Wednesday, August 25, 2010

"Britain's Scattered Heritage"

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A contribution to the debate on the repatriation of foreign cultural property held in the museums and academic institutions of several rich developed countries which the inhabitants of source countries now want back.

The premise of this blog is a hypothesis on how this debate would look if Britain was the victim rather than the holder of such lost cultural property. How would the arguments about "universal museums" and "cultural cosmopolitanism" look if British history had not taken the turns it had? Losing a few battles, making a few bad economic decisions, having a few more idiotic leaders could easily have led to Britain (after all a titchy island on the edge of Europe) losing far more of the physical remains of its cultural heritage than it turned out (quite by accident) it did.

This blog attempts to examine how attitudes would differ if it was Britain which had lost quite a number of near-iconic items of cultural significance. While the objects discussed are all (for the most part) real, the history of how they got where they "now" are is fictional, but I hope not too far-feteched. [Any resemblance in these fictionalised stories to people now living, or modern institutions is fairly unintentional and no offence is meant in this tongue-in-cheek thought experiment.]


Vignette: the British Isles

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": A Sense of Loss

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The items discussed in the pages below have been selected for discussion because they illustrate the various means and processes by which various important pieces of the cultural property of the British Isles have been scattered over the past few centuries. They also give a view of the range of material that has been taken abroad, and demonstrate the colossal loss that the British people have experienced by their removal from the cultural resources of the nation over past centuries.

These (and other) items were lost through the operation of various processes beyond our control in the past. These were detrimental to the preservation of the resources of cultural property in Britain available for the enjoyment and edification of citizens and visitors. While it is true that those of them in foreign public collections can for the most part still be seen by getting on an aeroplane and travelling in their footsteps to various distant parts of our globe, this is not the point.

These items cannot be treated as something which can just be carted off and be as meaningful in a foreign gallery as in the surroundings for which they were created. They have a relationship with place, they belong here, where they have a myriad of local meanings. The repatriation of as many of these items as possible is not only desirable it is imperative if British culture is not to lose its roots.

Britain has already lost so much of its material heritage that this can be seen as nothing less than a cultural disaster. In the current era of international co-operation and collaboration, in a united Europe now that colonialism has been swept away, it is time to right the historical wrongs done to Britain in less enlightened times and find a way to resolve these issues peacefully, amicably and to the benefit of all sides.

This blog opposes the aggressive domination and false rhetoric of foreign culture-snatchers who have treated the cultural resources of our country as little more than a mine to exploit to produce trophy pieces which they have appropriated to their own uses. Please think about the issues these pieces raise.

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": In the Eyes of the Law

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The cases discussed in this blog illustrate the range of mechanisms and historical accidents that have contrived to Britain losing a considerable portion of culturally-important objects to foreign collections. In most cases there is little that Britain can do by applying existing laws to get this stuff back. Most of it left the country before the various international conventions and treaties (such as UNESCO's 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Cultural Property ), some were lost as a result of invasion and colonization - though here their status as 'war booty' is disputable, this being a still-unclear area of international legislation, while some were gifted away or sold in the past by people entitled to do this by the standards of the times.

We however live in different times and the spirit of international collaboration surely requires an elastic approach to claims to disputed cultural property rather than a simple fait accompli approach. There is a considerable body of public opinion in Britain behind the idea of repatriation of this material, and political and economic gains involved, not to mention the moral arguments in favour of doing so. Let us act now to right the wrongs that have been wrought on our national culture by foreign culture-grabbing and retentionist foreign nations.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

"Britain's Scattered heritage": The First Englishman


Scattered Heritage: The Swanscombe skull, the Barnfield Pit at Swanscombe in Kent contains river terrace gravels and sands of the Anglian Ice Age laid down between 425,000 and 350,000 BC by an ancient course of the Thames, flowing more than 30 m higher than in the present day. These deposits were well known as a findspot of flint tools and bones of animals (species represented include giant deer , elephant, rhinoceros and lion). In the summer of 1956 an expedition of the students' association of the newly-founded East African University carried out fieldwork and collecting in several Palaeolithic sites in the Lower Thames valley. During the course of this fieldwork three fragments of human skull were found and with the permission of the landowners of Barnfield Pit, they were added to the University's teaching collections. They are currently displayed in the 'Africa, Homeland of the Human Race' Museum in Koobi Fora, though the British Museum (Natural History) has expressed interest in obtaining them for the national collections.


Photo: Part of the Swanscombe skull

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": Lost Monolith

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Stonehenge is one of the iconic prehistoric monuments for British prehistory, and attracted interest even in the Middle Ages. It became well known on the continent through the writings of antiquaries such as Camden, Inigo Jones and Jonathan Oldbuck and also attracted trophy hunters who over the years picked over the monument for pieces that could be taken away as trophies under the pretext that they would be accessible to the masses that were unable to visit the remote wastelands of Salisbury Plain themselves. In the period when Britain was ruled by foreign kings, William III (and to a lesser extent under the Hanoverians) many British antiquities were sent as gifts to foreign cabinets of curiosities. Here is one of the bluestones re-erected in the courtyard of the Dresden Zwinger, a gift from William III to Augustus III the Strong, Elector of Saxony in 1698. The blustones at Stonehenge were much smaller than the sarsens and very few of them now remain on the site.















Photo: Visit the UK

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The Folkton Drums

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"Scattered Heritage": The Folkton Drums (Late Neolithic period, 2600-2000 BC). These three mysterious objects were found in 2008 by excavations in advance of the construction of a mobile phone transmission mast on Folkton Wold near Filey in East Yorkshire, England. The excavations carried out by an archaeological contracting firm from Edinburgh discovered a badly damaged round barrow with two concentric ditches and containing several graves. the site had been damaged by earlier 'barrow digging', including by antiquary Canon William Greenwell, who luckily had failed to find all the graves. The cylinders had been placed behind the head and hips of the body of a child in an oval grave close to the outer of two concentric ditches. The objects range in size from 146mm in diameter through 124 mm diameter down to the smallest at 104mm in diameter. They are unique in the archaeological record – nothing similar is known anywhere in the British Isles from any time in the prehistoric period. They might in some way have been a symbol of the special social position of the family to which the deceased person belonged.

The elaborately carved cylinders are made from local chalk and have chipped and incised decoration organized in panels on their curved sides of the cylinders and also the slightly domed upper surfaces which resemble lids. The objects all have concentric circle decoration on the tops. The designs of two of the drums seem to represent stylised faces. The bases of the drums were carefully shaped and smoothed but appear to have been undecorated. The significance of the designs is unknown, though the geometric patterns closely resemble the decorative schemes of prehistoric pottery, particularly the Later Neolithic Grooved Ware style and Later Neolithic/Early Bronze Age Beaker pottery. Similar motifs are also known in megalithic art of the period.

In accordance with the pre-excavation agreement, the finds from the investigations were initially retained by the landowner, consortium J. G. Crassfeld. Negotiations managed to obtain the voluntary deposition of the majority of the excavation archive in the local museum, but on the advice of a Mayfair antiquities dealer the landowner placed the drums up for auction. Bidding was brisk, partly due to prior newspaper coverage of the objects which focussed on sensationalist elements such as their alleged supernatural significance. They were bought by the newly-created Tokyo 'World Museum of Indigenous and Primitive Art' (MIPO). The issue of an export licence was deferred, but there was not sufficient interest in them in the UK to obtain the asking price, and when the deferral period expired, the objects were exported to Japan. They will form one of the centrepieces of one of the new galleries on European Primitivism in the MIPO. The Vienna Kunsthistorische Museum is understood to be negotiating a long-term loan for its own prehistoric Europe galleries. Meanwhile Yorkshire Museums service supported by many local MPs has been pressing for changes to British legislation on the ownership of antiquities to prevent such a thing happening again.

I.H. Longworth, 'The Folkton Drums unpicked' in Grooved Ware in Britain and Ireland, Neolithic Studies Group Seminar Papers 3 (Oxford, Oxbow Books, 1999), pp. 83-88.

D.V. Clarke, T.G. Cowie and A. Foxon, Symbols of power at the time of Stonehenge (London, HMSO, 1985)

I.A. Kinnes and I.H. Longworth, Catalogue of the excavated prehistoric and Romano-British material in the Greenwell Collection (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

Andrew Middleton, Jeremy R. Young & Janet Ambers The Folkton Drums: chalk or cheese? Antiquity Vol 78 No 299 March 2004

Chris Collyer, ‘Folkton Barrow, Bronze Age Round Barrow’, http://www.stone-circles.org.uk/stone/folkton.htm

Vignette: The Chalk Drums (Antiquity)
Cf. British Museum website on the Folkton Drums.

"Britain's Scattered heritage": The King's Shaving Mug


In 1837 workmen engaged in construction work took some building stone from a mound on part of Bodmin Moor, at Rillaton in Cornwall. This turned out to be a Bronze Age burial cairn, and in it was a chamber, 2.4 m long and 1.1 m wide. It contained the decayed remains of a human skeleton accompanied by this gold cup, a bronze dagger and other objects that have not survived - a decorated pottery vessel, a 'metallic rivet', 'some pieces of ivory' and 'a few glass beads'. The pot and gold cup were set beneath a slab leaning against the west wall of the cist.

The main body of this prehistoric cup was beaten out of a single lump of gold of high purity. The corrugated profile would have required great skill to achieve. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing, it added strength to the thin sheet metal. The handle is decorated with two sets of grooves and is neatly rivetted to the body through lozenge-shaped washers.

The Duchy of Cornwall at this time had rights over any treasure found within it (as bona vacantia) and the finds were therefore sent to William IV (reigned 1831-37) very shortly before his death. They remained in the royal household. According to hearsay, the cup stood in the dressing room of King George V and may have been used as a royal shaving mug (other versions have him keeping his collar studs in it). It was apparently sold in 1936, apparently after the death of George V, though enquiries of the Royal Household have been unable to elicit the precise details. The associated dagger however was acquired by the British Museum in 1937, but none of the other finds have since been relocated. The cup seems to have been in the hands of a private collector of royal memorabilia in New Zealand in the 1950s, but all track of it has since been lost. The Cornish Heritage Society is attempting to locate the current whereabouts of the object and obtain its return to Truro.


the Rillaton mug from the catalogue, "Britain's lost treasures".
the site of the discovery

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The Mold Cape



Scattered Heritage: The Mold Cape. The Bronze Age gold cape discovered in north Wales is at the centre of a row between the British Museum and the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek museum in Copenhagen. The delicate 4,000-year-old cape is widely regarded as one of the finest pieces of Bronze Age craftsmanship in the world. It is made from a single ingot of the equivalent of 23-carat gold and weighs one kilogram and is decorated in meticulous detail with ribs and bosses, giving an impression of folded cloth. It was possibly worn as a garment for religious ceremonies by someone of great authority.

The object was found in pieces by workmen (accounts vary: either during the filling of a gravel pit or while they were quarrying for stone) in a grave with the bones of a man at Bryn yr Ellyllon (the Fairies' or Goblins' Hill), in Mold, north Wales, in 1833. The cape had been placed on the body of a person who was interred in a rough cist (stone-lined grave) within a burial mound. The preserved remains of the skeleton were fragmentary, and the cape was badly crushed. An estimated 200-300 amber beads, in rows, were on the cape originally, but only a single bead survives at the British Museum.

The British Museum came into possession of some of the pieces in 1836, but the remaining fragments were dispersed. In 1958 however a number of pieces comprising the majority of the cape were offered for sale on the continental antiquities market but British museums were unable to obtain funding to make a bid in time to secure it for the national collections.

As displayed in Copenhagen, the cape's breadth is 458 mm, clearly made to fit someone of a very slight build. Although the gender of the person buried in this grave remains unclear, the associated finds are likely to have been those accompanying the burial of a woman. As the cape extends so far down the upper body, it would have severely restricted arm movement by pinning them to the wearer's side, so that only the lower arms were usable. It has therefore been concluded that the cape would not have been suitable for everyday wear and most probably was used for ceremonial purposes, and may have signified the wearer as a person of spiritual or temporal power.

The British Museum and National Museum of Wales are currently engaged in negotiations with Copenhagen about the repatritation of this object, but the Danish popular press is unexpectedly opposed to any such moves. The object is felt to be comparable to the Nordic style of metalwork and new Age groups (Odinists in particular) feel this to be a sacred object which should remain in Scandinavia to be held in trust for all Nordic peoples. Needless to say, New Age groups in Britain have equal hopes that the object will return to England.

A replica of the artefact is displayed at the heritage centre and museum in Mold.

Photo: the Mold cape

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The Vindolanda Tablets

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Scattered heritage: The Vindolanda Tablets. Everybody knows that the Romans wrote on wax tablets, right? It was however a great surprise to learn that examples had been excavated in northern Britain, near Hadrian's Wall. The story is one of the tragedies of British archaeology.

John Scumby was a sheep farmer at Chesterholm at a place where the Roman Stanegate crosses the line of the Wall. His house lies just outside the boundary of the scheduled ancient monument of the Roman auxilliary fort (castrum) called Vindolanda one of the main military posts on the northern frontier of Britain before the building of Hadrian's Wall. In 1954 he allowed local Latin teacher John Snape to carry out excavations of some Roman walls in the farmyard behind the house. There was at this tme no official archaeological presence in the area (as in most of britain in the 1950s), but Oliver Mellors, an employee of the local museum dropped in from time to time to see what was coming up, but it was found that many of the walls had been robbed out and there were few finds. There was apparently a sharp disagreement between farmer Scumby and Mellors (it is believed it had something to do with the farmer's unmarried twenty-year old daughter) in May 1955, and collaboration between Snape and the museum came to an abrupt end, though it was known that Snape carried on digging there for another few years. He never published any report of this work.

In 1957 news got out that the Archaeological Museum in Tongeren, Brussels had acquired a massive group of several hundred recently-surfaced wooden writing tablets. Their source was apparently unknown, but as translations of the texts began to be published, it became clear that many are official military documents, and some referred to Tungrian auxiliary troops stationed in Britain. It may not be a coincidence that Tongeren was the central place of the Tungrian tribal lands, and the locals were soon celebrating the tablets as relics of their own regional ancestors. Scumby and Snape never admitted to finding the tablets and selling them abroad, and there was no possibility under British law of charging them with any offence, but most scholars are sure that the tablets came from Vindolanda, though excavations in the farmyard after the death of Mr Scumby in 1997 failed to reveal any trace of further tablets or deposits likely to contain them (this may be due to a lowevered watertable caused by land drainage schemes of the 1970s). Most British scholars today refer to the Tongeren tablets as the Vindolanda tablets.

These are the oldest surviving handwritten documents from Britain, they are written in Latin in Roman cursive script. While many are too fragmentary to make sense (probably partly due to unskilled conservation by the original finder) others have substantial portions of text surviving and are a superb record of everyday life in Roman Britain and throw light on the extent of literacy there in the second and third centuries. Most of the tablets are official military documents relating to the auxiliary units stationed at the fort. However, others are private letters sent to or written by the serving soldiers. They give remarkable insight into the working and private lives of the Roman garrison. One of the tablets mentions "Brittunculi" (diminutive of Britto; hence 'little Britons'), obviously a derogatory, or patronizing, term used by the Roman garrisons that were based in Northern Britain to describe the locals. The best-known document is perhaps Tablet 291 (photo at top of page), written around 100 AD by Claudia Severa, wife of Aelius Brocchus, the commander of an adjacent fort, to Sulpicia Lepidina, wife of Flavius Cerealis, Prefect of the ninth cohort of Batavians stationed at the Roman fort in Vindolanda, inviting her to a birthday party. Most of the letter is written by a scribe, but Severa added the last four lines in her own hand. These lines say “I will expect you, sister. Hail and farewell, sister, my dearest soul, so may I prosper”. (sperabo te soror/ uale soror anima/ mea ita ualeam / karissima et haue). This is one of the earliest extant examples of writing in a classical language by a woman's own hand.

Photo: Some more of the Vindolanda Tablets (Tongeren Museum of Prehistory).
The British have made a formal request for the return of the tablets, offering to reimburse the Belgian museum the cost of their original purchase plus adjustment for inflation. The Belgians have instead offered replicas of the tablets to be displayed in the local museum, plus making the texts and detailed facsimile photographs available online, but so far refused to negotiate the return of the originals.

See the Vindolanda tablets Online web resource.

"Britain's Scattered heritage": The Mildenhall Treasure


"Scattered heritage". The Dahlson ("Mildenhall") Treasure is one of the most important collections of silver tableware of the late Roman Empire, the tableware's style and decoration is typical of the fourth century AD. The artistic and technical quality of the silver is outstanding, and the vessels were probably owned by a person or family of considerable wealth and high social status.

The group surfaced on the international antiquities market in 1946, a Wisconsin antiquities dealer Ford Rennie III was attempting to sell it in New York. He had bought it from another dealer Stig Dahlson who said it had been found during the war in military operations in the Mediterranean region and it was accompanied by a Libyan export licence. This however turned out to be a forgery, no such licence had been issued by Libya. Mr Dahlson then disappeared and his body was found floating in the Hudson River two weeks later. Further investigation led scholars to believe that the treasure had been found in Europe and smuggled out of the source country by American servicemen. Circumstantial evidence pointed to the hoard having been ploughed up in the wartime "Dig for Victory" campaign probably in 1942 near Mildenhall in Suffolk. Attempts by Britain to reclaim the treasure were rejected by a New York court who declared that Mr Rennie had acquired them in good faith from Dahlson in the United States and no US law was broken, furthermore that there was no proof that the objects were from Britain. The dealer produced an expert witness from the Metropolitan Museum who testified that nothing of this quality had previously come from the British Isles and this hoard was "unlikely to be from Britain". Several items like it were seen on sale in the Middle East a few years later.

The Mildenhall Treasure is now housed in the Greek and Roman Gallery of the Metropolitan Museum, after it was purchased by Eufronios ("Teeny") Morgan and presented to the Museum in memory of his late father. There are those who are still hoping that one day it will return home to Suffolk.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The Chysauster Excavation Archive

The remains of the ancient village of Chysauster lie in a wild rugged landscape a few kilometres to the north-west of Penzance. The village consists of eight stone-walled homesteads known as courtyard houses, which are only found on the Land's End peninsula and the Isles of Scilly. Each house had an open central courtyard surrounded by a number of rooms roofed with turf or thatch. The houses are surrounded by an ancient field system and in the vicinity is a hillfort, to which it may have had a subservient relationship, or was used by the villagers who went there for markets, sanctuary or festivities. The site is well-preserved and visitors can easily get a picture of what life was like 2000 years ago.

The site was excavated by an expedition from the Cabodaroca University in Portugal in the 1930s, the team of archaeologists under the direction of Dr Hernando Hernandez-Villas worked here for six seasons, ending with the outbreak of War in 1939. The site was chosen for investigation as part of a project attempting to study Neolithic and Early Bronze Age links along the Atlantic coast with the spread of the "Megalith Culture". In fact, the site seems to date to the 2nd and third centuries AD. In common with many expeditions of foreign missions at this time, there was a system of partition of the finds, many boxes of material and all the excavation documentation (and all the metal finds) going to the Cabodaroca academy for further study, while some material remained behind in Penzance Museum. Hernandez-Villas died in 1952 and no final report of the excavation has ever appeared. British scholars have experienced problems accessing the material, and many promises to copy the field documentation and supply a translation from Portuguese have so far not been realised, and in 2008 the University placed a condition of restitution for 70 years' storage and conservation costs for the return of the material.


A landscape survey and small scale excavations in 1983-84 had two main elements: the study of the rectilinear field system, and the excavation of an earlier Bronze Age funerary cairn incorporated into one of the field boundaries. The field system probably originated in the second millennium BC and was heavily modified by more intensive Iron Age and Romano-British agriculture. Soil and pollen analysis produced evidence of deforestation and cereal cultivation predating the Bronze Age cairn, and of soil erosion caused by later cultivation techniques. The results of these excavations cannot be fully understood without the evidence from the 1933-9 excavations being made available.

Photo: Aerial photograph of Chysaster Courtyard houses excavated in 1933-9. Below, the field system and 1983-4 excavations.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The Sutton Hoo (Zotten) Treasure


After the 1941 German invasion and the establishment of a new government, many English landowners decided to sell up and leave the country. In 1942 Werner von Braun, director of the experimental weapons research facility at Aldesborough bought Sutton House and during levelling of the adjacent land for a private airport, a magnificent treasure was found in one of the mounds near the house. Excavations were taken over by the SS-Ahnenerbe who declared this "Fruhgermanische" treasure to be clear evidence of the link between the Aryan Anglo-Saxons with the germanic forebears of the peoples of the Grossdeutsches Reich. The treasure was donated by the von Brauns to the Berlin archaeological museum, with a few items going to the Kunsthistorische Museum in Vienna. On the fall of Berlin, the bulk of the Zotton treasure was taken to Leningrad, and returned to the museum in East Germany only in 1954. The von Braun family has since been trying to get it back and British politicians and publicists also press for its restitution to Britain.

The Zotton (Sutton Hoo) burial was accompanied by many rich objects, the possessions of a pagan warrior king: his helmet, coat of mail, sword, shield and spears, as well as a large quantity of gold-and-garnet jewellery (a purse with gold mounts and containing a group of gold coins, shoulder-clasps, and a great gold buckle). There also were two unique, but enigmatic, symbols of his power over the English: a whetstone "scepter" surmounted by a small bronze stag on a ring and a mysterious iron stand that may have served as a standard for the king. More mundane domestic items included buckets, tubs, and cauldrons; a collection of silver bowls from the eastern Mediterranean; wooden cups and bottles and a pair of large drinking horns, all with silver-gilt fittings; bronze hanging-bowls of Celtic design; an intricate hanging chain. The grave may be that of Rædwald, king of East Anglia, who died in AD 624/625, whom Bede identifies as the fourth bretwalda ("ruler of Britain") to have overlordship (imperium) of the other kingdoms south of the river Humber.

There are many people who feel that this material, from the tomb of one of the first kings of all the English should be brought home.

Photo: SS-Ahnenerbe ausgrabung Zotton in 1942. Ernst Petersen on the right; Shoulder clasp (B. Altgerm mus 19094.43) - from E. Petersen 1952: Früh-wikingerzeitliche Bootgräberfeld von Zotton, Bd 1 [in ASFgS n.s. heft 23]. Below: The treasure currently on display in Berlin.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The Lewis Chessmen

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"Scattered Heritage": The Lewis chessmen. By the end of the 11th century, chess was a very popular game among the aristocracy throughout Europe. This group of 78 chess pieces from the Isle of Lewis (in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland) is however one of the few complete sets of chessmen from Early Medieval western Europe, and certainly one of the most elaborate. At this time the islands had been ruled by the Kings of Norway. The chessmen had probably been made in Norway (perhaps by craftsmen in Trondheim where similar pieces have been found) and were probably part of the stock of a trader headed for the rich settlements of Ireland.

The pieces are carved in walrus ivory (with a few of whales' teeth) in the forms of seated kings and queens, mitred bishops, knights on their mounts, standing warders and pawns in the shape of obelisks. They come from several incomplete sets. Some of the figures are charming in their execution and facial expressions full of character, this together with the high standard of workmanship and decoration, made them eminently collectable as well as being iconic items used in many books on Medieval art and history.

The pieces were unearthed by Malcolm "Sprot" Macleod of Pennydonald in early 1831 in a small stone kist in a sand bank at the head of Camas Uig on the west coast of the iland of Lewis. The finder later sold them to Captain Roderick Ryrie who exhibited them at an April 1831 meeting of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. The chessmen were soon after split up, some being purchased by Kirkpatrick Sharpe and Lord Londesborough, while others went to several private collections on the continent (Denmark, Holland, Germany) and some of them being lost in the Second World War. The British Museum obtained a few, as did the Museum of Scotland.

There has been recent controversy about getting all the remaining examples back into a group and the most appropriate place for the main display of these pieces.

Photo: The Lewis Chessmen

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": Chronicles of the Kings of Alba

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"Scattered Heritage": Chronicle of the Kings of Alba (or "[Older] Scottish Chronicle"). This is a brief written chronicle of the Kings of Alba, covering the period from the time of Kenneth MacAlpin (Cináed mac Ailpín) (d. 858) until the reign of Kenneth II (Cináed mac Maíl Coluim) (r. 971–995) and is a vital source for the period it covers. The Chronicle is written in Hiberno-Latin, without doubt in Scotland, probably in the early eleventh century, shortly after the reign of Kenneth II, the last reign it relates.

The sole surviving version of the text comes from the Poppleton Manuscript, now in the national library of France, the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris, where it has been since the 17th century. A campaign for the Chronicles of the Kings of Alba’s repatriation was launched by Scottish politicians and historians in 2008.

Photo: Dunadd The Coronation site of Kenneth McAlpin

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The Alfred Jewel

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"Scattered Heritage": The Alfred Jewel is a piece of Anglo-Saxon goldwork dating from the late 9th century made in the reign of King Alfred the Great. It is inscribed "AELFRED MEC HEHT GEWYRCAN", meaning "Alfred ordered me made". It is about 61 mm long, made of gold woith filigree ornament, enclosing a highly polished piece of "rock crystal" beneath which is set a set a cloisonné enamel plaque, with an image of a man, perhaps Christ, with ecclesiastical symbols. A socket at the base was intended to hold a thin rod or stick.

The object's purpose is unclear, it most likely served as a pointer for following words when reading a book, perhaps one of the precious "æstels" Alfred had sent to each bishopric with a copy of his translation of Pope Gregory the Great's book Pastoral Care.

The jewel was discovered in 1693 at North Petherton near Bridgwater in Somerset on land owned by Sir Thomas Wroth (c. 1675–1721) North Petherton is about 8 miles away from Athelney, where King Alfred had founded a monastery. It was bequeathed to Oxford University by Colonel Nathaniel Palmer (c. 1661-1718) but was looted by Napoleon's troops in 1805 and somehow ended up in the collections of the Hermitage some time after 1815 where it has been ever since. Today a replica of the jewel can be found in the church of North Petherton.

Photo: Alfred Jewel

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The Doomesday Book


The Domesday Book recorded in two volumes the results of a great survey of the landholdings of England executed for William I of England, or William I (the Conqueror) Norman king of England. Its purpose was to find out what or how much each landholder had in land and livestock, and what it was worth and in particular what taxes had been liable under William's predecessor the Anglo-Saxon king Edward the Confessor. The judgment of the Domesday assessors was final—whatever the book said about who held the material wealth or what it was worth, was the law, and there was no appeal, which is why it was likened to the Book of Doomsday.

The survey was completed in 1086, and the results are presented in two independent works, the Little Domesday (covering Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex) and the Great Domesday (covering most of the rest of England). There is no survey of London. The volumes were written in highly abbreviated Latin, although there were some vernacular words inserted for native terms with no previous Latin equivalent. It is England's earliest surviving public record. As the first written account of "who owns what" in the history of common law, some have gone so far as to suggest that this book might represent the birth of the modern concept of property rights in the West.


The surviving copy of the Domesday Book was originally kept in the royal treasury at Winchester (the Norman kings' capital). When the treasury moved to Westminster, probably under Henry II, the book went with it. After 1696 it was kept in Westminster's Chapter House where it remained until it was taken by Napoleon's troops in 1805 as a trophy of the subjugation of England by the Norman kings. It has since been kept in the French National Libary, except during the War when it was evacuated to avoid it falling into the hands of the Nazi invader. Photographic facsimiles of Domesday Book, for each county separately, were published in 1861-1863 by the French government and translations in English and French are now available. The book was rebound in its ninth centenary in 1986, when Great Domesday was divided into two volumes and Little Domesday was divided into three volumes. There was an outcry in the British press and a viral internet campaign about the "dismemberment of the British heritage", leading to calls for an official enquiry to be convened under the auspices of UNESCO. Britain has unsucessfully been trying to obtain the return of the book since the 1920s, but in Paris the object is seen as a part of the French national heritage crucial to the commemoration of the place of France in the history of Europe.

Currently it is possible to consult the book's records online, using the PASE Domesday database, launched August 2010.

Photo: Doomsday Book before rebinding (National Library of France)

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The Wells Saints

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"Scattered Heritage": Wells Cathedral was a Church of England cathedral in Wells, Somerset, England, the seat of the Bishop of Bath and Wells. The cathedral, in the Early English style, was largely built under Jocelyn of Wells, and finished about 1260. The building was greatly enriched by the sculptural decoration of the west facade containing over 500 statues of saints. The cathedral suffered greatly upon the Dissolution of the Monasteries (1541), and then in the Civil War (1642–1651) . By the 1790s the structure was in great disrepair and the bishops were in need of a source of revenue to carry out necessary repairs. The Bishop of Wells was a scholar of the Enlightenment and was often heard loudly complaining about the 'barbarian' decoration of his Church which he wanted to see rebuilt in clean classical style.

An opportunity arose when the seventh Earl of Egenstein, the Hapsburg ambassador to the Court of St James decided to construct a massive Neo-Gothic church in Egenstein a small town in a valley in the Syldavian Mountains to the memory of his late father and requested permission to make drawings of some of the architectural elements of the structure in Wells. He employed artists to take casts and drawings under the supervision of painter Giovani Lusieri, but on discovering that for a fee the Bishop would allow him to dismount the remaining loose sculptures to take back to Austria, he set about this with teutonic thoroughness. By 1804 the statuary of the north tower had been taken down and boxed up, prompting Lord Byron, on his way through to loudly lament:
Dull is the eye that will not weep to see

Thy walls defaced, thy mouldering shrines removed...
Disaster struck however in 1809 when the ship carrying 82 crates of sculptures as well as a large part of the drawn documentation showing where they were to be located in the reconstruction was sunk in the Bay of Biscay. The remaining sculptures are now displayed in the Tureen gallery in Klov, the capital of Syldavia after they had been bought by the government to allow Egenstein to pay off some of his debts.

The British government has repeatedly asked for the sculptures to return, though it is unlikely that if this were to happen that they would be replaced on the building. This is because air pollution and acid rain would damage them. The town council has optimistically begun construction work on a 2,4 million pound cultural centre the focus of which will be a huge glass and steel dome which will house a replica of the facade of the Cathedral on which it is hoped the sculptures will be mounted and displayed in natural light. So far the Sylvanian government has refused, saying that returning the "Egenstein Sculptures" would lead to a loss of tourist revenue, as many people visit Klov and its museum specifically to see them.

Photo: Wells Cathedral today, scarred by removal of the sculptures (photo: author). Below, engraving of the facade before the removal of the sculptures (Author's collection) and photo of one of the statues (King David) in the Tureen Gallery.

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": Armada Portrait

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"Scattered heritage": George Gower, Portrait of Elizabeth I ("The Armada Portrait") Queen Elizabeth's forty year long reign was an iconic age for later generations, Britain was for a while an important European power and to some extent on the seas too, a period when the country's lost sense of national pride was restored and developed. Elizabeth was perhaps one of the earliest of the modern monarchs to understand the importance of public relations, and she used her portraitists as a form of propaganda to present her best self-image to her adoring public. In these works her image was carefully managed best show her in her position of power: as an icon of beauty, strength, and goodness. This image, in which realism played no part, utilised symbols and emblems recycled from biblical, classical, and mythological sources. The “Armada Portrait of Elizabeth I” painted by George Gower in 1590, is one of the chief examples of this and is an important piece of the cultural patrimony of the nation.

The work glorifies the aging Queen depicting her use of fine clothes, jewels, and cosmetics to maintain her glamorous image. The painting contains much symbolism, particularly the use of pearls and the globe. Pearls are said to have been Queen Elizabeth's favorite jewel. They were also a symbol of virginity and are used here to show her purity. In the picture Elizabeth's hand rests upon the globe and point towards the Americas, suggesting to the viewer that the British monarch's power extends far beyond the boundaries of her small island kingdom, a foretelling of the dream of a future British Empire.

In the background can be seen two scenes which to some extent depict God's acquiescence to these dreams. Through the window on the left can be seen the arrival of the Spanish Armada. in 1588. Spain's King Philip II had attempted to invade England to make the country a Catholic province of Spain. Philip's fleet of 132 ships was defeated in a sea battle with the English fleet of 34 ships and 163 armed merchant vessels. Faced with English fire-ships, the Spaniards broke formation and fled, and the escaping ships were ultimately destroyed by a storm. This is shown through the window on the right.

Gower’s painting hung for many years in the art gallery at Woburn Abbey near London, until the successful Napoleonic invasion in 1805. It was then removed together with many other artworks taken from the large houses of the landowning elite that were sacked by the invaders and used for billetting the troops. The painting now hangs in the Louvre. Heritage groups in Britain have long insisted that the object return, citing the illegality of the Napoleonic invasion as justification. The Louvre however has insisted that "La Reine Vierge" stays in France.

More on the painting here. Photo from here.

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": Shakespeare Folio

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"Scattered Heritage": An edition of the first folio of Shakespeare's plays printed in 1623 and valued at up to £3 million now in Australia is the subject of a huge diplomatic dispute between Britain and Australia. Britain claims the object was stolen twelve years ago, while the Coober Pedy Arts Institute (CPAI), a multimillion dollar institution created in 1999 claim to be its rightful owners and deny that Britain can prove that the copy they bought was stolen.

Britain alleges that the folio was among a number of valuable books and manuscripts taken from the library of Durham University in December 1998, where it had been since the seventeenth century. The object was sold by northern British art dealer, Raimund Welshman, who claimed he had got it from a contact in the Lebanon (where allegedly the book had been found in the library of a school set up there by French missionaries in 1921). The object was accompanied by a Lebanese export licence.

The volume was acquired in 2003 by the CPAI after it had been authenticated by the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC and the Lebanese export licence was checked and found to be genuine. British investigators allege the latter was obtained under false pretences, and the Folger should have noted the resemblance of the newly-surfaced work and the Durham example. Officials at the Washington museum counter that the newly-surfaced work was of completely different dimensions from the Durham one and bore none of the characteristic marks of the latter and was in a modern binding instead of the nineteenth century cover of the missing Durham volume. There was no reason to suspect that Mr Welshman had been involved in any theft, the object had a perfectly plausible sounding pedigree.

The first folio is regarded by academics as one of the most important printed books in English, as Bill Bryson, Chancellor of Durham University, says: “Like Shakespeare himself, this book is a national treasure, giving a rare and beautiful snapshot of Britain’s incredible literary heritage”. An estimated 750 copies were published by the actors John Heminges and Henry Condell in 1623, only seven years after the playwright’s death. The book contains transcripts of 36 plays, half of which had not previously been published, including Macbeth, Twelfth Night and The Taming of the Shrew. As the definitive anthology of his plays, it provides the basis for all subsequent collections. About 230 copies are recorded as “extant”, with more than a half in the United States. Fewer than 30 copies of the folio remain in Britain, including five at the British Library.


Britain has placed a formal request for the return of the volume, but the Board of Directors of the Coober Pedy Art Institute says that only if Britain can provide documentation that the item was stolen will they consider returning it, and they have Australian public opinion behind them. Obviously Shakespeare has a significance for the Australians too.

David Brown, 'William Shakespeare folio worth £15m recovered 10 years after being stolen', The Times July 12, 2008.

Photo: this is not the disputed Coober Pedy volume but one that looks like it.

"Britain's Scattered heritage": The Napoleonic Pillage

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"Scattered Heritage": In August 1805 after the defeat of the British fleet at the Battle of Cape Finisterre there was nothing to stop the French invasion of England. A brilliant tactician, Napoleon had achieved this and established a new government by the end of December. Among other things this made many art collections available for appropriation and removal to swell the encyclopedic collections of the Louvre, founded as a public museum in the 1790s. There the collected artworks from the areas of Napoleon's conquests (Italy 1796-7, Egypt 1798- 1801 and now the British Isles) were to form a permanent memorial to the pre-eminent position of France and its Emperor.


The extensive art collection of the British royal family built up by collector kings such as Charles I and also George III fell into French hands in the first weeks of the invasion when the troops stormed and then occupied several royal residences to apprehend the King who had gone into hiding. George was finally taken and his agreement to surrender his art collections as a personal gift to the Emperor was one of the conditions of him being reinstituted as colonial governor. Many of the nobility were not so lucky, their houses were sacked and fine furniture, paintings and sculptures seized and sold off at auction. Collections of financiers like John Julius Angerstein disappeared the same way and the French seized most of the parts of the Orleans Collection which had been taken from France to London a decade earlier. Another loss was the Townley collection which the British Museum was attempting to purchase at the time of the invasion.

Most tragic of all however was the looting of the British Museum itself , the officers stood by as French soldiery broke into the galleries and storerooms and sacked and smashed what they could not take away. The nation lost the entire collection of Sir William Hamilton and many other antiquities, illuminated manuscripts and printed works and other artworks.

On the restoration of sovereignty a number of items returned to Britain, but this is only a small percent of that which was destroyed or taken away and sold off after 1805. In particular the items which the King had personally given to the Emperor were not returned by the French government and to this day remain as the core of the Louvre collection which thus contains most of the extant portraits of the Tudor and Stuart monarchs and their families and associates by Holbein, Anthony van Dyck, Peter Lely and other painters important in the story of the development of British art, art collecting, national culture and identity.

Renewed attempts have in the past decade been made to challenge the French ownership of these artworks through the Council of Europe and the Brussels court system, but the matter is progressing very slowly. The Daily Mail newspaper has begun a campaign "Give Us Back Our Art: the Colonial Pillage Has to STOP" which is whipping up a lot of support.

Photos: Anthony van Dyck, portrait of King Charles I, Louvre (Emperor Napoleon Bequest). Holbein the Younger, the Ambassadors, looted from Longford castle and sold in Paris (de Dinteville collection, Policy, France). Sir Joshua Reynolds 1765. Portrait of George Clive and his family with an Indian maid (looted from Clive House, now in Munich, Germany), John Julius Angerstein, painted by Thomas Lawrence ca. 1790.

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The Reverend George Harrison


In 1821 the frigate Morning Cloud left Bristol in the South Pacific on a mission of exploration and trade. On arriving at the Rongo Rongo Islands, the crew put ashore for fresh water and food, but upon landing the shore party attacked a group of natives killing thirty of them with their superior firepower and then capturing and raping three women that had been with them. In the night however a raiding party of islanders moving stealthily under the cover of darkness, cut the mooring ropes of the ship which then ran aground on the reefs on the east side of the island. As the ship began to break up, the crew were forced to come ashore and were captured. One of the victims of the ensuing massacre was Rev. George Harrison of Islington who had joined the ship with the intention of founding a Baptist mission on one of the islands. It was later found out that Harrison and his companions had been eaten and his their heads shrunk and hung in the tribal leader's hut. Today the shrunken head of a caucasian man is displayed in the 'House of Independence National Museum of the Kingdom of Rongo Rongo' in the capital Mantatatutu and is reputed to be Harrison's. Relatives have asked for DNA testing to be carried out to determine whether the head is the priest's and have requested its return to England for proper burial, but the Rongo Rongo royal family has refused permission, claiming "the object (sic) is an important symbol of the fight of the Rongo Rongo people for their independence from colonial domination". The parishoners of Islington have begun a campaign to retrieve the head and asked the British Prime Minister to intervene.

Photo: the head of Reverend George Harrison

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": Gainsborough, Mr and Mrs Andrews

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"Scattered Heritage": Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) – This portrait of Mr and Mrs Andrews is one of the archytypal images of the eigthteenth century. It was painted in about 1750, shortly after the marriage of the young couple. The work successfully combines the gentry portrait at which Gainsborough excelled and from which he profited, with the landscape that he always wanted to paint. Gainsborough here displays his skills as a painter of convincingly changing weather and naturalistic scenery, still a novelty at this time. Rather than being depicted in a mythological landscape or park, Robert and Frances are shown relaxing under a tree on their Aubries estate near Sudbury in Suffolk. The tower of Lavenham Church can be seen in the background. The message of the work is pride in ownership, Robert stands nonchalently with a gun under his arm, while his wife sits on an elaborate Rococo-style wooden bench. The painting of Mrs Andrews's lap is unfinished, and commentators disagree what might have been intended to go there (book, game bird, child), and why it was not in the end painted in.

The painting follows the fashionable convention of the conversation piece, a (usually) small-scale portrait showing two or more people, often out of doors, here we are meant to admire Robert's progressive farming, lines of stubble showing that he has used a seed-drill. We are also expected to admire his other posessions, his dog, and his wife. The land shown is after harvest indicating the basis of their wealth and political power. But they are also shown as alien from it, their clothing is not that of a farmer, and the colours are a marked contrast to the hues of nature. It is also notable that the workers who produced their wealth are consicuously absent in this picture, giving this portrait an odd ambiguity. In the background the stormclouds are gathering as if to signal the onset of the industrial resolution which was soon to erode the economic monopoly of the landowning class.

Until some time in the 1950s the painting appears to have been in the possession of G.W. Andrews of Ashtead in Suffolk, a descendant of the individual portrayed. It seems then to have disappeared and has recently reappeared in the catalogue of a private collection of a Brazilian mobile phone company CEO.

Gainsborough, Mr and Mrs Andrews

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The Royal Philatellic Collection




"Scattered Heritage": The philatelic collection of the British royal family was in its day the world's most comprehensive collection of postage stamps of Great Britain and the Commonwealth and would have been of considerable historic and cultural value if it had been kept intact. Originally housed in St. James's Palace, the collection was begun in the early nineteenth century, key figures in its development were Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (the second son of Queen Victoria), and King George V, who became one of the most renowned philatelists of his time and built up a personal collection of world renown.
Tradition has it when King George V was in London he spent three afternoons a week with his stamp collection. He was very rarely interrupted. The King received stamps of the UK and many Commonwealth countries in mint blocks of four or six, and purchases of rare historical items we also made to enhance the Collection further. A particular strength of the collection were the many rare stamps from the earliest days of stamp usage in Great Britain in the period 1839-41, with stamp designs, proofs and colour trials, together with similar material from across the former British Empire and today's Commonwealth. Together they formed a prime source of evidence for the postal history of the British Empire and Commonwealth.

After the death of King George V, his son Edward inherited the collection. After he abdicated as King Edward VIII, the collection was taken by him to the continent. The Royal Philatellic Society (of which his late father had at one time been Executive President) protested, but there was nothing that could be done to prevent their export, stamps were not considered cultural property in 1936 and the collection was in any case the personal asset of the Sovereign. The fate of the collection is unclear, from time to time items have appeared on the market sold by Swiss auction houses which it has been rumoured come from the breakup of this once magnificent, significant and comprehensive historic collection.

View items from the former Royal Philatelic Collection in a special stamp gallery
Photo: The material comprising the former Royal Collection is now no longer available for study, this block of four Penny Blacks is from Ian Wright's website about his collection in Canada.

IMPORTANT: Disclaimer

Disclaimer: these pages are all part of Paul Barford's "Scattered Heritage" blog, while most of the objects are real, the "history" presented here is fictional. The idea is to turn the tables of the discussion on the repatriation of artworks and other cultural property by imagining that it is Britain (currently one of the countries retaining a lot of other people's cultural heritage) which through various accidents of history has lost its own cultural heritage. How would we react to that? Would we still be going on about "cultural cosmopolitanism" and the "values of encyclopaedic museums"? The resemblance to real persons and institutions, either living or defunct is, as they say, entirely coincidental.

http://scatteredheritage.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Britain's Scattered Heritage": The great aristocratic art sell-off

Britain's art galleries lose Old Masters as the owners of stately homes struggle to maintain run-down ancestral homes
By Andrew Johnson Independent, Sunday, 4 April 2010
The family silver has always proved a handy standby for aristocrats hitting hard times. But spare a thought for the current generation of earls and dukes. Things are so tight they are having to flog the pictures off the walls and the furniture from the living room. Charles, Earl Spencer and brother of Diana, Princess of Wales, is selling two Old Masters that have hung on the walls of Althorp, the family's stately home in Northampton, since the early 19th century.

The auctioneers Christie's announced last week that Rubens' A Commander Being Armed for Battle, first acquired by the Spencers in 1802, will be auctioned in the summer, along with King David, by Il Guernico, bought by the First Earl Spencer in 1768. The two works are among 500 lots from Althorp and are expected to fetch up to £12m and £8m respectively, helping to raise the £30m needed to fix the roof and carry out other restoration work.

Spencer is not the only duke with big bills. Last month Sotheby's boasted it would be handling the sale of "one of the most important Turners ever to come to auction". Modern Rome – Campo Vaccino is expected to fetch up to £18m. It was bought by the fifth Earl of Rosebery in 1878 and is being sold by a descendant.

There are normally three reasons for selling family treasures: to pay death taxes, to free up money to pay for repairs or simply to raise cash. The credit crunch has seen Old Masters return to prominence on the art market due to their long-lasting investment potential. But the sales are also raising fears that Britain's heritage is being shipped abroad. In December, the Christie family (no relation to the auctioneers) who run the Glyndebourne opera festival at their 700-year-old stately home in Sussex sold Il Domenichino's St John the Evangelist for £9.2m. The Government has since slapped a temporary export bar on the painting, giving British galleries a chance to buy it. Professor David Ekserdjian, of the Government's Reviewing Committee, which examines art sales, said: "It is the best work by the artist remaining in private hands and its departure from the UK would be lamentable."

An export ban has almost been placed on Rubens' Head of a Muse, sold at the same auction for £29.2m by the heirs of the collector Norman Colville. Similarly, the sale of the Turner will be a blow to the National Gallery of Scotland, where it has been on loan since 1978. The painting's sale is expected to smash records for Turner. Sotheby's David Moore-Gwyn said that the family are selling because "they need to divide up family assets to secure the future of the landed estates". He added that there is currently "a great appetite for masterpieces".

The director of the Tate, Sir Nicholas Serota, said: "It's very sad that, although it has been on long loan in Edinburgh, it's going to be sold." It is understood the painting was offered to the National Gallery of Scotland, but the gallery is currently raising £100m to keep two other paintings it displays on loan from an aristocrat – Titian's Diana and Acteaon and Diana and Callisto. Last year the Duke of Sutherland decided to sell them in order to "rebalance" his assets.
Ruth Watson, who presents Channel 4's Country House Rescue, said: "The truth of the matter is that so many of these people are living in ways that most people wouldn't tolerate – no heating, ceilings falling down or plaster falling off the walls. These houses are part of our landscape. We expect to see them and we want to see them. It really is a poisoned chalice to own one. There isn't enough money and they have to find a way to raise money." That is why in September the Earl of Devon sold 130 items of furniture and paintings from his ancestral seat, Powderham Castle, and Lord Hastings shifted 30 lots from Seaton Delaval Hall. Among the Powderham Castle lots were a portrait of Lady Honywood by the British artist Sir Joshua Reynolds and a George III mahogany table. The sale raised more than £1m for the castle's upkeep.


This problem is not a new one of course. At the beginning of the twentieth century art dealers most notably Joseph Duveen made fortunes by buying works of art from declining European aristocrats and selling them to the millionaires of the United States such as Henry Clay Frick, William Randolph Hearst, Henry E. Huntington, J.P. Morgan, Samuel H. Kress, Andrew Mellon, John D. Rockefeller, though rich North American clients included Canadian Frank Porter Wood. He famously attributed his success to noticing that "Europe has a great deal of art, and America has a great deal of money". Duveen played an important role in selling to robber barons on the notion that buying art was also buying upper-class status. The works that Duveen shipped across the Atlantic remain the core collections of many of the most famous museums. It was this drain on the national heritage that led to note being taken and the setting up of the National Art Collections Fund in 1903.

Vignette: Joseph Duveen.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

The UK's Export Control System for Cultural Property

The need to control the export of cultural property from Great Britain was first noted at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Objects contained in private collections in the UK became the prey of American and German collectors and it was apparent that much important material was being drained away and sold abroad at prices far higher than those that could be afforded by UK public collections and private buyers. The setting up of a National Art Collections Fund to help purchase important objects which would otherwise be taken abroad was only a partial answer to the problem.

There were no legal controls on the export of works of art and other types of cultural property until 1939, when Parliament enacted the Import, Export and Customs Powers Act, and in 1940 this was extended to antiques and works of art. In 1950 a committee was established under the chairmanship of the First Viscount Waverley to create a policy on controlling the export of “works of art, books, manuscripts, armour and antiques” and amenns of putting it into action, which are still in place today.

An eight-person independent reviewing committee on the ‘Export of Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest’ has existed since 1952 (Current members). This Committee is an independent non-statutory body whose role is to advise the Secretary of State in the following capacities: to supervise the operation of the export control system in general, to advise on the principles that should govern the export of works of art and antiques, to consider all cases where a refusal to grant a licence for a work of art or antique is suggested on grounds of national importance, and to advise where government purchase is the only way the object can be retained in the country.

The Committee’s deliberations on whether individual objects may be exported or not are guided by the three ‘Waverley Criteria’. At a hearing the applicant (exporter) and the expert advisors submit their cases at a hearingat which independent assessors of the relevant field are also temporarily seconded to the Committee. If the object meets at least one of the Waverly Criteria the Secretary of State is recommended to defer issuing an export licence to provide UK institutions or private buyers the chance to raise the money so that the item can remain in the country.

The Waverly Criteria:
· is it so closely connected with our history and national life that its departure would be a misfortune?
· is it of outstanding aesthetic importance?
· is it of outstanding significance for the study of some particular branch of art, learning or history?


See:
Clare Maurice and Richard Turnor (1992) The Export Licensing Rules in the United Kingdom and the Waverley Criteria International Journal of Cultural Property (1992), 1:273-296

The Export of Objects of Cultural Interest 2008-09 Appendix A (pp52-4) www.mla.gov.uk/what/.../~/.../RCEWA_Annual_report_08-09_sm_2.ashx.