Ministry Guidebooks from 1955

Caernarvon Castle

(1961)

My study of Ministry Souvenir Guidebooks has appeared in the latest number of the Journal of Public Archaeology (2018).

Abstract
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

Guidebooks by W. Douglas Simpson

Scottish_castles_HMSO

1959 (6th impress. 1969)

W. Douglas Simpson (1896–1968) prepared a series of Ministry guidebook for sites in State Guardianship. He was lecturer in British History at the University of Aberdeen (by 1924), and then He served as Librarian and Registrar for the University of Aberdeen from 1926 through to 1966. He served as Chair of the Ancient Monuments Board for Scotland. He was awarded OBE (1954) and CBE (1962).

In 1959 Simpson prepared Scottish Castles: An Introduction to the Castles of Scotland (HMSO, 1959). In the Foreword he wrote: ‘Those who read this little book will come to realise that, small and poor as it has always been, Scotland yet possesses a distinctive castellated architecture, and one of which any nation might be proud’. There are eight sections:

  • The earliest castles
  • Castles of enceinte
  • The early tower houses
  • Bastard feudalism and the later castles
  • The later tower houses
  • The royal palaces
  • Firearms and the later “House of Fence”
  • The Scottish baronial style

Portrait here.

Several of the castles and abbeys he studied were located around Aberdeen: Tolquhon Castle (1948), Huntly Castle (1954), Kildrummy and Glenbuchat (1957); the Abbey of Deer (1952).

Kirkcudbrightshire: Threave Castle (1948)

Angus: Edzell Castle (1952); Restenneth Priory (1952)

Isle of Bute: Rothesay Castle (1952)

Midlothian: Craigmillar (1954), Crichton (1957)

East Lothian: Hailes Castle

Inverness-shire: Urquhart (1964); Beauly Priory (1954)

Roxburghshire: Hermitage (1957)

Lanarkshire: Bothwell Castle (1958)

Orkney: Kirkwall (1965)

The guidebook for Dunstaffnage (1981) contains his draft.

Scotland_AM6

(1954)

He also prepared (with V. Gordon Childe) the Illustrated Guide to Ancient Monuments … vol 6: Scotland (1954).

He prepared one guidebook for the National Trust for Scotland: Craigievar Castle, the rock of Mar (1966) (NTS). This castle is located to the west of Aberdeen.

Simpson also prepared two guidebooks for castles in England: Brough Castle, Cumbria (1949; repr. 1969) (now English Heritage); Bodiam Castle (1965) for the National Trust.

 

Hall, A. (2004, September 23). Simpson, William Douglas (1896–1968), archaeologist and historian. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. Retrieved 5 Aug. 2018, from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-49530.

 

Hailes Castle: well-chamber

IMG_2456-Edit

Hailes Castle © David Gill

A narrow staircase led to an opening in the riverside wall of Hailes Castle to provide access to a well. There is a possibility that there would also have been access to the river Tyne below.

IMG_2457-Edit2

Hailes Castle © David Gill

IMG_2471-Edit-2

Hailes Castle © David Gill

Threave Castle: harbour sign

IMG_4474-Edit

The harbour supplying Threave Castle is currently inaccessible by members of the public. Its location is marked by a partially obscured sign. The information board erected by Historic Scotland provides additional information on the original nature of the harbour along with some of the finds made during the excavations.

IMG_4449-Edit

Crichton Castle: guidebooks

Crichton_blue

1957 (5th impress. 1971)

Crichton Castle, in Midlothian, was placed in State Guardianship in 1926. W. Douglas Simpson prepared the guidebook in 1957; contemporary with the one for Hermitage Castle. He made comparison with Craigmillar Castle that lies to the north-west: ‘The serious student of Scottish castles should compare Crichton with Craigmillar’.

The guide starts with a summary that serves as a statement of importance. It notes the link with Sir Walter Scott’s Marmion. This is followed by a description, and then the history. A series of black and white photographs were placed in the centre, and a fold-out plan inside the back cover.

Crichton_HS

1987 (2nd ed.; 2nd impress. 1990)

The Historic Scotland guide starts with an introduction, ‘On the steep of the green vale of the Tyne’. This was followed by the history, ‘A residence of Lordship’. The tour is provided next, ‘Remains of ride Magnificence’. Plans are provided inside the back card cover.

The text was prepared by Christopher J. Tabraham ‘from an original script by W. Douglas Simpson’. The history initially repeats Simpson’s text, but quickly parts company and expands on the background. The tour includes sections on the first castle; Chancellor Crichton’s lodging; Earl Bothwell’s work; and outbuildings.

Tantallon Castle: guidebooks

Tantallon_OoW

1937

Tantallon Castle was placed in State Guardianship in 1924. Its first official guidebook was prepared by J.S. Richardson, Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Scotland, and published in 1932 (and reissued in 1937). It was thus one of the earliest of the guides prepared for historic sites in Scotland. The guide starts with a description (pp. 3–11), followed by a history (pp. 12–31). A plan showing the outworks is printed opposite the title page, and a plan and cross-sections are printed on a fold-out sheet inside the back cover. The text is supported by black and white photographs.

Tantallon_MPBW

1950 (2nd ed.; 1966, 7th impress.)

Tantallon_blue

1950 (2nd ed.; 1972, 8th impress.)

Richardson’s guide continued into the 1970s as the blue guide. The format of description followed by history is the same. The fold-out plan continued to be placed inside the back cover. The side headings of the 1930s guide were turned into bold sub-headings.

Tantallon_HS

1994 (rev. ed. 2007)

Chris Tabraham revised the Historic Scotland ‘Official Souvenir Guide’. This contains a guided tour followed by a history. There is a section on the spectacular Bass Rock, home to gannets. There is no plan of the castle, but the guided tour has a number view from the air to help orientate the visitor.

Craigmillar Castle: guidebook

Craigmillar_blue

1954 (4th impress. 1970)

Craigmillar Castle, to the south-east of Edinburgh, was placed in State Guardianship in 1946. W. Douglas Simpson prepared the official guidebook in 1954. At the heart of the castle is the tower house, constructed after 1374 by Sir Simon Preston of Gorton. Queen Mary used the castle as her residence after the murder of Rizzio in 1566.

The guidebook is divided into description and (a short) history. A plan of the castle, and detail of the floors is provided in the centre pages.