Salon Archive

Issue: 51

Weekly meeting report

Fellows and guests at this week�s meeting heard Margaret Bennett reconstruct the early modern landscape of north Nottinghamshire through maps, pictorial engravings, foresters� account books, letters and the surviving evidence in farm buildings, trees, hedges and boundaries. Her deductions about the use of the grand ducal estates of the region for hunting were confirmed as substantially accurate when a descendant of the original owner of Thoresby Hall, one of the estates in Margaret Bennett�s study, gave Fellows an account of his family�s motives in acquiring and remodelling the estate in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries � an example of oral history and landscape studies meeting and reinforcing each other.

A summary of this week�s paper can be found on the Fellows� side of the Society of Antiquaries� website.

Forthcoming meetings

8 May: The President�s Anniversary Address. Lisa Elliott () wishes to inform Fellows that only fifteen tickets remain for the reception that follows the President�s Anniversary address. Fellows who have reserved a place but not yet paid need to do so soon, as tickets will not be reserved once the remaining fifteen have been taken.

15 May: Ballot

Fellows� news

The Society was informed last week of the death of our Fellow Brian Watson Spencer on 3 May 2003.

Last week�s Salon omitted to mention that our late Fellow the Very Revd Robert Holtby, FSA, had played a very significant role, as Dean of Chichester Cathedral, in commissioning the works of art for which the cathedral is now rightly celebrated. Music by Britten and Holst, the John Piper tapestry, Graham Sutherland�s painting, Marc Chagall�s glass and Ursula Benker-Schimer�s �Anglo-German Reconciliation Tapestry� were all commissioned for the cathedral as a result of his vision and his hard work in raising the necessary funds.

Roger Ling writes to say that reading last week�s words on obituaries and celebrating successful lives reminded him that Dr Norman Davey, FSA, died some time before Christmas just short of his 103rd birthday. Roger says: �He is best known for his work on the reconstruction and restoration of Romano-British wall-paintings, beginning with the finds at Verulamium from Sheppard Frere's excavations in the 1950s, but continuing on numerous discoveries of the 1960s and 1970s with funding and logistical support from the then Ministry of Public Building and Works, later Department of the Environment. This work can be said truly to have launched the systematic study of wall-painting in Roman Britain, and the results are summarised in the joint volume produced by Norman and myself for the Britannia monograph series in 1981�.

He adds: �What is less well known is that Norman had a distinguished career in structural engineering before he began his career in archaeology. Among his achievements were designing the acoustic dome in the Royal Albert Hall and making the model of the dam on which Barnes Wallis's bouncing bomb was tested during the Second World War. This model, at the Building Research Station at Garston, near Watford, has recently been scheduled to save it from destruction. It was while working at the Building Research Station that Norman first became involved with archaeology at Verulamium, digging with Mortimer and Tessa Wheeler in the 1930s; one of the fine colour illustrations of mosaics published in their Verulamium: a Belgic and Two Roman Cities was prepared by him.

Looting in Iraq...

The tragic events unfolding in Iraq have lived up to everyone�s worst expectations. The insistence by the US and British Coalition that they are not a police force and have no role to play in preventing looting is an admission of incompetence and ignorance. Incompetence because the allies spent months in preparation for the war and had plenty of opportunity to plan for the aftermath of Saddam Hussein�s demise. Ignorance because the Hague Convention lays down in the clearest terms what steps parties to international conflict must take to protect life and property in situations such as this. But then, neither the US nor the British Government has ratified the Hague Convention.

The weekend�s newspapers graphically illustrated the scale of the looting that took place last week. On the first day of looting, well-organised professional gangs, well aware of what they were looking for, entered the Baghdad National Museum and removed the most valuable and portable antiquities. The following day, maverick looters randomly robbed or smashed what was left whilst US troops in tanks stood by and watched.

Prominent archaeologists have now written to the British Prime Minister and to leading daily newspapers calling on the American and British governments to:

 Maintain adequate guards (Iraqi or coalition) on monuments and museums
 Support and protect Iraqi archaeologists and curators in performing their duties
 Reject any proposals to remove antiquities from Iraq, and to prevent unofficial attempts to do this
 Explicitly recognise in reconstruction programmes the importance of Iraq�s unparalleled cultural heritage
 Ensure the UK does not become a staging post in the trade of antiquities illicitly obtained from Iraq
 Ratify the Hague Convention for the protection of cultural property in times of conflict as a matter of urgency, and in the meantime to respect its protocols and abide by the measures already enshrined in the 1977 Geneva Convention and the World Heritage Convention

Sadly, it is too late now to save the antiquities in Iraq�s museums, but the least the Government can do is to give safe and speedy passage to Richard Allan�s Illicit Trading in Antiquities bill, to ensure that the UK does not play any part in the black market in looted antiquities from Iraq -- and bring pressure to bear on the US to do the same.

...in Italy...

Thieves in Italy have destroyed large parts of a magnificent Roman fresco in their attempts to steal it from the walls of the House of the Chaste Lovers in Pompeii. The frescos, painted between AD 45 and 79, were in a building not open to the public, which has been under excavation since 1987. Antonio d�Ambrosio, director of the excavation, said that archaeologists arrived on site on 7 April to discover fresco fragments all over the floor. They suspected vandalism until it was realised that two of the central fresco scenes had disappeared � one a roundel depicting Cupid, and the other a naturalistic scene of a cockerel pecking a pomegranate. The police recovered the frescos later in the week from a building site half a mile away, packed in crates ready for export.

...and in the UK

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings devotes a good part of its most recent SPAB News to detailing a catalogue of thefts from historic buildings. Fellow Philip Venning, SPAB Secretary, makes the point in his editorial that Richard Allan�s bill will help deter the illicit trade in grander works of art, but that there is a worrying trend towards the theft of humbler building materials. Where once thieves targeted the lead on church roofs, they now strip Cotswold barns of roofing tile, demolish dry stone walls for their limestone, steal bricks from estate walls (as happened at Melton Constable just before Christmas last year), and lift paving slabs from the very streets of historic towns. The theft of paving slabs has been fuelled by garden makeover programmes on TV.

Camden Council, in north London, says it has experienced seventeen separate thefts of paving stones this year, including the removal of forty slabs from the paving around the war memorial in All Hallows churchyard. They are urging anyone who hears digging in the middle of the night to report it to the police. A Camden spokesman said: �It is unlikely to be the Council � contrary to what some people think, we don�t pay those sort of overtime rates�.

The Budget

Art lovers were cheered by the Chancellor�s statement in this year�s budget speech that he is to review tax measures relating to the acquisition of works of art. Speaking on Wednesday 9 April, the Chancellor said: �To back up free entry to the national museums and galleries, which has raised admission by 70 per cent, I now propose to review the incentives, reliefs and exemptions available to important national and regional museums and galleries to make acquisitions of works of art or culture which should not be lost to the nation�.

The National Arts Collection Fund has suggested that relief could be given in the form of allowing donors to offset gifts of works of art against tax liabilities, just as the Gift Aid scheme operates in the US. Sir John Guinness, Chairman of the Waverley Committee, which advises the Government on which items of heritage should be preserved, said that owners of historical collections should �do the decent thing� and offer their collections to museums and galleries rather than selling them in the international art market.

The Burlington Magazine

The Burlington Magazine, the monthly art history journal, celebrated its Centenary Year last week with a reception at the Wallace Collection, and the publication of an anthology of articles from the magazine (edited by Sir Michael Levey, former Director of the National Gallery, London, Yale, �29.95). Fellow Sir Nicholas Goodison is Chairman of the editorial committee presiding over a magazine that was founded in 1903 by a group of distinguished scholars headed by Roger Fry, Bernard Berenson, and Herbert Horne. The reception was also the occasion for Caroline Elam, editor for the last fifteen years to hand over the reins to the new editor, Richard Shone, as she has now been appointed Andrew W Mellon Professor at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, the National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Campaigners in last bid to save the Newport Ship�s stern

Newport City Council continues to put up barriers to the recovery and restoration of the Newport Ship. Not only have they withheld payment to Glamorgan and Gwent Archaeological Trust for their work on the ship, severely impacting the Trust�s cash flow and financial viability, the Council has now refused to allow excavation of the ship�s stern, saying �It has become clear that an investigation into the ship's stern would be impossible because of the danger involved.� According to the council, detailed structural engineering analysis has revealed that remains of the stern run into �a precarious Victorian dock wall - making any recovery potentially hazardous�.

Parts of the bow (whose excavation was also resisted by the Council) were finally removed on 8 April. The stern, which would yield important information about how the boat was steered and sailed, and what its load capacity would be, remains in the ground.

Archaeologists and campaigners who have fought tirelessly to preserve the ship say this latest news comes as a bitter blow. �It's heartbreaking to get to the eleventh hour and be hit by this,� said Charles Ferris of local campaign group Friends of the Newport Ship. We're asking for a second opinion,� added Mr Ferris. �The Council has said in the past that the ship in its entirety would be recovered, so I would hate the public to think it's all been retrieved, because it hasn't.� Campaigners organised a peaceful demonstration on 10 April to let their feelings be known to the council.

Further information can be found at the Newport Ship website.

Sector Skills Council for the Creative and Cultural Industries

A group of arts and heritage organisations has published a prospectus proposing the development of a Creative and Cultural Sector Skills Council. The prospectus, called The Right Way Forward: An Invitation to the Creative and Cultural Industries, explains that the Government plans to channel all future skills training funds through Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) and it proposes setting up an SSC to encompass archives, libraries and information services, the arts in all their forms, crafts, cultural heritage and design. It will cover a wide range of occupations, including those of the archaeologist, curator, conservator, librarian and archivist, and those with management responsibilities for museums, archaeological units, archives and libraries.

David Wears of the Cultural Heritage National Training Organisation (CHNTO) said: 'Without an SSC, we will not be able to continue the development of training, qualifications and professional standards. It is important that we act now.'

Mark Taylor of the Museums Association added: 'The contribution our sector makes to the country - socially, educationally, economically - is immense. Yet the workforce is underpaid, insufficiently trained and unappreciated. We need an SSC very badly.'

The next stage is to put a fully costed bid to the Sector Skills Development Agency, with a business plan specifying priorities and targets for the first five years of operation. People and organisations from the sector are being asked for their support and input into this process. Detailed information is available online at www.cciskills.org.uk.

Battle for live music not over yet

Salon recently reported that Lord Redesdale was the toast of musicians and lovers of live music all over the land for his House of Lords amendment to the Licensed Premises Bill exempting educational establishments and small venues from the bill�s licensing requirements. Sadly, their joy was premature. Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has announced that the Government will overturn the Lords' amendment. Schools and sixth form colleges will be exempt from licence fees but universities and places of higher education remain liable.

During the first of the committee stage debates, several MPs were critical of the bill�s proposals. Bob Blizzard (Lab, Waveney) said that: �Small, live venues are a serious issue if we are to avoid the monoculture of mass entertainment�. David Heath (Lib Dem, Somerton & Frome) said that: �All acoustic performances should be exempt from the provisions, as they are not capable of causing the nuisance that the Bill attempts to remedy�.

Conservative Shadow Culture Secretary, John Whittingdale also commented on the exemption for broadcast entertainment: �The Government seems to consider that live performance poses such dangers that it requires a licence, whereas the televised screening of a soccer match or a concert poses no dangers ... the Minister [Kim Howells] said on radio a couple of months ago that in 14 years as an MP he had never received a complaint about a folk group or anybody else playing acoustic music, but that he had had lots of complaints about loud televisions and loud piped music. It therefore seems extraordinary that he proposes to regulate the former but to exempt the latter�.

Coin hoard found in Leicestershire

A hoard of 4,000 or so Iron-Age coins has been uncovered near Market Harborough in south Leicestershire. The hoard also contained the remains of a Roman cavalry helmet made of iron covered with sheet silver, decorated with textile drapery motifs and stylised hair topped by a laurel wreath and the image of a lion. The coins date from the first four decades of the first century AD. Most are Corieltauvian, struck by the pro-Roman tribe based at the site of modern Leicester. The Corieltauvi were among the British tribal groups who swore allegiance to the Roman emperor Claudius at a gathering in Colchester a few months after the invasion of AD 43.

Sir Christopher Wren's geometric staircase to be restored

One of the hidden treasures of St Paul�s Cathedral, Sir Christopher Wren's �hanging stairs�, are to be cleaned and repaired. The staircase was designed to give the Dean of St Paul's a private route from the south-west corner of the cathedral to his library. The cantilevered staircase appears to have no means of support: the weight of each step is supported primarily by the step below. Damage to one undermines the integrity of the whole, and since some steps are showing signs of cracking, the structure has been closed to visitors, as has the library, which houses 23,000 books, including a 1526 Tyndale New Testament. Now both will be reopened as part of a �40-illion facelift to mark the cathedral's 300th anniversary in 2008.

Avebury stones to be set square

Two megaliths standing near the centre of the henge at Avebury are to be pushed upright using giant jacks. The stones have been fenced off since 1997 after tests conducted by the National Trust showed the stones to be �perilously close to collapse�. The movement was revealed by comparing computer-generated graphics of the stones in their present state with engravings made by William Stukeley in 1720. The comparisons showed that the 16ft-high stones, each weighing 50 tonnes, had developed a 15 degree list since Stukeley drew them and were in danger of toppling.

Archaeologists will now excavate behind the stones to establish how deeply rooted they are and to create a gap into which each stone can be pushed. Once the stones are upright, cement will be poured in around them to prevent any further movement.

Several stones in the Neolithic complex have fallen in the past, in 1713, 1889 and 1911 On none of those occasions was anyone hurt. Robert Mimmack, the Trust�s property manager at Avebury, said: �The jacking process will be carried out very gently to avoid damage to the stones, but it will nonetheless be quite spectacular�.

Cistercian landscapes conference 2004

The Cambrian Archaeological Association is holding its 2004 Easter Conference at Abergavenny, on the impact of the Cistercian order on the landscapes of Europe, with especial reference to the granges. Those who wish to attend the conference or contribute a paper should contact the organiser, the Revd Dr David Williams.

Tall buildings

The great debate on the merits or otherwise of tall buildings will take another twist this summer when Lord Foster will curate a tall buildings exhibition at the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition. The RA has decided that architecture will take the prominent role for the first time in this summer's show, after the success of the focus on sculpture last year.

Foster's Sky High exhibition will present models of older tall buildings and presentations of some of the most innovative skyscrapers currently being designed worldwide. As well as models, Sky High will also use videos and interactive programmes to illustrate the various aspects of �vertical architecture�.

The RA Annual Exhibition Lecture to accompany the exhibition will be given by Renzo Piano, whose controversial London Bridge Tower is currently the subject of a public enquiry. Many have hailed the building (known as �the shard of glass�) as a masterpiece of contemporary design and technology, but English Heritage Commissioners have said they believe its construction would have �a major detrimental impact on the Tower of London World Heritage site - like a spike through its heart�.

The Saatchi Gallery at County Hall

The relocated Saatchi Gallery opens to the public on 17 April. Not that Fellows will necessarily be interested in the �art� on display (though you never know: Lord Renfrew,FSA, in his latest book on the affinities between art and archaeology (Figuring it Out, Thames and Hudson, �25.60) says that �viewing Tracey Emin�s unmade bed is essentially an archaeological experience�). The more compelling reason for visiting the new gallery is to see the splendidly decorated rooms, now open for the first time since the GLC was abolished in 1986. Visitors should arm themselves not with the gallery catalogue, but with a copy of the comprehensive and well-illustrated Survey of London Monograph 17: County Hall, produced in 1991 under the General Editorship of Fellow Hermione Hobhouse.

Dandy of the Year

It is not often that Fellows merit mention in the newspapers for their dress sense, but our own Stephen Calloway, FSA, appeared in full colour in the Independent on Sunday yesterday in full fogey rig as the quintessential English dandy, alive and well in the twenty-first century. The quest for the best modern exemplar of the dandy look was sparked by Jeremy Millar, of Brighton Museum, who is celebrating the spirit of the Brighton Pavilion this autumn with an exhibition of photographs of notable dressers from the eighteenth century to the present day.

Vacancies: CBA Trustees

The Council for British Archaeology is managed by a board of fifteen trustees who meet at least six times a year. Five of the existing trustees are due to retire at the September 2003 AGM. The CBA is therefore looking for five new trustees with appropriate archaeological and/or business knowledge and skills. Further details from Peter Olver.