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Salon: Issue 325
1 September 2014

Next issue: 22 September 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

Forthcoming meetings

Unless stated otherwise, tea is served from 4.15pm and meetings start at 5pm.

9 September 2014, lunchtime public lecture (1pm to 2pm): ‘Richard III: the resolution of a mystery’. Dr Turi King, the geneticist at the University of Leicester who, with Paul Brotherton, carried out the work on the DNA retrieval and sequencing that contributed to the identification of Richard III’s remains, will talk about her involvement in the Richard III project, focusing on the DNA analysis.

2 October 2014: ‘Romancing Saltwood Castle’, by Peter Rumley, FSA. At face value, Saltwood Castle has all the attributes of a classic medieval defensive castle; in fact it was a private residence for most of its history, ownership oscillating between Church and Crown until the Dissolution, since when it has been in secular hands. This paper sets out the history of this little-known but first-rank ancient monument, reveals the ways in which later inhabitants romanticised the castle and speculates on its origins as a lost royal residence.

9 October 2014: ‘“Not bad for a provincial museum”: researching the history of the Fitzwilliam Museum’, by Lucilla Burn, FSA. Founded in 1816 by the will of Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge will celebrate its bicentenary in 2016. Today’s museum is the product of evolving ideas about the function of museums and galleries, within the context of the University of Cambridge and more widely, and of the characters, personalities and ambitions of successive directors, staff, Syndics and benefactors. This paper will explore how the Fitzwilliam reached its current form, and ask where it is it going next (see also ‘Fitzwilliam portico restoration’ report below).

16 October 2014: ‘Rendlesham rediscovered: an East Anglian royal settlement of the time of Sutton Hoo’, by Christopher Scull, FSA, and Jude Plouviez, FSA. Fieldwork on arable land at Rendlesham, Suffolk, has identified an elite settlement complex of the sixth to eight centuries covering c 50ha which may be identified confidently with the Anglo-Saxon royal establishment recorded by Bede in a context of AD 655 x 664. There is evidence too for antecedent prehistoric and Romano-British activity, including a significant late Roman presence, and for activity through the Middle Ages to the present day. More than 3,000 finds have been retrieved by systematic metal-detecting, and their context established by magnetometry and targeted field evaluation. This paper presents the background to the survey, summarises current results and their interpretation, and considers the wider applicability of the approach and methods employed.

23 October 2014: ‘Painting, practice and purpose: the “Making Art in Tudor Britain” project at the National Portrait Gallery’, by Tarnya Cooper, FSA, and Charlotte Bolland. The National Portrait Gallery has recently completed a seven-year collaborative research project, combining technical analysis with new art historical and archival research, to discover more about artistic practices in sixteenth-century Britain. This paper will discuss some of the findings of new research on key Tudor paintings and will also introduce the NPG exhibition, The Real Tudors: Kings and Queens Rediscovered (12 September 2014 to 1 March 2015), to which our Society is lending several works, including Hans Eworth’s portrait of Mary I.

Antiquaries Journal Volume 94

Volume 94 of the Antiquaries Journal will be posted out to Fellows and subscribers shortly, but all the papers and a bumper crop of book reviews can be accessed already in digital form on the Cambridge Journals website (Fellows can gain free access via their Athens account, or by logging in to the Fellows’ area of the Society’s website and selecting ‘Library Resources’).

Salon 320 previewed the first four papers. In this second batch, Fellow Dirk Brandherm and Magdalena Moskal-del Hoyo take a fresh look at carp’s-tongue swords, a feature of Atlantic Late Bronze Age metalwork depositions, and present a new typo-chronology for British and French assemblages. Matthew Austin casts serious doubts on the existence of an ‘early Anglo-Saxon cemetery’ at Hardown Hill, Dorset, with implications for the idea of seventh-century Saxon expansion into Wessex. Fellow Malcolm Thurlby looks at architectural developments in Romanesque architecture in north-east England in the 1080s and early 1090s, especially at York Minster, St Mary’s Abbey, York, and allied churches, and argues that they influenced the master mason at the abbey church of Lessay (Manche). In examining the illuminations at the start of the French version of the Douce Apocalypse, Fellow Paul Binski identifies an artist with links to Oxford and argues that though Henry III was the original patron, the manuscript was given to the Lord Edward or Eleanor of Castile, who are shown in the opening initial, before about 1270.

Fellow Nicholas Cooper surveyed Sutton Place, Surrey, while the house was being repaired in 1993, and his examination of the evidence leads him to conclude that the house is not, as architectural textbooks suggest, a precocious and little altered building of the early English Renaissance, but the product of remodelling in the early eighteenth century, incorporating terracotta detail of c 1525—30. Manolo Guerci follows up his earlier paper on the building of Northumberland House, on the Strand, between 1605 and 1614 with an examination of its subsequent history, shedding new light on the debate about the development of architecture during the English Civil War.

Fellow Julian Munby’s paper on Sir Joseph Banks and Tattershall Castle identifies a hitherto unknown surveyor who deserves belated recognition for his pioneering efforts in recording a building that was to become a cause célèbre of the conservation movement when, threatened with the loss of its medieval fireplaces, Lord Curzon of Kedleston bought and restored the building. Finally Sara Perry and Fellow Matthew Johnson consider the role of drawings in the transmission of knowledge about the past, through their analysis of the working practices of Alan Sorrell, throwing new light on Sorrell’s career and achievements and on the intellectual and professional development of archaeology as a whole in the mid-twentieth century.

Forty years of ‘the glory and the agony’ of the country house

It is forty years since our Fellow Sir Roy Strong, then Director of the V&A, decided that enough was enough and that the wholesale destruction of historic country houses all over the UK had to stop. Sir Roy invited Fellows John Harris, Marcus Binney and Peter Thornton to mount an exhibition drawing attention to the post-war demolition of country houses which famously opened with a collapsing wall, each ashlar block of which bore a photograph of a lost architectural gem. A year later, SAVE Britain’s Heritage was born and since then SAVE has been directly and indirectly involved with saving a large number of country houses throughout the country, not to mention both Covent Garden and now Smithfield.

To celebrate the anniversary, the V&A has invited Marcus Binney to mount a new display (13 September to 27 October 2014) on the theme of the ‘Country House, Past, Present and Future’. This echoes the original exhibition’s ‘Hall of Destruction’, presenting a cascade of the finest lost country houses, but contrasts this with the story of the many other houses rescued from demolition and decay and adapted to sympathetic new uses. Artist and filmmaker Vanessa Jane Hall has also created an audio-visual work entitled ‘Breathless Beauty, Broken Beauty’, which ‘takes the observer on an atmospheric journey exploring the glory and the agony of the English country house’.

SAVE friends and supporters are invited to attend a preview on 12 September 2014 between 6pm and 10pm, and there is to be a free drop-in seminar in the Lydia and Manfred Gorvy Lecture Theatre at the V&A on 15 September from 10.30am to 12.30pm in which Marcus Binney will talk about forty years of fighting for the country house, Clem Cecil will speak about SAVE’s battle for Smithfield, William Palin will look at historic buildings at risk in east London and Jonathan Brown will talk about SAVE’s campaigns in Liverpool.

On 15 November 2014 the V&A will host a study day on ‘The Destruction of the Country House, Forty Years On’ in which our Fellows Sir Roy Strong, John Harris, Simon Jervis, Marcus Binney, John Goodall and Tim Knox will discuss the 1974 exhibition and its background, fighting for the country house in the period 1975 to 2014 and future challenges.

Hambledon Hill acquired by the National Trust

The latest property to join the National Trust portfolio is Hambledon Hill, in Dorset, the site of major excavations directed by our Fellow Roger Mercer between 1974 and 1986, the results of which were published by English Heritage in 2008. Roger uncovered extensive evidence of Neolithic activity, but more easily identified on the ground today are the banks and ditches of an Iron Age hillfort.

The hill is also an important wildlife habitat, home to brown hares, glow worms, early gentians (Gentianella anglica) and twenty-eight species of butterfly, including the rare Adonis Blue. The purchase was funded by a grant from Natural England and with money from a legacy. The Trust now owns seven hillfort sites in Dorset, including the nearby Hod Hill, as well as Badbury Rings, Lamberts Castle and Pilsdon Pen.

Was the Battle of Badon fought near Swindon?

Another major hillfort, this time Ringsbury Camp, in the parish of Purton, some 5 miles east of Swindon, is being proposed as a possible site for the Battle of Badon, or Mons Badonicus, which Gildas says was decisive in halting the westward march of hostile Saxon migrants around AD 490 (though an alternative reading of the crucial passage in Gildas suggests that the battle that took place there was part of a civil war for supremacy in southern England, rather than a conflict between British and Saxon combatants). Various suggestions have been made over the centuries for the location of the battle, including Liddington Castle (aka Badbury Castle, near Badbury, 7 miles north of Marlborough, Wilts), Badbury Rings, in Dorset and Little Solsbury Hill, near Bath.

Fellow Andrew Breeze, in a forthcoming paper called ‘Arthur’s Battle of Badon and Braydon Forest, Wiltshire’, to be published in the Journal of Literary Onomastics, says that all of these suggestions are wrong, because the form ‘Badon’ is corrupt: ‘nobody has ever been able to explain it’, he writes, ‘even though it must be a British Celtic name’. He argues that ‘Mons Badonicus’ is an early error for Mons Bradonicus or Mount Braydon, a reference to Braydon Forest. If so, the best candidate for the battle site is Ringsbury Camp: ‘it is situated not far from the Roman road from Winchester to Cirencester, and is the natural place where an attack of West Saxons on the Britons of Cirencester (long the capital of Celtic Britain) might be defeated’, Andrew concludes.

Richard III’s diet

A paper has just been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science presenting the results of multi-isotope analysis carried out on samples from Richard III’s remains by Angela Lamb, Jane Evans, Fellow Richard Buckley and Jo Appleby. The paper shows how far such analytical techniques have advanced. Not only can tooth dentine now be analysed to give a ‘time transgressive picture of childhood conditions’, bone collagen samples can also be used to give an idea of the average adult diet and, even more precisely, the most recent diet of the individual, as indicated by isotope ratios in bones that regularly regenerate, such as the rib cage.

In the case of Richard III (1452—83), the story is even more interesting in that we have a certain amount of biographical information to provide a context for the results. In part, the results confirm what we know — the oxygen and strontium isotopes from fluids ingested as a child and reflecting the geology of the water source are consistent with Richard’s known origins in Northamptonshire but then suggest that he had moved out of eastern England by the age of seven to reside further west, possibly in the Welsh Marches — records show that he was residing at Ludlow Castle in 1459.

The advantage of dealing with a known individual is evident in the finding from the rib bone of a significant increase in Richard III’s oxygen isotope composition in the last few years of his life. If this had been an unknown medieval individual, the data would suggest that he had migrated to a different region in the last few years of his life, but we know this is not true in the case of Richard III, whose movements between 1483 and 1485 are documented in great detail: of the twenty-six months he was king, he spent ten months in London and the majority of the remaining time in Yorkshire and the cities of central and eastern England. The authors say that beer and food consumption could not account for such a rise; instead they point the finger at grape juice in the form of wine. Lacking medieval wines to test, they analysed four modern French wines and conclude that the consumption of about a bottle a day would lead to the raised oxygen signature. This, they say, has wider implications for isotope-based archaeology: higher oxygen could mean more wine, not a change of residence.

The authors also think that Richard III’s diet, already rich in protein and typical of the aristocracy and the upper clergy of the day, became richer still following his coronation. They note that Richard III’s coronation banquet was particularly long and elaborate and that in the subsequent royal progress ‘he is likely to have been treated to elaborate banquets at each accommodating household’.

In reporting the results, the media seemed unable to decide what this said about the personality of Richard III: most ended up with the politically correct message that Richard III’s diet — snacking on endangered wildfowl and hitting the bottle — was evidence of egregious excess, and that this, rather than his spinal condition, was his nemesis, setting ‘limits to his physical fitness’ without which, who knows, the outcome of Bosworth might have been different.

Bits of Stonehenge

Another subject that never seems to wane in media popularity is that of Stonehenge and the origin of its component stones. Fellows Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins have published several articles in recent weeks explaining their work analysing the thousands of lithic samples collected at Stonehenge from recent and historic excavations. In British Archaeology, they explain how their work began in the 1980s as part of the team working with our late Fellow Richard Thorpe to compare the geochemistry of the Stonehenge bluestones and data from the Preseli hills of Pembrokeshire. The breakthrough came with their development of a robust method of identifying the unique signature of specific rock outcrops.

Reporting on their results so far, Ixer and Bevins say that, in the absence of permission to take new samples from the bluestone orthostats, they have to work mainly with debitage, and they have to make assumptions about which orthostats this material came from. Despite this constraint, they have been able to pin down the sources of fourteen orthostats out of sixty, and seven come from a single outcrop — Carn Goedog — while others come from Craig Rhos-yfelin, both of them on the northern slopes of the Preselis, facing the Irish Sea. In matching debitage to orthostats, they have also observed that there is remarkably little debitage from some orthostats — what little there is coming from late or disturbed contexts, suggesting post-prehistoric breakage. In other words, the evidence increasingly suggests that there was very little in situ stone dressing, which must have taken place elsewhere.

With all this focus on identifying Preseli quarries, the authors say that it is just as important to identify the source for those stones that do not have a proven Pembrokeshire origin: they single out the Altar Stone — the biggest and most unusual of the bluestones — which they describe as a Devonian calcareous cornstone, showing much white mica, that ‘could be from anywhere in a large tract of south Wales and Herefordshire’. They speculate that it is not coincidental that the Ring of Brodgar and the Stones of Stenness, in Orkney, have a similar geology, and they ask could the Altar Stone be a deliberate reference to the Orkney monuments, and ‘could the beautiful gneiss macehead found at Stonehenge, if the gneiss is Lewisian Gneiss which is quite possible, be a reminder of the spectacular Callanish Lewisian Gneiss stone circles?’ An intriguing thought!

The last days of Silchester

While Rob Ixer and Richard Bevins say that they are just at the start of their work and that ‘more surprises are expected’, Fellow Mike Fulford has come to the end — at least of the fieldwork stage — of the long-running Silchester project. Writing about the final season in The Guardian, Fellow Maev Kennedy reports on an unusually literate piece of graffiti on the shower-block wall at the digger’s campsite: ‘omnibus rebus bonis finis est’, it says (‘all good things come to an end’).

The complete excavation of Insula IX has reached gravel and natural geology forty years after the project began. Some 4,500 archaeology students from across the world have taken part. They have also created a spoil heap estimated at 6,000 tonnes, which by now will have been backfilled into the site.

The final season has not been all goodbyes. Writing in The Times, Fellow Norman Hammond reports that the site continued to yield surprises right to the last minute, including the outline of one of the largest prehistoric halls ever found in Britain, measuring 50m by 8m. Mike Fulford is quoted as saying that ‘the building probably served as the dwelling of the “big man” and his family, a focal point for feasting, and the assembly point for his supporters ... the closest parallels are in the Netherlands, Belgium and northern France: on the continent these long halls are described as “house-stables”, and it is possible that our hall also housed domestic animals’.

Another of this year’s finds has been a well, still in use when the Roman annexation of Calleva occurred in about AD 44. The well contains waterlogged plant remains and seeds, which ‘will provide remarkable illumination on environment and diet in Calleva at the time of the invasion’, and discarded pieces of Roman military equipment. Most evocative is the bronze folding handle for a skillet, a portable cooking pot that the Emperor Claudius’s legionaries would have carried on their rapid march of conquest across England. It points, Professor Fulford said, ‘to a probably short-lived military occupation of Calleva after AD 44’.

As for why Silchester was abandoned in the sixth century, Mike Fulford says: ‘I suspect it was squeezed out between the rise of the rival kingdoms of Mercia and Wessex, but why was the site never re-used? I don't know. It remains a mystery.’ That and other similar enigmas will now undoubtedly occupy Mike for many years as he embarks on the huge task of writing up.

Whicker’s World

Fellow Christine Finn has been applying her archaeological eye and mind to a more modern monument: Le Chemin d’Olivet, the Jersey home of the late Alan Whicker, which has gone on the market with Savills with a guide price of just under £5m. Writing about the house in the Sunday Times, Christine finds that there are surprisingly few souvenirs of Whicker’s travels, apart from a block of wood from Easter Island ‘with mysterious hieroglyphics’ and a basket brim full of match books.

The Savills brochure is unusually eloquent, including as it does the words of Wicker himself at his most lyrical: ‘Here one feels close to the seasons, each natural phase becomes a personal event and the daily sight of a wide expanse of water as it changes from turbulent to turquoise brings balance and serenity, balm to the soul.’ As well as spectacular views, and a quietness so intense that some of Whicker’s guests complained they could not sleep as it was too silent, anyone who purchases the house will acquire a garden gate of iron wrought into the shape of the familiar globe symbol of ‘Whicker's World’.

Fitzwilliam’s portico restored

The Art Newspaper reports that the Fitzwilliam has been spruced up for its bicentenary. Straight from managing the £6m restoration of Sir John’s Soane’s Museum in London, our Fellow Tim Knox, now the Fitzwilliam’s Director, has turned to a building by one of Soane’s star pupils, George Basevi (1794—1845), who designed the museum’s splendid 1848 portico. The plaster coffering inside the portico has been renewed, and the railings, painted black for as long as anyone alive can remember, have been returned to their original green and gold.


Coins and caryatids: two firsts

The Citi Money Gallery at the British Museum has a small but significant temporary exhibition concerning what might be the first documented coin hoard to be found in Britain: some eighty Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Scandinavian and continental coins, thought to have been buried in AD 910—15, and discovered on 8 April 1611.

The story of the discovery is remarkable and is told through documents and objects loaned to the museum by descendants of William Blundell, the man on whose land at Little Crosby, Lancashire, the coins were found. Blundell decided to build a secret chapel and cemetery on his land for the burial of fellow Catholics when, in the wake of the Gunpowder Plot of 1605, anti-Catholic feeling was at its height. The coin hoard was found by one of Blundell’s employees while digging a grave. Blundell was clearly fascinated by the find and perhaps saw it as some sort of divine endorsement for his burial ground, especially as nearly all of the coins bore the symbol of a cross and one coin, that of Louis the Pious (778—840), bore the legend ‘Christiana religio’.

Since none of the coins survive, how do we know any of this? Because Blundell made a comprehensive record of his find in the form of a notebook in which he recorded the obverse and reverse of every coin with such accuracy that British Museum curator Gareth Williams has been able to identify coins in the BM’s collections that may have been struck from the same die as some of the coins in the hoard. Blundell went further still, celebrating his find by commissioning a copper-plate engraving, with thirty-five of the coins arrayed within a cruciform frame, again giving a religious significance to the find.

Fellow Dora Thornton, who with Gareth Williams has mounted the display, says that this is one of the first examples of numismatic study in Britain, dating from a time when the historical value of coins was only just beginning to be appreciated by William Camden, and when Anglo-Scandinavian history was almost a blank page. Being a good Catholic, Blundell melted the coins down and turned them into a chalice and pyx for use in his chapel. The chalice disappeared, but the pyx remained in the family, along with the notebook and copper plate (itself a very rare artefact at this date), where they can now be seen at the museum, along with a short video telling the story.

Another example of treasured family heirlooms coming to light after many decades comes in the form of a set of architectural drawings that were recently transferred to the British Library by the descendants of Frederick North, in lieu of inheritance tax. Writing about the drawings in the Burlington Magazine (CLVI, July 2014, 445—52), Fellow Paul Hetherington and Jane Bradney say that they were drawn up by John Nash for a never-built townhouse that would have stood at the southern end of Nash’s Regent Street scheme, approximately where Nos 8 and 9 Waterloo Place stand today.

This is a highly visible and significant site and something imposing would have been required — and that is exactly what Nash designed, no doubt in consultation with his patron, Frederick North, who was a noted philhellene. Nash’s drawings show an imposing two-storey frontage with four caryatids, defined by the authors of the article as ‘approximately life-size standing robed female figures ... integrated into the facade of the building with the specific columnar function of supporting with their heads an architectural feature, such as a portico'. As such, they would have been the first example in Britain of caryatid use, if the project had been brought to fruition. Instead, that honour goes to St Pancras New Church, built a few years later in 1819—22 to the designs of William and Henry William Inwood.’

News of Fellows

Congratulations to our Fellow Matthew Spriggs, Secretary of the Australasian branch of our Society, on entering the ranks of research multi-millionaires as a result of the award of one of sixteen Australian Research Council Laureate Professorships by the Australian Minister of Education, Chris Pyne. The 2.4 million Australian dollar grant (£1.35m) over five years will allow Matthew to establish a research team investigating the history of Pacific archaeology which should then carry on and expand into a Centre for the Study of the History of Pacific, Australian and Asian Archaeology.

Matthew will soon be advertising for two five-year postdoctoral fellows to investigate the under-appreciated contribution of French and German language scholars to the subject, and three PhD scholarships to undertake research on Papua New Guinea, on the history of the idea of trans-Pacific contact with the Americas, and to apply modern scientific techniques (XRF, AMS, etc) to early museum collections to reinterpret previous findings within current methodologies and knowledge. Expressions of interest in these positions ahead of their advertisement can be sent to Matthew.

The project will be based at the Australian National University (ANU) and will commence early in 2015. For further information see the ANU website.

Lives remembered

Fellow Catherine Johns has informed us that her husband, Fellow Donald Bailey, died on 15 August 2014, at the age of eighty-three. Catherine says that he was able to finish the report on the pottery from field-survey work conducted by Cornelia Römer in the Fayum before illness struck him down and that the book is now in the press. As one of the world’s foremost scholars of Roman ceramics, Don Bailey’s bibliography runs to more than 220 works; everyone who studies the pottery of the classical world owes him a tremendous debt.


The report in Salon 324 on the demolition of three of the six cooling towers at Didcot Power Station continues to engender a lively correspondence. Roger Bowdler, Head of Designation at English Heritage (and therefore ultimately responsible for advising the Heritage Minister on listing recommendations), reminds us that Fellow Malcolm Airs was not the only champion of Didcot’s sculptural forms: ‘Marina Warner made a jolly plea for them in a 1980s BBC2 programme called “Building Sites”’. ‘But for me’, adds Roger, ‘as soon as the steam disappeared they became drear blobs.’

Another Fellow who sits with Malcolm on the English Heritage Advisory Committee points out that the Committee does not itself have the power to list buildings; it can only give advice to English Heritage. ‘In the case of Didcot Power Station’, he says, ‘the Committee was asked to advise on an application from the owners for a Certificate of Immunity from Listing. As the subsequent demolition confirms, the Committee agreed with English Heritage’s recommendation that such a Certificate should be issued, but only after having given full consideration to a very detailed report on all the surviving power stations in England with such cooling towers with a view to establishing which should be targeted as the most significant for historic preservation. Didcot was not among them for a number of reasons — including the lack of certainty that Henry Moore did actually play any material part in the design.’

For those who are interested in following this further, there is a detailed history of hyperbolic cooling towers — such a symbol of the coal-fired power industry — on the English Heritage website. From this we learn that the first such cooling tower was built at Emma Colliery, Limburg, The Netherlands, in 1918. Had it not been demolished in 1985, we would soon be marking its centenary. The first tower of this kind in the UK was built for Lister Drive Power Station, Liverpool, in 1925 (demolished 1972) and some 150 such towers were built in the UK in the 1920s and 1930s. Didcot perhaps attracts our attention because, being mindful of the impact of the power station on the landscape of the Vale of the White Horse, the Central Electricity Generating Board was, as Didcot’s architect, Frederick Gibberd put it, willing to ‘spend money on this intangible thing called aesthetics’.

All agree that Roger Wagner’s depiction of the towers in his painting Menora, in the Lady Chapel of St Giles Church, Oxford, is a fitting memorial; and Malcolm Airs has sent us this poignant photograph of the newly refurbished Haseley windmill contrasting two forms of energy generation. Malcolm says that the picture ‘was taken on the evening before the cooling towers were demolished when I made a pilgrimage as far as I could bear to go up Wittenham Clumps. If your eyes are sharp enough you might just make out the power station in the far distance to the right of the windmill. By a happy coincidence both the Clumps and the windmill are owned by trusts set up by Sir Martin Wood.’

Fellow Robert Harding has responded to Salon’s report on the recently cleaned Royal Artillery monument at Marble Arch to say that he passes the monument regularly on his way to work and has observed from the upper deck of the bus that maintaining the memorial in pristine condition is a constant battle because overhanging plane trees and traffic fumes cause damage to the bronze sculpture and stone reliefs. The trees in particular invite algae, leading to repeated cleaning and to the erosion of the limestone, while the roots are pushing up the structure. Staff at English Heritage are aware of the problem (indeed, there is a reference to the damage in the war memorials archive maintained by the Imperial War Museum and they are working with Westminster Council to find a solution.

Another topic to capture the attention of Salon readers was that modest but now highly charged poem, Adlestrop, by Edward Thomas, that has come to symbolise the peace that was shattered by the outbreak of war in 1914. Fellow Jonathan MacKechnie-Jarvis has worked out from Thomas’s diary that Thomas must have been on the 10.20 service from Paddington to Hereford and Kidderminster via Oxford, due to call at Adlestrop at 12.48. ‘If so, it was not an express train, nor did it stop “unwontedly”, which we must put down to poetic licence. Thomas records the time as being 12.45 when the train stopped at Adlestrop, so the train was three minutes early and thus waiting time: the perfect formula for an idyllic rural hiatus. However, Thomas was clearly not a locomotive student, because at a scheduled stop, the engine was most unlikely to be, in his words, “letting off steam” (ie by allowing the safety valves to lift). In the circumstances this would have constituted mismanagement of the boiler by the fireman.

‘The hissing sound that Thomas noted would have been mainly caused by the engine’s blower, used at each stop to avoid emission of smoke and to keep the fire bright while the engine was stationary. Applied lightly, which is all that was required, this would make a soft hissing, quintessentially the soothing sound of a train standing at a country station, and entirely different in character from the roar of “letting off steam”, which is avoided at all costs. That might have happened had the train really been an express stopped out of course, but this it seems was not the case.’

Fellow Caroline Malone has written in response to Salon’s report on her research in Malta to say how critical to the success of the project was the series of small fieldwork grants that our Society gave to the project in the early days. The project, she says, ‘is a continuation of a twenty-six-year long collaboration that began in 1987, and that eventually led to a major European Research Council grant (no less than €2.49m was awarded to our team) focusing on the impact of environmental change on the emergence of a small island civilisation. It is a coup in many ways, since these large grants are rarely awarded for projects that move outside the science lab, and also because it is the first time Malta has been included in one of these FP7 grants. Among those involved in the ERC project are Fellows Anthony Bonanno and Reuben Grima from Malta, as well as Nicola Whitehouse (University of Plymouth), Chris Hunt and Finbar McCormick (Queen’s University Belfast) and many other scholars.

‘However, a most important point to make is the role that the Society of Antiquaries played in enabling this ERC grant to be bid for and won. Over the period 1987—95, when we were working in Gozo on the Brochtorff Xaghra Circle, small fieldwork/research grants from the Society provided the vital means to raise enough funding to get the project off the ground. In those days, grants from the Society of £2,000 to £3,000 a year made up a large part of the British budget of about £6,000 a year that funded much of the logistics for the fieldwork — with additional support from the McDonald Institute in Cambridge, the Prehistoric Society, the museums department of Malta, sponsorship from Air Malta and the voluntary contributions of twenty enthusiastic young students. The results, over the many years of research, proved to be of very great significance and have stimulated debate and public interest since. On the back of that, the ERC was able to award its grant.

‘These days, the small-scale funding that we receive is ery difficult to get, and is far less available to the next generation of aspiring field researchers across the discipline of archaeology. Grants from the ERC and the major British funding councils are “all or nothing” and it is very difficult for younger researchers to get started, let alone develop collaborative fieldwork that makes a long-term difference. Without the Society and the period and specialist archaeological societies, nothing would happen. Hence my plea to the Society to ensure that those precious fieldwork/research funds remain a central part of the Society's programme, continuing to “get the ball rolling” for research in the field.’

Fellow Hugh Cheape was struck by the theme of the forthcoming public lecture to be given on 28 October 2014 by our Fellow Neil Jackson, Professor of Architecture at the University of Liverpool, on ‘Mackintosh, Muthesius and Japan’. Not only is the lecture highly topical, given the fire that recently damaged the Glasgow School of Art, it also reminded Hugh ‘of that complex of shifting fashions in fin-de-siècle Europe in which Charles Rennie Macintosh delighted, the Aesthetic Movement and the espousal of Japanese styles and the lovely comment by a Scot at the turn of the century that Glasgow had become “a very Tokyo for tea-rooms”.’

Salon’s reference to the magnificent group of fourteen seaside piers designed by Eugenius Birch prompted Fellow Julian Litten to write reminding us that there was ‘a fifteenth, albeit mythical, pier designed by Eugenius Birch, that at Frambourne-on-Sea, “somewhere on the south coast”, invented by Harold Snoad and Michael Knowles in 1983 for their BBC Radio comedy series ‘It Sticks Out Half a Mile’. Frambourne-on-Sea was, of course, the home of ‘Dad’s Army’, and the series starred some of the actors from that popular and much-repeated series, including former ARP Warden Bert Hodges and Private “Stupid Boy” Pike as the pier’s new owners and Home Guard Sergeant Wilson (played by John Le Mesurier) as the bank manager who lends them the £5,000 required to purchase it. The series lasted for one series of thirteen episodes, ending with the death of John Le Mesurier in 1984.’

And not a million miles from ‘Dad’s Army’ is Fellow Charles Trollope’s feedback on Gordon Barclay’s plight as the victim of newspaper reports misrepresenting his research into the defence of Scotland during the Second World War. Charles says: ‘Gordon’s lament reminded me of a problem from 1940 when my father was commanding his battalion in Northumberland. The War Office ordered the local GOC to construct a pillbox defence line on suitable ground from shore to shore on the border. The General objected that his command had better things to do but was told to “get on with it”. The General therefore asked a simple question: “which way is the line to face?” There was no answer.’
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Heritage crime in France

A 60-year-old winemaker has been convicted at a trial in France of looting protected archaeological sites and stealing thousands of ancient artefacts. The unnamed Frenchman has been fined just under €200,000 and his collection has been claimed by the Ministry of Culture. In his defence, he said ‘I always wanted to be an archaeologist, but I couldn’t’. Instead, he had for years been using his metal detector to scour sites that are protected by law. His activities came to light by chance in February 2012 when customs officers carried out a routine check and found 112 Gallo-Roman coins in his car. Large numbers of artefacts were found when his home was searched.

Archaeologist Céline Choquenet, a member of the ‘Stop the Looting’ organisation, says that illegal digging is commonplace in France: ‘People go to sites every night. They target Roman cemeteries and sell the illegally acquired finds to collectors. It can be highly profitable.’
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The National Trust’s ABC Bulletin

Another issue of the National Trust’s arts | buildings | collections BULLETIN was published over the summer. This issue includes an article by Fellow Peter Beacham on his comprehensively revised edition of the Cornwall Pevsner volume. Peter says that his volume seeks to emphasise ‘context and the sense of place’. He observes that Pevsner — partly for reasons of space and partly because he felt he had no skills in conjuring up the genius loci in words (and maybe also because he was up against Betjeman’s incomparable descriptions in his Shell Guide) — rarely attempted to convey character and atmosphere. By contrast, the new edition ‘attempts to express something of the distinctiveness of places, a small contribution to ensuring that Cornwall, still a land apart, remains unique’. The Bulletin also includes articles on the library and collection of books at Saltram, Devon, and on the collecting habits of the Beales, the original owners of Standen, West Sussex.
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Castle Studies grants

The Castle Studies Trust is a UK-based charity, founded in July 2012 with Fellows Edward Impey and John Goodall as patrons, with the aim of increasing the understanding of castles both in the UK and abroad. The Trust is currently offering grants of up to £5,000 to fund new pieces of research on castle sites. Suitable projects might include surveys (such as geophysical, architectural, historical, topographical or LIDAR), testing (such as radiocarbon dating) or projects that increase public understanding of castle sites (such as reconstruction drawings).

Applications will be accepted from 1 September 2014 with the closing date of 15 December 2014. For further information about applying for a grant, including the grant-giving criteria and an application form, please see the Castle Studies Trust website or contact Jeremy Cunnington.
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The Murray Medal for History

Funded by Dr Peter Murray, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland will award £200 and a medal to a paper on the history of Scotland (including art history, but excluding archaeology) in the medieval and/or early modern periods (c AD 500 to AD 1700) for publication in volume 144 (November 2015) of the Proceedings. The deadline for submissions is 1 November 2014; the prize will be presented at the 2015 Anniversary Meeting. Submissions from non-Fellows are welcome. Further information can be found here and additional information can be requested from the Managing Editor.
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Call for papers: Elizabethan Interiors

This day of presentations and discussions at Montacute House, Somerset, on 25 November 2014 is intended to inform the National Trust in its plans for presenting the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century interiors at the house. This will be a long-term process, informed by research and discussion to ensure that the Trust learns from relevant debate and contemporary best practice. The day will be hosted by our Fellow David Adshead, the Trust’s Head Curator, and a keynote presentation will be made by our Fellow Lisa White, Chairman of the Trust’s Arts Advisory Panel. The rest of the day will be devoted to sessions on evidence, historic and modern craft practice and case studies.

Contributions of 15 to 30 minutes’ duration are welcomed; 200-word summaries, with contact details, should be addressed to Nina Rogers, Business Support Manager, Montacute House, by 6 October 2014. For an informal discussion regarding possible contributions, please contact Barbara Wood, Curator (South West Region).
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Call for papers: Concilium Lateranense IV

Fellow Brenda Bolton is on the organising committee of this major conference to be held in Rome on 25 to 29 November 2015 to commemorate the octocentenary of the Fourth Lateran Council of 1215 under Innocent III, the first assembly of the whole Church since the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451. Lateran IV is remembered for the encyclical Ad Liberandam, calling for a crusade to liberate the Holy Land, but it also resulted in some seventy decrees, covering topics as diverse as heresy, Jewish—Christian relations and ecclesiastical governance.

Taking an inter-disciplinary approach, the conference will investigate how its decisions affected the intellectual, cultural, social and religious life of the medieval world. Papers from disciplines such as art history, theology, canon law, crusade studies and literature, and from those who work on relations between Jews and Christians, are welcomed, and papers may be delivered in English, French, German, Italian or Spanish. Abstracts of no more than 200 words with all the necessary contact details should be sent to the organisers by 1 November 2014 and further details may be found on the conference website.
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23 September 2014: ‘Location, location, location! William Cecil’s house in the Strand’, a lecture to the Westminster History Club to be given by our Fellow Paula Henderson at 7pm in the Lord Mayor’s Reception Rooms, Westminster City Hall, 64 Victoria Street, London SW1. In 1560 William Cecil moved to a new house in the Strand, amongst eminent aristocrats and courtiers who then favoured the location for its connections by river and road between Court, Parliament, the City and Inns of Court. In her illustrated talk, Dr Henderson will tell the important story of how the ambitious Cecil developed his house as a seat of power, designed for the large household needed for running royal business, and his garden for pleasure and entertainment, an escape from the relentless pressure of work. For further information see the Victoria County History website.

25 September 2014: The Vivat Trust’s annual fundraising lecture. Our Fellow Gavin Stamp, the eminent architectural historian and writer, will give this year’s lecture on ‘The destruction of Victorian London’ at St Paul’s Church, Wilton Place, London SW1X 8SH, starting at 7pm. See the Vivat Trust’s website for further details.

26 September 2014: ‘Art dealing in the Gilded Age: Colnaghi and their associates 1880—1940’, a conference to celebrate the installation of the Colnaghi archive at Waddesdon Manor, jointly organised by Colnaghi, Waddesdon Manor (The Rothschild Collection) and the University of Buckingham. Between 1880 and 1940, Colnaghi played a key role in the international art market, selling important masterpieces to private and public collections in Europe and America. Thanks to the survival of a remarkable number of letter books, account books and other business records, the Colnaghi archive offers unique opportunities to study the workings of the art market during the ‘Gilded Age’ in the period up to the Second World War. For further information see the Waddesdon Manor website.

26—28 September 2014: ‘Conflict in Context: archaeologies of war 1618—1918’. The Society for Post-Medieval Archaeology is hosting this conference at the Museum of Liverpool to provide an archaeological perspective on warfare and its impact from the seventeenth century to the First World War. The conference coverage is European in scope and includes maritime archaeology. The intended range of topics includes: warfare and armaments, including artefacts and fortifications; warfare and tactics, including battlefields; military lifeways, including barracks and diet; and the impact of war on civilians. See the SPMA website for further information.

11 October 2014: ‘Turkey Ancient and Modern — A Day of Exploration’. This Alan Hall Memorial Event at the Strand Campus, King’s College London, includes papers on Roman Turkey, given by Peter Thonemann of Oxford University, and ‘Feeding the first farmers: scientific probes into Turkey’s oldest past’, by Jessica Pearson of Liverpool University, plus reports on the research promoted by the British Institute at Ankara (BIAA), live Turkish music and a gala dinner on the previous evening. For further information, see the BIAA website.

13—14 November 2014: 'Leather in Warfare'. This Royal Armouries and Archaeological Leather Group conference will be held at the Bury Theatre, Royal Armouries, Leeds, and offers an exotic array of papers from various parts of the world: find out about a Romano-Egyptian cuirass and helmet made from crocodile skin, leather and the Japanese warrior, late medieval leather armour from excavations in the Netherlands, ethnographic examples of animal skin armour and ‘some less obvious uses of leather in warfare’. Further details of the programme can be found here.

7—9 November 2014: ‘A celebration of eighty years for Anthony Snodgrass’. The pupils and colleagues of our Fellow Anthony Snodgrass are organising a conference at Magdalene College to celebrate his eightieth birthday, and to acknowledge his work in creating one of the world’s most influential schools of Mediterranean archaeology. The impact of his work is not only seen in his publications: it is a measure of his standing as a scholar and supervisor that his former research students hold senior positions in institutions across the United Kingdom, the United States, Greece and Australia. For further details see the Cambridge Archaeology Division website.

27 and 28 February 2015: celebrations for the Centennial of the Archaeology and Anthropology Tripos at the University of Cambridge. Magdalene College, Cambridge, the Cambridge Field Club and the team behind the Personal Histories Project at Cambridge are combining forces to organise a celebration and a wake for the world’s first undergraduate Archaeology and Anthropology degree, which dates from 1915, and that will, from 2015, cease to exist as an independent tripos and instead become ‘a pathway’ within the new ‘Human, Social and Political Science’ degree.

A large gathering of Arch & Anth alumni and their guests and interested colleagues is expected for the wine reception on the Downing Site, Cambridge, on Friday evening, 27 February, while the next day will be devoted to four discussions, with panellists from different decades discussing their memories and recollections. The organisers are asking alumni to nominate panellists: ‘who would you like to hear talk about their lives?’. Any thoughts should be sent to the Personal Histories Project team and further information on the celebrations will be reported in Salon when they are available.
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The Lifers’ Club

Fellow Francis Pryor has chosen to publish his first detective novel with Unbound, the publisher that has re-invented for the twenty-first century the eighteenth-century practice of funding books by subscription. Judging by the names of the subscribers at the end of the novel, about half of whom are Fellows, there are many fans of detective fiction amongst the Fellowship. Are they pleased with their investment? (Salon's editor would love to receive reviews from other readers, especially non-archaeological ones â€” does the novel work for you?)

This reader certainly enjoyed the book. The first half is competent, entertaining and plausible but after the midway point the book switches up several gears and enters the realms to which every writer surely aspires, of a book that grips you and is impossible to put down — to be read on a long journey, perhaps, but not at night when it will prevent you from falling asleep, not least because there are some rather graphic scenes that will haunt you for several days after you have finished the book.

Archaeology is central to the plot, but these days archaeology and forensic science are almost one and the same, the chief difference being the age of the bodies in question. It is not giving away the plot to say that if you have ever thought that archaeological archives, with their endless boxes of human remains, might be the perfect place to hide the remains of a murder victim, think again: trained dogs can tell the difference between ancient and recent remains.

Bones and what they can tell us, is a theme that Francis pursues through a number of different and cleverly interwoven plots and subplots, as one character pursues her interest in the migrations of the early medieval period, another uncovers evidence of the evils committed by his aristocratic forebears and another makes a comfortable if questionable living from selling anatomical reference sets to museums and universities all over the world.

Central to the story is Alan Cadbury, the archaeological hero of the book, and it is his dogged belief that the wrong man has been sent to jail for a so-called ‘honour’ killing that compels the story forward. Detective stories are as much about character creation as they are about ‘who dun it’ — so much so that recent books by best-selling detective fiction authors almost dispense with plot to focus on the life and loves of the policeman or detective they have created. Francis certainly passes this test: Alan Cadbury is a fighter for justice, a man who defies authority when authority is wrong, who looks at the world through sceptical eyes and is appalled by the hypocrisy he finds at every turn. That makes him a bit of a loner: it interferes with his love life and it leads to several serious attempts on his life. Fortunately he survives and that broken relationship surely demands at least one more novel to bring the separated lovers back together. This reader will certainly be subscribing to the further adventures of Alan Cadbury — and it looks as if, to his already long CV, Francis may soon be able to add ‘best-selling novelist’.

The Lifers’ Club, by Francis Pryor; ISBN 9781783520299; Unbound, 2014
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Lord Byron’s Best Friends

Dogs feature too in Fellow Geoffrey Bond’s new book, as the subtitle — 'from bulldogs to Boatswain and beyond' — makes clear. The book takes a novel approach to the life of Lord Byron by examining the place of dogs in the poet’s life — Newfoundlands, mastiffs, terriers, greyhounds and even a poodle. As Fellow Huon Mallalieu observes in his review of the book, ‘no man who loves dogs can be entirely mad, bad and dangerous to know and Byron and his friends have been memorialised splendidly — as faithfully as a Newfoundland, perhaps’. Fellow Loyd Grossman says the book is ‘original and revealing’, while Brian Sewell, whose own recently published book, Sleeping with Dogs: a peripheral autobiography, makes him an expert on the subject, judges this to be ‘a splendid book; a great addition to works dedicated to dogs’.

Lord Byron’s Best Friends, by Geoffrey Bond; ISBN 9780951689110; Geoffrey Bond Books, 2014

Beastly Questions

And yes, dogs do also feature largely in Fellow Naomi Sykes’s new book, Beastly Questions: animal answers to archaeological issues, as do aurochs and centaurs, unicorns and even (with Richard III in mind) cranes and swans. This is a book to which one can turn for information about any number of animals and birds, real and imagined, and what you will find is not a dry as bone account of bovine or caprid anatomy, but a highly entertaining story, woven from many different strands of evidence but mainly zooarchaeological, tracing the story of human and animal interaction.

On the centaur, for example, Naomi traces the earliest known depictions to a Middle Assyrian seal dating from the thirteenth century BC, discusses the horse-headed humans in Vedic literature and in Siberian origin myths and then quotes our Fellow John Creighton on the way that British Iron Age leaders struck coins validating their authority through association with an animal considered to be semi-divine. Her discussion ranges widely over horse-related mythology, ritual and linguistics, arguing that wherever the domesticated horse was introduced to a new society, it came accompanied by a package of practices and beliefs that were truly transformative, with the capacity to change human lives and world views. And just when you fear that Naomi might be about to climb on a bit of a theoretical high horse herself, she injects just the right amount of bathetic humour: ‘the ability of animals to impact on human daily practice’, she says, ‘is something that I well understand having introduced a dozen free-range hens into my garden (and life)’.

What about Richard III’s diet: did medieval aristocrats really eat swan, heron, egret and crane, all birds that are, by all accounts, not very pleasant to eat, having tough meat that tastes somewhat fishy? Naomi tells us that indeed they might have done. She describes crane bones from Norman Lincoln with butchery marks and cites Wynken de Worde’s Boke of Keruynge (1508), which explains how to dress and carve such birds, though de Worde does seem to imply that the presence of such birds at banquets is more about display than consumption.

Of all the birds to have acquired heraldic and royal status, none rivals the swan. The presence of swan bones in food assemblages tells a story of changing fashions and ineffective laws. The sudden absence of swan bones from secular settlement and trading sites in the mid-ninth century suggests that legal restrictions surrounding swan ownership date from the late Anglo-Saxon period. Elite demand for swan increased during the so-called ‘Age of Chivalry’, as exemplified by the Feast of the Swan in 1306, when Edward III created some 300 knights. Despite laws seeking to restrict swan consumption, extant price lists from urban poulterers and cook shops show that swan meat was available to those who could afford to copy aristocratic practices, including the newly emerging middle classes of the post-Black Death era. But even as swan consumption became less exclusive, so aristocratic interest declined, and swan seems to have slipped off the English menu some time in the sixteenth century.

Beastly Questions: animal answers to archaeological issues, by Naomi Sykes; ISBN 9781472506757, Bloomsbury; 2014

Enduring Bronze; Of Green Leaf, Bird and Flower; and Apocalypse

Any of the above three books would make good Christmas presents (yes, we are heading rapidly towards that time of year again), as would any of the following three, all of which have illustrations of the highest quality. Enduring Bronze: ancient art, modern views, by Fellow Carol Mattusch, is a splendid introduction to the subject of ancient bronzes illustrated by examples drawn from the J Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Carol not only explains the techniques used in ancient times to create bronze statuary, and the techniques used today to restore and conserve museum specimens and new finds (such as those recently fished from the Adriatic Sea), she also leads us down all sorts of interesting byways, exploring the bronze industry in classical Athens and Rome, the artists and the markets for bronzes, the subjects depicted, the cost, the public and private display of bronze statuary, the status of bronze versus marble, the deliberate destruction of bronzes as a proxy for killing the person depicted, bronzes as trophies of war, bronzes as memorials, as gifts to the gods, and much more.

Of Green Leaf, Bird and Flower: artists’ books and the natural world, edited by Fellow Elisabeth Fairman, explores the work of naturalists from the fifteenth century to the present day in creating images of the natural world that stand at the intersection between science and art. This has been the theme of a number of exhibitions at the Yale Centre for British Art over the last few years curated by Elisabeth Fairman, drawing on the Yale Center’s own collections but also those of other major rare book and manuscript collections around the world. This book is a summation of the very best and most important examples of natural history illustration, ranging from the late medieval Helmingham Herbal to Grand Tour notebooks to the journals and records made by European explorers visiting the South Seas, India and Africa and recording what they found, not to mention many outstanding examples of contemporary wildlife illustration.

The result is a wonderful book that juxtaposes images made at different points in time to encourage you to think about the choices that an artist makes when depicting nature and that leaves you marvelling at the skill with which mere pigment on paper can be used to mimic the bloom on the skin of a plum, the texture of oak bark and such commonplace miracles of nature as thistledown and dandelion.

Apocalypse: the Great East Window of York Minster, by Fellow Sarah Brown, gives us the fruits of the major conservation programme that took place from 2005 when each part of John Thornton’s stained-glass masterpiece of 1405—8, the largest of all the medieval stained-glass windows in Britain, was taken down, cleaned, repaired and photographed. The Coventry master glazier took as his theme the first and last books of the Bible, the two great Biblical cycles of Creation and Revelation, perhaps as a means of reminding those who looked at the glass where we came from and where we are going. This book illustrates all the Apocalypse panels, one to a page, with the relevant Biblical text printed underneath. This demonstrates how visual the Bible can be and how colourful. From rivers of blood to heavenly thrones encrusted with jewels and from hair as white as wool to golden girdles, the words of Revelation supplied the stained-glass artist with vivid descriptions that just ask to be translated into colour and line.

Five essays introduce the panels, four of them by Sarah Brown recounting the history of the window, the way that John Thornton and his team went about meeting the creative challenge of producing the window, the influences on Thornton’s iconography and his compositional decisions, and the technical details of the conservation programme. The fifth essay, by theologian Paula Gooder, seeks to unravel the mind set of a medieval onlooker and ask what he or she might have understood by the images: a message of hope, she concludes,  and a reassurance that God and his angels have triumphed over evil — a grand theme for this most ambitious work of art.

Enduring Bronze: ancient art, modern views, by Carol Mattusch; ISBN 9781606063262; Getty Publications, 2014

Of Green Leaf, Bird and Flower: artists’ books and the natural world, edited by Elisabeth Fairman; ISBN 9780300204247; Yale University Press, 2014

Apocalypse: the Great East Window of York Minster, by Sarah Brown; ISBN 9781908990327; Third Millennium Publishing, 2014

Mount Athos

Fellow Graham Speake, founder and Honorary Secretary of the Friends of Mount Athos, and frequent visitor to the Holy Mountain, has written a comprehensive account of an astonishing group of monastic communities that have weathered the storms of more than a thousand years with their founding principles largely intact, and despite many predictions of their doom, not least by John Julius Norwich who wrote somewhat histrionically in 1966 that ‘Athos is dying — and dying fast ... the disease is incurable. There is no hope’.

The disease to which he referred was that of society’s secularisation, and the threat that no younger men would come forward to sustain the mountain’s twenty monasteries, once home to more than 7,000 monks. Graham’s book takes a very different view: he says that this Byzantine creation has always drawn its strength from being outside or beyond world events; or rather the strength of Athos always seems to grow in inverse proportion to the state of the world — the more turmoil there is in the secular world, the more Athos thrives as religious and spiritually inclined Orthodox men seek a refuge from the troubles of the world in the ageless rituals of the mountain.

Graham’s book takes us through the history, culture and theology of Mount Athos, the daily lives of the monks and the stories of the icons, saints and relics that they revere. He gives a balanced account of recent controversies (the growing wealth of the monasteries, disputes with the Greek government over land ownership, accusations of corruption, fears of over-development of the mountain) and some older ones (the abaton, or exclusion of women from the Holy Mountain); he also sees great hope for the future in the designation of Mount Athos as a World Heritage Site and he sees the setting up of the Centre for the Conservation of Mount Athos Heritage as a significant victory for those concerned with the long-term protection of the mountain’s spiritual, natural and cultural heritage, a reasonable solution, according to one monk, to the ‘many problems created by the increasing success of the Holy Mountain’.

Mount Athos: renewal in Paradise, by Graham Speake; ISBN 9789607120342; Denise Harvey Publisher, 2014

Founders and Fellowship: the early history of Exeter College, Oxford, 1314—1592

Not quite as old as Mount Athos, but certainly a respectable age, Stapledon Hall, as Exeter College was originally known, was founded in 1314 by Walter Stapledon, Bishop of Exeter, who, according to Fellow John Maddicott, Emeritus Fellow in Medieval History at Exeter College, was motivated by his desire to replace the often ill-educated priesthood of his day with priests intellectually capable of instructing their parishioners in the doctrinal and moral teachings of Christianity.

The first thirteen scholars were chosen by the bishop who, anticipating twenty-first century concerns about access, sought out those who wanted to learn and possessed the necessary mental and moral qualities, but who lacked the necessary financial means.

From such beginnings, John Maddicott traces the subsequent development of the college, drawing on what seems like a rich and detailed archive that enables him to give us plenty of detail about the origins and careers of the early scholars and Fellows, their possessions, books and travels, the curriculum, the chapel services, the entertainments and disputes and the college finances, which critically depended on the income from tithes and agricultural produce: the combination of the Black Death, disastrous harvests and a collapse in grain prices brought the college, never very richly endowed, into insolvency.

The book ends soon after Sir William Petre arrives on the scene to re-endow the college in the 1560s, well provided with the means to ride to the rescue thanks to shrewd purchases of former monastic land from the Crown, accumulating an estate of some 40,000 acres, from which he received an income in rents and agricultural sales of £3,350 a year, placing him high on the rich list of his day. John writes admiringly of his talents — not only does he appear to have been an honest man, philanthropic, learned, moderate in his habits and beliefs, he ‘successfully if unheroically’ steered a path through four major changes in religious policy under four different monarchs. Petre modernised the governance whilst keeping the best of the medieval statutes, gave the college new status and new security, and set it on the path that would lead to rebuilding and expansion in the next century.

Founders and Fellowship: the early history of Exeter College, Oxford, 1314—1592, by John Maddicott; ISBN 9780199689514; Oxford University Press, 2014

Art, Artisans and Apprentices: apprentice painters and sculptors in the Early Modern British tradition

This is a hugely informative book that answers the question ‘how did you train to become an artist in Britain or America in the days before the first formal academies were founded in London in 1768 and Philadelphia in 1805?’. Fellow James Ayres admits that this is potentially a ‘sprawling subject’ but he tackles it by concentrating on the ‘very long’ eighteenth century (1660 to 1837) and by breaking ‘art’ down into various crafts and trades, including painting in oil, size painting (painted cloths, theatrical scene painting), liming and watercolour, sculpture, carving and various forms of metal working.

Each of these chapters is packed with detail about the experience of apprenticeship, their training, social status and prospects, their patrons, income and subsequent careers; about the actual process of artistic creation, the tools, materials, techniques and end products, and about the rivalries and demarcation disputes between the different trades and their guilds, the joiners, painters, stainers, plumbers and glaziers, all of which makes post-war trade unionism seem tame.

Art, Artisans and Apprentices: apprentice painters and sculptors in the Early Modern British tradition, by James Ayres; ISBN 9781782977421; Oxbow Books, 2014


Museums Association (MA): Director
Salary: c £80,000; closing date: 4 September 2014

The MA is seeking an exceptional candidate to lead the implementation of the organisation’s vision for the future of museums (‘Museums Change Lives’) and help the Board to set the organisation’s strategic direction. For more information, see the Saxton Bampfylde website.

Heritage Lottery Fund: Chair
New closing date: 8 September 2014

The deadline for applications for the post of Chair of the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) and Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Board has been extended until 8 September 2014. For more information, see the Heritage Lottery Fund website.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES): Chair and Board Members
Closing date: 12 September 2014

Scottish Ministers are looking to appoint a Chair and up to eleven Members to the Board of Historic Environment Scotland (HES), the new successor body to Historic Scotland and the Scottish Royal Commission. They are looking for people from a range of backgrounds with the vision and skills required to deliver the ambitious agenda for Historic Environment Scotland, as set out in Our Place In Time and to lead HES through its development into the new lead body for Scotland’s historic environment. For information on the roles and how to apply see Scotland’s Public Appointments website.

The Warburg Institute: Director
Salary not stated; closing date 22 September 2014

A new Director for the Warburg Institute is sought to provide intellectual leadership, contribute to the vision of the Institute and sustain and develop the academic programme. Candidates must be able to demonstrate a track record of successful academic and managerial leadership and of securing external research funding. He or she will be a scholar of international standing in an area of study relevant to the Institute (art history, medieval and Renaissance studies, the afterlife of the classical tradition, Arabic, medieval and Renaissance philosophy) and be able to communicate in at least one of the following languages: German, French, Italian. This is a professorial appointment and a secondment will be considered. For more information, including how to apply, please see the website of Saxton Bampfylde Ltd.

Ashmolean Museum: Sackler Keeper of Antiquities
Salary scale: £51,702 to £59,914; closing date: 10 October 2014

This permanent role carries a Fellowship at Wolfson College. The main responsibilities include delivering the department’s contribution towards the aims and goals of the museum’s five-year strategic plan, cultivating lenders, donors and supporters of the department’s holdings and raising funds for small and large projects. You should have an international scholarly reputation and a track record of significant publication in an area related to the collections of the department. For further details see the University of Oxford’s online recruitment system.

Propose a lecture

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.


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