Part 1 of this series of blog posts introduced the Haverfield Archive, held at the Sackler Library. This collection consists of correspondence, coloured prints and drawings illustrating mosaic pavements, site plans and publication extracts – an assortment of archaeological paraphernalia associated with Francis Haverfield (1860-1919), Camden Professor of Ancient History at Oxford and seen as the chief expert on Roman Britain at the start of the 20th century. The image collection comprises largely prints and a few hand-drawn sketches of Roman floor mosaics discovered during the 18th and 19th centuries. I decided to take on the task of creating the first index to this material so that its research potential would become clear. In November last year, I began indexing material. With each new document came a new discovery. As a former archaeologist, I found working with the archive a cleaner but just as incredible experience as uncovering forgotten objects through excavation. In total, I recorded around 50 images and associated documents, only a small fraction of the collection.
For Part 2 of this series of blog posts, I will focus on three archaeological sites: Aldborough, Cotterstock, and Stonesfield. The reason why I will discuss these sites in particular is because the majority of documents which I have recorded so far depict mosaics discovered there. (Continuation of the cataloguing part of the project was affected by the Covid-19 lockdown, as physical access to materials was no longer possible.)
The first site is the village of Aldborough (Isurium Brigantum), North Yorkshire. One of the first mosaics to be discovered at the site was the so-called ‘Lion mosaic’ (Inventory n. 2.13). In 1832, the landlord of the Aldborough Arms decided to bury a dead calf at the end of his garden. The rest – as they say – is history. News of the discovery appears to have spread nationwide and in 1849 the Illustrated London News (20 January 1849) published a report. In his 1852 publication, Reliquiae Isurianae, Henry Ecroyd Smith recorded mosaics from Aldborough, including this mosaic. In the below image, damage to the central panel is shown. It is strongly suspected that the culprits were enthusiastic souvenir hunters as the Reliquiae Isurianae describes how the mosaic had become a local attraction. In response, the Duke of Newcastle erected a stucture over the mosaic as an attempt to preserve it. What is most interesting about the print from the Haverfield Archive, is that the mosaic is surrounded by further sketches of the Roman remains.
Another mosaic, featuring a ‘star’ in the central panel, was discovered in 1846. This mosaic is deeply associated with Aldborough and its design is incorporated into the current Friends of Aldborough logo (have a look). Ecroyd Smith’s Reliquiae Isurianae attests that news of the discovery of the mosaic spread rapidly throughout the community, as volunteer excavators joined the efforts to remove the ‘mass of rubble’. Andrew Lawson, the local landowner, erected a covering structure for the mosaic. Despite this, the mosaic remained exposed to weathering and was damaged by mould growth from the cold and damp conditions. The print is depicted in full colour and in very good condition. The patron behind the print was landowner Lawson. Other funders may have included the amateur archaeologist, Charles Roach Smith (1807-1890) and the antiquarian Albert Way (1805-1874). Ecroyd Smith expresses his gratitude for the support of these three men in his preface to the Reliquiae Isurianae. Lawson himself spent much of his time preserving the remains of Roman Aldborough, as well as making the first systematic collection of local archaeological finds. Funding publications like the Reliquiae Insurianae was well within his range of interests.
The final Aldborough mosaic that I’ll discuss here is the well-known ‘Romulus and Remus’ mosaic. It was discovered in 1834, and subsequently dug up by a local mason and removed to his cottage garden in Boroughbridge, where it became a central piece to the floor of a summerhouse. Fortunately, the Museum of the Philosophical and Literary Society of Leeds, subsequently incorporated into the Leeds City Museum, purchased the mosaic in 1863 where it remains preserved today. Due to its complicated provenance, there has been some discussion regarding the authenticity of the mosaic and some think that it was subjected to heavy Victorian restoration. Interestingly, the mosaic was not included in Ecroyd Smith’s Reliquiae Isurianae.
Next, I draw your attention to a range of sites from across Northamptonshire. Several prints of mosaics discovered in the county appear to be from the same publication, The Durobrivae of Antoninus, published in 1828 by artist Edmund Artis (1789-1847). Artis carried out large-scale excavations in the county in the early 1820s. These included an investigation of the alleged Castor Praetorium, a monumental Roman building on the site of Castor’s parish church. Artis coined the term ‘Praetorium’ to suggest that the building not only had an administrative function but also implied a luxurious residence. Artis completed sketches of his finds and one of these is possibly Inventory n. 1.6 A 3, whose accompanying text describes its discovery on the north side of the churchyard.
The Haverfield Archive also highlights similarities between a print (Inventory n. 1.6 A 1) from the Durobrivae of Antoninus and another (Inventory n. 3.1 1) from J. Nichols’s Vetusta Monumenta, a collection of images published under the Society of Antiquaries’ auspices. The two prints appear to be of the same mosaic but differ stylistically through radically different colour palettes and borders. The mosaic itself was discovered in a field in Cotterstock, in 1736, after being partially damaged by a plough. Locals from a nearby residence in Southwick, notably father and son, the George Lynns, as well as the artist William Bogdani (1699-1771), drew the mosaic. In 1737, Bogdani presented his drawing to the Society of Antiquaries. The Society commissioned George Vertue (1684-1756) to make an engraving from the drawing. Vertue was considered one of the best reproductive engravers in the country at that time. He had a strong reputation as an antiquary as well, and was appointed Engraver to the Society of Antiquaries in 1717. Vertue completed his engraving of the mosaic in 1737 and presented it to the Society. Edmund Artis used this print as a basis when he published the mosaic in his Durobrivae.
As at Aldborough, preservation tactics such as covering up the Cotterstock mosaic did not deter souvenir hunters. The fourth Earl of Cardigan removed a large chunk of the mosaic and took it back to his residence at Deene Park. The Earl set the fragment into a centrepiece for the floor of a summerhouse. Whilst his intention was to preserve the mosaic, it did not survive.
Another, smaller mosaic was discovered at Cotterstock in 1798. The first engraving of it was made by William Fowler in 1802 (Inventory n. 1.9). In 1828, Edmund Artis also republished the mosaic in his Durobrivae.
Finally, I will focus on prints which appear to depict the same mosaic found at Stonesfield, a village in Oxfordshire. While the mosaic was first discovered in 1711, in one account, by John Pointer in 1713, it is claimed that the mosaic was accidentally uncovered by a tenant farmer in a field called Chesthill Acres. News of the discovery soon reached Oxford, rousing the interest of local antiquarians. The tenant farmer, George Handes, proved himself to be a savvy businessman and began charging both an admission fee to view the mosaic and a further charge for drawing it. As always, souvenir hunters were eager to grab a keepsake. One fragment was given to the diarist and antiquarian Thomas Hearne (1744-1817), who worked in the library of St Edmund Hall and also at the Bodleian. Fragments, alongside images and written records, formed part of the supporting materials for lengthy discussions among groups such as the Society of Antiquaries and the Royal Society.
In his A discourse concerning to the Stunsfield tessellated pavement (1712) Thomas Hearne included an illustrated print of the Stonesfield mosaic. Hearne frequently visited the pavement; on his sixth visit he brought along the Dutch illustrator, Michael Burghers (1647-1727) who, from 1676, engraved the plates for the Almanacks of the University and whose objective was to draw the pavement accurately. In 1723, the Society of Antiquaries again commissioned George Vertue to produce an engraving. The finished product was very popular and was still on sale in 1757, 34 years after Vertue’s death. This print is essentially an enlargement of Burgher’s work and remains very faithful to its detail. In the Haverfield Archive, both Hearne and Vertue are credited with reproducing Inventory n. 1.12 and n. 1.16.
Hearne expressed his fears regarding the condition of the Stonesfield mosaic, as it was suffering from exposure to the elements. In 1716, there were rumours that the pavement had been destroyed. The mosaic had suffered badly from damage caused by souvenir hunters and poor preservation management. Over time, George Handes and his landlord increasingly argued over how profits gained from admission fees for viewing the mosaic were to be shared. In one incident, an argument between the pair allegedly ended with the tenant tearing the mosaic to pieces.
In 1779 digging in the area led to the mosaic’s accidental rediscovery. Although the extent of the damage inflicted by George Handes is unclear, the fact that the mosaic was still recognisable suggests that it had somewhat survived. The ensuing excavations received the patronage of the Duke of Marlborough, whose Blenheim estates lay nearby. A report was presented to the Society of Antiquaries in 1784, with a set of engravings of the mosaic by William Lewington. This is particularly interesting as the illustration in the Haverfield Archive is attributed not to Lewington, but to the self-taught engraver William Fowler (1761-1832). Just as George Vertue reproduced Michael Burgher’s earlier version of the mosaic, Fowler based his work directly on Lewington’s own engraving. In 1802, Fowler had the ground opened, finding part of the pavement in good condition. Eventually, however, in 1806, the Stonesfield mosaic was divided among three landowners, with the removal and destruction of the in situ mosaic recorded a year later.
My next post in this series will discuss the people who made these prints: The antiquarians. These rich, erudite and privileged individuals helped shape archaeology as the discipline that it is today.
Chloe Bolsover, Graduate Trainee, Taylor Institution Library
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Artis, E.T. 1828. The Durobrivae of Antoninus : identified and illustrated in a series of plates, exhibiting the excavated remains of that Roman station, in the vicinity of Castor, Northamptonshire : including the mosaic pavements, inscriptions, paintings in fresco, baths, iron and glass furnaces, potters’ kilns, implements for coining, and the manufacture of earthen vessels, war and other instruments in brass, iron, ivory, &c. London
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