Travels in Crete 1: Mochlos

LET ME tell you about CRETE. It’s a paradise island and the Cretans are wonderful people (well, most of them ….).

Sarah and I began our adventures in Crete in 2001 in search of the archaeology of the Bronze Age of the Minoans (c.3000-1100BC – I’ll tell you about them next time). Sarah had dragged me ‘shouting and screaming’ (maybe a slight exaggeration) into archaeology when she came home one Friday evening and, over a glass of wine or two, asked me if I wanted to learn about archaeology (she had studied it at university in the 1980s and wanted to start up again). Anyway, I said I might be and she replied, “Good, because I have booked us both into a course on ‘Practical Archaeology’ at Sussex University starting on Monday”…….. the rest, they say, is history – well, ancient history, actually.


myself and Sarah always smiling in Crete!

We have been visiting Crete almost each year ever since 2001, and in 2005 I began researching early British travellers to the island, particularly Richard Pococke (18th century cleric), Robert Pashley (19th century barrister) and, my favourite, Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt (19th century Royal Naval officer – with a great name!). My plan was to try to establish what, if anything, they may have discovered of the Bronze Age during their visits. Sarah and I spent five summers following these three guys footsteps around the island using their published journals. It was awful work, you understand ….. !! Oh, and you can read my book on my results – see Dawn of Discovery in ‘My Publications’ (or just click here).

Then we really discovered paradise …. Mochlos. This is a small ‘fishing’ village on the north coast of the island about an hour and a half east of Heraklion and 5km off the main road. It’s no longer a fishing village as such, but, as yet, reasonably unspoiled by tourism. It also dates back to the Bronze Age Minoans when it (and its island just off its shores) was a thriving settlement. We struck it very lucky with our first accommodation, Mochlos Mare (click on name for link). This is a very picturesque set of apartments in a beautiful whitewashed building owned by an incredibly generous and lovely couple, Panayiotis and his wife, Sterie. They have this enormous garden which grows practically anything you can think of and they share everything in it with their visitors.


Mochlos from the little church on the hill – Mochlos Mare is bottom right

We loved the place so much that we decided to get married in Crete in 2011. We were actually married by the lake in Agios Nikolaos but went back to Mochlos on Nick’s boat to the Minoan island (top right in pic above) just off the mainland for champagne and then to Taverna Kokylia (on the mainland), for the ‘reception’.  (click on name for link) – now there’s a place to reckon with. Owned by the fabulous Yiorgo (George) it is simply the best! He did us proud on our wedding day and has done so ever since on our anniversaries ……. and all the other times we have been there!


Celebrating our wedding on Mochlos island 



Nick’s boat that brought us from our wedding at Agios Nikolaos to the Mochlos island

Then there is Dimitri’s (click on name for link), which is also a great taverna. He is a lovely chap and his food is excellent. I recall one wonderfully musical night there last year when our good friend, Warner (visiting us from UK), played his violin, whilst a young chap from Sweden played his guitar and his girlfriend sang. It just wouldn’t happen in the UK!


at Dimitris’

In 2012 we decided to stay the whole summer holidays in Mochlos (3 months) and came to the conclusion, sadly, that Mochlos Mare was not big enough for a stay of this length of time. We needed a bigger kitchen at least as we planned to cook-in on occasions (had to for this period of time!!). However, we found an absolutely fantastic apartment, Alexandros (click on name for link – you should be getting the idea now), just up the road from Mochlos Mare. It is owned by two lovely Australians, Peter and Rosa – Peter has Cretan connections hence his desire to buy a property on the island. Fortunately for us he and Rosa chose Mochlos!




 looking east from balcony of Alexandros

2013 also saw us in Mochlos (and Alexandros) for another 3 months over the summer again – and Nick’s fantastic villa was finally completed (he had bought the plot some 6 years ago!). The last time I had seen Nick and Heather (other than in Mochlos) was over 20 years ago in Wales. Then, 20 years later, I heard they had bought a plot of land in Crete – in Mochlos!! Small world or what?


Nick and I relaxing at Kokylia

So that’s how I found Crete.

Sarah produced blogs on our time in Crete in 2012 and 2013 (click on dates if you are really interested or just suffer from insomnia).

Next week let me introduce you to the Bronze Age Minoans of Crete.

Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is another extract:

I recall as a student, at my weekly tutorials at Oxford, it was a requirement to produce an essay for discussion. One week, I fear I neglected to make such an effort and I decided to ‘blag it’.  On appearing before my tutor, Professor Sir Lucius Bodmin-Wallbanger, I opened my notebook and with, I have to report, some skill and imagination, pretended to read from it, turning the blank pages at appropriate intervals. Following a formidably inventive conclusion, I shut the notebook with great satisfaction, thankful that the performance had passed off smoothly, and awaited Sir Lucius’ comments.

He stared into the open fire for a couple of minutes, then turned to me with a congenial smile and said, “Read it again, Mr Smith.”





St Mary’s House, Bramber

THE TUDOR HOUSE of St Mary’s is a must to visit if you are in Bramber between May and September on a Thursday or a Sunday. I’m not really a rep for the Bramber Tourist Board, honest. (Actually, I think I AM the Bramber Tourist Board).



St Mary’s Tudor House

St Mary’s was built around 1470. The land had original belonged to the Knights Templars who remained in Bramber until 1154. The house took its name from the late 12th century chapel of St Mary’s that had been built on the central pier of the old stone bridge between Bramber and Beeding.

The house became a sanctuary (or Inn) for pilgrims travelling from Canterbury to Winchester (as you do) and was controlled by the Monks of Sele (Sele Priory was in Beeding in case you missed previous blog). It is likely it would have been a four-sided, two-storied, oak-framed building with a central open courtyard (where the music room is today).


Plan of what the house may have been like as a four-sided building in 1470 (street to right) – by Walter Godfrey (Thorogood, St Mary’s Bramber, 1998, 8)

What remains of the 15th century house is the east wing. During the 17th century the other wings of the house and the south end of the east wing were demolished, either through fire or disrepair (they didn’t have insurance in those days!). If you come out of the music room onto the stairs and look up you will see four entrances which would have been to the travellers’ cells (bedrooms). The fact that one opens into thin air is evidence of a gallery which would have been present in the 17th century (either that or the owner had a sense of humour). If you go into the garden from the door by the kitchen and look back you will see the south wall is of flint and stone. This is a 17th century repair and the old wood beamed wall would have extended further into the garden (by approximately 15 feet).

Although there are two entrances on the east side of the existing wing, the original entrance would have been where there is still a door on the North (the street) side (see pic below). Part of the oak pillar (found in the basement) to this entrance is now on display on a wall within house.

plan b

Plan of what the front (north side) of house may have been like from the street in 1470 (Thorogood, St Mary’s Bramber, 1998, 7). From the middle of the entrance door to the right no longer exists (well, it does, it’s now the flats and St Mary’s Court)

The Warden’s room (or Monks’ parlour) contains some of the earliest oak panelling in the house, dating from the 16th century. There is also a unique massive ‘dragon’ beam carrying the weight of the upper floor. The Elizabethan inglenook would have been used for cooking when the great kitchen in the west wing was lost.

6-Wardens Room1

The Warden’s room (or monks’ parlour) in the first entrance

In the 16th century, following the dissolution of the monasteries, the house was taken over by Sir Ralph Shirley (of Wiston) and he divided the open common room on the ground floor of the east wing into separate rooms and installed the fireplace in the middle entrance hall – as it is today. Also in the hallway is a central table believed to be from the wood of a ship from the battle of Trafalgar.


The entrance hall with the ‘Trafalgar’ table

It is possible that the house may have seen the visitation of Elizabeth I on one of her ‘Progresses’ through Sussex and it may be that ‘The Painted Room’ was prepared for her visit (see pic below). It has also be ‘said’ that Charles II stayed at the house during his escape to France, but there is no documenatry evidence of either of these royal visits, just romantic speculation. Nothing wrong with that.

19a-Painted Room

The Painted Room

During the 18th and 19th centuries the house was used as a farm and the Tudor oak beams whitewashed over (sacrilege!). Then in 1890 the Hon. Algernon Bourke (second son of the Earl of Mayo) purchased the property and built the music room and accommodation extension (now flats and St Mary’s Court). Algernon was from ‘High Society’ and owner of White’s Club in St James’s and chairman of the Grand Hotel in Monte Carlo. He was also related to the ‘notorious’ Lord Alfred Douglas whose father, the Marquis of Queensberry, had a hand in the fall from grace of Oscar Wilde. The characters, Algernon Moncreiff and Gwendolen Fairfax, in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, are believed to be based on Algernon Bourke and his wife, Guendoline.


Algernon Bourke by ‘Spy’

In 1899 Alfred Musgrove succeeded Bourke as owner of the house. Little is known of him other than that he may have been the inspiration behind Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes’ tale The Musgrove Ritual which is set in a house very similar to St Mary’s. As with the Conan Doyle tale, there is a cellar which, at present, is blocked off – but what may be down there today?

Between the war years the house was owned by the McConnels and was used on occasions as an American ‘finishing school’. First-hand accounts from the family’s grand-daughters report that the rooms were filled with gaiety, dancing and laughter.

The outbreak of WWII brought the downfall of the house and it fell into disrepair. It was saved by Miss Dorothy Ellis who bought it at auction in 1944, saving it from a builder who would have dismantled it for building materials (omg!). Since 1985 it has been lovingly cared for with expertise and skill by Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton.


music rm

The Music Room

The Gardens

The five acres of gardens make St Mary’s a very special place to visit. Surrounding the actual house is the Topiary garden to the east, leading to the now front doors and the Terrace garden to the south leading out from the rear door.

In the Terrace garden is the ‘Monks Walk’ (remember previous blog?) which is an ivy-clad pergola of yew. Some of the ornamental stone fragments in the flint wall are remnants of the old Medieval bridge. The lawn was laid out by Algernon Bourke in the 1890s and was used for croquet. One of the notable features of the garden is the ‘living fossil’ tree, the prehistoric ginko biloba, which is the oldest species of tree in the world.

Behind the Castle pub St Mary’s Victorian gardens were sold off by Dorothy Ellis to pay for the repairs to the house. The present owners, Peter Thorogood and Roger Linton, were fortunate enough to be able to buy them back when the cottage to which they belonged came up for sale. The gardens (aka the ‘secret’ gardens) have now been restored to their Victorian glory by Roger and are a delight to wander around and relax.


Entrance to the ‘secret’ gardens

There is also a small museum housing various fascinating garden relics and an enchanting and tranquil ‘Poets Corner’.

Dr Who

For Dr Who fans St Mary’s is a must. The ‘Silver Nemesis’, with Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor, and his trusty police box, was filmed at the House in July 1988. Click here for article.

polic bx

Events and things

The House puts on various events, including music and comedy which you can all go and see. You can also get married there, as my son, Toby and his wife, Zoe, did in 2012:

t z 2

Toby and Zoe married at St Mary’s

More on the House, click here:


On another topic, did you see the size of ‘dem bones’ found just recently??


The bone in the picture is a fossilised femur (thigh bone) of a new species of dinosaur or titanosaur, dating back to the late Cretaceous period (that’s somewhere between 66 and 100 million years ago to you). It was discovered in a desert in La Flecha in Argentinia and bearing in mind the size of the femur this dinosaur (sorry, or titanosaur) is likely to have been around 40 m in length (that’s 130 ft in English) and 20m tall (that’ll be 65 ft), weighing in at 77 tonnes (much the same as 14 elephants apparently), which is seven tonnes heavier than the previous record holder, Argentinosaurus. Bad luck Argentia, you’re big but not big enough.

Fossilised remains of seven of this enormous fellows, totaling some 150 bones, were excavated by a team of palaeontologists from the Museum of Palaeontology Egidio Feruglio, led by Dr Jose Luis Carballido and Dr Diego Pol. They were discovered by a local farm worker and one assumes he thought better than to give them to his dog.

The real question is, where are they gonna put them?

Honey, we need a bigger garage …….

Next week: Lets’ go to Crete

Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr. Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction. Here is a further extract:

My days searching for early African civilization were fraught with endangerment. I recall being warned by our guide that we were entering a region inhabited by a lion. My colleagues and I commenced enclothing ourselves in heavy boots and a strong robust rig about the body. To my surprise, our guide stripped almost naked and donned only a pair of plimsolls, clearly intent on avoiding any physical contact with the king of the jungle.

“My dear man,” my voice raised with some degree of authority, “I trust that such foolish attire will do you little favour should we encounter the savage beast of the wild. Lightly garmented such as you are, you will never out run the creature.”

His response, which left me a little disturbed, was, “Master, but I only need to out run you.”




Ghosts of Bramber Castle

Oooooooooo, do you believe in ghosts? ONCE UPON ANOTHER TIME there was a King called John. He was a bad king and was easily upset by his barons ….. who were just as easily upset by him (if you get the drift). William de Braose, the 4th Lord of Bramber,  was no exception. In 1208, John seized William’s lands and Will de B escaped to France. Bramber-Castle.-Sussex-570x300

Don’t go up to the Castle at night ……

Unfortunately Will’s wife, Maud (or Matilda) and eldest son, William (imaginative with their names in those days), were captured by King John ‘the Bad’ and he locked them up in Corfe Castle (or possibly Windsor Castle) and starved them to death. Easily done. Here the tale slightly deviates as another source says that two of Will de B’s children were captured and starved. It is these two children that are (sometimes) seen wandering the grounds of Bramber Castle at night in search of their father. Admittedly, when I say ‘sometimes’, they are usually seen after the pub has shut. Then there is the white horse A riderless white horse has been heard and seen on moonlit nights galloping around the moat.  Its origin is unknown.  Could it be the horse of the sporting young William de Lindfield? (Yes, another William). In the 15th century, the ill-tempered Lord Hubert de Hurst occupied the castle (supposedly).  He was in his 50s and married to Maud of Ditchling (oh, another imaginative name), a rustic beauty, half his age.  The naughty 25-year-old Lindfield was having an affair with Maud (no surprise there), which Hurst discovered (oops, careless). whitehorse On a fresh September day, Lindfield rode into the castle and dismounted the horse and was never to be seen again.  Hurst had set a trap for him in the pleasure house, in a garden at the rear of the castle, where the young gentleman was awaiting the company of Lady Maud.  It resulted in Lindfield being imprisoned in a vault beneath the house. Hurst proceeded to brick up the vault’s entrance and the entombed Lindfield fell to a dark and solitary doom. Maud died of grief shortly after discovering the fate of her lover and the dastardly Hurst was reduced to a raving maniac (happy days).  Many years later the pleasure house and gardens were supposedly destroyed by the Parliamentarians and a skeleton was found crouched in the corner of the old vault (Lindfield’s?).  Perhaps it is Lindfield’s white horse which, today, roams the moat awaiting the return of its master. bramber_moat

The moat ……. domain of the riderless horse?

I don’t want to be a spoil-sport, but if you read my previous blog on the Castle, you know that it was in ruins during the Civil War which puts a bit of  a dampener on the existence of any pleasure house (or its destruction by Parliamentarians) and any possible truth of this yarn ……

 St Mary’s Down the road to the Castle you may find another ghostly apparition if you are in the right place at the right time (and consumed sufficient champagne). This will be at the old Tudor House of St Mary’s. In fact it has two estranged figures wandering the premises. First there is the ‘mysterious monk’ who has been seen lurking in the Monk’s Walk (obvious place for a monk I suppose) in the back garden of the House. The source of this vision is a Canadian soldier (or two) and the occasion was a revel (involving a certain amount of alcohol so we’ll leave it at that). 48-Garden today- Monks walk

 The Monk’s Walk at St Mary’s (it’s day time that’s why you can’t see the monk)


‘Mysterious monk’ on his way to the garden …. perhaps

The second is the ‘lady in grey’ seen on the hall stairs of the House by one of the more elderly occupants, Mimi McConnel, during the early part of the 1900s. The source does not mention Mimi’s drinking habit. stairs

The ‘spooky’ stairs (again, day time so don’t expect to see the ‘lady’)

  Next week: More on St Mary’s Tudor House.

Artemus Smith’s Notebooks I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction (see last blog). Here is another extract:

I received a call from my very good friend, Professor Michaelmas Aston-Villa, who informed me of an interesting experience he had just had. He had heard that some very strange crop marks  had recently appeared in a field near his home.  He decided to hire a plane to take a look and photograph them, but he had to be quick as he believed the field was to be ploughed up that very day. He telephoned the local airfield to have a plane ready and waiting.  As he arrived, sure enough, there was a small bi-plane warming up on the runway.  He ran to it, jumped into the passenger cockpit and shouted to the pilot to go. Once airborne, he turned to the pilot and pointed in the direction of the field.  The pilot asked of his interest in the field and Michaelmas explained to him that he was an archaeologist and needed to take aerial photographs before it was ploughed over.  After a long pause, the pilot tapped Michaelmas on the shoulder and said, “You mean you are not my instructor?”



St Nicholas’ Church at Bramber Castle

st nich

St Nicholas’ Church, Bramber

EDWARD THE CONFESSOR (1042-1066) gave the parish of Bramber (and nearby Steyning) to the Abbey of Fecamp in Normandy. As seen in the first blog (if you have been paying attention), when William the Conqueror took his place as King of England he granted the ‘Rape’ of Bramber to William de Braose but the monks of Fecamp still claimed rights to the land (see ‘Historical Note’ below). In 1073, de Braose, in competition with the Abbey of Fecamp,  built the church of St Nicholas, just outside his castle’s gatehouse, for Beneditine monks of the Abbey of St Florence (Florent) at Sanmur in Anjou.  In 1080, those monks moved from St Nicholas and established themselves at the Priory of Sele in Beeding (village next door) but St Nicholas remained as a religious centre for the occupants of Bramber.

Historical Note (not that the rest of this is not historical you understand): After Edward the Confessor died, new king, Harold, decided to cut Fecamp’s ties with St Cuthman in Steyning (along the road from Bramber – pay attention). William of Normandy (he hadn’t been upgraded to ‘Conquerer’ yet) was furious and planned retribution.  And so Steyning maybe accountable for the cause of the Norman Conquest ……….


Anyway, in 1085, William le Conq belatedly re-confirmed Fecamp Abbey’s claim to St Cuthman Church (now St Andrew’s in Steyning). This was not a good thing as it was to lead to various disputes between the Abbey’s monks at St Cuthman  and Billy de Braose (we’ll call him Will de B). In fact, 3 court cases came to pass in 1086. The first involved the monks successfully stopping Will de B charging a 2d toll at Bramber bridge for boats to pass through to the Steyning port. In the second case, Will de B was ordered to fill in ditches he had dug to allow water from a tributary of the River Adur to flood the east side of the moat of his castle and to make it easier for water transportation to the castle. In both cases the monks of St Cuthman claimed they had the rights to the river – and the court obviously agreed. In the third case, the monks considered they had the rights to bury the Bramber dead at St Cuthman – and receive the burial fees. Again they were successful and burials at St Nicholas had to be dug up and reinterred at St Cuthman – along with payment of the burial fees. Monks with a mission!

conj map2

Conjectural map of 12th century Bramber/Steyning (yellow circle is St Cuthman, white circle is Bramber Castle [ditches from tributary NE & SE], red circle is Bramber bridge)

st nic plan 2

Plan of St Nicholas over the years

See the above plan of St Nicholas over the years. The north and south transepts have disappeared entirely and the east apse was replaced with a chancel (in or around 1250), which has also since disappeared (after the civil war in the 17th century).  Arches of all three are still visible on the outside walls.  The single aisle and tower are original structures (well, the tower has needed some repairs – see pic below).

st nics 1770

St Nicholas c 1770 – towerless

In 1459, the Priory link with monks was dissolved and the church (& Priory at Sele) was granted to St Mary Magdalen College, Oxford, by Henry VI (at bequest of William of Waynflete, Bishop of Winchester).  It had now obtained full status as a parish church.

As a result of the dissolution of monasteries in 1538 the church became  the property of the Crown, who granted it to Richard Andrews and Nicholas Temple, who sold it to Owen and Clement Oglethorpe, who re-granted it back to Magdalen College in 1546, where it remained until 1952.  It then passed to the Bishop of Chichester, who holds it today.

 st nic 19th c

St Nicholas in the 19th century

The church was damaged during Civil War (c1643) and it took many years for it to be fully repaired.  The materials from the wrecked chancel were utilised to repair the tower.  In 1931, the vestry was added to west side of the church.

Inside the church is a fine arch with two original Medieval carvings on its capitals. The left column said to be one of only three examples of Norman 11th century figured sculpture in the country. The right column carving is most likely 14th century and has a Maltese cross which associates the church with the Knights Templars who occupied the village around that time (see pictures on link below).

As is rather obvious, the church has fared somewhat better than the castle (see previous blog if you don’t believe me) and is still in use today.

Click here for another link to a site regarding the church.

Next: Ghosts of Bramber Castle …….. and another extract from Artemus Smith’s notebooks (talking of which …..)

Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

I continue my research of the notebooks of Dr Artemus Smith, archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction (see last blog). Here is another extract:

I had been working on a survey of a churchyard in Vienna.  On the first day I could hear music which was emitting from the gravestone of none other than Ludwig van Beethoven.  Being familiar with his work, I soon realized was that it was his Ninth Symphony, but it was playing backwards!  After luncheon, I returned to hear his Seventh Symphony, again, playing backwards.  Curious as I was, I sought the graveyard’s caretaker.  On our return to the headstone, the Fifth Symphony was playing, as I expected, backwards.  I asked the caretaker whether he could provide a suitable explanation. 

“Nothing to worry about” he said, “He’s just decomposing.’’



Artemus Smith

Whilst on the subject of Bramber and archaeology, but just as an aside, I would like you to meet Artemus Smith – and my apologies to any USAS members reading this – I’m just introducing him to the others!

AS THE TALE GOES, a few years ago the, then, vicar of St Nicholas Church in Bramber had been clearing out a dust laden cupboard in the vestry of the church. There he came across an old tin box containing various documents of an archaeological nature. He thought I might like to look through them. Amongst the miscellaneous papers were notebooks of a certain Artemus Smith. I decided to research him.


DR ‘ARTEMUS’ SMITH was an archaeologist of great courage, determination and fiction.  He was born Ambrose William Dermot Smith in 1901, the only son of Brigadier Sir Hartley Archibald Jefferson Smith and Lady Constance Louise Smith (nee Carter-Bazeley). He reluctantly studied the Classics at school and is remembered for his frustration with the ancient languages, “It’s all Greek to me” he had said (this may have been where the expression first came from – or not).


Artemus Smith

He went up to Oxford to study Law but spent most of his time hunting, shooting and fishing. It was as a result of this that he picked up from his colleagues his nickname ‘Artemus’ (male version of Artemis, Goddess of hunting in case you were wondering) and the name has remained with him. Despite these activities he successfully completed his degree but on coming down from Oxford he took a break before professional study and travelled Europe with his cousin, Horatio Smith (see below). It was during these travels that he first became involved with archaeology but was put off it as a career due to the derisory pay (nothing changes). After various trips with his cousin and various ‘dallying’ in archaeology both abroad and in England, he qualified as a barrister and was Called to the Bar to practise law (not to be confused with being called to the public bar to practise drinking – although it is rumoured he did that as well).


This career (the Bar, not drinking) was interrupted by the Second World War and he volunteered to join the Royal Air Force and was soon to be piloting a Wellington bomber. His service was cut short after he flew into a German spotter plane over Germany (“well, strap me, it was dark and I didn’t see him,” he had said, adding, “and anyway, who was supposed to be doing the spotting?”[1]). He ended up in a German prisoner of war camp, Stalag Luft III (better known for ‘The Great Escape’ – in fact, it has been suggested that the character played by Steve McQueen in the film was based on Artemus Smith[2]).


Believed to be Flight Lieutenant ‘Artemus’ Smith at Stalag Luft III (drawing by Henri Picard – sadly one of the 50 shot after ‘The Great Escape’)

His experience as a prisoner of war – digging – gave him a more intent interest in archaeology. After the war, he abandoned the legal profession and went up to Oxford again but this time to study Archaeology (he was now a man of substantial inherited means after the death of his father so ‘derisory pay’ was no longer an issue). He went on to obtain his doctorate and then spent some time supervising and thereafter quelling disruptive and rebellious excavators on the ancient site of Arcadia in Greece – obtaining another nickname, ‘Smith of Arcadia’ [3].

His cousin, Professor Horatio Smith, was an archaeologist and lecturer at Cambridge University and gave Artemus much encouragement in the field. An account of Horatio’s heroic and equally fictitious activities is reflected in the excellent 1941 film Pimpernel” Smith  (click on name for film) wherein Horatio (played admirably by Leslie Howard) helps victims of nazi persecution escape from Germany during the build up to WWII. A ripping yarn highly recommended.


Prof. Horatio ‘Pimpernel’ Smith

When Artemus asked Horatio about working in archaeology, the latter replied, “Well, an archaeologist is a person whose career is in ruins.” He added, “Such a person may be relied upon to make wise, intelligent and coherent analysis – having exhausted all other alternatives”[4].

Interestingly enough, Dr Henry Walton Jones Jnr (better known as ‘Indiana’ Jones) would have been a contemporary of Artemus Smith (certainly copying Smith’s flair). It is, therefore, somewhat surprising that I have not found any mention of Jones in Artemus Smith’s notebooks. I’m sure, because of their similarities, the two would have met up or, at least, been in communication. This makes me query the actual existence of Indiana Jones or whether he is just the figment of someone’s  extravagant imagination (oh me of little faith).

The rest, as they say, is history – well the notebooks at least (see below) – other than to add that Artemus sadly died in 1988, at the age of 87, from a fall from his motorbike whilst dirt-track racing on the Sussex Downs.



[1] Letter to his cousin Horatio Smith

[2] Letter from Sir Dandelion (now Lord) Attenboot to Artemus Smith saying that he knew someone who knew someone else  who had heard this – so it must be true  (Attenboot added, “they got some young American fellow to play the part to disguise the fact that the character was a Brit”)

[3] Sometimes confused with some chap called Lawrence

[4] From his unpublished autobiography entitled: Wot ho! Dig it all up


Artemus Smith’s Notebooks

Anyway, if you believe all that then you’ll believe this: as I have been perusing Artemus Smith’s archaeological notebooks, I will bring you extracts from them on each blog hereafter. Here is the first one:

I have just returned from a camping excavation of the city of Troy, with my very agreeable companion, Barratt Holmes, a relative of the famous Sherlock Holmes.  Barratt, too, is a detective of some fame and with similar deductive powers conducive to archaeology.  On the first night we camped outside the romantic ruins and having fortified ourselves with fine wine, we retired to our tent.  Some hours later, I awoke and nudging my colleague, enquired, “Barratt, my dear friend, look up and tell me what you see.”

Barratt replied, “I see hundreds of stars.”

“What do you deduce from that?” I asked.

Barratt thought for a minute, then responded, “Astronomically, I deduce that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets.  Astrologically, I deduce Saturn is in Leo.  Horologically, I deduce that the time is three o’clock.  Theologically, I deduce that God is all-powerful and we are but small and insignificant.  Metrologically. I deduce we will have a beautiful day tomorrow.  Why, my good friend, what do YOU deduce?”

“My dear boy,” I replied, “I deduce that some bounder has stolen our tent.”


Next blog (next Friday): St Nicholas’ Church at Bramber Castle – and another extract from Artemus Smith’s notebooks