Salon Archive

Issue: 86

Weekly meeting report

A significant new addition to the corpus of Anglo-Saxon painted figures � only the second in situ figure known in the UK (the other being at Nether Wallop, Hampshire) � was described in detail this week by Michael Hare, FSA, Richard Bryant, FSA, and Steve Bagshaw. The speakers argued that the figure of a saint holding a book and raising a hand in blessing, probably dates from the first half of the tenth century, and the surviving figure represents the red ochre under painting of a polychrome fresco. Its high position on the east wall and its relatively small size (at just over one metre tall) suggests that the figure was not intended for viewing from afar. Studying the masonry, evidence was found for an upper storey that might have extended across the whole of the church, from west porch to apse, with an apsidal shrine above the high altar and a gallery running around the exterior of the west porch designed for the ritual display of relics.

A full report on last week�s meeting can be read on the Fellows� side of the Society�s website.

Forthcoming meetings

23 April: Anniversary meeting
29 April: Destruction, Construction and Industry as seen by Twentieth-century Illustrators, by Alan Ball, FSA
6 May: Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and Early English Patronage and Collecting, by Dr Elizabeth Goldring

Obituaries

Professor David Oates, FSA, died in Cambridge on 22 March 2004, after several years of ill health. The following edited highlights are from the obituary written by our Fellow John Curtis, which appeared in The Independent on 1 April 2004.

Born in Stoke Climsland, Cornwall, in 1927, David Oates read Classics at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he was elected to a Research Fellowship in 1954. In 1955 he travelled to Nimrud to join the excavations of (Sir) Max Mallowan and was given the difficult job of sorting out the stratigraphy of the Nabu Temple and the Burnt Palace and supervising the excavation of the Hellenistic settlement above the Nabu Temple, tasks which were accomplished with distinction.

On the strength of this Oates was appointed field director of the Nimrud project in 1958, and it was in that year that work started in the vast building in the outer town known as Fort Shalmaneser. This was a fortified structure (containing several hundred rooms arranged around courtyards) that seems to have had a dual function of arsenal and palace. It is probably Oates's greatest achievement that he managed to produce a plan of this huge building and before 1962 to excavate many of the storerooms, which contained a vast array of carved ivories and military equipment.

From 1957 until 1965 he was Fellow and Lecturer in Archaeology and Ancient History at Trinity. In 1964 he branched out on his own and started a major new excavation at Tell al-Rimah, near Tell Afar, also in northern Iraq. David was an archaeologist who oversaw excavations in the traditional grand style, employing up to several hundred workmen. Here he really came into his own. He was a good Arabic speaker and went to great lengths to build good relations with the workmen and local villagers. In northern Iraq he was affectionately known as Sheikh Daoud.

From 1965 until 1969 he was Director of the British School of Archaeology in Iraq, resident in Baghdad. He left Baghdad in 1969 to take up an appointment as Professor of Western Asiatic Archaeology at the Institute of Archaeology in London University, but he did not enjoy teaching as much as field archaeology and took early retirement in 1982.

Meanwhile, he had embarked on his third great project, the excavation of Tell Brak in north-east Syria. This was initiated in 1976 and continues to the present day, although because of ill-health in recent years Oates had to hand over the mantle of field director, while continuing as project director. From 1997 until his death he was a Fellow of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, at Cambridge University. Throughout this work he greatly benefited from the collaboration of his wife, Joan, whom he had married in 1956 and who is herself a distinguished archaeologist.

Keith Hopkins, Professor of Ancient History at Cambridge University from 1985 to 2001, also died in Cambridge last month, on 8 March, at the age of 69. Although John was not a Fellow, he made very important contributions to the study of the role and function of slavery in Roman society (Conquerors and Slaves, 1978) and the rise of Christianity to pre-eminence in the Roman Empire (A World Full of Gods: pagans, Jews and Christians in the Roman Empire, 1999).

One of Keith�s lasting contributions to the study of ancient history was his use of statistical methodologies adapted from sociology and economics to construct explanations of the past. He sought ways to test how far the surviving evidence � partial and far from complete � could be relied upon as evidence for what might really have happened. He also believed that history was not capable of being reduced to a single narrative in which every piece of evidence fits neatly together: like life, history is a messy matter of competing truths, which he tried to convey through the use of novel narrative techniques, such as the use of time travellers in A World Full of Gods.

Kelmscott

Megan Parry, our new Property Manager at Kelmscott Manor, writes to say that Kelmscott will be open this year from Wednesday 7 April, with slightly higher admission fees (�8.50 for adults and �4.25 for children and students), though Fellows of the Society are of course allowed in free � a special invitation to Fellows should already have gone out with the Society�s Spring mailing.

Kelmscott Manor, gardens, restaurant and shop will be open exclusively to Fellows and guests on Saturday 10 July, from 2 to 5pm � so make a note in your diaries: if, for whatever reason, you have never visited Kelmscott Manor, this is an excellent opportunity to do so in the company of fellow antiquaries. As an added incentive, Fellows will be able to read the new guidebook that will be published shortly, with revised text by John Cherry, FSA, and a number of new photographs.

Alternatively, Kelmscott is open from 11 am to 5pm every Wednesday, on the third Saturday of April, May, June and September and on the first and third Saturdays in July and August from 2 to 5pm. Kelmscott is ideally combined with a visit to Buscot Park, the elegant eighteenth-century home of Lord Faringdon, former Chairman of the Royal Commission on the Historical Monuments of England (for details see the National Trust�s website.

Alternatively, there is an attractive Thames-side walk following the footsteps of William Morris from the church at Inglesham, which he loved so much, via Lechlade and Shelley�s Walk (for details see the Michelin Guides website).

Going out over Easter

Easter weekend is traditionally the time when historic houses open their doors again to the public. This year brings a number of significant new openings.

One is Compton Verney, the Georgian mansion designed by Robert Adam and James Gibbs, set by a lake and surrounded by ample cedar trees in a landscape by �Capability� Brown. Littlewood football pools millionaire Sir Peter Moores has spent the last ten years � and millions of pounds � transforming the house into a gallery covering British, European and East Asian and British Folk Art (between Banbury and Stratford-on-Avon, open daily from 10am to 5pm; further details from the website at www.comptonverney.co.uk).

In London, Apsley House will open for the first time under English Heritage management, and in the north east of England, Wallington, near Morpeth, reopens after major structural refurbishment and the restoration of some of the William Bell Scott scenes of Northumbrian history painted on the walls of the central hall of this magnificent Italianate house, dating from 1688 (see the National Trust website for further information).

It is already too late to book a tour this year of Homewood, the Surrey house built by Patrick Gwynne for his parents in 1938 and now also a National Trust property. So popular has this pioneering modernist house proved to be that all tickets have already sold, prompting Maev Kennedy to comment wryly in The Guardian that �it was considerably easier to get into Homewood when the architect's parents were alive than now!�.

Gwynne�s parents sold property in Wales to allow their 24-year-old son to build this new family home in their garden. It cost the then stupendous sum of �10,000, and his father, who loved the house, nevertheless wryly dubbed it �the Temple of Costly Experience�.

And more to come

The National Trust has announced that it will open the Liverpool home of the society photographer E Chambr� Hardman in September 2004. The Georgian house in Rodney Street, situated just below the Anglican cathedral, served as Chambr� Hardman�s home, office and studio from 1948 until 1988.

During his sixty-year career as a photographer, Chambr� Hardman and his wife Margaret, also a professional photographer, never threw anything away, and when Chambr� Hardman died, a reclusive 90-year-old, in 1988, his house contained everything from pre-war tinned sausages to chests of drawers crammed with tram tickets and theatre programmes. Once restored, the house will be used to display some of the 142,000 photographs that he took as a record of life and work in the city from the 1930s. In the meantime, a selection of of Chambr� Hardman�s photographs is on show at the Liverpool Central Library (open daily 9am to 8pm, to 7pm on Friday, to 5pm on Saturday and from noon to 4pm on Sunday) until 31 May.

At the other end of the social scale, the National Trust is planning to open the last surviving back-to-back buildings in Birmingham, at 50�54 Inge Street and 55�60 Hurst Street in June. This one tiny plot is all that is left of a building type that once provided homes for hundreds of thousands of people, and is a warning of what can happen to unregarded, commonplace and undesignated building types: �rarer now than castles and cathedrals, it's almost a miracle that they have survived at all�, says Elizabeth Perkins, of the Birmingham Conservation Trust.

Four of the eleven two-room dwellings in this Birmingham row have been decorated in the style of a different decade (1840, 1890, 1930 and 1997) and one can be rented as a holiday cottage. The Birmingham back-to-backs are open by guided tour from June but advance booking is recommended as this attraction is likely to prove very popular (tel: 0121 753 7757 for further information or email: ).

Cave art to go on show

Cave art specialists will be gathering at Creswell Crags (Nottinghamshire, England) for an international conference on 15 to 17 April, aiming to discuss the findings at Creswell and their relationship to continental art at such sites as Lascaux and Chauvet in France and at Altamira in Spain. Guest speakers at the conference will reveal the results of recent survey work on the caves and rock shelters surrounding Creswell Crags. Funded by the Aggregates Levy Sustainability Fund (ALSF), the research has produced a threefold increase in the known number of caves and rock shelters on the Magnesian Limestone.

Places are still available at the conference at a cost of �30 per person for the two days: to book, send an email to Andrew Chamberlain or Paul Pettitt or call Paul at the Department of Archaeology, The University of Sheffield, on 0114 222 2906.

The 12,000-year-old rock art at Creswell Crags is also on show to the public between 3 and 18 April. This will be the only chance for some years for the public to see the rock art pictures of an ibex, wild ox and birds, discovered by Paul Bahn, FSA, Paul Pettitt and Sergio Ripoll, their Spanish colleague, eighteen months ago. The figures are located high up on the cave wall, so a temporary viewing platform has been constructed. Creswell Heritage Trust, owners of the cave, have said that the site is too sensitive to allow large numbers of visitors, so they will only admit four tours a day of ten people (to book a place on a guided tour of the art, call Creswell Crags Museum and Education Centre on 01909 720378).

A �4 million bid has recently been submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund to improve facilities for public display and access at Creswell Crags and work will be starting shortly to relocate the B6042 road away from the site. The Creswell Heritage Trust�s award-winning website, �Virtually the Ice Age�, is also being updated to include a virtual gallery dedicated to the rock art.

English Heritage calls on local government to take the HELM

English Heritage has just launched an innovative on-line training programme for councillors and officers in local authorities and government agencies. The aim is to improve decisions that impact on the historic environment across all aspects of local and regional government.

HELM (Historic Environment � Local Management) grew out of the realisation that elected members and employees of local government were not well enough informed about their responsibilities towards the historic environment under the various treaties, conventions, laws and guidance notes that have emerged from Government in the last two to three decades. With the planning system undergoing major reform, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) has given its backing (as well as an investment of �500,000) to this attempt to raise awareness of good practice and provide information on heritage management as well as technical advice and training activities. Decision-makers within local authorities and government agencies will be targeted � in particular elected members and non-heritage officers such as planners, highways engineers and estate managers.

Training modules address such topics as characterisation, designation, access and archives and managing the impact on the historic environment of transport strategies, golf courses, farming, regeneration and retail development. A suite of guidance papers accessible via the HELM website will be backed by seminars and courses that are due to commence in September 2005.

Simon Thurley, FSA, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: �HELM is just one of the initiatives we are launching over the next few months to make the work of local authorities easier. We are also improving the quality and delivery of our advice to local authorities and developers on planning and development matters as well as working with the Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the ODPM to appoint historic environment champions for local authorities.�

A brochure explaining HELM can be downloaded from the HELM website and the range of expert guidance relating to historic buildings, archaeology and landscapes will continue to be expanded online as the project develops.

Saxon footbridge found in gravel quarry

Timber uprights for a footbridge found by archaeologists in Leicester eight years ago have proved to be Saxon and not Bronze Age, as had originally been assumed. The timbers, rescued in advance of gravel quarrying near Watermead Country Park, Birstall, have been dated to AD 500.

The team from Leicester University, led by our Fellow Dr Patrick Clay, also came across a late Neolithic mound of heat-cracked stones (about 2500�2000 BCE) and human remains dating from the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. Both sets of human remains were found in a peat deposit, originally an old channel of the River Soar. Intriguingly, though the bodies had been deposited in the marsh 2,000 years apart, all of them seem to have met a similarly violent end. Two individuals � an adult male and female � date from the early Neolithic (around 3000 BCE), while the surviving skull and upper vertebrae of third person were found to date from the Bronze Age (around 800 BCE).

Analysis by staff at the British Museum and the University of York has concluded that before the bodies were disposed of the blood supply was cut off quickly. More tangible evidence was found on the vertebra of the Bronze Age individual. Here cut marks showed that a knife had been used to cut the person�s throat. Susan Ripper, the Site Director, said: �The evidence suggests the people suffered from violent deaths, and soon after death the bodies were placed in a waterlogged area alongside the river.�

Further information and pictures can be found on the 24-Hour Museum website.

Mesolithic flints found on the National Trust for Scotland�s Mar Lodge Estate

Archaeologists working for the National Trust for Scotland are hailing the accidental find of 80 pieces of worked flint and quartz dating from the Mesolithic period as the first evidence that people living 7,000 years ago managed to cross some of Scotland�s highest and most dangerous mountain ranges.

Dr Shannon Fraser, Archaeologist for the National Trust for Scotland in the North East said: �We suspected that major route ways through the Cairngorms, such as the Lairig Ghru, may have been used by our earliest Scottish settlers as they moved through the landscape in seasonal cycles, fishing, hunting and collecting other foods and useful materials. But without any physical evidence for the presence of these people, we just couldn�t prove it. What is so exciting is that these tiny fragments of worked stone, some only a few millimetres long, suggest that these groups of people may have been very familiar with what even today are considered to be extremely challenging highland landscapes.�

�No other archaeological finds of this early date are known from the Cairngorms. The nearest find-spot of similar material is from Dinnet, 50km further down the Dee. What makes this find so important is that so far, most of our knowledge of the Mesolithic in Scotland has come from the coast. Upland and inland sites are extremely rare.�

Alister Clunas, Property Manager at Mar Lodge Estate, said: �It was only by chance that these artefacts were discovered. Conservation work being undertaken to repair our mountain footpaths exposed some worked pieces of flint, which were spotted by Angus Wainwright, a visiting archaeologist who works for the National Trust in England. Dr Torben Ballin, an expert in worked stone, has studied the remains and concludes that tools were being made as well as used at the site: �the finds include both broken tools and the waste flakes produced when working pieces of flint. The flint itself is likely to have been collected from the coastal regions of eastern Scotland, and then carried some 100km up the River Dee.�

Caroline Wickham-Jones, FSA, a consultant archaeologist specializing in the Mesolithic of Scotland, said: �This is a very important find because it helps to fill in one of the most glaring of gaps in our knowledge of the early settlement of Scotland: what was going on in the interior of the country.�

Further information from the National Trust for Scotland�s website.

Rollrights vandalised

Vandals have sprayed bright yellow paint over the entire ring of stones at The Rollrights in Oxfordshire. The damage was discovered by a member of a geophysics team who arrived for work on the site last week. The local police have taken samples and and are publicising the vandalism, as are English Heritage, the BBC, local media and the Rollright Trust in the hope that someone will come forward with information that will help the police find the culprits.
Quite apart from their archaeological significance, the stones are home to colonies of lichens, one of which has been estimated to be 850 years old. Some of them have almost certainly been killed by the paint.

Friends of Thornborough Henges shocked at ownership discovery

Campaigners fighting to protect the area around the Thornborough Henges (in Yorkshire) from imminent quarrying have issued a press release saying that they are �shocked� to discover that the quarrying and construction company Tarmac owns two of the henges and the surrounding farmland. At a meeting set up by North Yorkshire Council to discuss the future of the area, a Tarmac spokeswoman revealed that the company had acquired the henges and land from Robert Staveley, who continues to farm the property as a tenant.

The press release goes on to explain the significance of the admission in the following terms: �Tarmac�s speaker had argued that, as ploughing was already steadily destroying the subsoil archaeology, it would be better to allow the area to be quarried because this would record any finds ... People are now asking, �If Tarmac has owned the setting of the henges all along, while knowing its importance, surely it could have ensured that ploughing did not take place?��

Friends spokesman George Chaplin elaborated: �It came as a real shock that the ploughing damage highlighted by Tarmac is actually taking place on land it owns.� For its part, Tarmac has said: �While we own the land, we have no powers to direct how it is used but the tenant has signed up to a countryside stewardship agreement for the immediate land around the henges ... this, for the period of the agreement, effectively protects the immediate area of the henge monument from further agricultural damage.� The Tarmac spokeswoman also said the company would not pursue development of the Thornborough Moor henge area until the outcome of English Heritage research and would take the review's findings into account in future decisions.

Prosecution of nighthawk �not in the public interest�

Evidence of the reluctance of the legal authorities to use the powers available to them to prosecute the thieves who plunder the heritage came last week when the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to pursue its case against Robert Duquemin, who was arrested last year for stealing coins from the site of Cunuteo, a Roman settlement near Middlehall, Wiltshire, a scheduled monument. The CPS said that prosecuting Duquemin was �not in the public interest�, a decision described by a leading archaeologists as �fatuous�, and likely to go down in archaeological history as being almost on a par with the Hampshire magistrate who, a decade ago, released another nighthawk caught red-handed at Silchester, with the words �what a fascinating hobby you have�.

Duquemin was arrested in possession of recently dug Roman coins, but he claimed to have been using his metal detector at a nearby site outside the scheduled area with the owner�s permission. He has consistently denied ever taking anything from Cunuteo. Police who raided his house in Highworth, Wiltshire, confiscated a large collection of coins and other artefacts which were sent to the British Museum. They have been returned to Duquemin, who is reported to have commented �I�d like to thank the experts [at the British Museum] because I�ve learnt through them that I have some extremely rare coins and an Anglo-Saxon silver purse strap�.

Officials too late to save trenches

More bad news in the same vein came from Northern Ireland last week where officials from the Department of Environment (DoE) watched helplessly as William West, son of the late Harry West, who led the Ulster Unionist Party at the height of the Troubles, destroyed a unique World War II air defence installation a matter of days before it was due to be scheduled as a historic monument.

The Second World War trenches and bunkers stood on land adjoining the St Angelo airbase in County Fermanagh where the famous Catalina �flying boats� were based, including the one which spotted the Bismarck in the North Atlantic in 1941. Historians of the Second World War say that the defences were in remarkably good condition and were one of the UK�s finest remaining examples of wartime air defence systems. Mr West ordered contractors to bulldoze the trenches and bunkers on his land � including ten machinegun pillboxes, three blast shelters, two fire trenches, a pumping station and a battle headquarters, to protect his cattle, claiming that �these structures have been demolished because we have had problems with animals falling down into them�. The demolition occurred two days after DoE officials visited the installations with a view to scheduling them.

St Paul's freshly cleaned

The wraps came off the east end of St Paul's Cathedral on 31 March after thirteen months of cleaning and repairs. The �500,000 cost of the repairs � which included repointing and the replacement of rusted cramps � was paid for by an anonymous donor and carried out by the cathedral's own stone masons. English Heritage has praised the high standard of the work and the Dean of St Paul's, the Very Reverend Dr John Moses, said: �The generosity of the donor and the skill of the masons have enabled us to see more clearly the warmth of the stone, the delicacy and strength of the carving�. The cathedral is undergoing a �40 million restoration ahead of the 300th anniversary of the laying of the final stone on the cathedral's pinnacle in 1708.

George III and Queen Charlotte: Patronage, Collecting and Court Taste

A new exhibition at the Queen�s Gallery seeks to correct the popular perception of George III as the mad king who lost America and replace it with the image of a man who, along with his consort, Queen Charlotte, was mad about the arts and presided over one of the most creative periods in British history.

Hundreds of paintings and objects, drawn entirely from the Royal Collection, celebrate the decorative arts commissioned for Buckingham House, which George III purchased in 1762 for his young bride, Princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. Mahogany furniture by William Vile, silver by Thomas Heming, porcelain from the Chelsea, Derby, Wedgwood and Worcester factories, and ornamental metalwork by Matthew Boulton are among the superb pieces shown in the exhibition, which together constitute one of the largest and finest groups of Georgian material ever assembled.

Also here are works of art from the celebrated collection formed by the British consul in Venice, Joseph Smith, which George III purchased in 1762, encompassing works by Raphael, Zuccarelli and Annibale Carracci, and a fine group of Canalettos. George III was the most passionate book collector in the history of the monarchy and though much of the king's extensive library formed part of the second royal gift to the British Museum in 1823, a number of his notable acquisitions, such as the Sarum Missal of 1497, are shown in the exhibition.

George III's enthusiastic pursuit of learning was emblematic of the age of enquiry in which he lived. His interest in the great voyages of discovery to new parts of the world is represented in the exhibition by objects presented to him by, among others, Captain James Cook, whose expeditions the king sponsored. The queen pursued her love of botany independently, advised by the leading plantsmen of the day. Her substantial botanical library included the specially bound dedication copy of Lord Bute's botanical tables, shown in the exhibition within its own decorated cabinet. The queen also gathered around her and supported a number of women artists, such as Mary Delany and Mary Knowles, and encouraged her own daughters' artistic talents.

The exhibition ends on 9 January 2005, and is open daily from 9:30 to 5.30 (except for 9 April and 25 and 26 December).

Academy to unveil 5,000 years of art

The Royal Academy has announced that it will be mounting an exhibition in the autumn that will span 5,000 years of human creativity, from Etruscan terracotta figures to Picasso's bronze of a Woman Combing Her Hair. The exhibition � Ancient Art to Post-Impressionism (18 September to 10 December) � will feature 230 works from Copenhagen's Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek museum, which is closing for refurbishment. At the heart of the collection is an outstanding array of antiquities, including fine examples of Greek, Roman and Etruscan sculpture, few of which have been shown outside Denmark before.

The antiquities were collected by Carl Jacobsen, the son of the founder of the Carlsberg Brewery, who was a major financial backer of the excavations of William Flinders Petrie. One whole room in the exhibition will be devoted to Etruscan sarcophagi and to copies of the frescos lining the walls of burial chambers in Tuscany.

The later works include Paul Gauguin's Tahitian Landscape with Figures and Edouard Manet's The Absinthe Drinker, as well as works by Danish Golden Age painters and sculptors such as K�bke, Lundbye, Eckersberg and Bissen, and by French artists including Millet, Rodin, Monet, Corot, Courbet, Sisley and Degas.

Sotheby�s to auction the �36th Vermeer�

Young Woman Seated at the Virginals, a painting that experts have puzzled over for a century, is now being hailed as a genuine work by Vermeer � only the thirty-sixth firmly attributed to the Delft painter. The work will be auctioned at Sotheby's in July, with an estimated sale price of �3 million, which must be interpreted as somewhat conservative, given that this is the only Vermeer painting in private hands.

In recent times the painting was owned by the distinguished Irish collector, Sir Alfred Beit. It was then dropped from the official catalogue of Vermeer's work when Hans van Meegeren, the forger, boasted in the 1940s of having sold seven �Vermeers� to gullible curators and collectors, but without revealing which ones. This picture was then sold in 1960 to the late Baron Frederic Rolin, who fell in love with it and traded some of his finest possessions to secure the painting, convinced that it was genuine.

Scientific analysis then began under Libby Sheldon at University College London, using a whole range of techniques from infra-red examination to X-rays. Evidence was found for three particular pigments which were rarely used by other painters or which were particularly characteristic of Vermeer: the lead-tin yellow in the shawl, a pigment not used after the seventeenth century, Green Earth in the flesh tones, which was rarely used by other Dutch artists but was regularly found in Vermeer, and ultramarine, made from ground-up lapis lazuli the most expensive colour available to seventeenth-century Dutch artists. Vermeer used it extensively, though invisibly, in the creamy tones of his background walls, a �specific extravagance that has never yet been found outside the work of Vermeer�, according to Sotheby�s expert, Gregory Rubinstein. X-rays also revealed that the canvas so closely resembled that of The Lacemaker, in the Louvre in Paris, that it was likely to have been cut from the same cloth. The priming layers also matched, suggesting they had been prepared at the same time.

The only discordant element in the painting is the young woman�s unrealistic and clumsily painted cloak, which is now thought to have been finished off by another hand, perhaps because the painting was incomplete at the time of Vermeer�s death. Sadly, Baron Rolin also died before learning that his faith in the picture had been vindicated, and that 90 per cent of the painting is by Vermeer.

The Stained Glass Museum�s Annual Lecture

This year�s lecture is to be given at The Society of Antiquaries by Paul Williamson, FSA, Keeper of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics and Glass at the Victoria and Albert Museum, on the subject of �Medieval and Renaissance Stained Glass at South Kensington: the history of the Victoria and Albert Museum collection�.

The Victoria and Albert Museum houses what is arguably the most important collection of stained glass in the world. Paul Williamson�s lecture explores the creation of the collection and the colourful characters who formed it. The lecture will start at 6 pm on Friday 25 June 2004 and is being sponsored by architects Purcell, Miller & Tritton. Tickets are �8, including a glass of wine, and are available from The Stained Glass Museum, Ely Cathedral, Ely, Cambridgeshire, CB7 4DL, tel: 01353 660347 or fax: 01353 665025.

Spot the April Fool�s day story

Readers scouring the newspapers on 1 April 2004 thought they had found an April Fool�s day story when they read that Britain had developed a chicken-powered nuclear bomb. But Professor Peter Hennessy, curator of the Secret State exhibition (2 April 2 to 31 October) at Kew, insisted that this was no joke. Declassified top-secret documents on show at the National Archives show that nuclear physicists at the Aldermaston research centre planned to use the body heat from live chickens to stop the delicate time-delay fuses for their nuclear land mines from freezing in winter. In a plot surely inspired by The Goon Show, the birds were to be placed inside the bomb casing, and given plenty of seed to keep them alive and to stop them from pecking at the internal wiring. The hens would have had to survive for eight days before the time-delay fuses set the land mines off and stopped the Red Army in its tracks if it sought to advance beyond the Cold War borders.

Tom O�Leary, head of education at the National Archives, admitted that the story did sound like an April Fool�s day joke, but he stressed that: �The Civil Service does not do jokes�.

Meanwhile the real joke was in The Independent, which reported that Brian Eno, the composer of avant garde electronic rock music, had been commissioned by the BBC to modernise The Archers theme tune. Even the Radio 4 Today programme took the story seriously (so much for internal communication at the BBC) and the following day the other papers carried leaders and opinion pieces arguing the pros and cons of the change � not to mention numerous letters from irate Archers fans.

Vacancies

University of Leicester, School of Archaeology and Ancient History; Chair in Archaeology (Ref: P9075), available from 1 October 2004, closing date: 23 April 2004
Following the appointment of Professor Graeme Barker, FSA, to succeed Lord Renfrew as Disney Professor of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, applications are sought for a Chair in Archaeology in the School of Archaeology and Ancient History at the University of Leicester. Applicants must be scholars with outstanding research achievement and a proven track record in securing external funding. The postholder must be capable of providing academic leadership and have plans which will develop and enhance the reputation of this ambitious and innovative department.

The School has particular strengths in inter-disciplinary Landscape Studies, Historical Archaeology/Historical Studies, Material Culture and Representation. These constitute the primary �Research Clusters� within the School. Other common themes include gender in antiquity, ethnicity and the representation of the past in the present. The person appointed should be able to contribute substantially to one of these research themes, and the Department�s strong preference is for a person able to contribute to research and teaching in prehistory, especially that of the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.

Further particulars are available from the Personnel Office (Professorial Appointments), University of Leicester, University Road, Leicester LE1 7RH. Tel: 0116 252 2422, fax: 0116 252 5140, email: pt31@le.ac.uk or via the website at www.le.ac.uk/personnel/jobs.