Guidebooks and Sir Alfred Clapham

Whitby Abbey © David Gill
Whitby Abbey © David Gill

Sir Alfred (William) Clapham (1883-1950) was responsible for at least three guidebooks produced by the Ministry of Works. He was educated at Dulwich College and then worked on the Victoria History of the Counties of England (where (Sir) Charles Peers was architectural editor). In 1912 he joined the Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England). (For his life: ODNB.)

He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries in 1913, and served as its President from 1939 to 1944. He was knighted in 1944.

Clapham worked on at least three guides for the Ministry of Works, and all appeared posthumously.

1951 (2012 reprint)
1951 (2012 reprint)

They included the Augustinian Abbey at Thornton in Humberside (and originally Lincolnshire). This appeared in 1951, and from 1954 included a supplement on the monastic buildings by P.K. Baillie Reynolds. Clapham’s guide was published by English Heritage (1989), revised in 2010, and last reprinted in 2012.

1952 (16th impression 1979)
1952 (16th impression 1979)

Clapham published the 1952 guide to the Benedictine Abbey at Whitby. The abbey had been the subject of clearance and excavation by Peers during the 1920s after it came into State Guardianship. Peers and C.A. Ralegh Radford had published on the Anglo-Saxon origins of the abbey.

1955 (12th impression 1977)
1955 (12th impression 1977)

Clapham’s third guidebook was on St Augustine’s Abbey at Canterbury (1955). Like Whitby the abbey has Anglo-Saxon origins.

Author: David Gill

David Gill is Honorary Professor in the Centre for Heritage at the University of Kent, and an Academic Associate in SISJAC at UEA; Professor of Archaeological Heritage.

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