Ye Olde Castle Inn, Bramber

castle pub

Ye Old Castle Hotel

ONCE UPON A TIME there was this Inn in Bramber, West Sussex, called the White Lion. Today it’s my local pub and called the Castle Hotel. How did that happen? Well, it’s first mentioned, as the White Lion, in Henry VIII’s time in the 16th century (1526, as ‘dispensing alcohol’) but it could go back further than that. In the ‘olden’ days, Inns took their names from the local Lords’ family crests and Bramber’s Lord after William the Conq was William de Braose (see my blog on Bramber Castle way back in April) and the crest of his son, Philip de Braose, (c 1096-1135) was a lion – but a gold one. The coat of arms of William de Mowbray (1173-1222) was a white lion and Bramber became part of the de Mowbray estate by marriage in 1298, when John de Mowbray married Aline de Braose. The two lions merged when de Mowbray became Duke of Norfolk in 1397, so the pub could date back to sometime then …… oh yes it could.

philip_de_Braose,_coat_of_arms,_Falkirk_Roll_svg           de_Mowbray,_

Philip de Braose’s coat of arms                         William de Mowbray’s  coats of arms


De Mowbray/Duke of Norfolk coat of arms at the end of the 14th century

It would, of course, have been quite a popular Inn as it was on the main Pilgrims road from Canterbury to Winchester (and vice versa) so would have been a stopping off point for travellers throughout the Middle Ages. So, a Pilgrims’ Progress – to a pie and a pint. Nothing much has changed there.


Pilgrims progress on route, with silly hats; “Mine’s a pint at the White Lion” says the guy on the white horse

The White Lion doubled up as the Bramber court house which was most likely a room on the first floor. In fact, in 1552, the County Coroner and 14 jurors gathered at the court house to decide whether the innkeeper of the White Horse, William Battner, should be tried for assaulting a Joan Davyd, the servant of the innkeeper of the ‘other public house’ in Bramber (wherever that may have been).  Joan had been fighting with William’s son, John, when William’s dogs had been attacking pigs belonging to the ‘other innkeeper’ (widow Kayne); the pigs had been causing damage on Battner’s land – get it? Anyway, Joan died as result of John wacking her ear with his hand. The jury of the inquest held that Joan died of a natural death because she had been suffering from black jaundice and was already weakened, so the blow did not cause her death (don’t try this at home as today it would be manslaughter. Don’t say you haven’t been warned).


“You deserve a clip round the ear as well, sir – but it’s your round!”

By the 17th century the Inn was sleeping around fourteen people and this increased to around twenty by the early 18th century. There were four ground floor rooms and five on the first floor (including the court ‘house’) and a stable yard at the back (now the new family restaurant, formerly the games room). From 1780 to 1833, the Inn was owned by the Gough family who, from 1713-1860, also owned St Mary’s Tudor House along the High Street. So the Goughs were obviously an affluent bunch who dabbled in Inn-keeping (well, Inn-ownership … I don’t suppose they got their hands too dirty). From 1841 to 1871 the White Lion was owned by James Potter whose son, Walter, displayed his stuffed animals at the Inn from 1861. He was, later (1880), to set up the Potter’s Museum (for more info click here) in, what is now, the gardens of Bramber Villa .


Potter’s Museum along from the Castle Hotel

It was when the Inn changed hands from James Potter to Henry Kelcey in 1871 that it changed its name to the Castle Hotel. This was as a result of the many visitors to the ruins of Bramber Castle, assisted by the opening up of the railway in 1861. Picnicing up at the Castle ruins led to Kelcey selling refreshments up there, so the change of name was a promotional ‘thing’. When the Duke of Norfolk sold Bramber Castle, the 1925 advert included a reference to a £70 per year rental paid by the Kemp Town Brewery (in east Brighton) which meant that the Castle pub was then a tied house of the brewery but continued to make money up at the Castle ruins. And why not. Now we just get the ice-cream man.

The Castle Hotel in recent flowering glory

For more info on the Castle Hotel/pub today click here


Next week: Brasenose – an Oxford College


I mentioned last week that Lawrence of Arabia’s motor bike sold at auction for a record £315,100. Well, keeping up with such prices, E.H. Shepard’s signed drawing of Winnie the Pooh et al playing pooh sticks sold at Sothebys this week for £315,500 – a record for any book illustration. I think I’m in the wrong buisness.


Pooh, Piglet and Christopher Robin – bargain at 300k!

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 fine friend, Christian de Belvedere, called in on my rooms the other day sporting a shiner of a black eye. “My dear fellow, what happened to you?” I enquired with deep concern.

“Well, old boy,” he replied, “I made bit of a faux pas. The wife said to me, ‘If I pass away before you I imagine you will find someone else in due course, but you won’t share our house with her will you?’ 

‘No, no, my dear,’ I replied.

Then she said, ‘You won’t give her my car will you?’

‘Good Lord, no, no, my dear’ I replied.

Then she said, ‘You won’t give her any of my clothes will you?’

‘Certainly not, my dear,’ I replied.

Then she said, ‘You won’t give her my golf clubs will you?’

‘Definitely not, my dear,’ I replied, ‘she’s left-handed ……..’ aagh!”


Thomas Spratt RN : Travels in Lycia and the Fellows’ Marbles (so, not just Elgin ….)

SEVERAL BLOGS AGO I waxed lyrical about Thomas Abel Brimage Spratt in Crete (‘Crete: the island that tipped’). Well, now I’m gonna tell you a little about him in Lycia (that’s southwestern Turkey – see map at end) and his involvement in the procuring of the Xanthos Marbles …..


Thomas Spratt (1811-1888) … remember him?

In April 1839 the antiquarian Sir Charles Fellows travelled to Lycia in search of antiquities and ancient sites. Perhaps the most spectacular of his discoveries was the ruins of the city of Xanthos. The date of these remains he considered to be ‘a very early one’ and the walls ‘Cyclopean’. He did not clarify how early but three temples at the site have since been dated to the Classical 5th century BC.

(c) British Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

 Sir Charles Fellows (1799-1860)

The Royal Naval hydrographer, Thomas Spratt and his two colleagues, the naturalist Edward Forbes and the historian the Rev E.T. Daniell, joined Fellows in January 1842 just before the completion of the latter’s work. Spratt’s ship, HMS Beacon then under the charge of Captain Graves, had been “commanded to bring from Syria [actually Anatolia] the remains of antiquity discovered at Xanthos by Sir Charles Fellows.” This may not have been considered an entirely popular venture by some in England as Forbes, although not clarifying, commented:

“There had not been a little discussion too, in London circles, with regard to the doings of the ‘Beacon’ when procuring the Xanthus marbles, and the part Captain Graves took in that expedition had been much misinterpreted.”


Xanthos Neried Monument now in the British Museum (courtesy of Fellows)

It would appear that the monuments of Xanthos were causing as much controversy as the Elgin Marbles had done forty years earlier. Along with Graves, both Spratt and Forbes appeared uneasy about this mass clearance of a site and its removal to England. Spratt himself was to send items back to the British Museum and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge but not to this scale. In fact, Graves had given orders that two of the large tombs (Harpy and Payava) should not be dismantled until further instructions had come from Malta to construct suitable boats for their transportation down river. These orders were ignored.


Sailors dismantling the Tomb of Payava at Xanthos despite Capt Graves’ orders (drawn by Charles Fellows)


Tomb of Payava resituated in the British Museum

Spratt, Forbes and Daniell intended to travel to Lycia for surveying, naturalist and antiquarian purposes respectively. They came upon some eighteen ancient major cities and several other minor sites and managed to trace the marches of Alexander the Great through Lycia. Unfortunately Daniell was taken ill with malignant malaria and died before the completion of the expedition.


 Edward Forbes (1815-1854)

They began their tour at Makri harbour (ancient Telmessus), the nearest safe anchorage to Xanthos, and travelled to neighbouring Caria. It was not long before they came across the Cyclopean conglomerate stone architecture of Pinara. More Cyclopean walls were discovered at Arneae but unlike many other ancient walls of Lycia they bore no inscriptions, possibly indicating an earlier phase of architecture. Likewise at Cyaneae, where they reported, “within the walls was a confused row of buildings of early and late date; but we saw no sculptured fragments, columns or inscriptions.”


5th century BC Tombs at Pinara

Spratt’s and Forbes’ findings were published in their book Travels in Lycia (1847). However, Spratt was obviously unimpressed with the lack of credit he had received for his work in Lycia as his colleague, William Leake, wrote to Sir Roderick Murchison, the President of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) on the 15th January 1854:

“Capt Spratt complains that his discoveries geographical and archaeological in Lycia and the adjoining parts of Asia Minor have never [been] noticed by any President [of the RGS] in his annual address, and I think he complains not without reason, those discoveries having been some of the most important that have been made in that country and of a nature particularly fitted to the objects of our Society.”


Lycia in Turkey

Poor old Spratt. In fact, very little has been written about his achievements – until my excellent book, Dawn of Discovery, that is (go to ‘MY PUBLICATIONS’ tab on this blog or just click here).


Next week: Ye Olde Bramber Castle Inn – a Pilgrim’s Progress


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 was in a restaurant the other day and a customer was bothering the waiter. First, he asked that the air conditioning be turned up because he was too hot, then he asked it be turned down cause he was too cold, and so on for about half an hour. Surprisingly, the waiter was very patient as he walked back and forth and never once got angry. So finally, I asked him why he didn’t throw out the pest. “Oh, I really don’t care or mind,” said the waiter with a smile. “We don’t have air conditioning.”


Lord Elgin loses his marbles at Mycenae ….

Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, 11th Earl of Kincardine, was born in 1766, educated at Harrow and Westminster, at St Andrews and also in Paris. He joined the army in 1785 and rose to the rank of Major-General by 1835 but saw no military action. He began a diplomatic career in 1790 and was an Envoy to Brussels in 1792; Envoy Extraordinary at Berlin in 1795; Ambassador at the Porte (Constantinople) in 1799. He died in 1841 in Paris, deep in debt as a result of his expenditure on the Athens’ marbles (aka the ‘Elgin Marbles’) and other monuments (the marbles were sold to the British Museum in 1816 for £35,000, about half their true value then).


Lord Elgin by Anton Graff around 1788

It was in 1799, when Elgin took on the role of ambassador in Constantinople, that his mission to collect antiquities began. He was in no doubt that part of his term in this office included the study of antiquity and said so much to the Select Committee of the House of Commons when offering the country his collection of sculptured marbles from Athens. He considered this aspect of his ‘diplomatic’ work a ‘service to the arts’ (yeah, right) and he appointed William Richard Hamilton, his private secretary, and his chaplain, the Rev Philip Hunt, for the purpose of this mission. Hunt was appalled to see the damage to the  Parthenon on the 5th century BC Acropolis at Athens caused by both the Turks and visiting ‘tourists’ from other countries and took the matter up with Elgin.


Julian Fellowes (who wrote Downton Abbey) as Rev Philip Hunt in the TV film, Lord Elgin and Some Stones of No Value

Elgin originally planned only to draw the marbles but managed, by bribery and threats, to persuade the Ottoman government in Athens to give him permission to remove the marbles to England and this was to cause much consternation. Lord Byron’s Childe Harold was to turn public opinion against Elgin and his insistence that the removal of the marbles was for preservation purposes – and we all know about the ‘Elgin Marbles’ debate so we won’t go there (in fact, the preferred name in some circles nowadays is the Athens’ marbles or the ‘Parthenon Marbles’ but Elgin didn’t restrict his ‘acquisitions’ just to the Parthenon – see one of the six the larger-than-life Caryatids from the Erechtheum on the Acropolis for example).


One of the Caryatids (‘Elgin Marbles’) at the British Museum (height: 2.3m, 7.5ft) – the other five are at the Acropolis Museum in Athens

Then to Greece and Mycenae (I’ve told you about Mycenae before, July blog, but click here for my co-authored book on the subject). In August 1801, Elgin sent Hunt, together with the topographical draughtsman, Giovanni Battista Lusieri, to investigate the Argolid of the Peloponnese of Greece and report back their findings. Hunt found the 1250 BC citadel of Mycenae and did contemplate the removal of the Lion Gate and wrote to Elgin on the 3rd September 1801:

“No description can convey an adequate idea of the massive stones which compose its [Mycenae’s] walls. The Ancient Greeks supposed them to have been the work of the Cyclops, as well as two colossal Lions in bas-relief over the Gate Way; and which still remain in this original situation. The block on which they are sculptured is too gigantic, and too distance from the sea to give any hopes of being able to obtain so renowned a monument of the Fabulous ages.”

Wall and Lion Gate. Citadel of Mycenae

The Lion Gate – the height of the doorway opening from the floor to the bottom of the lintel is about 10 ft (2.95 m) and the lintel (Hunt’s ‘block’) is said to weigh some 20 tons – good luck with moving that lot!

Lion Gate (Mycenae)_JPG

The Lion Gate in the late 19th century

Hunt was responsible for the shipping of parts of the Athens’ marbles to England (some sank on the ship,  Mentor, but were recovered three years later at much expense). So Elgin would have had the Lion Gate added to his collection and now perhaps it would be prominent in the British Museum if he had his way – had it not been for its sheer size, weight and distance from the sea. Doesn’t bear thinking about – today the entrance at the Mycenaean citadel would certainly not be the same without the lions, but that detail would not have bothered the likes of Elgin.

Elgin did remove some ‘bits’ from the ‘Treasury of Atreus’, a tholos tomb down the road from the Mycenaean citadel (see my ‘Tombs of Mycenae’ blog, July) but fragments of the tomb’s entrance columns reproduced in the British Museum were ‘acquired’ by Lord Sligo sometime shortly after 1810.


Entrance columns/pillars from the Tresaury of Atreus (British Museum)


Next week: Still travelling – Thomas Spratt RN and the ‘Fellows Marbles’ from Lycia (no, not just Elgin….)

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:

An acquaintance of mine, Jock McTaggarty, is a boxing promoter. I had sent him one of my students who was keen to take up the sport. McTaggarty telephoned me with some concern asking whether I was sure the lad was a genuine student. I enquired as to why he should ask such a question. He replied that the student had been for a medical and he, McTaggarty, had received the results and was obliged to relay them to the student. MacTaggarty then informed me that he had called the boy in and said to him:

 “You realise you’ve got Sugar Diabetes.”

 The boy replied, “Nice one. When do I fight him?”



The Grand Tour

NO, NOT an England rugby tour.  The Grand Tour was a tour of parts of Europe in antiquity. It began around the 16th century, with Fynes Moryson being one of the first Grand Tourists in 1591. However, it was not until the 18th century that it became fashionable. By this latter date such travel had become part of the elite youth’s education and social image. It was a fusion of tourism and social status. The popular countries to visit were France and Italy, travelling via Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Paris was fashionable, but Rome was warm and cultural. Italy was in the Mediterranean, which was central to the four great empires, Assyrian, Persian, Greek and Roman, which made Italy a more popular venue for the Oxbridge and classically educated aristocrats. Makes sense.


Fynes Moryson (1566-1630)

The tutors that accompanied these young gentlemen had little control over them and, although the initial idea behind the Grand Tour was education, some aristocrats focused more on simple enjoyment. This meant few made records of their travels (probably just as well in some cases). The more committed traveller did publish reports but these were more on the lines of advice in travelling rather than educational information about the particular country. As far as education was concerned, the Grand Tourers devoted more time to the art than to the politics, society and economy of the cities that they visited. Several Grand Tourist liked their portraits painted in Rome by the Italian painter, Pompeo Batoni (he did a good business).


Grand Tourist Francis Basset by Pompeo Batoni in 1778

Some of the less youthful Grand Tourers were more interested in acquisitions. Wealthy aristocrats who had both the time and finance to travel to the exotic ancient world gathered up remains of the past. They were the gentlemen collectors and Thomas Bruce, the Earl of Elgin (1766-1841), fits into this loose category. Arguably, he was a contributor to the preservation of the heritage of the past rather than knowledge, although Sir Arthur Evans gave some credibility to the wealthy ‘traveller’ with his intensive excavations and reconstruction work (even though criticized in some quarters) at Knossos. Some aristocrats intended to collect ancient memorabilia to show off in their stately residences, and they are not to be confused with scholarly researchers of the 18th and 19th century. Others were happy to donate their collections to museums in exchange for some recognition, such as Edward Daniel Clarke (1769-1822) and John Marten Cripps (1780-1853). They brought back from overseas 183 crates of ‘goodies’ in 1802 and the library of Jesus College, Cambridge, benefited from this collection. This library was the ‘museum’ in Cambridge before the Fitzwilliam Museum was completed in 1840. Clarke in particular was held in high regard for his donations and was awarded an LL.D from Cambridge University and thereafter a Professorship.  There was also Charles Wateron (1782-1865), an expert in taxidermy, who returned from South America in 1802 with his tropical animals, not just for the benefit of future generations but also for political satire.


 Edward Daniel Clarke 

Learned travellers, such as Robert Pashley and Thomas Spratt (I’ve told you about him before), although not interested in treasures as such, were not averse to removing the occasional item. Pashley brought back to England a sarcophagus and Spratt an altar, a lid to a sarcophagus and various small engravings and statuettes which were donated to the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge and the British Museum. Pashley’s and Spratt’s motives were of a scholarly interest, and it could be said that anyone with an interest in antiquity is acquisitive by nature. Certainly Pashley’s and Spratt’s values would not be in question as they did not keep their acquisitions but allowed them to be preserved for public viewing and future prosperity.


Sarcophagus (2nd Century AD) brought back from Crete by Thomas Spratt, now in the British Museum (height: 130.5 centimetres, length: 266 centimetres, width: 150.3 centimetres)

The Grand Tour was in decline by the beginning of the 19th century, mainly due to the French Revolution (1789) and Britain’s subsequent war with France (1793-1815). As a result, Greece (then part of the Ottoman Empire) became the most popular destination for the Grand Tour travellers from 1790 onwards. However, the Grand Tourers were not all decadent aristocrats and some were looking to classical Greece for inspiration.


Map of the Grand Tour 

Sir William Gell (1777-1836) wrote about his travels in Greece and his publications were described by Plouviez (Straddling the Aegean, 2001) as “the first really practical travel guides since Pausanias [2nd century AD].” But it was not all 5 Star luxury – Gell (The Itinerary of Greece, 1810) was very specific about the needs for a visit to Greece:

“The most necessary article for a traveller is a bed, which should of course be as portable as possible. A piece of oil-cloth to cover it, when it is rolled up in the day, and to place under it at night, would be useful. A carpet about eight feet square is of service to sit upon. A knife, fork, spoon plate, drinking cup, and some kind of vessel for boiling water, seem almost the only necessary additions. A light umbrella as a shed from the sun would always be found very agreeable, and would be more serviceable if it were fitted to an iron spike, by which it might be stuck into the ground. Curtains suspended to sides of the room by cords, are very useful to exclude insects while the traveller sleeps. If these are made of silk, and tucked under the bed as soon as it is made, the night’s rest will not be disturbed; many will prefer mosquito curtains, but they are not to be depended upon. When a family travels to Greece, it would be advisable to carry a thick curtain, by which a room may be separated, if necessary, into two parts.”

gell Sir William Gell


Next week: Lord Elgin loses his marbles at Mycenae

 ASIDE: Bagpuss Revisited

Those of you who read my Bagpuss theory last week and are Monty Python fans may be interested in Jonathan Morris’ biography of Michael Palin wherein he says of famous dead parrot sketch: “It was hardly Cleese’s, Chapman’s [they wrote it] or Palin’s fault that the ensuing years the parrot sketch would come to be a mite overanalysed. One overexcited critic has in all seriousness interpreted the parrot sketch as a parody of the Christian belief in eternal life.”  Yeah, right.


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 colleague, Dr Emille Netley-Smythe, said that his son came home from school the other day and said, “Dad, I’ve got a part in the school play as a man who has been married for 25 years.”

Emille replied, “Never mind, son, maybe next time you’ll get a speaking part.”



The development of societies with archaeological interests

ANTIQUARIAN SOCIETIES are not old societies, they are societies for the study of the past (antiquity). Well, they are also old societies. One of the first to be set up was The Royal Society (of London for the Improvement of Knowledge) in 1660 (supported by the newly crowned Charles II) for the purpose of scientific learning. It still exists today, as does the Society of Antiquaries of London which was set up in 1707 at the Mitre Tavern in Fleet Street, with Humphrey Wanly as its first ‘chairman’. It received its Royal Charter in 1751. In fact, William Camden was a founding member of this Society in 1572, but it was suppressed by the Scottish born king, James I, in 1604, possibly because it encouraged English nationalism.


 William Camden 1551-1623

The Society of Antiquaries was a ‘poor relation’ to the Royal Society which had greater resources of wealth and patronage. The former suffered various set backs including suggestions that its ‘board’ intended to subordinate itself to the Royal Society and, in 1792, its president, the Earl of Leicester, was accused of being a drunkard and a ‘brainless caput’ in a letter from Douce to Kerrich, 17th April, 1792 (Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge) and by 1840 its members were deeply concerned about the Society’s purpose. However, it carried on in the shadow of other societies.

a heirich

Heinrich Schliemann addressing the Society of Antiquities on his discoveries at Mycenae (The Illustrated London News, March 31, 1877) – I had the privilege of addressing the Society of Antiquaries on my work on Thomas Spratt RN in October 2013 after receiving my Fellowship of the Society

The Society of Dilettanti was set up in London in 1732 by Sir Francis Dashwood with the intent on focusing on classical antiquities, although, with its aristocratic and gentlemen Grand Tour members, it rather had an emphasis on dinning – Horace Walpole said of its members, ‘… the nominal qualification is having been in Italy, and the real one, being drunk’.  It did produce some publications (three volumes of Antiquities of Athens and three volumes of Ionian Antiquities between 1762 and 1840) and kept alive an interest in classical antiquities.


Sir Francis Dashwood 1708-1781

The Royal Geographical Society was a learned society, founded in 1830 for the advancement of geographical science, under the patronage of King William IV and it was given a Royal Charter by Queen Victoria in 1859. Although not involved in archaeology as such, its later members were to take on a keen interest in the topic and equate it to landscapes studies. The Royal Geological Society had been formed in 1807.


Main Hall, Royal Geographical Society – impressive, eh!

In 1843, the Archaeological Association was formed but due to internal squabbling it soon split into two of the more important organizations: the British Archaeological Society and the Archaeological Institute, producing the Journal of British Archaeology and the Archaeological Journal, respectively.

The publisher, George Macmillian, was determined to keep up a following for the ancient Greek world and, in 1879, set up the Society for the Promotion of Hellenic Studies. Its purpose was to assist and guide English travellers in Greece and encourage exploration and excavation of ancient sites. Thereafter, in 1886, the British School [of archaeology] at Athens (BSA) was established, then, on the island of Crete, an annexe was set up at Knossos in 1926 – although the BSA had been involved with Knossos since the establishment of the Cretan Excavation Fund in 1899.


Library, British School at Athens (I’ve been there – it’s fantastic!)

Many county based societies for local history and archaeology appeared during the 19th century. But although these societies were limited in their appeal they did attract large memberships and, in some cases, from elite personnel. In fact, the Sussex Archaeological Society (1846) was criticized for snobbism for its open courting of the aristocracy (9.5% of its first year’s members were titled). Can’t image why!


Michelham Priory, owned by the Sussex Archaeological Society

Regardless of the varying internal politics (and, in some cases, external derision) of these societies, they gave credence to the new ideal of archaeology. Yet even now there are some who still frown upon the thought of 19th century ‘archaeologists’ when considering today’s methods which is a little unfair based on the fact that all new ideas have to start somewhere. It is not as if the ‘science’ relied entirely upon itself – Pitt Rivers, in 1884, acknowledged the need for assistance in other scientific fields such as geology, palaeontology and physical anthropology.

ppitt rivers

Lt-General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers 1827-1900 (go see his museum in Oxford – its great!)

The other importance of these societies is that, either by way of talks or publications in their journals, they brought to the fore the activities of some of these travellers and publicised their findings which otherwise would have little value. And their existence gave me something else to study!


Next week: Gladiator: Hollywood fact or fiction?

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 Professor Schwartzburger said to me the other day, “I have just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me two thousand pounds, but it’s state of the art. It’s perfect.’

 “Really,” I replied, “what kind is it?”

Twenty past twelve.”

  Art Smth

Glastonbury Abbey: fact and fiction

FACT: Glastonbury Abbey existed in the Middle Ages and still does – to a certain extent.

FICTION (maybe): King Arthur and his two-timing wife, Guinevere, were buried there.

First let’s distinguish between myth, legend and fiction Myth never happened (trust me – e.g. Greek and Roman gods, 6 headed monsters, one-eyed ogres  … actually, I do know someone who might fit that description); legend may have happened (e.g. Geoff Hurst’s 1966 World Cup 2nd goal did go over the line); fiction didn’t happen but some fiction is based on legend (e.g. politicians are honest). Get it? So, legend has it that Glastonbury Abbey was built on the site of a wattle and daub church erected by Joseph of Arimathea when he visited the town with the young boy, Jesus. After the crucifixion of Jesus, Joseph revisited Glastonbury (or the island of Avalon as it was then) with the Holy Grail and buried it below the great hill of Tor – now the site of the Chalice Well.


Hill of Tor, Glastonbury

Chalice Well, Glastonbury, England_JPG

Chalice Well at the bottom of Tor Hill

Fiction (as legend) then moves forward to AD 540(ish) and the death of King Arthur. He was reputedly taken, mortally wounded, by boat to Avalon. There he died and was buried – at Glastonbury in the ancient burial ground (3 on plan), maybe.


morte d’Arthur (‘so long Art’)

Fact and fiction merge: In 1190 it is recorded that the monks dug up a grave in a cemetery just south of the Lady Chapel (not to mention St Dunstan and Galilee chapels) at Glastonbury Abbey. It contained two skeletons, male and female, and they were deemed to be Arthur and Guinevere. It is not clear what happened to them at that time, but in 1278 they were reburied in a black marbled tomb in the Choir/Chancel of the Nave before the High Altar. King Edward I was present, so it must be true (must it? Bit like reading the Sun or the Daily Mail). After the vandalising of the Abbey in 1539 the bones were no longer to be found.

Plan of Glastonbury Abbey (north at top) (shaded red is what remains)

 glast 1

Toby pointing out the site of King Arthur’s first burial place …. maybe (looking north with Lady Chapel in background)


King Arthur’s tomb of 1278 in the Chancel (looking east, High Altar chain-linked in background with ruins of Edgar Chapel behind that)

Back to fact: The first stone church at the site of the Abbey was built by the Saxon King, Inde, in AD 712 and it was enlarged (the cloisters) by Abbot Dunstan in 940. In 1077, after the Norman invasion, this church was destroyed and replaced with a larger one by Abbot Thurstin. Then, between 1100-1118, Abbot Herlewin demolished this church and built the main Abbey. The Domesday Book of 1086 records it as the richest monastery in the country. The building was destroyed by fire in 1184 and rebuilt. Historical records tell us that rebuilding went on until 1524 and the archaeology gives physical evidence of these previous buildings. The Abbey was finally ransacked in 1539 after the dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII (there’s someone who had a lot to answer for). Regardless, the remains of the Abbey are well worth a visit.glast4

Interior of Lady Chapel (looking east)

glast 3

Nave and Central Tower remains (looking east)

And, of course, Caburn Castle is Camelot …… (it said so in the Sun – or was it the Daily Mail)



Next week: The develoment of societies with archaeological interests

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:

met an old American friend of mine the other day in the bar of London hotel of some note. It was Douglas Fairweather Jnr, a famous actor over from Hollywood. He was slumped over a whisky.

“Hi Dougie, what’s the problem?” I enquired detecting a state of morose.

“I’ve come over to make a movie of The Merchant of Venice and they want me to play Shylock.” He responded in some despair.

“But that’s excellent old boy,” I retorted with much enthusiasm, “What’s the problem?”

He replied, “But I want to play the Merchant.”


Tutankhamun – road traffic incident or what?

DID YOU KNOW that Forensisis is Latin for forum and in ancient Rome the forum was where many matters, including law and justice, were discussed.  Pathos and logia are ancient Greek for suffering and study of respectively.  The definition of forensic pathology is, therefore, the study of bodies for both medical and legal purposes.


Naturally, one of the tasks of a forensic pathologist is to discover the cause of death of a deceased and to decide whether foul play was involved.  With Tutankhamun such a study proved somewhat confusing over the years.

In a Channel Four television programme, Tutankhamun Exhumed, x-rays in 1968 of Tut’s skull suggested that he had been killed by a blow to the back of the head – evidenced by a hole in his occipital (back of lower head).  Murder most foul?  Of course.  End of story …… or was it?


                                                              Back of Tut’s head

Well, maybe not.  Fortunately the whole of the skeleton, although damaged (by Howard Carter when he removed it in 1922) was mostly intact, and a CT scan by Dr Zahi Hawass, in March 2005, showed that the hole in the skull was not the cause of death. It has since been established that inside the hole there are traces of embalming fluid and so it was most likely part of the original mummification process, ca 1323 BC.

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Howard Carter examining Tut in 1922               Dr Zahi Hawass (left) and CT scan in 2005

Hawass found evidence of a fracture in the lower femur (thigh bone) just above the knee. The bone had been completely broken and unhealed, with a fragment of torn skin evident. This may have been the result of a blow to the leg in battle, perhaps (or careless cooking incident). This, in turn, may have caused an infection (possibly gangrene) and death. More recent DNA analysis (2010) has identified malaria in Tut’s system. End of story …… or was it?


                                                               Tut’s leg bones

Now we know Tut was a warrior because we have ancient paintings of him in action (below). So, was the above leg break anything to do with a sword wound in a battle that he may have been involved in?  Maybe.

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The warrior Tut

But a further investigation of his skeletal remains in 2012 indicate a more calamitous possibility.  Firstly, a re-review of his 1968 X-rays show that he had several left and right ribs missing, no sternum (front bone of rib-cage), missing left side of pelvis, and no heart (see virtual autopsy pic below).  The heart was usually removed but buried with the body in a separate cask.  The fact that there was no heart in a cask may imply that it was so badly damaged that it was discarded, along with the ribs and left pelvis.  Such damage must have been the result of a very serious incident, although there were no injuries to the skull.  This information was revealed in another Channel Four documentary,  Tutankhamun: The Mystery of the Burnt Mummy, presented by Dr Chris Naunton in 2013.  It concluded that Tut may have fallen from his chariot and was ‘run-over’ by another chariot  –  in battle?

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Virtual autopsy pic           Chariot causing damage consistent with tut’s injuries                                                   (pics from TV prog)

A pressure test was carried out to show that if a chariot wheel hit the rib bones at the speed of 26 mph, the break and bone fragments would be serious enough to cause critical damage to organs behind ribs.  It could also account for the break to the femur (just above the knee).  The wheel would have missed the head, hence no injuries to the skull.

Perhaps it wasn’t a battle but just a road traffic accident – I’m sure they had bad chariot drivers in those days ……


Stop that chariot right there!



A more recent TV programme on the BBC of Tut suggested that he was in no fit state to drive a chariot due to a deformity in his foot which may have been a genetic disorder which he ‘inherited’ due to incest in the family (his mum and dad may have been brother and sister – keep the power in the family). A computer ‘virtual autopsy’ of the mummy revealed a possible club foot and also that he may have suffered from a severe form of epilepsy which could have caused the fall that resulted in his death – perhaps. The clubfoot would certainly account for all the walking sticks found in his tomb. The programme, however, did not address the issue of his missing pelvic and rib bones or the images of him firing a bow ans arrow form his chariot (poetic licence maybe)..

Tut with clubfoot


Next week: Back to submarines – but this time U-boats ….. U-671 and U-413 and the sinking of HMS Warwick



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 colleague, Professor Waldorf Winklebatt, was stopped by the police around 2 a.m. the other night and was asked where he was going at that time of night. Waldorf replied, “I am on my way to a lecture about alcohol abuse, smoking and the effects of staying out late on the human body.” 

The officer then asked, “Really? And who is giving that lecture at this time of night?” 

Waldorf replied, “That would be my wife.”

Art Smth

John Pendlebury (in Crete)

SO, WHO WAS John Devitt Stringfellow Pendlebury? He  was a bit of a character. He was born in 1904 and started off life – well, from the age of two – with only one eye, having lost the other in an accident, the cause of which was never established for sure. He was quite an athlete, gaining an athletic blue at Pembroke College, Cambridge in 1926/7. He completed for selection in the 1924 Olympics, the setting for the film, Chariots of Fire. He was also an academic, gaining a  Second and a First for Parts I and II respectively of the Classics Tripos at Pembroke.

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John Devitt Stringfellow Pendlebury

He went to school at Winchester College and, whilst on a school trip to Mycenae (in Greece – you remember) in 1923, he became interested in archaeology. After leaving university in 1923, he worked at the British School at Athens studying Egyptian artefacts found in Greece ( he couldn’t make up his mind whether to study Egyptian or Greek archaeology so he combined them both!). At the school, he met Hilda White, his wife-to-be (she was 13 years his senior).

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Pendlebury in 1928

He first visited Knossos (Crete – keep up) in 1928 and his initial reaction was that Arthur Evans’ restorations had spoiled the place (you’ll have to back several blogs for that). After that he went, with Hilda, on his first excavation at an ancient Macedonian site at Salonica under Walter Heurtley (Alexander the Great was Macedonian, but you knew that). Pendlebury married Hilda shortly afterwards.

Evans had been impressed with what he had heard of Pendlebury and, in 1929, offered him the curatorship of Knossos on the retirement (forced due to illness) of the then present curator, Duncan MacKenzie. The job began in Spring 1930 but the place was in a bit of a mess when he took over – buildings in disrepair, animals grazing amongst the ruins and the site littered with rubbish from visiting dignitaries (it wasn’t open to the public yet). Pendlebury put in a great deal of work reorganising the place as well as refurbishing the Taverna (accommodation building not a bar) where Hilda and he resided. The Taverna is next to Villa Ariadne where Evans lived. The curator still lives at the Taverna today but it’s also now used for students.


The Taverna – student quarters (Sarah studying hard, I think she’s reading ‘How to make raki’!)

Later in 1930, Pendlebury was offered directorship of the Tel el-Armana excavations in Egypt. This he could not turn down and was able to carry out this task along with the curatorship at Knossos (climate differences meant excavating in Egypt in winter and Knossos in spring). He continued at Armana until 1936 (click here for great video of him at Armana).

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Pendlebury in Armana wearing ancient Egyptian necklace

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‘Discussions’ at Armana (Pendlebury 2nd from left)

Back in Knossos (1932) he had the arduous task of recording some 2000 sherds with the help of Hilda and two other ‘up-and-coming’ female archaeologists, Edith Eccles and Mercy Money-Coutts. In 1933, he produced his Knossos guide book, A Handbook to the Palace of Minos at Knossos, and was now seeing Evans’ reasons for the restorations – he put in the preface of his guide book, “Without restoration the Palace would be a meaningless heap of ruins, the more so because the gypsum stone, of which most of the paving slabs as well as the column-bases and door-jambs are made, melts like sugar under the action of rain, and would eventually disappear completely.”  So that’s the answer to the critics who are still anti-Evans-restorations. But we won’t go there. Anyway, he continued as curator at Knossos until 1934 but spent some time travelling the island as a freelance archaeologist researching for his very comprehensive book on the whole (then known) archaeology of Crete published in 1939. Then came the war. 

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with finds from Armana                                                Pendlebury pretending to be a local worker at Armana  

Pendlebury returned to England to convince the authorities that Crete was a strategic position and had to be defended. He offered his services to return to the island to prepare for a German invasion. In May 1940, he was sent back supposedly as British vice-consul at Heraklion (then still known as Candia) but the title was just a cover and – as with Lawrence of Arabia – he was a spy! He began planning and liaising with the local Cretan clan chiefs ready for the anticipated invasion which duly came on 20th May 1941.

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Pendlebury in Cretan costume                          In Crete in 1939    

Patrick Leigh Fermor, was also ‘stationed’ in Crete (he was the leader of the kidnapping of the German general, Heinrich Kreipe, from the island – see ‘next week’) and he said of Pendlebury, “I was enormously impressed by that splendid figure, with a rifle slung like a Cretan mountaineer’s, a cartridge belt round his middle, and armed with a leather-covered swordstick.” Pendlebury was based in Heraklion and if ever he left his office for a short time, he would leave his false eye on his desk to let people know he wouldn’t be long!

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In the streets of Stavrochori, Crete

The Germans parachutists took a bit of a hammering on the first day of the invasion. They were somewhat surprised at the Cretan and British (and New Zealand and Australian) defence. On the second day, 21st May, Stukas were bombing the island and parachutists still coming in. Pendlebury had left Heraklion, then got out of his car and approached an area where German parachutists were coming in. He was then wounded in the chest, whether by a parachutist or Stuka machine gun fire is not known. He was taken by German parachutists to the house of his friend, George Droussoulaki (who was fighting elsewhere and was killed later that day). George’s wife, Aristea, reported that Pendlebury had his wounds attended to by a German doctor and, in the evening, was attended again by a German doctor and given an injection. He was told by the doctor he would be collected the next day and taken to a hospital. The next day a different group of German soldiers appeared and dragged him out of the house, propped him up  against the wall and shot him.

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German parachutists in Crete

Why he was shot is not clear. It may have been that the Germans knew who he was and decided this the best cause of action. Or they thought he was spy being British but dressed as a local Cretan (well, I suppose he was). Or they were just especially evil. He was initially buried where he had been killed but because it became a shrine to the Cretan Resistance it was moved by the Germans to the Rethymnon road where they could keep an eye on it. He was later  reburied in the British war cemetery at Souda Bay (on the west of the island). One wonders what he may have achieved had he survived and (a) continued as a Resistance leader during the war and (b) as an archaeologist after the conflict. A great loss of a great man.

Pendlebury first Burial Site                    Souda Bay War Cemetary_0048

Memorial, 1947, Hilda left of cross                        Final rest: British war cemetery, Souda Bay

The only book I know that has been written about JP is Imogen Grundon’s A Rash Adventurer: A Life of John Pendlebury, Libri, 2007.  It’s a good read.


The Germans lost around 3700 elite parachutists (plus some 1600 wounded) in the first four days of the invasion of Crete. That was more German soldiers killed than in the whole war up to that date. They never attempted another parachute invasion of anywhere again.

Next week: Let’s stay in Crete but back to films – Ill Met by Moonlight: ‘Hollywood’ fact or fiction? – okay, a British, not a Hollywood, film, but let’s not nitpick – the tale of the kidnapping of General Kreipe from Crete in 1944.

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 dear friend Randolph Bollinger-Smythe died last week of a heart attack whilst excavating in the Himalayas. He was 89.

He lived by the dictum that moderate drinkers live longer – and it damn well served them right!

In fact, many thought the demon drink would get him first. Whisky and water became his all-day daily diet. I gave him a bit of a hard time about it and he agreed to cut his drink by half –“I’ll leave out the water, old boy”

Art Smth


Lawrence of Arabia: Hollywood fact or fiction?

NICOLE KIDMAN (well, that’s got the chaps’ attention) is about to appear in the starring role of a new film about Gertrude Bell called ‘Queen of the Desert’ (not to be confused with ‘Priscilla …’).

queen o desert

Coming to your cinemas soon

Gertrude (certainly not Priscilla) was an archaeologist and heavily into the first World War Arab Revolt and in restoring Iraq to self-rule. A task the archaeologist, T.E. Lawrence, attempted to do after the First World War. In fact, Lawrence wanted all of Arabia restored to the Arabs – it had been taken over by the Turks (Ottoman Empire) some 500 years before.  In 1915 the British Government promised Sherif Hussein of Mecca an independent Arabian State if he revolted against the Turks and help win the war. However, the following year the British Government then entered into the secret, and rather presumptuous, Sykes-Picot Agreement with France, wherein Syria and part of Arabia would be divided up between the two once the Turks had been defeated. Nobody bothered to tell the Arabs about this.


Sykes-Picot map 1916 – blue  for France; pink for Great Britain (Area A = French influence; Area B (above red dotted line) = British influence)

gertrude-bell           gb te l

Gertrude Bell                                                                           Bell and T.E. Lawrence (Egypt 1921)

What’s Gertrude Bell got to do with Lawrence of Arabia I hear you mutter. Not much, other than I’ve been reading Bell’s biography, Daughter of the Desert, by Georgina Howell , who said that “Lawrence agonized, faltered, and final abandoned the Arab issue and tried to escape from his own tortured personality, to reappear in the nondescript persona of one Aircraftsman [sic] Shaw”. Rather harsh, and untrue.

‘Harsh’ because of what Lawrence had been through for around two years in Arabia (1916-18) and the frustrations he went through  leading up to and during the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 when Syria was split between Great Britain and France – and the Arabs got nothing. Certainly Bell was involved behind the scenes in the Arab Revolt but she hadn’t been physically battling the Turks in the desert for two years. And it certainly wasn’t Lawrence’s fault that the French kicked Feisal out of Damascus in 1920 as a result of the Paris conference and the Sykes-Picot Agreement. Feisal, the son of Sherif Hussein, had led the Arab revolt with Lawrence on the understanding he would be given Damascus (and title King of Syria – which he took, very briefly, before the French intervention).


Feisal (forefront) (played by Alec Guinness in the film) and his  party at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 (Lawrence third from the right)

 ‘Untrue’ because Lawrence did, indeed, carry on after the 1919 failure. He worked (reluctantly after Paris) with Winston Churchill (then British Colonial Secretary) on the Middle East problem which culminated in the Cairo Conference in 1921 when it was agreed that Feisal should be made the first King of Iraq (Turkish Mesopotamia). Both Lawrence and Bell were part of that Conference and I came across one article that reads: “Thirty-nine British men and one British woman, Gertrude Bell, attended the conference in Cairo, but none – probably including Churchill – had more influence upon its outcome than T.E. Lawrence.”

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A rather innocuous Lt. Col. Lawrence in Cairo

Added to that, Michael Korda (Hero: The Life and Legend of Lawrence of Arabia, 2010) said, “If anything, [Lawrence] underplayed the importance of his role in the war and as Churchill’s adviser on Middle Eastern affairs after the peace.”


Cairo Conference 1921 (Bell  – the only woman –  1st row standing, second on the left; Churchill, sitting in the middle, hat on knee; Lawrence, in suit, 1st row standing, just behind Churchill to the right)


On camels in Cairo in 1921 – Churchill (2nd from left – obvious really!), Bell and Lawrence next two in line

So, to some extent Lawrence had achieved some of his purpose but he was still pretty disillusioned about the powers that be. By now he was  a Lieutenant Colonel but decided to leave the army and was given a Research Fellowship at All Souls, Oxford, to begin writing about the Arabian revolt. It was around this time that he probably had a bit of a breakdown desperately looking for obscurity. He told the writer and poet, Robert Graves, that he hoped being “ordinary in a mob of likes” would cure his mental exhaustion. He didn’t want any more responsibility (but he needed an income), so, in August 1922, to the ranks of the relatively newly formed (April 1918) RAF he went as Aircraftman John Hume Ross [1].  However, in February 1923, he was forced, after his true identity had been discovered by the press, to change his name again to T.E. Shaw and transfer to the Tank Corps. He was later, in August 1925, able to transfer back to the RAF and became a great influence in speed boat design (for rescuing aircrew ‘downed’ in the sea). He left the service at the end of his enlistment in March 1935, only to die following an accident on his motor bike in May 1935 (although, of course, there are some conspiracy theories about that).


Aircraftman T.E. Shaw (aka T.E. Lawrence) on his Brough Superior motorcycle (1927) – he was later killed on a similar bike

What’s this got to with the film, I hear you mutter. Okay, the film: I’ve also been reading Lawrence’s autobiography in Arabia, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom and it does bear some resemblance to the 1962 film. Although, T.E. Lawrence’s brother, Professor Arnold Lawrence (also an archaeologist), said he didn’t recognise his brother when he saw the film! To be fair that may have something to do with Pete O’Toole’s performance – outstanding as it was, I don’t think it much resembled Lawrence. Let’s see what Robert Pattinson (who?) does to the character in the new Gertrude Bell film. You might also want to check out Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal of Lawrence (slightly less maniacal than O’Toole’s)  in ‘A Dangerous Man: Lawrence after Arabia’ made in 1990 on the Paris Peace Conference (and meet Gertrude Bell).


          next installment: Paris Peace Conference – intriguing film

Lawrence was clearly losing it towards the end of the campaign and he was, to say the least, eccentric. But he had to be – he was, as Bell observed, “exceedingly intelligent”.  He had achieved a First Class Honours degree  in History at Jesus College , Oxford; began a postgrad degree at Magdalen College, Oxford, but gave it up to go to the Middle East;  finally, as mentioned above, he took up as a Research Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. He translated Homer’s Odyssey from the Greek [2] and The Forest Giant from French – and, of course, he was an archaeologist (must be intelligent …. or eccentric). In fact, it was as an archaeologist that he went to the Middle East rather than finish at Magdalen – and worked with the likes of Flinders Petrie, David Hogarth and Leonard Woolley.


Lawrence (left) with Woolley excavating (well, not at that moment) at Carchemish, Syria, 1913

The reason Lawrence got the job at the Arab Bureau (part of Great Britain’s Foreign Office) in 1914 was because of his knowledge of both the Arabian language and the geography resulting from his archaeological work in the Middle East. In anticipation of the war, he had already been sent out, with Woolley, through the Palestine Exploration Fund, to survey the Negev Desert as it was a strategic point for any Ottoman/Turkish advance on Egypt. So he was also a spy!


Thomas Edward Lawrence – of Arabia … a spy!

Back to the film. It makes no mention of Gertrude Bell’s involvement in the plans of the Arab Revolt. Hollywood obviously decided to wait on that one …… for another fifty-two years! However, it got the idea across regarding Lawrence’s activities and made him famous again. I say ‘again’ because he had already been made famous because of the American journalist, Lowell Thomas, who travelled UK and USA telling of his (Lawrence’s not Thomas’) courageous antics in Arabia.  But that was between 1919-1924 – long before any of your time so you would have missed that bit. Hollywood represented Thomas as a chap called Jackson Bentley (don’t ask) who followed Lawrence throughout most of the film. In fact, Thomas only met Lawrence briefly in 1918 – but made the most of it afterwards.


Lawrence (left) with Lowell Thomas in 1918

The film did suggest that Lawrence was not initially aware of the Sykes-Picot Agreement when he persuaded the Arabs to revolt which was not true. Lawrence knew right from the very start and had a guilty conscience about it all the way through the revolt. It was one of the reasons he refused a knighthood in October 1918 – he was so disgusted with his government’s intended treatment of the Arabs with false promises (well, who isn’t disgusted with the government some of the time …. most of the time …. but no reason to be silly about it).


Lawrence posing for Thomas in his famous white robes and his golden dagger made for him in Mecca (only a matter of time, Hollywood)

The film shows a very dramatic charge on Aqaba (Akaba). In fact, the actual battle took place several miles inland at Abu al Lasan, which controlled entry into Aqaba, which, itself, was taken without any trouble. The initial charge on Abu al Lasan was led by the magnificent Auda ibu Tayi. According to his official biographer, Jeremy Wilson, Lawrence missed it all because, in the excitement, he accidentally shot his camel in the head and was thrown to the ground. Careless or what?! Strangely, he didn’t mention this incident in his Pillars of Wisdom book – must have forgotten due to the bump on his head.


Hand-coloured photo of the real Audi ibu Tayi (played by Anthony Quinn in the film)

One of my favourite scenes in the film is when, after Aqaba, Lawrence drags his companion, Daud, into the British HQ and to the bar and orders two large glasses of lemonade to the horror of the barman and all the officers present (click here). Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. In the first place, Lawrence was with eight Arabs on the journey to report on Aqaba (not just Daud) and at the Suez he sent all of them to Kubri. Alone, in a hotel at the Suez he did get a cold drink (six in fact).When he did, finally, meet General Allenby in Cairo, he was, indeed, still in his Arab attire – but only because his replacement British uniform hadn’t arrived in time for the meeting.


General Allenby (played by Jack Hawkins in the film) 

Also in the film, the guy, Gasim, Lawrence rescued in the desert was not the same guy he executed for shooting a fellow Arab – that was a chap called Hamed – but who cares, I’m just nit-picking. But let’s carry on anyway. His two young companions, Daud and Farras, did exist but were not killed in the way depicted in the film. Daud died of illness, not in quicksand (but mere illness was not dramatic enough for Hollywood), and Farras …. well, okay, he was shot by Lawrence to prevent him being captured and tortured by the Turks, but he had not been wounded by blowing himself up with a detonator, he had charged a group of Turks guarding a bridge and was shot off his horse. I suppose, either way, he was a bit dumb.


Peter O’Toole as  a maniacal Lawrence of Arabia

Film trivia: the actor who played Farras, Michel Ray, gave up acting to attend Harvard and became a billionaire businessman – oh, and he married, Charlene de Carvalho , the Heineken heiress. Who needs Hollywood?!  New boy, O’Toole, wasn’t the first choice to play Lawrence, it was Marlon Brando but he didn’t want to spend months up to his whatever in sand. There was another new boy on the set called Omar Sharif who I understand did quite well afterwards. More on the film’s trivia, click here

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Lawrence in his Rolls Royce 40/50 Silver Cloud – sometimes he travelled in style – in Damascus, 1918

Back to archaeology (and Rolls Royces), John Winterburn, an archaeologist at Bristol University, recently noticed a photo of Lawrence and his Rolls Royce armoured car at a camp in Arabia (pic below) in the National Archives and went in search of the landscape pictured. He eventually found the site and various artefacts. Click here for more details.


Lawrence in camp with his armoured Rolls Royce – and rather conspicuous scenery noted by Winterburn


[1] When Lawrence changed his name to Ross and applied to the RAF, the recruiting officer did not believe him and was convinced he was lying and so sent him away. After awhile, Lawrence, or Ross, came back to the same recruiting officer with an order that he be enlisted with no questions asked (one assumes from someone high up at the Air Ministry)! The recruiting officer obviously realised that this wannabe aircraftman had important contacts, asked no more questions and enlisted him. (Well, he had to pass a medical which caused more complications but we won’t go there). Anyway, the recruiting officer was W.E. Johns, the writer of the ‘Biggles’ tales.


[2] It was as T.E. Shaw that he translated Homer’s Odyssey. Reprints after his death were in Lawrence’s name for obvious reasons – they’d sell better because hardly anyone knew who the heck T.E. Shaw was! Ironically, those editions in Shaw’s sole name are now worth more money.



If you are not too keen on the French, you’ll like them even less after this: they were indirectly to blame for all the horrendous casualties at Gallipoli. Lawrence, amongst others, suggested landing the allied troops at Alexandretta, in Syria, which would have been a much safer place. But, if you have been paying attention, you will remember that the very arrogant Sykes-Picon Agreement gave Syria to the French if we won the war. The French did not want  British troops in Syria as a result and vetoed the landings there. The Britsh had to look elsewhere and Churchill (then the First Sea Lord) fatally chose Gallipoli (see Scott Anderson interview on this).



One of Lawrence’s Arabian robes can be seen at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.


Circa 1916


The motorbike on which Lawrence was killed was the Brough Superior SS100s. One came up for auction in London the other day and sold for £315,100. It is the most expensive bike ever sold at auction.

brough21929 Brough Superior  sold at auction


A few of blogs ago (‘Tombs of Mycenae’ – July 12) I gave you two examples of snakes appearing in archaeology. Well, I have a ‘thing’ about snakes – I have a shuddering horror of them!  In Lawrence’s Seven Pillars of Wisdom he refers to an incident at Sirhan:

“… the valley seemed creeping with horned vipers and puff-adders, cobras, and black snakes. By night movement was dangerous: and at last we found it necessary to walk with sticks, beating the bushes each side we stepped warily through on bare feet.  A strange thing was the snakes’ habit, at night, of lying beside us, probably for warmth, under or on the blanket. When we learned this our rising was with infinite care, and the first up would search round his fellows with a stick he could pronounce them unencumbered.”


wakey, wakey!

Agggggh  .. who would be ‘the first up’?? And what about turning in your sleep? I think I would lie motionless …… and awake ….. all night.

And talking of snakes: When visiting Troy a few years ago, I remember ascending Kesik Tepe, aka the ‘Tomb of Achilles’ [1], with Sarah and a colleague, funnily enough, named Laurance. I went ahead with a stick in case of snakes [2]. No problem on reaching the top. On our descent by a slightly different route, again I went ahead with the ‘snake’ stick. All of a sudden  Sarah, who was behind me, slipped and tumbled down all the way to the bottom – on her bottom – leaving a flatten path. I turned to Laurance and said, “well, we don’t need the stick anymore!”

achilles vtmb

The Tomb of Achilles – new game: ‘snakes and bottoms’

Postscript 4 Footnotes:

[1] It’s been dated to the Hellenistic period (post 323 BC) so cannot be the ‘Tomb of Achilles’! Although it has to be a little earlier than Hellenistic if, as alleged, the Persian king, Xerxes, visited it in 480 BC and Alexander the Great visited it (he died in 323 BC).

[2] In Bettany Hughes’ book, Helen of Troy (2006, p.176) she visits this mound and says, “Braving vipers and brambles I scrambled to the top …”.


Next week: Staying on the Hollywood fact of fiction theme, let’s go look at ‘The Alamo’


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 esteemed colleague, Professor Bradley Wunderghast, had been terribly overweight but when I saw him after a leave of absence he had lost several stone. I asked him how he had achieved such success.

“Well,” he said, “my doctor told me he wanted me to eat regularly for 2 days, then skip a day, and repeat this procedure for two weeks and I would notice a marked difference. He was right but I nearly dropped dead in the first week.

“From hunger?” I asked

“No,” he replied, “from the skipping”

Art Smth


The Great Escape: Hollywood fact or fiction?

OF COURSE the Great Escape at Stalag Luft III did take place, but was it like the story depicted by the MGM film?   Well, yes and no.

Yes, 76 out of an intended 200 escaped; 3 got ‘home’; 50 were shot.

steve McQ

(The bike should have been a BMW but it was a Triumph!)

No, Capt. Hilts did not exist and there was no motorbike chase (sorry Steve McQueen fans) – in fact, there were no Americans in the escape at all.  The tunnels, Tom, Dick and Harry were begun in April 1943 in the north compound and did, indeed, involve Americans. However, in June 1943, the Germans started work on a south compound especially for American POWs. Digging was stopped on Dick and Harry and all efforts focused on Tom to try and finish it before the American POWs were moved to the new compound. Unfortunately, as the film depicted, Tom was discovered – but not the Tom in the film!

The Tom in the film was under the stove. In actual fact, that was Harry which was the real tunnel used for the escape.

tom        Tom having been discovered (the guy is a German guard – a ‘ferret’)    

 harry 2

Harry (or Tom in the film)

The tunnel used in the film for the escape, in the washroom, was Dick. Dick was only ever used for storage and not discovered until fairly recently (2003 to be exact).

Dick                       Harry in the film was actually Dick

dick 2

        Dick’s entrance being excavated in 2003 (the excavator is standing on the ‘home-made’ concrete entrance slab to the tunnel – in the ‘drain’ to the shower)

So, in the film, Harry was Dick; Tom was Harry;  Dick was Tom. And Bob’s my uncle. Get it?

More recently Harry was discovered by the archaeologists (2011 to be exact – I know ‘cos I was there). It wasn’t fully excavated because it was too dangerous to dig down any further – but an exciting find (honest!). There was nothing to find of Tom because, after its discovery, the Germans had blown it up (dislodging the foundations of a nearby guard-tower in the process – ha!!).

harry excav

Harry’s entrance discovered in 2011 – not much to look at but exciting (honest!)

Then there was a fourth tunnel, George, begun in September 1944. This was kept a secret but not intended as an escape route. It was heading towards the German compound and its weapons store in case of emergency needs. The war was coming to an end and the POWs were concerned about German reprisals. The tunnel was not discovered until 2011 – same time as Harry (I know ‘cos ….. yes, you know, I was there).

george 2

George (the tunnel not the archaeologist – that’s Iain Banks) – the tunnel is the right angle trench behind Iain. Behind and below Iain’s right arm you can just see cable used for lighting the tunnel (when it was being dug by the POWs – not in 2011!)

north cmpnd

Plan of north compound: Tom is in hut 123 and goes west; Dick is in hut 122 and also goes west; Harry is in hut 104 and goes north; George is in the theatre (just above football pitch) and goes east 


Plan of the theatre – red line is excavated George; dotted line  is presumed route of tunnel heading towards the German compound (unexcavated)

Very little remains of the huts in the north compound as nature and looters have taken their course. Below pic is one of the ‘better preserved’ (if that is the correct phrase!)


Remains of one of the ‘better preserved huts’ – only brick pillars visible (my bruvver is there as scale)

One of the reasons I know all of this is simple – my dad was there. He drew the above pictures of the north compound and the theatre. He flew a Wellington bomber but his engines seized up returning from a night raid over Germany and he crashed, eventually ending up in Stalag Luft III. His involvement in the escape was making the ‘goon’ lamps (oil lamps to light the tunnels before electricity was used – after some chap stole sufficient electrical cable to do the job); he was also a look-out (when the tunnels were being dug, each tunnel hut knew exactly where German guards were at any one time due to an incredibly efficient look-out system).

So my father was the reason my brother and I were visiting Stalag Luft III in 2011 when we came across the archaeologists excavating Harry and George. We happened to have dad’s POW log book with us (to show the museum curator at the site) and the archaeologists were very pleased when we produced the above map of the theatre which they were excavating!



My dad, Flt/Lt Bill Moore – if you have been following my  blogs you may remember the caricature on the right (Artemus Smith). It is in fact of my dad and painted by Henri Picard (click on his name for more details of him), a Belgian POW at Stalag Luft III, but very sadly one of the 50 who were shot following the escape


Whilst my brother and I were at Stalag Luft III in 2011 we met a veteran, Frank Stone. He had told Dr Howard Tuck (who was in charge of the excavations) that he remembered putting a radio set in George. The following week, when they were excavating the  entrance to George, guess what they found?

radio 1        radio

                                    Frank’s radio set


Money and silk maps were smuggled into the camp via Monopoly games. Such secret activity could not be carried out through Red Cross food parcels otherwise, if found out, the parcels would stop. So, an independent organisation had to take up the task – John Waddington Ltd. If the Free Parking square had a red dot on it, the box contained escape equipment. Silk maps were stuffed into the metal game figures and real money was coated with monopoly money (which could be washed off). Because of official secrets (and the possible need to use this form of ‘smuggling’ again), Waddington not was allowed to make it public and bask in the credit – until 2007 (although I think mention was made of it around 1985).



 After the escape, the Germans took an inventory of what was missing.  Apart from 76 POWs there were:

30 shovels, 34 chairs, 62 tables, 69 lamps, 76 benches, 90 beds, 192 bed covers, 246 water cans, 478 spoons, 582 forks, 600 feet of rope, 1000 feet of electric cable, 1219 knives, 1400 milk tins, 1700 blankets, 2424 towels and 4000 bed boards.

How could you miss that lot?!!


Some of the 1400 KLIM tins used for the air ‘pipes’ for the tunnels – it took me a while to realise that KLIM was MILK spelt backwards (dah!)

harry 3

Looking down Harry – some of the 4000 bed boards used for supporting the tunnels


The other great escape, also from Stalag Luft III (so much for it being an escape-proof camp!), was more successful – three escapees and all three got home (Oliver Philpot,  Eric Williams, Michael Cundar). It was, of course, the escape made famous by the film ‘The Wooden Horse’.  In fact, Oliver Philpot was once a room-mate of my father’s in the camp prior to the former’s premature departure.

wooden horse                    butterworth

What is interesting is that one of the ‘helpers’ in the actual escape was the film actor (to be), Peter Butterworth (photo above) who was a POW at the time. He was one of the athletes jumping over the wooden horse for hours whilst the tunnel was being dug.  A few years later, when he heard the the film was to made he, naturally, wanted to be in it. His request was refused because the casting director said he “didn’t look convincingly heroic and athletic enough”  !!!!

Next week: Lawrence of Arabia: Hollywood fact or fiction?

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 met this remarkable female archaeologist, named Imogen, at a charity ball the other evening. She was wearing a ripping diamond ring and I happened to remarked upon it.

“Oh, that”, she replied, “It’s the famous Haggenflacht diamond.”

I was bedazzled by it.

“ Unfortunately it has a curse attached to it,” she added.

“A curse?” I enquired with some intrigue, “What curse?”

“Mr. Haggenflacht,” she responded.

Art Smth