Our first duty this year is to record the great
sadness of all members of the Association on hearing of the tragic
death on holiday of our President, Richard Avent
and of his youngest son, Rhidian, and to send the deepest sympathy
of all of us to his widow, Dr Sian Rees, who is herself well-known
and loved among the Cambrians.
Richard had taken over the role of President just
three weeks earlier during the Chester Meeting and had clearly enjoyed
his week with the party. He was, of course, already very well known,
having spoken to the Association at many of Cadw’s castles
in the past, but in Chester, away from immediate professional responsibilities,
we saw a more relaxed Richard, with time to chat to all the members
over meals and to demonstrate his very wide knowledge and interest
in all manner of aspects of the past, not forgetting the crucial
role of the President in graciously thanking speakers, efficiently
chairing the AGM and, of course, giving a scholarly but entertaining
address. At Beeston Castle we had a demonstration of his effortless
command of castle studies and of his ability to convey that knowledge
in just the way best suited to the audience and the circumstances.
We had arrived 17 minutes before the site opened, so it was suggested
that he talk about the history of the site before we went in to
look at the archaeological detail - which he did, elegantly rounding
it off in exactly 17 minutes! As President-elect he had attended
Trustee meetings, despite his heavy work-load, and had been a most
wise counsellor. The Association had looked forward to many years
during which it would have benefited from his interest and concern.
He will be most sadly missed.
He will be sadly missed, too, right across Wales
and on the wider British conservation scene, as the many official
obituaries demonstrated. As Chief Inspector of Ancient Monuments
for Wales for more than 20 years he guided Cadw through fat and,
more frequently, lean years, several political manoeuvres and the
pressures of changed priorities. Throughout this period he steered
a steady course, quietly but firmly, which delivered an enviably
effective and comprehensive service to the historic environment,
in the form of the four Welsh Archaeological Trusts, coveted in
many other regions but frequently under threat from political ideologues,
and provided the public monuments of Wales with one of the best
series of guidebooks in the English (and Welsh)-speaking world.
The transition from the scholarly but slightly austere blue guides
of the 1960s to the all-colour productions of today with their masses
of stimulating illustrations is a brilliant (and rare) example of
how accessibility can be increased without ‘dumbing down’.
Cadw under his guidance also embarked upon a series of country-wide
surveys to ensure that the baseline of knowledge about various monument
types was up-to-date, maintained to a uniformly high standard, and
available to be consulted by the public. This foresighted policy
will be part of a very considerable legacy, for which his successors
will undoubtedly bless him and for which we, now, must be grateful.
Other deaths we must sadly recall include Professor
Leslie Alcock, O.E.Craster and Sir Kyffin Williams.
Leslie Alcock was President in
1982, shortly after he had left University College Cardiff to take
up the chair of Archaeology in Glasgow. The Summer Meeting that
year was in the Lake District, conveniently placed between the two.
While he had been in Cardiff Leslie, whose interests lay in the
post-Roman period, had carried out important excavations, such as
that at Dinas Powys in Glamorgan, which put Wales firmly on the
map of that period. He was also interested in the organisation of
the archaeological profession and in 1961 was the instigator and
first Secretary of the Welsh Group of the Council for British Archaeology.
He had a gruff exterior, but a heart of gold.
Oswin Edmund Craster, a splendid
name from Northumbria, where his distinguished family originated,
had been Principal Inspector of Ancient Monuments in Wales for the
Ministry of Works 1954-65, during which time he often spoke at Cambrian
meetings. The son of a librarian of the Bodlean, he was a member
of SOE during the Second World War, parachuted into France and into
Burma, twice mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Croix de Guerre.
As an Inspector he was particularly interested in the physical aspects
of the monuments for which he was responsible. It was he who inserted
a small pebble (a Craster Pebble) to prevent people rocking the
capstone of the Portal Dolmen at Dyffryn Ardudwy and he retained
an interest in the condition of Skenfrith Castle to the end of his
Sir Kyffin Williams, a member
of the Cambrians since 1977, was less well known as a conserver
of monuments, though he painted Standing Stones and other knurled
monuments to great effect. He was most definitely well-known, however,
to everyone in Wales, and to very many beyond, as a wonderful landscape
painter, raconteur and ‘general good egg’.
Meetings in 2006
2006 saw three Cambrians meetings: the Easter
Conference in Aberystwyth which looked at the future of archaeological
and historical societies; the Summer Meeting in the city of Chester
and mid Cheshire, and the Autumn Weekend in Pembrokeshire based
The Easter Conference provided
a forum for members of societies of varying size and age to discuss
practical problems and share experiences about which activities
are popular with members and which are suffering a decline. Although
the numbers (32 participants) were not as high as we had hoped,
those who attended enjoyed the week-end and found the lectures and
discussions useful and stimulating. During the summer some societies
initiated new activities which had been directly inspired by ideas
put forward at the conference, just what the organizers had hoped
would happen. A summary of all the lectures and discussions can
be found on this site.
The Summer Meeting in Chester
was blessed with wonderful weather, 45 members attended and enjoyed
three days looking at the city in some detail and then had two and
half days in the countryside of mid Cheshire, visiting castles,
churches and gardens and enjoying the excitements of the canal system
which had contributed so much to the industrial wealth of what is
normally considered a rural county. In the city we had the benefit
of the knowledge and enthusiasm of Simon Ward of Chester Archaeology
and at the Amphitheatre and the Castle, our member, Henry Owen John
of English Heritage, enabled us to get privileged access. Each evening
members were able to walk back to their hotel by a different section
of the Walls and along the towpath of the canal, a peaceful route
through a very busy town.
Chester City Council and English Heritage are organising
a very full and fascinating international conference on Roman Amphitheatres
on 16-18th February in Chester. Rather expensive (£82.25 without
conference dinner) but it’s hot stuff with speakers from all
over the world! “This unique conference will range across
all aspects of the study of Roman Amphitheatres and the spectacles
that took place there……. accessing the latest research
and thinking from many different perspectives”. Contact Amphitheatre
Conference Office, EMMM Ltd, Southdene House, 16 Booths Hill Road,
Lymm WA13 0DL 01925 752078 or www.emmm.co.uk/amphitheatre
During the Pembrokeshire Weekend,
which over 70 members attended, the weather was less kind, but spirits
were not dampened. The meeting had been organized by Hugh Morgan
with a very varied programme which included chasing the French from
Pencaer and the builders of Stonehenge from Preseli as well as a
day in St David’s where the party was given the most expert
guidance around the Bishop’s Palace by Rick Turner of Cadw,
and around the Cathedral and the new works being undertaken there
by the Dean, our member the Very Rev J. Wyn Evans.
Thanks are offered to all those who worked hard
to make these meetings so enjoyable, instructive and stimulating:
Jeff Davies, who organized the practicalities in Aberystwyth, Frances
Llewellyn, who oversaw the Chester Meeting and Hugh Morgan in Pembrokeshire.
Anyone who would like to be involved with planning future meetings,
please contact the General Secretary. We’d love to hear from
Archaeologia Cambrensis, the National Library
of Wales and the Web
Earlier this year the CAA Trustees were asked whether
they would be willing to allow the National Library to include Archaeologia
Cambrensis amongst a group of Welsh Journals which it wished to
make available in digitised form through the web. The Library was
applying for a grant to cover the digitisation work to the Joint
Information Systems Committee and this summer we heard that the
money had been granted. The first stage of this ambitious project
aims to digitise all the output of the Welsh periodical press from
its inception in 1735 to 1900. This means that, along with a lot
of other early journals, the now rare and often difficult to find
volumes of Arch. Camb. published between 1847 and 1900 which contain
so much valuable material, will soon be available electronically
in a searchable form. The Library promises that this exposure will
give us a great new audience and a new profile!
Cambrians’ Website - www.cambrians.org.uk
This year has also seen the development of the
Cambrians’ Website. This gives general information about the
Association, provides a printable Application Form (and happily,
a few people have been using it) and will include the contents of
this Newsletter, together with its Meeting Return forms, so if you
lose yours, you can easily print out another! It also provides summaries
of past meetings for those who could not be there (or who were foolish
enough to choose not to come!) and gives details of the content
of recent volumes of Arch. Camb. It also contains the application
forms for Research Grants and details of eligibility etc.
The Association is most grateful to Gwilym Hughes
for organising the long-awaited birth of CAA on the Web and to Orchardweb
for creating and up-dating the site. Whether through the Website,
or other databases, Halfway House seems to have been identified
as a ‘research facilitator’ with requests from Australia,
northern Italy and even deepest Cardiff for photocopies of odd pages
of early Arch. Camb. volumes and of things even more obscure (which
luckily the university library in Bangor had on the shelves)!
We continue to be immensely grateful to the hard
work of the Editor, Bill Britnell. Another volume of Arch. Camb.
will be sent to you very shortly, the volume for 2005. And in the
autumn, the volume for 2006 should appear and thus bring the publication
timetable up to date and re-inaugurate a single annual production.
This autumn there were three applications for
research grants which were all granted, to a certain level. Dr Jonathan
Kissock of University of Wales, Newport was given £200 towards
the costs of a survey of a deserted medieval village site at Llandewi
on Gower. Dr J. L. Davies, our President in 2005, was given £2,437
for a geophysical investigation of the Roman fort at Llwyn Brain,
Caersws. The information from this survey will be incorporated into
the forthcoming revision of Roman Frontiers in Wales and the Marches
which will also contain the amazingly good results obtained from
geophysics around other Roman forts through work by the archaeological
Trusts for Cadw’s Roman Vici project. The third grant, £2,000,
was given to the Llangynidr Society to provide professional direction
to their current excavations at a deserted sixteenth century farmstead
at Blaen y Cwm. This small society has carried out active fieldwork
and excavation for several years and took part in the Aberystwyth
Conference. Funding from the Brecon Beacons National Park has dried
up and the Association was happy to put its money where its mouth
is and support such an active group.
The Llangynidr Society had applied last year, but
the application had come in too late. Please note that applications
should arrive with the Hon. Secretary by the middle of October to
reach the Trustees meeting, with references in place and queries
sorted, at the beginning of November. Additional applications may
be entertained in the spring (latest date beginning of March) if
there is money remaining.