Salon Archive

Issue: 37

Weekly meeting report

How do you drop a large multiplex cinema with three levels of underground parking on top of a scheduled ancient monument without destroying the archaeological deposits? Such was the challenge faced at Gloucester by the three speakers at this week’s Thursday meeting. John Pugh-Smith, FSA, Richard Sermon and Albert Williamson-Taylor (one a lawyer, one an archaeologist and one a structural engineer) described how, working as a team, they devised an engineering solution that broke with conventional thinking, and resulted in the conservation in situ of 97 per cent of the archaeology and the excavation and recording of the remaining 3 per cent.

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

Forthcoming meetings

5 December: ‘May Morris: author, artist and craftsworker in her own right’, by Linda Parry, FSA.

12 December: A Miscellany of Papers.

Fellows’ news

Lisa Elliott wishes to remind Fellows that the Mulled Wine Reception that follows the Miscellany of Papers on Thursday 12 December is a ticket-only event, and that all tickets have now been sold. Lisa adds that tickets are only despatched to Fellows once payment is received, so if you have reserved a ticket but not yet received one, please contact Lisa by email (lelliott@sal.org.uk) or tel: 020 7479 7080 to arrange payment.

Also on an administrative note, Giselle Pullen, in the Society’s Finance Office, asks that Fellows contact her on gpullen@sal.org.ukor tel: 020 7749 7087 if they wish to pay their annual subscription in quarterly instalments (either by credit card or by direct debit) and are not already doing so, or if their previous payment details have changed.


Fellow Jeremy Montagu writes to say that his article on William of Wykeham's crozier has just been published in Early Music (XXX:4, November 2002, pages 540—62). The main thrust of the article is a detailed description of the twenty musical instruments portrayed on the crozier. The instruments, Jeremy says, are the one aspect of the crozier that seems never to have been discussed in any detail before. Certainly they have not previously been photographed in detail, so that, quite apart from the text, the article is an important visual record, with each instrument illustrated in detail and in colour. Further information from: jeremy.montagu@music.oxford.ac.uk.

Fellows will be saddened to learn of the deaths of Arthur Girling Grimwade (elected a Fellow in 1953) and of The Earl of Perth, FSA Hon Causa.

Lord Perth served as Minister of State for Colonial Affairs from 1957 until 1962 at a time when many former colonies were undergoing the transition to independence. His obituary in The Times said that Lord Perth was ‘particularly keen on bringing Africans into the higher echelons of the African Civil Service because “so little in the way of preparations had been made”. He was impressed by young politicians, particularly in Kenya and Uganda, and saddened when they proved unable to establish lasting democracies’.

But for Fellows, Lord Perth’s most significant role began in 1962 when he became First Commissioner of the Crown Estate, and for sixteen years looked after the buildings and land that had been surrendered by the Sovereign in return for the payment of the Civil List. In London the Estate includes Whitehall, Pall Mall, Regent Street, St James’s, parts of the City of London and of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Here Perth’s immediate job was to modernise and repair the Estate after war-time devastation.

In the words of The Times obituary: ‘Perth loved the job. Buildings and townscapes fascinated him, and he wanted both to look good. His outstanding achievement was the redevelopment of 25 acres of Pimlico and Millbank, including a new traffic scheme designed to serve a sensitive environment south of Victoria. At the same time the beautiful cream Pimlico terraces built by Thomas Cubitt were restored.’

From 1953, Lord Perth also poured his enthusiasm into the restoration of the family’s fourteenth-century castle -- Stobhall, in Perthshire -- transforming it from a ruin into a viable home, which he filled with pictures and sculpture, adding a library in which he housed his valuable collection of Jacobite literature and, with his wife Nancy, creating a notable garden.

Lord Perth’s involvement in the historic environment continued on into the 1990s when he brought forward a bill to change the 1,000-year-old law on Treasure Trove. He also championed the building of a new museum in Scotland, raised millions of pounds for it, mainly in America and, as Chairman, stood up to the Prince of Wales who resigned as a patron over the procedure for choosing its architect.

Correction

Last week’s SALON quoted an obituary that appeared in The Independent in which it was said that our late Fellow, John Frederick Fuggles, had discovered a hitherto unknown seventh-century Bible made for Abbot Ceolfrid at Jarrow. Mirjam Foot, FSA, has written to point out, for the record, that in fact it was the Conservation Adviser to the National Trust, Dr Nicholas Pickwoad, who made this discovery.

Learned societies face �1.3 million rent bill

On 25 November, The Independent newspaper carried a report saying that the Government, through the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, was taking court action in an attempt to prove that it owns the freehold of Burlington House and can charge rent to the Learned Societies, who would be treated as Tenants-at-will. The Societies are challenging this interpretation and believe that they have ‘a species of freehold’ that entitles them to permanent occupation rent-free. No date has yet been set for the High Court hearing.

The full-page story in The Independent was sympathetic to the Learned Societies and pointed out that paying a commercial level of rent (estimated to be �221,000 in the case of the Society of Antiquaries) would severely jeopardise their programmes of research, grant-giving, publishing and outreach.

Our General Secretary, Dai Morgan Evans, was quoted as saying that: ‘There is no way that we can find that sort of money without substantially damaging the whole of our charitable work’. Dr David Giachardi of the Royal Society of Chemistry said: ‘It is ludicrous. We are a charity and we try to put everything we can back into society to advance the chemical sciences; we spend more than �1 million a year on education, and the rent will simply come off that’.

Bill Putnam wins Dorset award

In a ceremony attended by the Prince of Wales, Fellow Bill Putnam has been given the Dorset Archaeological Committee’s award for an outstanding contribution to the county's archaeology for his project on the Dorchester Roman Aqueduct. Over the last ten years, Bill has unravelled the complex history of this fascinating work, including proof of its construction by the Roman army at an early stage in the conquest. The project was adjudged the winner by the distinguished panel of judges, who meet to make the award every other year.

Digital Domesday wins British Computer Society award

History publisher Phillimore, run by our Fellow Noel Osborne, has been awarded a prestigious medal by the British Computer Society for the Domesday Explorer, cited as an example of excellence and innovation in IT. This first-ever electronic edition of Great Domesday Book was prepared for publication on CD by John Palmer, Matthew Palmer and George Slater of the Department of History, University of Hull, and is a powerful and sophisticated aid to medieval scholarship. Full details are available from the Phillimore website at www.phillimore.co.uk.

Getty architectural conservation grants

Preliminary letters of inquiry for the next Getty Grant Program competition are due by 10 February 2003. The Getty Grant Program offers architectural conservation grants to support the preservation of significant, listed historic buildings or sites. Funded projects are intended to strengthen the practice of architectural conservation, provide training opportunities and serve as models for the preservation of other historic sites. All applications are reviewed by a panel of international experts. Planning grants provide up to US$75,000 for the research, analysis, and documentation necessary to the development of a comprehensive conservation plan. Implementation funds of up to US$250,000 are available on a highly selective basis. Detailed grant guidelines are available online at www.getty.edu/grants/.

Wallace Collection seminars on the History of Collecting

The Wallace Collection is planning to launch a series of regular seminars as a forum for the presentation and discussion of new and current research into the history of collections and collecting. The papers given at the seminars will cover all aspects of the history of collecting, including the formation and dispersal of collections, dealers, auctioneers and the art market, collectors, museums, inventory work and research resources.

If you would like more information or would like to propose a paper, please contact Jeremy Warren, FSA, at the Wallace Collection by e-mail: jeremy.warren@wallacecollection.org or tel: 020 7563 9537. You should also send an e-mail to Jeremy Warren with your name and address if you would like to be added to the mailing list for the seminars.

'Auctions, Agents and Dealers': the Mechanisms of the European Art Market c 1660

The Wallace Collection is hosting a conference on this topic to be held on 12 and 13 December 2003. Papers are invited on the economics of the market for second-hand goods, the pricing of works of art, negotiating within an art market (the role of agents and dealers) and acquiring works of art (patrons and agents). The aim of the conference is to concentrate on the mechanisms by which collections were assembled and to focus on the more neglected areas of sculpture and the applied arts, although papers on the art market for paintings, prints and drawings are also welcomed.

Further information is available from Adriana Turpin, the conference organiser, by email from: turpinadriana@hotmail.com.

Rural Regeneration — A Sustainable Future for Farm Buildings

The Historic Farm Buildings Group has just published the papers given at its one-day conference held in April 2002 bringing together farmers, landowners, civil servants and government agencies to discuss the future for farm buildings. Susanna Wade Martins, FSA, the conference organiser, makes the point in her introduction that historic farm buildings are as threatened by modern agricultural practice as birds, mammals, plants and hedgerows. One of the over-riding conclusions from all the papers is that too little is actually known about the survival, condition and rate of loss of farm buildings, with the conclusion that substantial research is needed, which the Historic Farm Buildings Group intends to carry forward. Further details from Susanna Wade Martins by email: susannawm@hotmail.com.

Secretary of State announces review of heritage protection legislation

Tessa Jowell, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, used the launch of SHER – the State of the Heritage Environment Report – last week to announce a full review of existing heritage protection legislation. ‘We need,’ she said ‘a system of protection that is right for the twenty-first century ... an approach that is more flexible. Listing can be too blunt an instrument, especially for many twentieth-century large-scale environments designed and built in a markedly different way from pre-war construction [so] we will pilot alternatives to current designation regimes that will identify significance and manage future change in a positive way’.

Tessa Jowell set the review in the context of John Prescott’s drive to streamline planning procedures and modernise planning guidance, but emphasised that the aim was to attack delay and inefficiency, not the principle of protecting the historic environment. ‘We all know about the problems’, she said, ‘that can arise from some of the current procedures for protecting our heritage. We need to reform these – make them work better for everyone – while maintaining the same level of protection for the historic environment’.

The Secretary of State outlined practical plans for the review, saying that it would be carried out in partnership with English Heritage and would take around a year to reach a conclusion. If the resulting report called for a radical overhaul of existing statute, a legislative slot would be found within the next two to three years. In the meantime, she said: ‘We will rigorously prioritise future designation programmes to focus on areas of the historic environment where major change is predicted in the next five to ten years and where designation can contribute to early clarity of evaluation, especially in rural and urban regeneration contexts. We will thus shift designation activity, focussing resources on to setting up projects on the evaluation of brownfield sites, key redevelopment sites, and town centres being remodelled’.

Reaction to the announcement was positive. Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage, which hosted the SHER launch, called on the whole historic environment sector to work with DCMS and English Heritage to make the legislation more effective. ‘We all know that the present system is far from perfect. Our job is to make sacrosanct the core principles – and the Secretary of State is unequivocal in her support for that – but also to create new processes that work cleanly and smoothly and transparently’.

Endorsing Sir Neil’s comments, Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said the review was about ‘taking the bureaucracy out of the system, not the core principles ... it is an opportunity for fresh thinking, a chance to put right what is wrong’.

The text of Tessa Jowell’s announcement can be downloaded from the DCMS site at www.dcms.gov.uk/heritage/index.html under ‘Press Releases’.


SHER launch

Earlier on the same day, leading figures from the heritage world gathered at the Treasury for a press briefing to launch the State of the Historic Environment Report 2002. This comprehensive audit is packed with statistics and indicators for the health of the historic environment, and provides for the first time ever a set of benchmarks against which future success or failure in protecting the historic environment can be measured.

Headline figures from the report show that the historic environment is an asset that generates 5 per cent of the UK’s GDP, and 7.6 per cent of the UK’s employment. As Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage said, in support of the report: ‘Without the historic environment, the UK tourism industry would not exist – people don’t come here for the weather’.

The report also produced evidence that people care deeply about the historic environment and that the voluntary sector is growing fast. On the negative side, threats to the historic environment include a desperate shortage of people with the craft skills to maintain buildings constructed using traditional techniques (which includes the large numbers of pre-war houses that make up so much of the housing stock in our inner cities), incongruous development, half a century of destructive agricultural policy, unhelpful tax regimes and an overall lack of funds.

Views are being sought on the content of the report and on the issues and indicators that SHER should focus on in future years in order to achieve effective measurement of change. Copies of the report can be downloaded from www.historicenvironment.org.uk or can be ordered for free by telephoning English Heritage Customer Services on 0870 333 1181.

HEF political meeting

One of the issues to emerge from the SHER debate was the need for stronger government leadership and firmer action on the heritage, so it was with impeccable timing that the Historic Environment Forum (HEF) gathered together a group of politicians at the Society’s apartments on 27 November 2002 -- under the chairmanship of our President, Professor Rosemary Cramp -- to present their party’s policies on archaeology and to answer questions from HEF members.

The meeting heard Malcolm Moss, MP (The Conservative Party), say that it was imperative that the historic environment should be conserved for future generations, that the Conservative party was committed to funding the continuance of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and that it was long overdue that SMRs should be made a statutory duty of local authorities. ‘If we are going to devolve more’, he said, ‘we need to make sure that it is mandatory for local authorities to have trained staff to do the job’.

Jenny Jones, London Assembly Member (The Green Party), admitted that she was herself an archaeology graduate and that she had worked for many years as an archaeo-botanist before low wages drove her to seek an alternative career. The Greens, she said, believe that the past is part of the fabric of our society, andf that if we lose the past we lose ourselves.

Lord Redesdale (Liberal Democrat) said that politically the historic environment sector was growing up fast and was learning how to engage with Parliament, politicians and civil servants. His party’s policy on archaeology, endorsed by the 2002 Liberal Democrat conference, was to fund statutory SMRs and the Portable Antiquities Scheme and to make damage to the historic environment a criminal offence.

Simon Thomas, MP (Plaid Cymru), pointed to several initiatives in Wales that were already making a real difference: the heritage of Wales was firmly integrated into the Welsh national curriculum, and points were given to farmers who managed their land in a sustainable way in the interests of the historic and natural environments, points that counted towards various forms of grant-aid.

Martin Linton, MP (The Labour Party), said that the Government wanted a fundamental review of all policies relating to the historic environment, including a clarification of the role of English Heritage. He said the aim was to produce a simpler designation system, fit to serve for the next sixty years. He acknowledged the need for joined-up government as far as the historic environment was concerned and paid tribute to DEFRA, saying that it was taking a lead role in getting everyone to understand the cultural importance of the countryside, which, he said, ‘long ago ceased just to be a food factory’. He ended by emphasising that the historic environment sector needed ‘to speak with one voice rather than the current panoply of voices’, but that affirmed that, if it did, the Government’s door was open and it would listen to the sector’s concerns.

Airports consultation

Last week saw the passing of the deadline for comments on the Government’s proposals for the expansion of airports in England, but the Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling, has announced that the proposals will now have to be redrafted following the High Court’s ruling that the Government was wrong to exclude expansion at Gatwick from the range of options it presented for consultation. A revised set of options will be published some time next year, with a further four-month consultation period – leading to an extended period of uncertainty for all those communities threatened by the expansion proposals.

From a historic environment perspective, adding Gatwick into the mix is not likely to resolve the problem of the blighting of small historic towns and villages and the demolition of listed buildings that stand in the path of runways and airport infrastructure. English Heritage has said that it is impossible, at this stage, to give an unconditional green light to any of the proposals.

Meanwhile, the Government’s own pollution advisers have issued a report saying that the planned expansion would be ecologically disastrous, and that no new airports, terminals or runways should be built. The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution, made up of senior academics, said that aircraft emissions are especially harmful in terms of global warming, and that the Government has not taken sufficient account of this in its thinking. The Commission argues that international steps need to be taken to depress demand for air travel, including the levying of climate-protection charges.

Block on export of three works of art

In a move that is being interpreted as part of a determined effort on the part of the Government to prevent important works of art from being sold abroad, the Arts Minster, Baroness Blackstone, has placed a temporary bar on the export of three works: a Michelangelo Study of a Mourning Woman, recently found pasted into an album at Castle Howard, the Portrait of the Hon Robert Monckton (1764), by Benjamin West, and Van Dyck’s Study of a Grey Stallion. The export bar remains in place until 28 January 2003 so that UK museums can seek to match the sale price of �7.5 million for the Michelangelo drawing, �775,000 for the West painting and �837,000 for the Van Dyck. Whether UK art institutions can afford such sums is open to question: the Tate Gallery’s annual acquisition budget is just �2 million.

Suffolk canoe dated to Anglo-Saxon period

A 16-foot-long dugout canoe found four years ago off the coast of Southwold, in Suffolk, has been radio-carbon dated to between AD 775 and AD 845. The boat was dredged up in 1998 by a fisherman, Rodney Collett, who had planned to cut the wooden hulk into logs but decided first to consult Stuart Bacon, the director of the Suffolk Underwater Studies Unit. Stuart Bacon realised its significance at the time, but has only now received confirmation that this is the oldest vessel ever found in UK coastal waters. The craft has now been moved to a marine laboratory for conservation work before it is transferred to a local museum.

Dense multi-period settlement found in the Vale of Pickering

Magnetometry survey work carried out on sandy soils in the Vale of Pickering has revealed a palimpsest of prehistoric, Roman and medieval settlement and land use where no archaeology was previously known. The survey, claimed as the largest ever undertaken in Britain, covered an area of 2,000 acres due to be deep-ploughed for the cultivation of potatoes. Prehistoric field systems associated with pits and mounds, nine Iron-Age settlements, Roman ribbon development and Anglo-Saxon settlement evidence have all been identified.

Commenting on the discoveries, David Miles, Chief Archaeologist with English Heritage, said: ‘It shows that there are enormous landscapes still unknown to us’. Dominic Powlesland, of the Landscape Research Centre in the Vale of Pickering, which carried out the work, said that ‘the results were jaw-dropping – both from the point of view of the density of the archaeology, and because only now are we beginning to realise how great is the destruction caused by new agricultural techniques’.

The history of the British Rail sandwich

Though the notorious British Rail sandwich has now passed into history, it remains the butt of many a joke, the standard for awfulness in institutional catering along with cups of BBC canteen tea. Now, thanks to a new exhibition that opened last week at the National Railway Museum in York, the secret recipe for the British Rail sandwich has at last been revealed. Instructions issued to British Rail caterers in 1971 specified mean amounts of filling, most of which was to be placed at the centre of the bread, so as to make the sandwich look fuller than it was when the cut face was displayed. The absence of filling around the periphery caused the edges of the sandwich to dry up and curl, while the central portion of the sandwich became soggy. Despite this, British Rail (still using the 1971 formula) managed to sell 8 million sandwiches in 1993, the year in which it was privatised.