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.
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?
Winifred Lamb was recruited in the final stages of World War One for Room 40 in the Admiralty where she worked alongside (Sir) John D. Beazley. Her work there is discussed by me in the History Hit programme, “Archaeologist Spies of World War One“. Archaeologists excavated the ancient past during peacetime, but in war they had a different mission – to play a vital role in modern military intelligence.
Historian of archaeology Dr Amara Thornton explores a network of archaeologist-spies, codebreaking, mapping and running agents, and with expert contributors delves into the extraordinary double lives led by the critical players in the international theatres of World War One.
Lamb later worked as the Honorary Keeper of Greek Antiquities at the Fitzwilliam Museum, and excavated in Greece through the British School at Athens.
Other members of the BSA also worked in intelligence during World War 1. They included David G. Hogarth, Alan J.B. Wace, Ernest A. Gardner, Harry Pirie-Gordon, and Richard M. Dawkins. Their work is explored in Sifting the Soil of Greece.
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…
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]
Thomas Brand-Hollis bequeathed his house, The Hyde, near Ingatestone, Essex, to his friend the Reverend John Disney, the minister of the Unitarian Essex Street Chapel in London, in 1804. Disney prepared a private catalogue of the collections in the house (1807; rev. 1809), in part formed by Brand-Hollis and his friend Thomas Hollis on their Grand Tour of Italy. He also prepared a memoir of Brand-Hollis (1808). Disney’s father-in-law Archdeacon Francis Blackburne had earlier published the memoir of Thomas Hollis (1780).
Disney’s older brother, Lewis (Disney-ffytche), lived at Danbury Park, Essex. His daughter, Sophia Disney-ffytche, married Disney’s son John, a barrister, in 1802.
The Reverend Disney died in December 1816, and The Hyde was inherited by his son John. Lewis Disney-ffytche died in September 1822, and his bequest to Sophia allowed the Disney’s to take up residency in Essex. John stood, unsuccessfully, as MP for Ipswich (1830), and Harwich (1832, 1835).
The Chelmsford Philosophical Society was founded in 1828. Disney served on its committee and was elected its president. He was instrumental in the creation of the Chelmsford Museum that opened in July 1843.
Disney was a member of the Chelmsford committee of the Eastern Counties Railway (1835). The line reached Chelmsford in December 1842.
Disney revised his father’s earlier catalogue of The Hyde and published it as the Museum Disneianum (1846) with an expanded version (1849). In April 1850 he formerly offered his collection of classical sculptures to the University of Cambridge (for display in the Fitzwilliam Museum). In 1851 he provided money for the creation of the Disney Chair of Archaeology. In December 1852 the first Disney professor, John Marsden, gave the inaugural lecture of the Essex Archaeological Society (where Disney was president).
Disney received the honorary degree of DCL from Oxford in 1854, and was incorporated with a LLD from Cambridge later in the same year. He presented a bust of himself to the Fitzwilliam Museum to mark the occasion.
Disney died in May 1857 and was buried at Fryerning.
Dr John Disney and Essex: displaying and interpreting the past in public and private spheres
Department of History, University of Essex (Room 6.348)
Wednesday 20 April, 4.00 pm
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.
Dr John Disney is best known for the creation of the eponymous chair of archaeology at the University of Cambridge, and the donation of the ‘Disney Marbles’ displayed in the Fitzwilliam Museum. Professor David Gill gave the 2015 Morant Lecture on the theme of ‘Dr John Disney and Essex’ in Ingatestone parish church. The church contains the grave of Thomas Brand-Hollis who bequeathed The Hyde, near Inagatestone, along with its collection of classical sculptures, to Disney’s father, the Reverend John Disney. The Reverend Disney had been co-minister of the Unitarian Essex Chapel in London alongside his brother-in-law the Reverend Theophilus Lindsey. Brand-Hollis was one of the main supporters of the chapel.
The Reverend Disney’s brother, Lewis Disney-Ffytche, lived at Danbury Place near Maldon. His daughter Sophia married (Dr) John Disney, and her sister Frances married (Sir) William Hillary (best known for founding the RNLI).
Dr Disney was recorder of Bridport in Dorset, and on moving back to Essex after his father’s death, stood as MP for both Ipswich and Harwich. He served on the committee to bring the railway to Chelmsford and Colchester. As a member of the Chelmsford Philosophical Society he helped to establish the Chelmsford Museum. He was also a key figure in the establishment of the Colchester and Essex Archaeological Society.
In later years he was a member of the board of Le Nouveau Monde Mining Company that was involved with the California gold rush.
Dr John Disney established the Disney chair of archaeology. The lecture will explore the background to his benefaction. First, how did the Disney family acquire the collection of classical sculpture from Thomas Brand Hollis of the Hyde, near Ingatestone in Essex? Second, how did Disney gain an interest in archaeology?
Some of the sculptural material was derived by Brand Hollis and his friend Thomas Hollis on the Grand Tour during the 1750s. Other pieces, some of modern creation, were acquired by Disney during his visit to Rome in the 1820s. Essex was also linked to early excavations at Colchester on the site of the new county hospital. He was president of the Chelmsford Philosophical Society that had an interest in archaeology. The Society established a museum in the town. After the foundation of the Disney chair of archaeology, Disney helped to form the Essex Archaeological Society along with the first Disney Professor, the Reverend John H. Marsden.