Dr John Disney and Essex

The Morant Lecture 2015

The Morant Lecture 2015

Dr John Disney is best known for the creation of the eponymous chair of archaeology at the University of Cambridge, and the donation of the ‘Disney Marbles’ displayed in the Fitzwilliam Museum. Professor David Gill gave the 2015 Morant Lecture on the theme of ‘Dr John Disney and Essex’ in Ingatestone parish church. The church contains the grave of Thomas Brand-Hollis who bequeathed The Hyde, near Inagatestone, along with its collection of classical sculptures, to Disney’s father, the Reverend John Disney. The Reverend Disney had been co-minister of the Unitarian Essex Chapel in London alongside his brother-in-law the Reverend Theophilus Lindsey. Brand-Hollis was one of the main supporters of the chapel.

The Reverend Disney’s brother, Lewis Disney-Ffytche, lived at Danbury Place near Maldon. His daughter Sophia married (Dr) John Disney, and her sister Frances married (Sir) William Hillary (best known for founding the RNLI).

Dr Disney was recorder of Bridport in Dorset, and on moving back to Essex after his father’s death, stood as MP for both Ipswich and Harwich. He served on the committee to bring the railway to Chelmsford and Colchester. As a member of the Chelmsford Philosophical Society he helped to establish the Chelmsford Museum. He was also a key figure in the establishment of the Colchester and Essex Archaeological Society.

In later years he was a member of the board of Le Nouveau Monde Mining Company that was involved with the California gold rush.

Slides for the lecture can be found here.

See also:

Heritage Tourism and Suffolk

The Saxon Shore: Heritage Tourism and Suffolk

The Saxon Shore: Heritage Tourism and Suffolk

My paper on ‘Heritage Tourism and Suffolk’ explored the potential of creating a narrative looking at the transformation of Late Roman Suffolk to the East Anglian kingdom. Suffolk has the internationally significant ship burial site of Sutton Hoo, the newly explored vicus regius at Rendlesham, the reconstructed Anglo-Saxon village at West Stow (‘England’s oldest village’), and the harbour settlement of Ipswich (‘England’s oldest English-speaking town’).

The slides for the presentation are available here.

Visitor attractions in UK

The Duveen Gallery at the British Museum

The Duveen Gallery at the British Museum

The latest figures for the top UK visitor attractions for 2014 have been announced (see ALVA). Top of the list is the British Museum with 6.695 million visits. Other attractions that caught my eye include the Tower of London (no. 8; 3.075 million), Greenwich Old Royal Naval College (no. 13; 1.749 million), Edinburgh Castle (no. 17; 1.480 million), Stonehenge (no. 21; 1.346 million), The Roman Baths in Bath (no. 27; 1.143 million), Fountains Abbey (no. 77; 366,150), and Housesteads Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall (no. 162; 104,511). One of my favourite spots, Glenfinnan (NTS), came in at no. 212 with 20,491.

The list is demonstrating the importance of the heritage sector to the UK economy.

The Walls of Norwich

The Boom Towers on Carrow Bridge

The Boom Towers by Carrow Bridge (2015)

The tour of the medieval walls of Norwich was extremely instructive. We started at the Boom Towers adjacent to Carrow Bridge. These structures allowed a chain to be raised to restrict river traffic along the Wensum (although the position of the chain and winding mechanisms was not immediately clear). The damage to the tower since 1934 can be seen quite clearly here.

Tower on south side of Norwich (2015)

The Black Tower on south side of Norwich (2015)

We climbed up the hill from the river inspecting the well preserved walls and towers along the south side. For an image of the tower in the 1930s see here.

Detail of tower on south side of Norwich (2015)

Detail of the Black Tower on south side of Norwich (2015)

Notice the wall walk and the way that the staircase is mounted into the wall.

Terminal bastion (2015)

Terminal bastion or Oak Street Tower (2015)

We crossed the river to inspect this terminal bastion adjacent to the river in the northern part of the circuit.

Further details about the medieval walls of Norwich can be found here. A photographic record of the walls can be found here.

Signs and the Walls of Norwich

Norwich City Wall

Norwich: The Old City Wall (2015)

A group of us walked the line of the city wall of Norwich today. Some of the sections are well preserved, and the line is marked out along pavements and even in the middle of one of the roundabouts. We came across a number of metal plaques that noted ‘This forms part of the old city wall built during the 13th-14th centuries’.

One of the suggestions is that they were placed on the wall by the Office of Works either in the early part of the 20th century or in the 1930s.

Under Another Sky


I have been enjoying Charlotte Higgins, Under Another Sky: Journeys in Roman Britain (Vintage 2014). It took me on a tour of some of the key sites in Britain: and I was able to revisit some of them in my mind. Chapter 1 takes us from the beach at Deal (and Caesar’s landings) to the Roman colony at Colchester. Chapter 2 considers Boudica and Norfolk, with a stroll round Castor St Edmund (and I always make sure I sit on the correct side of the train to get the magnificent view of the town on the way up to Norwich). Chapter 3 searches out the remains of Roman London including trips into underground car-parks. Chapter 4 takes me back to my roots with happy walks around Silchester and its now carefully present amphitheatre. Chapter 5 looks westwards to Wroxeter and sites in Wales. It includes detail on explorations of the Wheelers including the legionary amphitheatre at Caerleon. Chapter 6 takes us to Bath and the Roman baths. We then head north in Chapter 7 to Hadrian’s Wall, complete with the music for Benjamin Britten’s ‘Roman Wall Blues’, and in Chapter 8 to the Antonine Wall. Chapter 8 takes a tour of York, and then in Chapter 9 there is a trip to Cumbria and the Roman fort in Hardknott Pass. There is even a mention of the so-called Crosby Garrett helmet (“I asked the Christie’s people how much work had been done  on the helmet to present it thus. Not much, they said breezily”.). Higgins then hopped down the Fosse Way to the Cotswolds for Chapter 11 (why not have it next to Bath in Chapter 6?) and a visit to Cirencester and the Corinium Museum as well as Chedworth villa. The final chapter (12) sees a return to Norfolk and Suffolk with a trip to Burgh Castle and thoughts on the Mildenhall Treasure.