Salon Archive

Issue: 84

Weekly meeting report

Dominic Powlesland told Fellows at the Society�s weekly meeting on 18 March 2004 that Anglo-Saxon settlements used to be thought of as small and scruffy. Large-scale landscape survey work undertaken around West Heslerton in the Vale of Pickering now shows that this was not the case: no less than three Anglo-Saxon villages have been discovered, each of 50 hectares in extent, packed with post-built and sunken-featured buildings, with further smaller settlements at 800-metre intervals between these major nuclei. Saxon settlement was as dense as that found in the preceding Romano-British and Iron Age periods, and it dates from as early as AD 370, thus providing evidence for a substantial overlap with the Roman period and suggesting that the Dark Ages � the hiatus between the end of the Roman period and the start of the Saxon � never happened.

A full report of the meeting is available on the Fellows� side of the Society�s website.

Forthcoming meetings

25 March: St Weburh: the evolution of a regional cult, by Dr Alan Thacker, FSA, to be held at the Blue Coat School, Chester
1 April: An Anglo-Saxon Painted Figure at Deerhurst: discovery and context, by Michael Hare, FSA, Richard Bryant, FSA, and Steve Bagshaw
23 April: Anniversary meeting

Heritage and the 2004 Budget

In his 2004 budget, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown, announced that listed places of worship would be wholly exempt from VAT on �qualifying repairs�, until at least 2006. This is a significant extension of the existing scheme whereby churches are able to reclaim 12.5 per cent but must still find the remaining 5 per cent. To the surprise and relief of museum and historic house managers, the Chancellor also omitted to introduce rules to curb Gift Aid, which means that the scheme is likely to continue in operation for at least another year.

Religious leaders welcomed the decision to allow them to reclaim VAT in full on repairs to listed buildings. The scheme will free up an estimated �10 million a year. The Church of England, the major owner of listed buildings in England, spends over �130 million a year on repairs, and so will gain at least �6.5 million. Representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, which owns 656 listed churches and chapels, also welcomed the move, which it said would ease the financial burden on dioceses and parishes, help to save prized historical assets, and free up money for pastoral work and vital social care projects.

The Chancellor also revealed in his budget speech that the Treasury was not yet ready to scrap the special exemption in Gift Aid rules which allows heritage and conservation charities to offer free admission in return for a donation, and to reclaim income tax on the donation. He said that the Treasury needed more time to consult charities that might be affected by the proposed change, and would then develop a new definition of the special exemption. The results of the consultation will be announced around the time of the spending review this summer. The Museums Association believes this gives members another two years of benefit from the current legislation, until April 2006.

Earlier in the month, in response to a parliamentary question put to the Chancellor of the Exchequer by Don Foster, Liberal Democrat MP for Bath, John Healey, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, said that charities received donations under Gift Aid of �2.3 billion in 2002�3, including tax relief from the Government of �506 million. He said that Gift Aid had been intended as a means of enabling charities to reclaim tax on membership subscriptions in the same way as they were previously been able to claim tax refunds under Deeds of Covenant. Deeds of Covenant lasted for at least three years, meaning that a donor was required to have an ongoing commitment to a charity. He said the Government would now seek to amend Gift Aid legislation to ensure that the special exemption applies as it was originally intended and not to day memberships. �This will mean�, he said, �that heritage and conservation charities will continue to benefit from the special exemption where a donor has an ongoing commitment to the charity, such as an annual membership, or where someone makes a donation of money.�

DEFRA awards Countryside Agency �95m for 2004/5

The Countryside Agency, which manages various funding streams that impact on the historic environment, has been allocated a budget of �95m for 2004/5, which is down marginally on the �100 million the agency spent last year. In addition, the agency will be provided with resources from the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund as well as Heritage Lottery Fund support for the Countryside Heritage Initiative, amounting to a further �15m, plus a further �2m for work to help local authorities implement new rights of access to the countryside under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. The aims of the Countryside Agency include the conservation and enhancement of England's countryside; the agency is due to be merged with English Nature in the near future.

Inquiry into conflicts of interest at CABE

The Heritage Minister, Andrew McIntosh, has announced an independent audit into alleged conflicts of interest at CABE, the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, the government agency whose brief is to act as �national champion for architecture in England.� The audit is to be conducted by the chartered accountants AHL Ltd, and is expected to report quickly. Other interested parties will also have an opportunity to provide submissions.

The inquiry will focus on the commercial interests of CABE�s Chairman, Sir Stuart Lipton, chief executive of the property developers Stanhope plc, and his commercial relationships with CABE�s sixteen commissioners. No specific allegations of conflict will be investigated. Instead, the intention is to establish that proper procedures are in place at CABE for handling conflicts of interest with regard to the agency�s role in vetting designs for major developments, and to ensure that CABE meets the terms of the Nolan report on standards in public life.

Crace or Kent: the great debate at the Royal Academy

Salon reported recently that the Royal Academy, the Society�s neighbours in Burlington House, is seeking �1.5 million to restore the cycle of paintings by William Kent, showing the Marriage of Cupid and Psyche, that has been discovered intact beneath layers of white emulsion on the ceiling of the Saloon. The paintings date from 1719�22 and their restoration was intended as the crowning glory of a �6 million scheme to restore the six lavishly gilded Fine Rooms which opened to the public on 13 March, the first time they have been seen by non-academicians for more than two centuries.

Now it appears that not everyone is happy with the plan to reveal Kent�s paintings because of the damage that this could cause damage to an overlying series of Victorian paintings by John Diblee Crace. Crace�s work dates from the 1890s and includes portraits of famous Royal Academicians dating back to Sir Joshua Reynolds. Compared to William Kent, Crace is a relatively unknown decorator-artist who specialised in adorning palaces and large civic buildings. Crace�s work survives at Longleat House in Wiltshire, Chatsworth House in Derbyshire and at Tyntesfield, in Somerset.

Conservators say that the work of both artists is in remarkably good condition, presenting the Royal Academy with a real dilemma. Mary Anne Stevens, collections secretary at the Royal Academy, admitted that �you don't just wilfully cut through an existing decorational scheme ... but a [Kent] decorative scheme was revealed in far better condition than we had possibly hoped for�. English Heritage has been acting as an adviser to the RA on the restoration work of the Fine Rooms and seems equally ambivalent about what to do: �We are at that horrible stage of [deciding] whether to agree to the destructive alteration of Crace�, said Rory O�Donnell, English Heritage's inspector for central London, adding that �an exciting amount of the Kent does survive�.

The Royal Academy has said that it will conserve a small part of the Crace scheme and photograph the remainder, but Richard Holder, of the Victorian Society, is far from happy: �Frankly, I'm horrified,� he said. �The Crace scheme survives in very good condition, and is largely complete.�

Twentieth Century Society loses battle to save Portsmouth�s Tricorn centre

Another brave campaigner for the underdog is Catherine Croft, Director of the Twentieth-Century Society, who has fought and lost a battle to save Portsmouth�s Tricorn shopping centre and car park from imminent demolition. The fate of the Tricorn centre was sealed last week when Heritage Minister, Lord Macintosh, decided not to list the reinforced concrete buildings, designed by Owen Luder in 1966 in the so-called �brutalist� style.

The Twentieth Century Society campaigned to save the Tricorn on the grounds that it is �perhaps the most flamboyant of British brutalist buildings�. In an interview published in The Guardian on 15 March, Catherine Croft contradicts the Prince of Wales�s judgement on the building (�a mildewed lump of elephant droppings�) and calls it a �truly great British piece of architecture ... its interlocking shapes and forms have a tremendous sculptural quality�.

Croft believes that brutalism and concrete are particularly suited to the British landscape and climate and even goes so far as to praise its �really beautiful stainings�. But Britain was not ready for Modernism or concrete. �Postwar developments in Britain were often done on a very tight budget,� she says, �but to do concrete really well a lot of money and attention needs to be lavished on it. That's why only the important sites like the National Theatre and the Hayward Gallery, which were financially properly supported, were well constructed�.

Government announces public inquiry into the demolition of Greenside

The Twentieth Century Society also led the fight to save Greenside, the pioneering Grade II-listed modern movement house built in 1936 on the edge of Wentworth Golf Course, Surrey, by architects Connell Ward and Lucas. The house was illegally demolished last November without listed building consent. A consolation prize of sorts has arrived this week with the announcement that a public inquiry is to be held to look into the case.

Simon Thurley, FSA, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said that English Heritage was delighted at the Government�s decision: �We look forward to setting out our position, ensuring a proper balance between the protection of the historic environment and other interests. We will be explaining why the destruction of this iconic building is a significant loss, not only for the nation, but for the International Modern Movement as a whole.�

Catherine Croft, Director of the Twentieth Century Society said that: �if the Runnymede decision had gone unchallenged then the whole of the listed building protection system would have been undermined. Planning Inquiries are only held in exceptional cases, and ones that raise broad issues of policy that are of national interest. It is great news that the Minister has accepted our arguments that the Greenside case merits a full public hearing.�

In the meantime, English Heritage and the Twentieth Century Society have called again on Runnymede Borough Council to take legal action over Greenside�s demolition. English Heritage said: �In the event of the council choosing not to prosecute, we are currently gathering evidence with a view to bringing forward our own prosecution�. It is understood that the owner, Mr Beadle, is at present in South Africa but that he will be interviewed under caution on his return and that criminal proceedings could follow.

Flats replacing houses as Britain goes continental

One modernist import from the continent does seem to be thriving in the UK, however. Figures published by the National House Building Council last week show that more new flats were built in the south east of England last year than ever before. In 1997, 47 per cent of new homes built in the south east were detached while the proportion of flats was 14 per cent. Last year this ratio was reversed, with detached houses accounting for 19 per cent of the total and flats 46 per cent. Across England as a whole, the proportion of detached houses built in 1997 was 44 per cent and flats 15 per cent. In 2003, detached houses made up 26 per cent of what was built and flats 38 per cent. Since the figures are only for private housing and almost all housing association building consists of flats, the real number of flats is even greater.

The news has been greeted as very positive by conservationists. This shift towards more efficient higher density housing is seen as taking pressure off green fields and making better use of the available development land. Neil Sinden, from the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: �There has been a significant turnaround in a short period of time � all credit to the [housing] industry�, adding that it was �a fallacy that England needs a huge boost in greenfield housing�.

The shift towards flats reflects a growing preference for an urban lifestyle among younger property buyers. But as one developer admitted, it is also because the industry is building better designed apartments than ten years ago.

Restored water mills to provide power for the national grid

One of the greatest challenges facing building conservationists is to try and find a viable economic use for old buildings whose original function has become redundant. In the case of historic watermills, this could cease to be a problem if a pilot scheme in Somerset proves successful. In the government-backed scheme, owners of twelve ancient mills in south Somerset are installing waterwheel-driven generators to provide green and sustainable power stations generating electricity for local households, with enough surplus energy remaining to sell back to the national grid. Experts believe that as much as 2 per cent of Britain's energy needs could be met from this source.

The Somerset project is the first large-scale attempt to gauge the viability of making electricity with waterwheels. A similar, though smaller, project is under way in the Mendips, while disused textile mills in Yorkshire and Lancashire, once powered by water, are being assessed for their energy-creation potential by experts from the Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynlleth, mid Wales. Watermills are, in principle, straightforward to adapt to making electricity. Adapting the Somerset mills for power generation has cost an average of �25,000 per mill.

The pilot scheme grew out of an initiative led by South Somerset district council to meet international targets for promoting sources of renewable energy. By 2010, the council hopes to ensure that 10 per cent of local energy needs are provided by green methods, meeting national targets. Funding for the �300,000 scheme has been provided by the Energy Saving Trust, the government-funded body for promoting renewable sources of power, and Green Electron, a green electricity supplier. A typical mill equipped with a 20kW generator can provide enough electricity for around fifteen homes. Some 8,000 mills or mill sites are recorded in Britain, most built in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Up to 15 per cent are thought to be suitable for generating electricity.

One million wills published on the internet

The National Archives announced last week that one million wills dating from between 1384 and 1858 are now available to download from the Documents Online website. The service is likely to appeal to the growing number of family historians, who can now search for wills written by their ancestors. More than one hundred wills have also been placed in a �Famous Wills� section of the website. They include the last wills and testaments of Oliver Cromwell, Sir Christopher Wren, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, William Shakespeare, Jane Austen. Napoleon Bonaparte's 1824 will bequeaths �everything for the French people�, while Sir Francis Drake asks for two of his favourite ships to be sunk near where his coffin was buried at sea in January 1596.

Awards for the Presentation of Heritage Research 2004

The Royal Archaeological Institute, English Heritage, Cadw and Historic Scotland are jointly sponsoring a competition, now in its third year, to encourage new ways of presenting the results of research into archaeology, historic buildings and heritage conservation to the wider public. The winners will be announced at the British Association�s Festival of Science, to be held at Exeter on 6 to 10 September 2004.

Two open awards are offered, of �1,500 and �500, and an under-30 award of �500. Entrants are asked to submit a written summary of their presentation by 14 May 2004. Short-listed finalists will be invited to speak at the awards session at the Festival of Science. The judges will place particular weight on the clarity of presentation to an informed but non-specialist audience, and on the interest and quality of the underlying research. The competition is open to all, professional or amateur.

For more information and application forms, see the English Heritage website.

New Forest signs up to largest ever Countryside Stewardship Agreement

The distinctive historical landscape of the New Forest is to be protected under the biggest ever Countryside Stewardship Scheme yet to be signed. The ten-year agreement between DEFRA and the Verderers of the New Forest covers 17,000 hectares of heath and woodland pasture known as the Open Forest and it places a cap on the scale of grazing in return for payments to practising commoners. The scheme recognises that the character of the New Forest is best conserved by the traditional practice of commoning, particularly by cattle and ponies, but that overgrazing could have a detrimental effect.

The ancient landscape of the Forest, with its complex variety of natural habitats, dates back to William the Conqueror, who set aside 150 square miles of wild woods, thickets and open heathland for hunting wild pig and deer and appointed the Verderers (from �vert�, meaning green and referring to the woodland) to make sure that the Commoners obeyed the laws for the Forest, many of which remain in force. A public inquiry is expected to report soon on the proposal to turn the New Forest into a National Park.

Books by Fellows

The New Forest has also been mooted as a potential World Heritage Landscape, and as such features in Peter Fowler�s newly published UNESCO paper: World Heritage Cultural Landscapes 1992�2000 (UNESCO, World Heritage Papers 6, Paris, 2003), which would make suitable background reading for anyone planning to attend the Oxford conference on Future Landscapes in May (see last week�s Salon).

The paper consists of a gazetteer and review of all thirty of the cultural landscapes on the current World Heritage List (including Studley Royal, Avebury and Blaenavon in the UK, the Hallstatt in Austria, Kakadu and Uluru (formerly Ayer�s Rock) in Australia and Tongariro in New Zealand) along with an analysis of the criteria for inclusion, and a suggested list of one hundred possible landscapes for future inclusion. Copies can be downloaded from the UNESCO website.

From Margareta Steinby, Master of Studies in Classical Archaeology at All Souls College, Oxford, comes news of the publication of her excavations in Rome entitled La necropoli della Via Triumphalis: Il tratto sotto l'Autoparco vaticano (E M Steinby, with contributions from C Coletti (La ceramica), and M-B Carre and M T Cipriano (Le anfore), Memorie della Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia XVII, Roma 2003. Further information from the Pontificia Accademia Romana di Archeologia website.

The Sunday Telegraph for 14 March 2004 carried a review by Noel Malcolm of Rosemary Sweet�s latest book, entitled Antiquaries: The Discovery of the Past in Eighteenth-Century Britain (Hambledon and London, �25, 473 pp, ISBN 1852853093).

The review began by quoting the satirical writer, Samuel Butler, who defined an antiquary in the 1660s as �an old frippery-Philosopher, that has so strange a natural Affection to worm-eaten speculation, that it is apparent he has a Worm in his Skull. He values one old Invention, that is lost and never to be recovered, before all the new ones in the World, tho' never so useful�.

This same comic stereotype was still going strong in the early nineteenth century, when �Jonathan Oldbuck � the hero of Scott's novel The Antiquary � was endowed with all the well-known characteristics of the antiquarian scholar: wayward enthusiasm, absurd credulity, and a chaotically disorganised, cobweb-festooned study�.

By contrast, the historians of the past � Clarendon, Hume, Gibbon and Macaulay � have been presented as towering intellects, sages who wrote master-narratives of a thoroughly non-antiquarian kind.

This view eliminates the contribution of British antiquaries as effectively as a Stalinist sub-editor's air-brush, Noel Malcolm says, arguing that Rosemary Sweet�s book has demonstrated that �the antiquarian writers of the �long� eighteenth century (from the late sventeenth to the early nineteenth) made a huge contribution to the development of historical knowledge and historical consciousness in this country. Indeed, as she correctly points out, some of their techniques, involving the cross-checking of documentary sources and physical evidence (buildings, archaeological finds, and so on), are much closer to those of the modern historian than the self-consciously �philosophical� approach of Hume or Gibbon.�

The complete review can be read on the Telegraph website. Further information about the book is available on the Palgrave Macmillan website.

Vacancies

Ben Guri Gallery (London Jewish Museum of Art), Director
Salary �commensurate with the challenges of the job�, closing date 5 April 2004

The Ben Guri Gallery houses the world�s largest collection of work by Anglo-Jewish artists, complemented by international works. Its aim is to explain the contribution of British and European artists of Jewish descent to twentieth-century European art. The Trustees wish to appoint an experienced Director to lead and manage all aspects of the institution during a period of change. Within the next two years, the Gallery has plans to move from St John�s Wood to substantial and prestigious new premises in central London with significant exhibition and educational facilities. Further information by email quoting ref AN10.