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Coursing at Stonehenge in 1865
Coursing at Stonehenge in 1865. The Illustrated London News
In a recent BBC regional news report, Stonehenge manager Kate Davies is reported as saying an alcohol ban at Stonehenge would, “…help everyone to have a better experience of solstice.” In what way, Ms Davies, would such a ban help people have a better experience? Are you saying that by presently allowing a moderate degree of drinking at solstice time that is somehow adversely affecting people’s enjoyment of the overall solstice event there? If so, do you have details and the statistics to support such a claim? No-one, of course, wants to see drunkenness and rowdiness at Stonehenge but aren’t you perhaps taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut here? Perhaps this is an opportune time to remind you that, just over thirty years ago, a hard-won battle was fought to allow –
The Peace Convoy, a convoy of several hundred New Age travellers, from setting up the 1985 Stonehenge Free Festival in Wiltshire, England. The police were enforcing a High Court injunction obtained by the authorities prohibiting the 1985 festival from taking place. Around 1300 police officers took part in the operation against approximately 600 travellers.
Dozens of travellers were injured, 8 police officers and 16 travellers were hospitalised. 537 travellers were eventually arrested. This represents one of the largest mass arrest of civilians since at least the Second World War, possibly one of the biggest in English legal history.
Two years after the event, a Wiltshire police sergeant was found guilty of Actual Bodily Harm as a consequence of injuries incurred by a member of the convoy during the Battle of the Beanfield. Source: the Wikipedia entry on The Battle of the Beanfield.
In the same BBC report, Senior Druid King Arthur Pendragon is reported as saying English Heritage was, “…looking for confrontation [and that he will fight] “…the total ban on alcohol. It’s a celebration – not to be sanitized. It does not matter how they dress it up, we will not Pay to Pray.”
Well, is there a possible middleway here? The problem really comes down to a minority who spoil the event for everyone else. Would it not be more sensible, therefore, to control the amount of alcohol taken on site (as is now the case) and to restrict access to the actual stones; meanwhile allowing people the freedom to enjoy the festive atmosphere of the event from the perimeter?
If King Arthur were to bend just a little, and if English Heritage were to think a little more laterally, could we possibly achieve the best of both worlds? Last year 23,000 people attended the summer solstice celebrations at Stonehenge. If each were to pay just £1 that would achieve £23,000 and would probably cover the cost of providing portaloos, litter pickups etc. Actually, why not go a little further and give people rubbish bags as they arrive on site with, Stonehenge is a World Heritage Site and sacred to many. Please take your litter home with you, printed on them. Why not try to persuade people to be considerate rather than employing what might be seen as profit-motivated, strong-arm tactics against them. Stonehenge has, after all, been a gathering place of one sort or another from the beginning. Let’s not relegate that fact to the rubbish bin through lack of compromise and creative thinking.
Heritage, after all, is not just about stones, architecture and artefacts; it’s also about real-time cultural awareness and real-time human interaction.
Published by the Sketch 1896 an open-air concert
An open-air concert at Stonehenge. Published by the Sketch 1896

An 1880 photograph showing the Alexandrian Obelisk (later to be known as Cleopatra’s Needle) being made ready for shipment from Egypt to the United States. The Obelisk was formally erected in New York’s Central Park in 1881

Cleopatra’s Needle is the popular name for each of three Ancient Egyptian obelisks re-erected in London, Paris, and New York City during the nineteenth century. The obelisks in London and New York are a pair, and the one in Paris is also part of a pair originally from a different site in Luxor, where its twin remains. Although all three needles are genuine Ancient Egyptian obelisks, their shared nickname is a misnomer, as they have no connection with Queen Cleopatra VII of Egypt, and were already over a thousand years old in her lifetime. The London and New York “needles” were originally made during the reign of 18th Dynasty Thutmose III. The Paris “needle” dates to the reign of 19th Dynasty Ramesses II and was the first to be moved and re-erected as well as the first to acquire the nickname, “L’aiguille de Cléopâtre” in French.

The [Central Park] stone had stood in the clear dry Egyptian desert air for nearly 3000 years and had undergone little weathering. In a little more than a century in the climate of New York City, pollution and acid rain have heavily pitted its surfaces. In 2010, Dr. Zahi Hawass, sent an open letter to the president of the Central Park Conservancy and the Mayor of New York City insisting on improved conservation efforts. If they are not able to properly care for the obelisk, he has threatened to “take the necessary steps to bring this precious artefact home and save it from ruin.”

Source the Wikimedia entry on Cleopatra’s Needle.


Watercolour illustrating (bottom left) a fallen Stonehenge trilithon and lintel

In 1797…the large south-west trilithon (two upright stones supporting a lintel) at Stonehenge collapsed. The sound of the collapse was so loud that it was said to have been heard by people working in the surrounding fields. The collapse was blamed on a sudden thaw after a cold spell, or on burrowing rabbits. This trilithon was not reset back into position until 1958. One visitor to the scene was William Maton [William George Maton M.D. 1774–1835] a Fellow of the Linnean Society (our neighbours here at Burlington House). He was travelling in the region, collecting items of natural history and antiquity, and visited the site. He went on to write a report which was read at a meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of London in June 1797, and by November he had obtained two drawings illustrating the fall of the trilithon before and after.

These drawings are now part of the Society’s collections.

Source: Society of Antiquaries of London.


A Roman sewer discovered by a contractor below the corner of Church Street and Swinegate in York, England. Photographed in 1972 it was hailed as one of the city’s most important finds
More old photos of underground York here.
The Temple of Baal-Shamin in Palmyra, Syria
Image credit Bernard Gagnon. Source Wikimedia Commons
The ancient temple of Baal Shamin in the Unesco-listed Syrian city of Palmyra, has been destroyed. Maamoun Abdulkarim, the country’s antiquities chief, has said that the, “Daesh placed a large quantity of explosives in the temple of Baal Shamin … and then blew it up causing much damage to the temple.”
More here.
The Temple of Baal-Shamin (circa 1900) by Theodor Wiegand (Berlin 1932)
The Pyramid of Cestius by Giovanni Battista Piranesi (18th century)
Source Wikimedia Commons
The Wikipedia entry for the Pyramid of Cestius (or Rome Pyramid) reads –
The pyramid was built about 18 BCE–12 BCE as a tomb for Gaius Cestius, a magistrate and member of one of the four great religious corporations in Rome, the Septemviri Epulonum. It is of brick-faced concrete covered with slabs of white marble standing on a travertine foundation, measuring 100 Roman feet (29.6 m) square at the base and standing 125 Roman feet (37 m) high.
In the interior is the burial chamber, a simple barrel-vaulted rectangular cavity measuring 5.95 metres long, 4.10 m wide and 4.80 m high. When it was (re)discovered in 1660, the chamber was found to be decorated with frescoes, which were recorded by Pietro Santi Bartoli, but only the scantest traces of these now remain. There was no trace left of any other contents in the tomb, which had been plundered in antiquity. The tomb had been sealed when it was built, with no exterior entrance; it is not possible for visitors to access the interior, except by special permission typically only granted to scholars.
Now, thanks to Japanese fashion mogul Yuzo Yagi (OBE) who funded a restoration project for the pyramid, the structure has been returned to something of its former glory. The project was led by Italy’s archaeological directors Rita Paris and Maria Grazia Filetici.
The Pyramid of Cestius after restoration
Image credit ANSAmed
Read more here.

Self-portrait by Francis Nicholson (1753-1844) Courtesy Martyn Gregory Gallery

Francis Nicholson is invariably regarded as ‘The Father of Watercolour Painting’. His ‘Stourhead’ series of paintings (1812 – c.1816) is renowned, and currently in the hands of  the British Museum. The series seems to have been commissioned by Sir Richard Colt Hoare of ‘Stonehenge‘ fame. But until recently, it has been anything but clear how Sir Richard and Nicholson came to be acquainted.

The connexion seems to begin with Henrietta Anne Hoare, daughter of Sir Richard Hoare via his second marriage to Frances Anne Acland. Henrietta was born in 1765, the half-sister of Sir Richard Colt Hoare who, with William Cunningham, first excavated Stonehenge in 1798. There is a portrait of Henrietta here. She married her cousin Sir Thomas Dyke Acland of Killerton, Devon, in 1785. When Acland died in 1794, she remained at Killerton House, and a year later married Capt. Matthew Fortescue, R.N. of Filleigh, Devon.

Henrietta was no mean artist, and had the funds to take lessons from the fashionable Nicholson in London. We do not know exactly when Francis and Henrietta first met. The first hard evidence that they knew each other is from 1808, when Nicholson exhibited ‘View between Christiana and Konigsburg, in Norway, from a sketch by Sir T. Ackland’, Henrietta’s son. Nicholson exhibited two further Norwegian views from sketches by Acland in 1809, and in 1810 one of Italy “from a Sketch by Sir R. Hoare, Bart”. Between then and 1813, Nicholson exhibited several more Italian scenes from drawings by Sir Richard Hoare and Sir Richard Colt Hoare. It is possible that all of these were first shown to Nicholson by Henrietta – we cannot be sure. But in 1813, we find evidence that Nicholson had been in the south-west himself, and was almost certainly in personal touch with the main branch of the Hoare family; in 1813 he exhibited ‘Stonehenge’, which may still be seen at Stourhead today – see here. In 1813, he also exhibited ‘View at Stourhead, the seat of Sir R. C. Hoare’. Baronet, Alfred’s Tower in the Distance. Here is the beginning of Nicholson’s ‘Stourhead’ series, and it suggests that Sir Richard Colt Hoare and Nicholson had met, and had agreed a commission for the series, c.1812.

By 1820, it is clear that Nicholson and the Hoares were very good friends. That year, Nicholson published his ground-breaking book of instruction, The Practice of Drawing and Painting Landscape from Nature in Water Colours. It is dedicated to Henrietta and mentions the whole Hoare family. The dedication reads:



In dedicating this Work to you, I consult alike my inclination and duty: The first, in consequence of the great proficiency you have attained in the Art of which it treats, as your Performances sufficiently evince; and the latter, in the most grateful recollection of the numerous Favours and acts of kindness which I have on every occasion received from you, and from every branch of your family.

I am, with the greatest respect, MADAM, Your most obliged servant, FRANCIS NICHOLSON.

Henrietta and Francis remained good friends until her death at Killerton in 1841. Nicholson himself died three years later, in London, aged 90.

And that was the end of the story… until now. Today, Killerton House and estate is in the hands of The National Trust. This year, Henrietta’s 250th, Killerton House is to hold its first ever historical art exhibition, entitled Framing the View. Francis Nicholson, The Killerton Drawing Master. The Guest Curator is Professor Gordon Bell, a veteran curator of three previous Nicholson exhibitions. The exhibition will feature work by both Nicholson and Henrietta Anne Fortescue and will, I think, be most interesting to see. It runs from 16th May until 15th September 2015.

You can learn more about Francis Nicholson here.

Colin Coulson


Stonehenge by J M W Turner
Reproduced courtesy of the Salisbury Museum
From Friday, May 22 2015 to Sunday, September 27 2015 the Salisbury Museum in Wiltshire, England will be hosting an exhibition entitled Turner’s Wessex: Architecture and Ambition.
In May 2015 [the Salisbury Museum] will mount the first ever exhibition devoted to J M W Turner’s drawings and paintings of Salisbury Cathedral, the city and its surroundings. Situated in the Cathedral Close, directly opposite its west front, the Museum is ideally placed to explore Turner’s relationship with Salisbury and the Cathedral. This relationship began when Turner was a young man and reveals formidable talent and ambition from a very early age.
Working with the Turner scholar Ian Warrell, we have focused on three aspects of Turner’s many depictions of the Salisbury area: firstly, his responses to the Cathedral and town, particularly in connection with the commission he received from local antiquarian, Sir Richard Colt Hoare who inherited the large Stourhead Estate in 1785; secondly the series of views of the neo-gothic Fonthill Abbey that he painted for ‘England’s wealthiest son’, the fascinating and eccentric William Beckford; and finally his work recording the area of central, southern England, sometimes known as Wessex, extending over a period of thirty years
Alongside Turner’s works from the Museum’s collection, this exhibition will include extensive loans from museums and art galleries across the UK including Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, British Museum, Fitzwilliam Museum, National Galleries Scotland, V & A and Whitworth Art Gallery. The exhibition will also be supported by a substantial loan from the Tate collection.
Details here.
Stonehenge by Henry Mark Anthony (1817-1886)
There will be a lecture by Sharon Soutar of English Heritage at Devizes Town Hall, Wiltshire, England from 2:30 pm on Saturday, 31 January 2015.
With the construction of the new Visitor Centre at Airman’s Corner it was vital that Stonehenge and its surrounding landscape were re-presented with the fullest and most up-to-date information available. Fantastic as it may seem very few of the monuments, not even Stonehenge itself, had been surveyed to modern standards. To rectify this English Heritage set up a project to significantly enhance the record and understanding of all upstanding archaeological monuments within the World Heritage Site. The fieldwork was conducted between 2009 and 2012 and the book is nearing publication, while a number of research reports on the different areas are available through the website here.
More here.

Marconi’s wireless factory in Chelmsford, Essex, England

The world’s first wireless factory in Chelmsford, Essex, England may be turned into apartments if developers get their way. The Old Silk Mill building in Hall Street, in the centre of the city, was the world’s first factory for wireless production. “Originally built by John Hall as a silk warehouse in 1861, it was bought by Courtaulds to be used as a silk weaving mill between 1865 and 1894.” The building was opened in 1898 by one of radio’s pioneers, Guglielmo Marconi. It has been empty since 2010 but there are now plans to convert it into apartments (four on the first floor and two on the ground floor) together with some commercial facilities which would entail internal alterations including partitions and two new staircases. Alterations to windows and doors, addition of windows, bin storage area and railings would also be introduced.

Marconi’s wireless factory today
The Heritage Trust

Chris Neale, from the Marconi Heritage Group, is reported as saying that he would rather the building be used as a community space, to display information about the city’s Marconi history and for educational activities. “Our concern is that this is the only industrial building left in Chelmsford which hasn’t been converted into something other than what it was used for,” said Mr Neal.

Marconi’s wireless factory with men in the ground floor machine shop

Chelmsford City Council will meet to discuss the proposed plans this week. A Planning Application Summary, with comments on the proposal, can be found here. See also our earlier feature on Chelmsford here.


Trethevy Quoit, Cornwall, photographed at the beginning of the 20th century
See all our other features on Trethevy Quoit by typing Trethevy Quoit into the search box above.
First World War soldiers training at Stonehenge
Soldiers at Stonehenge: Salisbury Plain and the journey to the First World War, is the title of a new exhibition due to open at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre on the 5 November 2014. The exhibition will tell the story of the (then) world’s largest military training camp at Stonehenge and the estimated one million men who, between 1914 and 1918, were trained there.
Dermot Martin, writing in the Salisbury Journal, reports that –
Records show 180,000 men were stationed at any one time on the plain during the First World War. Their personal stories, photographs and original objects will form the basis of the exhibition but evidence of their presence can still be seen across the wider Stonehenge and Salisbury Plain landscape.
Robert Campbell, head of interpretation at English Heritage, which is staging the exhibition, said: “The task of these men was to overcome the horrific stalemate of trench warfare and to replicate conditions on the Western Front, soldiers dug intricate networks of trenches which were then pounded by shellfire. The exhibition will explore this aspect.” The war left its mark on the ancient archaeology of Salisbury Plain and the exhibition includes finds on loan from Wiltshire Museum including cap badges, rifle cartridges, aircraft parts and highly personal items such as a spoon and even part of a bottle of Australian hair tonic.
Full Salisbury Journal article here.
A French postcard (circa 1916) depicting a Bristol Monoplane flying over Stonehenge
Private collection Great Britain
Mildred, I’ve kept going as straight as I can. Is it alright to turn round now?
The Wikipedia entry for Sir Cecil Chubb reads in part –
Stonehenge was put up for auction in 1915 by the Antrobus family following the death in World War I of the only surviving male heir. Cecil Chubb’s interest in the local area led to him attending the sale, with him bidding and purchasing Lot 15 on a whim for £6,600… as he wished to avoid the stones being acquired by someone overseas. It is also speculated that he bought the stones as a present for his wife, only for her to be less than pleased with his new purchase.
He gave Stonehenge to the nation on 26 October 1918. The deed of gift included the following conditions:
First that the public shall have free access to the premises hereby conveyed and Every part thereof on the payment of such reasonable sum per head not exceeding one shilling [about 70 pence today] for each visit and subject to such conditions as the Commissioners of Works in the exercise and execution of their statutory powers and duties may from time to time impose. Secondly that the premises shall so far as possible be maintained in their present condition. Thirdly that no building or erection other than a pay box similar to the Pay Box now standing on the premises shall be erected on any part of the premises within four hundred yards of The Milestone marked “Amesbury 2” on the northern frontage of the premises and Fourthly that the Commissioners of Works will at all times save harmless and keep indemnified the Donors and each of them their and each of their estates and effects from and against all proceedings costs claims and expenses on account of any breach or non observance of the covenants by the Donors to the like or similar effect contained in the Conveyance of the premises to the Donors.
And importantly that, “Local residents are still entitled to free admission to Stonehenge because of a different agreement concerning the moving of a right of way.” That agreement is a resolution passed by Amesbury Parish Council on 12 April 1921 which states, “The Council relinquishes all claims on the right of way now enclosed, on condition that all householders and their families, (or all inhabitants) of the parishes, comprising the Rural District of Amesbury, and the householders and their families (or inhabitants) of the Parish of Netheravon, be granted free admission to Stonehenge at all times.”
Seems straightforward enough but, according to yesterday’s Salisbury Journal, English Heritage have changed the rules and free access is now restricted to local residents comprising no more than one adult and three children. Local resident, Colin Watson, is reported as saying however that, “I think that it is absolutely outrageous that English Heritage has changed this policy via the back door. For years people have managed to visit Stonehenge free of charge and I think what they have done is against the agreement that was laid out when Sir Cecil Chubb gave the land to the nation.”
An English Heritage spokesperson has stated that, “With the introduction of our advanced ticketing system we felt it was important to provide more information to people wanting to visit Stonehenge when demand was so high. We refreshed the application criteria to ensure it was available to all genuine local residents. By doing this we believe we have increased and extended access because every adult can now bring children with them. Take up of local resident passes has increased significantly this year and we are delighted to have seen a surge in people from the local area visiting Stonehenge and the new visitor centre.”
Full Salisbury Journal article here.

Ancient Stones on Old Postcards by Jerry Bird

Victorian and Edwardian age postcards of Old Stone monuments and prehistoric remains in the English countryside presented for the first time. Every page has a full-size reproduction of an original card with an essay on the subject shown and map references and description of how to find the site arranged by areas. Written with enthusiasm and full of lively commentary, descriptions of both famous and little-known sites are enhanced with local mythology, superstitions and folklore. These are the best from Jerry Bird’s classic collection which he has spent a lifetime building. For the traveller to England this will be an ideal companion for the Antiquarian explorer, Pilgrim or Druid, as well as the everyday enthusiast.

A beautiful book based on a splendid idea: Ronald Hutton.
Will delight the intrepid antiquarian: Geoff Ward, author of Spirals.

Paperback. 226 pages. Published in 2011 by Green Magic. ISBN 9780956188632.

Mike Pitts – Digging Deeper

Salisbury MuseumSalisbury Museum

Is anyone watching out for early depictions of Stonehenge? Like illustrations of Easter Island, they come and go through salerooms, and every so often something pops up that can help us understand part of the story. My friend Paul Stamper has directed me to a new catalogue from RG Watkins Books & Prints in Somerset. Among the lots are an early photo of Stonehenge, and two little sepia and wash sketches.

The latter (no 132, £250 the pair) are described as “Signed, titled and dated ‘S. Wilson R.M. Academy 5 April 1845 and 16 Nov 1845”. Sylvester Wilson, says Watkins, was appointed cadet at the Royal Military Academy in 1843, but was “discharged at the request of his friends” in July 1846. So he would have been in the army when he drew Stonehenge, based in Woolwich, London. “It is scarce”, says Watkins, “to find early dated drawings…

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