Salon Archive

Issue: 31

Weekly meeting report

Nearly 800 years after it was begun, Mont Orgueil Castle, symbol of Jersey, still does not feature in scholarly accounts of the development of English fortification. That could change as a result of the comprehensive historical research and stone-by-stone survey undertaken by Dr Philip Dixon, FSA, and Dr Warwick Rodwell, FSA, who unravelled the castle’s complex constructional history at the Society’s Thursday meeting. Herculean efforts were made in the Tudor period to raise the early thirteenth-century castle by some 65 feet to ensure that it could not be bombarded from the adjacent hill. Ironically, those who worried about the hill were proved wrong during the Civil War. Culverins placed on the hill failed to make any impression on the castle, and an apprehension that had shaped the form of the castle for generations proved in practice to be fallacious.

A full report of the meeting held on 17 October is now available on the Society’s website at www.sal.org.uk.

Forthcoming meetings

24 October: Ballot
31 October: ‘The Ancestry of the Medieval Great Tower’, by Dr Edward Impey, FSA, to be followed by a presentation of prizes to GCSE and A-level archaeology students by our Patron, His Royal Highness, The Duke of Gloucester.

Fellows’ news

The Fellows' Art Exhibition, mentioned on SALON 30, will not now take place in December. Instead, the exhibition and sale will now be held at the time of the Anniversary Meeting in late April/early May next year. The organisers — Alan Ball and Susan Youngs — hope that this will allow more Fellows time to reach for their pencils, pens and paintbrushes in support of this fund-raising venture. It will also allow ample space for the seasonal Kelmscott shop at the Fellows’ Christmas meeting on 12 December.

Morris’s Red House up for sale

The October issue of the Art Newspaper (www.theartnewspaper.com/news/article.asp?idart=10133) carries a report saying that the National Trust is considering acquiring the Red House, the former home of William Morris. Built in 1859, in the London suburb of Bexleyheath, it was designed for Morris by his friend Philip Webb. It still has furnishings and decorations by Rossetti and Burne-Jones, and both the house and garden have remained fundamentally unchanged since Morris left in 1865.

Since 1952 the Red House has been lovingly looked after by architect Edward Hollamby, who died three years ago, and his widow and their family now wish to sell. Although the Hollambys would prefer the Red House to be properly preserved and open to the public, they have given heritage bodies a deadline, which is believed to be the end of this month.

Lords express support for Portable Antiquities Scheme

On 10 October 2002, the House of Lords debated the Treasure (Designation) Order 2002 (see SALON 23), proposing a revised Code of Practice for the valuation of Treasure, payment of rewards and acquisition of objects under the Treasure Act. During the debate, members of the House of Lords gave cross-party support for the work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and called for the Government to ensure the Scheme’s long-term funding.

Baroness Blackstone (The Minister of State, Department for Culture, Media and Sport) praised the Scheme’s Finds Liaison Officers, who, she said, ‘have played an often crucial role in helping finders to report their finds and ensuring the smooth running of the (Treasure Act) system’. She added, ‘thanks to the [Finds] Liaison Officers, it is already obvious that a significant number of finds have been reported as Treasure that would not otherwise have been’, and that ‘the Act, with the support of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, has achieved considerable success in mapping, protecting and bringing the general public closer to the more sensitive parts of our archaeological heritage, which would otherwise be lost’.

In reply Baroness Trumpington (Conservative), commented that: ‘In view of the Government's decision to extend the Act, do they accept the need to provide long-term stable funding for a nation-wide network of Finds Liaison Officers to make it work?’ Baroness Buscombe (Conservative), Lord Redesdale (Liberal Democrat) and Lord Renfrew (Conservative) all reiterated their concern about the issue of long-term funding.

Answering the debate, Baroness Blackstone acknowledged that funding would expire in April 2006 and said: ‘I will give the reassurance that has been requested today: that the DCMS will give active thought to the question of the long-term sustainability of the Scheme’. On the question of the revision of the Treasure Act 1996 Code of Practice, the motion was agreed.

Annual Soane Lecture

Fellow Marcus Binney will be giving this year’s Soane Lecture on 13 November 2002 at 7pm at the Royal College of Surgeons, 35—43 Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Speaking on the subject of his latest book, Country Houses and Secret Agents, Marcus will look at the work of the SOE, or Special Operations Executive, popularly known as the ‘Stately ‘Omes of England’ because it took over so many country houses as training schools for commando-style training and espionage. Details and ticket booking forms are available from the Sir John Soane Museum, 13 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3BP.

The future for the country house

Some 500 delegates from Europe and North America met last week to compare their experiences of rescuing and regenerating country houses. The conference was organised by the Attingham Trust, whose Trustees include several Fellows, and whose Director is Giles Waterfield, FSA. In Western Europe, war has taken a major toll of country houses, from the looting of interiors and furnishings characterised by the Napoleonic era to the wide-scale ruination of World War II.

Some of the richest survivals are now to be found in former Communist countries, in Poland and the Czech Republic, for example. Here, despite orders to eradicate the gentry and aristocracy from history, passive resistance was commonplace amongst curators, whose slow and careful progress in implementing government orders meant that many houses have survived relatively unscathed, and have now been handed back, with their furnishings, to the heirs of former owners.

Nevertheless, the scale of the problem is enormous. Delegates to the conference heard that literally thousands of country houses in Eastern Europe remained empty and neglected, and many were economically unviable because of the loss of the agricultural estates that once provided the income to maintain the house.

Further information on the Attingham Trust can be found at www.attinghamtrust.org.

Planning Applications judgement

The Law Supplement of The Times, for 15 October 2002, reported the Court of Appeals judgement on the meaning of the words ‘In dealing with a planning application, the authority shall have regard to the provisions of the development plan and to any other material consideration’ (Section 70, Town and Country Planning Act 1990).

The Appeal Court judged that this did not impose a duty on local authorities to refer applications back to the planning committee if new material considerations arose after the decision in principle to grant planning permission. In the judges’ opinion, the phrase ‘dealing with’ was deliberately wide, and included anything done by or on behalf of the planning authority that bore on the application in question.

In practical terms, it might be a counsel of prudence for the delegated planning officer to err on the side of caution and refer the application back to the planning committee if new factors arose, but there was no formal requirement in law for this to happen.

Incendiary art

Anyone visiting Burlington House over the last month or so will have seen a white fibreglass figure of a terrorist throwing a Molotov cocktail towards the statue of Sir Joshua Reynolds in the courtyard of Burlington House. Now Michael Daley, of ArtWatch UK, has written to The Daily Telegraph to express views that many have felt but none have spoken publicly so far: that the unveiling of this statue, on 12 September, the day after the anniversary of the atrocities in the US, was an act of insensitivity and cultural degeneracy. The unveiling of the statue marked the launch of The Galleries Show, an avant-garde art fair hosted by the Royal Academy.

Elgin Marbles poll

According to a MORI poll, 56 per cent of 2,009 adults interviewed in September 2002 said they backed a plan to return the Elgin Marbles to Athens, compared with 39 per cent when a poll was last conducted in 1998. That support is conditional on the Greek authorities fulfilling their promise to construct a museum for the Marbles at the Parthenon. A more startling result of the poll (commissioned by the British Committee for the Restitution of the Parthenon Marbles) was the discovery that 76 per cent of those polled knew ‘nothing’ or ‘not much’ about the Marbles.

Stirling Prize won by ‘the Blinking Eye’

The innovative Downland Gridshell at the Weald and Downland Museum (see SALON 23), which many architecture critics thought would win this year’s Sterling Prize for architecture, lost out in the final judgement to the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, popularly known as ‘the Blinking Eye’ because of the way that it rotates to let ships pass up the Tyne. Paul Frinch of CABE (the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment) explained that the bridge won because the tilting mechanism offered ‘an obvious, elegant and efficient solution that nobody had ever thought of before’.

Gateshead Council’s leader, Mick Henry, added that the bridge was an example of ‘structural engineering that may have an effect on social engineering’, referring to the fact that the bridge and the adjacent Baltic arts centre are part of a comprehensive urban regeneration scheme, bringing new life and prosperity to a formerly run-down area of Gateshead.

Benjamin Britten's Suffolk music studio is listed

The tiny brick-built music studio in Horham, in Suffolk — where Benjamin Britten wrote Death in Venice, Phaedra and the Third String Quartet — has been listed Grade II by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Described by the media as ‘a glorified garden shed’, the brick building has a tiled roof, one door and one large window. The house, which was Britten’s last home, is already listed, but the present owner, who is selling the property, successfully sought extra listing to protect the shed.

In announcing the designation, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said: ‘Benjamin Britten is without a doubt the greatest English classical composer of the last century. Britten’s music studio, with its view across his beloved Suffolk countryside, is no architectural gem, but its importance as a piece of our cultural heritage cannot be denied.’

Farming at Stonehenge

Environment Minister Michael Meacher met Rachel Hosier — the first farmer to sign up for a plan to restore traditional farming methods to the Stonehenge World Heritage Site — last week. Under the environmental plan, the archaeology of Stonehenge is to be protected from further erosion by reverting arable land to traditional grassland within the World Heritage Site. The scheme is also intended to encourage downland wildlife, such as lapwings, stone curlews, devil's bit scabious and wild thyme. Mr Meacher said that the scheme would provide extra income for farmers, who enter into a ten-year agreement in return for payments ranging from �20 to �555 per hectare, depending on the type of land management agreed on.

Vacancy for an Archive Development Officer for the Regions

Resource (the key strategic agency working with museums, archives and libraries across the UK) is seeking to appoint an Archive Development Officer for the Regions. The primary focus of this post is to facilitate the development of archives in the regions (through the nine Regional Archive Councils in England and regional agencies for museums, archives and libraries), and to work with archive bodies in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to deliver Resource objectives.

For an application pack, please send an A4 SAE, quoting Ref. AD/33/02, to Debbie Wadlow, Personnel Officer, Resource, 16 Queen Anne's Gate, London SW1H 9AA, or email deborah.wadlow@resource.gov.uk. Closing date 11 November 2002. Salary �27,900—�40,600.

Oxford or Cambridge – which came first?

Fellow Barbara Yorke has written to explain why John Knox’s ‘Chronological Table of Remarkable Events from Creation to the Present Time' (published in 1774) gives AD 915 as the date for the founding of the University of Cambridge. ‘Bede's reference to Grantchester’, she says, ‘was sufficient for late medieval Cambridge apologists to claim that Bede had referred to an educational establishment there in the seventh century – an attempt to beat claims of the Other Place to have been founded by King Alfred. Oxford responded by claiming that Alfred's work at Oxford was a mere refoundation of a much older enclave of Greek philosphers at “Greeklade” (alias Cricklade).’ Barbara adds that ‘the study of history unfortunately took a long time to get on to the curriculum at these two establishments’.

Who would be our Holmes?

The Royal Society of Chemistry (one of our sister Learned Societies at Burlington House) has just awarded Sherlock Holmes a posthumous Honorary Fellowship. Several other nominations have been suggested in the same vein: Prince Hamlet of Denmark, Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Dr Henry Jekyll, of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, Mr Dorian Gray of the British Association of Cosmetic Surgeons, and the Owl and the Pussycat of the Royal Naval College.

Who would be our equivalent? The younger female members of staff at the Society of Antiquaries have already voted unanimously for Professor Indiana Jones. Other nominations would be gratefully received.