Letters from CA March 2021/April 2021

Pembridge church, Mam Tor, and CA Awards results.

Remembering Marion Percy

I have been meaning to write to you since the death of my mother, Mrs Marion Percy  of Leominster, in mid-October.

My mother was a month off 91. She had been subscribing to Current Archaeology possibly since you started, but at least since the early 1970s, and she has kept every copy. Her interest in archaeology began when, as a family, we joined in with excavations at Sparsholt Roman Villa in Hampshire in the 1960s and early 1970s. The Villa was situated on Forestry Commission land where my father was a forester. We all helped out with digging and then my mother did a lot of work drawing and recording all the pottery that was found. The dig there finished in 1972, and in the following two summers we spent a week digging at Dewlish Roman Villa, which was featured in your October issue (CA 367). She was still well enough to read this article in September, when the edition arrived, and we dug out our photographs of the dig, one of which is shown above. My mother is in the white sleeveless shirt.

Another recent highlight for her was the reporting in your magazine of the Viking hoard plundered by metal-detectorists at Eye, Leominster (CA 361). The site is just a mile away from my house and a couple of miles from my mother’s. She followed all the news of this, and was so thrilled to see the article about it in Current Archaeology.

The importance of your magazine to my mother is adequately summed up, I hope, in this extract from her eulogy, which my two sisters and I delivered at her funeral: ‘Mother was no great reader but one publication she looked forward to receiving each month and read avidly from cover to cover was Current Archaeology. During her hospital admission last autumn, it was Current Archaeology that was on her bedside table and that kept her going. She was thrilled beyond measure when the discovery of the Eye Hoard was reported in her favourite magazine. And when the undertaker asked if we wished any favoured possession to accompany Mother in her coffin, we were sorely tempted to send her off with the most recent edition of Current Archaeology.’

On behalf of my sisters and myself, I would like to thank the Current Archaeology team for all the pleasure and stimulation you have provided for my mother over the years. It kept her interest in archaeology well and truly alive, and her enthusiasm for all things ancient never seemed to wane.

Maggie Percy
Leominster, Herefordshire

Pembridge church ponderings

PHOTO: Nigel Saul
PHOTO: Nigel Saul

I was delighted to see Chris Catling’s very interesting article in CA 370 about Nigel Saul’s well-written and -illustrated book Decorated in Glory, recently published by the excellent Logaston Press. Herefordshire is a cornucopia of remarkable church architecture, not only of the 14th century but also of the 12th, and the county rewards explorers with its riches. Of especial interest to me was the inclusion of my local church at Pembridge, about which two papers by me were published in the Woolhope Transactions, in 2012 and 2014. The first explored the medieval heraldry in the surviving glass and recorded in the mid-17th century, and the second was a full analysis of the 16 different banker marks of the 320 masons which, as in the nave roof at Tewkesbury, provide an insight into the construction sequence of Pembridge’s 14th-century nave and aisles. While, rather curiously, neither paper is cited in Mr Saul’s list of sources, continuing work suggests that the present building had probably been laid out on a cleared site, the nave of the former church being demolished before construction commenced. The measurements between the pier-centres of the six bays of the nave are particularly interesting – exactly 24 feet north to south across the nave, and 14 feet east to west along the arcades. The resulting rectangles across the nave have diagonals equal to 28 feet, or two triangles with side proportions 1:2:√3, and circles drawn on the pier-centres locate the position of the glazing in the north and south walls, as also both chancel arch and west wall. Clearly there is much else to be discovered in this remarkable building, as probably in many of its near neighbours. All we need now is a GPR survey of the nave floor to locate the former church!

Peter Klein
Pembridge, Herefordshire

Memories of Mam Tor

As a subscriber to CA, I was pleased to see the mention of Mam Tor in ‘Excavating the CA Archive’ (issue 369). I was one of those students who in 1966 was involved in an excavation under the auspices of Manchester University. I was studying Geography, but had to choose a course outside my honours subject in my second year. I chose ‘Prehistory of Britain’. At the end of the one-year course, attendance on a dig was mandatory and I spent two enjoyable, but largely wet, weeks working on Mam Tor, while staying at the Edale youth hostel. Having exposure to the then cutting-edge technology of a proton magnetometer, being part of a team doing a transect of the rampart (complete with post-hole and stone frontage), and helping with a suspected hut site made for an excellent time. I think we tried to survey the earthworks that formed the entrance too. While my career took me in a very different direction, I have retained an interest in archaeology ever since.  

Brian Williams
Maidstone, Kent

Glassmaking gleanings

I learned much from Chris Catling’s report on glassmaking (CA 371), but unfortunately his brief mention of window glass tended to reinforce the misconception that mass-produced panes followed directly from crown glass. This is, of course, not true. Toward the end of the 18th century, the Roman method of blowing the largest possible cylinder, then cutting off the ends, and splitting it to allow the pane to flatten under its own gravity, was reintroduced. This had a huge effect on domestic architecture, allowing larger windows with fewer glazing bars. Indeed, the Crystal Palace was glazed by this method, a feat quite impossible with crown glass! Mass production of large panes became possible in the 1860s by the ‘drawn’ method, which remained in use (with improvements) until the 1950s.

Martyn Dowell
Southampton

Edible archaeology

To celebrate my 51st birthday my fiancée, Laura, recreated the wonder of the Uffington White Horse on a chocolate beetroot cake.

Dan Herbert Chessington, Kingston-upon-Thames.

Current Archaeology Awards

The results are in

We are pleased to share the winners of this year’s CA Awards, announced on 26 February. You can watch the announcements at: www.archaeology.co.uk/live

Archaeologist of the Year:
Professor Paula J Reimer

Research Project of the Year:
The problem of the Picts: searching for a lost people in northern Scotland (Gordon Noble, University of Aberdeen)

Rescue Project of the Year:
A unique glimpse into the Iron Age: excavating Clachtoll Broch (Historic Assynt/AOC Archaeology)

Book of the Year:
Kindred: Neanderthal life, love, death, and art (Rebecca Wragg Sykes)

What you shared with us this month

Becky Wragg Sykes @LeMoustier
Excited to have an article on ‘#Neanderthals in Britain’ out in new issue of @CurrentArchaeo! (I’d love to tell 12-yr-old methat one day not only would I write something for the pages I avidly read, but would also have a book reviewed and nominated for an award in there too!)

Dr Joe Flatman @joeflatman
Your periodic reminder that the ‘good old days’ of #archaeology were frequently a nightmare in terms of health and safety. Thankfully things have improved since @CurrentArchaeo 91 (Mar 84)on the Isle of Lewis. Yep, that’s a person just to the left of the digger bucket.

Fishbourne Roman Palace @romanpalace
Please may we make a Twitter gallery of archaeology health and safety pics/stories? We have many.

Write to us at: CA Letters, Current Publishing, Thames Works, Church Street, London W4 2PD, or by email to: [email protected]
For publication: 300 words max; letters may be edited.