Salon Archive

Issue: 282

The Society of Antiquaries of London’s 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 Salon’s editorial policy can be found on the Society’s website and feedback should be addressed to the Editor, Christopher Catling.

The Society’s public lecture series

A series of public lunchtime lectures will take place over the next nine months to introduce the Society to the wider world and to the range of work that Fellows undertake. The lecture series starts on 18 September 2012 with a paper by our Fellow Richard Osgood on the award-winning Operation Nightingale, the much-praised scheme that has proved remarkably effective in using archaeological fieldwork as therapy for soldiers injured while serving in Afghanistan. Jan Marsh, well known as an author of biographies of Victorian artists and writers, will then give a paper on 23 October 2012 celebrating the work of May Morris as textile artist and editor of the works of her father, William Morris.

This will be followed on 5 February 2013 by Fellow Karen Hearn’s paper on Tudor and Jacobean pregnancy portraits, poignant records of youthful beauty and dynastic hopes, painted in the full awareness that childbirth posed a real risk to both mother and child. Fellow Sophie Oostwerwijk will pursue a related theme in her lecture on 5 March 2013, looking at the first funerary monuments to depict and record infants and children. On 13 May 2013, bringing this first lecture series to a close, Krish Seetah of the Cambridge Department of Archaeology will look at the legacy of colonial activity on Mauritius, embracing such themes as slavery, trade and the movement of people, ideas and material cultures.

All the lectures are free and last about an hour, starting at 1pm. Tickets can be booked online via the Society’s website.

Octavia Hill: conservation pioneer

The one-hundredth anniversary of the death of Octavia Hill occurs on 13 August 2012. BBC Radio 4 will broadcast a programme about her life and work on that day, presented by Tristram Hunt but with contributions from our Fellow Gillian Darley, whose biography of Octavia Hill was published in a revised edition in 2010 (Francis Boutle Publishers). Gillian is also one of the contributors to a publication that can be downloaded for free from the website of the think tank Demos called The Enduring Relevance of Octavia Hill. Later this year (on 22 October 2012), a memorial to Octavia will be unveiled at a special service in Westminster Abbey to mark what the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, described as her ‘substantial and extensive contributions to the preservation of the history and environment of this country’.

Octavia Hill (1838—1912) is perhaps best remembered as one of the three founders of the National Trust, along with Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley and Sir Robert Hunter; their particular achievement was to pioneer a new form of property ownership, whereby land and buildings ‘of beauty or historic interest’ could be held in trust for the specific purpose of conserving them, and their animal and plant life, on behalf of the nation inalienably and in perpetuity, by means of the 1907 National Trust Act. But Octavia Hill’s achievements were far wider than that: with John Ruskin she established a network of fifteen social housing schemes that had, by 1874, provided decent, clean accommodation for nearly 3,000 tenants in London. She also campaigned vigorously for the protection of what she termed ‘open-air sitting rooms’ — that is to say, urban and suburban green spaces, which were in danger of being swamped by the scale of building development that took place in the latter half of the nineteenth century and on into the twentieth. London’s Vauxhall Park and Parliament Hill remain unbuilt upon as a result of her advocacy and organisational ability.

Like a latter-day John Clare, who wrote passionately about the privatisation of common land and open countryside by corrupt landowners ganging together to pass enclosure acts, so Octavia Hill resented the closure of what had been city-fringe commons and public footpaths by developers using the law to get their way, knowing that poor people lacked the means to mount an effective opposition. She argued that ‘the little winding, quiet byways with all their beauty, that lead us on by hedgerow and over brooks, through scented meadows, and up grassy hill, away from dusty roads, and into the silent green of wood and field, are a common possession we ought to try to hand down undiminished in number and in beauty for those who are to follow’. Instead, they were vanishing, ‘closed by quarter sessions, the poor witnesses hardly daring to speak, the richer dividing the spoil, the public from a larger area hardly knowing of the decision which has for ever closed to them some lovely walk’. Even where landowners could not close footpaths by law, she accused them of concealing them ‘by judicious planting, a lodge gate or hidden doors’ or of robbing them of all their charm ‘by the erection of high, black, pitched fences … depriving it of the fresh air that blew across it, the view over adjacent field and leaving but a hollow mockery’.

Octavia’s work is far from done. Among the organisations that strive to follow her example and promote her ideals are the excellent Open Spaces Society and the Octavia Hill Society, based in Hill’s Birthplace House, in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, which is mounting special exhibitions and events for this centenary year.

Magna Carta

On the subject of civil liberties and the traducing of them, our Fellow Professor Nicholas Vincent, of the University of East Anglia’s School of History, has recently embarked on an AHRC-funded project that aims to ‘transform academic and public understanding of Magna Carta and King John’ in time for the 800th anniversary in 2015. Nicholas and his team will scour more than 300 archives in the UK, France and Ireland to track down lost originals (often archive managers think theirs is a copy, but some can turn out to be original). They will also create an online database with a clause-by-clause commentary on various reissues of the document, plus images, translations and research findings.

Professor Vincent says that ‘there have been studies devoted to particular aspects of Magna Carta’s history, but no attempt since 1914 to bring together all of the strands in our understanding. We will research who wrote it, what it means, whether its clauses were obeyed at the time, and how it marked a watershed between a lawless and lawful government.’

The research team also includes Oxford’s Professor Paul Brand, a leading legal historian, Dr Hugh Doherty, a Fellow of Jesus College, Oxford, who is currently teaching at UEA, Dr Louise Wilkinson, of Canterbury Christ Church University, who will look at inheritance, women and the family, Professor David Carpenter, of King’s College London, who will investigate areas relating to the church, local government and enforcement, Dr Claire Breay, lead curator of medieval and earlier manuscripts at the British Library, and Professor Andy Day from UEA’s school of Computing Sciences, who will be responsible for creating the website.

Staging the World: Shakespeare at the British Museum

Left: The Sheldon Tapestry of Warwickshire includes the earliest known depiction of the Rollright Stones (just below the windmill)

The Society has loaned no less than five items from its collections to the exhibition that has just opened at the British Museum called Shakespeare: Staging the World (on until 25 November 2012). Beautifully displayed is our John Gipkyn diptych of Old St Paul’s, a vital piece of visual evidence for the appearance of the cathedral, London Bridge and the City in Shakespeare’s day. It is joined by our two panel portraits of Richard III. One was painted soon after 1500 and shows no sign of the physical deformity that Sir Thomas More attributed to the king in his History of Richard III, the crooked shoulder that came to be seen by Shakespeare and his contemporaries as a sign of Richard’s villainous nature. The second portrait, painted in the mid-1500s under the influence of Sir Thomas More’s antipathy, shows a withered arm, but this was overpainted in the nineteenth century, probably under the influence of Horace Walpole and his attempts to correct Tudor propaganda and present Richard III in a more positive light. These portraits form a group in the exhibition with the Society’s Bosworth processional cross, with its roundels of the Four Evangelists and Yorkist sunburst symbols on the back, ploughed up in 1788 on what was then thought to have been the site of the Battle of Bosworth and interpreted as having been abandoned by Richard’s supporters on the field of battle. Finally our medieval Sabbath lamp, the Society’s symbol, stands in the exhibition for the themes explored by Shakespeare in the play Merchant of Venice.

At the exhibition’s opening, our Fellow Dora Thornton, co-curator with Jonathan Bate, said that Shakespeare’s world is very tangible: he uses objects as metaphors for the issues of the day, objects with which his audience was familiar, and that serve as gateways to the very human experiences that Shakespeare communicates. Thus the witches in the Scottish play are not just there to thrill and entertain the audience and to hand out prophecies that turn out to be true but not literally so: the treatise on Daemonologie, written by James I, is one of the objects in the exhibition that demonstrates that the king believed himself to be the victim of a demonic conspiracy. Or when Othello decides to kill himself for having misjudged Desdemona, he chooses to die on a ‘sword of Spain’, the kind of rapier that was strongly associated in Shakespeare’s day with concepts of honour and nobility.

Noble objects abound in the exhibition — not least some gorgeous embroidered jackets, the huge and colourful Sheldon tapestry map of Shakespeare's home county, Warwickshire, and the wonderfully regal portrait from Westminster Abbey of Richard II enthroned, a far larger image in the flesh than one imagines from reproductions — but there are also some more humble and commonplace objects that have a truly iconic significance — not least the finds from recent excavations of Shakespeare’s playhouses and the object that closes the exhibition: a copy of Shakespeare’s works that was smuggled into the prison on Robben Island where members of the ANC were imprisoned, open at the page marked by Nelson Mandela with his favourite quotation from Julius Caesar: ‘Cowards die many times before their deaths / The valiant never taste of death but once’ (Dora Thornton writes about this in her British Museum blog.

The exhibition catalogue (also by Jonathan Bate and Dora Thornton) comes in for high praise from one of our most precise and discriminating critics: Brian Sewell says, in his Evening Standard review, that the ‘catalogue should be in every school library in the land … indeed, I shall go further and suggest that every student of English literature should have his own copy and that the book should never go out of print’. Sewell’s enthusiasm for setting Shakespeare in context might be considered heresy by those who believe that Shakespeare’s work needs no explanation, so manifest and great was his genius: ‘he speaks to every age’. True enough, but without context much of the allusive quality of Shakespeare’s work is lost, along with his jokes, the precision of his metaphors and his references to contemporary issues and debates. By giving us so much rich context, this exhibition adds massively to our understanding of the subtext as well as the headlines in his plays.

Double Take: Versions and Copies of Tudor Portraits

The Society’s panel painting of Henry VIII (left) currently features in another major exhibition, this time at the National Portrait Gallery. Double Take: Versions and Copies of Tudor Portraits (on until 6 September 2012) brings together five pairs of near-identical portraits in order to explore how and why multiple versions and copies of portraits were made in the sixteenth century. The exhibition is supported by a richly detailed website, which explains the ways in which technical analysis (dendrochronology, infrared reflectography, x-radiography and photomicroscopy) can be used to explore the process by which these works were made and to discover which of them are contemporary versions and which are later copies.

The exhibition is just one small part of a wider project — ‘Making Art in Tudor Britain’ — in which more than eighty of the NPG’s Tudor and Jacobean portraits will be subjected to comprehensive scientific survey so as to map the different artistic practices, techniques and styles in use by artists working in Britain during the period.

What is in a name?

What do the possessors of uncommon surnames have in common with each other, apart from their name? Thanks to our Fellow Valerie Maxwell, Salon’s editor has discovered that a huge research project is under way to address exactly that question, funded by the Wellcome Trust. Valerie was recently amongst the VIP guests invited to a lecture at the Royal Society reporting on the progress of the ‘People of the British Isles’ project. The ultimate aim of the project is to understand more about inherited traits and susceptibility to different types of disease.

The project has many subsidiary aims, one of which is to look at the differences in people’s genetic make up around the UK — what the researchers call the ‘fine-scale genetic information on the British population’, which they think may well reflect ‘historical immigration events’, such as ‘Anglo-Saxon and Norse Viking incursions’. To do this, they have collected DNA samples from some 4,000 people, selected from rural areas, born and living in the same place as both their parents and all four of their grandparents. These criteria are intended to maximise the probability of recruiting individuals whose families have been stable inhabitants of the area for many generations.

Unusual surnames have proved to be a very useful guide to finding such people, so the researchers have been mapping surnames with a ‘markedly local distribution’. The result, just published in the European Journal of Human Genetics, is a map of the parts of Britain that have the greatest number of surnames with a largely local distribution: they are Orkney, Cumbria, Pembrokeshire, Devon and Cornwall, Oxfordshire, Kent/Sussex, Norfolk, Lincolnshire and East Yorkshire. The researchers are not yet in a position to explain this pattern and while low mobility is perhaps not surprising in Orkney, it is interesting to see that Oxfordshire and Kent/Sussex — hardly remote rural backwaters — have similar characteristics.

The next stage of the research — whose results are currently being written up — is to analyse the DNA samples to see whether, for example, Devon has a different pattern from Cornwall. The research team’s newsletter says that the results are ‘really exciting … the detail of the geographical differences astonished us. For example, the genetic boundaries between Cornwall, Devon and the rest of England remarkably fall on the county boundaries, while on Orkney, there are obvious differences between Westray and Mainland. This level of detail is unprecedented in human population genetics, where, until now, it has been difficult to distinguish reliably between northern and southern Europe’.

News of Fellows

Fellow Joe Flatman (pictured left doing his best ‘Shakespeare in sunglasses’ impression) was one of a number of current and former UCL Institute of Archaeology staff and students who recently undertook a sponsored walk to raise money for the Young Archaeologists Club (YAC) by making multiple laps of the line of the old City of London walls. Anyone minded to make a donation can do so online via the Justgiving website.

Fellow Geoffrey Thorndike Martin writes to say: ‘Kenneth Frazer celebrated his ninety-eighth birthday in New Zealand on 28 July this year. Sadly it appears that Kenneth’s subscription has lapsed, but he was immensely proud of being a Fellow. As a young New Zealand army officer he fought in the Western Desert in the Second World War, was awarded the MC and was twice Mentioned in Despatches. After a career in the Colonial Service (Palestine and The Gambia) he had a long career in archaeology, working as a surveyor on expeditions sponsored by the Egypt Exploration Society. He is without doubt one of the finest men I have ever had the privilege of knowing — and one of the most amusing!’

Congratulations to Fellow Emma Carver, who joined the National Army Museum, Chelsea, on 9 July 2012, as Assistant Director (Public Programmes), having previously been responsible for devising and developing the interpretation, learning and participation scheme for the English Heritage new visitor centre at Stonehenge. Emma joins the museum as it embarks on a wholesale redevelopment of the museum and its diverse public programme of exhibitions and learning activities.

Fellow Stephen Lloyd has recently taken up the post of Curator of the Derby Collection at Knowsley Hall on Merseyside. To coincide with the London 2012 Olympics and the archery competition taking place at Lord’s Cricket Ground, Stephen has curated Four-hundred Years of Archery in Scotland: a loan display from the Royal Company of Archers at the MCC Museum (until 9 September 2012). The centrepiece of the display is the six-foot high Musselburgh Arrow, surrounded by more than 300 silver medals, each with the engraved personal motto of that year’s winner. The competition for the Musselburgh Arrow has been taking place every year since 1603 (the date of the earliest medal on display here); arguably this makes the arrow the oldest sporting trophy to have been competed for continuously in the world. The Royal Company of Archers took over the organisation of the competition after the Company’s establishment in 1676. The Company serves as The Queen’s Body Guard for Scotland and Archers’ Hall, in Edinburgh, still houses an impressive collection of portraits, trophies and archives.

The voice of Fellow Iain Gordon Brown was to be heard on BBC Radio 4’s excellent ‘Unbuilt Britain’ series, presented by Jonathan Glancey, on 25 July (you can listen again using BBC iPlayer). Iain’s contribution concerned Robert Adam’s South Bridge scheme for Edinburgh, a monumental street potentially of European significance that would have provided a splendid entry to the city from the south. Elevated for much of its length, richly decorated and lined by elegant colonnades, it was intended to connect Adam’s Register House and his University. Sadly, the scheme cost too much and was never built.

In an earlier episode our Fellows Simon Thurley and Charles Hind discussed Inigo Jones’s scheme for a sumptuous Renaissance palace that would have filled much of Whitehall.

The Cotswold Fellows (left) met for the second time on 28 July 2012, when the tiny village of Upper Swell experienced an invasion of antiquaries eager to scrutinise the tiny but archaeologically challenging parish church and to enjoy the hospitality of our Fellow Paula Henderson, whose historic home, Lower Mill, was of great interest to the industrial archaeologists amongst the group, eager to see if they could get the mill wheel turning again.

The Cotswold Fellows first met in 2011, on 3 December (two days short of the Society’s 304th anniversary) and at the appropriate venue of the Oddfellows public house in Cirencester. The gathering held last week, in the beautiful garden of our hosts, with its trout-filled millpond, regal swans and fine views of the meadows and woodland of the Abbotswood estate, provided an opportunity for Fellows from a wide area loosely defined as ‘the greater Cotswolds’ to meet and socialise and discuss future events. Fellow Tim Darvill, thanking Paula Henderson for generously sharing her house and garden, said that a number of future activities were planned, from field excursions, house and garden tours and behind-the-scenes visits to National Trust properties to the possible sponsorship of a Cheltenham Festival lecture.

Staffordshire Hoard Research

Fellow George Speake, one of those attending the Cotswold Fellows gathering, had news of an exciting new research project in which he is involved called ‘Contextualising Metal-detected Discoveries: the Staffordshire Anglo-Saxon Hoard’. The project is being managed by Barbican Research Associates and the first stage (of two) is being funded partly by a generous £276,000 grant from English Heritage and partly by a further £68,000 that is being contributed by the Mercian Trail partnership (Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Birmingham Museums, Lichfield District Council, Staffordshire County Council and Tamworth Borough Council), which took the lead in raising the money to buy the hoard in 2009/10.

The Project Manager is our Fellow Hilary Cool, who says that ‘the first stage (March 2012 to October 2013) aims to put in place a robust illustrated draft catalogue that will be made freely available via the internet to aid other researchers prior to full publication. During this time the research team will make the hard decisions of what lines of research can and cannot be pursued in the second stage. As everyone knows, we live in austere times when money is limited. It has also been decided that the aim must be to complete the full project within a reasonable amount of time and within the available budget. It is hoped that the second stage will take place in 2014—15. At the end of that a publication in both hard copy and as an electronic resource is planned. This will be the first thorough review of the hoard and will also explore the phenomenon of Treasure Hoards and how we respond to them. There will be a research archive on the internet that other people can use to pursue lines of enquiry that the current research team will not have been able to do.’

The project is based at the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery where the largest exhibition of the hoard so far has just opened. The conservation strand of the work is continuing at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and details of that work can be seen on the Hoard web site. Scientific analysis and detailed work on the hoard’s many foil fragments (which may be derived from helmet decorations) is based in the Department of Conservation and Scientific Research at the British Museum. The X-radiography is being carried out by Lincolnshire Museums and Collections Care. The database, which will be central to the research, is being designed by Bryan Alvey, and Fellow Chris Fern is leading on the typological side. The final publication will be edited by our Fellows Lesley Webster and Chris Scull. The full team, including the members who will play a role in the second stage, can be seen on the Barbican Research Associates’ website, which will also have progress reports and regular newsletters providing information on the progress of the work.


Salon’s editor fell into the trap of using material unchecked from a press release in the last issue in writing about The Epicure’s Almanack and saying that the Good Food Guide was first published in 1968. Fellow Robin Milner-Gulland writes to say ‘I’ve got my 1955 GFG in front of me now. I remember as a student/army hitchhiker following its advice and taking a detour via Perth to sample the “amazing value” of the five-course(!) 5/6d lunch at the Royal George. It was indeed good, though not exactly innovative, as the presence of (e.g.) Brown Windsor soup, and semolina, on the menu testify. I think the dining experience then, good or bad, would have been more like Rylance's in 1815 than today’s. Outside London or Brighton, there are hardly any restaurants (or even pubs) listed — it’s mostly big, old-established hotels making a bit of an effort. The GFG’s guides had in fact been going since 1951, though as the editor, Raymond Postgate, wrote (in characteristic no-nonsense style) “attempts to use [earlier guides] are likely to cause disappointments and indigestion”’.

Fellow Margaret Faull, Director of the National Coal Mining Museum for England, writes to defend the designation of the Nord Pas de Calais coalfield as a World Heritage Site, saying that it is typical of the media to downplay industrial heritage. Slagheaps, she says, have all but disappeared from the UK landscape because they were either flattened following the 1966 Aberfan disaster or rewashed in order to obtain residual coal. ‘We at the National Coal Mining Museum for England were in fact consulted by UNESCO on the application and gave it our strong support: the French tips — some of which cover 90 hectares and exceed 140 metres in height — really are an endangered form of heritage, but the designation also includes all the infrastructure of the coalfield, including mines, pithead buildings and headgear, canals and railways, garden villages with model workers’ housing, schools, religious buildings, health and community facilities, company premises, owners and managers’ houses and town halls’.

Fellow Mark Samuel writes to ask if Fellows share his distress at the needless destruction of archaeological evidence that he saw recently on Dan Snow’s generally good series on BBC 1 called ‘World War II Unearthed’. ‘Destroying crashed WW2 aeroplanes for the benefit of a few trophies grabbed from the teeth of JCBs deprives a remote posterity of vital archaeological evidence’, he writes. ‘There is no way these ghoulish exercises can be presented as necessary or adding to knowledge. Such crash-site “archaeology” is just carried out to satisfy the Walter-Mittyish obsessions of middle-aged men. If they want to know what a Spitfire looked like, they can buy an Airfix one! Cannot these enthusiasts be diverted into a more constructive course of research like oral history or tracing the survival of WW2 infrastructure? Obviously such projects are less glamorous than Spitfires, but less destructive too.’

Finally, Salon’s editor has received a flood of emails from Fellows distressed at the news that Birmingham University is planning to close its highly regarded Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity. This news has been circulating for some weeks and Salon has not reported on it simply because it is very difficult to find out what is really being proposed by the University; nor is it clear what, if anything, Fellows could do to persuade the University to change its mind. Anyone interested in finding out more can read the press release on the website of the University and College Union (UCU), the trade union that represents many university academic staff (). There is also a statement on the website of the Birmingham branch of the UCU, setting out some of the main issues.

One does not wish to sound defeatist, but the events at Birmingham are part of a bigger national pattern: faculties and departments of archaeology are being closed al over England, their independence and identity threatened by archaeology’s merger with faculties, departments or schools, resulting in the scaling down of teaching, research, fieldwork and the extra-mural teaching that has long been an essential part of the archaeological academy. Our Fellow Mark Horton wrote an article on this phenomenon in Current Archaeology 268 (July 2012), explaining the background to the ‘archaeological crisis in universities’. There simply are not enough students applying to read for an archaeology degree to support this number of staff. From a peak in the 1990s, when as many as 2,000 students were studying archaeology in one of 28 departments employing around 510 active academic staff, the number of applications has declined by more than 25 per cent, at a time when there has been a huge expansion in higher education, and when such subjects as history, geology or anthropology have seen rises of 26 to 40 per cent. ‘Nearly twice as many students currently study classical studies as study archaeology’, he says, adding ‘archaeology is in serious decline, and we have been wholly complacent about it for too long’.

So what is Mark’s solution for sustaining a healthy archaeological academy? It is to market archaeology degrees more persuasively to prospective students and get away from the idea that the purpose of an archaeology degree is to train you for a low-paid job in archaeology. ‘Do the 10,000 students who sign up to a history degree every year expect to work as historians?’ he asks. Studying archaeology needs to be represented as providing a broad range of transferable skills — far more in fact than classics or history, and crossing the divide between the humanities and the sciences — skills that are needed in a whole host of professions. Somehow, Mark concludes, we have to start getting this message across to prospective students if we are to have a healthy archaeology sector in our universities.

Lives Remembered: Patricia Mary Wilkinson (28 December 1947—22 July 2012)

Salon’s editor is very grateful to Fellow Andrew Argyrakis for the following tribute to our late Fellow, Patricia Wilkinson.

‘Pat, as she was known to her friends, grew up in Manchester where her father was a clergyman and her mother worked in a shop selling artists materials, where L S Lowry was a regular customer. In 1959 the family moved to Leytonstone where her father was appointed chaplain to Forest School. On leaving school Pat went to Durham University where she studied classics with a significant element of archaeology, under our Fellow Rosemary Cramp.

‘Pat took up a post at the Passmore Edwards Museum in Stratford, east London, in 1970. Following a review of the Museum’s staffing structures in 1975 she was promoted to head the Archaeology and Local History section. The years from 1975 to 1985 were exciting ones as the museum grew and new buildings and projects came along. Under an agency agreement with English Heritage, the museum undertook to provide an archaeological service for the five London Boroughs east of the River Lea. This brought in the much-needed grants that facilitated the section’s expansion to some forty staff. Excavations of some significance took place at the Stratford Langthorne Abbey site near West Ham Station, the Barking Abbey site near St Margaret’s Church, Barking, and the excavations of the abbey grounds at Waltham Abbey, the latter in association with WEAG (the West Essex Archaeological Group).

‘Pat was an enthusiastic supporter of WEAG and other archaeological bodies; my personal experience of her work in this field was when I collaborated with her as part of the Area Museums Service for South Eastern England’s archaeology panel to introduce improvements to methods of storage of archaeological small finds associated with English Heritage funded sites.

‘Pat also had an interest in the acquisition and running of Dawn, the Thames sailing barge that recently featured in Griff Rhys Jones’s BBC1 documentary on ‘Britain’s Lost Routes’, the acquisition and restoration of the Tidal Mill at the Three Mills site by Bow, of the refurbishment of Webs old dispensary in Stratford, the opening and running of the North Woolwich Railway Museum (the first to open in the Docklands area), the acquisition of the nine-acre churchyard of St Mary Magdalene in East Ham, which was converted into a nature reserve and a local history resource for Newham, and the restoration of the abandoned Teulon church of St Mark’s, Silvertown.

‘In 1985, the Passmore Edwards Museum (which previously came under Newham’s Education Department) was transferred to the newly created Leisure Services Department. This new department was not supportive of the need for a museum service in the borough and methodically closed down the service; today only a skeleton service operates at North Woolwich Railway Museum. Pat was granted early retirement in 1997 and spent a number of years looking after her mother who was a victim of Alzheimer’s disease, to which she was also to fall victim in 2006. I will remember her as a personal friend but also as an enthusiastic and highly professional colleague who was always encouraging and supportive to all her colleagues in the museum.’

Lives Remembered: Tony North (22 August 1942—7 June 2012)

The following obituary is based upon the one that was published in The Times in July.

Tony North was an antiquary and collector of the old school, whose range of interests and breadth of knowledge astonished all who knew him. Trained as a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, he also acquired many practical skills relating to the conservation, preservation and display of historical objects. These he put to good use: once, when a particularly tricky exhibition was being mounted in the V&A, the then director, Sir John Pope-Hennessy, was heard to order someone to go and get North — ‘he can do marvellous things with a pin’. As a collector he was a regular visitor to London’s antique markets where he would often find curious and intriguing objects that he would buy for small sums because he knew what they were, even if the dealer did not.

Anthony Richard Eustace North was born in Blackpool in 1942. He was reticent about his life before the V&A, but his father was Robert North, a BBC war correspondent who reported from Normandy in the Second World War, and his grandfather was Eustace North, an Oxford Blue who played rugby for England in all the internationals in 1891 and in the first Barbarians team. His father died soon after the war, and the young North was brought up by his mother, Margaret (née Batty), who became a businesswoman, running a coach hire firm. He attended Blackpool Grammar School and in the holidays worked as a deckchair attendant on the promenade. He later took various jobs as a painter, decorator and furniture remover before working on an archaeological excavation on Hadrian’s Wall at the age of sixteen. This led him to his early career as a field archaeologist, mainly working on Roman sites.

He applied to join the V&A early in 1964, in order, he claimed, to escape the perpetual cold and wet of living under canvas on a Roman frontier site. He was now twenty-two and apparently devoid of any qualification for working in a museum devoted to the decorative arts. Fortunately, someone recognised his potential and gave him a job in the Department of Circulation, which was responsible for creating and managing the museum’s touring exhibitions. This provided an ideal training ground for curators: among its alumni were North’s colleagues Shirley Bury and Anthony Radcliffe. He then moved to the Metalwork Department where he soon established a reputation for his knowledge of what is somewhat misleadingly termed ‘base-metalwork’, especially pewter and brass. One of his main achievements was to put on show the museum’s outstanding pewter collection, and although this has now been returned to store, North’s book on the subject (Pewter at the V&A, 1999) remains invaluable. He also became an authority on arms and armour, especially swords and firearms, taking his lead from the Keeper of the Department, our late Fellow Claude Blair, then acknowledged as the leading scholar in the field.

North greatly enjoyed learning from his colleagues and sharing his own knowledge, preferably in the Lamb and Flag or the Chelsea Arts Club, where he and his wide circle of friends would discuss any number of topics, from Japanese swords to Ealing Studio comedies. He was also a member of the several societies that covered his interests: he was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1983, and was a long-standing member of the Meyrick Society and its secretary from 1982 to 1991; he served as secretary of the Arms and Armour Society from 1983 to 1991 and was awarded the society’s Research Medal in 2010; and he was chairman of the Antique Metalware Society from 2005 to 2012.

North retired from the V&A in 2002, after thirty-eight years’ service, but continued to advise and instruct, as well as to write and collect. His published works were extensive, covering European and Oriental swords and firearms, base-metalwork and (another of his favourite topics) fakes. In 2009 he suffered a fall that resulted in loss of memory and he was confined in a care home. But with extraordinary determination he regained full health and memory, partly by re-learning Greek and German. With typical good humour he celebrated his recovery with a ‘recalled to life party’, held in the Cloister Café Bar of the church of St Bartholomew the Great in the City. Almost exactly a year later this was to be the venue for his wake.

Lives Remembered: Philip John Willoughby-Higson (1933—2012)

Salon’s editor is grateful to Fellows David Allan and Nicholas Cambridge for their help in compiling this brief tribute to our late Fellow Philip John Willoughby-Higson.

Elected a Fellow on 9 January 1975, Philip John Willoughby-Higson, who died on 19 June 2012, had two great interests in his life. The first was his ancestor Hugh, 15th Baron Willoughby of Parham (1713—65), who was elected Vice-President of the Royal Society in 1752 and President of our own Society of Antiquaries in 1754; he was also Vice-President of the Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (today’s RSA). Philip studied an even earlier group of ancestors for his PhD thesis — ‘The Lancashire Lords Willoughby of Parham and their association with Protestant dissent (1640—1765)’ — which led to his first published work, The Bizarre Barons of Rivington (1965).

But Philip was perhaps best known as an expert on the life and work of the French art critic, essayist and poet, Charles Pierre Baudelaire (1821—67). In 1975, Philip published an edition of Baudelaire’s most influential poetic work, Fleurs du Mal (originally published in 1857), and he subsequently served as President of the Société Baudelaire and as a trustee of the Baudelaire Society and Limouse Foundation, which curates a series of richly colourful paintings by the artist Roger Marcel Limouse (1894—1990) inspired by Baudelaire’s work. These paintings were the focal point of the Chester Baudelaire Festival in 2006 and the accompanying exhibition at the Grosvenor Museum, which Philip Willoughby-Higson curated and for which he produced the accompanying catalogue, Baudelaire and Limouse, Their Ennobling Mission for Art (Limouse Museum Publications, 2006).

Lives Remembered: Etienne Andrew Senan Rynne (11 September 1932—22 June 2012)

The following obituary is based upon the one that was recently published in the Irish Times.

Having studied French and Archaeology at University College Dublin, Etienne Rynne graduated in 1953, was awarded an MA in archaeology in 1955, spent a year travelling on a scholarship and returned to join the staff of the National Museum in 1957, taking part in the Hill of Tara excavations and becoming an expert on the Armagh Chalice. He was appointed a lecturer at the National University of Ireland, Galway, in 1967, became Professor of Archaeology in 1978 and emeritus in 1998. Officially an expert in early Irish art, he was fondly referred to by colleagues as ‘Professor of Things in General’ because of his very wide range of interests.

A passionate advocate for his subject, Etienne led calls for a reform of planning laws in Ireland to make adequate provision for archaeological excavation or preservation in situ, and he helped protect Navan Fort from threatened quarrying. More recently, he was prominent in attempts to keep the route of the M3 motorway away from the Hill of Tara. The driving force behind the establishment of the Galway City Museum, he wrote numerous books, edited several journals, including the North Munster Antiquarian Journal, and was a former President of the Cambrian Archaeological Society.

Lives Remembered: Brian Dobson (13 September 1931— 19 July 2012)

Salon’s editor is very grateful to Fellow David Breeze for the following tribute to our late Fellow, Brian Dobson.

‘A native of the north east of England, Brian Dobson remained true to his roots. He was born in Hartlepool, educated at Stockton Grammar School and went up to Hatfield College, Durham University, in 1949 to read Modern History, where he undertook the Roman Britain special subject under Eric Birley. Birley also supervised his Durham PhD on the primipilares (former chief centurions) of the Roman army. His National Service began with basic training at Carlisle Castle, where he met our Fellow Andrew Selkirk. He subsequently spent two years in Birmingham as a Research Fellow, there meeting — and being influenced by — the inspirational adult education tutor Graham Webster. In 1959 Brian returned to Durham to the University’s Department of Extra Mural Studies as adult education lecturer in archaeology covering County Durham. He spent the whole of his working life in that post and, in this capacity, he ran the adult education training excavation at Corbridge until 1972.

‘In 1968, Brian launched a new venture, a week-long study tour of Hadrian’s Wall and Hadrian’s Army, with myself as junior partner, later to be joined by Val Maxfield. This tour proved an instant success. Brian subsequently split the two elements. The Hadrian’s Wall courses continued with expeditions to other frontiers, notably in Europe, where the whole of the line from the North Sea to the south of Hungary was explored. The Roman Army school continues to this day. Several of his adult students, inspired by Brian, became notable Wall scholars in their own right. Brian’s students acknowledged their debt to him by the publication of two Festschriften, the first to celebrate his twenty-five years as an adult education lecturer, the second on the occasion of his seventieth birthday. In 1972, in reaction to the considerable interest shown in his courses, Brian founded the Hadrianic Society to further the study of Hadrian’s Wall and the Roman army. Although ill, he was able to attend the fortieth anniversary celebrations in Durham earlier this year and to deliver the main speech of the event.

‘Brian’s early publications were on the Roman army. Amongst these was his revision of Domaszeski’s classic work on the officers of the Roman army, Die Rangordnung des römischen Heeres. Brian's first publication on Hadrian’s Wall was in 1969. In 1976, we collaborated on the production of Hadrian’s Wall, still in print in its fourth edition. Brian’s 1986 Horsley Memorial Lecture, ‘The function of Hadrian’s Wall’, remains fundamental reading for anyone seeking to understand the purpose of that frontier. In 1980, the University of Durham recognised his contribution to scholarship by the award of a Personal Readership in Archaeology.

‘Brian served as President of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle and of the Architectural and Archaeological Society of Durham and Northumberland. He was also a member of several local trusts, including those of Chesters, Corbridge and Maryport museums. What gave him particular pleasure was his membership of the Vindolanda Trust from 1996 to 2011. Here, as elsewhere, his loyalty was to the local archaeological community, and to his local compatriots.’

Final call for papers: sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British architecture, by mid-August

The Society will host the third conference on new insights into sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British architecture at Burlington House on 19 January 2013, and the organisers, Claire Gapper and Paula Henderson, are calling for 250-word proposals for papers of approximately thirty minutes in length. The emphasis remains on new developments in architecture, but proposals on related themes, such as decorative arts, gardens, sculpture and monuments, are also welcomed. Proposals should be submitted by mid-August and the final programme will be announced in September 2012. The Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain will be sponsoring ten bursaries for students and Claire and Paula are keen to encourage the participation of new scholars.


28 September to 1 October 2012: Legacies of Northumbria. The Royal Archaeological Institute’s 2012 conference on early medieval Northumbria will take place at the Mining Institute, Newcastle upon Tyne, with our Fellow Professor Dame Rosemary Cramp as the keynote speaker. For further details visit the RAI’s website.

18 and 25 January; 1, 8, 15 and 22 February 2013: Building the Anglo-Saxon Landscape: The Ford Lectures 2013, to be given by our Fellow John Blair, 5pm in the Examination Schools, Oxford. 18 January: Defining Anglo-Saxon landscapes; 25 January: Landscapes of power and wealth; 1 February: Why was Burton built on Trent? Landscape organisation and economy in the Mercian age; 8 February: From central clusters to complex centres: economic reorientation and the making of urban landscapes; 15 February: Landscapes of rural settlement; 22 February: Landscapes of the mind.

Books by Fellows: Archaeology — A Very Short Introduction

There are now more than 300 titles in the Very Short Introduction series launched by Oxford University Press in 1995, covering subjects as diverse as Advertising, Quantum Theory, The Devil and Religion in America. None that Salon’s editor has read so far matches Fellow Paul Bahn’s Archaeology (ISBN 9780199657438; Oxford University Press) for delivering its didactic promise with such good humour, such as when he says that archaeology ‘welcomes everybody — even, or especially, misfits, nerds and the socially challenged’, or that ‘archaeology is an eternal journey, with no hope of arrival’.

That journey may not have an end, but it has taken us a very long way even in the short few years between the first edition of Paul’s book (1996) and this substantially rewritten new edition. The chapter that asks the question ‘How did people think’, for example, takes account of the many significant discoveries of prehistoric art that have been made since the first edition, from the author’s own work at Creswell Crags to rock art in Australia recently shown to be at least 40,000 years old, to the pebble from Berekhat Ram, on Israel’s Golan Heights, that was modified to resemble a female torso some 230,000 years ago and that currently holds the record of the world’s earliest art object. The cave art that we envisage when we hear the words ‘prehistoric art’, says Paul, are really the very late phase of art history; and that is the thought on which he ends the book, answering the question why archaeology matters: ‘because it is the only subject that can study 99 per cent of the human past’.

Books by Fellows: Stonehenge

In his ‘Very Short Introduction’, Paul Bahn quotes the words of Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould who once wrote: ‘so much of science proceeds by telling stories’. In that sense archaeology is really a branch of literature, making sense of the gaps in our knowledge about the past by means of models, ideas and hypotheses that are plausible, if not provable. One archaeologist who does this brilliantly is our Fellow Mike Parker Pearson, whose latest book, Stonehenge: exploring the greatest Stone Age mystery (ISBN 9780857207302; Simon & Schuster), weaves together the story of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, which has been exploring the landscapes around and connected with Stonehenge since 2003, and Mike’s own thoughts (and those of his co-directors and specialist collaborators in the project) on many of the central questions in British prehistory.

This is a book that fairly fizzes with ideas; people who think that archaeological data should be published free of personal interpretation will hate it, but the rest of us will find this book thoroughly stimulating even if we don’t necessarily agree with all the ideas. For example, Mike makes much of the periglacial features that were later enhanced and incorporated into the Avenue; he believes that the otherwise puzzling location of Stonehenge can be explained by reference to these natural ridges and gullies, which happen to have the same alignment as midsummer sunrise and midwinter sunset. Mike’s description rises to the level of poetry as he describes the site as ‘an axis mundi, an axis or centre of the world … where the passage of the sun was marked on the lands, where heaven and earth came together’.

Perhaps more plausible is the idea that Stonehenge and Durrington Walls, along with its associated timber circles, were built to mark the rapprochement between Neolithic people from different parts of Britain or from different kin groups. Mike hints that there might be good old-fashioned archaeological data to support this suggestion in the different styles of pottery decoration from pits from different parts of the Durrington Walls site. It may or may not prove to be significant, for example, that Grooved Ware pottery with a spiral-decorated style was found in middens in the southern part of the Durrington Walls henge but was completely absent from the northern area.

The work of the Riverside Project team intersects with that of the separate SPACES project (the Strumble-Preseli Ancient Communities and Environment Study) run by Fellows Geoff Wainwright and Tim Darvill, which is studying bluestone extraction sites and associated monuments in the Carn Meini area of the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire. Mike too has been scouring this part of west Wales, as his final chapter tells us, aided by our Fellows Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins, and increasingly it looks as though the new chemical and petrographic fingerprinting techniques that they have developed are going to be critical to the next stage in our understanding of Stonehenge. Indeed, never one to let the grass grow beneath his feet, Mike Parker Pearson is already well into the third year of fieldwork in a separate ‘Stones of Stonehenge’ project.

Among the many remarkable facts to emerge from Mike’s book is that there were once many more stone circles and standing stones in the Stonehenge landscape than there are now. Geophysical survey has located some of these; others are hypothesised on the basis of the debitage (the waste from shaping the stones) excavated from the Stonehenge landscape in the past and now held in various museum archives: the Ixer / Bevins work is aiming to match this debitage to quarry sites, but none of this debitage matches any of the surviving bluestones at Stonehenge — that fact in itself tells you how much more there is to learn and how much further we still have to go before we can say with any confidence that the mysteries of Stonehenge are even close to being solved.

Books by Fellows: Three Houses Many Lives

Our Fellow Gillian Tindall is another accomplished weaver of compelling tales, embedded in historical and archaeological research but with the added ingredient of an imagination that can conjure up so much that the archaeological record cannot preserve. This is clear from the opening chapter of her latest book, Three Houses Many Lives (ISBN 9780701185183; Chatto & Windus), in which Gillian evokes a house that we all remember from childhood — perhaps not a house that we have ever encountered in reality, but one of the imagination stimulated by reading Enid Blyton, perhaps, or Henry James, or John Masefield, Fellow Alan Garner, George Eliot or Dirk Bogard; each of these in their different literary creations describes houses that are rambling, sunny, plant-embowered, with attics and staircases to explore, niches and secret rooms and cupboards that could contain long-unopened chests or lead to secret passages or to clues to mysteries that must be solved.

Gillian tries to revisit such a house from her own memory, but finds it gone. The house is still there, of course, in the archaeological sense, but it isn’t the same house because Gillian is no longer able to see it from the perspective of a child, and because it has been tidied up, by owners who have knocked rooms together, ironed out the quirks. In writing about the histories of three houses that have played an important part in her own life — the Manor House in Limpsfield, Surrey, that was her boarding school, Stapleton Hall, the home of ‘an unsuitable boyfriend’, and the Cotswold vicarage home of cousins with whom she would stay as a retreat from the pressures of undergraduate life at Oxford — Gillian demonstrates that buildings do not stand still. Showing that each building is far older than you would think, she brings to life the changing times, the new owners, the new lifestyles and cultural shifts that have shaped the changes to which these buildings have been subjected — that boyfriend’s Jacobean home eventually became a Conservative Club and then a drinking club for lorry drivers, while the hated boarding school has been converted to flats.

Books by Fellows: The Archaeology of Churches

Without doubt, the oldest and the most changed buildings in most European landscapes and settlements are the churches, chapels and cathedrals that Fellow Warwick Rodwell has been studying from an archaeological perspective for the best part of fifty years. Warwick could almost be described as the inventor of church archaeology, beginning with his three-year study of Rivenhall church in Essex (1971—4), in which the entire fabric of the standing church was recorded and analysed as well as the buried structures, and all the fittings and furnishings, the church and its churchyard then being set within a historical and topographical study of the entire parish. With the work that he has done subsequently, the example he has set and his spirited advocacy, Warwick has helped to bring about the situation that now prevails whereby all Anglican cathedrals have their consultant archaeologist and where archaeologists sit on Diocesan Advisory Committees, performing a role in regard to ecclesiastical sites analogous to that of the secular county archaeologist.

Those of us who tread in Warwick’s footsteps cannot but be immensely grateful that he has poured his knowledge on to paper in the form of his latest book, The Archaeology of Churches (ISBN 9781848689435; Amberley Books), dealing with everything from topography, church alignment, foundations and wall construction to the best ways of publishing and illustrating your analysis and of archiving the record. There can never be any substitute for experience, but this book, with its numerous case studies and examples, is a solid starting point and aide-mémoire.

Books by Fellows: The Inventory of King Henry VIII. Vol II:Textiles and Dress

A lot of weaving metaphors have crept into the books section of this issue of Salon, perhaps subconsciously in honour of the most handsome and colourful book to have been published by our Society in recent years: The Inventory of King Henry VIII. Vol II: Textiles and Dress (ISBN 9781905375424; Harvey Miller), edited by our Fellow Maria Hayward and Philip Ward under the General Editorship of our Fellow David Starkey. This book is one of three companion volumes to the transcript of The Inventory of King Henry VIII, published by the Society in 1998, each of which deals with a major category of royal material (still to come from the same editorial team are Arms, Armour and Ordnance and Decorative Arts and Everyday Objects).

This volume has richly colourful images of many of the surviving examples of textile and dress once owned by Henry VIII and they leave you in no doubt that the textile arts are absolutely central to the ways in which Henry performed the role of monarch and head of the Anglican Church. This is a fact too often forgotten: western society worships the painterly arts and makes much of the historic portraits in palaces, stately homes and national galleries, but what are portraits when all is said and done except pictures of textiles — for that is what often fills more than 75 per cent of the canvas, the gorgeousness of the gown serving as a metaphor for the power and status of the person whose head or hand emerges from all those folds of richly embroidered cloth.

The nine chapters in this volume explain in depth how this textile splendour was made and used, from the elaborate tents and pavilions that were erected for revels and jousting tournaments and the famous encounter between Henry VIII and Francis I at The Field of Cloth of Gold, and the linen used at table or for the royal beds, to the vestments and altar clothes made for the participants in divine worship in the chapel royal. And not all of the textiles in the inventory had been made up into wearable or useable objects. The inventory includes long lists of precious fabric that were held under lock and key, awaiting the day that wardrobe staff needed to call them up for use.

As Lisa Monnas writes, in her chapter on Henry VIII’s textile hoard, quite a number of items were found to be missing when the posthumous inventory was compiled. The finger of blame points to Lady Somerset, who was spotted, according to records in the calendar of State Papers for the reign of Edward VI, removing things from the silk house trussed up in a sheet and helped by her brother, Sir Michael Stanhope. Lady Somerset was one of many, apparently, who took advantage of the lapse in security that took place in the immediate aftermath of Henry VIII’s death, prior to which twelve separate procedures had to be observed, with checks and records kept at every stage, before material could be taken from the wardrobe for any purpose, so valuable was the monarch’s stock of luxurious cloth — celebrated with appropriate style and scholarship in this splendid new book (available to Fellows at a special discount price of £85 until 31 October 2012; details have been sent out with the Society’s recent mailing).

Books by Fellows: Reflections on the Past

The Cambrian Archaeological Association has published this Festschrift, entitled Reflections on the Past, edited by Fellows Bill Britnell and Bob Sylvester (ISBN 9780947846084; available for £20 plus £5 p&p from CAA Treasurer, 41 Broad Street, Welshpool SY21 7RR) to honour one of the Cambrian’s most distinguished prehistorians, our Fellow Frances Lynch. The twenty-five papers in the 520-page volume mostly relate to Wales, Ireland and the west of England, reflecting Frances’s fields of study, and nearly all of them have been contributed by Fellows of our Society, indicating the esteem in which Frances is held. They include essays on Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and funerary monuments and pottery, Bronze Age goldwork and bronzes, Iron Age hillforts and decorative metalwork, burnt mounds, field systems, Roman conquest and settlement, early medieval inscribed stones and medieval and later churches and chapels.

Everyone reading this volume will have their own favourites, but among the papers that caught the eye of Salon’s editor was one by Fellow Alex Gibson surveying all the ‘henge’ monuments in Wales and arguing that there is so much diversity that the term ‘henge’ should be abandoned. Fellow Stuart Needham’s paper asks who made the Mold gold cape and for what purpose. Jane Kenney tackles burnt mounds in north Wales, the piles of cracked and broken pebble that are the by product of water heating on a massive scale. She rules out saunas and smelting as the reason why so much hot water was produced and concludes that they were cooking sites, but perhaps more specifically for brewing, which requires boiling water for sterilisation and for the mash to be kept at between 60 and 70 degrees for about an hour. Fellow Toby Driver and colleagues give an account of their fieldwork on Skomer Island, which has resulted in the discovery of a rich palimpsest of prehistoric features, and John Waddell considers solar imagery in the Tal-y-llynn plaques and other Iron Age artefacts.

Fellow Jeffrey Davies gathers the evidence for Roman activity on Anglesey, Fellow Nancy Edwards shows how fifth- to seventh-century inscribed stones can throw light on kingdom formation in Wales at the period and relations between native British, incoming Irish and those descended from Roman soldiers, and Fellow Bob Silvester gives an intriguing account of folk beliefs relating to the north side of churches and churchyards, some of which are still manifest in plans submitted to the Bangor DAC (on which Frances Lynch has served since its inception in 1994) that routinely assert that the north side of the church has been chosen for the planned extension ‘because there are no burials in this area’.

Books by Fellows: London: a history in maps

The excellent London Topographical Society has worked with the British Library to produce one of its most handsome and ambitious books to date, London: a history in maps (ISBN 9780712358798; British Library and the London Topographical Society). The author, Fellow Peter Barber, and the editors, Fellows Roger Cline and Ann Saunders, have done a superb job in the face of the challenges of reproducing big and oddly shaped maps with the clarity that allows the detail to be studied and (in most cases) the lettering and numbering to be read. Printed on good paper and handsomely bound, the result is a reasonably priced book (£30) that draws into one volume nearly all of the earliest depictions of London and then a selection of later maps that illustrate key themes in the city’s growth and development.

The earliest depictions of London in this book, on seals, coins and in medieval manuscripts, show a city crowded with church spires; it is not until the sixteenth century that we begin to get realistic panoramas, such as the preliminary sketches made by Anthonis van den Wijngaerde in around 1540 for a lost Whitehall Palace painting. London then, and for several centuries to come, is a linear city, clinging to the banks of the Thames with fields, farms, woodland and hills never far away. Even in 1780, with the first military maps, accurately surveyed for the first time, it is astonishing to see that London stopped at Queen Square — no wonder that our Fellow William Stukeley, rector of St George the Martyr, located on the south-western corner of the square, could write in lyrical terms about his daily walk among the ‘sweet fields’ on his doorstep.

Subsequent maps chart the infilling of the spaces between the villages that gradually merged to form the city we know today; soon there is nothing left of the countryside except for a romantic name on the map to remind us of the fields and vales that were built upon as the city grew exponentially from the late eighteenth century. These maps help us travel back in time to walk the city as it was when Dickens tramped the streets or when William Morris had his weaving workshop in Queen Square or when Knights’ Bridge really was a bridge over the River Westbourne or when the site of Heal’s furniture emporium was a dairy farm.

Books by Fellows: The Day Parliament Burned Down

Be warned that this is not a book to pick up and read unless you have plenty of time to spare — Fellow Caroline Shenton tells such a good story that you will not want to put it down. The Day Parliament Burned Down (ISBN 9780199646708; Oxford University Press; 20 per cent discount when ordering from OUP using the code: ATRFLY6) literally covers just the one day and night (16 October 1834) when the almost inconceivable occurred and Westminster was changed forever. As Clerk of the Records at the Parliamentary Archives, Caroline encounters the singed pages and blistered leather covers that are among the relics of that fateful day, and quite a bit of the tension that Caroline builds into her story comes from our sense of what might have been lost but for the hastily organised salvage operation, when, once the fire began to take hold, soldiers, policemen, clerks and even passers by helped to rescue the most important documents: the nation’s archives were literally flung from windows into the arms of people stationed below for loading into carts and hackney cabs for rushing to a place of safety.

Caroline spices her story with all sorts of telling observations: describing the packed crowds who gathered to watch the Palace of Westminster burn, she reminds us of the sorts of public entertainment available to the people of London in the 1830s to explain why they applauded spontaneously as flames burst forth and timbers crashed in a show of fiery sparks, as if this were a theatrical entertainment; she reveals that St Margaret’s churchyard, where rescued documents were piled, was a gay cruising ground in an age when homosexuality was still punishable by hanging — one MP caught in flagrante fled the country for life as an exile in Venice. One could fill Salon with similar anecdotes from the book — which Caroline describes as a mosaic of multi-coloured fragments gleaned from eyewitness accounts, filtered and sorted into a coherent pattern. The result is as rich and as satisfying as the mosaics of San Marco itself; or perhaps some of the mosaics that adorn the buildings that rose on the ashes of the old. Caroline’s book ends with a hint that she might continue the story and produce a sequel on the design and construction of the new Palace of Westminster — this book makes us hope that she does.

Books by Fellows: Discovering Abergavenny

The town of Abergavenny has signs of its antiquity written in its streets and buildings and in the striking landscape in which it is set, the fort-topped hills surrounding the town, variously compared to breasts and sugar loaf, being visible from as far east as the Cotswolds and as far west as the Preseli Hills (on a rare clear day), beacons drawing travellers to the town on the Usk. Now any traveller who stops here can learn all about this ‘gateway to Wales’ and its hinterland thanks to Fellow Frank Olding’s book, Discovering Abergavenny: archaeology and history (ISBN 9780956301918; Abergavenny Local History Society), a newly published companion to his earlier work, Gobannium: the Romans in Abergavenny (2009). It tells the story of the town from the Mesolithic period through to the regrettable ‘slum’ clearances of 1957, illustrated with reconstruction drawings, archive photographs and records and objects from the local museum.

Books by Fellows: James Wyatt: architect to George III

In his new book on James Wyatt: architect to George III (ISBN 9780300176902; Yale Books) Fellow John Martin Robinson makes a convincing case for considering Wyatt (1746—1831) to be every bit as inventive and accomplished as Adam and Soane, the established stars of the Georgian and Regency architectural pantheon. Though some of Wyatt’s best-known works — the Radcliffe Observatory in Oxford and the Darnley Mausoleum, at Cobham Hall, Kent, pictured on the book’s front cover — are firmly rooted in the soil of classical antiquity, his daring reinterpretation and re-combination of classical and Renaissance elements is all his own.

But he was also possessed of a talent for enormous versatility; alongside the 100-plus classically inspired country houses that he designed and that are documented in this book are some of the first large-scale buildings of the English Gothic Revival, such as the extraordinary Fonthill Abbey in Wiltshire, designed for the equally outlandish William Beckford, plus Ashridge Park, in Hertfordshire, and Lee Priory, in Kent.

It is that eclecticism, John Martin Robinson argues, that we now value but that meant he was not taken seriously by earlier generations of architectural historians, along with the fact that his papers and drawings were dispersed after his death, making him a difficult subject to study, and making this coherent account all the more of an achievement. Remarkably John Martin Robinson also catches the flavour of the man.

Like Brunel in a later age, he travelled constantly and had a coach fitted up as an office (paid for by clients; he charged 2 shillings and 6 pence a mile in travel expenses and 5 guineas for his attendance on site, doubling to 10 guineas if no commission resulted). Yet despite this appearance of efficiency, his life was chaotic. He lost many commissions because he took on too much and neglected his clients, he was dismissed from the public offices that his friends had secured for him because he proved to be incompetent, and famously, in the annals of our Society, he got embroiled in a furious spat with John Carter over the archaeological authenticity of his cathedral restoration work, and was blackballed when first put up for election in 1796, while being elected at the second attempt the following year. John Martin Robinson recounts these incidents with relish, but insists that they should never blind us to the fact that Wyatt was, for all his human faults, an architect of true genius.


ASTENE (the Association for the Study of Travel in Egypt and the Near East) seeks an Honorary Treasurer
ASTENE was founded in 1997 following two successful international conferences on travellers in Egypt and the Near East. Our areas of study are the Arabian Peninsula and northwards through Iraq to Turkey, Greece and the Ottoman Balkans from the earliest times to the twentieth century. We publish a quarterly Bulletin, hold biennial conferences and publish books of conference papers, as well as organising events, study-days and tours to our region of interest — in recent years we have organised tours to Cairo, Cyprus, Sinai, Syria and Albania. Our 250-strong international membership welcomes anyone with an interest in and knowledge of our area of study. Following the end of our Honorary Treasurer’s term of office we are seeking someone to manage our finances and deal with our membership. Please look at the ASTENE website and contact Patricia Usick if you think you may be able to help us in this capacity.