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THE

Archaeological Journal.

 

MARCH, 1844.


 

In presenting to public attention a new project for the encouragement of intelligent researches into British antiquities, and vigilant care for their preservation, no preliminary commendation of such subjects of enquiry may now appear to be requisite, such as the oration delivered in 1589, by the Historian of Cornwall, Richard Carew, in praise of the study of antiquity, and received on his admission to the Society, formed in 1572 by Archbishop Parker, with no small applause. Our fellow countrymen need not to be reminded now, as in the charter granted by George II. on the foundation of the existing Society of Antiquaries of London, that "the study of antiquity, and the history of former times, has ever been esteemed highly commendable and useful, not only to improve the minds of men, but also to incite them to virtuous and noble actions." At the present time, the love and the study of ancient and historical monuments, which appear to have first assumed a definite character under the influence of Archbishop Parker, no longer confined to a limited number of curious enquirers, have become a national and a prevalent taste. The progressive advance of such a taste may be marked from year to year, not less in the formation of numerous local societies, and private collections, or in costly undertakings for the support or restoration of ancient public monuments, than in publications, by means of which the obscurities of the science of Antiquity have been rendered comprehensible and acceptable to the public.

The general impulse which, of late years, throughout almost all countries of western Europe, has caused an increasing attention to be paid to ancient memorials of a national and medieval character, in place of the exclusive admiration of objects of more remote antiquity, and more pure and classical taste, but of foreign origin, has now attained a great degree of popular favour. The collectors of fossils, termed by them "figured stones," in the last and previous centuries, have been succeeded by geologists, who have found the ground-work of a Science in facts, formerly incomprehensible, and objects of mere curious admiration. Thus also are the students of Antiquity now no more compelled to have recourse to vague terms in describing objects which present themselves, attributing to a Druidic, a Roman, or a Danish period, remains which formerly might have perplexed them by their antique aspect: the characteristic distinctions of every period are now in great measure understood, and Archæology, even as regards medieval relics, assumes the position of a defined science. Some effort then, in extension of the operations of an Institution, such as the Society of Antiquaries, which, although of a national and distinguished character, no longer fully supplies the exigencies of the occasion, as it did most amply at the period of its foundation, may now appear not only desirable, but almost indispensable. As the number of persons who take a lively interest in ancient National Monuments increases, the monuments themselves gradually disappear, either by decay of time, wanton destruction, or injuries inflicted, without ill intention, by those who are ignorant of their value. To preserve from demolition or decay works of ancient times which still exist, is an object that should merit the attention of Government, not merely on account of their interest as specimens of art, but because respect for the great Institutions of the country, sacred and secular, and a lively interest in their maintenance, must, as it is apprehended, be increased in proportion to the advance of an intelligent appreciation of monuments, which are the tangible evidences of the gradual establishment of those Institutions. No preservative control, however, which could be exerted by any legislative measure, could, as it is believed, prove so efficient in protecting public monuments from injury, as the more general extension of such a feeling throughout all classes of the community. The charter of the Society of Antiquaries of London makes no allusion to the preservation of national monuments by influence, or direct interference, when menaced with destruction. From peculiarities of its constitution, it may be doubtful whether it ever could attain the requisite degree of extended influence for such purpose: the operation of the Society being at present almost exclusively limited to the portion of its members who reside in London, with few, if any, means of securing local co-operation throughout the country. In pursuance of these considerations the British Archæological Association has been devised, wholly independent of the said Society, yet wholly subsidiary to its efforts, and in extension thereof; the system of operation, of which the project is now submitted to the public, being such as has been deemed more generally available to all classes, as a ready means of obtaining any desired information on ancient arts and monuments, and of securing their preservation, through the medium of an extended correspondence with every part of the realm. Conducted with the immediate concurrence of the officers of the Society of Antiquaries, and favoured by the sanction and patronage of its most distinguished members, no kind of rivality or interference with the recognised province and professed objects of that Society is contemplated, or can justly be apprehended. The new project is adapted, as far as has been at this moment practicable, to form a subsidiary means of more fully supplying the exigencies of the present occasion, which have arisen from the more extended, and rapidly advancing interest in Archaic researches.

The means now proposed for attaining the objects desired may be thus concisely stated. A central and permanent Committee has been formed of persons resident in Loudon, and purposing to hold meetings every fortnight during the greater portion of the year. In the composition of this body it has been endeavoured to secure in every department of Art or Antiquarian research, the co-operation of the persons best qualified, whose aid could possibly be secured, to represent each subject respectively, such as Primeval Antiquities, Numismatic Science, Architecture, Art, Sculpture, Painting on glass, or other accessory decorations. To persons living far from London or chief towns, an occasion is thus presented of readily obtaining practical suggestions on any point which might induce them to desire reference to such a Committee, either on the restoration of sacred or other ancient structures, and their appropriate decoration, or general information on any subject of research connected with Antiquity. The primary intent of the Committee is to collect and to impart such information; it is therefore desirable to organize a system of local correspondence throughout the country; and in order that, if possible, corresponding associates may be obtained in every town and parish of the realm, no onerous annual contribution is required, the observation of such facts as may present themselves, and the contribution of them towards the common stock of knowledge, being all that is expected. The immediate wants of the Committee have been supplied, sufficiently for the present purpose, by voluntary annual contributions, and as the occasions of rendering such funds available for purposes of general interest may quickly increase, contributions of small amount will be thankfully received from any persons, whose means or inclination dispose them to aid the Committee in this manner, without encroaching upon domestic, parochial, or other more imperative claims. The Committee have indeed in view means of obtaining from other sources funds sufficient for their purposes; and it is obvious that some such resources will be essential to give full effect to their preservative efforts; but it is distinctly to be understood that there is no intention at any future time of exacting any annual subscription. Until adequate supplies may be at disposal, it is not unreasonable to believe that in any sudden emergency, when the existence of a monument of public interest may depend on the advance of a small pecuniary aid, it would be only requisite to submit the case properly to public consideration, either through the agency of correspondents, or in the quarterly publication of the Committee, to secure, without any direct solicitation, the desired assistance. That publication, edited by a sub-committee, is intended to serve as a medium of exciting interest and imparting information, of recording all facts and discoveries, brought under the notice of the Committee, even of a kind which at first sight may be deemed trifling, and of calling attention to cases when public monuments may be exposed to injury or desecration. On such occasions it is proposed, by courteous representation or remonstrance on the part of the Committee, to seek to excite a more just value for ancient objects of public interest; and to offer pecuniary aid in some cases, as far as the available funds of the Association may permit, not however with the intention of intruding on the proper department of those whose position should render them the guardians of such objects entrusted to their care, but of encouraging their efforts, and giving aid in carrying them into effect. It is proposed to give in this Journal summary and familiar suggestions or instructions on every department of research, so as to direct the enquiries of correspondents, and explain to those, who may be uninitiated in such matters, the practical means whereby their researches may be carried forward in a manner most agreeable to themselves, and most available for the common object. The best publications, in which more extended information may be found, will be pointed out, and notices of all new works on Antiquities published at home or on the Continent, or announced for publication, will be regularly given. Long and elaborate dissertations, or detailed descriptions of monuments, requiring numerous illustrations, will not properly find a place in a journal of unpretending character and moderate price. Such communications addressed to the Society of Antiquaries, through the medium of any member of its body, will always be acceptable, and received with due attention; and it may be further observed that the Society is accustomed to allot to the author of any communication considered by the Council deserving to be printed in the Archæologia, a certain number of copies. From time to time, however, the Journal will present illustrated descriptions, exhibiting characteristic specimens of camps or primeval works, roads, edifices, sacred, military, or domestic, and antiquities of every kind, so as to supply general observations in a more instructive manner, and models for the preparation of illustrated descriptions of similar monuments. Whenever any structure may unavoidably be condemned to demolition, it is recommended that a proper description, with plans and drawings, should be carefully prepared; but as these descriptions may be too extended to allow of their publication in full, such an abstract, as may properly be brought within the scope of the Quarterly Journal, will be given, and the originals preserved for reference, or subsequent use. Documentary evidences, charters, inventories, or wills, may be made available with explanatory comments, when they illustrate things substantial, by supplying either facts, such as the date of a structure, the expenses incurred in its construction, or details connected with costume, heraldry or decoration, and so forth. But such evidences bearing solely on local or genealogical history, are not considered as within the scope of an endeavour which addresses itself properly to the illustration of tangible things. Foreign discoveries, the proceedings of the French "Comité des Arts et Monuments," and other Continental Societies, will be noticed, especially as illustrative of our National Antiquities: and with the view of instituting a comparison of analogous facts, an extended correspondence, both with Societies and individuals in all parts of Europe, is desired.

During the progress of public works, such as cuttings in the formation of railways, sewers, or foundations of buildings, the Geologist has often reaped a rich harvest of facts, but numerous discoveries of equal interest to the Antiquary continually present themselves on such occasions: the Committee purpose, as far as may be possible, to secure the careful observation and record of such discoveries, and preservation of the objects found. Lastly, it is hoped that a proper representation of the importance of the desired object, in any case that may occur in regard to the preservation of public monuments, will be found promptly to secure not only the concurrence of individuals, but the sanction and support of Government, according to the exigency of the occasion. So long as no Preservative Commission, or other National effort, may be considered requisite by the State, the Committee purpose to take such measures as may appear consistent with propriety, to solicit, whenever it may be necessary, the attention of the Government to the preservation of all the substantial evidences which serve to shew the progressive establishment of the Institutions of the Country. albert way.