Salon Archive

Issue: 33

Weekly meeting report

This week’s meeting was attended by the Society’s Royal Patron, HRH The Duke of Gloucester, and was preceded by the presentation of the Society of Antiquaries Awards to the two candidates who achieved the highest marks in this year’s GCSE and A-level Archaeology exams.

Dr Edward Impey, FSA, then gave a paper entitled ‘The Ancestry of the Medieval Great Tower’ in which he argued that towers were deficient as defensive structures and as residences, and that their primary function was to serve as a proclamation of status and authority. Their emergence could be traced to the dynastic and military situation prevailing in northern and north-eastern France in the tenth century when great men with great resources contested the throne of France. Ostentation was a primary consideration and their endorsement of the great tower as a symbol of ownership and authority led to a proliferation of mighty structures during the tenth and eleventh centuries. The great towers at Chepstow, Norwich and the Tower of London, constructed in the years immediately following the Norman Conquest, do not therefore represent the beginning of the history of the great tower, but rather an endorsement of a building type that was already 150 years old.

A full report of the meeting held on 24 October is now available on the Society’s website at www.sal.org.uk.

Forthcoming meetings

7 November: ‘“No Gain without Pain”: Putting the Heritage On-line’ by Dr Elizabeth Hallam Smith, FSA.
14 November: ‘“The Golden Chain of Beauty”: Joan Evans, scholar and connoisseur’ by Dr Nicola Coldstream, FSA.

Fellows’ news

At the start of this week’s meeting, the President invited Fellows and guests to stand for a moment to honour the memory of Dr Arnold Taylor, President from 1975 to 1978, who had passed away earlier that same day. The Society’s flag was also flown at half mast during the day as a mark of respect.

Congratulations are due to Fellow Henry Cleere, who was awarded the European Heritage Prize by the European Association of Archaeologists at its Annual Conference in Thessaloniki on 25 September 2002. The Prize is awarded annually to an individual, institution or local or regional government for an outstanding contribution to the protection and presentation of the European archaeological heritage.

Staff news

Congratulations are also due to the General Secretary who, having orchestrated yet another very packed and impeccably run weekly meeting, ably steering the President through the formalities of the occasion, let slip that he would be celebrating his tenth anniversary in the post the following day.

Jayne Phenton, who is known to many Fellows as the Society’s Administrator, is one of some forty-eight artists whose studios at 165 Childers Street, Deptford, will be open to the public on 16 and 17 November 2002. The Childers Street Studios were converted in the 1990s from a ships' propeller foundry, and provide working space for sculptors and painters whose work will be on display and available for sale. Anyone who would like further details should contact jphenton@sal.org.uk.

The North American Fellowship

The Annual Meeting of the North American Fellowship was held on Friday 25 October in the Houghton Library of Harvard University, by kind invitation of Fellow William Stoneman. Fellow Ian Graham gave a lecture, illustrated by original archival material and historic publications, on ‘Alfred Maudslay and the Discovery of the Ancient Maya’. Maudslay (1850-1930), a Fellow of the Society, carried out a series of important expeditions into the tropical forests of Mexico and Guatemala in the 1880s and 1890s, bringing back photographs and maps of Maya cities, casts of sculptures, and stunning original sculptures from Yaxchilan and Copan, some of which are on display in the British Museum. Ian Graham will also speak on Maudslay at the British Museum on 8 November, at 7.30pm.

The Scottish Iron Age

Fellow Beverley Ballin Smith writes with news of the publication by Tempus Publishing of a festschrift to mark the retirement of Fellow Dr Euan MacKie, FSA, whom she describes as ‘one of the last colourful figures in British archaeology’. Edited by herself and colleague Fellow Iain Banks, In The Shadow of the Brochs is a statement of Scottish Iron Age studies at the start of a new millennium, in which some twenty leading Scottish authorities and new researchers on the Iron Age provide a wide-ranging account of our present knowledge of the period. They cover Iron Age structural remains — in particular brochs, souterrains, forts, crannogs and wheelhouses — social and economic considerations, such as the state of the country before the Roman invasion, land holding and settlement patterns, and broch economy and power. The book also deals with scientific data and environmental evidence for food, farming, building construction and Iron Age economics.

Seminar on Scotland’s early medieval sculpture

2003 marks the centenary of the completion of the first catalogue of The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, compiled by J Romilly Allen and Joseph Anderson. That first national overview was prompted by concern at the condition of a dwindling national asset, and next year’s seminar, to be held in Edinburgh on 3 and 4 April, will ask what is the position now in relation to the study, protection and presentation of early medieval sculpture in Scotland. Further details, including a provisional programme, can be found at www.historic-scotland.gov.uk. Queries and requests for booking forms should be addressed to sally.foster@scotland.gov.uk.

Grosvenor Museum acquires silver candlesticks

Peter Boughton, FSA, Keeper of Art and Architecture at Chester’s Grosvenor Museum, tells us that the museum has purchased a pair of candlesticks for its nationally important collection of Chester-related silver. The candlesticks were made by Matthew Boulton and John Fothergill of Birmingham and assayed at Chester in 1769. One of the foremost industrialists of the eighteenth century, Boulton was producing silver at his Soho Manufactory by 1766, and sent it for hallmarking at Chester until the Birmingham Assay Office opened in 1773. These candlesticks are among only sixteen pieces known to survive from this short-lived but fascinating episode in the history of the Chester Assay Office. They come from a set of four, and the other two have been acquired by Soho House, the museum in Boulton’s Birmingham home. Further information from p.boughton@chestercc.gov.uk.

Threat to Embankment lampposts

The architect Ptolemy Dean is leading a campaign to save the Victorian lampposts, decorated with dolphins, that line London's Embankment. The lampposts are to be replaced by copies of the originals as part of an �850,000 street lighting scheme being carried out by Transport for London. Conservationists were unaware of these plans until new steel posts began to appear alongside the black, red and gold originals.

The square bases of the lampposts each have four dolphins at the corners as well as Tudor roses and art nouveau pomegranates. Some bear the shield of the former London County Council, established in 1888, and the crests of the local parishes. They were originally introduced to carry wires for the trolley buses that ran along the Embankment, but were then adapted to carry street lamps suspended over the road.

Paul Burr, of Transport for London, said: 'The lighting columns are badly corroded, and the bases fractured and cracked. We have taken mouldings of the bases and will wrap these round the new posts. They will be painted in the same colours and the public won’t notice the difference’.

Fellow Matthew Saunders, of the Ancient Monuments Society, commented: 'The originals are far preferable to copies. The unusual island lights in London’s Tottenham Court Road were listed when they were threatened a few years ago, as well as street lamps in Cambridge known as Richardson Candles’. He added: 'The lamppost outside 10 Downing Street is also listed. The best historic lampposts are as important and worthy of preservation as red telephone boxes and pillar boxes.'

Appeals have now been made to English Heritage and to Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, to have the lampposts listed.

National Gutters Day

On 29 November the nation is being invited to get to grips with its gutters — not a reference to certain sections of the press, but rather the latest campaign from the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), which wants everyone to become more gutter conscious. A recent MORI poll commissioned by the SPAB revealed that a third of property owners had not carried out any maintenance or building repairs on their home in the last five years, and 42 per cent said that they lacked the confidence to do this.

SPAB aims to use National Maintenance Week, which culminates in National Gutters Day, to equip homeowners with the means of conducting simple maintenance tasks. A special website — www.maintainyourbuilding.org.uk — will provide tips on the safe cleaning of gutters, the checking of roofs and the evaluation of whether plants and trees growing near to a building are causing costly damage. Supporters of the campaign include Baroness Blackstone, Minister for the Arts, who will launch National Maintenance Week on Friday 22 November.

Levant Travel Grants

The Council for British Research in the Levant (CBRL) is inviting applications for grants of up to �600 to assist with undergraduate, postgraduate or postdoctoral research in Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Syria. Further details from the CBRL’s website at www.britac.ac.uk/institutes/cbrl.

Alnwick voted ‘the best place to live in Britain’

A survey conducted by Country Life magazine has decided that Alnwick, in Northumbria, is the best place to live in Britain on a range of criteria, including house prices, the crime rate, weather, quality and availability of local produce, the proximity of attractive coastal and rural scenery and the quality and survival of its historic buildings. As well as the superb ducal castle that dominates the town, Alnwick is a town of distinguished ecclesiastical buildings, pleasing eighteenth- and nineteenth-century town houses, fine views to the hills of the Northumberland National Park and a distinguished park and garden laid out in the eighteenth century along the River Aln.

The other highly rated towns in the survey were Midhurst in West Sussex, Fowey in Cornwall, Tetbury in Gloucestershire, Crail in Fife, Presteigne in Herefordshire, Fakenham in Norfolk, Richmond in North Yorkshire, Framlingham in Suffolk and Wimborne in Dorset.

Appeal to save Raphael’s ‘Madonna of the Pinks’

But living in Britain’s finest town does not bring immunity from falling financial fortunes. Trustees acting for the Duke of Northumberland’s estates revealed this week that they have agreed to sell Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks to the Getty Museum in California in order to support the cost of running the ducal estates, whose income has suffered from the downturn in agriculture.

Raphael’s work, painted in Florence in 1507 and bought by the fourth duke in 1853, was long considered to be a copy until Dr Nicholas Penny, of the National Gallery, proved otherwise. The painting, which had been relegated to a back corridor at Alnwick Castle, was then loaned to the National Gallery, where it is counted among the Gallery’s top ten pictures. Hopes that the painting might remain on permanent loan were dashed by news of the sale. The Gallery is now hoping that Tessa Jowell, the Culture Secretary, will defer the granting of an export licence long enough to allow funds to be raised from the Lottery and from public donations to match the �29 million that the Getty Musuem has agreed to pay for the painting.

National Gallery facelift

The scale of that figure is put into perspective by the news that the National Gallery will shortly embark on the first phase of a planned rejuvenation of the Gallery building that will cost a mere �21 million. Due to start in March 2003 and be completed in November 2004, the first phase will see a long-sealed original door in the east wing reopened to take visitors into a new public atrium with cafe, shop and computer gallery, to be created from what is now a hidden inner courtyard. Fellow Charles Saumarez Smith, Director of the National Gallery, said that ‘the idea is to create a sensational light-filled space which will provide a sense of architectural grandeur that is currently missing’.

Two further phases are planned, bringing the total cost to around �100 million. Phase two will see the existing lobby and staircase hall restored to its Victorian appearance, integrating the central portico with the new plaza currently being created on the northern side of Trafalgar Square. The final phase will see the western end of the Gallery, with its warren of offices and stores, converted to additional exhibition space.

Vacancy for Director, Heritage Lottery Fund

Meanwhile it could be you (as the Lottery advertising has it) that steers future decisions about the causes that the Heritage Lottery Fund and the National Heritage Memorial Fund will support. Anthea Case, the current Director, will retire next year and the hunt is on for her successor. Annually the two funds distribute more than �300 million to heritage projects across the UK. The Director is responsible to the Chair and Board of Trustees for the management of 250 staff, for creative leadership in implementing the five-year plan and for developing relationships with all the Funds’ partners. Salary �100,000 plus bonus. Closing date 18 November 2002. Further details from response.manager@odgers.com quoting ref: NAO/4831G.

Vacancy for Executive Secretary, Mark Fitch Fund

The post of Executive Secretary will shortly become vacant on the retirement of Mr Roy Stephens, who has administered the Fund for over 25 years. The Fund is a registered charitable body concerned with publication and research in archaeology, architectural history, archives, local history, topography and genealogy, and related subjects. Its Council of Management makes grants, loans or guarantees for publication in these fields of interest, and also supports longer-term research projects such as the English Surnames Survey at Leicester University.

The post will be half time, though a short introductory period of full-time employment will be expected of the new Secretary. Candidates should be prepared to work from home, for which an allowance will be paid. The salary will be in the range for university lecturers (Grade B), pro-rata, depending on experience and qualifications.

Further details can be obtained from the Chairman (Fellow Alan Bell), Marc Fitch Fund, 23 Upland Park Road, Oxford OX2 7RU (alan@alanbell.fsnet.co.uk), to whom applications in the form of cv and a letter of interest should be sent by 8 November 2002. Applicants should name two referees who may be contacted prior to interview.

Vacancy for Hadrian’s Wall Archaeologist

English Heritage is looking for someone to combine the roles of Assistant Inspector and Field Monument Warden in respect of the Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site. Salary �19,817—�25,053. Closing date 22 November 2002. Further details from recruitmentnorth@english-heritage.org.uk quoting ref: A/006/02.

Vacancy for Chief Executive, Yorkshire Museums and Libraries Council

The Yorkshire Museums and Libraries Council is a newly created body funded by Resource to provide strategic leadership and advocacy for the sector in Yorkshire and to help develop its capacity to meet user needs. The post will be based in Leeds and involves leading the new council and advising the board on policy and strategy. Salary around �50,000. Closing date 27 November 2002. Further details from Louise Hill (louise@yhmc.org.uk) or Barnbara Woroncow (tel: 0113 263 8909).

Vacancy for Archaeologist, East Midlands Regional Office of the National Trust

An experienced field archaeologist is needed to join the National Trust’s team in the north. The post is based at Clumber Park near Worksop and is a 2.5-day a week part-time position, though on a permanent contract. Closing date 22 November 2002. Further details from jodie.pilgrim@nationaltrust.org.uk.

Nominations invited for the Plowden Medal 2003

To commemorate the life and work of the late Hon Anna Plowden, who died in 1997, the Royal Warrant Holders Association awards a Gold Medal annually to the individual judged to have made the most significant recent contribution to the advancement of the conservation profession. Nominations are now invited for the 2003 Plowden Medal (last year the medal was awarded to Fellow David Leigh). Nominations (closing date 14 February 2003) must be made on a form obtainable from The Secretary, The Royal Warrant Holders Association, No 1 Buckingham Place, London SW1E 6HR.

Fellows on TV

Fellow Mark Horton is one of three presenters of a new TV archaeology programme called Time Flyers, broadcast on Thursdays at 7.30pm on BBC2 (Fridays in Wales) which identifies sites from the air and then undertakes trial excavations to date and understand them. In the first programme of the new series, broadcast last week, linear features crossing the landscape near the village of Weaverthorpe in North Yorkshire were identified as evidence for large-scale cattle ranching in the first century BC. This week, the team will investigate a deserted medieval village in Somerset.

On the same day, on Channel Four at 9pm, Fellow David Starkey presents the first programme in a two-part series on Edward and Mary: the Unknown Tudors. Critics (who have seen previews) have praised the series as ‘compelling’ and ‘borne out of impressive research’, adding that: ‘unlike rival TV historians, Starkey doesn’t descend into supposition and twenty-first century interpretations of sixteenth-century values’.

The following day, on Channel Four at 8pm, Fellow John Collis draws together the strands of various Time Team programmes broadcast over the last ten years to look at what light they have thrown on our understanding of the Iron Age.

Mantegna masterpiece to go on show in London

A rarely seen masterpiece by Andrea Mantegna will be on show at Sotheby’s in London for just four days — from 8 to 11 December — before travelling to Paris and Milan and finally to New York where it is due to be auctioned on 23 January. The painting — Descent into Limbo, painted for the Gonzaga family in 1492, the year that Columbus reached America — is one of the finest Renaissance works to remain in private hands, and shows the resurrected Christ liberating Adam and various other Old Testament figures, from a cold and rocky nether world. The painting is expected to fetch well in excess of its �19 million estimated price.

Ossuary linked to Jesus

In response to last week’s SALON story about the ossuary inscribed with the words ‘James, Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus’ and claimed to be the earliest non-Biblical reference to Jesus, Fellow Percival Turnbull writes to remind us that the passage in Josephus apparently referring to the martyrdom by stoning of Jesus’s brother is now generally agreed to be an interpolation. Meanwhile, the ossuary itself has gone to Toronto's Royal Ontario Museum, where it will be on display from 16 November to 29 December.

The ossuary belongs to a private collector living in Jerusalem, who is reported to have bought it for a few hundred dollars in the 1970s and to have been unaware of its possible significance until the existence of the inscription was announced in the Biblical Archeology Review on 21 October in Washington, DC. Scientists at the Geological Survey of Israel have confirmed that the limestone of the ossuary was quarried from Jerusalem’s Mount Scopus and that its patina is consistent with its having spent centuries in a cave.

Special Honorary Fellows

Nominations continue to trickle in for the title of Special Honorary Fellow. Paul Gilman writes to point out that Asterix is played by Christian Clavier and Obelix by Gerard Depardieu in the recently released Mission Cleopatra, and not (as SALON reported last week) the other way around. Paul says that his nominees would be Goscinny and Uderzo, writer and illustrator (respectively) of the Asterix stories.

Bob Croft meanwhile suggests that it would be appropriate to nominate Lara Croft to address the gender balance of the nominations. Like many Fellows, Lara has a tradition of tomb raiding to keep up. Her image, he admits, is perhaps somewhat too flamboyant for many tastes, but that if we were to follow Lara’s example, the style and standards of serious expeditionary fieldwork would never be the same again. Bob adds that he has no vested interest, not being a relation (as far as he is aware)!