My new biography of Dr John Disney, founder of the John Disney Chair of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge and benefactor of the Disney Marbles now displayed at the Fitzwilliam Museum, has been published by Archaeopress.
The family’s origins lay at Norton Disney in Lincolnshire where they had settled after the Norman conquest. Disney’s father, the Reverend John Disney, inherited The Hyde near Ingatestone in Essex from Thomas Brand-Hollis. The house contained the Grand Tour collection formed by Brand-Hollis and Thomas Hollis. The Reverend John Disney had met Brand-Hollis through the Unitarian Essex Street Chapel in London where he had ministered after leaving the Church of England.
John Disney inherited The Hyde from his father and presented much of the collection to the University of Cambridge. The objects were described in his Museum Disneianum. Some of the items can be traced back to his wife, Sophia, or uncle (and father-in-law), Lewis Disney-Ffytche, during their time in Naples after they had been forced to flee Paris during the Revolution. Disney-Ffytche had been the owner of Le Désert de Retz, the pleasure gardens near Paris.
Disney himself helped to establish a new museum in Chelmsford through the Chelmsford Philosophical Society. He was a key member of the Essex Archaeological Society.
1. The Disney family of Lincolnshire
2. The Break with the Church of England
3. Collectors of the Grand Tour: Thomas Hollis and Thomas Brand
4. The Disney family and Essex
5. The Hyde and its collection
6. Disney and Learned Societies
7. The Museum Disneianum and Cambridge
8. Going for Gold
9. The Disney legacy
The World of Disney: From Antiquarianism to Archaeology (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2020). ISBN 9781789698275.
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.
Cambridge University Museums play an important part in the visitor economy for Cambridge (1.3 million visitors in 2019). The Fitzwilliam Museum is the most visited, though there has been a steady decrease in recent years from 441,000 in 2016 to 349,000 in 2019. The Cambridge University Botanic Gardens have seen a steady increase to 334,000 in 2019.
The refurbished Kettle’s Yard and the University Museum of Zoology have seen a substantial increase in numbers, 231,000 and 134,000 respectively in 2019.
Two inscriptions from Roman forts on the road across the Pennines are now displayed in Cambridge: one is the Brough Stone now in the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the other is an inscription from Bowes, Co. Durham, now in the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology (RIB 730; D 1970.3). (For the site of the fort now occupied by a castle.)
The Bowes inscription was transferred, along with 15 other inscriptions from various sites in Britain, from the library of Trinity College to the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology in 1970. The altar has been known since at least 1600 when it appeared in Camden’s Britannia. It was found at the Roman fort of Bowes (Lavatrae) to the north-west of Richmond.
The altar is dedicated to the goddess Fortuna. The dedication is made by Virius Lupus, the governor of the province (from AD 197), who restored the bath-house that had been destroyed by fire. Virius Lupus is also known from another project at Ilkley that is dated to exactly the same period (RIB 637). The garrison unit is named as the 1st Cohort of Thracians (see also RIB 740 from the governorship of L. Alfenus Senecio, 205–c. 208). The work was carried out by Valerius Fronto, the cavalry prefect of the Vettonians, based at the fort of Binchester (Vinovia) to the north-east of Bowes.
I will be exploring the relationship between Winifred Lamb’s work as an archaeologist in the Aegean, and her role as Honorary Keeper of Greek Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge. In the museum there are recognisable strands to her curatorial work: the display (and publication) of the Greek figure-decorated pottery, supplemented by the Ricketts and Shannon loan (and later Shannon bequest); the formation of a prehistoric gallery; the development of a collection of Greek, Etruscan and Roman bronzes; and finally material from Anatolia. The Greek pottery interest was influenced by her work with (Sir) John Beazley in Room 40 during the final stages of World War 1.
In a second paper I will consider the process of writing Lamb’s biography: the archive sources including her correspondence, diaries, and photographs; her acquisitions for and gifts to the Fitzwilliam; and her publications. I will then turn to the writing of a life from an essay in Breaking Ground to the memoir in ODNB. What should be included or excluded? Where do the emphases lie?
I have been reflecting on why Winifred Lamb deserved a biography.
First, she pursued two parallel careers (captured in the sub-title). She was an active field-archaeologist during the inter-war period at sites that included Mycenae and Sparta, and her own excavations on Lesbos, Chios, and later at Kusura in Turkey. At the same time she was the honorary keeper of Greek antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum over nearly a 40 year span.
Second, she was closely involved with the on-going work of the British School at Athens (and contributed to its Golden Jubilee celebrations in 1936). She was also involved with the establishment of the British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara after the Second World War.
Third, she worked alongside some key figures in the discipline of archaeology. Among the names was Sir John Beazley with whom she worked in Naval Intelligence (Room 40) during the First World War. Sir Leonard Woolley introduced her to the Turkish language section of the BBC during the Second World War.
Fourth, she was one of a small group of women who worked at the British School at Athens immediately after the First World War. She was also one of the first women to excavate in Turkey in the 1930s.
HARN Member, David Gill, has sent us the following information about his forthcoming book.
Winifred Lamb was a pioneering archaeologist in Anatolia and the Aegean. She studied classics at Newnham College, Cambridge, and subsequently served in naval intelligence alongside J. D. Beazley during the final stages of the First World War. As war drew to a close, Sydney Cockerell, Director of the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, invited Lamb to be the honorary keeper of Greek antiquities. Over the next 40 years she created a prehistoric gallery, marking the university’s contribution to excavations in the Aegean, and developed the museum’s holdings of classical bronzes and Athenian figure-decorated pottery. Lamb formed a parallel career excavating in the Aegean. She was admitted as a student of the British School at Athens and served as assistant director on the Mycenae excavations under Alan Wace and Carl Blegen. After further work at Sparta and on…
One of the caryatids from the Roman ‘lesser propylaia’ in the sanctuary of Demeter at Eleusis was obtained by E.D. Clarke and now resides in the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge. It is currently part of an art installation by Hugo Dalton.
Another caryatid from the ‘lesser propylaia’ is now displayed in the Eleusis Museum. Both appeared in the documentary, ‘The Sacred Way‘, by Michael Wood (1991).
The lesser Propylaia was a benefaction of Appius Claudius Pulcher.
The ‘Brough Stone’ (RIB 758) was found in 1879 during the restoration of the south porch of St Michael’s parish church at Brough under Stainmore, Cumbria (formerly Westmorland). It was acquired through subscription by the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge in 1884 (inv. GR.1.1884).
The Roman fort at Verterae lies on the road over the Pennines linking the legionary base at York with the town at Luguvalium (Carlisle).
The Brough stone is the tombstone of Hermes of Commagene (Syria), aged 16: the text is in Greek, although at first it was thought to be ‘runic’ (and dated to the 6th century). The inscription is dated to the 3rd century.
The church lies to the south-east of the Roman fort. Subsequent excavations have shown the civilian cemetery to lie in this area.
Stephens, G. 1884. Handbook of the Old-Northern Runic Monuments. London, Edinburgh, Copenhagen. Pp. 116-17. [Digital]
Clark, E.C. 1886. The Brough Stone. Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, Transactions of 1st Ser. 8: 205-219. [ADS]
Anon. 1886. The Brough Inscription. From the Athenaeum of Nov. 22, 1884. The Brough Stone. Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society, Transactions of 1st Ser. 8: 171-73. [ADS]
Collingwood, R.G. 1931.Objects from Brough-under-Stainmore in the Craven Museum, Skipton. Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society, NS, Vol 31: 81-86. [ADS]
Birley, E. 1958.The Roman fort at Brough-under-Stainmore. Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society NS, Vol 58: 31-56.
Jones, M.J. et al. 1977.Archaeological work at Brough-under-Stainmore 1971-77: I. The Roman Discoveries, Transactions of the Cumberland & Westmorland Antiquarian & Archaeological Society NS, Vol 77: 17-45. [ADS]
In 1816 Viscount Fitzwilliam made a spectacular bequest to the University of Cambridge and this led directly to the establishment of a museum that now bears his name (“Cambridge University’s Fitzwilliam Museum marks 200 years“, BBC News, January 2, 2016). The building that now holds the collections opened in 1848.
My own interest is in the classical collections: from the sculptures donated by Dr John Disney (‘the Disney Marbles’) and E. D. Clarke; the figure-decorated pottery that once formed part of the collection of Colonel William M. Leake; the prehistoric collections derived from excavations by the British School at Athens on Crete (Palaikastro) and Melos (Phylakopi); and the bronzes brought together by Dr Winifred Lamb.