RSA Heritage Index: West Suffolk

The Norman Gate to the Abbey of St Edmund © David Gill

The 2020 RSA Heritage Index is now available. West Suffolk has been placed at 122nd in England: Ipswich is at 87th, and East Suffolk at 98th. West Suffolk’s strengths have been identified as Culture and Memories (69th) and Landscape and Natural Heritage (72nd). Surprisingly, given the importance of Bury St Edmunds, the Historic Built Environment is placed at 165th and Museums, Archives and Artefacts at 173rd.

RSA Heritage Index: Norwich and Norfolk

Norwich Castle © David Gill

The 2020 RSA Heritage Index is now available and Norwich is ranked as number 3 as a centre for heritage in England (up from number 9 in 2016). The city’s particular strengths are in Historic Built Environment (3rd up from 4th), Museums, Archives and Artefacts (7th up from 12th), and Culture and Memories (2nd down from 1st). There has also been a marked improvement for Parks and Open Space (28th up from 40th).

Norfolk as a county featured prominently. North Norfolk came 25th (up from 36 in 2016). Its main strengths included Historic Built Environment (33rd up from 71st), Landscape and Natural Heritage (22nd up from 27th), and Culture and Memories (75th up from 86th). There were also improvements in Museums, Archives and Artefacts (135th up from 141st) and Parks and Open Spaces (131st up from 137th).

Great Yarmouth did particularly well moving from 64th in 2016 to 38th. Its particular strengths were Industrial Heritage (22nd up from 40th), Parks and Open Spaces (56th up from 115th), and Historic Built Environment (85th up from 159th).

Kings Lynn and West Norfolk was ranked 54th (with a rise in Historic Built Environment, 39th), Breckland at 150th (with a rise in Historic Built Environment, 41st, and Museums, Archives and Artefacts, 117th), Broadland at 190th (with a strength in Landscape and Natural Heritage, 123rd), and South Norfolk at 219th (with a strength in Historic Built Environment, 63rd).

Across the region, Cambridge also featured in the top 10 at number 9 (up from 12th). Maldon moved from 40th to 37th (with moves in Historic Built Environment, 48th, and Museums, Archives and Artefacts, 125th), while Colchester remained unchanged at 140th (though with a move to 80th for Historic Built Environment). Ipswich fell from 70th in 2016 to 87th. East Suffolk was placed at 98th, and West Suffolk at 122nd.

Excavating the Athenian Agora: the temple of Hephaistos

Temple of Hephaistos, the Athenian Agora © David Gill

John Camp has given another virtual seminar from the Athenian agora. The subject this time was the temple of Hephaistos that stands on the low hill overlooking the agora. He broke the temple down into its architectural elements from its foundations to the roof. His explanation of the proportions of the Doric order showed how a reconstruction can be made from the smallest of architectural fragments. Camp explained how the internal structure of the temple had been reorientated when the building had been converted into a Christian church. There was a reminder that the modern planting was informed by the excavated ‘plant pots’ around the temple.

The subsequent questions include a discussion of the date as well as the use pf polychromy.

These in situ seminars do so much to explain architectural remains.

Landguard Heritage Landscape

WW2 defences at Landguard © David Gill

The Victorian Landguard Fort stands in the middle of rich heritage landscape that marks the defence of this strategic area around (and opposite) the port of Harwich during the Second World War.

In the foreground is the base for mounting a searchlight, and behind it a pillbox. To the rear of the image, on the perimeter of the fort, are the two control towers located at Darrell’s Battery.

These features form part of the Landguard Nature Reserve.

WW2 defences at Landguard © David Gill

For details of WW2 archaeology in Suffolk.

Athens: the Library of Hadrian

The Library of Hadrian, west façade and propylon © David Gill

Visitors to Athens probably focus on the Agora and Akropolis rather than other equally important remains that can be found in the city. One of the most impressive is the Library of the Emperor Hadrian that lies in the district of Monastaraki, to the east of the Agora and immediately to the north of the Roman forum. The access is from the west, just like the Roman forum.

The Library of Hadrian, west façade © David Gill

The Library dates to AD 132, following Hadrian’s visit to the city. The entire complex measures approximately 125 m long.

The marble for the columns on the propylon were imported from Asia Minor, and those along the front of the building from Karystos on the island of Euboia. The rest of the western façade was made from Pentelic marble.

The Library of Hadrian, south-east exedra © David Gill

Four semi-circular exedra were placed at each end of the north and south walls of the Library.

The Library of Hadrian, east wall © David Gill

The library itself, along with adjacent lecture and reading rooms, was located at the eastern end of the complex. The eastern wall was limestone.

The Library of Hadrian, the Quatrefoil Building © David Gill

The Library was damaged during the Herulian attack on Athens in 267. Perhaps two decades later a new wall was constructed to enclose the area to the north of the Akropolis. This defensive wall incorporated the south wall of the Library; and the Library itself projected north of this new line.

The Quatrefoil Building (or Tetraconch) was constructed in the centre of the Library in the early 5th century AD. This is possibly one of the earliest churches in Athens. The bases for the Hadrianic peristyle, originally consisting of 100 columns made of Phrygian marble, can be seen in the foreground.

The standing columns come from a 7th century church.

The Library of Hadrian from the south-west with the Panathenaic Way in the foreground © David Gill

Excavating the Athenian Agora: the Stoa Basileios

The Stoa Basileios, Athens © David Gill

The American School of Classical Studies at Athens is marking 90 years of excavation in the Athenian agora. John McK Camp II, the director, has given an on-site webinar to explain the early fifth century BC Stoa Basileios on the north side of this public space adjacent to the Panathenaic Way. He runs through various features including ‘the oath stone’, the placing of herms, and the public display of the Athenian constitution. He then expands on the vision to make this part of the agora more accessible to the public. It is a privilege to hear such a distinguished excavator explain his work and thinking in situ.

The webinar is available here.

The Stoa Basileios, Athens © David Gill

Tynemouth Priory and Castle: guidebooks

Tynemouth Priory and Castle © David Gill

Tynemouth priory and church are located on the north side of the mouth of the river Tyne. The first guidebook, by R.Neville Hadcock, was published in 1936; the second edition appeared in 1952, continuing as an English Heritage ‘Handbook’ in 1986. It followed the standard format of History followed by description; there is an extended glossary.

The guidebook was replaced by Andrew D. Saunders (1993).

1986

The most recent guidebook is by Grace McCombie (2008). This starts with a tour followed by the history. It includes a section on the headland in the First and Second World Wars, with detailed descriptions of the gun batteries.

2008

Dunstanburgh Castle: guidebooks

Dunstanburgh Castle © David Gill

Dunstanburgh Castle on the Northumberland coast was placed in State Guardianship in 1929. Construction had started in 1313. The first official guide was published in 1936 with the section on the history of the castle by C.H. Hunter Blair, and the description by H.L. Honeyman. The cover carries the arms of Thomas, second Earl of Lancaster (1277–1322). There is a foldout plan inside the back cover. The guide continued into the 1970s.

1936 (2nd ed. 1955, 4th impress. 1962)
10th impress. 1973

A colour illustrated guide was prepared by Henry Summerson (1993). The main section is dedicated to a tour of the castle, and there is a helpful bird’s-eye view to help to orientate the visitor. There is a short section with biographical notes on Thomas of Lancaster and John of Gaunt.

1993

Alastair Oswald and Jeremy Ashbee prepared the English Heritage red guide (2007). This contains a bird’s-eye view and a plan of the castle on the fold-out card cover. The tour contains helpful thumbnail plans to help the visitor located their position. There is a section on Dunstanburgh and coastal defence during World War 2.

2007 (repr. 2016)

The National Trust: responding to COVID-19

Dunwich Heath © David Gill

COVID-19 is forcing us to rethink how we engage with heritage. How realistic will it be in the short term for large numbers of visitors to move safely through the public rooms of country houses? How will those public areas be cleaned? Can safe routes with a one-way system be developed?

These questions are made more complicated by the adoption of a pre-visit booking system. The days of visiting a property on a whim are now on hold.

The implications of these restrictions on the National Trust are huge. The Trust is facing a loss of income that is likely to be in the region of £200 million (‘Coronavirus: National Trust boss denies expert job cuts would ‘dumb down’ charity‘, BBC News 22 August 2020). And this means that there are likely to be redundancies among the staff.

The challenge is huge. Can properties be kept open and therefore generating an income if you reduce the staff who make this possible? But can you lose experienced staff who know the properties and their contents, and who can present a meaningful narrative to the public?

In the short term the National Trust will need to place an emphasis on its heritage landscapes where social distancing is possible and therefore where potential visitors can feel safe. But is the danger that these fragile landscapes will be damaged if there are too many visitors? What are the implications for wildlife and the natural heritage of these special places?

Perhaps the Greek inscription over the lintel of T.E. Lawrence’s cottage at Clouds Hill will make us pause to consider the future role of the organisation that cares for large parts of our nation’s heritage.

Clouds Hill © David Gill

Dryburgh Abbey: main west door

Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill

In 1385 the English army under King Richard II sacked three of the monasteries along the line of Dere Street: these included Dryburgh and Melrose. The western entrance to the abbey church was rebuilt in the 15th century in part due to the award of properties by Richard III.

A window would have been placed immediately above the doorway.

Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill