Salon Archive

Issue: 99

Forthcoming meetings

The first meeting of the autumn session takes place this Thursday, 7 October, when Andrew Reynolds, FSA, will give a paper entitled ‘Headstakes and Heathen Burials: the archaeology of execution in Anglo-Saxon England’. The lecture explores the contribution that archaeological evidence can make to the debate about the development of social institutions, including the mechanics of governance and the emergence of royal authority from the Age of Sutton Hoo up to the eleventh century. The paper examines cemetery evidence in its landscape context to argue for a highly organised judicial system whose origins lay in the seventh and eighth centuries rather than later as is traditionally argued by constitutional historians. The spatial organisation of judicial agencies (prisons, courts, locations for judicial ordeal and execution sites) will also considered in relation to territorial arrangements.

Next week, 14 October, the meeting will held at St Hugh’s College, Oxford, when Martin Biddle, OBE, FSA, and Birthe Kjølbye-Biddle, FSA, will speak on ‘Old Minster at Winchester: Milan, Aachen, Jerusalem and Flanders’. The lecture focuses on three aspects of the publication of Old Minster for Winchester Studies 4.i: the foundation in the seventh century, the creation of a martyrium around the grave of Swithun c 971—5, and the reconstruction of the east end between 980 and 992/4. The origin of the seventh-century church can be seen in Byzantium and Milan as a result of ideas introduced to England by Birinus. The tenth-century martyrium is related to Charlemagne's palace chapel at Aachen and with the Rotunda of the Anastasis in Jerusalem. In the 980s and 990s the reconstruction of the east end developed these themes and added a staged timber bell tower, comparable to towers in Flanders and Picardy.

Website improvements

Several improvements were made to the Society’s website over the summer. On the public side of the site there is new information about hiring rooms at Burlington House (with special rates for Fellows booking on behalf of charitable bodies). The Library pages have been brought up to date, as has all the information concerning grants. On the password-protected Fellows’ side of the site, there is now a full list of Fellows (which can be sorted and displayed by surname, or by date of admission), and a downloadable copy of the Statutes, incorporating all the latest amendments. Another new feature is the Handbook for Fellows, which is also downloadable, describing the Society’s governance, the benefits of Fellowship and the balloting process.

New photographs have been added to the Kelmscott page, and it is intended that the website will include photographs and contact details for all staff in the near future. During October, the Publications and Journal pages will be brought up to date. For the longer term, the Society is investigating whether it is possible to institute secure on-line online voting in ballots as an alternative to postal balloting.

News of Fellows

Roger Sims, FSA, was made an Honorary Research Fellow of the Centre for Manx Studies, University of Liverpool, at the end of August. Roger is Librarian Archivist at Manx National Heritage with responsibility for the island’s national archives and library. This appointment recognises the contribution made by Roger to the teaching and support of postgraduate students at the university, as well as to the development of the Centre in general. Founded in 1992, the Centre’s primary functions are to teach students, to carry out research in Manx archaeological, cultural, environmental and historical studies and to further the international recognition of the Isle of Man in these areas. Further information can be found on the Centre’s website.

Obituaries

Just as this issue of Salon was about to be sent out, the Society was informed of the sad news that Patrick Wormald, FSA, has died. Patrick was a warm, witty, generous man and a brilliant scholar who will be sorely missed by all who knew him, whether personally or through his published work (see ‘Fellows’ publications’ below on Patrick’s contribution to the new Dictionary of National Biography). The Society’s sympathy and very best wishes go out to his widow Jenny and their children.

Our Fellow Nigel Nicolson, elected on 5 May 1955, died at Sissinghurst, Kent, on 23 September 2004, at the age of 87. During a busy and event-filled life he was a soldier, co-founder of the Weidenfeld & Nicolson publishing company (from 1948) and a far from natural Conservative Member of Parliament for Bournemouth East and Christchurch (1952—9) in that he was a staunch European and a passionate abolitionist in debates on capital punishment. The six volumes of Virginia Woolf’s letters that he edited from 1975 to 1980 were published to great acclaim. As an author, Portrait of a Marriage (that of his parents, Harold Nicolson and Vita Sackville West) was a best-seller and won the Whitbread Prize for biography, but might yet be eclipsed: Paul Levy’s obituary in The Independent revealed that Nicolson had been keeping a diary since childhood, a work whose future publication will be eagerly awaited by all who continue to hunger after insights into the lives of the members of the Bloomsbury Group.

As an antiquarian, Nicolson is perhaps best known for his stewardship of the castle and garden at Sissinghurst, which he made over to the National Trust in 1967, whilst continuing to live at the property where he contributed to the management of the garden that was the most visited property in the Trust’s portfolio until the wear and tear of 250,000 visitors a year encouraged the National Trust to stop promoting it and to introduce timed ticketing.

More on St George’s Hall

Our Fellow Jeremy Montagu writes to say that: ‘If a further note on St George's Hall be permitted, it had at one time an organ, designed by S S Wesley, and recognised in the mid-nineteenth century as the finest in the world. Its most famous player was W T Best who gave regular recitals on it from 1855 to 1895 and whose name was so firmly attached to that of the Hall that his bust was placed in front of the organ. It would be interesting to know whether the organ has also been restored to its former glory.’

More on metal detecting

Salon’s editor is feeling very chastened this week, having received a strongly worded rebuke from two heavy guns of the archaeology world (both Fellows) who wrote to say how surprised they were that Salon 98 had chosen to report the ‘negative’ and ‘inaccurate’ views of ‘a very small number of individuals who are not all well informed’ concerning the finding of a Viking burial site near Cumwhitton, in Cumbria. One Fellow interpreted the report in Salon as an attack on the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), and said that Salon was ‘inadvertently adding to a negative climate of opinion among those who have not been directly involved with the Scheme’. The other said that the report contained grave inaccuracies and demanded that ‘a full apology be published by the Society’.

The item in Salon to which both Fellows took exception was the report on the debate taking place on BritArch (the CBA bulletin board) in which some Fellows and IFA members had objected to the MLA press release on the Cumwhitton find because it appeared to endorse and encourage metal detecting. One BritArch correspondent had asserted that ‘too rosy a picture is being presented of the hobby … and important issues are being blurred’.

Those Fellows who were unhappy at the way that Salon reported this debate said that it was wrong to characterise metal detectorists as people who ‘pillage our common heritage for private gain’, and they expressed concern at the failure of archaeologists to support the ‘impressive achievements of the Portable Antiquities Scheme’ because this not only endangered the future of the Scheme itself, but also damaged the credibility of archaeologists in the eyes of the Government, by undermining one of the sector’s most important outreach initiatives.

Instead they challenged Salon to recognise the ‘commendable efforts’ of the Portable Antiquities Scheme ‘to build constructive working relationships between archaeologists and responsible detectorists’.

Roger Bland, FSA, also wrote to Salon to correct some misconceptions in the report, saying that ‘to refer to metal detectorists’ “right to pillage our common heritage for private gain” in this case is particularly wide of the mark. The archaeologists who undertook the excavation [at Cumwhitton] are satisfied that the detectorist, Mr Adams, recovered the initial finds from ground that had been disturbed. Further, there seems to be no compelling evidence to suggest the objects were damaged during excavation. The author of the original allegations on BritArch (to which Salon seems to give greater credence than the press release) has in fact now withdrawn them.

‘What concerns me most is that the article is a disservice to Mr Adams who acted in good faith, reported his finds promptly and helped to ensure the site was excavated archaeologically — even though he did not have an obligation to do any of these things. Labelling such people as “pillagers” hardly serves to encourage more finders to behave in this way, which is probably the most important priority for the Portable Antiquities Scheme.

‘Whatever one’s views on metal-detecting — and we have been proactive in taking measures against the trade in artefacts illicitly recovered in this country, as you mention in your next report in Salon 98 on The Sunday Telegraph’s story about illicit finds openly offered for sale on eBay — there is no doubt that without Mr Adams’ efforts the Cumwhitton finds would still be at the mercy of the plough.’

In the interests of balance it does need to be said that these were not the only emails that Salon received on the subject. One Fellow asked why England was out of line with other European nations who regard all buried artefacts as state (ie public) property. Another pointed out that the need to find large sums of money to buy artefacts from finders had a substantial distorting effect on museum budgets. A third highlighted an inconsistency in public policy, which prevents developers from damaging or destroying the nation’s non-renewable archaeological resources but places no similar restraints on metal detectorists. Another Fellow forwarded to Salon’s editor an expensively produced and lavishly illustrated catalogue advertising a range of museum-quality Bronze Age, Romano-British, Anglo-Saxon and Viking weapons and jewellery for sale.

It is clear from all of this correspondence that this is an issue that divides the archaeological world, with powerful arguments and emotions on both sides. Salon's job is to try and capture and reflect both sides of the argument (which is not the same thing as endorsing those views).

Not so long ago, almost all archaeologists were united in their opposition to metal detecting. Great strides have since been made by the Portable Antiquities Scheme to foster responsible metal-detector use. Supporters of the Scheme also argue that archaeological knowledge has been enriched by detectorist’s finds — without their work, we would know far less about the existence and extent of early medieval beach markets, for example.

But to acknowledge this, and to support the work of the Scheme, is not incompatible with holding the view that freelance metal detecting is regrettable. Given that metal detecting is legal, then we need the PAS — but many professional and volunteer archaeologists wish that detecting was not legal, for the same reasons that they feel anguish about the looting of archaeological sites in Iraq, or about what Roger Bland describes as ‘illicit finds openly offered for sale on eBay’.

PAS supporters can occasionally react to criticism of freelance metal detecting as if it were an attack on the Scheme itself — it is not, and Salon has been one of the Scheme’s biggest supporters over the last thirty months, reporting significant PAS finds and bringing them to the attention of Fellows who have gone on to study them, exhibit them at Society ballots and write learned papers about them. Salon will continue to do this — and looks forward to including the results of the independent review of the Portable Antiquities Scheme (commissioned by the MLA from our Fellow Gill Chitty) when it is published at the end of October — just as it will also go on reporting the publicly expressed views of Fellows on both sides of the debate concerning the wider issues raised by metal detecting.

Illegally imported bowl handed to police

A short item in last week’s Guardian reported that a rare early Christian incantation bowl, inscribed in Aramaic with invocations designed to protect the householder and his family against evil, was handed in to Scotland Yard last week. A London art dealer, whom police did not identify, purchased the bowl in Jordan some years ago. It may have come from Jordan, Iraq, Iran, Syria or Israel, where it was common to place bowls upside down in the foundations of new homes. It is now illegal to bring into the UK any artefact that might have been stolen from Iraq since 1990. The law is retrospective, and the dealer handed it to police as soon as he became aware of its possible origin, so he has not been charged with any offence.

The report said that there are only about 2,000 incantation bowls registered as archaeological finds, but that there are probably tens of thousands for sale around the world.

Peel descendant's campaigning to save Bow Street magistrates' court and police station

A year ago Salon reported on the plan to sell historic police stations to fund the construction of more modern facilities. One of those now under threat of sale is the Bow Street magistrates' court and police station in central London, regarded as the birthplace of modern policing as well as being the place where some of the nation's most notorious criminals made their first appearance in court, including the Kray twins and Dr Crippen. Rudolf Hess and Lord Archer have all stood in the dock of its courtroom, while the cells below were used to hold Oscar Wilde after his arrest.

Several papers reported last week that Rohan Blacker, a direct descendant of Sir Robert Peel, the founder of the Metropolitan Police, is leading the fight to preserve the historic building as a museum of policing and crime, amid concern that the Grade II-listed site could be sold to developers as the site for a luxury hotel or office development. Mr Blacker has bid £8m for the site — far less than it is worth — in the hope of entering into partnership with a conventional property developer. The site needs £2m to £3m to convert it into a museum, which would occupy the bottom half of the building, and a further £20m to turn the top half into private use.

The present building was opened in 1881. The main remnants of the Victorian building consist of the frontage, the cell blocks and parts of the court area.

Roman Catholic heritage under threat

Another campaign is under way to try and prevent Sawston Hall in Cambridgeshire from being converted into a luxury hotel. The Catholic Herald newspaper reports that the Grade-I Sawston Hall was an important Catholic ‘safe house’, during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, closely associated with the martyrs St Nicholas Owen and St John Rigby. Mary Tudor stayed the night in 1553 when she was resisting the Duke of Northumberland’s plot to put Lady Jane Grey on the throne. Fleeing in disguise the next morning, she saw the house in flames, set alight by Northumberland’s troops. She promised to rebuild the house if she became queen, and kept her word, using stone from Cambridge Castle.

An action group headed by our Fellow Sir Roy Strong and Jack Scarisbrick, Professor of History at the University of Warwick, has been formed to try and preserve the hall as a Catholic heritage centre, but the owners of the Hall, the Sawston Hotel Group, has already submitted a planning application to turn the Hall into a hotel. The action group is hoping to persuade English Heritage to reject the application on the grounds that it would do major damage to the historical and architectural interest of the building.

Historic Farnborough air industry site saved

On the good news front, Maev Kennedy reported in The Guardian for 22 September that decades of campaigning to save the main structures of the former Royal Aircraft Establishment at Farnborough in Hampshire have finally paid off. A ‘tatty collection of sheds’, holding some of the most important aviation relics in the world, will now become part of a new 10-hectare (25-acre) public park, costing £20m. The park’s centrepiece will be the giant canvas-covered hangar originally designed for parking giant airships that were once seen as the future for commercial aviation. Another spectacular structure, the 120-metre (400-ft) concrete wind tunnel, with its beautiful nine-metre diameter mahogany blades, may have a new life as a theatre and café.

The Farnborough complex witnessed many pioneering developments of twentieth-century aviation history. Samuel Cody flew Britain's first powered controlled aircraft there in 1908, and later there were tests on the Spitfires and Hurricanes which were to play a crucial role in the Second World War, and on Frank Whittle's first jet engine. Conservationists were outraged when many of the structures were de-listed prior to the sale of the former Royal Aircraft Establishment in 1999, a move denounced as ‘a scandalous attempt to make it more attractive to developers’. Slough Estates, the new owners, intend to develop the rest of the site as a business park.

Royal Shakespeare Theatre reprieved

Also good news is the announcement that the Royal Shakespeare Company’s plans, announced two years ago, to demolish the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford to make way for a ‘theatre village’ have been scrapped. The ‘theatre village’ idea was abandoned in 2003 after Adrian Noble, the former artistic director, resigned abruptly, leaving the company with mounting debts and no permanent home in London. Instead the three existing RSC theatres will be revamped. The main theatre will be given a ‘thrust stage’, jutting out into the auditorium so that the audience will surround the stage, rather than facing a proscenium arch.

Construction is provisionally scheduled to begin in 2007, so long as English Heritage approves the plans to alter the Grade II-listed building. Half the cost of the £100 million scheme is to come from the Lottery and half from regeneration funds. It could be the third-largest capital project ever to be funded with lottery money, after the Royal Opera House, London (£78.5 million), and the Lowry gallery, Manchester (£51m). The Arts Council has said that it will probably be the last major building award as it intends to divert its money towards smaller projects in future.

Lottery history and the Churchill papers sale

Files released last week by the National Archive, under the twenty-five-year rule, throw light on a row that broke out nearly ten years ago when the infant Heritage Lottery Fund paid £12.5 million to acquire papers belonging to Sir Winston Churchill. The newly released archives show that Churchill’s grandson (Winston Churchill, then Conservative MP for Davyhulm) had been trying to sell the papers to the Government since 1971, when the 2,000-box archive — half of it consisting of official papers belonging to the State — were offered for sale at £100,000. The collection, the Chartwell Papers, contained almost everything that Churchill wrote before 1945, including extensive correspondence with Lloyd George, Edward VIII and George VI. It also included intelligence on all aspects of the Second World War, drafts of letters to Stalin, Roosevelt and de Gaulle, Cabinet papers and early drafts of the wartime leader’s ‘finest hour’ and ‘Battle of Britain’ speeches.

Sir Winston had taken many official documents with him ‘on permanent loan’ when he left office and successive governments decided that it was best for the papers to remain together. Their eventual purchase by the lottery provoked fury because, as John Charmley, the historian, said at the time: ‘These papers belong to the State and should never have been removed in the first place.’

Row over 'tacky' Lottery plaques

Ten years on another Lottery row is brewing, as some of Britain's leading arts institutions, including the National Gallery and the Royal Opera House, are refusing to display National Lottery plaques marking the game's 10th anniversary. Dozens of arts organisations are reported to be refusing to put up commemorative blue plaques bearing the lottery's crossed-fingers logo because they are deemed ‘too tacky’ for display at prestigious cultural sites.

Camelot and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport believe that visitors will only realise that funding has come from the sale of lottery tickets if the blue plaques are displayed. ‘The idea, a DCMS official said, ‘is to directly link the game with arts funding. It's actually very discreet and the crossed fingers are very small and in silver.’ The official added that visitor attractions run by the National Trust and English Heritage were also reluctant to display blue plaques. ‘Those institutions have their own branding so they are loth to credit anyone else’, he said.

A spokesman for the English National Opera said that it had no plans to display the blue plaque. ‘We will be sticking with the current arrangements … we already have a plaque which states we have funding from the National Heritage Lottery Fund.’ Among those who have agreed to display the plaque is the British Museum.

The National Gallery meanwhile has just opened the first phase of a redevelopment scheme that the Heritage Lottery Fund declined to fund. The refurbished Central Hall is being used as a gallery again for the first time in thirty years, showing eight of the Gallery’s great Renaissance masterpieces. New visitor facilities and a café are now open in the East Wing, in what was a warren of corridors and disused courtyards. Funding has come from non-state sources, such as the family of the late Paul Getty and the Annenburg Foundation, founded by the former US ambassador to London.

Roman Britain’s largest stone bridge

This summer’s rescue dig to record the remains of the Roman stone bridge over the River Tyne at Corbridge, in Northumberland, has now led to a debate about the best way to conserve the spectacular remains of the largest known and most completely preserved construction of its type in Roman Britain. In situ stone blocks and carved masonry from the bridge, which carried the main Roman road from London to Scotland, are under threat from river erosion.

The course of the River Tyne has swung through 45 degrees since the Roman period. The river’s scouring effect created a deep erosion gully in the early medieval period, undermining part of the retaining wall, which caused the bridge to collapse. Turbulence presented the archaeologists with considerable problems during this summer’s dig as well and continues to threaten the survival of the exposed remains.

Archaeologists, volunteers and trainees from Tyne and Wear Museums who excavated the bridge and its 12-metre-wide approach ramp say they are now in discussion with the Heritage Lottery Fund and other agencies to protect the site and explain its significance to visitors.

Pictures of the site can be seen on the 24-hour Museum website and further information can be obtained from our Fellow Paul Bidwell by email.

Conserving the oriel window at Raglan Castle

Stonemasons working on a Cadw-funded scheme to conserve the majestic Tudor oriel stone window at Raglan Castle discovered last week that they were not the first. The work, undertaken by Cadwraeth Cymru, involves the removal, repair and replacement, where necessary, of each stone in turn. When the window was dismantled a dated stone was found that indicated extensive work had been carried out on this same window exactly a century ago, in 1904.

The window protrudes from the ground-floor wall of the castle and once lit the high table at the dais end of the hall, which is the finest and most complete of the castle's surviving chambers and dates from the middle of the sixteenth century in its present form, though it incorporates parts of its early fifteenth-century predecessor.

Conference on World Heritage in the United Kingdom

A conference to mark the twentieth anniversary of the United Kingdom’s ratification of the UNESCO World Heritage Convention is being held on 15 and 16 October 2004 at Sir Richard Arkwright’s Cromford Mills in Derbyshire, which is within the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. The conference will review the UK experience of twenty years of World Heritage and identify the lessons to be derived from recent experiences, before looking to the future and how the United Kingdom will deal with World Heritage over the next twenty years. The programme will be introduced by Lord McIntosh, Minister for Media and Heritage, Department for Culture, Media and Sport; speakers will include our Fellow Christopher Young, Head of World Heritage and International Policy at English Heritage. Bookings can be made by email to Sarah McLeod, Assistant Director, The Arkwright Society.

UK doctorates in the Arts and Humanities

There are two items of potential interest to Fellows on the Arts and Humanities Research Board website. The first concerns a new scheme to introduce a new postgraduate scheme in 2005 for Collaborative Doctoral Awards that will aim to encourage and develop collaboration between higher education departments and non-academic bodies. A seminar and information day is being held on the subject on 14 October at the English Heritage Lecture Theatre in London. The second concerns the setting up of a Working Group on the UK Doctorate in the Arts and Humanities, which is being established to consider a range of issues relating to the nature, scope and structure of the UK doctorate in the arts and humanities in the UK. The AHRB website gives information on how you can get involved with the working group.

The Booker Prize of the archaeological world

If our General Secretary, David Gaimster, has been unusually quiet of late — along with Fellows Richard Reece, Tim Schadla-Hall and John Kenyon — it is because they have had a small mountain of reading to do as judges for the Archaeological Book Award, the archaeological equivalent to the Booker Prize. This year the judges have had twice as much work to do, because the prize has been split into two: rather than face the judges with the almost impossible task of choosing between books written for academic and popular audiences, there are now separate prizes, sponsored by the Ancient & Medieval History Book Club, for the best book on British archaeology in either category — and hence twenty books to read this year instead of the previous ten.

On the shortlist for the Scholarly Publication Award are Farming in the First Millennium AD, by Peter Fowler, FSA, the journal Landscapes, Markets in Early Medieval Europe: Trading and Productive Sites, 650—850 by Tim Pestell & Katharina Ulmschneider, the on-line Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (ads.ahds.ac.uk/catalogue/library/psas/), An Archaeology of Images: Iconology and Cosmology in Iron Age and Roman Europe by Miranda Aldhouse-Green, FSA, Mesolithic Scotland and its Neighbours, edited by Alan Saville, FSA, Burrow’s Catalogue of Mesolithic and Neolithic Collections at the National Museums and Galleries of Wales, Vindolanda Writing Tablets III, The Art of the Picts by George Henderson, FSA, and Isabel Henderson, and Medieval Town Houses by Anthony Quiney, FSA.

On the shortlist for the award for popular archaeology are Shaping Medieval Landscapes, by Tom Williamson, Piltdown Man: the Secret Life of Charles Dawson and the World’s Greatest Archaeological Hoax, by Miles Russell, Celts: Origins, Myths, Inventions by John Collis, FSA, Monastic Landscapes, by James Bond, FSA, Anglo-Saxon Crafts by Kevin Leahy, FSA, Roman Lincoln by Michael Jones, FSA, Treasure: Finding Our Past, by Richard Hobbs, London’s Archaeological Secrets by Chris Thomas, FSA, Offa’s Dyke by David Hill, FSA, and Margaret Worthington and Hidden Treasure by Neil Faulkner.

It is interesting to note that the odds on the winner being a Fellow are high, with six out of ten titles written/edited/compiled by Fellows in each category: this also shows that a scholarly background is not incompatible with writing well for a mass audience. The names of the winning titles, and of the winners of the other eleven prizes making up the 2004 British Archaeological Awards, will be announced at the CBA’s annual conference in Belfast, held on 8 to 10 October, when Julian Richards, FSA, will deliver the Beatrice de Cardi lecture, in honour of the CBA’s first director, on the subject of ‘Archaeology, the media, and public participation’.

Fellows’ publications

Had it been published in the UK, Greece Before History: an archaeological companion and guide (Stanford University Press, 2001; paperback ISBN 0-8047-4050-X) might well have been a contender for the Archaeological Book Award. Written by Fellow Curtis Runnels, Professor of Archaeology at Boston University in the United States, and illustrated by his wife, archaeologist Priscilla Murray (Research Fellow at Boston University), the book covers the early prehistory of Greece — from the Palaeolithic through the Bronze Age — for non-specialists, and is based on the research of the authors over a thirty-year period. Copies can be obtained from Oxbow Books or through Amazon.

Last week saw the publication of the new Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, which The Times hailed as ‘the granddaddy of all books, the greatest reference work on earth, compiled for £30 million, and one of those peculiar testaments to Anglo-Saxon scholarship that is unlikely to cover its costs, let alone make a profit’. The successor to the Dictionary of National Biography (published 1885—1900), it stretches to sixty volumes, weighs in at 282lbs (over 20 stone) and contains more than 62 million words. It costs £7,500 a set (£6,500 on Amazon, or £195 a year plus VAT online), took twelve years to compile and contains essays on the lives of 54,922 ‘Great Britons’ (the definition includes the likes of Pytheas, the fourth-century BC Greek explorer, Julius Caesar, King Arthur and Mahatma Gandhi) who died before the cut-off date of 31 December 2000.

Countless numbers of Fellows have contributed to the work; in selecting pithy quotes from the work, The Guardian selected this succinct extract from the entry on Alfred the Great (848/9—99) by our late Fellow Patrick Wormald: ‘It is needless to endorse all that has been thought of Alfred as history transmuted into myth. The historical record plainly establishes that he was among the most remarkable rulers in the annals of human government. Posterity required what it seeks of any national hero: a figure matching the preoccupations of the moment … He met “with triumph and disaster”, and treated “those two impostors just the same”. The story of Alfred and the cakes is one of the best known in English history.’

Glenn Foard, FSA, Project Officer at the Battlefields Trust, writes to draw Fellows' attention to the new website on historic battlefields in the UK that has recently gone live. It is a project that Glenn has been working on for the last couple of years. Work now starts with Historic Scotland on a similar resource for Scottish battlefields.

Christopher Evans writes to say that volume 93 of the Proceedings of the Cambridge Antiquarian Society contains a report by the Cambridge University Archaeological Unit on its 2002 excavation of an Early Saxon settlement at the site of the new Institute of Criminology on the Sidgwick campus. Christopher points out that the site happens to lie only 50 metres from the offices of both the Society's Director, Martin Millet, and of Fellow Henry Hurst in the Faculty of Classics.

The paper — ‘Anglo-Saxons on the Cambridge Backs: the Criminology site settlement and King's Garden Hostel cemetery’, by N Dodwell, S Lucy and J Tipper — also includes the report of the nearby seventh-century cemetery that was excavated in 2000 during the expansion of King's College's Garden Hostel. One of the paper's co-authors, Sam Lucy, FSA, has recently moved from her lectureship at Durham to join the Unit's post-excavation team, as has Mark Edmonds, formerly of Sheffield.

Volunteer guides needed for Hammersmith home with Morris connections

No 7 Hammersmith Terrace, the home of William Morris’s great friend and associate Sir Emery Walker, will be open to the public for the first time in the summer of 2005. The Georgian riverside house, which is just a few hundred yards along the river from William Morris’s own home, Kelmscott House, is an exceptional example of a domestic Arts and Crafts interior. The house has had several interesting residents, including the painter Philippe de Loutherbourg, a friend and rival of Gainsborough, and the eccentric bookbinder and printer T J Cobden Sanderson. But its real importance lies in the unique survival of its interior, created between 1903 and his death in 1933 by Sir Emery Walker.

Walker is best remembered as a friend and adviser to William Morris. It was a lecture by Walker, who was a printer and photo-engraver, on historical printing, that gave Morris the idea for the Kelmscott Press, his last great project. By the time he died, Morris said he ‘did not think the day complete without a sight of Walker’. Walker enjoyed a similarly close friendship with that other great figure of the Arts and Crafts movement, Philip Webb, architect of Red House, recently acquired by the National Trust; Webb left all his possessions to Walker when he died in 1915. Walker himself set up his own private press, the Doves Press, whose clean, simple typography influenced the private press movement throughout the twentieth century.

The interior is a unique survival of an urban Arts and Crafts interior created by a figure, albeit a lesser-known one, who worked with Morris at the heart of the Movement. Highlights include hangings and carpets from Morris’s own home, Kelmscott House, several important pieces of furniture and Whitefriars glass designed by and owned by Philip Webb, textiles by May Morris, a sketch of May Morris by Burne-Jones, tiles and other ceramics by William de Morgan, Cotswolds Arts and Crafts ceramics, carvings and furniture by Ernest Barnsley, Edward Barnsley and Alfred and Louise Powell, and letters and manuscripts by George Bernard Shaw, William Morris, May Morris, Philip Webb, Hilaire Belloc and John Masefield. Personal mementoes of Morris include his library chair, several pairs of his spectacles, a cutting of his hair and photographs taken of him by Walker.

On Sir Emery’s death he left the house to his daughter Dorothy, who preserved the house almost as a shrine to her father, and she in turn left the house to her nurse-companion, Elizabeth de Haas. It was Miss de Haas who set up the Emery Walker Trust, the charity that has owned the house since Miss de Haas’s death in 1999. The Trust will open the house to the public in the summer of 2005 for two or three days a week (probably on Thursdays and Fridays) between April and October and is looking for volunteer guides who would be interested in showing people around.

The house is not large but it is on three floors, so good mobility is essential. Previous experience is not required, just a genuine interest in the Arts and Crafts movement and social history. Volunteers must commit to at least four open days, in return for which they get the chance to spend time in a unique house, a pleasant working environment and a delightful riverside garden.

If you are interested in getting involved please contact Monica Grose-Hodge at or leave a message at the house on 020 8741 4104. You can read more about the Trust and its work to save the house on the official website.

Vacancy

Victorian Society, Community Engagement Officer (three days per week, based in London)
Salary band £17,000 to £19,000 (£10,200 to £11,400 for 3 days), closing date 13 October 2004; interviews 25 October

The Community Engagement Officer will be at the forefront of the Society’s efforts to engage communities in campaigns to save Victorian and Edwardian buildings and landscapes threatened by demolition or insensitive development. The successful applicant will be educated to degree level or equivalent, have an enthusiasm for Victorian and Edwardian architecture, and excellent written and oral communication skills. Travel throughout England and Wales is involved. For further details and an application form visit the VicSoc’s website or send an email.