas Capitals of Roman Britain at Leicester in 1963. Everyone who was anybody in Romano-British studies attended, some 280 in all, and Wacher marked its success by producing edited papers of the conference by 1966 (reprinted in 1975). In that year he also produced The Towns of Roman Britain for Batsford which, as the title suggests, surveyed the topography and archaeology of all of the major Romano-British conurbations. This was followed by The Coming of Rome (1978), describing the Roman invasion and colonisation of Britain, Roman Britain (1979) and The Roman Empire (1987), both general historical surveys, and The Roman World (1987), a two-volume encyclopaedia which he edited covering all aspects of the Republic and the Principate. In 1990 he edited the publication of the doctoral thesis of his student, Barry Burnham, in a volume, The Small Towns of Roman Britain, which complemented the earlier Batsford title.
After a gruelling academic life, Wacher took early retirement in 1987, and was rewarded by being appointed Professor Emeritus. He moved from Leicester to Cornwall, there to rejoin lepidopterology as a member of the Cornish branch of Butterfly Conservation; he was the joint author of A Cornwall Butterfly Atlas (2003). He also found time to extend his lifelong interest in gardening to a study of those kept by public houses (he had always been studiously interested in their beers).
His last publication, A Portrait of Roman Britain (Routledge, 2000), aimed to provide an insight into the lost landscape of Roman Britain, to examine the features left by the Roman army, the remnants of farms, the field systems and, as might be expected, the urban topography. It was very much a valedictory to his rich and enlightening career. He was honoured by his friends with a dedicatory volume, The Archaeology of Roman Towns, which was published in 2003.
On a more personal level, Geoff Dannell adds the following reminiscences of an extraordinary excavation.
I first met John during the Verulamium excavations in the 1950s, and we often lunched together when I was at the LSE and he was working in London. Later he invited me to meet his first wife Anna and welcomed me into their delightful home at Strand-on-the-Green, fronting the Thames.
Those who stayed at Catterick with JSW and Anna will remember that he was unapproachable until after his first cup of morning coffee. He would remove part of the Times and drape it over the budgerigars cage to maintain silence, until he was caught red-handed by the housekeeper, who remarked tartly Thou doesnt like that bird, do ye. It was promptly removed to a place of safety.
The excavations that JSW carried out at Catterick in 1959 were extremely demanding, and affected all who were involved. John was a disciplinarian, but pressures of work led to the need to let off steam from time to time, and there were various victims, including some of our own Fellows.
Those who remember John Hamilton, the kindest and mildest of men, might be surprised to learn that he was ambushed. He came to inspect the site on behalf of the Ministry of Works, and was seen from afar, crossing the wasteland created by the heavy machinery, involved in the road construction, immaculately dressed in bowler, suit and carrying the mandatory civil service briefcase and umbrella. He arrived at the site hut, to enquire after the Director, only to be confronted by Tony Pacitto, hanging upside down like a bat from the cross-beam, knitting a long and narrow scarf from a ball of sisal string using two six-inch nails. The Director then appeared on all fours, being led by a site supervisor holding a site notebook, and barking. The inspection must have been the shortest on record: perhaps its contents will one day be revealed.
A potentially more serious episode involved one of the unemployed miners, who was digging as a labourer. Very small, squat, and inseparable from a red parachutists beret, he was convinced at the beginning of the excavation of the bath-house that once the earth was removed, we would find it as it was in Roman times with soldiers running around inside. The bath-house drain fascinated him, and one day, at morning tea-break, he went missing. JSW held a roll-call; the toilets were scoured (the usual place for a quiet smoke), but without success. Some time later the wanderer was seen as a distant figure at the far northern end of the site. Totally unperturbed, he returned to tell us that the drain was clear: he had navigated it right to the bank of the Swale. Even JSWs sang-froid was tested!
John was a great companion and ideal teacher. He will be sorely missed.
Fellow Michael Liversidge, formerly of Bristol Universitys History of Art Department (19702008), writes to say that Professor John Steer, who was remembered in the last issue of Salon as the founder of the now-renowned History of Art department at the University of St Andrews played an equally influential role in founding the subject at Bristol.
Michael writes: Professor John Steer, who died on 20 February 2012, aged eighty-three, was the first lecturer appointed to teach History of Art at the University of Bristol in 1959. He took his first degree in History at Oxford (Keble College), deciding to go on from there to the Courtauld Institute of Art when he graduated after visiting the Ashmolean Museum and hearing some lectures on Venetian art by Johannes Wilde, a visiting scholar from the Courtauld and one of the great generation of immigrant art historians who helped to establish the subject in Britain when they were forced to leave Germany in the 1930s an exodus that brought Sir Ernst Gombrich and Sir Nikolaus Pevsner to this country, among others.
John Steer stood out at the Courtauld, and, after three years at the City Art Gallery in Birmingham, he was appointed as an Assistant Lecturer in the Department of Fine Art at Glasgow, and then Lecturer in European Art at Bristol. When he started in Bristol in 1959 the department was Germanic: presiding over it was Professor August Closs, who was determined to introduce the subject to Bristol despite the refusal of the Department of History to let it across the threshold on the grounds that art history was not a serious university discipline. It was greatly to John Steers credit that he persuaded his more sceptical colleagues in the Faculty of Arts (not only in History, as it turned out) to think again; he was able to grow the subject and even to infiltrate History, of which (by the time he left a few years later) History of Art had become a sub-department of three lecturers, with a new joint honours degree due to start, combining the two subjects equally.
By then John Steers reputation as an inspirational teacher, with a vision of how the subject could contribute to the humanities generally, had taken him to St Andrews, whither he was enticed as the first Professor of History of Art in 1967, and so he founded his second department and created its highly successful Visual Arts Centre. In 1980 he moved from St Andrews to Birkbeck College (as it then was) in the University of London, following Nikolaus Pevsner as its Professor of the History of Art. Following his retirement from Birkbeck, Professor Steer became a Trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum, was appointed to the Royal Fine Art Commission, and served a term as Chair of the Association of Art Historians.
He had other interests as well, having, in his Bristol days, been a prominent supporter of the Arnolfini Gallery in its earliest formative years (when it occupied premises on The Triangle), and also of the Western Theatre Ballet, which later transplanted itself and became the Scottish Theatre Ballet, of which he was Vice-Chairman for a time. He has left behind a significant legacy, not least in Bristol.
2 April 2012: Crime Scenes and Case Files: sources for studying domestic interiors, 10am to 2pm, Geffrye Museum, London. This seminar will look at crime scenes and material contained within criminal case files as sources for studying domestic interiors from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. Such files represent an underused and potentially rich source for researching domestic interiors of all social classes, since murder files where the crime was committed at home will often contain photographs of the entire property and of the room(s) where the crime took place, plans and maps and much contextual information. The seminar will introduce participants to the wide range of material and sources available and will look at examples where crime scene records have been used to study changes in interior design and taste. Tickets cost £10 and are available from Krisztina Lackoi at the Geffrye Museum. Further information can be found on the Histories of Home website website.
17 April 2012: World Heritage and Economic Regeneration, 6pm, Royal College of Physicians, Queen Street, Edinburgh, a joint Edinburgh World Heritage, City of Edinburgh Council and RSA Fellows MCICH event, to mark World Heritage Day and the Fortieth anniversary of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention. The event will look at how World Heritage can be used to promote and support economic regeneration, with contributions from speakers James Rebanks and Dr Ian Baxter and panel discussion with Professor Charles McKean, chairman of Edinburgh World Heritage, and Greg Ward, Head of Economic Development, City of Edinburgh Council. For more information see the World Heritage Edinburgh website.
21 April 2012: a visit to St Peters Church, West Firle, led by our Fellow Professor Nigel Llewellyn, at 2.30pm, organised by the Friends of the Sussex Historic Churches Trust. This visit has been arranged to celebrate the publication last autumn of Professor Llewellyns book, East Sussex Church Monuments 15301830, by the Sussex Record Society. He will talk in detail about the important monuments to the Gage family, principally those dated to 1595, for which the original designs survive. The visit coincides with the Flower Festival and there will be the opportunity to see the gardens of Firle Place, which will be open under the Open Gardens scheme. Tickets (including tea and a contribution to parish funds) cost £10. Cheques should be made out to Friends of the Sussex Historic Churches Trust and sent to Mrs Joy Taylor, Sunnyside, 39 Salthill Drive, Fishbourne, Chichester PO19 3QH.
24 April 2012: The Archaeology Showoff, an open-mic event at The Monarch, Chalk Farm Road, Camden, with acts ranging from stand-up comedy to live music or short lectures, all related to the theme of archaeology. Performance slots are nine minutes long. The event is free and donations will be given to a local charity. Anyone interested in performing should contact Chloe Bent, Event Co-ordinator.
2 May 2012: Financing Archaeology: the economic history of Archaeology perspectives from the past for the future, 9.30am to 6pm, UCL Institute of Archaeology, 3134 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY. Tickets (free) can be reserved through the event website. By taking a long-range view of the ways in which archaeologists have dealt with limited funding (particularly government funding) in the past, the workshop will provide a historical background to current economic debates on funding and archaeology, tying the historical context firmly to the modern day. It also will also provide a platform for discussing public engagement in archaeology, and the (economic) value of archaeology in a broader social and political context.
3 to 5 August 2012: Diplomats, Goldsmiths and Baroque Court Culture: Lord Raby in Berlin and at Wentworth Castle 170139, The Wentworth Conference at Wentworth Castle, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, hosted by The Silver Society and the Wentworth Castle Heritage Trust. The conference marks the saving for the nation of Lord Rabys massive silver wine cooler. Exquisite in craftsmanship and spectacular in scale, the wine cooler was part of the silver dinner service made in 1706 for Lord Raby as Britains first ambassador to the Prussian Court in Berlin. When sold at auction for a seven-figure sum in July 2010, the wine cooler was subject to an export licence deferral and the requisite amount was raised by Temple Newsam, Leeds, in whose collection it will remain. The conference will be held at Wentworth Castle, the Yorkshire country estate that Lord Raby bought in 1708 while ambassador in Berlin. The conference will explore the contexts to Lord Rabys embassy; the craftsmanship, ritual function and cultural politics of baroque court silverware in England, Germany and Holland; and the influence of Prussia on the architecture, collections and gardening of Lord Rabys country estate at Wentworth Castle. To request further details, please send an email to the Wentworth Castle Heritage Trust.
5 and 6 October 2012: Finds from Vindolanda and the North, Roman Finds Group Autumn Meeting, Hedley Centre, Vindolanda: four sessions, with fourteen speakers (Andrew, Anthony, Barbara and Patricia Birley, Justin Blake, David Breeze, Richard Brickstock, Rob Collins, Alex Croom, Fraser Hunter, Frances McIntosh, Jenny Price, Evan Scherer and Philippa Walton). The cost is £40 for RFG members, £30 for students and £50 for non-members. This includes all the conference sessions, two light lunches, teas/coffees, a wine/soft drinks reception, private viewing of the Vindolanda Museum, guided site tour, free admission to the Roman Army Museum at Carvoran and more. Full details and an application form are available at the RFG web site.