Wednesday 19 October 2016

Visiting the Society of Antiquaries

The 'day job' can sometimes get me into interesting places, which is how I came to be at a seminar with other PhD students at Burlington House, which is the London home of the Society. It is an amazing place full of all sorts of treasures, and a wonderful library which I hope to be exploring further at some stage in the future. The Society also looks after Kelmscott Manor in the Cotswolds which is the former home of Pre-Raphaelite  William Morris - so I'm putting that one on the agenda for next summer, when the house is again open to the public. In the meantime, back to Burlington House. Apart from the library, the house is full of quirky treasures and paintings - things that have been acquired and donated by collectors since the Society began in 1707. The various lectures and talks we enjoyed during the day have given me ideas for my research and also the stirrings of what might turn themselves into thriller plots at some stage in the future. We shall see.

Serendipity was at work at the start of the day - I had an overnight in a nearby hotel and on the wall in the street outside was a blue plaque for Sir Mortimer Wheeler, an archaeologist who was a TV personality when I was very young. I vaguely remembered a luxuriant moustache. His name turned up an hour or so later, as one of the Fellows of the Society.  The kind of slightly edgy coincidence that gets the brain going - or it does, if you are a thriller writer.

Remembering my recent research into Richard III (See the post for 28th September) I was interested in seeing the earliest portrait of him, and the Bosworth Cross, which is said to have been recovered from the battlefield where it was used by Richard in religious services. Both are among the Societies treasures. I was expecting to have to ask nicely to see them but the portrait was on display on the wall of the room where most of the talks took place and the Cross was in a glass case in the foyer. Which rather sums up the kind of place it is - a building with fascination stuff on display on every floor.

I had a wonderful day - even though the journey home was horrendous as the Severn Tunnel is closed and on top of nearly an hour for an extra  trip around Gloucester the train was 40 minutes late.

While the Society's London premises are not open to the public on a casual basis, you can book to have a paid tour and they have an active programme of free public lectures on a wide variety of topics. If you are into history and archaeology, well worth a look. And you get a peek inside the building.

This is a link to their site, if you want to explore further. HERE

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