My study of Ministry Souvenir Guidebooks has appeared in the latest number of the Journal of Public Archaeology (2018).
The first formal guidebooks for historic sites placed in state guardianship in the United Kingdom appeared in 1917. There was an expansion of the series in the 1930s and 1950s. However from the late 1950s the Ministry of Works, and later the Ministry of Public Buildings and Works, started to produce an additional series of illustrated souvenir guides. One distinct group covered Royal Palaces: The Tower of London, Hampton Court Palace, Queen Victoria’s residence of Osborne House on the Isle of Wight, and Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh. This was followed by guides for the archaeological sites such as Stonehenge and Avebury, the Neolithic flint mines at Grime’s Graves, the Roman villa at Lullingstone, and Hadrian’s Wall. In 1961 a series of guides, with covers designed by Kyffin Williams, was produced for the English castles constructed in North Wales and that now form part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of ‘Castles and Town Walls of King Edward in Gwynedd’. These illustrated guides, some with colour, prepared the way for the fully designed guides now produced by English Heritage, Cadw, and History Scotland.
‘The Ministry of Works and the Development of Souvenir Guides from 1955’, Public Archaeology (2018). DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/14655187.2017.1484584
(Sir) Mortimer Wheeler and Tessa Wheeler prepared the first official guide to the Roman amphitheatre outside the legionary fortress at Caerleon (Isca Silurum) in 1935. The couple had excavated on the site in 1926–27. This guide reappeared as the Ministry of Works paper guide in 1950. It contains the sections:
- Caerleon in Legend and History
- The Amphitheatre
A plan appears on one of the middle pages. There is a note about the legionary barrack-blocks in Prysg Field (also in State Guardianship).
This simple guide was expanded into the ‘blue’ guide with a contributions by Dr V.E. Nash Williams. This is divided into the following sections:
- Caerleon in legend and history
- The amphitheatre
- The Prysg Field barrack-buildings
- Caerllion [short summary in Welsh]
Two fold-out plans appear inside the back cover. The first two sections are essentially the same text as the 1950 guide by Wheeler; Williams contributed the discussion of the barrack-buildings.
The DOE guide has a different bilingual title inside:
Caerleon Roman Amphitheatre and Barrack Buildings
Theatre Gron Rufeinig Caerllion a Llety’r Milwyr
1970 (4th impress. 1980)
The Welsh Office / Y Swyddfa Gymreig produced the Official Handbook / Llawlyfr Swyddogol (blue guide) in 1980. Welsh was used on the cover, and inside the guide uses the bilingual titles that were used in the original blue guide.
The main difference is that there is an extended guide in Welsh with sections mirroring the English section: Hanes; Theatr Gron; Disgrifiad.
Jeremy K. Knight prepared the new Cadw guide (1988). There was a move away from it being a guide to the amphitheatre to the legionary fortress. The guide was organised in the following sections:
- In search of Isca
- The legion and its fortress
- The foundation of Isca
- The layout of the fortress
- The Second Legion and the occupation of Caerleon
This was followed by a tour guide, starting with the fortress baths, followed by the amphitheatre, defences and barracks.
A fold-out plan is printed inside the rear card cover.
There is a single page summary in Welsh (Hanes; Disgrifaid).
2003 (3rd ed.)
Knight prepared the 3rd edition (2003) in the new large format of Cadw guides. A fold-out bird’s eye view was printed inside the front card cover, and a plan inside the back cover. It is divided into two main sections: a history of Roman Isca; a tour of Roman Isca. It contained a feature on ‘Outside the walls: the civilian settlements’.
The Roman fort of Brecon Gaer lies to the west of Brecon. It is probably to be identified with the Cicucium (Cicutium) from the Ravenna list. The fort was excavated by Sir Mortimer Wheeler in 1924 and 1925, and the remains placed in State Guardianship in 1953. He suggested that the fort was constructed c. AD 75.
A funerary inscription, dating to c. AD 100, belonged to a trooper in the Cavalry Regiment of Vettonian Spaniards (RIB 403). Another tombstone for a trooper from another cavalry regiment is also known from the site (RIB 405). The same cavalry unit was based in Binchester in Co. Durham in the 190s (RIB 730; 1032; 1035). (The guide suggests that the unit was based at Bowes [see guidebook] but the confusion comes from a dedication made at Bowes.)
Oswin E. Craster prepared the short guide (1954). This consisted of a history followed by a description of the remains.
The later DOE guide is an updated version of the paper guide. The concertina card guide was also used for other Roman forts such as Hardknott, and the Saxon Shore Fort at Reculver.
Egglestone Abbey © David Gill
Egglestone Abbey was a Premonstratensian foundation dating back to 1195. It was founded from Easby Abbey just outside Richmond. There are substantial remains of the abbey church, and the eastern range.
The remains of the abbey were place in State Guardianship in 1925. At the time it formed part of the county of Yorkshire, but with boundary changes it now lies within Co. Durham.
1958 (8th impress. 1976)
The original ‘blue guide’ was by Rose Graham (history) and P.K. Baillie Reynolds (description). There is a full tour of the remains, with a fold-out plan inside the back cover.
The abbey is now included in a combined guide (by Katy Kenyon) with nearby Barnard Castle and Bowes Castle.
I have noted before the Young People’s Guide to Grime’s Graves by Barbara Green (MPBW, 1964). This was adapted in 1984 by the Department of the Environment with a rather striking cover (designed by William Brouard). Note that Grime’s Graves has now become Grimes Graves, and the young people’s guide has been dropped.
Additions include a map inside the front cover along with a revised version of ‘how to get there’. The Alan Sorrell reconstructions have also been dropped. The plan of Pit no. 1 has been re-orientated so that north is at the top. The general plan of the site shows that the custodian’s hut was moved from the site of the car-park to a point closer to Pit 1.
1957 (4th ed. 1978)
Kildrummy and Glenbuchat castles are close to each other in Aberdeenshire. The Ministry guidebook was prepared by W. Douglas Simpson in 1957. Simpson had prepared a series of studies on Kildrummy from 1923 to 1937. The guidebook is separated into two parts, leading with Kildrummy; each contains a section on the history and a description of the two castles. A set of black and white photographs of the two castles, and a plan of Kildrummy appear as a block in the centre of the guide; a fold-out plan of Glenbuchat appears at the end.
Carisbrooke Castle Guidebooks © David Gill
I was delighted to see that a range of guidebooks for Carsibrooke were displayed in an exhibition relating to the castle. They are an important record of how the castle was interpreted and presented to the visiting public.
The cap worn by the castle’s custodian is also included as part of the castle’s heritage.
Custodian’s Hat, DOE © David Gill