Alan Sorrell: creating visions of the past

Sorrell_RB_cov
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.

Hadrian’s Wall: official guides

HW_DOE_souvenir
1963 (1969)

A.R. Birley prepared ‘an illustrated guide’ to Hadrian’s Wall in 1963. This supplemented the guides to individual forts on the wall (Chesters, Housesteads) as well as the Stanegate (Corbridge). (See now the English Heritage guide to Birdoswald.) A foldout plan inside the card cover showed key locations between Wallsend and Bowness. There are some excellent reconstructions by Alan Sorrell (including one with an overlay to show the inside of the bath-house).

HW_card_MoW
1970

There was a fold-out MPBW guide to the Wall in 1970.

HW_souv_EH
1987 (3rd ed. 1996)

David J. Breeze prepared the Souvenir Guide to the Roman Wall, which is described inside the cover ass ‘The greatest monument to the Roman occupation of Britain’. Breeze has also prepared the Handbook to the Roman Wall. The guide includes South Shields and Vindolanda, as well as the Roman fort at Maryport on the Cumbrian coast.

HW_EH_red
2006

The souvenir guide was replaced by Breeze’s ‘Red Guide’ to Hadrian’s Wall. The tour goes from west to east and includes non English Heritage sites such as Maryport, Vindolanda, Wallsend and South Shields.

Helmsley Castle: guidebooks

Helmsley_blue
1966 [3rd impress. 1971]
Helmsley Castle was placed in State Guardianship in 1923. The first official guidebook was prepared by Sir Charles Peers in 1946. This consisted of a history followed by a description. A fold-out map was placed inside the back cover.

Helmsley_Copack
1990

Glyn Coppack prepared a new English Heritage guide in 1990. It starts with a description and is followed by the history of the castle. A colour reconstruction of the castle by Alan Sorrell is placed in the centre. A double page plan is placed inside the back cover.

Helmsley_EH_Clark
2004 (repr. 2012)

Jonathan Clark prepared the 2004 English Heritage guide. The description has been replaced by a tour. It is then followed by a history. A coloured plan showing the different phases is placed sinde the back cover.

Helmsley_Kenyon
2017

John R. Kenyon prepared the English Heritage ‘red’ guide. This consists of a tour and a history. A plan is placed inside the back card cover.

St Davids Bishop’s Palace: guidebooks

IMG_2157.JPG
The Cathedral from the Bishop’s Palace, St Davids © David Gill

The Bishop’s Palace at St Davids was placed in State Guardianship in 1932. The official guidebook was prepared by C.A. Ralegh Radford. The first edition appeared in 1934, and the second edition in 1953. This starts with the history of the palace followed by a description of the remains. There is a foldout plan inside the back cover.

StDavids_MPBW
1953 (2nd ed.)

The blue guide continued into the 1970s as a DOE guide, published on behalf of the Welsh Office. On the title page (but not the cover) the Welsh title is provided: Llys  yr Esgob Tyddewi. It included a reconstruction by Alan Sorrell. A summary in Welsh is provided at the back of the guide.

St_Davids_palace
1953 (2nd ed.; 11th impress. with amendments, 1971)

The Cadw guide changed the title with the emphasis on St Davids (and note the dropping of the apostrophe). The author was by J. Wyn Evans, Dean of the neighbouring cathedral. It starts with ‘A Palace for Prelates: Historical Background’, and is followed by ‘A Tour of the Bishop’s Palace’. At the back is a section on ‘Bishops as Builders: a Summary of the Building History’ by Rick Turner. There is a plan of the palace inside the card rear cover. One page summarises the guide in Welsh.

The guide includes a section on St Non’s Chapel.

StDavids_palace_Cadw
1991

A revised version of the Wyn Evans and Turner guide was reissued in the larger Cadw format.

StDavids_palace_Cadw_large
1991 (rev. 1999)

 

Caerwent: Guidebooks

caerwent38
Caerwent © David Gill

The Roman town of Venta Silurum at Caerwent, Wales, has impressive walls as well as the excavated remains of some the public buildings.

The original Ministry guidebook was prepared by Oswin E. Craster. It follows the standard format of History and Description, with a foldout plan inside the back cover. The later editions contained a reconstruction of the town by Alan Sorrell.

Caerwent
(1951) [1970]
This was replaced by a Cadw guide by Richard J. Brewer. This contained a history followed by a tour guide. There is a foldout plan inside the back card cover. There are numerous colour illustrations including finds from the site.

 

Caerwent
1993

A second edition of the guide, in larger format, was published in 1997.

Cerwent_Cadw_2
1993 (2nd ed. 1997)

A third edition in a yet larger format appeared in 2006. This contains details of recent excavations at the site.

The new guide also included a section on the nearby Llanmelin Wood Hillfort.

Caerwent_cadw_2006
1993 (2nd ed. 1996; 3rd ed. 2006)

Dryburgh Abbey: guidebooks

IMG_2757
Dryburgh Abbey © David Gill

Dryburgh Abbey was placed in State Guardianship in 1919. It had been founded by the Premonstratensians from Alnwick in Northumberland in 1150. The first guidebook was published in 1937: the description by J.S. Richardson, and the history by Marguerite Wood. This was a pairing also found in the guidebooks for Melrose Abbey and Edinburgh Castle.

The guidebook contained a reconstruction by Alan Sorrell. A foldout plan was placed inside the back cover.

Dryburgh_MPBW_Blue
1937 (2nd ed. 1948; 7th impress. 1967)

The Richardson-Wood guidebook (‘official guide’) continued into the 1970s (9th impression, 1973).

Dryburgh_blue
Second edition 1948 (9th impression 1973)

An official guide to the Scottish Border Abbeys was published in 1964. It includes a small plan along with the Sorrell reconstruction.

border_abbeys
1964 (1973)

The Historic Scotland ‘Official Souvenir Guide’ is based on the 1937 Richardson-Wood guide, revised in 1996, and then revised again in 2012. It is in full colour with a tour followed by a history.

Dryburgh_HS
2012

 

Old Sarum: guidebooks

OldSarum_souv
1965

I have noted before the 1922 Office of Works guide to Old Sarum. In 1965 H. de S. Shortt prepared an illustrated guide to Old Sarum for the MPBW in the format that had been produced in the 1950s for other sites in State Guardianship. The cover is based on the 1819 map prepared by Henry Wansey. One of the first features is a double page spread (pp. 4–5) providing a plan for the castle, the outer bailey and the original cathedral. The guide starts with the situation, noting paintings by John Constable (reproduced in the centre pages), before moving into the historical outline with sub-sections on prehistory, Roman-Britain, Anglo-Saxon, Norman, and then later periods. It includes reconstructions by Alan Sorrell. There is then a guide to the remains, both the inner bailey, as well as the old cathedral. There are two appendices: A note on the name of Old Sarum; Saint Osmund; Excavations at or adjoining Old Sarum.

OldSarum_1984
1984

The guide continued to be in print until 1990. The plan of the castle had been placed on a foldout sheet inside the back cover.

OldSarum_EH_white
1988 (1990)

The 1990 guide has the Gateway logo.

OldSarum_EH
1994 [2003]
Derek Renn prepared the English Heritage guide (1994). The two main sections are ‘What to see’ (no longer, ‘a tour’ or ‘a description’), and ‘The story of Old Sarum’ (not ‘a history’). A pictorial ‘tour’ is provided in the centre pages. It contains sections on prehistory, Rome, as well as the Normans. One section addresses ‘From city to rotten borough’.

Renn had earlier prepared the MPBW souvenir guide to Shell Keeps in Devon and Cornwall (1969), and the English Heritage guidebooks for Orford and Framlingham Castles (1988), Goodrich Castle (1993).

OldSarum_EH_red
2006

The latest English Heritage guide is by John McNeill, with fold out plans inside the front and back covers. The two main sections are the tour, and a history, with features on the demolition of the cathedral and beneath the ramparts, showing some of the early investigations of the site.