The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS) presented its final reports in the form of a well illustrated overview of its work from 1908 until its conclusion in 2015. This beautifully designed study includes commentary on the impact of different technologies on how the historic landscape and its features can be mapped and recorded.
Oxford University Press has published a series of essays on refugee scholars who found a home and a welcome at the University of Oxford from 1930.
My contribution was on Professor Brian Shefton (1919-2012), who was brought to England with his parents in the summer if 1933. His father, Professor Isidor Isaac Scheftelowitz, initially found a home at Montefiore College in Ramsgate before moving to Oxford in the summer of 1934. Brian was a scholar at Oriel College, Oxford, where he came under the influence of Paul Jacobsthal and (Sir) John Beazley. His studies were interrupted in 1940 when many refugees of German origin were interned on the Isle of Man. Brian enrolled in the Pioneer Corps of the British Army serving in Yorkshire and Scotland. In 1944 he transferred to the Education Corps.
At the cessation of hostilities Brian returned to Oxford to complete us studies, and in 1947 obtained a School Scholarship at the British School at Athens where he assisted with the excavation of Old Smyrna. During this period he collaborated with colleagues at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA) on the publication of some of the pottery from the Agora excavations. One of his significant publications from this time was on the monument to Kallimachos from the Athenian Acropolis.
In 1950 he was appointed Lecturer in Classics at Exeter, and in 1953 moved to King’s College, Newcastle (now Newcastle University). One of his achievements was the creation of the Greek Museum (now incorporated in the Great North Museum). Among his research interests was the distribution of Greek and Etruscan material in Central Europe, a topic no doubt inherited from Jacobsthal.
Gill, D. W. J. 2017. “Brian Shefton: classical archaeologist.” In Ark of civilization: refugee scholars and Oxford University, 1930-1945, edited by S. Crawford, K. Ulmschneider, and J. Elsner: 151-60. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Bryan H. St. John O’Neil prepared the original guidebook for the Isles of Scilly in 1949. A (posthumous) second edition appeared in 1961, and it continued in print until at least 1971 (5th impression with amendments).
The guide was divided into sections: The Stone Age and Before; The Bronze Age; The Early Iron Age; The Roman Period; The Dark Ages; The Middle Ages; the Sixteenth Century; The Civil War; Later History. There is specific discussion of three burial chambers: Bants Carn; Innisodgen; and Porth Hellick Down.
The second edition is expanded to cover eight (rather than seven) monuments in State Guardianship. There are more plans and illustrations, including one’s for King Charles’s Castle and Cromwell’s Castle.
English Heritage has now published a volume Defending Scilly by Mark Bowden and Allan Brodie (2011). This has three main sections: Introduction; Scilly’s military heritage; Scilly and the sea. There are generous colour illustrations that cover a range of defences, not all in state care.
“Three interesting publications crossed my path today. The first, given to me by Diana Murray, former Head of the Royal Commission for Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland (RCAHMS – now subsumed into the new NDPB Historic Environment Scotland) is called “An Inventory for the Nation” which records the 107 year journey of the Commission to produce a permanent and enduring record of the archaeology and antiquities of Scotland.
The second, which arrived by post later in the day was volume 144 of the Proceeding of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland (SocAnt). A good proper academic read if there ever was one, I was drawn to an article by James Scott Pedre titled, “Mingary in Ardnamurchan: a review of who could have built the castle.” It was interesting to see liberal references to some of the RCAHMS’s publications, including the seminal Inventories of Argyllshire.
The third publication (actually the first, if I can call it a “publication”) that drew my attention came from the BBC’s Breakfast newscast, which I enjoy most mornings over the first coffee of the day. James Donal Wales was interviewed on the 15th anniversary of the founding of the Wikipedia, the free, open content, collaborative encyclopedia that would accept contributions from ordinary people. Loved and pilloried by all, I was struck by his mission of democratizing knowledge.
In flicking through An Inventory for a Nation, I was also struck by a quote from Roger Mercer, the Commission’s Secretary between 1990 and 2004, where he said, “Published Inventories have not ever really be a practicable, or, perhaps a desirable proposition.… By their nature, they seek to define, and as a result they tend to fossilise what must inevitably be a subject of constant reassessment”. As essentially a national collection for the antiquities of Scotland, this is an undeniable fact. Collections change; our understanding matures; different perspectives re-define.
However, in returning the Volume 144 of the SocAnts Proceedings, I was immediately struck on the timelessness of the Argyll Inventories and how they remain relevant and essential for modern scholastic purposes. The Inventories were referenced in numerous occasions, as were other works such as MacGibbons and Ross work on castles in Scotland (1889).
In essence, these Inventories provide a definable baseline; a point from which later works can be measured. James Wales spoke about his memory of an encyclopaedia, where as a child he would receive updates from the publisher on sticky labels and with his mother would painstakingly stick these over the corrected pages. These corrected passages never actually disappeared; they simply were hidden from view. Can we same the same about the edits to Wiki pages?
With no such fixed baseline, such as Argyll. An Inventory of the Ancient Monuments, Volume 1, Kintyre and the subsequent suite of other volumes, it would prove more challenging to conduct such a review as James Scott Pedre has done.
As such, it is comforting to have been given An Inventory for the Nation, which at least draws a measurable line from which future historians, scholars and management committees may wish to review in times to come. As our national heritage agencies merge and change in response to new challenges, being able to go back to review progress is more important than ever.
There is a new guidebook to Colchester Castle by Tom Hodgson and Philip Wise (Jarrold Publishing and Colchester Castle, 2015). This beautifully designed and colour illustrated book of 72 pp follows the history of Colchester through the collections displayed in the Colchester Museum.
The castle itself is built on the foundations of the Temple of the Divine Claudius destroyed during the Boudican revolt.
The main sections are:
a. Iron Age (including the Sheepen Cauldron dating to 1275-1140 BC; the Mount Bures Firedog; the Augustus Medallion from the Lexden Tumulus)
b. Roman Invasion (including tombstones of veterans from the colony; the Fenwick Treasure perhaps deposited during the Boudican destruction)
c. Roman Heyday (including slave rings; ‘the Colchester Vase’ showing gladiatorial combat, dating to AD 175-200; lead curse tablets; the Colchester Sphinx excavated on the site of the Essex County Hospital in 1821)
d. Roman Decline (including Christianity in Roman Colchester; jet bear)
e. Saxons and Normans (including St Botolph’s Priory; the Town Charter)
f. Medieval (including Medieval painting)
g. Post Medieval (including the Colchester Martyrs; the Siege of Colchester in the Civil War)
h. Modern (including the formation of the museum collection; Colchester Castle in wartime including an exhibition in 1944)
Inside the back cover is a plan of Colchester pointing visitors to key locations around the town.
I have two other guides to the collection: Colchester Castle: a history, description and guide (Colchester Borough council, 4th edition, 1978). This includes plans of the castle and a more detailed history. There is also a section drawing showing how the castle included the Roman temple in its foundations.
The second guide is Roman Colchester by M.R. Hull (Colchester Town Council, 1947). This was prepared ‘in response to a great demand among visitors to Colchester Museum for a Guide to Roman Colchester’. The sections are:
1. Colchester before the Romans
2. The beginnings of Roman Colchester
3. The colonia
5. The visible remains of the Roman town
6. Civic organisation and administration
7. The Middle Empire
8. The legend of King Coel
9. The end of Roman Colchester
There is a particularly useful foldout paper plan inside the back cover.
One of the earliest guides is Dr J. Horace Round’s The History and Antiquities of Colchester Castle (1882).
In 1969 the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (MPBW) produced a ‘souvenir guide’ of the Three Shell Keeps by D.F. Renn. This covered Launceston and Restormel Castles in Cornwall, and Totnes Castle in Devon.
Totnes Castle was placed in state guardianship in 1947, and a short guide by S.E. Rigold appeared in 1952. This continued as a Department of the Environment ‘paper’ guide (with blue header) (1979), and then as an English Heritage guide (1990).Launceston Castle was placed in state guardianship in 1951. The guide by T.L. Jones appeared in 1959. This was replaced by the English Heritage guidebook by A.M. Saunders in 1985.
Restormel Castle was placed in state guardianship in 1925. The guide was prepared by C.A. Ralegh Radford in 1935. This was contemporary with the guides for Lydford and Tintagel Castles. The Restormel Castle guide was reprinted in 1947, and for the Department of the Environment in 1980.
The Roman villa lies to the north of the South Downs in Sussex. It was discovered in 1811 and by 1814 the site was attracting large numbers of visitors. The villa contains a series of fine mosaics protected by a series of thatched buildings.
Our earliest guide dates to October 1975. It consists of 16 pages, following a tour of the site using the plan that appears in the centre (pp. 8-9). There are simple line drawings in the text.
We also have a guide book undated, with an image of the 1812 drawing of the Venus mosaic on the cover. It contains a history of the excavations, and a ‘walk around guide and description’. It is complete with plans and colour images, as well as a colour reconstruction.
The latest guide (again undated) is essentially a revised version of the previous one. There is an additional section on ‘Farming & Countryside’, as well as a page of the ‘Covering Buildings’ constructed to protect the remains in the early 19th century, and a section on the educational programme of the villa.