Alan Sorrell: creating visions of the past

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2018

How do you interpret archaeological sites to make them understood by the public? This book looks at the influential work of Alan Sorrell: the subtitle, ‘The man who created Roman Britain’, perhaps indicates the impact of his work.

Roman Britain features prominently: Hadrian’s Wall (fig. 99; Cover), the Carrawburgh mithraeum (fig. 102a–b), Housesteads fort (fig. 110), Caerleon legionary fortress (figs. 1), 80, the forum at Leicester (fig. 25), London (figs. 87, 104a–c, 106), Caerwent (figs. 28, 84a–b, 86a–b), Wroxeter (fig. 118), Bath (fig. 119a–b), Llantwit Major villa (fig. 85), and Lullingstone villa (fig. 98c). Medieval structures in state guardianship appear: Harlech and Conwy Castles (fig. 54a–b), the Bishop’s Palace at St Davids (fig. 69), Tintern Abbey (fig. 65a) and Jedbergh Abbey (fig. 65b).

Looking to Greece there are reconstructions of the Palace of Nestor at Pylos (figs. 17, 105), excavated by Carl Blegen, and the Palace at Knossos on Crete (fig. 41a).

The section on his work for the National Museum of Wales was particularly helpful. The reconstruction of Maen Madoc in the Brecon Beacons was instructive (fig. 89). Sorrell’s work with William Francis Grimes was given prominence.

The commissioning of reconstructions for sites in state guardianship is presented in some detail. We are presented with the views of P.K. Baillie Reynolds, Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments: ‘They should have a good public appeal’. Yet at the same time Baillie Reynolds opposed the use of such reconstructions. This was in contrast with A.J. Taylor: ‘I should, personally, very much like to see in due course Sorrell drawings of all our North Wales Edwardian castles’. The use of Sorrell reconstructions in the Ministry’s ‘Blue Guides’ is itself constructive.

Sorrell, Julia, and Mark Sorrell. 2018. Alan Sorrell: the man who created Roman Britain. Oxford: Oxbow.

Tilbury Fort: guidebooks

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1980 (1985, repr. 1987)

The fort at Tilbury was designed to protect the Thames. The 17th century artillery fort was built on the site of a fort constructed by Henry VIII. The first English Heritage guidebook was written by A.D. Saunders, who prepared texts for other artillery forts. This contained the standard format of history and description. A ground plan of the fort was provided in the centre pages.

The fort was transferred from the War Office in 1948 after it had ceased to be used for military purposes. It was opened to the public in 1982.

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2004 (rev. repr. 2014)

The replacement English Heritage guide was by Paul Pattison. A colour bird’s eye view of the fort is provided inside the front cover, and colour coded plan inside the back cover. The guide contains a tour of the fort followed by a history.

 

Finchale Priory: Chapter House

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Finchale Priory © David Gill

The Chapter House lies in the middle of the east side of the cloister, underneath the Dorter. It has been dated to the late 13th century. Stone benches were placed around the outer walls. The prior’s seat was located in the centre of the east side; the central window behind it was blocked during the 15th century.

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Finchale Priory © David Gill
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Finchale Priory © David Gill

Heritage Day 2019 (2020)

 

The postponed Heritage Day 2019, arranged by the Heritage Alliance, was held at The Tower of London in February 2020. The Parliamentary Undersecretary of State, Nigel Huddlestone MP, gave his first speech on heritage and tourism.

Roman roads in State Guardianship

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Wheeldale Moor Roman Road © David Gill

The construction of roads transformed the landscape of Britain. Yet only a limited number of fragments have been placed in State Guardianship. One of the most dramatic sections is a stretch that crosses Wheeldale Moor in North Yorkshire.

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Wheeldale Moor Roman Road © David Gill

A stretch of Dere Street near Soutra in Scotland has been preserved. This passed through Corbridge and Newstead.

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Dere Street © David Gill
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Dere Street near Soutra Aisle © David Gill

Further south Dere Street crossed the river Tees at Piercebridge and remains of the bridge have been found.

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Piercebridge © David Gill

A Roman milestone on the Stanegate near the fort of Vindolanda was placed in Guardianship.

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Vindolanda, Roman milestone © David Gill

 

The West Row Roman Treasure from Suffolk

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Mildenhall Dish © David Gill

A suggestion has been made that the Mildenhall Treasure be renamed as the West Row Treasure after the parish in which it was found (“Mildenhall Treasure: British Museum steps in to row over Roman hoard”, BBC News 22 February 2020).

Outlander and heritage tourism

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Doune Castle © David Gill

The Outlander series of books and TV series is having an impact on visitor numbers at heritage sites in Scotland (“Outlander tourism effect a ‘double edged sword’“, BBC News 15 February 2020). Doune Castle is reported to have a 200 per cent increase, rising from 38,000 in 2013 to 142,000 in 2008. It is now the fifth most popular Historic Environment Scotland site.

Culloden, managed by the National Trust for Scotland, has also seen a large increase in visitor numbers to over 213,000 in 2018.

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Source for Data: ALVA