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.

Tilbury Fort: guidebooks

Tilbury_EH_white
1980 (1985, repr. 1987)

The fort at Tilbury was designed to protect the Thames. The 17th century artillery fort was built on the site of a fort constructed by Henry VIII. The first English Heritage guidebook was written by A.D. Saunders, who prepared texts for other artillery forts. This contained the standard format of history and description. A ground plan of the fort was provided in the centre pages.

The fort was transferred from the War Office in 1948 after it had ceased to be used for military purposes. It was opened to the public in 1982.

Tilbury_EH
2004 (rev. repr. 2014)

The replacement English Heritage guide was by Paul Pattison. A colour bird’s eye view of the fort is provided inside the front cover, and colour coded plan inside the back cover. The guide contains a tour of the fort followed by a history.

 

Finchale Priory: Chapter House

IMG_2990-Edit-Edit
Finchale Priory © David Gill

The Chapter House lies in the middle of the east side of the cloister, underneath the Dorter. It has been dated to the late 13th century. Stone benches were placed around the outer walls. The prior’s seat was located in the centre of the east side; the central window behind it was blocked during the 15th century.

IMG_2989-Edit
Finchale Priory © David Gill
IMG_2987-Edit
Finchale Priory © David Gill

Roman roads in State Guardianship

IMG_9356
Wheeldale Moor Roman Road © David Gill

The construction of roads transformed the landscape of Britain. Yet only a limited number of fragments have been placed in State Guardianship. One of the most dramatic sections is a stretch that crosses Wheeldale Moor in North Yorkshire.

IMG_2279.JPG
Wheeldale Moor Roman Road © David Gill

A stretch of Dere Street near Soutra in Scotland has been preserved. This passed through Corbridge and Newstead.

IMG_2746
Dere Street © David Gill
IMG_2747-Edit
Dere Street near Soutra Aisle © David Gill

Further south Dere Street crossed the river Tees at Piercebridge and remains of the bridge have been found.

Piercebridge4
Piercebridge © David Gill

A Roman milestone on the Stanegate near the fort of Vindolanda was placed in Guardianship.

IMG_2366-Edit
Vindolanda, Roman milestone © David Gill

 

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.

The Development of Guidebooks for Heritage Sites in England

StBotolph_OW
1917

These covers show the development from the first official guidebook (St Botolph’s) issued by the Office of Works through to English Heritage. These guides range from small booklets to concertina card guides.

For the development of guides in Scotland see here.

Pyx_Office_of_Works
1949
Scilly_green
1949 (repr. 1952)
Dartmouth_MW
1951 (repr. 1954)
corbridge_green_cov
1954
Osborne_MW
1955
Audley End
Audley End (1955)
Pevensey_green
1952 (repr. 1956)

 

Shap_MPBW
1963 (3rd impress. with amendments)
OldSarum_souv
1965
Goodrich_MPBW
1958 (5th impress. 1967)
Maison_Dieu_MPBW
1958 (3rd impress. with amendments 1967)
StantonDrew_MPBW
Revised 1969
Hetty_Pegler_DOE
1970
Aldborough_blue
1970
Helmsley_blue
1966 [3rd impress. 1971]
Saxtead_DOE_blue
1972
Glastonbury_DOE
(1973)
Egglestone_DOE
1958 (8th impress. 1976)
Totnes_DOE
1979
Stott_Park_DOE
1983
GrimesGraves_DOE_front
1984
Bayham_blue
1974 (1985)
Chysauster_EH_white
1987
EH_Orford_early
1964 (1982; English Heritage 1988; repr. 1975)
Middleham_EH_1993
1993
Portchester_EH
1990 (2000)
Tintagel_EH
1999 (repr. 2002)
Richborough_EH
(2012)
Furness_Piel_EH
1998 (rev. 2015)
Pendennis_StM_EH_red
2012 (2nd ed. 2018)

Furness Abbey: Guidebooks

IMG_9883
Furness Abbey © David Gill

The Cistercian abbey at Furness was established at the present site in 1127. It was placed in State Guardianship in 1923. The official guidebook was prepared by J.C. Dickinson in 1965. This contains a history, followed by an itinerary and description. A fold-out plan is placed inside the back cover.

Furness_MPBW
1965

The ‘blue guide’ continued into the 1980s as an English Heritage guide. It was replaced in 1998 by a new illustrated guide, combined with Piel Castle, by Stuart Harrison and Jason Wood; the section on Piel Castle was prepared by Rachel Newman. A fold-out plan of the abbey as well as its surrounding area is printed on the fold-out back cover.

Furness_Piel_EH
1998 (rev. 2015)
IMG_9928
Piel Castle © David Gill