Juries – a good thing or a bad thing?

IN THE FINAL scene of the final play of the Oresteia trilogy (The Eumenides) by the Greek playwright, Aeschylus, Orestes is at the Areopagus in Athens facing trial by a jury of twelve. The play was first performed in 458 BC and is probably the first reference to trial by jury in the history of man.

Aeschylus (525-456 BC)

Juries have been used in the English legal system for over 1000 years (set up in the 12th century by Henry II), representing a person’s right to trial by ‘the lawful judgement of his peers’. By the middle of the 15th century, juries had become independent assessors and assumed their modern role as deciders of fact. Well, I say ‘independent’, in the famous Bushell’s Case of 1670, it had to battle for such independence.

The case came about from a previous case involving two Quakers, William Penn and William Mead, who had been charged with unlawful assembly. The two Quakers were challenging the Conventicle Act, which restricted certain religious practices. The judge had charged the jury that they “shall not be dismissed until we have a verdict that the court will accept.” (note: ‘that the court will accept’!). When the jury decided to acquit, the judge was not willing to accept it and sent them back to reconsider, fining them in the process. Edward Bushel, one of the jurors, refused to pay the fine and so the judge threatened him with, “You shall be locked up without meat, drink, fire, and tobacco. You shall not think thus to abuse the court; we will have a verdict, by the help of God, or you shall starve for it.”

Bushel took the case to the Court of Common Pleas (sort of equivalent to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court today) where it was established by Sir John Vaughan that a jury could not be coerced into giving a particular verdict. This case established unequivocally the independence of the jury.

Sir John Vaughan (1603-1674)

Despite this, well into the 19th century, some jurors were locked up without ‘food or fire, water or candle’ until they reached a verdict – any verdict would do now , not necessarily as expected by the court. There are numerous interesting cases in which deliberations went on in this manner for so long that jurors fainted and doctors were summoned.

However, the very fact that a jury system is steeped in time has led to the debate over whether it has become outdated. Certainly we know of some pretty odd decisions being made – and many, I imagine, that we don’t know about. In one case, R v Young, in 1994, the jury found the defendant, Stephen Young, guilty of the murder of Harry Fuller and his wife, Nicola, after four of its members (during an overnight stay in the hotel …. and some alcohol) had contacted one of deceased victims by way of a séance and a Ouija Board! This only came to light because one of the jurors panicked and reported it. Generally we would not know how or why a jury comes to its decision and its deliberations are private – so you may be found guilty by the toss of a coin. Hardly in the spirit of justice. (Young was in fact retried and found guilty again, presumably without the assistance of either Harry or Nicola).

Ouija Board – win some, lose some!

In some instances juries completely ignore the law and go for what is called a decision of conscience. One such case was R v Ponting (1985) in which a civil servant was charged under the old Official Secrets Act 1911 for leaking information to an opposition MP about the sinking of the General Belgrano in the Falklands War. There was no doubt he had committed the offence and, despite the judge ruling that there was no defence, the jury refused to convict him seeing as he was acting for ‘public interest’.  In other words, the public had the right to know if the government was being economical with the truth – and rightly so. Who needs laws ….

Clive Ponting

Clive Ponting – in the public conscience …..

In his 1985 book, What Next in the Law?, that great judge, Lord Denning, said, “… the chances, by sheer weight of numbers, are loaded heavily against the jurors being sensible and responsible members of the community.” Far be it for me to comment further.  However, juries have made critical mistakes. Take R v Bentley for example. In that case the Court of Appeal decided in 1998 that Derek Bentley was not guilty of the murder of a policeman as decided by the jury in December 1952. Unfortunately, as a result of the jury’s decision, Bentley had been hanged in January 1953.

Lord Denning (1899-1999)

The American comedian, Norm Crosby observed, “When you go into court you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren’t smart enough to get out of jury duty.” Mind you, Grouch Marx once said, “I was married by a judge. I should have asked for a jury.”

Want to know more about juries and the English Legal System? You should do. If you haven’t already (why not?), find out more by downloading onto your kindle, iPad, phone, or whatever, my fascinating e-book on the subject, Do you know your law from your elbow? Click here.  



Next week: Thomas Edward Booth of the Booth Museum, Brighton

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:

My good friend, the Very Reverend Uriah Doorstopp, told me of a tale of his cousin who was an archaeologist. Apparently he (the cousin) was in the deepest jungle and suddenly found himself surrounded by what he perceived to be a bloodthirsty group of headhunters. Upon surveying the situation, he said quietly to himself, “Oh God, I’m in big trouble.” There was a ray of light from heaven and a voice boomed out, “No you are NOT in big trouble. Pick up that stone at your feet and hit the head of the chief standing in front of you.”

So his cousin picked up the stone and proceeded to hit the chief over the head.  As he stood above the lifeless body, breathing heavily and surrounded by 100 possible headhunters with a look of shock on their faces, the voice from above boomed out again, “Okay, NOW you’re in big trouble.”


The Parthenon – then and now

I WAS UP AT the British Museum last week and was, as usual, suitably fascinated by the Parthenon marbles. The Parthenon, on the Acropolis in Athens, has been under repair now since the Committee for the Conservation of the Acropolis Monuments was set up in 1975 and serious restoration work began on the Parthenon around 1985. That was 30 years ago and still there is much to do. Back in the 5th century BC it took the ancient Greeks 9 years to build it (447-438 BC) – there’s advancement for you! To be fair, since 1985 there has been a lot of dismantling of previously flawed repairs carried out by the likes of messrs  Kyriakos Pittakis (from 1842 to 1844) and Nicholaos Balanos (from 1895 to 1933). These guys, although well-meaning, used a lot of concrete and iron which has not proven to be a lasting success! It is not planned to restore the Parthenon to its original state, but just to a more appropriately safe ruin and restoring loose blocks to where they belong.

parthenon now

The Parthenon today (NW sides)

The construction of it (in pentelic marble from nearby Mount Pentelicus) back in the 5th century BC was clever stuff – its columns look uniform and straight but they are not. The building is, in fact, an optical illusion. If it had been built uniform, with all the columns straight and exactly the same size it would have been seen to the eye as shrunken in the middle. The columns on the ends are slightly larger than the others and bend inwards.


Outside columns bend in

a illusion

Drawing a is how it should look to the eye

b illusion

Drawing b is how it would look to the eye if all the columns were uniform

c illusion

Drawing c is how it is actually built to look like (to the eye) drawing a

It’s had a somewhat ‘interesting’ history. Other than a fire in the 3rd century AD, which destroyed its roof and part of the inner sanctuary, it lasted quite well, complete with its massive golden statue of Athena. Then, in the 5th century AD, as part of the new Byzantine Empire, the statute was looted and taken to Constantinople, where it was later destroyed, probably around 1209 during the fourth Crusade.


Replica of the statute of Athena in Nashville, USA – big, huh!

Towards the end of the 6th century AD the Parthenon was converted to a Christian church and the main entrance changed from the east to the west, with an altar set up at the east-end with the addition of an apse. A bell tower with spiral staircase was built into the southwest corner.

In 1458 the Ottoman Turks took control of Athens and some years later converted the Parthenon into a mosque. However, the basic external structure remained intact.

 parthenon mosque 1

Parthenon as a mosque complete with minaret

Then in 1687 came the Venetians and one Francesco Morosini. He lay siege to the Acropolis and began shelling it with mortar (shells not cement ….. yeah, ok). For some inexplicable reason the Turks were using the Parthenon as an ammunition store. A mortar shell landed directly on it and the whole lot exploded, killing around 350 Turks.


Exploding Parthenon – it’s never been the same since!

It’s not clear whether Morosini aimed at the Parthenon on purpose or it was (un)lucky shot. Presumably the Turks (naively) thought he would not fire on such an important building, but if he knew it was an ammunition store ……..well, what would you do in his shoes? Anyway, having taken the Parthenon, he tried to loot some of the sculptures and caused even more damage. The following year the Venetians left Athens and the Turks reoccupied the city. They built a small mosque within the ruins of the Parthenon and remained in power in Athens until Greek independence in 1832. The mosque was removed sometime after 1834, together with many other non-classical architecture on the Acropolis (an enthusiasm of classical Greece had taken hold by then).

 Parthenon 1715

Painting of mosque no 2 in the ruins of the Parthenon (c. 1715)

Prior to the Greek independence, in 1801 along came Lord Elgin with his dodgy firman (permission to draw the ruins and take casts). He decided to interpret the firman to allow him to remove sculptures (including those on the Parthenon from the east and west pediments, the high relief metopes around the outside, and the low relief frieze around the inside – see pic below). The Ottomans didn’t seem too bothered (not being very interested in ancient pagan worship) and no doubt money changed hands. The arguments will continue as to whether Elgin was right to do so. There is evidence that some remaining marbles did deteriorate being left unprotected, but it is doubtful whether that was Elgin’s real reason for removing what he did.

 parthn metopes etc

The different sculptures on the Parthenon 

pathenon 2

Example of female (goddesses) sculptures taken by Elgin from the east pediment


Reconstruction of above sculptures – they would have been painted in colour

So, should the marbles be returned to Athens? Let’s not go there! Although I would say that my original thoughts were in the affirmative now Athens has its fabulous new museum. The problem is, where do you draw the line? Do we return everything to everyone? That wouldn’t leave much in our museums …….

parthenon at night

 Parthenon at night – pretty


Next week: Juries – a good thing or a bad thing?

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:

My good friend Archibald Lumbago was fairly depressed about the state of his farming business.  The Department of Employment (DoE) had heard that he was not paying proper wages to his helpers and sent one of its staff out to investigate him. He recounted the conversation to me:

“When the DoE chappie arrived he asked for a list of my employees and how much I pay them. I replied, ‘Well, there’s my farm hand who has been with me for 3 years. I pay him £200 a week plus free room and board.’ I continued, ‘Then there’s the mentally challenged worker. He works about 18 hours every day and does about 90% of all the work around here. He makes about £20 per week, pays his own room and board, and gets a bottle of whisky every Saturday night so he can cope with life.’

The DoE chappie said, ‘That’s the guy I want to talk to … the mentally challenged one.’

I replied, ‘That would be me.'”


Wolf Hall, Anne Boleyn and all that

QUITE A FEW people have been following BBC’s Wolf Hall and it has received great reviews. I’ve read both books and found them most intriguing, but I was not sure how easy they would convert to TV – especially into just six episodes!  When I saw the first instalment  I think ‘rather slow’ came to my mind.  Also, Mark Rylance, I believe, is an undisputed great on the stage (and I’ve seen him there), but he appeared a little uncomfortable in front of the camera (or maybe that is how he thought Cromwell would be).  Saying that, he sort of reminds me of Michael Kitchen’s Foyle of Foyle’s War (and that’s a compliment – although it’s not exactly how I envisaged Cromwell). Then there’s Damian Lewis – yes, another fine actor and, although English himself, far too type-cast as an American to justify an impersonation of a king of England (in my opinion).  Despite that, and despite the fact that Henry the Large, Anne B, and Uncle Tom Cromwell and all have been somewhat flogged to death on the screen over the years, Wolf Hall still grabbed my attention.

Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell

Anyway, if I haven’t already alienated you with my opinion of the TV Prog/actors, and if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t want the plot ruined (well, not so much Wolf Hall plot, but the general Anne B intrigue), STOP READING NOW and return into hibernation.


Damian Lewis as Henry USA style (okay, Eton then ….)

So who was to blame for Anne’s downfall in 1536?  Henry?  Cromwell? Or Anne herself?  The scriptwriters, in general, will have it down to Cromwell with much help from Anne.  A villain is always needed and Cromwell is convenient. Violence is also a need but that was already there – heads rolling around … but not with laughter.  All the film/TV makers now needed was the sex.  Enter adultery and incest . Yummy – money in the bank.  But did Anne really commit all those naughty acts? Who was really to blame for her demise?

First, let’s blame Anne. She came from an ambitious family, notorious for scheming and so it was in her blood. She was clever – perhaps too clever – and ruthless, but not, I think, so much so to cross that line into incest with her brother, George.  The Countess of Worcester was accused of ‘hanky panky’ with courtiers and claimed she was no worse that the Queen (or words to that effect).  Then there was the overheard damning conversation with Sir Henry Norris in Queen Anne’s chamber. She had asked Norris why he hadn’t married and he replied he would wait awhile. Anne responded with, “You look for dead men’s shoes for if ought came to the king but good, you would look to have me.”  Treasonous words!!  But who reported hearing them?  Anne’s lady-in-waiting, Madge Shelton? Well, Norris was supposed to be courting her, so a woman scorned perhaps? Or maybe it was  the gossipy Lady Worcester diverting her own infidelities.  If Anne had been messing about with others she must have realised she was playing with fire – it just doesn’t add up.


Anne Boleyn (1499-1536) complete with head 

So, let’s blame Henry.  Anne couldn’t give him the male heir he was so desperate for and he was nearly 45 years old and …. well, not that old, but was getting worried.  He had wasted some 24 years waiting in vain for Catherine of Aragon to do the noble ‘thing’. ‘Been there, done that’, he may have been thinking. He also had taken a fancy to one Jane Seymour (she of Wolf Hall in case you were wondering where the name came from) but that was nothing new and she would have been fine as a mistress one may think. So, how to rid himself of Anne?

One suggestion was that he accused her of witchcraft.  It was a Medieval theory that miscarriages only happened to evil women – women who committed adultery, incest or even witchcraft.  This was Anne’s second miscarriage (well, stillborn … and male) and Henry may have caught on to this Medieval bunkum and preferring the witchcraft route (adultery suggested he wasn’t ‘up to it’), he spread rumours that Anne had cast a spell on him to marry her so it was without his consent.  Yeah, right.  He was obviously hoping his Ecclesiastical court would wave a magic wand to relieve the spell with the magic words, “I divorce thee”. (Actually Canon Law in England at the time did not recognise divorce – both Henry’s ‘divorces’ were, in fact, annulments).

What is rather strange is that it has been reported that Henry and Anne appeared to be contented with each other a couple of weeks before her arrest. This may have meant Henry was faking it (contentment that is) or possibly implying some third party intervention……….


Henry the Ate (a lot)

Okay, let’s blame Cromwell.  But why?  Well he has the villain’s black hat for a starters. But what had he to gain from the downfall of Anne?  In fact, if he was the instigator and he had failed, his head would have been on the block, as they say, literally (I know it was later but that was …… later).  He already had as much power as he needed and I don’t believe Anne was a threat to that.  Alternatively, was he simply told to compound evidence against Anne by Henry?  Cromwell took sick-leave for a couple of days (21-22 April) just after Anne’s miscarriage, and shortly after his return he had Mark Smeaton, the king’s musician, arrested for adultery with Anne. She was arrested just after that on the 2nd May.


Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540) …. in villainous black hat

What is the conclusion then? We can never be sure, of course, but I’ll put my money on Henry commissioning Cromwell to find the evidence of adultery.  Henry needed to move on to seek his male heir elsewhere and quickly.  Jane Seymour was in the ‘right place at the right time’ (unless you were Jane Seymour – see footnote below).  I don’t think Cromwell wanted the job of bringing Anne down or to be in such an unenviable position, but he had to follow the king’s bidding. There is a letter he wrote to Eustace Chapuys, the ambassador of Charles V, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, saying that he (Cromwell) had been commissioned by the king to conspire and think up the affair of Anne’s adultery. Cromwell duly obtained a confession of carnal cavorting with Anne from Smeaton (how, we don’t know – torture maybe ….. threat of several weeks of listening to the king sing perhaps?).


Eustace Chapuys (1490-1556)

Spoiler alert – if you don’t  want to know what happened TURN AWAY NOW:               Anne got the chop (yes, I knew you knew that).  Despite denials, two others were found guilty of ‘dallying’ with the Queen, Sir Francis Weston and Sir William Brereton, who, along with Norris and Anne’s brother, George, also went to the executioner. Everyone else lived happily ever after ….. well, not quite – in fact, nothing like.



The day Anne was executed, Henry was out riding with Jane Seymour. You can imagine the conversation:

Seymour: “How has your morning been my Lord?”

Henry:  “Such turmoil. First I lost my cod-piece; then I lost my wallet; oh, and my wife lost her head.”

Two weeks after Anne’s departure, Henry married wife number three, Seymour … and then they all live happily ever after. Well, no. Mind you, what was Jane Seymour thinking?  Henry’s first marriage with Cathy of Aragon had been annulled against all odds and she died in January 1836. Henry’s second wife, Anne, died four months later.  Was this a ‘Jonah marriage’ or what?  Indeed, Jane died in October the following year (having dutifully produced the required male heir, Edward [VI to be, albeit briefly]).  But still there were game young fillies out there prepared to marry Henry the Unlucky (three of them anyway). It all reminds me of Nat King Cole’s  song, ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’ which would have been more appropriate for Henry to have composed, particularly with its very first line, ‘There may trouble ahead’.


Next week: The Parthenon at Athens – now and then

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 heard of an arrangement my good friend, Rev. Arbuthnot Smythe-Harcourt, had had with his son. The boy had just passed his driving test and inquired of his father as to when they could discuss his use of the family car.
His father said he’d make a deal: “You bring your grades up from a C to a B average, study your Bible a little, and get your hair cut. Then we’ll talk about the car.”
The boy thought about that for a moment, decided he’d settle for the offer, and they agreed upon it.
After about six weeks his father said, “Son, you’ve brought your grades up and I have observed that you have been studying your Bible, but I’m disappointed you have not had your hair cut.”
The boy said, “You know, Dad, I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve noticed in my studies of the Bible that Samson had long hair, John the Baptist had long hair, Moses had long hair… and there is even strong evidence that Jesus had long hair.”
His father thought for a minute and then replied:
“Did you also notice that they all walked everywhere they went?”






Thomas Spratt – antiquarian traveller to Crete

LAST WEEK I introduced you to Robert Pashley who had been sent to investigate antiquities in Crete by Francis Beaufort in 1834. On Pashley’s return to England, Beaufort was worried how to replace him. On the 1st October 1834, he wrote to Richard Copeland, who commanded the ship, HMS Beacon, on which Pashley had travelled to Crete, saying:

“My endeavours to get a proper person to succeed Mr Pashley have not yet succeeded – but I trust that before Spring you will be joined with some one with equal zeal and learning – I do not believe it would be easy to find anyone who could exceed Mr P in these qualities.”

Well, he had to wait awhile (17 years in fact) but that replacement came in the guise of Thomas Able Brimage Spratt who was a Royal Naval hydrographer. In the introduction of his book, Travels and Researches in Crete (1865), he commented that he was there to survey but also to collect reliable information regarding ancient cities, many of which were yet undiscovered and this would be of importance to the island’s geography and topography. As with Pashley, I’m just going to reveal interesting correspondence and ancillary facts around his travels; if you want more, read my book Dawn of Discovery (or check one of my blogs in June which featured Spratt in Crete, ‘The island that tipped’).


 Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt RN (1811-1888)

Last week I made mention of one Lt Thomas Graves surveying in the Mediterranean (Beaufort had written to him about Pashley). Well, Graves’ midshipman on that trip was none other than Thomas Spratt. In fact, in 1836, Spratt was appointed to HMS Beacon, under Graves, the very same ship that Pashley had sailed to Crete on under Richard Copeland two years before (small world, eh?).

Spratt’s relationship with Francis Beaufort did not run smoothly at first as Spratt, when back in England, obviously failed to attend Beaufort with a report of Graves’ activities in the Mediterranean. Beaufort wrote to Graves (19th January 1848):

“Sir, I hoped that ‘ere this Spratt would have made an appearance in this room, and have furnished me with matter about which I should have to write to you – that not being the case I have only to express a hope that he will bring me a large harvest of your usually excellent work.”

However, he must have impressed Beaufort somewhere along the line as, in May 1851, he was sent to Malta and given command of his own ship, the paddle steamer HMS Spitfire, with instructions to continue Graves’ survey of Crete. Beaufort wrote to him confirming his daily (diem) pay (12th May 1851):

“With reference to the future survey pay of yourself and assistant surveyors, I hereby authorise you to draw on the Accountant General the undermentioned sums, to commence from the date of your arrival at Malta

Cmmdr TAB Spratt – 20s per diem   [£365 a year]

Lieut AL Mansell –  8/   – do –   [£146 a year]

Mr John Stokes – Master –  5/   – do –   [£91.25 a year]

GB Wilkinson – Mids –  5/    – do –   [£91.25 a year]”


HMS Spitfire in foreground in Crimea War 1854 (my thanks to Steve Thorp for this)

From Malta, on the 30th May 1851, Graves reported (without punctuation) Spratt’s arrival to Beaufort adding his disapproval of the Spitfire and general conditions (in a later letter Graves referred to the ship as HMS Spiteful):

“Spratt has arrived with his staff but as he has I know reported progress I will say nothing more about his establishment to whom I will give every assistance and information in my power than that his “Spitfire” is the worst miserable time out I ever beheld and that with all my love for hydrographical pursuits I am only too glad to be clear of and unconnected with the petty economy and annoyances surveyors are now subject to.”


‘Minoan’ seal-stones found by Spratt in Crete between 1851-3 – some 40 years before Arthur Evans found similar Cretan seal-stones in Athens which led him on his quest and discovery of ancient Minoan Crete

On 7th July 1851, Beaufort instructed to Spratt to proceed to Crete to search out antiquities, he reminded him to read Pashley’s book:

“I have no doubt you will rapidly go on – but not too rapidly to do full justice to your work. I am a great admirer of zealous & eager workman, but still more [admiration] of those who leave nothing for subsequent workman to glean … Do not forget all I said to you about variations on shore & on board – Pick up inscriptions and antiquities – Read Mr Pashley as you go along the coast …”

On the 4th December 1851, Beaufort wrote to Pashley sending him a copy of a letter from Spratt reporting on Crete and asked what Spratt should look out for on the island. Beaufort then wrote to Spratt on the 19th December, not really giving Pashley much time to respond, saying, “I sent your letter of Oct 15 to Mr Pashley who is I suppose out of town as he has not replied nor returned it [Spratt’s letter].” In the end Pashley did not reply until 20th May the following year which clearly upset Beaufort as he wrote to Spratt on the 8th June 1852, “I have just retrieved from Mr Pashley’s hand your letter of Oct but without any remarks wh[ich] could be of use to you or wh[ich] cd[could] alone to me for the wanton rudeness of not answering my note for 6 months …”. What Beaufort failed to mention to Spratt was that Pashley did say in his reply (to Beaufort, 20th May), albeit somewhat late, that his papers had been destroyed by fire in Inner Temple (Pashley was a barrister – remember?).

spratt map

Ancient sites visited by Spratt in Crete

Okay, I know I said I wasn’t going to refer to what Spratt saw in Crete, but just one exception – mainly because I’ve mentioned it before (another blog in June ‘The Labyrinth of Crete’). Spratt visited the labyrinth near Gortyns in 1843, during his first trip to the island. We know this because in true schoolboy fashion he ‘graffitied’ his name on the cave wall.

graffitiSpratt’s graffiti in the labyrinth: T Spratt, HMS Beacon, 1843

On his second visit(1851) he went in search of what he actually believed might have been the ‘mythical’ labyrinth of King Minos. He looked to the ridge on the east side of the Makryteichos (Makriteikron/Makroteikho) village, over the rivulet of the Kairatos river just east of Knossos, and reported:

“… that [Makryteichos hills] is said by the natives to be the entrance to extensive catacombs, which, however, have become choked up by falling in of its sides, and cannot be explored … This entrance to the supposed Labyrinth or Catacombs of Gnossos has the same character as that of the entrance to the Labyrinth of Gortyna, excepting that the Gnossian excavations have been used as sepulchres, but whether originally or subsequently to Minos cannot be determined so as to identify it as the true Labyrinth, of which the tradition only existed for twenty-five centuries.”

It is not entirely clear what he was looking at but it is most likely the ‘labyrinthian’ tomb in the Mavro Spilio (black cave) cemetery, Tomb IX.


Tomb IX, Mavro Spilio cemetry

Spratt remained in Crete on the second visit from 1851 to summer of 1853 when he was recalled to take part in the Crimean War. He returned to Crete on HMS Medina to complete his investigations in July 1859.


Spratt’s drawing of the Hellenistic (4th century BC) bridge at Eleutherna, Crete


The bridge today (well, 2007) – the circular arch drawn by Spratt has been filled in (to the left) – the tree is still there and growing! (I put these pictures in as a matter of triumph because I set out to find this bridge in summer 2006 but didn’t succeed until summer 2007 – now, through much woodland, it’s a long way from anywhere and in the middle of nowhere)

Oh, just one more exception of what Spratt saw in Crete – the ‘bema’ at Phalasarna, on the west coast. Not quite sure what it is but it’s just outside the harbour area, so perhaps a guard post. Immediately below is a photo of what it looks like now; below that is Pashley’s drawing of it; and below that is Spratt’s drawing of it. I include these because Spratt’s comment of Pashley’s effort amuses me. He said, “‘Pashley’s drawing was not a true representation of what it was like”. Well, I’m no art critique but what do you think?


The bema (scale: about 1.5m high)


Pashley’s drawing of it

thrne 3

Spratt’s drawing of it ….. more of a true representation?!!

Finally, Sir Roderick Murchison, in an address to the Royal Geographical Society, said of Spratt’s book on his travels in Crete:

The Travels and Researches in the Island of Crete by Captain T.A.B. Spratt, RN., is a work which will rivet the attention and enrich the minds of various readers, whether they be antiquaries and scholars, or geographers and men of the sciences … for here we see produced by one of them [Royal Naval surveyors] a masterly illustration of the physical geography, geology, archaeology, natural history, and scenery of the diversified Island of Crete.”


Sir Roderick Murchison (1792-1871)


Postscript 1: I came across an article written in Lippincott’s Magazine in 1878 by E.S., an otherwise unnamed English naval officer, regarding his journey from Crete to Smyrna and Ephesus. It is not known whether Spratt had read this but he was certainly alive when it was written so it is possible. If he had it would have been interesting to have witnessed his reaction to the officer’s comment albeit of Roman Ephesus:

“It is rather a difficult thing to acknowledge, in face of the great ruins then about us, with all their associations, that the thought of our dinner was by this time uppermost in the minds of nearly all our company. I have generally found, however, in much journeying about this wicked world, the condescension and interest with which one looks upon ancient remains depends very much upon the company in which one finds one’s self, the state of the weather and the state of one’s stomach.”


Postscript 2: I received an email from a chap who had found my work on Spratt via the internet. He was over from Australia for a year and studying at Oxford University. I got in touch with him and we meet up in Oxford in November 2010. His name was Michael Spratt, great great grandson of Thomas. More recently Steve Thorp contacted me (also from Aus) and referred me to the above pic of the Spitfire and informed me that his ‘many greats grandfather’ was Spratt’s 1st Lieutenant in the Crimea (great stuff the internet!).


 Me and Michael Spratt (right)


Next week: Wolf Hall, Anne Bolelyn and all that

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 always remember my first day at my new office at the University. I sat there with absolutely nothing to occupy my time. There was a knock at my door. “Enter” I said, and I grabbed the telephone and began speaking into it to pretend to my visitor I was a busy and important man. As I spoke into the phone I beckoned the visitor to sit and he did so. I continued my conversational charade over the phone for a couple of minutes ‘discussing’ a fictitious oncoming project. When I had decided I had suitably impressed my visitor with this fake conversation, I put the telephone down, greeted him, and enquired as to the purpose of his visit.   He replied in a casual manner, “I’ve come to connect your phone.”