Salon Archive

Issue: 96

Farewell to Lisa

Staff and Fellows of the Society met on Friday 6 August to say farewell to Lisa Elliott, who has been the Society’s Administrative Assistant for the last two and a half years. Presenting Lisa with a silver bookmark engraved with the Society’s logo, General Secretary David Gaimster said that Lisa’s Australian informality and dry wit had brought a breath of fresh air to Burlington House.

Lisa came to London from Perth in 2002 intending to stay a few weeks, but ended up staying for the best part of three years. Asked why she put up with the Society for so long, Lisa said that an aspiring novelist like herself could not hope for better inspiration than the characters who daily passed through her office! When Lisa gets home to Perth later this year, she hopes to find a job at one of the universities in her home city.

The Society has appointed Nina De Groote as the new Administrative Assistant to take over from Lisa. Nina’s email address is ndegroote@sal.org.uk.

Antiquaries’ staff visit the Queen

If you have ever been invited to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party, you will know that you share the honour of taking tea with the Queen with 10,000 other guests and that you are unlikely to see anything of your host other than a distant pastel-coloured hat. Not so when Jayne Phenton (our Head of Administration and Communications) and Giselle Pullen (our Accounts Assistant) went to Buckingham Palace on 20 July 2004, representing the Society. Picked out by the Gentlemen Ushers, they were whisked into the Queen’s private enclosure and introduced to Her Majesty by The Lord Chamberlain.

Not expecting such a turn of events, Jayne and Giselle nevertheless managed to retain sufficient presence of mind to remind the Queen that she had been the Society’s Patron until recently. After a moment’s pause for thought, the Queen recollection that she had indeed recently handed that honour on to the Duke of Gloucester. She also expressed great interest in the work of the Society and commented on the importance of preserving the nation’s heritage.

The Role of Historic Buildings in Urban Regeneration

The conclusions of last year’s Select Committee Inquiry into The Role of Historic Buildings in Urban Regeneration was published on 29 July and is available on the UK parliamentary website.

The report calls on all the bodies involved in regeneration projects — national and regional governments, agencies and developers — to incorporate the historic environment into their regeneration strategies. The report makes a compelling case for the best possible combination of the historical and the modern, and argues that without the historic element, many key regeneration aims simply cannot be achieved, because it is the historic that gives meaning, spirit, richness and diversity to our towns, cities and communities.

The report suggests that the reason why heritage is too often seen as a barrier to progress rather than an inspiration and a catalyst is because of ‘the enormous shortage of conservation officers, especially those with an understanding of regeneration and funding issues’. It goes on to say that this skills deficit ‘has been recognised for the last five years, but as yet there has been little progress to rectify it’.

Governments and agencies are blamed for the lack of joined-up thinking. The report says that the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) — the two government departments with the biggest responsibility for managing the historic environment — ‘do not work closely enough together’. DCMS is specifically chastised for ‘not giving sufficient priority to its historic buildings remit’. English Heritage and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) are told to co-ordinate their work and to stop giving conflicting advice. While English Heritage is credited with having overcome its innate ‘conservationism’ and with accepting the need for regeneration, CABE is described as being too single-minded in its pursuit of the modern and its willingness to countenance the demolition of historic structures.

The planning regime is criticised for putting unnecessary barriers in the way of the effective integration of the historic and the modern, and the report says that the protection of historic buildings needs to be better integrated within the planning system. Committee members expressed disappointment that the recent DCMS review of planning controls affecting historic buildings, which resulted in the Heritage Protection Review, was not co-ordinated with the ODPM ’s review of the planning system, which resulted in the 2004 Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act. The report also makes the radical (but logical) suggestion that ‘responsibility for the historic environment [should pass] from the DCMS to the ODPM, including elements of CABE and parts of English Heritage’ so that better integration can be achieved in future.

Grant schemes and tax incentives for conserving the historic environment are characterised as being ‘difficult to access and poorly co-ordinated’. The report says that funding needs to be rationalised, with better co-ordination between English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

As for the VAT treatment of construction work on historic buildings, the report is unequivocal in calling the current system ‘perverse’ because it favours ‘new-build schemes rather than the reuse of existing buildings, and alterations to listed buildings rather than repairs’. Government, it says, should ‘press the EU for zero-rating on all repairs and alterations to historic buildings to support commercial schemes on the margins of viability’.

Care of Historic Human Remains consultation

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the Welsh Assembly have just published a consultation paper on the care of historic human remains, available from the DCMS website.

The aim of the consultation is to gather views on the recommendations of the Working Group on Human Remains report published in November 2003: specifically whether current laws relating to the holding of human remains by UK museums, taken together with the new provisions of the Human Tissues Bill, are sufficient; whether museums holding human remains should be subject to some form of Code of Practice or regulation; whether the Government should establish a Human Remains Advisory Panel to mediate claims for repatriation; and how museums should handle claims for restitution of human remains and what model of consent should be adopted in dealing with any claims.

The deadline for responses is 29 October 2004.

Environmental Impact Assessment: consultation on draft guide

New regulations based on the EU Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) Directive came into force on 21 July 2004, obliging authorities to consider the environmental impact of development plans and programmes for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, energy, industry, transport, waste management, telecommunications, tourism, and town and country planning and land use.

The historic environment is specifically included in the SEA Directive, which says that governments and administrations have a duty to consider the effects of their plans on ‘biodiversity, population, human health, fauna, flora, soil, water, air, climatic factors, material assets, cultural heritage including architectural and archaeological heritage, landscape and the interrelationship between the above factors’.

The Office of the Deputy Prime Minster, together with the Scottish Executive, Welsh Assembly Government and Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland, has published A Draft Practical Guide to the Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive for consultation. This sets out how ‘responsible authorities’ (bodies with a role in the oversight of plans or programmes) will be expected to comply with the new requirements. The ODPM is also seeking responses from consultants and advisers involved in undertaking environmental impact assessments, and those affected by or with an interest in plans or programmes, including members of the public, non-government organisations, businesses and developers.

Copies of the consultation document are available on the ODPM website. Responses are requested by 29 October 2004.

John Prescott's plan for not so stately homes

Every summer while the Prime Minister is away the focus shifts to the Deputy Prime Minister, and this summer is no exception, with the press last week making much of the ODPM’s decision to change the so-called ‘Gummer clause’ to allow new country houses to be built so long as they are contemporary in design, and not traditional.

The original Gummer clause is named after former environment minister, John Gummer, who inserted a paragraph into Planning Guidance 7, drawn up in 1997, stating that ‘an isolated new country house in the countryside may also be exceptionally justified if it is clearly of the highest quality, is truly outstanding in terms of its architecture and landscape design, and would significantly enhance its immediate setting and wider surroundings’. Rather than scrap the clause, which had been predicted, the emphasis will now change to say: ‘Very occasionally the exceptional quality and innovative nature of the design of a proposed isolated new house may provide this special justification for granting planning permission’.

Keith Hill, the planning minister, argued that the change of emphasis was essential to encourage the best of British architecture: ‘Not only do we hope that cutting-edge designs for country houses will raise the standards of rural housing more widely, we also expect them to leave a legacy from today's top architects for the history books of the future’.

Lord Foster, one of Britain's leading modernist architects, called it ‘a very progressive initiative’ but Clive Aslet, the editor of Country Life, described the move as ‘Stalinist totalitarianism’, a point reinforced by the architect Robert Adam, who accused the Government of ‘laying down an official style of building. It means every planning official in the country will think that modernism is the only style allowed’. George Ferguson, the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, made the same point more diplomatically: ‘The country house has through the ages been one of the defining elements of our architecture; it has embraced all styles and types, and should continue to be characterised by its excellence rather than an adherence to any one architectural movement’.

Adam Wilkinson, of SAVE Britain's Heritage, thought that Mr Prescott should be: ‘concerning himself with the ugliness of the many new “executive” housing estates in the countryside rather than the occasional large country house’, while Tom Oliver, head of policy for the Campaign to Protect Rural England, said: ‘This new guidance maintains a pompous exception to planning rules for a few rich people. It is an employment charter for a group of champagne architects.’

Of the thirty or so houses that have been approved under the Gummer clause since 1997, half are of contemporary design and half are rooted in the classical tradition. The latter will not automatically be banned in future, an ODPM spokesman said, though the Deputy Prime Minister is ‘giving a signal in favour of modern design’.

Or, as Maev Kennedy put it with characteristic humour in The Guardian: if you want to build a New Labour country house ‘forget classical columns and a nice gravelled drive: think spangly and blobby like the Selfridges building in Birmingham’.

Rediscovering lost ways

The Countryside Commission has announced that it has set up a new Archive Research Unit (ARU) to undertake a systematic trawl of historic documents held in national and local records offices throughout England to find evidence of ancient rights of way. The aim is to uncover and map as many historic footpaths and bridleways as possible over the next twenty-one years, before the deadline of 1 January 2026 set by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 for registering rights of way on the definitive map. For further information, see the Countryside Commission website.

The detailed evidence collection will start with research in the National Archives at Kew, utilising the collection of Tithe and Finance Act Records. This will be followed by a staged approach to county-based research in local records offices, beginning in two ‘lead’ areas — Wiltshire and Cheshire. In advance of this evidence collection, base maps will be prepared using OS contemporary mapping supplemented with available local authority information. A comparison will be made with digitised OS pre-war Historical Map Data County Series.

Archive research in the two lead areas will be completed in May 2005. This will be expanded to collect all of the available evidence for ten counties by the end of the third year of the project. In advance of research beginning in each county, Regional Planning and Liaison Officers (RPLO) will contact key interest groups, including rights of way and archive officers, volunteer groups and experienced researchers, landowners and managers to explain the approach.

Launching the Lost Ways project, Alun Michael, MP, Rural Affairs Minister, said that ‘Historic routes are a priceless and fascinating part of our heritage’. He said that the cut-off date of 2026 did not mean an end to new pathway creation: instead the creation of a definitive map would enable local authorities to ‘think strategically about a network that meets the need of users of today and the future’, and to create new links where these would be valuable. He also emphasised that there was an important role for volunteers in the mapping project.

Solving mid-life crises and the rural skills shortage at one blow

The Heritage Lottery Fund is to set up a £4 million emergency fund to train people in traditional construction skills, such as pargeting, dry-stone walling and harling (the application of a roughcast render). Sharon Goddard, policy adviser at the HLF said that the shortage of skilled people was so serious that the organisation — which would normally wait for outside organsiations to apply for funding to set up apprenticeships — had decided to set up the scheme itself. ‘Some of the projects we fund are being held up because applicants can't find people with the right skills’, she said.

Apparently there are just 230 registered professional dry stone wallers in Britain. According to David Griffiths, a former theatre director from Leeds, the trade is popular with people suffering amid-life crisis and looking for a change of career — though that meant there were almost no young people in the trade, a problem exacerbated by the lack of apprenticeships

John Lord, from Gooderstone in Norfolk, is one of the last flint knappers working in a county where flint-dressed buildings were commonplace before 1914. ‘Knapping just about finished as a skill in East Anglia in 1969 when the last of the Brandon Hall knappers (a small group who had workshops behind the Flint Knappers pub in Brandon) died’, he said. ‘A few of us have worked hard to bring it back and there's a lot of work now because councils want to see traditional flint. I trained half a dozen people a few years back but we need young people. The idea of apprenticeships is brilliant.’

New website for Thornborough campaigners

The Friends of Thornborough, who are campaigning to stop gravel extraction in the area around the Thornborough Henges, near Ripon, have set up a new website. The website gives details of Tarmac Northern’s latest application to extend its quarrying activity, and of English Heritage’s alternative proposal for gravel extraction to cease, and for the landscape around the henges to be managed as grassland.

The henges, whose banks and causeways extend for over forty miles, have never been fully investigated despite concern about ploughing which had already almost obliterated the central circle's outer ditch when Sir Nikolaus Pevsner recorded the site in his Buildings of England volume for Yorkshire: The North Riding nearly forty years ago. Jan Harding, of Newcastle University, has now been commissioned by English Heritage to collate all known work on the monument and will back this with fieldwork around the three main circles where barrows, burials, flint knives and small domestic items have already been found.

‘It is time to raise awareness of Thornborough at a national level’, a campaign spokesman said. ‘There are grounds for suggesting that it was a religious capital for the north of England at the time’.

Tarmac Northern has said that it sees no alternative to the quarrying application, which North Yorkshire District Council is due to consider in October, because existing gravel supplies will be exhausted in three years' time. They have also argued that ploughing destroys archaeology without record, whereas quarrying reveals sites and saves finds because the area will be thoroughly investigated prior to quarrying. Despite this, Tarmac has not responded to campaigners’ calls for the company to outlaw deep ploughing on the land it owns at Thornborough, which includes the central and southern henge circles and their immediate hinterland.

Lost Mary Rose bow has been found

In the last ten days archaeologists have located over forty timbers from the long-lost bow section of the Mary Rose, buried in silt at the bottom of the Solent near Portsmouth Harbour. The finds include ten timber ribs from the lower port side of the bow, two pieces of the bow's inner planking and up to thirty other bow section timbers from the upper levels of the hull — mainly deck planks and supports, internal partitions and decorative planking. Archaeologists have also discovered small-calibre lead and stone shot of a type used by ship-mounted guns associated with the front sections of Tudor warships. Excavations will continue for another eleven days in an attempt to locate the upper part of the bow, including the vessel's heavily fortified forecastle. It is thought that the bow of the ship probably broke away gradually as the wreck decayed in the decades after the vessel sank in 1545.

The current excavations are being funded by the Ministry of Defence, which is considering the creation of a new shipping channel which may run through part of the Mary Rose seabed site.

Titian in Scotland

Last week’s Salon reported that this summer’s best archaeological exhibition is to be found in Edinburgh (Treasures from Tuscany: The Etruscan Legacy at the Royal Museum), and this week’s opening of the Age of Titian at the National Galleries of Scotland (NGS) provides yet another excellent reason for a visit to Scotland’s capital in the next few weeks.

The new exhibition celebrates the golden age of Venetian Renaissance art between 1460 and 1620. At its heart is the gallery's own collection of Titians, including the two works painted for Philip II of Spain, Diana and Actaeon, and Diana and Callisto, and the newly cleaned and restored Venus Anadyomene (‘Venus Rising from the Sea’). Inspired by Pliny the Elder’s description of a painting by Appelles, the most famous painter of classical antiquity, Venus Anadyomene was purchased last year by the NGS from the Sutherland collection at a cost of £11m. The exhibition also includes well-known works by Giovanni Bellini and Jacopo Tintoretto, as well as works that have never previously been on public display, including a portrait by Lorenzo Lotto and a huge Christ and the Centurion by Paris Bordon.

The exhibition is taking place in the newly completed underground concourse built to link Scotland’s two leading art galleries, the National Gallery and the Royal Scottish Academy. The five-year project has also seen the restoration and refurbishment of the RSA to create the biggest space devoted to temporary exhibitions in Europe outside of Berlin, at 53,000 square feet — a sign of Scotland’s determination to host some really big exhibitions in the future.

Art for tax gives Bellini to the nation

A painting that would not be out of place in the Titian exhibition has just been acquired by the nation under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme, which enables owners to offer works of art and important heritage objects instead of paying inheritance tax. The Madonna and Child with St John the Baptist by Giovanni Bellini (c 1430–1516) and his workshop is an uncatalogued painting never seen by the public before.

Items are usually recommended for acceptance if they have a close association with Britain’s national life and history, have a special artistic or art-historical importance or have a close association with a particular historic setting. In the case of the Bellini, the painting had belonged to Gibbs family, the builders of Tyntesfield, since 1890 and will go on temporary display at Bristol Art Gallery, with the intention that it will eventually be returned to Tyntesfield, the Victorian Gothic house acquired by the National Trust last year. Another Venetian work, The Grand Canal, by Guardi, will going to Cheltenham Art Gallery, close to where it once hung in the Cheltenham home of the 2nd Lord Northwick, from 1832 until his death in 1859.

The Pitt Rivers Museum, in Oxford, will be the recipient of the photographic archive of Wilfred Thesiger, the explorer who died last year aged 93. His pictures of the Marsh Arabs taken between 1951 and 1958 have direct contemporary relevance given current efforts to restore their way of life, which was destroyed when Saddam Hussein drained their homeland in the 1990s.

For the first time ever, land and buildings have been accepted under the scheme. Ownership of 200 hectares (500 acres) of fields and ancient woodland adjacent to the Grade-I listed Wentworth Castle, near Barnsley in South Yorkshire, will pass to the Wentworth Castle and Stainborough Park Heritage Trust, which is involved in a major HLF-funded project to restore the castle’s historic gardens and landscape.

A full description of all the works that have been saved for the nation through the scheme can be found in the Acceptance in Lieu Annual Report on the MLA website.

Export bar on Memling painting

Estelle Morris, the arts minister, has placed a temporary ban on the export of a small Portrait of a Man in a Black Cap, by the Flemish artist, Hans Memling, thought to date from about 1470. The ruling indicates that the undisclosed British owner of the painting has accepted a bid from overseas for £1.5m for the painting, which the Department of Culture, Media and Sport called ‘a remarkable and unusual example of Memling's ability to render individual character’. The bar will expire on 6 September, but can be extended until December if a prospective British buyer shows evidence of a serious attempt to raise the money.

Riddle of Reynold’s Portrait of Omai

Placing an export bar on a work of art does not always lead to its sale to a UK art institution, as The Times pointed out last month in an article highlighting the stalemate over Reynold’s Portrait of Omai. Reynold’s portrait of an exotic Tahitian, who charmed fashionable London in the 1770s, went to auction in 2001 and was bought by the London dealer Guy Morrison for £10.3 million (the second highest price paid for a British picture at auction). He then sold it to an unidentified buyer who, through a Swiss company, applied for an export licence. Baroness Blackstone, who was then the Arts Minister, placed a temporary ban on its export to allow a British institution to match the new £12.5million sale price. An anonymous philanthropist stepped in at the eleventh hour and offered the Tate £12.5 million to buy the painting, but four months on it is reported still to be hidden from view in a Christie’s warehouse. Collectors who have been refused export licences have generally agreed to sell to British institutions, but not always. A spokesman for Mr Morrison, acting as the owner’s agent, simply said: ‘It’s in storage. The licence wasn’t granted, so it sits in England’.

New Jewish heritage organisation

A new dedicated agency has been set up to care for British Jewry’s cultural heritage, which dates back some 350 years. Jewish Heritage UK operates under the auspices of the London Jewish Cultural Centre and is being funded with a grant from the Hanadiv Charitable Foundation. Its remit includes the conservation of synagogues and cemeteries as well as movable property, such as archives, artefacts and ritual silver.

The practical tasks of Jewish Heritage UK are underpinned by the Survey of the Jewish Built Heritage, which was set up in 1997 supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage and the RIBA to record and research the vanishing architectural heritage of the Jewish communities of Britain and Ireland. The Survey’s Director, Dr Sharman Kadish, has been appointed Director of Jewish Heritage UK.

For further details see the Jewish Heritage UK website. This year’s European Jewish Heritage Day, organised by B’nai Brith, takes place on Sunday 5 September. For listings visit www.jewisheritage.org.

Obesity among the monks of medieval England

A paper given to the International Medieval Congress meeting in Leeds last month, revealed that Robin Hood's well-fed companion Friar Tuck was no caricature. Instead, Britain's medieval monks enjoyed meals that were loaded with saturated fats, making them five times more likely to suffer from obesity than their secular contemporaries, including wealthy merchants or courtiers. The finding comes from a three-year study of skeletal data from 300 sets of bones excavated at the former abbeys of Merton and Tower Hill, Bermondsey.

Even though gluttony is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, Philippa Patrick, of the Institute of Archaeology, at University College London, found evidence that suet, lard and butter formed a major part of monastic diets and that monks were taking in about 6,000 calories a day — and as much as 4,500 during the fasting seasons of Lent and Advent.

In direct contravention of the Rule of St Benedict, which states that ‘there is nothing so opposed to Christian life as overeating’, Philippa found numerous cases of a medical condition known now as ‘Dish’ (diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis) triggered by overeating and a rich diet. ‘The marks of Dish keep appearing on their skeletons’, Ms Patrick said: ‘it forms a coating on the spine like candlewax dripping down the side’. Arthritis in the knees, hips and fingertips also suggested that the monks were seriously obese.

Rancher’s secret preserves Utah remains

From the US this week comes news of an ancient Utah settlement whose existence was kept secret for fifty years by rancher Waldo Wilcox because he did not want vandals to wreck the pristine site. Archaeologists said that the ancient Utah village may be up to 4,500 years old and is one of the most significant American finds in recent history.

The site at Range Creek, about 130 miles south east of Salt Lake City, has high-rise apartment complexes and granaries built into the cliffside as well as rock burial mounds and hundreds of rock art paintings and carvings. It lies in a valley that is only accessible through a steep, narrow-walled canyon.

The Trust for Public Land, a conservation group, bought the 4,200-acre ranch from Mr Wilcox and was not planning to let the public visit but a local newspaper revealed the site’s existence with the result that hundreds of reporters and television news crews descended on the site. Sadly, some of the site’s in situ artefacts — such as pottery and worked flint — have already gone missing. Vandalism at rock art sites is endemic in the US. Kevin Jones, the Utah state archaeologist, said ‘Many other places in the West have rock art panels, but hardly one of them doesn’t have someone’s name scratched across it; that’s what makes this place unique — it is a jewel that has somehow escaped the ravages of vandals and looting’.

Consortium to archive websites

With an increasing amount of information now stored in the form of e-mails, text messages and websites, academics are concerned that a generation's archives will be lost, or rendered unreadable by the advance of technology. To tackle what they have dubbed the 'electronic-deficit', six organisations — the British Library and the National Libraries of Wales and Scotland, the National Archives, the Wellcome Trust and the Joint Information Systems Committee of the higher and further education councils — have come together to form the UK Web Archiving Consortium, with the aim of sampling and copying some of Britain's six million websites. Robert Kile, of the Wellcome Trust library, said: ‘The average website has a life of 45 days — the same as a housefly. The pages get updated and continually replaced and the information is lost’.

Each member of the consortium will use their specific expertise to decide what to archive. While the Wellcome Trust will save a mixture of official health sites, provided by bodies such as the World Health Organisation, and quirkier patient sites with personal accounts of diseases, the British Library is concentrating on archiving political and cultural websites. Richard Boulderstone, Head of E-strategy at the British Library, said: ‘The big difficulty is knowing what researchers in the future might find interesting’. The project's leaders will spend the next few months working out what to save in the first round of archiving.

Two new websites for Welsh heritage

A couple of candidates for the Web Archiving Consortium’s project were launched very recently. Coflein is the name of the new online database that makes the holdings of the National Monuments Record of Wales available to remote users. The site contains details of thousands of archaeological sites, historic buildings and maritime heritage locations in Wales, and is linked to the Scottish Canmore database, established by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Cadw — the historic environment agency of the Welsh Assembly Government — also has a new website (www.cadw.wales.gov.uk or www.cadw.cymru.gov.uk) whose design has developed following extensive consultations with readers of Cadw's Heritage in Wales membership magazine who were asked what they wanted from the website.

Among the site’s many features is an up-to-date list of Cadw's publications, which can be obtained by mail order, and a wide range of useful advisory leaflets which can be downloaded from the site free of charge, plus information on buildings, scheduled monuments and the legislation and consultation documents affecting the archaeological and built heritage of Wales’.

New Cadw guidance on restoring farm buildings

Fellows interested in farm buildings can try out the new website’s facilities by going to and downloading a copy of Cadw’s latest publication, which offers advice on caring for traditional farm buildings. Written by Edward Holland, Conservation Officer with Monmouthshire County Council, The Conversion of Historic Farm Buildings provides guidance on how conversion for new uses can be achieved without irreversible loss of historic character and is full of ideas on how to preserve important aspects of the original design. Edward Holland believes that farm buildings are as much part of the character of Wales as the mountains, lowlands, woods and pastures. ‘It is important that their individuality — often derived from the regional materials used to build them — is not lost’.

History of Collecting Seminars

The next Wallace Collection Seminar in the History of Collecting, will take place on 8 September 2004, when Christopher Woodward, Director of the Holburne Museum of Art, in Bath, discusses the theme of ‘The Collecting of Napoleonica in Nineteenth-century Britain’. The talk will look at how Napoleon was represented in British private collections in the years after his death in 1821, concentrating on British admirers who collected portraits of the emperor by British and French artists, and personal relics of ‘The Great Man’. Collectors who will be discussed include the circle of Lord Byron, whose friend, Douglas Kinnaird, commissioned the Vernet portrait in the Wallace Collection’s current exhibition, the emperor’s Aide-de-Camp, Charles de Flahault, whose collection is displayed at Bowood House in Wiltshire, the architect Sir John Soane and Lord Rosebery, the Prime Minister and author of Napoleon: The Last Phase (1900).

The seminar will start at 4.30pm and finish by 6pm. Advance reservations are essential: send an e-mail to Louisa Collins, Museum Assistant, at the Wallace Collection.

Creating a Future for the Past: Archive Projects and the Heritage Lottery Fund

This one-day colloquium (to be held on 30 September at The Hub, Castlehill, Edinburgh) celebrates the conclusion of the Scottish Architects' Papers Preservation Project (SAPPP), a Heritage Lottery Fund-supported initiative run by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS). The project has enabled an archive of over 185,000 drawings, photographs and manuscripts from twenty-five Scottish architectural practices to be catalogued, conserved and made available to the public.

The purpose of the day is to consider the expectations and ambitions of archive users and how archives might respond with new initiatives that excite the users' interest and develops their understanding of the built environment. Speakers include Carole Souter, Director of the Heritage Lottery Fund, Dr Louise Craven and Dr Elizabeth Hallam Smith of the National Archives, George Mackenzie of the National Archives of Scotland, Charles Hind of the Drawings Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Rebecca Bailey of RCAHMS and a representative of the Netherlands Architectural Institute.

For further information and booking please email the RIAS Events Department.

Architecture of the Arts and Crafts Movement

Among the ever fascinating crop of weekend schools to be hosted by the Oxford University Department of Continuing Education over the next twelve months is this three-day in depth look at recent research concerned with the architecture of the Arts and Crafts Movement, to take place on 13 to 15 May 2005, to coincide with the major Victoria and Albert exhibition on the same theme. Architects whose work will be examined over the course of the weekend include Philip Webb, CFA Voysey, Edwin Lutyens, Detmar Blow, Baillie Scott, Halsey Ricardo and William Lethaby. Gavin Stamp will talk about the Arts and Crafts Church, Mary Greensted on the Cotswold Arts and Crafts Movement, and Michael Tooley on Arts and Crafts Gardens. For further details send an email to Rewley House.

The end is nigh for Britain’s universities, says David Starkey

According to a report in this week’s Observer, our Fellow David Starkey believes that Britain's university system is in terminal decline. Once ‘British education was seen as the gold standard around the world and our institutions and examinations as incorruptible’, David says, but now ‘standards have been driven downwards by the struggle for funds’ and many universities effectively ‘give degrees away to foreign students in return for lucrative fees’. This cannot continue because 'the word is starting to get around in Asia and the Middle East that [our] degrees are not worth having any more.’

The solution, David believes, is for the Government to decide whether it wants ‘a fully state-funded system’ or ‘a US-style market with universities free to charge whatever fees they wish’. He favours the latter and says: ‘We have to abandon the idea that all universities are free and equal and set up a genuine market in fees. Top universities could charge high fees and begin the rapid build-up of scholarship funds for especially able children of the poor. Blogsville Polytechnic could charge £500 a year for their courses, but at least everyone would know they were getting something on the cheap.’

David also criticises the current system of funding by research performance because it judges academic departments on the quality of their research and takes no account of the standard of teaching.

No stranger to controversy, David was recently described in an Independent profile as ‘a man of magnificent scorn’. In June he addressed history teachers at a special summer school organised by the Prince of Wales and told them that they had to move from the current skills-based approach to history and back to a knowledge-based approach. Describing the current history GCSE as ‘content indifferent’ he said that asking students for opinions without asking them to master facts produced nothing but a generation of ‘barrack-room lawyer historians’.

Books by Fellows

Which leads us neatly on to the subject of recent books by Fellows — no, not David Starkey’s forthcoming book on Monarchy, though Salon will review that in due course, but rather the highly enjoyable History and the Media, edited by our Fellow David Cannadine and resulting from a seminar on the same subject held at the Institute of Historical Research in 2003 (published June 2004 by Palgrave Macmillan, ISBN 1403920370, £19.99).

Drawing on their own experiences as historians, broadcasters and journalists, the contributors consider what lies behind the current boom in history (and archaeology) on television and in film. David Puttnam writes trenchantly about Hollywood’s theft of British history and Max Hastings contributes a thought-provoking essay on the pros and cons of TV and the printed media. Though admitting that he loves TV, Hastings says that it is important to be aware of its limitations: ‘it should console scholars that there is an inverse ratio between the breadth of reach the medium offers and the penetration of its content to the audience … when I worked full time in television, people often came up to me in the street and said “I saw you on telly last night”, but they seldom had the smallest idea what I had been talking about or even which country I had been reporting from’. By contrast, ‘there is a much better chance of a plausible relationship with a reader … if somebody bothers to buy the book, there is a fair chance they will read it’.

Hastings also points to the paradox of TV’s ‘neophilia’ (its love of the new), which is entirely spurious, since almost everything that is promoted on TV as a ‘new and challenging interpretation’ is old hat to most historians. ‘The treatment of history by newspapers and television must always be derivative’, he says, ‘because the media does not devote time and study to original research … [content] is almost invariably cribbed from a book written either by the presenter or by somebody else [and rarely acknowledged]’.

Echoing David Starkey’s often-expressed views on the subject, Hastings also describes the media’s ‘retreat from intellectual vigour [and] the mounting belief that what someone says they feel possesses a validity as great as any objective fact’, a habit which he calls ‘one of the worst vices of the post-Diana media world’ (a perfect example of which can currently be seen in the dire Channel 4 series called Pagans).

What then can be said in favour of the television? The answer that Hastings gives is at odds with his previous statement about TV’s lack of penetration: ‘it provides a bridge, however rickety, between scholarly research and a wider public’. Perhaps he is nearer to the mark when he concludes that ‘if more academic historians could overcome their instinctive disdain for the media … they would do a great service to their bank accounts’.

Vacancies

Cadw, Archaeological and Architectural Records Manager
Salary £20,417 to £26,940, closing date 13 August 2004

A computer-literate archaeology graduate with three year’s experience of working with archaeological, architectural or museum records is sought for this key post, which involves managing the team of six people responsible for curating the national database of listed buildings, scheduled ancient monument a and registered historic landscapes. Further details by email from Cadw Personnel.

English Heritage, Blue Plaques Historian (Temporary: 8 months maternity cover)
Salary £20,000 to £25,000, closing date: 1 September 2004

Working as part of the Historic Buildings & Areas Research Department, you will be responsible for detailed archival and biographical research in support of the Blue Plaques Scheme. You should preferably have a postgraduate degree in history or a related subject, and a good working knowledge of English architectural history, social history and biography. You should have a good track record as a historian, with demonstrable skills in writing and archival research. Further details from Human Resources Department, English Heritage, Room 409, 23 Savile Row, London W1S 2ET, enclosing a self-addressed A4 envelope (no stamp needed).

National Museums of Scotland, Keeper of World Cultures
Salary £38,000 to £53,000, closing date 9 September 2004

This newly formed department brings together collections drawn from the ancient Mediterranean, Chinese Art, Islam, Japan, North America and Ancient Egypt. The current ‘Treasures from Tuscany’ exhibition is an indication of the department’s ambitions. The Keeper will report to the Director of Collections, and will have an established reputation in a relevant subject area, sound understanding of best practice in collections management, team leadership ability and a track record of developing and implementing strategy. Further details are to be found on the Saxton Bampfylde Hever website, quoting ref WDKG/G.

National Museums of Scotland, Trustees
Closing date 10 September 2004

The Scottish Executive is seeking new trustees with a background in business or finance, with knowledge of the media, marketing or education or one or more of the fields covered by the Museums’ Collections. For an application pack, send an email with your name and address to publicappointments@response-handling.com.