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The Parkers of Heytesbury: Archaeological Pioneers

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 September 2010

Paul Everill*
Affiliation:
Paul Everill, Department of Archaeology, University of Winchester, Winchester SO22 4NR, UK. E-mail: paul.everill@winchester.ac.uk

Abstract

This paper uses original documentary evidence held in the archives of the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in Devizes to reassess the work of William Cunnington, FSA, carried out on behalf of Sir Richard Colt Hoare, and the contribution of his two principal excavators, Stephen and John Parker, of Heytesbury, in Wiltshire. Previously the Parkers have been regarded as little more than regular labourers on Cunnington’s pioneering excavations; the evidence now suggests that they (and in particular John) were, in fact, key to the success of Cunnington’s work. By the time of Cunnington’s death in 1810, John Parker was identifying new sites on the Wiltshire Downs and, on occasion, taking sole responsibility for excavating and interpreting them. After 1810 Hoare sponsored few further excavations and, though John was employed on at least one occasion, in 1814, the Parkers dropped back into obscurity and poverty without the regular employment, and perhaps protection, provided by Cunnington. Although John’s obituary in 1867 described him as Cunnington’s ‘principal pioneer’, no research has previously been undertaken that specifically considers the contribution of the Parkers in those early British excavations. This paper seeks to redress that oversight.

Résumé

Cette communication se sert des indices documentaires d’origine qui se trouvent dans les archives de la Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society [Association d’Archéologie et d’Histoire Naturelle du Wiltshire] à Devizes dans le but de réévaluer les travaux de William Cunnington, FSA, exécutés pour le compte de Richard Colt Hoare, et l’apport de ses deux fouilleurs principaux: Stephen et John Parker de Heytesbury, Wiltshire. Jusque là, on estimait que les Parkers n’étaient guère que des travailleurs ordinaires pour les fouilles novatrices de Cunnington; les indices suggèrent à présent qu’ils étaient en fait la clé du succès (en tout particulier John) des travaux de Cunnington. A l’époque de la mort de Cunnington en 1810, John Parker était en train d’identifier de nouveaux sites dans les Wiltshire Downs et assumait parfois la responsabilité entière des fouilles et de l’interprétation des découvertes. Après 1810, Richard Colt Hoare ne parraina que quelques autres fouilles et, bien que John ait été employé pour au moins l’une d’entre elles, en 1814, sans l’emploi continu, et peut-être sans la protection fournis par Cunnington, les Parkers retombèrent dans la pauvreté et dans l’obscurité. Bien que la notice nécrologique de John, en 1867, l’ait décrit comme le ‘découvreur principal’ de Cunnington, des recherches dans le but de prendre tout particulièrement en considération l’apport des Parkers à ces premières fouilles britanniques n’avaient pas été entreprises auparavant. Cette communication cherche à remédier à cette omission.

Zusammenfassung

Dieser Bericht stützt sich die Erschließung von orginalen Quellen aus den Archiven der Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society in Devizes um das Werk von William Cunnington, FSA, zu re-interpretieren, und den Beitrag, den die beiden Ausgrabungsleiter Stephen und John Parker, aus Heytesbury, in der Grafschaft Wiltshire geleistet haben, zu bewerten. Bisher wurden die Parkers als wenig mehr als reguläre Arbeiter bei Cunningtons bahnbrechenden Ausgrabungen angesehen; neueste Belege weisen jedoch darauf hin, daß sie (inbesondere John) jedoch der Schlüssel zum Erfolg von Cunningtons Werk waren. Als Cunnington im Jahr 1810 verstarb, entdeckte John Parker immer noch neue Ausgrabungsstätten in den Wiltshire Downs und war gelegentlich allein für deren Ausgrabung und Interpretation verantwortlich. Nach 1810 förderte Richard Colt Hoare nur noch wenige neue Ausgrabungen und obwohl John noch mindestens einmal im Jahr 1814 in einem Arbeitsverhältnis stand, verfielen die Parkers wieder in Obskurität und Armut, ohne reguläre Arbeit und ohne den Schutz, den Cunnington ihnen vielleicht gewährte. Obwohl John’s Nachruf im Jahr 1867 ihn als Cunningtons ‘Hauptpionier’ bezeichnete, wurden bisher noch keine Studien durchgeführt, die sich darauf beziehen, welche Rolle und Beitrag die Parkers in diesen frühen britischen Ausgrabungen geleistet haben. Diese Abhandlung soll diese Lücke füllen.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © The Society of Antiquaries of London 2010

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References

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