Entrance to the Seahenge Gallery at Lynn Museum, Norfolk
On a recent visit to the Lynn Museum in Norfolk to see the Seahenge Gallery, it was noticed by our American friends, Bucky and Loie, that in each of the trunks that make up the circle there is a wedge-shaped cut extending the whole width of each trunk, and one or two inches into it. Bucky writes that, “Loie noticed a horizontal band of discoloration on one timber. When she pointed it out to me, I started looking at all of them and finding similar bands, at different heights. At first, I thought they might be strips of metal helping hold the timbers to the support posts: there was a tiny bit of space between some of the bands and the wood, as if the bands weren’t tight. Looking at the bands from as close to the timber sides as was possible, it was soon apparent the bands were not connected to the metal posts: light was visible between them. So the bands were in or on the wood. I soon saw that where the bands met the sides of the timbers, they continued around the sides. And the continuations were all triangular. It became apparent that the only explanation for all the different aspects we had noted would be horizontal wedges cut into the wood, and then inexpertly filled with some kind of painted putty.”
The cuts had indeed been filled and in-painted so, in the subdued lighting of the Gallery, they are not easily seen (which actually contravenes accepted conservation practice as restorations should be clearly visible). Staff on the reception desk at Lynn Museum didn’t know what the cuts were (and hadn’t even noticed them before) but after telephoning one of the museum curators it appears that English Heritage’s original intention was to leave the circle in situ to naturally degrade. In order to get as much information as possible before that happened however a wedge was cut out of each timber (not just the infamous chainsaw chunk from the central bole) for dendochronological cross-dating. English Heritage’s decision to leave the circle in situ was then reversed and all the timbers were subsequently removed for safety and conservation (now unfortunately with slices taken out of them – slices which subsequently needed to be filled in and ‘restored’).
Inside part of the wooden circle
Other observations at the Seahenge Gallery were that not all the timbers from the circle are on show – the rest are in storage at the Museum with no plans to bring them out for display. This is strange because there appears, actually, to be enough room in the Seahenge Gallery to display them all if things were rearranged. The large (and excellent) illuminated photo of the sea actually dissects the Gallery and if this were moved to a side wall the rest of the circle could probably be displayed (ingress and egress to and from the circle being made possible by having the two halves positioned slightly apart).
The central bole
What is really disappointing at Lynn Museum’s Seahenge Gallery is the position of the central bole; it stands in its own case outside the circle, against a wall (so one cannot walk round it) and next to a door which is often open and which reveals another gallery with some kind of fairground attraction in it – very disconcerting, not to mention distracting the visitor’s attention from the central bole and the rest of the Seahenge Gallery.
The Heritage Trust would like to see all of the circle displayed, the bole repositioned within it, and the door to the other gallery either screened off or fitted with a self-closing mechanism. Other suggestions we would like to make are that the replica cast of the smaller bole is removed (it is not a cast of the Seahenge bole anyway but of another one) and a mirror fitted to the ceiling of the case in which the Seahenge bole itself stands (so that its top surface can be seen from below).
Money to do these things is always a problem of course but perhaps an appeal could be launched to assist in fundraising. A dedicated collection box at the entrance to the Seahenge Gallery might be installed for this purpose. The collection box at the British Museum for example asks for a £5 donation from those who can afford it; a similar request at the Lynn Museum does not seem unreasonable given that it would help towards aiding the full, and proper, display of this unique monument from our ancient past.