Society of Antiquarians of London
Home | Introduction | The Discovery of Britain | Collecting for Britain | The Art of Recording 
Making Local History: Lincolnshire | Staffordshire and West Midlands | The North East | Wiltshire
Timeline | Roll Chronicle | Exhibition venues 
CF_4_1_1
Staffordshire and West Midlands

Making History in the West Midlands
In the 17th century Elias Ashmole, born in Lichfield and founder of the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, sponsored many studies of his home county. With Ashmole’s support, Dr Robert Plot, the first curator of the Ashmolean, undertook one of the earliest and most complete natural and historical surveys of the county. From the mid 18th century local antiquaries faced a growing threat to their heritage from industrialisation and the rapid deterioration of historic buildings and monuments, and responded by initiating an ambitious recording programme.

This county map of Staffordshire marks an important development in British cartography. Drawn by Dr Robert Plot, first keeper of the Ashmolean Museum, and engraved by Joseph Browne, Plot used symbols to identify parishes, religious houses and ancient fortifications. This was a new approach for marking out sites of interest and was increasingly being employed by other cartographers of the time.

Map of Staffordshire
William Wyrley his booke

At a young age William Wyrley displayed a great interest in heraldry, travelling around the county recording coats-of-arms. Wyrley's was a student of Sampson Erdeswick, a prominent Staffordshire historian. In 1604 Wyrley was appointed an office with the College of Arms in London, which he held until his death. The pages displayed are Wyrley's sketches and notes of shields-of-arms from Lichfield Cathedral.

This Iron Age gold torc was discovered in Needwood Forest in 1848 by a local man while walking past a newly dug Fox-den. It was believed that fox cubs managed to unearth the torque. The torc was exhibited at the Society of Antiquaries on the 8th June 1848 and a drawing commissioned from George Scharf, artist and later the first director of the National Portrait Gallery. The torc is now in the British Museum.

Drawing of an Iron Age gold torc
Drawing of Tutbury Castle

The interest of early antiquaries in royalty in the 18th century led to the recording of many royal tombs and related sites. Tutbury Castle had long been associated with the English Crown. Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned there and it later became a seat of resistance to Oliver Cromwell, who ordered its destruction in 1647. This early drawing of Tutbury Castle provides a useful record of the then ruinous state of the castle.

St Mary's Church once formed part of a Norman priory, founded by Henry de Ferrers in the 1080s. These three drawings illustrate the growing interest of the Antiquaries in recording medieval ecclesiastical architecture. From the mid 18th century onwards new techniques of illustration were developed to record architectural features.

Drawing of Tutbury Church North Prospect
Two Drawings of Tutbury Church Arch and Window

St Mary's Church once formed part of a Norman priory, founded by Henry de Ferrers in the 1080s. These three drawings illustrate the growing interest of the Antiquaries in recording medieval ecclesiastical architecture. From the mid 18th century onwards new techniques of illustration were developed to record architectural features.

This drawing records monuments in the old Priory church at Stone before its demolition in 1753. They all survive in the new church, but the stone effigies are defaced and mutilated with the loss of the man's feet and damage to the lady's hands holding a heart.
The drawing of the memorial brass to Thomas Crompton and family varies considerably from the original brass in its layout, inscription and its armorial treatment.

Drawing of Monuments from Stone Church, Staffordshire
Rubbing of Memorial Brass from Stone Church, Staffordshire

The brass to Thomas Crompton (d. 1619) is a fine example of a family memorial illustrating the armour and costume of the period. It was originally secured on the east wall of the old Priory chancel, but is now in the new church. The Society of Antiquaries holds the most complete collection of rubbings of monumental brasses in England, including many of brasses which have since been lost or damaged.

The Stanleys and Smythes were two important local families who were Lords of Elford Manor between the 14th and early 16th centuries. The engravings displayed come from a series of twelve, illustrating their funerary monuments in the Stanley Chapel at Elford Church. Edward Richardson undertook many recordings and restorations of church monuments during the mid 19th century. These plates are complete records of the tombs at the point of restoration.

The Smythe Tomb (North View) Elford Church Staffordshire
The Stanley Child Monument, Front & Side Views, Cross Stone and Details, Elford Church Staffordshire

John Stanley died c. 1360 from a blow to the head from a wooden tennis ball. The ball can be seen in his left hand while his right hand indicates the point of impact. The effigy is highly unusual in depicting cause of death and may be the first in English monumental art to document a sporting fatality.
Richardson used antiquarian sources to reconstruct the Latin inscription "Ubi dolor ibi digitus" (where the pain [was], there his finger [points])" , which may have originally been painted on the ball itself.

The Stanleys and Smythes were two important local families who were Lords of Elford Manor between the 14th and early 16th centuries. The engravings displayed come from a series of twelve, illustrating their funerary monuments in the Stanley Chapel at Elford Church. Edward Richardson undertook many recordings and restorations of church monuments during the mid 19th century. These plates are complete records of the tombs at the point of restoration.

Tomb of Sir John Stanley Kt. Elford Church, Staffordshire
Effigies of Sir William Smythe Kt. (c.1526) and his Wives Anne Staunton & Isabella Neville, Elford Church, Staffordshire

The Stanleys and Smythes were two important local families who were Lords of Elford Manor between the 14th and early 16th centuries. The engravings displayed come from a series of twelve, illustrating their funerary monuments in the Stanley Chapel at Elford Church. Edward Richardson undertook many recordings and restorations of church monuments during the mid 19th century. These plates are complete records of the tombs at the point of restoration.

This scaled plan of Lichfield Cathedral was produced for one of the first architectural studies of English and Welsh Cathedrals. Previous records of cathedrals were concerned with funeral monuments and armorials. Browne Willis, a Fellow of the Society, incorporated these elements into his study but also developed some of the earliest scaled drawings of cathedrals in the interest of the study of gothic architecture. This was at a time when there was a prevailing popular interest in Greek and Roman antiquity.

The Ichnography or Groundplot of the Cathedral Church of Lichfield
The Natural History of Stafford-shire

Robert Plot was interested in all aspects of the natural world, which in the 17th century included past human activity. He travelled across Staffordshire, gathering information on antiquities, ancient sites, industrial processes, architecture, legends, ceremonies and the natural world. Information from pre-printed questionnaires helped him create the first historic map of the county.

Essentially an atlas, first published by John Speed in 1611, the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain contains 67 maps, mostly of English and Welsh counties with a few of Scotland and Ireland. No roads were shown but some important buildings were depicted. Here the County town of Stafford and the Cathedral City of Lichfield are shown.

'Staffordshire' from the Theatre of the Empire of Great Britain
 
Unearthing the North West

From initial discovery of its bathhouses in the late 18th century, the Roman city of Wroxeter has been the subject of continuous and intense archaeological study. In the 20th century Wroxeter became one of the Society of Antiquaries major research excavations, the results contributing to our current knowledge of the Romano-British town. 2009 sees Wroxeter celebrate one hundred and fifty years of archaeology and prominence as one of the earliest archaeological visitor attractions in Britain.

A local farmer quarrying for stone in 1785 uncovered part of the Roman bath and surrounding complex of the Roman town of Wroxeter. The landowner granted permission for further areas to be exposed. Thomas Telford, the leading civil engineer, was then the county surveyor. Telford was involved in these early investigations at Wroxeter, possibly one of Britain's earliest open-area excavations. These drawings by Telford were sent, along with a letter reporting the discovery, in 1788 to Richard Gough, the Director of the Society of Antiquaries of London and were published in the journal Archaeologia in 1789.

Section Views of the Roman Bath at Wroxeter
Plan of the Roman Baths at Wroxeter

A local farmer quarrying for stone in 1785 uncovered part of the Roman bath and surrounding complex of the Roman town of Wroxeter. The landowner granted permission for further areas to be exposed. Thomas Telford, the leading civil engineer, was then the county surveyor. Telford was involved in these early investigations at Wroxeter, possibly one of Britain's earliest open-area excavations. These drawings by Telford were sent, along with a letter reporting the discovery, in 1788 to Richard Gough, the Director of the Society of Antiquaries of London and were published in the journal Archaeologia in 1789.

By the second half of the 19th century the Society had sponsored several large scale excavations. Wroxeter received support for excavations between 1859 and 1860. This early drawing illustrates the extent of the city's boundary, together with the extent of the Roman defensive fortifications. The drawings were prepared for J. Corbet Anderson's book on Wroxeter, published in 1862.

Plans and sections of the defences of the Roman City of Uriconinm, Wroxeter Salop. 1861-2
Watercolour of Roman tesselated pavement

On its discovery in Wroxeter in 1827, visiting crowds completely destroyed the Roman mosaic pavement by taking pieces away as souvenirs. This watercolour is a rare record of the mosaic's discovery. The accompanying letter from Thomas Wright to Llewellyn Jewitt, both local antiquaries, nearly forty years later, discusses the discovery of the pavement.

 
Antiquity, Archaeologists and the Arts

In the 18th and 19th centuries the study of the past provided a source of inspiration for contemporary design. Josiah Wedgwood, a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, drew on archaeological publications of ancient Greek vases to create a new range of ceramics in a popular antiquarian style. In the late 20th century the Potteries became the birthplace of the new disciplines of industrial and post-medieval archaeology. Since the 1960s excavations of ceramic factories have created a new understanding of the development of one of Britain’s greatest manufacturing industries.

Influenced by ancient Greek originals excavated in Italy from the 1760s onwards and appearing in the published collections of Sir William Hamilton and others, Josiah Wedgwood created a new range of popular 'archaeological' ceramics at his Etruria factory. Wedgwood, who was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, owned a copy of D'Hancerville's book The Complete Collection of Antiquities from the Cabinet of Sir William Hamilton, published in 1766-67.

Wedgwood 'Etruscan' Vase
Wedgwood 'Etruscan' Vase

Influenced by ancient Greek originals excavated in Italy from the 1760s onwards and appearing in the published collections of Sir William Hamilton and others, Josiah Wedgwood created a new range of popular 'archaeological' ceramics at his Etruria factory. Wedgwood, who was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, owned a copy of D'Hancerville's book The Complete Collection of Antiquities from the Cabinet of Sir William Hamilton, published in 1766-67.

 
Making Local History

As before, archaeologists have adapted new technologies to investigate and record objects, sites and monuments. Features that may once have been invisible to the naked eye can now be revealed and enhanced using digital survey techniques. Today the use of metal detectors continues in the tradition of mapping evidence of past human activity in the landscape. The Portable Antiquities Scheme in the West Midlands has enjoyed considerable success in helping to write our local history.

These stone axes were made from an unidentified igneous rock by 'pecking' the stone surface with another equally hard stone.

Stone axe hammer
Socketed Axe

Discovered in the vicinity of the village of Ilam, this axe head is of unusual form. The head of the axe has crescent-shaped indentations on both sides, while manufacturing details are also visible.

This palstave was discovered near the village of Loggerheads. The shape of the blade splays to a fan shape.

Palstave
Iron Age Stater

Found near Mavesyn Ridware, this coin has no inscription but may originate from an Iron Age tribal area in the North-East of England.

Discovered at Hatherton, this vase-headed linch pin has a copper-alloy head, fixed to an iron shank which is missing its foot.

Vase-headed linch pin
Dragonesque Brooch

Found at Ilam, this Dragonesque brooch is unusual in that such brooches are are normally enamelled. Each terminal represents a head with large ears.

Discovered at Ilam, this brooch is unusual in shape. It consists of a flat cross with five bosses, rounded terminals and a rounded central platform defining four chip-carved segments.

Saxon uneven-sided lozenge-shaped brooch
Late Saxon stirrup-strap mount

Found at Penkridge, the front of this mount is decorated with a coiled and interlaced animal with its head at the apex. Such mounts held the leather strap to the upper metal loop on the stirrup.

Found at Blore-with-Swinscoe, this sword pommel is decorated by two shield-shaped copper-alloy panels.

Sword Pommel
Large Heraldic Mount

Found at Ilam, this heraldic mount could have been attached to a saddle, a monument or tomb. The coat-of-arms may be that of the Beauchamps, Earls of Warwick, dating to c.1250-1300.

This crucifix was found in the parish of Blymhill and Weston-under-Lizard. Originally the crucifix would have been mounted on a wooden cross.

Crucifix Corpus
Visit another section in the Making History exhibition:

Introduction | The Discovery of Britain 
Collecting for Britain | The Art of Recording 
Making Local History:
Lincolnshire | Staffordshire and West Midlands | The North East | Wiltshire
Timeline | Roll Chronicle | Exhibition venues 


or visit the Society of Antiquaries of London home page