Christopher Gibbs FSA
died on 28 July, hours before his 80th birthday dawned in Tangier. He was elected a Fellow of the Society in May 2014.
‘Like many aristocratic Englishmen reared mostly in shivering-cold private schools, Mr. Gibbs seems to find a desire for central heating faintly embarrassing.’ When Christopher Mason wrote this of Gibbs in the New York Times
(September 2000), the ‘inveterate collector, antiques dealer, bibliophile and provenance fetishist’ was planning to leave his family home in Oxfordshire, after a two-day sale of its contents by Christie’s, for two houses in Morocco, a London flat (or ‘set’ as his Piccadilly residence was known) and a cottage in Hampshire. ‘Objects that smack of newness or have a gaudy shine are similarly infra dig,’ continued Mason. ‘An elegantly faded George II gilt wood girandole in the front hall has clearly not been regilded since the 18th century -- the way Mr. Gibbs likes it. Similarly, a tatty Victorian buttoned-leather chesterfield sofa beside a William IV red-painted mahogany library table has a faded patina that the catalog politely refers to as “distressed”.’
Gibbs, says the Telegraph
(obituary 31 July), ‘was an antiques dealer, interior designer, bibliophile and aesthete who pioneered a style of interior decoration often described as “distressed bohemian” – a mixture of refinement, exoticism and well-worn grandeur.’ He was a ‘Bohemian socialite and dandy credited with introducing fashionable members of the Swinging Sixties to fine antiques, flares and drugs,’ says the Times
(obituary 31 July). But, says the New York Times
(obituary 3 August), he ‘had more going for him than that. Unlike many of his decadent mates, Mr. Gibbs was wise, worldly and endowed with both a work ethic and a refined if finicky taste that was undiminished by his extensive experimentation with drugs or his predilection for exotica, like a stuffed, two-headed lamb and a collection of whips.’
His mates included Mick Jagger and Keith Richards (who at Gibbs’s suggestion in 1968 drove with him, Marianne Faithfull and Gram Parsons from a South Kensington nightclub to Stonehenge to watch the sun rise, resulting in a memorable photoshoot by Michael Cooper), Sir John Richardson and Bruce Chatwin (‘who lived in my attic,’ Gibbs wrote in the Independent
in 2013, ‘with a Jacob chair from the Tuileries and the 18th-century bedsheets of the King of Tonga adorning the wall’). He worked with the likes of Michelangelo Antonioni, Kenneth Anger and Nicolas Roeg; house guests included Allen Ginsberg and Princess Margaret. He edited a quarterly supplement Men in Vogue
Born into a banking family (made fabulously wealthy in the 19th century as a driving force in the Great Peruvian Guano Rush), Christopher Gibbs was expelled from Eton, attended the University of Poitiers and briefly joined the Army before settling in London. He opened his first shop in 1958 in Camden Passage, moving to Chelsea in 1962.
Writing in the Art Newspaper
(obituary, 14 September) Huon Mallalieu FSA
describes a ‘Getty connection’. Gibbs advised John Paul Getty on donations to the arts, and supported by his business partner Simon Sainsbury, ‘the driving force behind the National Gallery’s Sainsbury Wing’, he secured the gallery’s £50m endowment. ‘Gibbs’s knowledge and judgment were rightly valued,’ says Mallalieu. ‘He was a force on Lord Rothschild’s Committee of Taste, which oversaw the regeneration of Spencer House, a trustee of the American Friends of the National Gallery, on the arts panel of the National Trust and advised the Victoria & Albert Museum on its British galleries. He also chaired Getty’s Wormsley Foundation for the preservation of rare books and manuscripts.’
The photo at top (at the Bond Street Gallery, 1985) is from an interview feature on Sotheby’s Contemporary Art
, published on the occasion of a photography exhibition in 2016. ‘Morocco,’ Gibbs says, ‘with its fusion of cultures from the Muslim and Jewish worlds, has long been a spark for me. Donald [Cammell] used to come round to my Moorish Chelsea place along with Brian Jones, Anita and Mick, and I'd been helping Mick with his house in the country. I responded to their enthusiasms, learning along the way and gathering an idea of Moroccan aesthetics. Now perhaps it looks ordinary, but all those years ago it was extraordinary.’ ‘Taste is difficult to define,’ an obituary in Vogue
(31 July) quotes Min Hogg, founding Editor of World of Interiors
, ‘but his is absolute perfection.’
Paul Latcham FSA
died on 10 August aged 81. He was elected a Fellow of the Society in November 2007.
He listed his interests in the Fellows’ papers as ‘Bookplates (C18-C19th British); military engineers.' He was President of the Bookplate Society and Editor of their Newsletter
and Bookplate Journal
. He wrote extensively on bookplates, and was awarded the Udo Ivask Medal and Certificate of Honour in 2011 for his monographs, which included Bookplates in the Trophy Style
(2005), with a supplement published in 2016. Over 16 editions of The Bookplate Society Newsletter
(1995–2001) he published ‘A bookplate alphabet,’ from A to V.
Paul Latcham opened the Hereford Bookshop with his wife Valerie in 1974. The city’s last such independent shop, it closed in 1998. In 2010, to mark a gift to Hereford Cathedral, he exhibited some of his collection of local history books, covering the River Wye, the picturesque movement, literature, county histories and guides, topography, genealogy and the Cathedral itself. He believed a copy of John Allen Jnr’s Bibliotheca Herefordiensis
(1821), possibly the earliest English county bibliography, to be one of only 25 printed. ‘Our wish is to provide an example to others,’ he said, ‘who may possess books that they could present to the Cathedral Library.’
Henry Cleere FSA
died on 24 August aged 91. He was a Lifetime Fellow of the Society, having been elected in March 1967.
In his varied career, which ranged from fieldwork in Sussex to World Heritage Site consultancies in China, Kazakhstan and Oman – not to mention a masters in English and nearly 20 years in the steel industry before he switched professions – Henry Cleere became well known to many archaeologists and heritage practitioners. He had a great influence on the development of ideas about global cultural heritage.
He achieved his PhD on the Roman iron industry in 1980 at UCL Institute of Archaeology, where he became Honorary Visiting Professor of Archaeological Heritage Management in 1998; he was also Principal Consultant in Heritage Management and World Heritage at the Institute's Centre for Applied Archaeology. He was President of the Sussex Archaeological Society 1987–92, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Sussex University in 1993.
He was Director of the Council for British Archaeology (1974–91), establishing the CBA as a key advocacy body for the discipline in the UK. He joined the UK National Committee of ICOMOS
(the International Council on Monuments and Sites) in 1975, and was instrumental in founding its International Scientific Committee on Archaeological Heritage Management (ICAHM) in 1984. As World Heritage Coordinator for ICOMOS in Paris (1992–2002) he evaluated some 350 cultural sites in over 70 countries. From 2002 he was World Heritage Advisor to the State Administration of Cultural Heritage of the People's Republic of China, and a Senior Advisor to the US-based Global Heritage Fund.
He was a founder member and first Secretary General of the European Association of Archaeologists, edited The European Archaeologist
, and received the EAA European Heritage Award in 2002, the year he was awarded an OBE. In 2010 he received the Conservation and Heritage Management Award of the Archaeological Institute of America. In 2012 he was awarded the International Yellow River Friendship Prize for outstanding contribution to safeguarding Chinese Cultural Heritage. He was awarded ICOMOS’s highest honour, the Gazzola Prize, at their General Assembly in Florence in 2015. ‘He was the one of the most encouraging people I have ever known,’ says Tim Williams FSA
, Reader in Silk Roads Archaeology at UCL, ‘strongly supporting all the countries and organisations we worked with across China and Central Asia.’
I asked several Fellows if they’d like to contribute recollections of Henry Cleere, and – unusually – almost all have, for which I’m most grateful. First, we hear from Mike Heyworth FSA
, the CBA’s current Director:
‘Henry was closely involved in my initial appointment to the CBA in 1990 to succeed the incomparable Cherry Lavell and set up the British & Irish Archaeological Bibliography. I was based in the London office on Kennington Road managed by Henry, and I remember seeing him in front of his Amstrad word processor typing out numerous letters and articles – particularly to create the regular editions of British Archaeological News
. He left an astonishing body of work, as he engaged with many varied issues to make the case for archaeology. In a letter written shortly before his retirement, he said, “The last 17 and a half years have been challenging and at times discouraging, but I have never had any complaints on the score of job satisfaction”!
‘He left an enduring legacy for British archaeology. He was closely involved in the creation of what is now the Chartered Institute for Archaeologists and the European Association of Archaeologists. Under his Directorship, the CBA was heavily involved with portable antiquities and metal detecting, and Henry was a strong opponent of treasure hunting – though he advocated the responsible use of detectors as an archaeological tool. His advocacy work in the decades leading up to the 1990s was heavily influential in the final passing of the Treasure Act 1996. Henry maintained good relations with civil servants in the Department of the Environment – often over lunch at the Athenaeum – but the CBA archives reveal some of the scars left from tensions between professional and amateur archaeology.
‘Following so closely after the passing of the CBA’s first leader, Beatrice de Cardi FSA
, it is sad that Henry is no longer with us as we approach our 75th anniversary, but both the CBA and the world of archaeology have so much to thank him for.’
Rosemary Cramp FSA
also got to know Cleere through the CBA, when she was its President:
‘Henry proved an amazing source of information not only about the activities of all the Regional Groups but the archaeological world at large. He certainly opened up the CBA’s horizons, although one of our joint efforts achieved exactly the opposite. We went to try to persuade our Scots colleagues to stay with “British'” archaeology and not to split off. In the event I was “stamped off” the stage when I tried to put the case, and I will not forget how kind and supportive Henry (who could be a sharp task master!) was then. Looking back, if Scotland from the beginning had been CBA Scotland, and not labelled as a regional group, it might have been a different story.’
Justine Bayley FSA
‘I knew Henry from his time at the CBA as I then worked in the Ancient Monuments Laboratory and, like him, had the good fortune to receive a Churchill Fellowship in 1979. He was always cheerful and helpful to younger people, as I was then! He was a very long-standing member of the Historical Metallurgy Society, so when we celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2013, he and the late David Crossley FSA
jointly cut the cake (in the shape of an early blast furnace!) as part of the celebrations, as they were then the only two surviving founder members. They co-authored The Iron Industry of the Weald
Tom Hassall FSA
is a former President of both the CBA and ICOMOS UK:
‘Henry’s previous work in the iron and steel industry meant that he brought to the CBA formidable administrative skills, which enabled him skilfully to direct its diverse interests, including national and local archaeological organisations, museums and universities, very active local Groups and Research Committees, and promoting the needs of rescue archaeology and a rapidly expanding profession. As a founder of the Wealden Iron Research Group Henry was also naturally sympathetic to the concerns of local amateur archaeologists (at that time he ran a second-hand clothing stall at the Robertsbridge Archaeological Society’s annual jumble sale).
‘My first contact with him was through the CBA’s Urban Research Committee, which was active in transforming planners’ and developers’ attitudes to archaeology. His arrival at the CBA had an immediate impact. Within a year he arranged with the Society of American Archaeology to take a small group of British archaeologists to the SAA’s conference in Dallas, so delegates could share knowledge of how archaeology was organised in the UK and in the USA. Henry led our delegation, and he was accompanied by the late Andrew Saunders FSA
, then Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments, Peter Fowler FSA
, representing the CBA’s Countryside Committee, and myself representing the CBA’s Urban Committee and the world of “archaeological units”. Dallas was a damascene moment for all of us. We learnt about: the concept of Cultural Resource Management; the idea that the “polluter pays” principle could be applied to archaeology; and how archaeologists might be organised into a professional body. Henry applied all these lessons at the CBA.
‘As President of the CBA (1983–86) I was provided with monthly instalments of carbon copies on blue paper of all Henry’s outgoing letters. They related not only to internal affairs, but also to every archaeological issue of the time. The relationship between the Kennington Road HQ and the Groups was not always straightforward. National major issues included the abolition of the short-lived Metropolitan Counties with their archaeological services – some members thought the CBA should actively oppose Mrs Thatcher’s Conservative Government – and damage caused to rural archaeological sites by deep ploughing and metal detecting. Henry wisely advised that the CBA should not become involved in party politics, which some members interpreted as a right-wing bias. On the other hand Farmers Weekly
and the treasure hunting media characterised Henry as a hard man of the left, which was much nearer the mark.
‘Not all CBA correspondence was so serious. I recall a reply to a Greek gentleman who enquired about the CBA’s role: “Please find enclosed information about the Council for British Archaeology. As you can see, we are not an agency for correspondence, dating, or any other such activity involving young women.” Henry had a wicked sense of humour.
‘The World Archaeological Congress, founded by the late Peter Ucko FSA
, strained our relationship. In 1986 the International Union of Pre- and Proto-Historic Sciences was to hold its 11th International Congress in Southampton with financial support promised by the city council. With the CBA’s encouragement Henry offered to organise a session on “Public Archaeology and Cultural Resource Management.” However the city withdrew its support unless the IUPPS disallowed South African participants from the event. Ucko described the ensuing events that led to WAC breaking away from IUPPS in his book Academic Freedom and Apartheid
‘Archaeological opinion was deeply divided. The CBA was not immune. It seemed to me, probably naively, that the issue could only be resolved by holding a referendum of the member organisations to decide whether Council should continue to participate in the WAC. We now know only too well that a referendum doesn’t resolve anything or alter entrenched views: following the referendum the CBA duly withdrew its support for WAC, but Henry, undeterred, took part in his personal capacity. His legacy was his edited book of papers, Archaeological Heritage Management in the Modern World
‘Henry’s “retirement” job as World Heritage Coordinator for ICOMOS was a perfect fit, and a vital role for ICOMOS, which advises UNESCO about the Wold Heritage Convention. I remember seeing him in action in 1999, at the 12th ICOMOS General Assembly in Mexico City. The theme, “The Wise Use of Heritage – Heritage and Development,” was perfectly suited to his interests and experience. On the opening day a controversial issue was discussed in a plenary session. Discussion went on well into the evening, and the interpreters decided to call it a day. Henry, with his wide knowledge of European languages, stepped into the breach. Since he also knew all the protagonists and the heritage jargon, he effectively ended up chairing the session. He was at the very top of his game.
‘I once wrote that Henry’s character might be compared to his favourite pipe tobacco: “slow burning, extra mild, with a fresh aroma of sweet character”. But that was not at all the Henry that I remember. At the reception at 10 Downing Street to celebrate the launch of English Heritage in 1983, towards the end of the evening Henry spied the Prime Minister’s husband a little the worse for wear. Not one to miss a trick, Henry immediately began trying to sell shares in his Ticehurst vineyard to Denis Thatcher – a never to be forgotten moment, and somehow typical of Henry Cleere.’
Kristian Kristiansen FSA
is Professor at the Department of Historical Studies, University of Gothenburg, and was the European Association of Archaeologists’ first President:
‘I first met Henry when he paid me a visit in Copenhagen around 1980 when I was a new and very young Head of the Archaeological Heritage in Denmark. He was visiting people and heritage institutions around Europe, collecting material for his planned book, Approaches to the Archaeological Heritage
(1984). We immediately found each other, irrespective of the age difference, and Henry also brought his wife and small daughters. From then on we would meet at regular intervals in various European initiatives, not least in the formation in the ICAHM, which was Henry’s idea, and where he was also a driving force behind the Charter for the Protection and Management of the Archaeological Heritage (1990). He graciously suggested that the Swedish State Antiquarian, Margaretha Biörnstadt, should be first president of ICAHM, also active in the initiating group. These were days of new ideas about a new kind of heritage, cross-cutting borders and nationalities.
‘When I started mobilising people to help create first a Journal of European Archaeology
, and then the EAA, Henry of course joined the founding group, where we used his extensive experience in formulating the statutes, and he was a natural choice for EAA Secretary. He was also the driving force behind the EAA Code of Conduct, which is still in force.
‘You were never in doubt about Henry’s priorities, politically and archaeologically, but he always forwarded them with humour and preferably over a good beer. A few times he could explode when founding members repeated arguments he considered ridiculous, but I dare say without his abilities we would not have been able to get the EAA off the ground so efficiently. He was a great negotiator as well, and I always felt safe with Henry at my side. We were fortunate that a man of his many talents devoted his skills to archaeology in his second career. I feel privileged to have worked so closely together with him in the formative years of the EAA. His life spanned much of what shaped Europe, and he contributed in his various life phases to this new Europe. When we were on excursion in the Slovenian mountains during the inaugural meeting of the EAA in Ljubljana, he crossed his own paths from the Second World War, when he spent time in the same region as a member of the allied troops. What a life! I shall never forget Henry and the good times we had together.’
The photo above, taken by Kristiansen at a meeting preparing the EAA in Prague c 1992, shows Cleere (right) with Mike Rowlands (left) and Arek Marciniak. I took the photo at the top in 2006.
Peter Fowler FSA
, former Secretary of the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England):
‘Henry was a very important person in my life for over 40 years. We worked together at the CBA, though relationships became a little strained during the setting up of what became English Heritage in the early 80s. At the time, we were respectively President and Director of the CBA, an organisation committed to abolishing the RCHM(E) – which just happened to be my employer.
‘A decade later we were working together in Paris on world heritage matters. Henry was in his pomp at his office at the ICOMOS HQ. He was a consummate master in this international field, bringing discipline, professionalism and high standards to ICOMOS’ discharge of its responsibility to advise the World Heritage Committee on cultural aspects of sites and monuments.
‘He was a prime mover at what turned out to be a seminal occasion over a wet weekend in the Vosges in 1992. The meeting’s purpose was to define “cultural landscape”, a new sort of potential World Heritage Site emerging from the UK’s failure to have the Lake District inscribed on the WH List. The trick was to come up with a fool-proof form of words which would allow the WHC to recognise not just sites, but whole landscapes. Henry’s unanimously approved definition was accepted by the WHC the following year, and to this day, without a word changed, remains the WHC’s working definition of a cultural landscape. I doubt that can be said of many international definitions after 26 years.
‘From that arcane but highly politicised world, we went to Dublin to assess Ireland’s nomination of the Bend of the Boyne as a WHS. We were met at the airport by the senior civil servant responsible for WH matters. We partook of whisky. We were driven to meet the Minister, who was also hospitable. We were then wined and dined very hospitably indeed. The following morning we were driven out to see the new Visitor Centre.
‘It was raining and a strike meant that no-one was working. The visitor Centre stood there, forlorn and roofless, its steel stanchions and concrete supports wetly dystopian. We stood there too, somewhat less than overwhelmed – Henry tended not to be thrilled by prehistory even on a sunny day. However George Eogan FSA
met us at the tombs and was of course much more convincing. He joined us for another hospitable dinner that evening. Henry edited my draft report into a professional assessment which resulted in the WHS you can now enjoy on the bend in the Boyne. After that Henry sent me on my own to assess an Austrian nomination to inscribe Hallstatt. Thanks, Henry…
‘A trip round the world in 1994, focussing on Australia and the Philippines, opened my eyes to the pace and scale at which Henry worked. He had important business in South America en route, I ditto in Hawaii, so we arranged to meet at Sydney airport. We flew thence to Canberra and gave, so my notes record, “3 seminars in one day!” We then flew to Darwin whence we were transported to Kakadu National Park where the WH cultural landscape was threatened by mining. Over three or four arduous days, we examined parts of a Park – huge by British standards – on the ground, by boat and from the air, while meeting key players in the dispute including the traditional owners. Henry did not stop.
‘After a fruitless trip to Uluru, we returned to Sydney where, early the next morning, we had to crawl all over the Opera House: ICOMOS Australia wondered whether it might become a WHS. Later that day we flew to Manilla where, via the Miss World competition in our hotel, we took a 10 hour bus journey to the WH cultural landscape of Banaue and its remarkable rice terraces high in the mountains of Luzon. And so it went on. Henry was 68.
‘In many ways he was at his best with words: if 1,000 publishable words were needed by lunch-time, Henry would produce them. At Paris ICOMOS he achieved a near-miracle by turning the reports that went to the WH Committee from the numerous ICOMOS missions around the world into standardised and authoritative documents (always edited and often largely written or re-written by him, a practice which did not always win him undying friendship).
‘It is proper to remember too his academic output, much of it empirical – Henry hated “theory” – and mostly about archaeological heritage management, excepting his profound knowledge of the Roman iron industry, particularly in the Sussex Weald. His influence on the worldwide practice of managing the archaeological resource in the field with a conservation objective was very considerable. His insistence that a management plan was a pre-requisite for a WH nomination became a powerful model.
'Henry never talked about his awards – to be so recognised on both sides of the Atlantic is surely a unique achievement – but I am sure he would love me to point out that they went to someone who came into archaeology, in that splendid British tradition, as an amateur with at least three other careers behind him before attaining his first archaeological post in his late 40s.
'The CBA, the Sussex Archaeological Society and members of his extended family from two marriages were well represented at his Humanist funeral in Royal Tunbridge Wells, carried out to his instructions. Atheist, socialist and archaeologist, Henry was enormously proud of his progeny.'
Robin Birley FSA
died on 29 August aged 83. He was elected a Fellow of the Society in January 1969, nearly 50 years ago. A date will be announced for a celebration of his life and work.
Robin Birley made a name for himself with the discovery of writing tablets from the Roman fort of Vindolanda, south of Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland. Small, thin slices of wood written on in ink, they are hard to excavate, require special conservation treatment and are difficult to read. But their fragmentary texts have captured the imagination of visitors to the British Museum, where some are exhibited, and television viewers around the world.
The first to be recognised, in 1973, carried a message in which the writer explains they have sent socks, sandals and underpants to someone in the fort. In another, Claudia Severa pleads to her sister, the wife of Flavius Cerialis, Prefect of the Ninth Cohort of Batavians, to come to her birthday party. ‘I implore your mercifulness not to allow me,’ writes ‘a man from overseas and an innocent one,’ possibly to the Provincial Governor, ‘to have been bloodied by rods as if I had committed some crime.’ One tablet details the strength of the First Cohort of Tungrians, whose 752 members included six wounded, ten suffering from inflammation of the eyes, and 15 sick.
There is no other excavation like Vindolanda. Eric Birley, Robin’s father, first dug there in 1930, having bought some of the land the year before. Robin undertook his first excavation in 1949, and work continued, with Robin as Director of Excavations from 1965, until the formation of the Vindolanda Trust in 1970, with Eric, Robin and Robin’s brother Tony among the founder Trustees. Robin gave up his job as Senior Lecturer in History at Alnwick College of Education to become full-time Director, supporting the ‘miserable salaries' with evening lecturing.
He stepped down in 2005 to become Director of Research, and his wife Patricia Birley took over as Director of the Vindolanda Charitable Trust. The Trust became a major operation, funded by, among other sources, Northern Rock, the Heritage Lottery Fund, a friendship scheme, entrance fees to the nearby Roman Army Museum on Hadrian’s Wall, shops and cafes, and volunteer diggers who pay – in 2018 with accommodation – £1,100 a head (‘a strong constitution is required’). Robin’s son, Andrew, is now Chief Executive Officer of the Trust and Director of Excavations.
Under Robin the Trust’s vision for Vindolanda was a centre that would appeal to the public, who could come to learn about life in Roman times and see reconstructed remains. ‘Low-standing ruins by themselves,’ he said, ‘do not have much appeal to the young. You must publicly portray the human story.'
Such desires were not always compatible with more academic values of research and conservation. Writing tablets are but a small part of an extraordinary and ever-growing collection of finds of great interest to the public; the huge complexities of a difficult excavation less so. Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, Eric placed the site of the stone fort into State Guardianship for protection. Later plans to rebuild a length of Roman wall came up against both the local council and the Department of the Environment.
In the educational spirit of the Trust, Robin wrote several publications aimed at a wide readership. These included Vindolanda: A Roman Frontier Post on Hadrian's Wall
(1977, with a new edition in 2009), Vindolanda: Extraordinary Records of Daily Life on the Northern Frontier
(2005), and Vindolanda Guide: The Home of Britain's Finest Treasures
(2012). On the evidence of his excavations, he defined five key periods of occupation and expansion at the fort, from AD 85 to 130, when Hadrian's Wall was built.
Educated at Clifton College, Robin Birley joined the Royal Marines and taught Prince Charles history at Gordonstoun. In a tribute
, the Vindolanda Trust has written that ‘As a proud Northumbrian and socialist with a strong sense of public duty, he served with integrity as a Chair and Leader of Northumberland County Council, a Deputy Lord Lieutenant and senior magistrate. He was an inspirational and generous leader with boundless energy who encouraged thousands of wonderful volunteers from all walks of life to join him in his excavations at Vindolanda.’
Photo Vindolanda Trust.
David Watkin FSA
died on 30 August aged 77. He was elected a Fellow of the Society in January 1979.
Watkin, headlines the Times
(obituary, 10 September), was a ‘Leading architectural historian and prolific author known for his immaculately tailored suits, theatrical quality and mischievous wit.’ He was better known still, says the Architects’ Journal
(6 September) for ‘his 1977 polemic Morality and Architecture
, a critique of the Modern Movement which challenged the consensus promoted by his old supervisor,’ Nikolaus Pevsner FSA –
and which gave its name to a 1981 album (Architecture & Morality
) by the English band Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
The book ‘sparked huge debate in the profession,’ says the AJ
, ‘and thrust Watkin into the limelight where … he became a “bête noir of Modernist critics and architects”.’ Morality and Architecture: The Development of a Theme in Architectural History and Theory from the Gothic Revival to the Modern Movement
, was later expanded as Morality and Architecture Revisited
(2001). A ‘critique of the dogmas of the Modern Movement and the historiographical tradition that had supported them,’ says the Telegraph
(obituary, 3 September), ‘It was a necessary corrective which shocked many in the architectural world.’ Reyner Banham ‘accused Watkin of “a kind of vindictiveness of which only Christians seem capable,” adds the Telegraph
, but ‘the book had a wide impact and opened up the debate which informed the Prince of Wales's intervention in the National Gallery “carbuncle affair”.’
David Watkin was educated at Farnham Grammar School, and took the Fine Arts tripos at Trinity Hall Cambridge. In 1967 he was appointed librarian to the faculty, and became a Fellow of Peterhouse in 1970, from which he retired in 2008. He became a Professor in 2001.
‘He detested the revolution of taste and behaviour brought by the 1960s,’ says the Times
, ‘not least the ugliness of tower blocks and brutalism. The social disintegration wrought during the hippy, Heath-and-Wilson years of the 1970s were even worse… Throughout the dismal 1970s, Peterhouse stood out as a crucible of conservative thought.’
Some 30 books included The Life and Work of C R Cockerell
(1974), which won the Society of Architectural Historians of Great Britain’s Hitchcock Medallion, A History of Western Architecture
(1986) and Sir John Soane: Enlightenment Thought and the Royal Academy Lectures
(1996), which won the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Sir Banister Fletcher Prize.
He was a member of the Historic Buildings Council from 1980 to 1995, and Vice-Chairman of the Georgian Group. A festschrift edited by Frank Salmon, The Persistence of the Classical
(2008), contains essays by, among others, the late Gavin Stamp FSA, Alan Powers FSA
and Charles Saumarez Smith FSA
. He was an honorary fellow of the RIBA.
Remembering her student days with him in her TLS blog
(1 September), Mary Beard FSA
writes that David Watkin ‘was a clever architectural art historian (of the neo-classical above all), a generous, kind and funny man, an enemy of some of my best mates, a working class lad who spoke posh, and (he would know that I would say this) a frightful old conservative.’
James Stevens Curl FSA
has written this tribute for Salon
‘I knew Professor David Watkin for some 40 years, starting from when I was among the first to write a favourable review of his Morality and Architecture
(1977): at the time, that important book, undermining many of the bogus arguments underpinning fraudulent Grand Narratives, and slaughtering many sacred cows and entrenched beliefs, was under hysterical attack. The author and his work were subjected to vulgar abuse by those with vested interests in continuing to promote the Cult of Modernism, so the vicious denunciations of Watkin’s slim volume were for all the wrong reasons. He wrote to me to thank me, and invited me to dine at Peterhouse, thus beginning my long association with a college where I have been twice honoured as a Visiting Fellow.
‘A generous man, he unstintingly shared information with colleagues, and was always supportive of young scholars who entered his orbit. Fastidious in dress and speech, good taste (evident in his aesthetic judgements) was a matter of great concern to him, thus he often attracted opprobrium from those favouring what they imagined to be proletarian attitudes and garb. Such “trendies” (actually ovine conformists) sneered at Watkin’s sartorial style, but, unlike them, he cared about, and was invariably kind, to those less privileged than was he, notably college staff at Cambridge, who were devoted to him.
‘He added lustre to High Table, where his conversation was always witty, and later, in the Combination Room, should a guest, perhaps a relative of one of the young Fellows from a humble background, be insultingly patronised by one of the company, Watkin, if presiding, had no hesitation in requiring the offender to leave.
‘His wit was mischievous. I recall visiting Weimar with him many years ago: he had a 1936 Baedeker with him, and with a completely straight face enquired of a passer-by the whereabouts of the Adolf-Hitlerstrasse. The startled fellow ran off like a frightened rabbit. On another occasion, as a riposte to a forthcoming meeting of the Kelvin Club at Peterhouse, Watkin suggested a gathering of a rival society he dubbed the Kevin Club.
‘Watkin was a complex human being, and a fine scholar. Fiercely loyal and supportive of his friends and those academics he respected, he also loved his immediate family very deeply. He will be hugely missed.’
Photo from the Times
Christopher Harper-Bill FSA
died on 8 September aged 71. He was elected a Fellow of the Society in November 1983. The funeral will be at Hutcliffe Wood Crematorium, Periwood Lane, Sheffield S8 0HN, at 2.45 pm on Friday 28 September. A Memorial Service is to be arranged at St Mary's University, Strawberry Hill, where, says Edmund King FSA
, ‘he taught with great élan for many years’.
Harper-Bill was Emeritus Professor at the Centre of East Anglian Studies, University of East Anglia, where he taught the history of Western Europe, 1000–1520 and pursued his interests in English Ecclesiastical history, cartularies and Bishops registers. He previously taught Medieval history at St Mary's University College, Twickenham. His doctoral thesis at King's College London (1977) was on An Edition of the Register of John Morton, Archbishop of Canterbury 1486–1500, with Critical Introduction
Edited books include A Companion to the Anglo-Norman World
(with Elisabeth van Houts, 2002), Medieval East Anglia
(2005) and Henry II: New Interpretations
(with Nicholas Vincent, 2007). He edited the Episcopal Acta of the bishops of Norwich 1070–1299 in five volumes (1990–2012). He edited Anglo-Norman Studies
(which Boydell & Brewer promotes with the line, ‘No single recent enterprise has done more to enlarge and deepen our understanding of one of the most critical periods in English history, Antiquaries Journal’)
and (with Ruth Harvey) Medieval Knighthood
, containing papers from occasional Strawberry Hill Conferences.
He was also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.
published an obituary for Peter Gordon FSA
, who died aged 90, written by his son David Gordon (26 June). ‘A devotee of Nikolaus Pevsner,’ writes David, ‘and himself a walking encyclopedia of architectural history, Peter spent his holidays exploring the countryside, Pevsner’s Buildings of England
in hand. On a day trip to Lincolnshire he visited 22 churches.’
‘He was a keen flautist and singer, and in the 1960s gave concerts with friends at London venues including the Purcell Room and All Souls, Langham Place. He was also an inveterate concert-goer (… he met his future wife, Tessa Leton, at a harpsichord concert at the Victoria and Albert museum), and lieder, chamber music, opera and ballet were part of the fabric of his life. The informal musical education his children received from him unwittingly helped me pursue my career as a musician.’
Rick Turner FSA
, who died in June
, has had obituaries in the Guardian
(6 August), the Telegraph
(9 August) and the Times
(14 September). All lead on the recovery of the Cheshire Iron Age bog body known as Lindow Man. He and a colleague, says the Times
, wrapped the body in clingfilm in Macclesfield Hospital, boxed it in plywood and filled the spaces with polyurethane foam. ‘As the foam set, the pathologist walked in and realised, to his fury, that he wouldn’t be able to perform an autopsy on the body that morning, as he had intended. Turner was calmly unrepentant, saying later: “We had bought time to take a more measured view of our next step”.’
‘Rick Turner made a major contribution to the conservation and study of some of Wales' greatest Medieval buildings,’ says Jon Berry in the Guardian
. ‘His innovative approach to conservation, which combined rigorous intellectual understanding with an innate practical style, has been transformational and recognised internationally. His work has also significantly improved both physical and intellectual public access to these monuments.’
He started to read engineering at Christ’s College, Cambridge, says the Telegraph
, but ‘switched to Archaeology and Anthropology instead. After graduation he worked as an assistant to Tim Potter FSA
at Lancaster University’s Department of Classics and Archaeology, where he supervised several rescue digs in Cumbria and Lancashire. Three years in eastern Scotland and northern England as an archaeological surveyor for British Gas in the early 1980s were followed by three years as a delegated Inspector of Historic Buildings for Cheshire County Council, preparing listing descriptions for English Heritage. He became Cheshire County Archaeologist in 1984.’