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Salon: Issue 330
17 November 2014

Next issue: 1 December 2014

The Society of Antiquaries of London Online Newsletter (Salon) is a fortnightly digest of news from the heritage sector. It focuses on the activities of the Society and the contribution that the Society's Fellows make to public life. Like the intellectual salons of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe, it aims to amuse and to stimulate debate as well as to inform. A copy of Salon’s editorial policy can be found on the Society’s website. News and feedback for publication in Salon should be addressed to the Editor, Christopher Catling.
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Inside this issue

Christmas closing at Burlington House

The Society’s apartments and library will close for the Christmas and New Year holiday at 4pm on 23 December 2014 and re-open on 5 January 2015.

Propose a conference or seminar

The Society, with its commitment to research and dissemination, is keen to support a regular programme of conferences and seminars, bringing together scholars and professionals from a variety of areas to explain, discuss and debate our material culture. We are looking for Fellows to propose topics or themes for conferences and seminars, with an interdisciplinary or multidisciplinary composition. Please email Renée LaDue, the Society's Communications Officer, if you are interested in helping us organise such an event.

Forthcoming meetings

Unless stated otherwise, tea is served from 4.15pm and meetings start at 5pm. Guests are welcome if accompanied by a Fellow.

20 November 2014: ‘Roman sculpture from London and south-east England’, by Martin Henig, FSA, Penny Coombe and Kevin Hayward, FSA
Francis Grew, Kevin Hayward, Martin Henig and Penny Coombe have been surveying Roman sculpture for the tenth British Fascicule of the Corpus Signorum Imperii Romani, focusing on London, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Kent. The area has more marble and bronze statuary fragments and sculptural elements from major monuments than any other region in the province, in the form of imperial portraits, religious sculptures, altars, votive reliefs, tombstones, civil and military pieces and sarcophagi. Some items have been known since the seventeenth century, while others are more recent finds. Many items are interesting for their iconography or what they tell us about religion or funerary rites. The survey has also identified approximately twenty-five different stone types brought to London from around England and from France.

27 November 2014: Presentation of the Statutory Report and Accounts 2013―14 at 3.45pm followed by ‘The style and iconography of the Westminster Retable: creating Gothic painting between France and England in the thirteenth century’, by Michael Michael, FSA, at 5pm
This week’s meeting will be preceded by a presentation of the Society’s Statutory Report and Accounts 2013―14, with the Treasurer, General Secretary, Finance Manager and members of the Finance Committee in attendance to answer questions. Tea will be served at the usual time (4.15pm), and the Ordinary Meeting will begin at the usual time (5pm).

Michael Michael’s paper will present new research into the sources for the iconography of the Westminster Retable, which will establish that models invented for use in the Bible moralisée in France of the second quarter of the thirteenth century were known to the artist and were adapted for use at Westminster. It will also propose that the Retable should be regarded as part of a project that included the Westminster Pavement as part of an iconographical scheme. Other sources will be examined in the text of the Golden Legend and in Byzantine art for compositional models.

The paper will then attempt to place the style of the Westminster Retable in the context of developments in French and English painting between c 1250 and 1290. It will suggest ways in which the work of the artist of the Westminster Retable should be understood in the broader European context as an example of one of the catalysts that helped to create the style of painting we have come to know as Gothic.

4 December 2014: ‘Brunanburh in AD 937: Bromborough or Lanchester?’, by Andrew Breeze, FSA
The English victory over invading Scots, Strathclyders and Dublin Vikings at Brunanburh in AD 937 was a crucial event in the unification of England. But the location of this great and bloody battle has mystified scholars ever since John Leland in the time of Henry VIII. Recent years have seen a shaky consensus in favour of Bromborough, in the Wirral. Yet recent research must rule this out. The battle was surely fought near Lanchester in County Durham, where a Roman fort or ‘burh’ stands on a major route north near the River ‘Brune’ or Browney. Location of Brunanburh near Durham thus solves permanently an old problem, opening possibilities for a new chapter of archaeological and historical research on the Anglo-Saxons and their neighbours.

11 December 2014: Miscellany of Papers and Mulled Wine Reception
At this year’s Christmas Miscellany, we will hear from students who have been working on research projects at Burlington House ― auditing and recording the Society’s collection of seals and seal impressions ― and at Kelmscott Manor ― investigating hitherto uncatalogued correspondence (see ‘William Morris the political firebrand’ below).

The meeting will be followed by the traditional mulled wine reception, for which tickets costing £10 are required (these can be booked via the Society’s website or by email or by telephone (0207 479 7080), and guests are welcome to attend the meeting and the reception.

Christmas Miscellany Choir: basses and tenors wanted

The chamber choir that will perform a few carols after the Christmas Miscellany on 11 December 2014 lacks basses and tenors, so if you can sing those parts and are free to come to a rehearsal on 26 November, 5pm to 6pm, please do get in touch with Salon’s editor, who will supply music and further information.

Forthcoming public meetings

Public meetings are from 1pm to 2pm on Tuesdays. These meetings are very popular, so advance booking is advised to be sure of a place.

2 December 2014: ‘Building and rebuilding Castell Henllys hillfort’, by Harold Mytum, FSA
Professor Mytum has completed one monograph and is working on the second presenting the results of his long-running excavations at the Iron Age inland promontory fort of Castell Henllys, Pembrokeshire. His lecture will examine the site and its significance and also explore the issues of heritage interpretation raised by the site.

13 January 2015: ‘Maya art and Maya kingship’, by Norman Hammond, FSA
Norman’s lecture will focus on Mayan archaeology and art history based on his work in the Maya lowlands, with interdisciplinary projects at Lubaantun (1970―1), Nohmul (1973―86), Cuello (1975―93) and, most recently, La Milpa (1992―2002), a large Classic period (AD 250―900) city in north-western Belize.

The Society of Antiquaries in the south west: 2015 lectures

The following lectures have been organised by the Fellows Group in the south west of England. All Fellows and their guests are welcome to attend and advance booking is not necessary.

12 February 2015: Fellow Mike Parker Pearson on ‘Stonehenge and its bluestones: recent research’, at 6pm in the Laver Building LT6, University of Exeter (directions here  and here.

24 February 2015: Fellow Roberta Gilchrist on ‘Glastonbury Abbey: myth and medieval archaeology’, at 6pm in the Laver Building LT6, University of Exeter

11 March 2015: Fellow Roger Leech on ‘The town house in medieval and early modern Bristol’ at 6pm in Clifton Hill House, University of Bristol (directions here).

Fellows Group in Wales

Fellows in Wales will next meet in Cardiff on 11 December 2014 for lunch followed by a speaker, while a St David’s Day theme will be the subject of the meeting planned for Friday 6 March 2015. A one-day field visit will be made to a recusant chapel at Abergavenny in the summer, followed by an afternoon tour of the World Heritage Site at Blaenavon with Fellow Jeremy Knight. Discussions are in progress for the 2015 field weekend to be held on 16 to 18 October 2015. Not all the details are finalised yet, but they will be circulated as usual to all Fellows in Wales and to any other Fellow who cares to come along: contact Fellow Alan Aberg to be added to the circulation list.

The annual field weekend of the Welsh Fellows held in October 2014 went over the border to Ludlow. The itinerary, organised by Fellow Andrew Pike, took in tower houses and castles not generally open to the public, including Richards Castle, where Fellows were shown the newly cleared earthworks and preserved foundations by Peter Curnow, who had excavated the site with Mike Thompson in 1962―4. After dinner on the Friday evening, Fellow Andrew Wigley, of Shropshire County Council, gave a lecture on the archaeology and monuments of the mid-border area, which served as a preparation for the site visits on the following day when Paul Belford joined the party for a visit to Offa’s Dyke plus a stone circle, two castles and an industrial museum at one of the local lead mines. The final morning was spent on a walking tour of Ludlow and a visit to Culmington church before dispersal after lunch.

Ballot results: 13 November 2014

The Society welcomes the following new Fellows, who were elected at the ballot held on 13 November 2014:
  • Christina Unwin, archaeological illustrator and designer, with many archaeological publications and exhibitions to her name;
  • Christine Ann Hastorf, Professor of Anthropology, University of California–Berkeley, specialist in palaeoethnobotany and the archaeology of food;
  • Ian Morris, Willard Professor of Classics, Stanford University, director of excavations in Sicily and Greece with an interest in the ancient Mediterranean and its place in world history;
  • Christopher Constable, Senior Archaeological Officer, London Borough of Southwark, with a specialist interest in medieval and post-medieval buildings;
  • Margaret Ann Twycross, Professor Emerita of English Medieval Studies, Lancaster University, expert in medieval and early Renaissance theatre and pageantry, medieval performance style and the use of digital imaging for manuscript research;
  • Cynthia Robin, Professor of Anthropology, Northwestern University, an authority on Mayan archaeology and noted for her project at Chan, Belize;
  • Neil Guthrie, lawyer and author of books and papers on British eighteenth-century history, especially that of the Jacobites and their material culture;
  • Adam David Ford, archaeologist working in both local government and the private sector in Australia;
  • Glyn Davies, Curator, Victoria and Albert Museum, with a special interest in medieval and Renaissance ivory carvings and metalwork;
  • Vanessa Jane King, University of London lecturer, specialising in medieval history, particularly the Norman Conquest, the early bishopric of Winchester and tenth- and eleventh-century prosopography.

Warburg Institute judgment: university considering appeal

To the benefit and relief of scholars worldwide, the High Court ruled on 6 November that the University of London must respect the terms of the original Trust Deed under which it acquired oversight of the Warburg Institute. However, to the consternation of those same scholars, and despite the judge’s clear ruling following a very detailed review of the evidence, the University has decided to seek permission to appeal against some parts of the judgment.

The Institute grew out of the private library of the art historian Aby Warburg (1866―1929); to escape destruction by Nazi-organised book-burnings, the entire library of 60,000 books, as well as photographs, papers, furniture and many of the Institute’s staff, were moved to the safe haven of London in December 1933. After years of negotiation involving members of the Warburg family, the University of London, distinguished scholars and philanthropists, the University of London became trustee of the Warburg Institute, to hold it on charitable trust pursuant to the terms of a Trust Deed signed on 28 November 1944, since when the Institute has since grown into a world-class teaching and research institute.

In recent years the University has charged a proportion of its total estate expenditure to the Warburg Institute, which has had the effect of leaving a once-solvent institute with a significant deficit. The Advisory Council of the Warburg Institute argued that the University’s space charge levy was diverting 60 per cent of the funds intended for research and core activities into premises and central services costs, with the result that the Institute had to give up the use of parts of its building and to turn some of its open-access library into closed access stacks to reduce costs. After appealing to the Attorney General and the Charity Commission for rulings, the Institute and the members of Aby Warburg’s family (represented by our Fellow Professor John Prag) ended up in the High Court before Mrs Justice Proudman, who was asked to adjudicate on a number of questions arising out of the terms of the Trust Deed.

Handing down her judgment, Mrs Justice Proudman ruled that the Trust Deed places an obligation on the University to maintain and preserve the Warburg library in perpetuity, to house it and to keep it adequately equipped and staffed as an independent unit and to provide funding for its activities, having regard to its special character. Mrs Proudman added that the evidence leading up to the signing of the Trust Deed shows that the transfer to the University of London was conditional on the University accepting these obligations.

Professor Margaret McGowan, Chairman of the Warburg Advisory Council, said that Council members had hoped that the University would respond to the ruling by agreeing to ‘enter into discussions and begin to work together in the best interests of the Institute and the University’. Instead of which, the University has sought leave to appeal against some of the rulings, a decision that Professor McGowan criticised, saying that: ‘we are frustrated that the University appears to wish to continue to spend its time and money on furthering the legal dispute rather than find a solution to secure the Warburg Institute’s long-term future’.

Professor McGowan added that: ‘the Advisory Council remains very grateful for the immense support it has received regarding this matter, in particular from the American Friends of the Warburg Institute and from The Polonsky Foundation, without whom its successful defence of the matter would not have been possible’. The Council was advised in the case by Leticia Jennings of the City law firm Bates Wells Braithwaite.

For its part, the University of London claimed that it was the victor in the court dispute and that it was pleased with an outcome that ‘found in favour of the University on almost every point that was of importance to us’. The University described as ‘misleading’ and ‘wholly unfounded’ the suggestion that it had ever wanted to ‘split the [Warburg] collection’, and said that the only area of continuing contention was ‘an area of uncertainty around internal funding mechanisms. While the Judge makes clear that we can recover the actual cost of the running of the Warburg Institute, she also says that estate-wide service charge does not “chime with the Trust Deed”. We are considering the practical implications of this’.

This is a somewhat selective reading of the judgment for there is no uncertainty in Mrs Justice Proudman’s words. She said that ‘the levying of space charges, debiting an estate-wide service charge to the income and expenditure account of the Institute is not to my mind permissible. There is an actual conflict of interest between UOL’s duties to manage the university and its duties under the Deed ... UOL only has a right to be indemnified in respect of the actual, properly incurred expenditure on the Institute, (that is to say in fulfilling its duties under the Deed to maintain, preserve and house the Collection) not in respect of UOL’s costs on its other property.’

She went on to say that: ‘The charity established by the Deed requires the Institute to be equipped and staffed “as an independent unit”, having regard to its “special character”. The imposition of university-wide space charges flies in the face of this provision as it merely treats the Institute as a constituent part of UOL without regard to its special character or its position as an independent unit under the Deed.’

Heritage makes you happy

Despite what you might conclude from the preceding report, we are assured by the latest annual ‘Heritage Counts’ audit, published on 12 November 2014, that ‘taking part in heritage is good for our happiness and wellbeing’. Perhaps it is just the academic variety that fails to conform to this conclusion: by contrast, living in a historic town is said to ‘have the most positive impact on wellbeing’, while being involved in heritage rescue projects does not, we are assured, mean sleepless nights working out how to raise the necessary funds; instead it ‘inspires community pride’.

Countless individuals also benefit mentally and physically through active participation in heritage projects. A Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) survey measuring the impact of heritage volunteering concludes that levels of mental health and wellbeing are far higher among participants in HLF-funded projects than in the general population; the research also found volunteers gained new and improved skills through projects and used them beyond the workplace to engage with their community: 75 per cent of volunteers reported a strong sense of belonging to their immediate neighbourhood.

Launching this year’s report, Sir Laurie Magnus, the Chairman of English Heritage, said: ‘England’s historic environment is a great force for good. It enhances the quality of our surroundings, provides employment, helps underpin our national identity and generally lifts our spirits. This year’s Heritage Counts provides critical evidence to show the contribution that the historic environment makes towards turning the government’s objective of improving the nation’s wellbeing into reality.’

Heritage Counts 2014 also explores the impact of heritage on the economy. England’s heritage is a key driver of overseas tourism: according to research conducted by Visit Britain, the economic output of heritage tourism, including visits to natural heritage sites such as parks and gardens, was £26.4bn in 2011. This is a higher contribution than the advertising, car manufacturing and film industries.

The full Heritage Counts report can be downloaded here.

Culture is vital in the global development agenda

A similar message has come out of UNESCO’s Third World Forum on Culture and Cultural Industries, which took place in Florence from 2 to 4 October 2014, resulting in the adoption of the Florence Declaration, which advocates the integration of culture into the development agenda that the United Nations is scheduled to adopt in the autumn of 2015. Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s Director-General, summed up the Declaration by saying that ‘Cultural vitality is synonymous with innovation and diversity. Culture creates jobs, generates revenues and stimulates creativity. It is a multifaceted vector of values and identity. Moreover, culture is a lever that promotes social inclusion and dialogue.’

For further information, see the UNESCO website.

The witch marks of Knole

If volunteering makes you happy, there ought to be some well-adjusted people at Knole in Kent, where our Fellow Nat Cohen, the National Trust’s Regional Archaeologist for Kent and East Sussex, is using HLF funds to train volunteers in buildings recording and landscape survey. Fellow Maev Kennedy reported on one result of their work in a seasonal article published in the Guardian on 5 November 2014. Official propaganda in the wake of the Gunpowder Plot repeatedly suggested demonic influence among the Catholic conspirators. Added to this, James I was convinced that he was the victim of witchcraft. Consequently, when sumptuous new state rooms were constructed at Knole for James I’s anticipated visit, every possible precaution was taken to keep witches out by carving apotropeic marks on the sides of the floor joists facing the fireplace, a known weak spot in defences against witches.

The marks were found as part of a survey of graffiti and other marks being carried out by volunteers who found scorch marks made with a candle flame on the timbers, carved tangles of Vs and Ws, invoking the protection of the Virgin Mary, and maze-like marks known as demon traps, intended to trap the malevolent spirits which would follow the lines and be unable to find their way back out.

James Wright, a MOLA buildings archaeologist who is working on the construction history of Knole, said that there was no doubt that these were apotropeic marks and not carpenters’ assembly marks, because there was a separate set of carpenters’ marks to guide the placing of timbers. Wright pointed out that the carving and the building work can be precisely dated by dendrochronology: the oak was felled in 1606, and the marks were cut before the beams were installed as green unseasoned timber.

Maev reports that Thomas Sackville’s work to prepare his house for a royal visit was complete by 1608, but the king never came so Knole’s superior supernatural defences were never put to the test.

William Morris the political firebrand

Another volunteer, this time working as an intern for our own Society, has turned up some previously unknown and unpublished letters written by William Morris three years before his death, in which he sets out some of his most deeply held political beliefs.

History student Thomas Wilson, of Exeter College, Oxford (Morris’s own college), found the letters during his internship at Kelmscott; the letters were donated to the Society after we acquired the Manor in the late 1960s and seem not to have been opened since. They were written by Morris in response to a mother’s enquiry on behalf of her daughter as to whether ‘socialism was worth taking up’. Morris replied fulsomely, stressing the importance of women to the Socialist cause: ‘I should suggest that you should try to influence women that you come across: in the working classes, especially, much depends on the women (wives especially) being sympathetic with the men who are in the movement. You can have more leaflets if you think you can distribute them usefully.’

Reporting on the find in the Guardian, Fellow Maev Kennedy says that Morris set his correspondent’s daughter a formidable list of tasks: she was to work her way through a weighty reading list of socialist literature, take out a subscription to the Commonweal journal ‘and try to get other people to do so’, and join the Hammersmith branch of the Socialist League, ‘which is active and has many intelligent members in it’.

His core beliefs come to the fore in one passage in which he says that ‘if you wish to study socialism you will find that the primary question is whether all men shall be free to exercise their natural Capacities to the utmost; and you will find that this cannot be so long as there is a privileged mopolist (sic) class which withholds the means of production from the producers except on the condition that the producers shall pay for the use of them by keeping the said privileged class as their pensioners’. He uses even stronger language in another section of the letter, where he describes society as being made up of ‘slaves and slaveholders and the parasites of the latter’.

Even Morris seemed to question whether the tone of his letter was a bit strong. ‘Excuse this lecturing: only since you asked me a question I thought you might be interested in the whole subject ― on which by the way there is plenty of literature,’ he wrote.

David Barnes, who teaches English literature at Somerville College, Oxford, is quoted as saying that the letters showed how engaged Morris was in the Socialist movement and that he clearly thought women were important to the success of socialism, ‘though he still frames that in terms of the “support” they can give to their socialist husbands. This is a Morris torn between a commitment to freedom, equality and justice, yet still conditioned by what we might see as typically Victorian views on gender.’

In defence of John Ruskin

Morris is sometimes referred to as a great ‘Victorian Sage’ after the title of John Holloway’s 1953 book analysing the work of such writers as William Morris, Thomas Carlyle, Matthew Arnold and John Ruskin who passed judgement on contemporary society and set out principles for how life should be lived. Ruskin in particular, as a critic of utilitarian economics, was greatly admired by Tolstoy and Gandhi and named as an inspiration by countless political thinkers long after his death; he was also an influential writer and lecturer on the art of his day, the champion of Turner and the Pre-Raphaelites, and a pioneer of the discipline of art history and of the Gothic revival.

Yet recent films have not been at all kind or truthful in their portrayal of his character. While our Fellow Charles Samaurez Smith has been championing Mike Leigh’s critically acclaimed film Mr Turner, which he describes on his blog as ‘a serious exercise in research-based and intelligent, as well as intuitive, reconstruction’, Fellow Edward Chaney has begged to differ, objecting to the ‘absurd depiction of Ruskin as an upper class twit who couldn’t pwonouce his ‘r’s’.

Others have made similar points: Philip Hoare, reviewing Mr Turner in the Guardian wrote: ‘on behalf of John Ruskin, I would like to sue Mike Leigh for defamation of character. In Mr Turner, Leigh’s astonishing and sweepingly beautiful new film, the painter’s greatest champion has been traduced. Ruskin, played by Joshua McGuire, is a simpering Blackadderish caricature of an art intellectual: a lisping, red-headed, salon fop.’ (Salon’s editor will turn a blind eye to the implications of those concluding words.)

Hoare goes on to critique Emma Thompson’s equally misleading Effie Gray, in which Ruskin is portrayed as ‘an austere ascetic, whose passions are reserved for the stones of Venice and the paint of the Pre-Raphaelites. He cannot countenance the physicality of his young bride Euphemia Gray, as she confronts him on their wedding night with her post-pubescent body. The film tacitly endorses the notion that Ruskin was rendered impotent by the sight of female pubic hair, being accustomed only to the frozen marble bodies of classical sculpture.’

It seems to Salon’s editor that the time has come to go back to the writing of our one-time President, Joan Evans, on this subject. Her biography of John Ruskin, published by Jonathan Cape in 1954, is an excellent work of shrewd judgement and analysis, billed at the time as ‘the first biography of Ruskin to be written by a biographer with access to Ruskin’s own diaries (Joan Evans went on to publish several volumes of edited extracts from those diaries, and from Ruskin’s voluminous correspondence). Joan dealt firmly with the ‘pubic hair’ issue in her biography, arguing that the wedding night crisis was a myth, that the marriage was consummated and was as physical as any normal marriage until Ruskin began to grow estranged from a woman who married for money rather than love and who had several extra-marital affairs. It was in order to obtain a divorce, and despite the justified concerns of his family, that Ruskin agreed to state that the marriage had not been consummated. Of course, the truth lacks the dramatic potential of the myth, but if you happen to know the truth it does rather spoil any possible enjoyment of the film.

Help to find Jupiter's lost head

The Winchester Excavation Committee would very much like to know the whereabouts of a half-life-sized bronze head that was found in 1837 during the digging of the vast railway cutting immediately west of Winchester (Venta Belgarum). Identified variously as Hercules or Hadrian, the head (according to Fellow Martin Henig) is probably that of Jupiter. First illustrated in The Gentleman’s Magazine (October 1838; see above) by Charles Roach Smith, it was published again by W B Bradfield of Winchester in the [British] Archaeological Association’s Winchester Congress volume of 1845 (see below).

Owned originally by a Mr Bradfield (d 1845), it passed to John Newington Hughes of Winchester (d 1847), and, at the sale of his collection of antiquities in 1848, was bought by ‘Lord Hastings’ (Jacob Astley, 16th Baron Hastings, FSA (1797―1859), of Melton Constable, Norfolk). The head was not apparently sold at any of the subsequent sales of the Hastings Collection (eg that at Christie’s on 18 February 1890) but seems unlikely to have been destroyed and may still survive in private hands, unidentified and its provenance lost. Fellow Martin Biddle says that any information would be warmly received.

Temporary export bar on Flaxman relief

A temporary export bar has been placed on a marble relief by John Flaxman depicting the Adoration of the Magi. Described as ‘of outstanding significance for the study of neo-classical sculpture and Flaxman’s role within its development’, the rectangular marble slab, carved in low relief, closely corresponds with a slightly larger plaster version by the artist at Sir John Soane’s Museum, as well as two pen, ink and wash drawings, one of which is currently at the British Museum.

A decision on the export licence application will be deferred for a period ending at midnight on 5 February 2015. This period may be extended until 5 May 2015 if a serious intention to raise funds to purchase the piece is made at the recommended price of £800,000.

Lives remembered: Roy Switsur, FSA

The Society has been informed that our Fellow Roy Switsur has died, on 5 November 2014, at the age of eighty-five. Fellow Norman Hammond says that: ‘Roy ran the Cambridge University Radiocarbon Laboratory (Q in the datelists) for many years. He pioneered the idea of radiocarbon dating a tree-ring sequence, long before Hans Suess did his famous bristlecone pine correlation in California, and the tree section in question long adorned the Cambridge lab.’ For more on Roy’s work at Cambridge, see the Subdepartment of Quaternary Research web page.

Lives remembered: Sonia Rolt

Obituaries for our late Fellow Sonia Rolt have been published in the Daily Telegraph and The Times. The latter described her as a ‘campaigner for Britain’s industrial heritage who fell in love with canals during wartime service’ and explained that ‘a small advertisement in The Times in the early 1940s changed Sonia Rolt’s life for ever. On answering its call for women to work on the canals of Britain to take the place of men who had gone to fight in the Second World War, Rolt began a love affair with the canals and waterways that was to last a lifetime.

Becoming one of the trainee boatwomen on the canals was far from the only notable feature in Rolt’s life. At various times she fought not just for the survival of the canals and waterways as a founder member of the Inland Waterways Association (IWA), but also for the preservation of the architectural heritage of Britain — both industrial and residential — through her work with the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB). She helped to establish a heritage steam railway in west Wales and in later life was particularly concerned about the need to maintain and preserve ancient orchards. Other interests included furnishing houses and providing libraries for both the Landmark Trust and the National Trust. As Tim Rolt, the younger of her two sons and a writer and film-maker, put it: “The thread that united everything that she did was her enormous appetite for life and her great interest in other people which led her into all sorts of different areas. She valued things that were not necessarily being valued by others at the time.”

‘At the time she spotted the advert, Sonia was already doing her bit for the war effort at the Hoover factory at Perivale in west London where she was employed installing electrical wiring in the cockpits of Lancaster bombers. She was so good at it that the factory managers did not want her to leave. Sonia recalled that “a psychiatrist person saw me from the Ministry of Transport and they said ‘this woman has a pioneering spirit and must be allowed to go her own way and do her own stuff”. It was extraordinarily surprising because I had not seen any canal as far as I know at any time, anywhere, and when I applied for the job it was going to be a huge surprise. Canals? What are they?”’

‘Rolt learnt her new trade fast, helping to take barges loaded with steel to Birmingham, then heading to Coventry to load coal and taking that down to north London, before setting out again. Along the way she fell in love with the canals and the people who worked on them and determined she would do all she could to preserve a way of life that was already under threat from road and rail freight transport. Later she married the industrial heritage pioneer Tom Rolt, whose 1944 book Narrow Boat is credited with inspiring the movement to save canals. The pair were initially active in the campaign to save the canals and in setting up the Inland Waterways Association. In 1950, however, Tom fell out with the organisation and he and Sonia decamped to the seaside town of Tywyn, near Aberystwyth, where they helped to set up the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society.

‘Tom and Sonia later moved back to his parents’ house at Stanley Pontlarge in Gloucestershire where Tom would write some forty books under the name LTC Rolt, dying aged sixty-four in 1974. Sonia lived in the medieval Cotswold stone house for the remainder of her life, eventually becoming affectionately known by the locals as “Lady Pontlarge” or the “Potentate of Pontlarge”. Tom’s friend John Smith (later Sir John) who set up the Landmark Trust in the 1960s asked Sonia if she would look after the furnishing of the houses and she did so for more than twenty years, later taking on a similar role for the National Trust.

‘It was when she needed to do repair work on the roof of the house at Stanley Pontlarge that she first came into contact with SPAB which helped secure funding for the project. She went on to become an active committee member. Sonia Rolt was also for many years a member and one-time Chairman of the Gloucester Diocesan Advisory Committee.’

Lives remembered: Hermione Hobhouse, FSA

An obituary for our late Fellow Hermione Hobhouse, who died on 17 October 2014 at the age of eighty, was published in the Daily Telegraph last week. This said that, in addition to her acclaimed biography of Thomas Cubitt, she also wrote a pioneering study of the destruction wreaked by modern architects and bureaucrats on London’s architectural heritage. Her Lost London, published in 1972, was a heart-rending pictorial survey of architectural violence against the city, from the loss of Sir John Soane’s original Bank of England to the destruction, in 1961, of the Euston Arch, built in 1837.

Mary Hermione Hobhouse was born on 2 February 1934 at Hadspen House, Castle Cary, Somerset, the daughter of Arthur (later Sir Arthur) Lawrence Hobhouse, a local Liberal politician who is best remembered as the architect of Britain’s system of National Parks. She was educated at Cheltenham Ladies’ College and at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, where she read Modern History. After graduation she worked for eight years as a television researcher and writer, before leaving to devote herself to writing and teaching.

Her first book, Thomas Cubitt: master builder (1971), set the achievements of the speculative builder in the context of urban, business and social history and the history of technology. The narrative was enlivened by fascinating reflections on Cubitt’s personality taken from diaries and plays as well as from The Builder magazine and official records. The book won her the Hitchcock Medal of the Society of Architectural Historians.

From 1973 to 1978 Hermione was tutor in Architectural History at the Architectural Association School and she lectured extensively on town planning and urban history, Victorian architecture and on Prince Albert, publishing Prince Albert: his life and work in 1983 and The Crystal Palace and the Great Exhibition — Art, Science and Productive Industry: the history of the Royal Commission for the Great Exhibition of 1851 in 2002.

For eleven years (1983―94), Hermione Hobhouse was General Editor of the Survey of London. There she completed the volume on southern Kensington begun under her predecessor, Francis Sheppard, but then set out to move away from the Survey’s previous emphasis on the great estates of the West End to look at more humble areas of the capital, including Poplar, an area that was changing dramatically under the London Docklands Development Corporation. Consequently the Survey broadened its remit to include modern buildings and infrastructure, a new approach that clearly chimed with popular demand since Poplar has received more online hits than any other area of London.

Her other books include A History of Regent Street (1975) and London Survey’d: the work of the Survey of London 1894―1994 (1994). She was appointed MBE in 1981.

Monuments to antiquaries

Fellow Cliff Webb writes in response to the question raised in the last issue of Salon asking when the John Stow quill ceremony was initiated. He says that the ceremony is likely to have been ‘of fairly recent vintage in 1914 because the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser for 9 April 1907 notes that members of LAMAS had laid a wreath on the monument on the anniversary of Stow’s death. Presumably a quill would have been mentioned if one had figured in the commemoration at that time.’

Fellow Philip Whittemore suggests, however, that the twentieth-century commemoration might have earlier origins, because ‘an illustration of Stow’s monument on page 14 of John Strype’s edition of the Survey of London, published in 1720, shows the quill in his hand’. Philip asks: ‘apart from Shakespeare’s monument, in Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon, did any other monuments have quills? One that did but that has not survived is that of Dean John Colet (d 1519), whose monument in old St Paul’s Cathedral was recorded by a number of antiquaries, including Sir William Dugdale, who illustrates it on page 64 of his History of St Paul’s Cathedral in London (1658).

'The monument included a bust of the Dean, but Dugdale shows his hands crossed, holding a book. Records suggest otherwise: that he was originally holding a pen, and that this had to be repaired on a number of occasions ― for example, in 1588/9 the sum of 3s. 7d. was paid for mending the pen and making a new finger for the effigy (R B Gardiner, The Admission Registers of St Paul’s School 1748 to 1876 (1884), page ix). This suggests that the quill pen was fashioned in plaster or some similar substance, and that a real feather was not used, but it does show that the use of feathers on funerary monuments, real or otherwise, is not unique. Are other examples known?’

This week’s crop of pictures of monuments begins with the Blue Plaque to William Stukeley erected three or four years ago on 9 Barn Hill, Stamford, by Stamford Civic Society, on 7 November 2010. Our Fellow John Smith, who contributed this photograph, was instrumental in ensuring that Stukeley’s time in Stamford was properly commemorated (see John’s paper in the Antiquaries Journal, vol 93, on Stukeley’s Stamford houses, gardens and building projects). The monument was unveiled by our Fellow and former General Secretary Dai Morgan Evans.

The second memorial, contributed by Fellow Jean Wilson, consists of a plaque (above which is a twentieth-century commemorative window) to Sir John Cullum, Bart, FRS, FSA, ‘the learned antiquary’ and rector of Hawstead church, Suffolk, from 1762 to 1785. The entry for Sir John (1733―85) in the ODNB written by our Fellow John Blatchly tells us that he first read mathematics then, with greater distinction, classics at that excellent Cambridge College, St Catharine’s, where he was elected to a fellowship and ‘narrowly missed election to the mastership’ before his father presented him to the living of Hawstead in 1762.

Among his achievements, he ‘perfected a method of taking impressions of monumental brasses by spreading printer’s ink on them, wiping the surface clean, and treading damped paper into the engraved lines to pull out the ink. This technique was employed to great effect on visits to the greater Cambridgeshire and Norfolk churches in September 1780. The bulky results, now in the British Library (Add MSS 32478―32479), are invaluable as the only record of many memorials since lost. Cullum also encouraged Fellow Richard Gough to compile his great work Sepulchral Monuments (1796) using or copying some of their impressions as illustrations.’

Cullum was also a pioneer in Stonehenge studies: ‘by chipping fragments off different parts of Stonehenge in August 1779, he found various types of stone, and concluded that the henge “neither grew nor was made on the spot” (Cullum MSS, E2/21/1, 77―78)’. His only substantial published work was The History and Antiquities of Hawsted (1784), in which ‘he preserved local sayings, described current agricultural methods, and analysed the population of the parish since registers were kept, deploring the missed opportunity in 1780 for a national census’.

When he died of consumption on 9 October 1785, aged only fifty-two, he was ‘buried at the north door of Hawstead church to flout the prevalent prejudice against burial on the north side of churches, where his memorial records that he “mingled the researches of the antiquary with the studies and practice of the divine”’.

Scotland’s commemorative plaques scheme

Historic Scotland is seeking nominations for commemorative plaques with a closing date of 31 January 2015. Only twelve plaques are awarded each year; an independent panel of experts assesses the nominations before making the final choice, which will be announced in Spring 2015. Previous years have seen John Logie Baird, James Watt and Wilfred Owen commemorated. Announcing this year’s scheme, Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop, said: ‘as opposed to previous years, when nominees had to be selected based on a particular theme, this year is an open theme which I’m sure will encourage a great variety of nominations from across the spectrum of Scottish life. I would very much like to see more nominations of women who have made a difference and there are many to choose from in Scotland.’

Speaking about the scheme, Martin Ross, Projects and Policy Manager at Historic Scotland, said: ‘We’ve designed the scheme to commemorate the link between a particular person and a specific building, because buildings can say a great deal about the character of the particular person who lived or worked there.’

The criteria for nominating an individual are that they should have been dead for at least twenty years and also have passed the centenary of their birth; be closely associated with a building in Scotland that is still standing; and have made a significant contribution to some aspect of life in Scotland.


Salon’s editor is blushing with embarrassment having had several Fellows ask whether the panel by Giovanni da Rimini that was described in the last issue as having been painted in ‘tempura’ should not therefore look a little more battered!

Several Fellows have also pointed out that the editor of Antiquity who, in 2000, encouraged readers to support Paul Bahn’s call for the better care of Gordon Childe’s grave was our Fellow Caroline Malone, rather than Fellow Martin Carver, whose term as editor did not begin until January 2003.

Apologies are due to Dr Katharina Ulmschneider, one of the three editors of Fellow Vincent Megaw’s Festschrift, who should have been identified as a Fellow in the last issue of Salon. Katharine is a Senior Research Fellow at Worcester College, Oxford, and you can read about her research activities on the Archaeology Archives Oxford blog. One of these is the Historic Environment Image Resource (HEIR) project, which is using the University of Oxford’s extensive collection of lantern and glass slide photographic images (c 15,000 in total) to track changes in our environment and landscape between c 1880 and c 1950. Katharina is working with the Citizen Science Alliance to harness volunteers to help identify lost landscapes and to take new photographs of the sites as they are today to compare with the historic images.

National Community Design Award

Communities across England are being invited to enter the inaugural ‘Civic Voice National Community Design Award’, which will be awarded to examples of excellence in new buildings, historic buildings that have been reused or refurbished and public realm schemes such as street works, conservation area improvements and parks. Launching the award, Griff Rhys Jones, President of Civic Voice, said: ‘It will not be the usual sort of design award where professionals give an award to the work of other professionals. Instead, the nominations will be made and supported by local communities across the country.’

The judges will be looking for excellence in terms of quality in design and construction, appropriateness, community participation and engagement and promoting pride of place. Freddie Gick, Chair of Civic Voice, said: ‘We are introducing the award with the aim of demonstrating that communities are prepared to accept new development, when the development responds to local needs and is of a high standard of design.’

Nominations can be made online and the closing date is 31 March 2015.


24 November 2014: ‘Antiquities collected by the Prince of Wales during his “Eastern Tour”’, by Alessandro Nasini, of the Royal Collection Trust, 5.30pm in the Wallace Collection Lecture theatre. Further insights into the latest Royal Collection exhibition at The Queen’s Gallery, London, with a focus on the acquisition of objects (mainly from Egypt and the island of Rhodes) that remain in the Royal Collection today. Booking not required.

25 November 2014: ‘Westminster in the First World War’, by Jerry White, 7pm in the Lord Mayor’s Reception Rooms, Westminster City Hall, Professor Jerry White teaches London history at Birkbeck. His books include a three-volume social history of London from 1700 to the end of the twentieth century. His latest book, Zeppelin Nights. London in the First World War, is published by The Bodley Head and has received rave reviews in the national press. He will talk on the huge impact of the war on all aspects of daily life in Westminster. For further information, see the Westminster History Club web page.

13 December 2014: ‘Recent work on prehistoric Kent’, 10am to 5pm at Rutherford College Lecture Theatres 1 and 2, University of Kent at Canterbury, CT2 7NX. The talks will cover Mesolithic discoveries in the Shorne area, recent discoveries in the Faversham area, round barrows and ring-ditches in Kent, the late Iron Age Chilham Mirror and Bridge Helmet, recent research on Iron Age brooches of Kent and taking the Dover Bronze Age boat replica to sea. For a full programme and booking form visit the Kent Archaeological Society’s website.

24 January 2015: There are only a few places left for the fifth ‘New Insights into sixteenth- and seventeenth-century British Architecture’ conference, to be held at the Society of Antiquaries. Speakers include Fellows Malcolm Airs and Simon Jervis. Further information is available from Fellows Claire Gapper and Paula Henderson.

11 and 12 February 2015: 'Digital Past 2015: New technologies in heritage, interpretation and outreach', Brangwyn Hall, The Guildhall, Swansea. Organised by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, Digital Past is an annual two-day conference which showcases innovative digital technologies and promotes learning, discussion and debate around a range of digital technologies for recording and understanding the historic environment. The themes for this year are ‘Visual Heritage’ and ‘Digital Public and Community Archaeology’. For information on speakers and the programme, please go to the Digital Past 2015 blog.

From 5 January 2015: Silver Society Courses. For the fifth year running, the Silver Society is hosting a series of six evening seminars that will together cover the history of English silver from the sixteenth century to the present day. Each Monday evening seminar will include two 45-minute illustrated lectures, with a break for informal discussion over a glass of wine, at the Goldsmiths’ Centre, in Clerkenwell, plus tutored handling sessions exploring aspects of silversmithing techniques and connoisseurship. For further information, please contact Lucy Morton.

Picturesque Chester: The City in Art

Watercolour by Thomas Shotter Boys (1803–1874) of 'Watergate Row South, Chester'

This new exhibition at Chester’s Grosvenor Museum (to 22 February 2015) celebrates the city’s rich architectural heritage and the distinctive visual identity of the world-famous Rows, Chester’s unique two-storey shopping streets. The Roman and medieval city walls are among the most complete in England, with a handsome array of gateways and towers. They form a two-mile circuit enclosing the majestic Gothic cathedral and the monumental Greek Revival castle. These are set within the context of an exceptional streetscape, with charming Tudor and Stuart half-timbered houses and the spectacular buildings of the Victorian and Edwardian black-and-white revival.

Watercolour by John Skinner Prout (1806―76) of 'Stanley Palace, Watergate Street, Chester' (c 1845)

All this has inspired artists for centuries, and the Grosvenor Museum has built a remarkably comprehensive collection of images of the city, from which this exhibition has been formed. The exhibition is accompanied by a lavishly illustrated book, Picturesque Chester: the city in art, by our Fellow Peter Boughton, the museum’s Keeper of Art. For further information and for the programme of accompanying events, see the museum’s web pages.

Call for papers: Imaging the Public Square

This international art historical conference organised by the collaborators of the ‘Piazza e Monumento’ project will take place on 22 to 24 October 2015 at the Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz / Max-Planck-Institut. The principal themes of the conference are: the public square in architectural drawings and the planning process; artistic representations of the city square; scholarly research on the square and the city; media representations of the square. Proposals (max 300 words) for 25-minute papers in German, English or Italian should be sent with a brief CV to Dr Brigitte Sölch and Dr Stephanie Hanke by 15 January 2015.

Gresham College lectures on London Archaeology

In conjunction with the City of London Archaeological Trust and MOLA, Gresham College recently hosted a series of lectures on London archaeology. Videos of the lectures are now online; they include Fellow Lyn Blackmore on ‘London in the not-so-Dark Ages’, Fellow Nathalie Cohen on ‘Vanishing archaeology: the Greenwich foreshore’ and Fellow John Schofield on ‘The archaeology of St Paul’s Cathedral’.

Petty’s Run Archaeological Site online

Fellow Ian Burrow says that the three-volume report that he co-authored with Richard W Hunter on Petty’s Run Archaeological Site: Iron, Steel, Cotton and Paper in Historic Trenton has been published as a free download. The volumes describe extensive archaeological and historical research on a large, deeply buried, multi-phase industrial and urban site in Trenton, New Jersey. Among the significant results of the work was the discovery and elucidation of the remains of a cementation steel furnace built in the 1740s: one of a handful known to have existed in the American colonies, and the only one to have been archaeologically excavated.

The study makes a major contribution to eighteenth- and nineteenth-century urban archaeology, and its publication on the web means that it can be widely available instead of remaining as ‘grey literature’. The site itself has been conserved and is now permanently displayed and interpreted by the State of New Jersey.

Beast, Birds and Gods

To coincide with the opening of the new Staffordshire Hoard Gallery at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (shown above), Fellows Chris Fern and George Speake have written and illustrated a booklet looking at the ornamentation of a range of key items from the hoard. The primary aim of the booklet, says George, ‘is to help the public decode the animal art and provide possible interpretations for the ornament’. He adds that it is ‘no more than an hors d’oeuvre’ for a more substantial work in preparation.

Small it may be, but the booklet packs in a huge amount of information and is cleverly illustrated with analytical drawings alongside the objects themselves, revealing the animals, serpents and dragons, birds, fish and mythical beats and deities woven into the complex geometrical patterns of sword fittings, mounts and helmet panels of the hoard. The authors point to the ‘Anglo-Saxon delight in visual riddles, deliberate ambiguity and conundrums ... deliberate concealment was possibly intended to restrict knowledge of the sacred, protective and symbolic meaning of the art to an elite warrior class’.

Beast, Birds and Gods: interpreting the Staffordshire Hoard, by Chris Fern and George Speake; ISBN 9781905036202; West Midlands History Limited, 2014


Salon’s editor came away from this year’s Viking exhibition at the British Museum wanting to know more about Viking domestic life, crafts and agriculture; wanting to know more, in other words, about those people other than warriors and pirates, the ordinary people of the Viking Age. This book goes a long way to answering some of those questions, though the site on which it reports ― the Danish Viking Age fortress and settlement at Aggersborg ― could not be described as ‘ordinary’ in any sense. Built by the politically ambitious and powerful king Harald Bluetooth in the 970s, it is the largest fortress in the Viking world, constructed to a geometrical plan at a nodal point in Danish history, as Harald set out to increase royal control over his kingdom's resources.

The fortress did, however, overlie the remains of an exceptionally well-preserved settlement founded around AD 800, so this book, edited by Fellow Else Roesdahl, Søren Sindbæk, Anne Pedersen and Fellow David Wilson, explores both to give insights into the high-status and more day-to-day material culture of the age.

As well as some of the best excavated and most complete houses ever excavated in Denmark, the site had some 150 sunken-featured buildings, and while archaeologists continue to debate what these were for, the authors of this volume are happy to describe them not as dwellings but as activity spaces, largely used for textile processing. The finds from the settlement ranged from domestically produced brooches, keys, locks, combs and dress accessories, weapons, riding gear, agricultural and fishing equipment, spindles and loom weights, and imported pottery, glass, coins, querns and jewellery from the Baltic region, the British Isles and Norway.

This earlier settlement was deliberately destroyed by fire to make way for the new fortress. This consisted of forty-eight identical houses set within a circular rampart, laid out in groups of four houses, each group surrounding a courtyard, with strict regard for symmetry.

Tree-ring dating shows the houses were constructed around the 970s as perhaps the earliest, and certainly as the largest, of a series of five similar fortresses, named Trelleborg-type after the first one to be excavated (in 1934). The authors suggest that they were part of a wave of defended sites being built in northern Europe for storing military provisions and as barracks for men fulfilling their obligation for military service. Supplying and manning them implies a system of taxation and military service that goes with a strong and effective ruler.

They were probably built in response to threats to Denmark from Otto II, the German emperor, who died in AD 983 and was succeeded by a three-year-old. As the German threat diminished, so perhaps did Danish tolerance of the tax and manpower demands made upon them by the king, and most of these fortresses were eventually abandoned and left to decay.

Aggersborg, however, continued in use longer than the others; the finds suggest this was because it also had some function in the political and trading relations between Denmark and Norway. In 1086 it was recorded as being the seat of the king’s tax collectors and royal ownership can be traced through to at least 1574, making it, with Jelling, the only other site whose royal history can be traced over so many centuries. Needless to say, the report does full justice to this unusual site, not least through the outstanding quality of its figures and the thoroughness of the specialist reports.

Aggersborg: the Viking Age settlement and fortress, edited by Else Roesdahl, Søren Sindbæk, Anne Pedersen and David Wilson; ISBN 9788788415872; Jutland Archaeological Society and the National Museum of Denmark, 2014


CBA: Local Heritage Co-ordinator
Salary £26,000; closing date: 28 November 2014

This is an opportunity for an enthusiastic and engaging communicator with excellent influencing and negotiating skills to play a significant role in supporting the protection of the UK’s historic environment through community engagement and direct action. The postholder will develop a UK-wide network of local advocates for the historic environment and local authority archaeology services. Focusing initially on England, the aim is that the network should be self-supporting at local level, and feed wider issues up to the CBA for national support, advocacy and action.

For further details, see the CBA website.

School of Archaeology, University of Oxford: Endangered Archaeology Research Posts
Postdoctoral Research Assistant (vacancy ID: 115645): salary range £30,434 to £37,394
Postdoctoral IT and GIS Research Officer (vacancy ID: 115796): salary range £30,434 to £37,394
Research Assistant (Image Interpreter) (vacancy ID: 115646): salary range £27,057 to £32,277
Closing date: 8 December 2014

Endangered Archaeology is a new project supported by the Arcadia Fund and led by the University of Oxford in collaboration with the University of Leicester. The aim of the project, covering the Middle East and North Africa (from Mauretania to Iran), is to search for and record significant archaeological sites, using satellite imagery and aerial photography, to aid understanding for their future protection and management. To apply, visit the Oxford University jobs website and search using the vacancy ID. For an informal discussion, please contact Fellows Robert Bewley or Andrew Wilson.

Propose a lecture or seminar

Please email Renée LaDue, the Society's Communications Officer if you are interested in giving a lecture at one of the Society's Ordinary Meetings (Thursday evenings at 5pm) or as part of our Public Lecture series (occasional Tuesday afternoons at 1pm).

We welcome papers based on new research on themes related to the Society's field of interest: the study of the material past.

You can view our current lecture programme in the Events section of our website.

Fellows are also encouraged to propose topics or themes for conferences or seminars that bring scholars and professionals from a variety of disciplines together to explain, discuss and debate our material culture. Please email Renée LaDue, the Society's Communications Officer, if you are interested in helping us organise such an event.


Follow the Society of Antiquaries on Twitter for news and event updates: @SocAntiquaries

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