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Salon: Issue 311
6 January 2014

Next issue: 20 January 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

New Year Honours 2014

Congratulations to those Fellows whose achievements have been recognised in the 2014 New Year Honours List.

OBE: Lindsay Allason-Jones, inter alia President of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle upon Tyne, and Richard John Buckley, Co-director, University of Leicester Archaeological Service; both for services to archaeology.

MBE: Peter Inskip, of Inskip + Jenkins Architects, for services to conservation architecture.

Forthcoming meetings

Tea is served from 4.15pm, and meetings start at 5pm

30 January 2014: ‘The archaeological and social history of an English country house: Boynton Hall, Yorkshire East Riding’, by Richard Marriott, FSA, Adrian Green, FSA, and Tim Schadla-Hall, FSA

The Social History and Archaeology of an English Country House will be published later this year and Fellows are invited to hear about the team’s findings in advance, looking at the development of the house from the fifteenth century, including considerable documentary evidence for the management of the estate and the discovery of a hitherto unknown formal garden by William Kent.

6 February 2014: ‘The triumph of music and time: George Friedric Handel and musical clocks by Charles Clay’, by Tessa Murdoch, FSA, and Anthony Turner

This lecture complements the current exhibition at the Handel House Museum (; until 23 February 2014). Fellow Tessa Murdoch will provide a curatorial overview for the exhibition; horologist Anthony Turner will then provide a technical explanation of how the musical clocks featured in the exhibition function.

13 February 2014: ‘The Iona Abbey Research Project: a new understanding of Scotland’s most sacred place’, by Peter Yeoman, FSA

This lecture will focus on recent research into the abbey’s archaeology and collections, carried out as part of the Historic Scotland project to help the visitors and pilgrims who come to Columba’s isle from all over the world to achieve a better understanding of the unique contribution that Columba’s monastery made to European Christian scholarship, theology, creativity and law-making. One result is a new permanent exhibition of the largest and most important collection of early medieval high crosses and cross slabs in Britain and Ireland. The completion of this project formed part of the celebrations for the 75th anniversary of the foundation of the Iona Community, as well as the 1450th anniversary of the arrival of St Columba on 19 May AD 563.

Public lectures

The Society’s public lectures take place between 1pm and 2pm and are free, though tickets must be reserved in advance by using the Society’s Eventbrite web page.

28 January 2014: ‘“Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know”: the medical history of King Henry VIII’, by Robert Hutchinson, FSA

7 February 2014: ‘Medieval graffiti: the hidden history of the parish church’, by Matthew Champion

Vacancy for an artist in residence at Kelmscott Manor

Applications are being sought from artists / makers interested in becoming Artist in Residence at Kelmscott Manor. The residency is being funded by our Society with the generous help of Arts Council England, Fellow Geoffrey Bond, NADFAS, The Radcliffe Trust and The Oxford Research Centre in Humanities (TORCH), University of Oxford. The residency will last for seven months, from April to October 2014. Sarah Parker, Kelmscott Manor’s Property Manager, said ‘It will provide visitors with compelling experiences, including targeted groups, and a range of creative and cultural opportunities to encourage people to engage further with the Manor and celebrate Morris’s important legacy.’

The brief for the residency says that: ‘Morris once described Kelmscott Manor’s beauty and atmosphere as very stimulating to the imagination. We are seeking an artist who will be as inspired by it as William Morris was nearly 150 years ago’. Applicants must also have excellent communication skills and enjoy working with people, because, as well as working at the Manor to create new work, he or she will be asked to operate an ‘Open Studio’ for visitors for a total of twenty-eight days when the property is open to visitors, and give public lectures. Two pieces of work are to be donated to the Society, one to join the Manor’s permanent collections, the other to be auctioned for fundraising purposes.

In return, the appointed artist will have the opportunity to develop his or her practice, reach an international audience and generate income through the sale of work in the Manor shop and online. Kelmscott Manor will put on a display of work created during the residency and the artist will be offered the opportunity of creating bespoke products for sale on a commission basis in the Kelmscott Manor shop. The artist will be paid a fee of £8,400 (including travel expenses), and a further £5,000 is available to support the costs of studio and display set-up.

Applications in the form of a one-page proposal, a one-page curriculum vitae and up to six images of recent work are required by 24 February 2014. Further details can be downloaded using this link.
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Introductory tours to Burlington House and the Society’s Library

The next in the Society’s regular series of introductory tours takes place on 30 January 2014. Tours are free, but limited to twenty-five people, so places should be booked. Please contact the Society’s Executive Assistant. Tours start at 11am and coffee is served from 10.45. Lunch is available at the end of the tour for £5 but must be ordered in advance. There will be further tours on 20 March 2014 and 26 June 2014.
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Conservation of medieval monuments at Puddletown

The pictures accompanying this report show the results of a major conservation programme that has just been completed in memory of our late Fellow Claude Blair in the Athelhampton Chapel at St Mary’s, Puddletown (Dorset). Here, an important series of memorials associated with the Martyn family had been badly affected by damp, seriously damaging a fifteenth-century alabaster tomb chest and its two effigies.

This originally freestanding monument was crammed into a corner; it has now been re-erected in the centre of the chapel. Thick mould was cleaned from three Ham Hill stone effigies and one of them (a military figure in a recess) was moved slightly forward from the wall in which previously it had been partly buried.

In the course of the conservation work, hidden details were revealed, including a fourteenth-century painted figure of a saint at one end of the tomb panel below the recessed effigy and a complete coffin-shaped slab beneath the alabaster tomb. Archaeological examination of two tomb chest fills revealed a number of interesting artefacts, such as part of a green-glazed ridge tile with a broken-off finial and several pieces of floor tile, identified as emanating from the near continent.

Following the death in 2010 of Claude Blair (former Vice-President of the Society of Antiquaries and the founding President of the Church Monuments Society), the CMS established a fund in his honour, devoted to the work at Puddletown; a Purbeck marble commemorative plaque to this effect has been placed near the double alabaster tomb. In October 2013, the archaeological significance of the Puddletown project was recognised by the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society when Puddletown became the 2013 winners of their biennial award for outstanding contributions to archaeology in Dorset. The presentation was made by our Fellow Professor Sir Barry Cunliffe and the citation mentioned the Puddletown PCC, conservators Sue and Lawrence Kelland, Fellows Brian and Moira Gittos and the architect David Illingworth.
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Church thieves strike again in the Welsh Marches

Fellow Sally Badham has contributed this photograph, which shows a small-scale monument (1.01 metre long) that you could previously see on a visit to St Mary’s Church, Foy, Herefordshire. The top half was stolen some time around January 2012 and it is now reported that the bottom half went missing in November 2013, more than likely taken by the same thief/thieves and intended for the same middle-man/collector. Clearly, given the number of monuments stolen from churches in the Marches in the last two years, somebody is collecting monuments. This coffin-shaped slab is carved with a female figure, with her hair in a net, wearing a cloak over a gown. One hand fingers the cord of her cloak while the other rests on her stomach. Her feet rest on a grotesque head. If anyone spots it, the Church Monuments Society would be pleased to know more.

Trouble in Antinoöpolis

And this photograph of Roman mosaic fragments from Antinoöpolis appeared recently in Bonham’s London sale catalogue. Professore Rosario Pintaudi, of the Laurentian Library in Florence, has been leading a campaign to raise awareness of the looting that has been taking place at the Middle Egyptian site over the last twelve months or so. The destruction is all the more regrettable given that the Antinoupolis Foundation, under the direction of Professore Pintaudi, only completed its first season of fieldwork in January / February 2012, in collaboration with the Egyptian Ministry of State for Antiquities Affairs, revealing for the first time the superb state of preservation of this extensive Roman city: now there are fears that the five-year survey project using non-invasive survey technologies will simply find the evidence of a twenty-first-century archaeological tragedy.

and in Colwyn Bay

Closer to home comes the scarcely credible news, reported by the BBC (so it must be true), that Conwy Council plans to demolish Colwyn Bay pier ‘to bring a five-year saga over its future to a close’. The Grade II listed Victoria Pier, which opened in 1900, has been closed since 2008, and its condition has been deteriorating. Councillors voted to demolish the pier after learning that it would cost more than £15 million to repair. Last February, the council received a £594,900 development grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, but it has now decided that even if it were successful in securing a full grant of £4,379,600, the total cost is more than council tax payers will bear. Cllr Chris Perry, Mayor of Colwyn Bay, said that demolition of the pier was a sad necessity; without it ‘my grandchildren and great-grandchildren would be paying for it for years to come’.

The issue is complicated by the fact that the pier’s former owner, Steve Hunt, has never accepted the local authority’s claims to own the pier; the legal case is not due to be heard until June 2014 (for more on this see the website of the National Piers Society). The Council says it intends to ‘prepare a sound and robust case for the delisting of the Pier and then to demolish the structure’, but a spokesperson for Cadw said any application for de-listing and demolition would need ‘comprehensive justification’, and would need to show new evidence demonstrating that the pier had been listed in error.

One very good reason for wanting to save the pier is the discovery, made last year, that a mural by Eric Ravilious, painted in 1934 on the walls of the pier’s then new Pavilion tea room (shown above), appears to have survived relatively unscathed beneath later layers of wallpaper, plaster and paint. Tate Gallery experts say that the mural, measuring 30ft by 12ft, is ‘of national importance’.

Not to mention Alexandria

The Guardian reported on 1 January 2014 that Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria villa faces demolition, despite being a listed building. Campaigners seeking to stop the villa’s owner from sweeping away the Villa Ambron in favour of a high-rise apartment block say that Lawrence Durrell’s crumbling former home would become the thirty-sixth listed building from Alexandria’s fin-de-siècle heyday to be demolished in five years, if it goes. Alexandria has some 1,135 listed buildings, protected by a 2006 preservation order, but many are in a serious state of disrepair, prompting Alexandria’s historians and architects to fear for the legacy of a city that was once one of the grandest in the region. The Majestic Hotel, where E M Forster once lived, has had its distinctive rooftop cupolas dismantled and the nearby Villa Aghion, built by the Belgian architect Auguste Perret, whose work in France has been designated a Unesco World Heritage Site, is collapsing due to a lack of maintenance.

The Villa Ambron, built and owned by the architect Aldo Ambron — a member of the 70,000-strong Jewish community that has all but vanished from Alexandria — was once home to Italy’s exiled king, Vittorio Emanuele III, and leading Egyptian painters Saad el-Khadim and Effat Nagui. Durrell lived in the villa’s top floor for much of the Second World War with his Alexandrian second wife, Eve Cohen, the inspiration for Justine, the heroine of The Alexandria Quartet (1957—60). The Quartet was written after Durrell had left the city, but he wrote Prospero’s Cell in the Villa Ambron’s distinctive octagonal tower.

The Ambron family sold the house in 1996 to a local developer, Abdelaziz Ahmed Abdelaziz, who has already built two apartment blocks in the garden, and who says he was granted judicial approval to demolish the villa in March 2013. Abdelaziz told the Guardian that he is willing to sell the house if anyone wishes to buy and conserve it but that ‘no conservator has raised enough money to buy the site ... and soon I won’t be able to wait any longer. It will be demolished early in 2014 if I don't get a quick response.’

Not all is lost: one local businessman, who wishes to remain anonymous, is buying listed buildings, converting them to offices and using the profits for conservation, and the campaign group ‘Save Alex’ has helped stop the destruction of the Villa Cicurel, another local landmark, and recently persuaded Alexandria’s governor to halt construction at the Majestic Hotel. Mohamed Aboulkhier, the co-founder of Save Alex, says that he has noted an increase in local cultural awareness. ‘When we used to talk about heritage, people would say: what are you talking about? That’s a luxury. But now you can see people taking the initiative even before us activists.’

But restoration of Alexandria’s Greco-Roman Museum is to resume

And further good news comes from Alexandria in the shape of a rescue package funded by the Italian Government that will allow the city’s Greco-Roman Museum to be renovated and reopened within eighteen months. The Alexandria museum, housing one of the world’s most extensive collections of Greco-Roman art, closed in 2008 for conservation work but lack of funds meant that no progress was made. Now the Italian Government and the Italian Development Agency have agreed to a debt-swap programme that will release US$8 million for restoration work to restart.

The museum has a long history of Italian patronage and all of its directors were Italian until the 1952 Egyptian revolution. Founded in 1892 by members of the Athenaeum (now the Archaeological Society of Alexandria), the museum has expanded to twenty-seven galleries and some 40,000 objects. A bonus for historians was the discovery in 2005, when staff were preparing for the museum’s closure, of an archive of administrative records about local excavations and the museum’s history, spanning the period from the 1890s to the 1970s, in a storage space above the ticket office.

Bond Street environs to become a ‘special policy area’

Westminster Council has announced that it intends to designate a ‘special policy area’ (SPA) around London’s Cork Street, Bond Street, Albemarle Street and Dover Street to protect the character of the area, with its many art galleries and auction houses. The Council has used SPAs before to protect areas recognised for their special local distinctiveness, having already designated Harley Street (medical premises), Savile Row (tailoring) and St James’s (specialist retail, private members’ clubs and art galleries). Designation means that specialised businesses that add to the character and function of the area are encouraged by the planning process, and that the area’s principal historic activities are not lost to other commercial uses.

In the case of the Bond Street area, rents are being driven up by demand from luxury and fashion retailers for premises in the so-called ‘London Luxury Quarter’, a block of some forty streets between Piccadilly and Oxford Street, within which our own Society’s Burlington House apartments are located. Once the area has been designated, planning permission will only given to developers who agree to reserve spaces for art dealers in their new buildings.

The Art Newspaper reports that the area is the focus of activity for some 260 art dealers who generate more than £7.7bn in sales each year and support 60,000 jobs. The UK has 29 per cent of the global art and antiques market, and much of it is based in Westminster. The area’s reputation as a centre for art dealing was boosted in 2013 with the news that the US auction house Phillips de Pury & Company is to open a new headquarters on Berkeley Square.

A consultation on the designation closes on 14 February 2014, and the chances of the designation becoming official council policy cannot be taken for granted: reports in the London Evening Standard suggest that there is concerted opposition to the designation from luxury goods manufacturers and jewellers who say that SPA designation is ‘too restrictive’, and that the best solution is ‘mix and diversity ... convenience and choice’.

Gold-diggers thwarted, albeit temporarily

Protestors in Romania objecting to plans to re-open the country’s Rosia Montana gold mines have been brandishing a report produced by Fellows Andrew Wilson and David Mattingly, Professors of Roman Archaeology at Oxford University and Leicester University respectively, and Mike Dawson, Director of Archaeology at the environmental consultancy firm CgMs. The report, commissioned three years ago by Romania’s Ministry of Culture and funded by the charity Pro Patrimonio, which works to protect Romania’s cultural heritage, has not been officially published, but it says that the mines in the Apuseni Mountains of western Transylvania are worthy of consideration as a Unesco World Heritage Site and that its galleries are ‘the most extensive and most important underground Roman gold mine known anywhere’.

Despite this, Rosia Montana was not on the list of monuments recently published by the Bucharest government as potential world heritage sites, perhaps because politicians are backing a scheme to reopen the site and begin large-scale mining operations that would destroy the village and the mountains. Mike Dawson is quoted in the Independent as saying that he does not think archaeology and the environment will ultimately win: ‘In my experience, money talks,’ he said. ‘[Our report] will be criticised on the basis that conservation costs money.’

Best World Heritage Sites

New Year being the season of lists it is no surprise to see that the January 2014 issue of the magazine Which? Travel has published its ‘Top 10 historic destinations’. What is a surprise is to see Avebury come a very close second in the list with a 78 per cent, only 1 per cent behind the world’s top heritage site, Monte Albán, in Oaxaca, with a score of 79 per cent.

The independent panel that came up with the list consisted of our Fellows Tim Champion, Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at Southampton University and Vice-President of the Royal Archaeological Institute, Professor Henry Cleere, former World Heritage Co-ordinator for ICOMOS, plus Dr Annabel Lawson, who founded the heritage tour specialists Andante Travels in 1985 and last year sold a £1.8m share in the company to the private equity investment firm Panoramic Growth Equity.

Panel members made their top ten selection on the basis of twenty-five criteria, including the visitor experience, the presentation and preservation of the site, the ability to learn from and engage with the site and the holiday appeal of the surrounding region. Avebury was praised for its quiet, rural setting and for the visitor experience — unlike at its sister site, Stonehenge, visitors can wander freely among the stones, as they can at top-rated Monte Albán, capital of the ancient Zapotec civilisation, with its spectacularly sited temples, tombs and ball courts. In third place, Herculaneum scored 76 per cent, being better preserved, quieter and more rewarding to visit than neighbouring Pompeii. The Taj Mahal — universally regarded as the archetypal World Heritage Site — only managed seventh place and the Great Pyramids at Giza just scraped into the top ten at tenth.

Medieval Latin dictionary completed after 100 years

There is hope yet for some of those encyclopaedic projects founded in the Victorian or Edwardian eras that have yet to see completion with the news that the sixteenth and final volume of The Dictionary of Medieval Latin from British Sources was published by the British Academy on 11 December 2013. Though the Dictionary was begun 100 years ago, the first volume only came out in 1975, so progress has in fact been quite speedy (one volume every twenty-eight months) in recent decades.

The dictionary details the Latin used in Britain between AD 540 and the year 1600, drawing its contents from the Domesday Book, the Magna Carta and thousands of other documents. Our Fellow David Howlett, editor of the dictionary from 1979 to 2011, said that ‘we were sometimes the first people to have read these documents for centuries’. Comparing the task to ‘eating a bowl of concrete’, Dr Howlett said ‘the task was huge, and has got bigger as we have gone along’. Much of the fundamental work in the early years was done by a small army of volunteers, including historians, clergymen and even retired soldiers.

It fell to the youthful Richard Ashdowne, the dictionary’s final editor, to bring the series to a close, an achievement hailed by British Academy President Lord Stern as ‘the most comprehensive study ever of medieval Latin vocabulary’ and one that has ‘enabled us to discover more about the English language and show us that Britain has indeed been at the heart of humanities and social science since the sixth century’. The last full entry of the dictionary is for zythum, a form of beer — the drinking of which no doubt accompanied celebrations in Oxford for the completion of a task that the Academy has overseen since 1913.

The Survey of London moves to the Bartlett School of Architecture

The future of another of those great research enterprises has been secured for the time being with the news that the 120-year-old Survey of London moved in October 2013 from English Heritage to the Bartlett School of Architecture, in the Faculty of the Built Environment, University College London. Yale University Press has confirmed that it is committed to publishing future Survey volumes.

The seven-strong editorial, research and illustrative team at the Survey of London will join the Bartlett School of Architecture and will contribute to the faculty’s teaching and research in architecture, planning, real estate and cultural heritage, as well as the related disciplines of geography, history, economics and archaeology.

Professor Andrew Saint, General Editor of the Survey, said: ‘It is excellent news that we can pass on the success of the Survey to such a strong institution. No other city in the world can boast a publication about its urban history with the same depth and breadth as the Survey of London. It is an outstanding example of continuity and innovation in the field of descriptive and analytical urban history, and its move to The Bartlett ensures it will enjoy a strong and secure future.’

Nearly all of the Survey of London Main Series volumes are now available online following a four-year project funded by English Heritage to make them freely available, as are most of the Survey’s monographs. For further information, see the Survey of London page on the Bartlett School of Architecture website.

News of Fellows

Of the many appearances by Fellows in the media over the holiday period, two performances stood out. The first was Fellow Lars Thorp playing a major part in his team’s impressive performance on ‘University Challenge’. In an all-Cambridge final, his team of Gonville and Caius alumni scored an impressive victory over Emmanuel College alumni.

The other was Fellow Diarmaid McCulloch’s lively conversation with Joan Bakewell in her Radio 3 series ‘Belief’, well worth a listen for Diarmaid’s reflections on the purpose of history — ‘the job of a historian is to tell the Church what it’s history actually was, not the Church’s version of history, not the version it thinks is its history ... history teaches us not to say stupid or simple things; the role of history is to confuse, and not to support dogmas’ [for ‘Church’ read ‘the nation’, or ‘politicians’ or ‘the public’ or any number of other possible institutions]; and for his thoughts on the liturgy: ‘I am a great believer in formal structures and a rather conservative liturgy’, he said. ‘It seems to me that Cranmer’s Evensong is one of the finest vehicles for spirituality there is.’

Fellows feature large among the nominees for the sixth annual Current Archaeology Awards, celebrating the people, projects and publications that have made an outstanding contribution to archaeology during 2013. Voting for the awards is open to everyone: there are no panels of judges, only members of the public, and voting closes on 7 February 2014. The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on 28 February at the Current Archaeology Live! 2014 Conference. Those nominated are as follows:

Archaeologist of the Year:
  • Fellows Gill Hey, Alex Bayliss and Richard Buckley

Book of the Year:
  • A Roman Frontier Post and its People: Newstead 1911—2011, by Fellows Fraser Hunter and Lawrence Keppie
  • The Romano-British Peasant, by Fellow Mike McCarthy
  • Men from the Ministry: how Britain saved its heritage, by Fellow Simon Thurley
  • Shakespeare’s London Theatreland, by Fellow Julian Bowsher
  • Under Another sky: journeys in Roman Britain, by Charlotte Higgins
  • Ancestral Journeys: the peopling e from the first venturers to the Vikings, by Jean Manco

Rescue Dig of the Year:
  • ‘Sands of Time: domestic rituals at the Links of Noltland’, Historic Scotland/EASE Archaeology
  • ‘Divide and Conquer: Hadrian’s Wall and the indigenous population’, Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums
  • ‘London’s Pompeii: the rise and fall of a Roman waterfront’, MOLA
  • ‘Corinium’s Dead: excavating the Tetbury Road Roman cemetery’, Cotswold Archaeology
  • ‘Discovering Longforth Farm: on the trail of a medieval mystery’, Wessex Archaeology
  • ‘The Ebbsfleet Elephant: making a killing in the Thames Estuary’, Oxford Archaeology

Research Project of the Year:
  • ‘Peasant Houses in Midland England’, by Fellows Nat Alcock and Dan Miles
  • ‘Brading Roman Villa on the Isle of Wight’, by Fellow Barry Cunliffe / the Oglander Roman Trust
  • ‘Viking Torksey: inside the Great Army’s winter camp’, by staff and students of the Universities of Sheffield and York and the British Museum, co-directed by Fellow Julian Richards and Dawn Hadley
  • ‘Return to Star Carr: discovering the true size of a Mesolithic settlement’, by the Vale of Pickering Research Trust, including Fellows Nicky Milner and Tim Schadla-Hall
  • ‘Time Heals: digging Caerwent with Operation Nightingale’, the Defence Archaeology Group / Defence Infrastructure Organisation / University of Leicester / Cranfield University, including Fellow Richard Osgood
  • ‘Re-dating Early England: explaining the end of Early Anglo-Saxon funerary traditions’, Cardiff University and English Heritage, including Fellows John Hines, Chris Scull and Alex Bayliss.

Roman war games: helmets from Crosby Garrett and Ribchester

Salon 309 reported that the Crosby Garrett Roman helmet (found on the fells of Crosby Garrett in Cumbria in 2010 and sold at auction in 2011) will be on display at the Tullie House Museum until 26 January 2014. Fellow Ralph Jackson has now confirmed that the helmet is heading for the British Museum once the Carlisle exhibition ends.

Thanks to the generosity of the owner, the helmet will be on display in Room 37 at the British Museum from Tuesday 28 January until Sunday 27 April 2014, where it will be joined by the Ribchester Helmet (found on the site of the Roman fort at Ribchester, Lancashire, in 1796). Visitors to the exhibition will thus be able to see two of Britain’s most famous cavalry sports helmets — splendid examples of the spectacular bronze face-mask visor-helmets used in the events known as cavalry sports (hippika gymnasia).

Events associated with the exhibition include a British Museum Members lecture, ‘Beyond the Gaze of the Crosby Garrett Helmet’, to be given by Fellow Michael Bishop at 6.30pm on 14 April 2014; and a Gallery Talk in Room 37 on ‘Roman War Games: the helmets from Crosby Garrett and Ribchester’, to be given by Fellow Ralph Jackson at 1.15pm on 11 March 2014 and again on 1 April 2014.

Fellow Henrich Härke’s latest ‘Letter from Russia’

‘Salon readers who were kind enough to take an interest in the dire situation of the Russian Academy of Sciences might want to be brought up to date. After the outcry at home and abroad about the plan to deprive the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN) of its autonomous status and to put it under direct government control, President Putin announced a ‘moratorium’ of one year on the ‘reforms’ at the beginning of November 2013. However, developments by the end of November show that this moratorium is a sham: the new Government agency for the administration of RAN properties has already drawn up detailed plans on how to divide up the floor space within the main building of the Academy, and Academy institutes have been given specific figures as to how many square metres they have to give up for offices of the agency. This is bound to be only the first stage because there is money to be made for high-ranking officials involved in corrupt city centre property deals in Moscow. Documents also show that the RAN branches in Siberia and the Russian Far East will be affected as well, contrary to official statements.

‘The consequences for the RAN institutes are serious. Staff, laboratories, museums and stores have to be crammed into more limited space, and departments are already being shut down. The Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology (founded in 1942 by Sergej P Tolstov, the founding father of Central Asian archaeology) is about to lose one quarter of its space, and its Centre for Eurasian Archaeology will be closed from January 2014. There are serious concerns about the documentation and finds kept there; at the moment, nobody seems to have an idea as to where to put them.

'The situation is also putting pressure on heads of Academy institutes, universities and museums to demonstrate that they are working efficiently, and they are now expected to demonstrate this with reorganisation, publication figures and citation statistics. One of the panic measures resulting from this is the recent suspension of the innovative, bio-archaeological journal Opus, published by the physical anthropologists of the Institute of Archaeology in Moscow: its editors were told to place their publications in more established journals with higher citation indices, and to stop their own journal. Friends also report hectic activity, bordering on panic, in the History Museum on Red Square, which holds the most important archaeology collection in Moscow.

‘These are just the first effects of an exercise allegedly intended to “free” the RAN of the “burden” of self-administration. Russian scholars and scientists are drawing their own conclusions: a new poll among their young generation (aged 20 to 30) has revealed that some 80 per cent of them want to leave the country — a staggering figure that bodes ill for the future.’


Salon’s report on the newly published book on Staircases: history, repair and conservation listed a number of Fellows who had contributed to the volume, but failed to mention that one of the two editors, James W P Campbell, is, of course, a Fellow himself. James has had a busy year: his monograph on The Library: a world history (see the books section of this issue of Salon, below), has sold so well that the publishers’ warehouse are now empty and it has gone to be reprinted in both the English and the American editions —although there are still one or two available in bookshops if you want to snap up a first edition. Such is the worldwide interest in the subject that it has also been translated into French, German, Dutch and Spanish editions, with Russian and Japanese translations coming out in the New Year. Who says the book is dead?

And Fellow Roy Stephenson rightly points out that Salon’s report on the Cheapside Hoard exhibition at the Museum of London justly gave credit to Fellow Hazel Forsyth, the exhibition’s principal curator, but failed to mention that Hazel was ably assisted by Fellow Jackie Keily. Roy also points out (apropos the report on HLF funding for the restoration of the Spanish City) that Mark Knopfler could no longer make that journey by train from Blyth to Whitley Bay, thanks to Dr Beeching and others: but that much of the pre-Beeching infrastructure remains in use as a mineral line. Would it not, he asks, give south-east Northumberland a major economic boost if the Tyneside Metro was to serve the spanking newly restored Spanish City — perhaps even extending to the likes of Blyth and to Woodhorn Museum and Archives, which is very poorly served by public transport, but is adjacent to the mineral line (the Woodhorn Museum, Roy adds, is well worth visiting for the works of the Ashington Group of Painters, whose story was retold in the play Pitmen Painters by Lee Hall, based on the book of the same name by William Feaver).

Following the report in Salon on the retirement of our Fellow John Kenyon as Librarian at Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales, after thirty-four years of unbroken service, John writes to say that his former employer has made him an Honorary Research Fellow, and that he hopes to use this opportunity to pursue a history of castle studies in Britain and Ireland, amongst other things.

Fellow Hugh Cheape’s suggestion in Salon that Fellow Francis Grose, the eighteenth-century antiquary and friend of Robert Burns, deserves a biography that places Grose’s studies of native language, song and music at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment, encouraged our Fellow Alastair Maxwell-Irving to explain the circumstances of Burns and Grose’s first meeting, and the somewhat significant result.

‘Captain Francis Grose and Dr Robert Riddell were both antiquaries and Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries (“FAS” in those days) when the Society was a “club” where fellow antiquaries met, socialised and discussed their respective interests and experiences. When Robert Riddell heard that Grose was proposing to write a book (two volumes, as it turned out) on The Antiquities of Scotland, he invited him to stay with him at his Friars Carse home, some six miles north of Dumfries (now a country house hotel in Scottish baronial style beautifully situated on the banks of the River Nith, but then a modest house, recently rebuilt by Riddell’s grandfather).

‘The offer was graciously accepted. At the same time, quite by chance, Robert Burns, intending to make a living as a farmer, had taken the lease on Ellisland Farm (now a museum), just four fields away. Naturally, Burns and Riddell, as immediate neighbours, met and became close friends. It is said that Riddell liked to dabble in writing music for songs, and Burns started writing words to accompany them. Burns even had the use of a small hut called “The Hermitage” (still extant, but rebuilt) on the Friars Carse estate, where he used to have peace to write his poetry. On being introduced to Francis Grose, and learning of his intention to write about Scotland’s antiquities, Burns asked him a favour: would he include in his book the ruinous and haunted old church at Alloway, where his father was buried. Grose agreed, on one condition: that Burns write a suitable “witches” poem to accompany it. Burns agreed, and the rest is history, for the poem that Burns wrote — “Tam O’Shanter” — is perhaps Burns’ most famous work.’

Photograph: The Alloway ‘Auld Kirk’, as published in 1790 in Volume 2 of Grose’s
Antiquities of Scotland (pp 31—3), accompanied by Burns' poem 'Tam O’Shanter'

Salon’s report on the Courtauld Institute’s exhibitions, The Young Dürer: Drawing the Figure and Antiquity Unleashed: Aby Warburg, Dürer and Mantegna (on until 12 January 2014) said that Aby Warburg founded his celebrated research library at the Warburg Institute after he came to London in December 1933 to escape Nazi persecution. Fellow John Prag says that, in fact, the library of his grandfather Aby Warburg ‘began as his private research library in Hamburg, funded by his banker brothers, and became the Kulturwissenschaftliche Bibliothek Warburg in 1921. When Aby Warburg died in 1929, his former assistant, Fritz Saxl, became director and it was Saxl who, in 1933, succeeded in bringing it to London, ostensibly as a loan (the Nazis would not have permitted any kind of permanent transfer) on 13 December 1933 on board the Hermia and the Jessica.
‘These two small ships steamed down the Elbe, across the North Sea and up the Thames with around 60,000 books, finding temporary accommodation in London, first in Thames House and later, with the support of the University of London, in the Imperial Institute buildings in South Kensington. In 1944 the family gave it to the University as Trustee by a Deed of Transfer in return for various guarantees (John is currently one of the family representatives on the Advisory Council). The “Migration of the Institute”, eighty years ago last month, was celebrated by two conferences last year: one in Hamburg held on 13 December and another held in London on 16 December (more information about the history of the Wartburg Institute and Library can be found on the Institute's website.’

Fellow Michael Hill has been quick to respond to the consultation, announced by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport on 6 December 2013 on the future of English Heritage (the deadline for responses is 7 February 2014). In his response, Mike says that the proposal to create a new charitable body to curate and care for what is now called The National Heritage Collection seems sound and worthy of support. He is concerned, though, about the ‘rump’ of English Heritage, and specifically its academic research and publishing activities and its curation of the English Heritage Archives, both of which receive only very brief mention in the consultation paper.

Mike says that the EH research and publishing programme has resulted in recent years in such diverse but equally essential works as The Workhouse, Sharpe, Paley & Austen, John Nash and Buildings of the Labour Movement. ‘Each of these has advanced our understanding of the buildings they describe and led to a more informed approach to their designation as heritage assets and their protection in law. Without this background research and publication, conservation activities in those areas would be dimmed through lack of historical fact on which to base sound present and future judgement. Indeed, no designation of heritage assets, let alone any subsequent regulatory or advisory activity, can exist in any meaningful condition without the prime task of research, understanding and dissemination of knowledge. My fear is that this aspect of English Heritage's current work is not sufficiently valued in this consultation and that, whilst the National Collection may benefit, national knowledge would stagnate or decline.’

Lives Remembered: David Mawson OBE JP DL MA FRIBA FSA

Award-winning Norfolk architect David Mawson, elected a Fellow of our Society on 24 November 1983, died on 21 November 2013 at the age of eighty-nine and was remembered in a service of thanksgiving held in Norwich Cathedral on 4 January 2014.

Co-founder in 1957 of Feilden & Mawson (with our late Fellow Bernard Feilden), David played a key role in the design of the University of East Anglia, which celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in the summer of 2013 (the superb anniversary exhibition, Masterpieces: Art and East Anglia, continues at the Sainsbury Centre until 24 February 2014). As the partner in charge of the UEA ‘village’ project, his work was recognised by the award of an honorary degree in 1995. As a conservation architect, he helped to save the historic High Court of Justice building in Hong Kong, worked on buildings on London’s Hyde Park estate for the Church Commissioners, served as architect to Norwich Cathedral and also worked at St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh.

A pillar of Norfolk life, he served as secretary to the Friends of Norwich Museums and Chairman of the Norfolk branch of the Council for the Protection of Rural England in the 1970s, trustee of Norfolk Historic Buildings Trust from 1975 and Director from 1990, President of the Norfolk Association of Architects (1979—81), President of the Norfolk Club (1980s) and President of the Norfolk Association of Amenity Societies (until 2000). He served for twenty-two years as a JP for the Norwich Bench and was appointed a deputy lieutenant of Norfolk in 1986.

He will also be remembered as the founder and chairman of the British Association of Friends of Museums in 1973 and, two years later, as first President of the World Federation of Friends of Museums. More recently, he served as founder Chairman and subsequently Deputy President of the Norfolk Gardens Trust, which contributed significantly to the research that went into the newly published gazetteer of historic gardens in the county (Norfolk Gardens and Designed Landscapes, by Patsy Dallas, Roger Last and Tom Williamson; ISBN 9781905119929; Windgather Press).


Lives remembered: Gerald Bonner

The Society has learned belatedly of the death on 22 May 2013 of Gerald Bonner, elected a Fellow on 26 November 1987. Having served in the army in Palestine from 1944, Gerald went up to Wadham College (1949—52) before joining the British Museum and as a keeper of manuscripts, publishing his seminal study of St Augustine of Hippo: Life and Controversies in 1963. He lectured in the Department of Theology at the University of Durham from 1964 until 1988, when he was honoured as Emeritus Reader. He introduced new courses on Augustine of Hippo and the northern Saints Cuthbert and Bede. Bede was the subject of a significant conference organised by Gerald in 1973, whose proceedings he edited under the title Famulus Christi.

Retiring early in order to guarantee that a successor would be appointed, he was granted a new lease of academic life with his selection as Distinguished Visiting Professor of Early Christian Studies at the Catholic University of America (1990—4). He also taught at Villanova University, near Philadelphia, at Nashotah House Seminary in Wisconsin, and at academic institutions from Vancouver to Rome.

A more comprehensive appreciation of Gerald Bonner’s life and achievements can be seen on the Durham University website.

Bibliographical Society Fellowships and Bursaries

The Bibliographical Society invites applications for awards from scholars engaged in bibliographical research (on, for example, book history, textual transmission, publishing, printing, bookbinding, book ownership and book-collecting) for 2014. Further details and application forms can be found on the Bibliographical Society’s website.

Calls for papers

The Collector and his Circle: deadline 31 January 2014
With the developing interest in the history of collecting, this one-day workshop to be held at the Wallace Collection on 2 July 2014, aims to bring out new research in the area of collecting and art markets in the early modern era (1700—1900). Speakers at this workshop are invited to examine the mutual interests of collectors and art patrons; the client relationships between dealers and collectors; the roles of advisers, museum curators and critics; and the importance of art publications. The dates chosen cover the widening spheres of collecting through the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and encourage connections to be made and differences to be highlighted as the art market widens and collecting patterns are influenced by the growing importance of national and civic museums.

Those interested in participating should send a short abstract of c 300 words for short presentations (15 minutes, followed by discussions in order to explore the issues more fully) to Carmen Holdsworth-Delgado by 31 January 2014.

The First Annual Conference of the Norwich Historic Churches Trust (NHCT): deadline 31 January 2014
Norwich has the highest number of surviving medieval churches of any city north of the Alps: thirty-one in total, of which eighteen are now redundant and in the care of NHCT. As part of a programme to raise the profile of the NHCT’s work, the Trustees have decided to initiate an annual conference to discuss the architecture, archaeology, history, liturgy, art history, sociology and post-redundancy use of the medieval churches of Norwich (papers can also be concerned with a wider canvas, but with a Norwich bias).

Proposals for 30-minute papers in English (maximum 300 words), with a short biography, are invited, and should be sent by 31 January 2014 to the conference organiser, Dr Nicholas Groves (, who will also be pleased to answer enquiries about possible topics.

The Sacred City: London, art and the religious imaginary: deadline 1 February 2014
William Blake famously hoped to see ‘Jerusalem builded here’, but he was not the first or the last creative mind to imagine a new utopian metropolis at the unique intersection between art, architecture and religion. Papers are welcome on all aspects of this theme as well as on cities and urban life in general, including architecture and multi-culturalism, medieval to Victorian cities, Biblical ideas of the city and contemporary art and film. Abstracts of no more than 300 words should be emailed to Laura Moffatt by 1 February 2014.

For further information, see the ACE Trust website. The conference will take place on 7 to 11 July 2014 in London and will include specialist guided tours of the National Gallery, the V&A and places of worship in central and east London. The keynote speakers include Sam Wells, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, and Alison Milbank, Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham.


7 to 9 April 2014: ‘Romanesque: patrons and processes’, the third in a biennial series of International Romanesque conferences hosted by the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) and the British Archaeological Association (BAA) in Barcelona (for the proceedings of the first, see 'Romanesque and the Past', below). The aim on this occasion is to examine patronage — and agency — in their broadest senses during the Romanesque period, including the processes involved in commissioning buildings or works of art, the mechanics of design, authorship, intermediaries and agents, and the extent to which patrons are also designers. Are there limits to patronal influence?

Speakers include: Claude Andrault-Schmitt, Manuel Castiñeiras, Hugh Doherty, Eric Fernie, Alexandra Gajewski and Stephanie Seeberg, Ludovico Geymonat, Richard Gem, Dorothy Glass, Colum Hourihane, Armen Kazaryan, Bruno Klein, Esther Lozano, Javier Martínez de Aguirre, Géraldine Mallet, Robert Maxwell, John McNeill, Christopher Norton, Carlo Quintavalle, Jens Rüffer, Marta Serrano, Neil Stratford and Rose Walker.

The conference will be held in the Museum of Catalan Art in Barcelona with the opportunity to stay on for two days of visits to medieval buildings at San Pere de Rodes, Girona, Tarragona and Santes Creus on 10 and 11 April. Further information and booking forms are available on the BAA website.

26 April 2014: ‘The many faces of a mediaeval fenland church: St Clement’s, Outwell’, 10am to 4.30pm, to raise money to repair and maintain the fabric of the church. Speakers include our Fellows Sandy Heslop, on the architecture, roof carvings, stained glass, furniture and fittings; John Goodall on ‘Church and manor after the Reformation’; and Eamon Duffy on ‘The parish and its people: the community of faith in the Middle Ages’. Further information from the website of the Friends of St Clement’s Church.

9 to 11 May 2014: ‘Modernism versus Brutalism’. This weekend conference at Rewley House is being organised by our Fellow Paul Barnwell to explore the development of modern architecture in Britain from the 1920s to the 1970s. Among the speakers, our Fellow Alan Powers will look at the 1930s as a prelude to post-war modernism, Fellow Elain Harwood will look at ‘space, hope and the beginnings of Brutalism’ and there will be papers on the Festival of Britain by Harriet Atkinson on Berthold Lubetkin by John Allan, Wells Coates by Elizabeth Darling, Maxwell Fry by Iain Jackson and Denys Lasdun by Barnabas Calder. Joe Kerr will look at public housing, Geraint Franklin at town centres, Alistair Fair at university architecture and Christine Hui Lan Manley at town planning in general. The weekend will be a focus for the latest research on the period, with bookstalls and opportunities for debate. See the website of the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education for further information.

5 April 2014: 'Exploring ‘stairways to heaven’ at Hythe parish church. Among the speakers at this a study day, organised by the Kent Archaeological Society, is Toby Huitson, author of Stairway to Heaven about the functions of medieval ecclesiastical stairs, galleries and upper chambers. The talks will be followed by guided tours and workshop sessions, which will study St Leonard’s architecture and documents. Further details from the KAS website.

The Library: a world history

Books and libraries are under threat all over the world from managerial types who think that a great deal of money can be saved by scanning books, throwing the hard copies away and using library buildings for another purpose — preferably one that earns money from shopping or corporate entertaining. If you want to see what a sad shell an empty library can be, head for the ‘posh’ shop to the right of the main entrance to the British Museum (by contrast with the W H Smith varieties of the Great Court) and look at the bare shelves. Come to mention it, the same is true of our own Society’s former library in Somerset House, now the home of the Courtauld Gallery shop.

So a book that fights back against this kind of thinking is very much to be welcomed: and this book by Fellow James W P Campbell is filled with pictures and descriptions of some eighty-two libraries in twenty-one countries designed not just for storing books but for reading, thinking, gaining understanding and insight (one hopes) and indulging in the delights of serendipitous discovery: wandering the shelves in search of one book and stumbling across another unsought book that enthrals — something that cannot happen when using an e-reader, which is why some people argue that digital reading devices militate against wide reading, rather than opening up choice.

Everyone reading this book will have their own favourites from the enormous variety of different styles and approaches, the library in which they would be happy to be exiled or to serve as librarian. The Wren-designed library at Trinity College, Cambridge (1675), comes close to the ideal and was surely the model for our own Society’s library, if not in detail then at least in the concept of a series of bookshelves that create alcoves for quiet study and meditation. These buildings are not just utilitarian warehouses for materials that could just as easily be condensed to binary notation and stored on magnetic media: they are, James Campbell reminds us, quoting the inscription of Rameses II of Egypt marking the entrance of his library at Thebes, ‘a place of healing for the soul’.

The Library: a world history, by James W P Campbell; ISBN 9780500342886; Thames & Hudson, 2013

The Institut Français du Royaume-Unis to undergo a £1.5m restoration

One library that clearly has a future is that of the Institut Français du Royaume-Unis, the French cultural institute in London. The Institute’s Médiathèque, or multimedia library, holds the largest free-access collection of French material in the UK, covering all aspects of French culture and society, from rare books dating back to the seventeenth century to novels, to comic books to feature films and magazines.

The Institute has announced that it is to spend £1.5m on restoring the Médiathèque’s reading room, a distinctive Grade II listed building located at 17 Queensberry Place, in South Kensington. The art deco library, reached via a sweeping marble staircase, decorated with the Rodin statue L’Age d’Airain and an original tapestry by Sonia Delaunay, was designed by Patrice Bonnet and inaugurated in 1939. The architectural firm Bisset Adams will manage the project, beginning with work on the reading room’s original parquet flooring, stained-glass windows and woodwork.


The Bicentenary of the Birmingham Proof House

Fellow Bill Harriman has donated a copy of his pamphlet commemorating 200 years of this unusual building, established in 1813 by Act of Parliament for testing firearms and issuing certificates testifying to quality of construction.

Such testing later became mandatory under the Gun Barrel Proof Act of 1868 but proofing was entirely voluntary in 1813, and the Birmingham Gun Barrel Proof House, in Banbury Street, was built by and at the expense of local manufacturers, proud of their reputation and the high standards they set themselves for materials and workmanship. Now designated at Grade II*, the building has survived, apart from some damage sustained during World War II, as a remarkably intact expression of one of Birmingham’s foremost industries. Unusually, too, it has an extensive archive, and continues to perform its original function, combining activities as a museum with gun and ammunition testing and firearm accident investigation.

Romanesque and the Past

The nineteen papers in this volume, edited by Fellow John McNeill and Richard Plant, were given at a British Archaeological Association conference held in 2010, whose central concern was the many ways in which Romanesque art and architecture use or reflect the past, perhaps through the reuse of ancient sites, ancient materials, ancient plan forms or archaic architectural details, or through the construction of ancient histories and lineages and associations with people from the past. There is a clue, of course, in the name: Romanesque implies ‘in the Roman style’. For enlightenment on the origins of the term, one turns to the final essay in the volume, Fellow Eric Fernie’s historiographical essay on what he admits is ‘one of the most loosely defined and controversial art-historical period labels’.

Why it should be so controversial is tied up with the fact that the period termed ‘Romanesque’ is a period in flux: arguments rage about when classical antiquity ends, and when the high medieval period begins, and therefore the Romanesque or post-Antique bit in the middle is difficult to pin down; that problem being compounded by the fact that this is a period in flux, a period of constant change, sometimes minor, sometimes seismic. Add to that the awareness that we all have that history is not a system of neat periods but a continuum, or what Foucault calls ‘a tangle of continuities and discontinuities’, and you see why the term might not be very helpful. And yet, Eric insists that it is, and for one key reason that informs the other papers in the volume: quoting Fellow Peter Kidson, he says ‘what really distinguishes Romanesque buildings from their predecessors and successors has to be expressed in terms of attitudes towards precedents’; in other words, Romanesque respects and uses the past, whereas Gothic pursues a modernist manifesto, rejecting the past and glorying in the achievements of the age.

That conclusion really sets the agenda for the other papers in the book written by a distinguished roster of contributors (including Fellows Richard Gem, Jill A Franklin, Neil Stratford, Roger Stalley, Deborah Kahn, Peter Fergusson), all of which rise magnificently to the challenge of teasing out the many fascinating ways in which the past is present in the Romanesque’.

Romanesque and the Past, edited by John McNeill and Richard Plant; ISBN 9781909662100; Maney Publishing, 2013

Cult, Religion, and Pilgrimage

The back end of last year saw a flurry of publishing by the Council for British Archaeology, with no less than four major monographs appearing in December 2013. First in period order is a report by Jan Harding on fieldwork at Thornborough, near Masham, in North Yorkshire, examining a monumental landscape that was the subject of a hard-fought campaign beginning in 2002 to save the cursus, three henges, barrows, burial grounds and ancient settlements from destruction by gravel extraction. Comparable in complexity to parts of the Salisbury Plain, Thornborough has inevitably been called the ‘Stonehenge of the North’, and ‘the most important Neolithic site between Stonehenge and Orkney’, and yet, until the campaign began to save the landscape, few archaeologists could name it.

Jan Harding’s book (with specialist contributions from a number of Fellows) makes up for that deficiency by reporting on fieldwork undertaken during the periods 1994—9 and 2002—4, including topographical and geophysical survey, fieldwalking, test pitting and selective excavation. What emerges is a story of repeated use of this landscape from the Mesolithic in ways that transformed a relatively modest monument complex into a sacred landscape of some importance for the later Neolithic inhabitants of the region. A triple ditched barrow dating from the second quarter of the fourth millennium BC is identified as the ‘founder monument’, followed by the cursus and then the three henges, all sited in ways to suggest that ‘a carefully planned vision, or sacred geometry, was at play’ and that whatever rituals were practised in this landscape were ‘highly choreographed’.

Occupation was restricted to the fringes of the landscape, where a mosaic of specialised flint-knapping sites and short-term settlements was found, providing a further clue to the site’s significance, for Thornborough lies on a major route between the flint-bearing coastal regions of East Yorkshire and the polished stone-axe producing heights of Cumbria. But, argue the authors, there is more to the site than routes and exchange: why is Thornborough here and not at another point along that route? Perhaps, they suggest, it has to do with the abundance of springs, watercourses and bogs, funerary practice and the transformative potential of rivers. Perhaps it also has to do with the abundant deposits of gypsum, and the evidence that this was quarried and used (like the chalk of Salisbury Plain) to turn the henge banks white.

The final chapter of the book, ‘pathways to purity’, seeks to explain water and gypsum as metaphors for human bone, purity, the stars and the moon, the solstice and the seasons and to make some sort of provisional sense of what is a most intriguing landscape, saved through the persistence of a bunch of trouble-making archaeologists who would not take ‘no’ for an answer.

Cult, Religion, and Pilgrimage: archaeological investigations at the Neolithic and Bronze Age monument complex of Thornborough, North Yorkshire, by Jan Harding; ISBN 9781902771977; CBA Research Report 174, 2013

The Bronze Age in the Severn Estuary

Fellow Martin Bell’s report is concerned with the evidence that communities with access to coastal wetlands made extensive use of saltmarsh as a seasonal grazing resource in the Bronze Age, as well as for fishing and for salt extraction. Beyond this, he is interested in the ways that the contrasting experiences of wetland and dryland environments feed into Bronze Age culture — numerous sites all over Europe testify to the significance of water for Bronze Age beliefs and ritual practices. A major conclusion of the book is that the seasonal movement of animals and people around the landscape using multiple settlements did not cease at the end of the early Bronze Age, leading to year-round occupation of a single settlement, as has been argued.

In the Severn Estuary, at least, there was a seasonal round, not unlike the transhumance of the southern Provençal coastal regions or, as Martin Bell points out, the medieval Welsh hafod a hendre system (with a primary settlement, the hendre, and a summer grazing area, the hafod). Martin asks just how extensive this seasonal movement might have been: did it extend out onto the water and to the acquisition of metals, exotic goods and esoteric knowledge through contact with distant groups across the water, both within the Severn Estuary region and beyond, to southern Britain and France? He suggests, albeit gently, that the focus on field systems and trackways and permanent settlements might have created a dominant model for the period that has lost sight of the very significant role of coastal communities.

The Bronze Age in the Severn Estuary, by Martin Bell; ISBN 9781902771946; CBA Research Report 172, 2013

A Roman Villa at the Edge of Empire

Fellows are again to the fore as specialist contributors to this report on one of the most northerly villas to be found in the Roman Empire, discovered through aerial photography in the dry weather of the mid-1970s, located on a terrace on the south side of the Tees, some 40km south of Hadrian’s Wall, at Ingleby Barwick, near Stockton on Tees. Excavations in 1997—2000 and 2003—4 identified a winged corridor villa with a number of outlying buildings, including an aisled building, a circular structure, a caldarium (hot bath), pits, ovens, burials, paved surfaces and wooden structures. Though there was an Iron-Age circular structure on the site before the villa, there is no evidence for direct replacement of the one by the other; rather there was a hiatus of some two centuries before the villa was constructed in the late second century AD, continuing in use into the early medieval period (early fifth century) before the collapse of the stone structures.

There were few of the luxurious accoutrements that one associates with villas further south — no mosaics, nor even ceramic roof tiles. Instead, the environmental evidence suggests that this was a working farm, engaged principally in cereal production. The longevity of the site is reflected in the complexity of the enclosures surrounding the villa, their boundaries re-established at intervals on slightly different alignments, and suggesting an element of livestock management.

The site’s significance lies in the rare evidence for Roman to post-Roman transition: the end of an overtly Roman lifestyle is signalled by the conversion of the caldarium to a grain dryer, while the find of a crossbow brooch from the site of a type arguably used only by high-level members of the military and civil service suggests that a high-ranking officer might have taken up residence.

Anglo-Saxon pottery helps to date the later phases of the site’s use, as does the unusual feature of a dog buried in a pit with a crossbow brooch (possibly indicating that a cloth was used to cover the animal) and some hollows that might have been sunken-featured buildings. The authors are wary of offering explanations, but they believe the site is one of the first pieces in the jigsaw that will eventually enable us to understand the transformation of Roman to Anglo-Saxon society in the region.

A Roman Villa at the Edge of Empire Excavations at Ingleby Barwick, Stockton-on-Tees 2003—04, edited by Steven Willis and Peter Carne; ISBN 9781902771908; CBA Research Report 170, 2013

La Grava

Written by Fellow Evelyn Baker, this is the long-awaited report of one of the largest and most complete studies of a medieval manorial and monastic site in England. La Grava (known locally as Gove Priory), an alien priory of the Order of Fontrevault, in Anjou, was excavated in its entirety along with its associated field systems, between 1973 and 1985, in advance of its total destruction by quarrying. The thought and care that has gone into the post-excavation analysis of the site is clear in every page: the graphics, site plans, figures, analytical graphs and reconstruction drawings condense huge amounts of complex information into readily understandable form and add up to a vivid picture of the site’s use and development from the late Saxon period onwards.

The inclusion of cartoons by Stephen Pinder (of the fat monk and his undersized coffin, or of Mary of Woodstock and her gambling debts) is a commendable acknowledgement of the fact that excavations themselves have histories that form an important part of the record (in this case, much of the fieldwork was made possible by the use of diggers employed under the Manpower Services Commission scheme, a challenge of excavation management in its own right!).

Commendable too is the attempt to get to grips with what the excavation actually achieved. The final chapter (‘Retrospect and conclusion: towards a site history’) includes an attempt, in tabular form, to gauge the degree of correlation between the documentary record for the site and the archaeological evidence. The author considers how much was gained as a result of total excavation, rather than sampling. She considers in detail the difficulties inherent in attempting to phase and date a site, and to distinguish residuality and intrusion, or hiatus and continuity. There is a sound summing up of what has been learned that was not known before, and what scope there is for further work; a discussion that is summarised in a list of thirty research questions that extend into the wider landscape and into wider archaeological questions. For all these reasons this is not a book that should be confined to the shelf marked ‘medieval’, but is one that archaeologists of all periods can read with profit.

La Grava: the archaeology and history of a royal manor and alien priory of Fontevrault, by Evelyn Baker; ISBN 9781902771878; CBA Research Report 167, 2013

Explorations in Salt Archaeology in the Carpathian Zone

Salon 301 reported on Fellow Anthony Harding’s e-book on Salt in Prehistoric Europe unaware that Anthony has also co-authored a much larger book on recent fieldwork in the Carpathian Zone (mainly in Romania, but also in parts of Ukraine, Slovakia and Poland), studying the ways in which salt was produced and transported in eastern Europe, mainly in the Bronze Age, but also in the Iron Age, Roman and medieval periods and in today’s traditional societies.

This is not only an area rich in sites to study, the salt itself is a remarkable preservative of organic materials, such as timber and cloth that give us an insight into ancient salt mining, refining and trade. Excavation photographs and colour-coded plans show ladders, shovels, mallets, wattle fences, timber troughs, boxes, wood-lined shafts, round and square plan structures linked by corridors all of which look recent but that prove to be a complex sequence from Bronze Age to medieval.

One discovery reported in detail and verified through experimental archaeology was the use of wooden troughs supported on timber tripods, positioned above a bed of rock salt and filled with water, which then flows out of shaped holes in the base of the trough at high pressure, spraying onto the rock salt and creating a parallel series of fissures. Wedges hammered into these fissures then allows lumps of rock salt to be broken off: attempts to do this using metal tools on a flat rock salt face always left the metal tools broken. Experiments with also showed that the same troughs could be used to dissolve the rock salt, creating super-saturated brine: dripped onto textile, and placed in the sun, the brine quickly formed crystals that could be picked off by hand.

The final chapter on future prospects for this research offers the thought that there is a correlation between major periods of salt production in the area and the maximum use of tin in the bronze industry — just one possible line of enquiry for future research. In the meantime, site protection remains a major challenge: many prehistoric salt-production sites are disappearing fast, encroached upon by modern developments that lead to the lowering of the water table and the drying out of the fragile remains.

Explorations in Salt Archaeology in the Carpathian Zone, by Anthony Harding and Valerii Kavruk; ISBN 9789639911444; Archaeolingua, 2013


Council for British Archaeology: Communications Officer
Salary £22,000—£24,000 (pro-rata); closing date 10 January 2014

The CBA is seeking to appoint a 4-day-a-week Communications Officer in York. Further details are on the CBA’s website.

The Leche Trust: Grants Director
c £25,000 per year; closing date 20 February 2014

The Trustees of this charity (which gives grants to teachers and to overseas students, the performing arts, conservation and the built heritage) are seeking to replace their current Grants Director, Louisa Lawson, who retires at the beginning of October 2014. This is a varied, interesting and sometimes demanding role and the post-holder will require a range of knowledge, experience and technical skills to run the Trust on a day-to-day basis.

To apply please email a letter of application and contact details for two referees, together with a CV outlining your experience and relevant track record to Anne Greenstock, Chairman, The Leche Trust. For further information, please see the job advertisement and the job specification on the Trust’s website.

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 News and Events section of our website.


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