ODNB life of Baroness Brigstocke, Classics teacher.

A Classics teacher and later headmistress of Francis Holland School is one of this week’s free lives from the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.

My link to the article is this.

Bear in mind that if you have a public library membership in England, you can probably get free access to the whole ODNB using your membership number.

Tourist piece on Cartagena Roman theatre

From Round Town News

The newly opened and magnificently restored Roman theatre at Cartagena is attracting large numbers of foreign and local visitors.

The 2000-year-old theatre is in the heart of the ancient city right opposite the old town hall and near the waterfront. The theatre was a focal point of social life in the opulent Roman urban area, with a large seating capacity that provided space for everyone from local dignitaries to the plebs up in the gods. The theatre was lost for well over a thousand years. After its Roman heyday Cartagena declined after being sacked by the Goths and reduced to ruins. Weeds grew where once the Romans had strolled and the theatre vanished into the ground. Eventually a market was built over the ruins and many of the stones were taken away and reused in other buildings and structures.

It wasn’t until the late 1980s that the ruins were uncovered again and archaeologists were stunned at the extent of the theatre. Over excavations lasting many years valuable finds were made. Then the decision was then taken to make the ruins safe and prepare them for public access. One of Spain’s most famous architects, Rafael Moneo, was entrusted with the project and he produced an innovative design for a facility which allows people to travel back into the past while preserving the dignity and historic atmosphere of the site. The entrance to the Roman Theatre and museum is right opposite the old town hall, in the former Palacio Pascual de Riquelme, itself an important historic structure. An exhibition tells the story of the discovery of the theatre, the archaeological digs and the way in which the design for the display was conceived and executed. There are lots of photographs and plans. Importantly, every information panel in the place contains full English translations. An auditorium shows a film explaining the story of the theatre and, with advance notice, this can be shown with an English soundtrack. Disabled access is excellent, with a lift between floors.

The facility is, in effect, divided into two main elements, connected by a tunnel which runs beneath the old Church of Santa Maria la Veija. As the visitor moves along, there are cases displaying many of the finds made during excavations, from the times of the Romans onwards. Islamic and Byzantine pottery and everyday pieces are on view showing the long history of the site. In one hall there is a huge statue discovered in the theatre of the Emperor Augustus, who was the first Roman Emperor and subsequently star of many a Hollywood toga spectacular. The statue is, sadly, without its head, but the folds of the Imperial toga are beautifully carved and fall in natural lines from the body. This huge statue would have presided over the city’s senate where all the important decisions were taken. The theatre itself is dedicated to two nephews of Augustus, who was born in 63BC and died in 14AD. There are richly carved pillars to admire and a series of circular altars to the Roman gods adorned with dancing girls and sacred birds. The tunnel leads beneath the old church, with massive foundations on view, and then visitors emerge into the daylight to find the theatre itself spread out below them. The semi-circle of seats, which could hold 6,000 spectators, curves around in front of the stage area where several of the columns have been re-erected and some reconstruction has been carried out to give an idea of the scale in Roman times. There are three horizontal sectors divided by five sets of stairs at the lower level and seven at the upper. Visitors can walk down the stairs into the lower areas to explore.

The design of the project is drawing rave reviews and Cartagena’s Roman Theatre has become one of Spain’s most popular historic sites. The theatre and museum is open, during the summer, from 10am to 8pm, without a break, from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 2pm on Sunday. Individual entrance is five euros or four euros for those who qualify for reduced rates. This is an ideal place for group visits and English language guides can be arranged. Telephone the Puerto de Culturas office on 968 500 093 for more information. A trip on the tourist boat, which provides an interesting trip around the ancient harbour leaves from the promenade near to the theatre and provides another reason to visit Cartagena. See www.cartagenapuertodeculturas.com It might be worth mentioning that gladiators did not fight in the theatre. They went to their deaths in the nearby arena. Currently this is in a dilapidated state but work will soon be under way to restore it with a new regional modern art gallery incorporated into the site.

Roman camp found outside Keswick

From the News and Star

By Ross Brewster


Last updated 12:15, Wednesday, 03 September 2008

A Roman camp, said to be of national significance, has been discovered on the outskirts of Keswick.

The discovery, near the famous Castlerigg Stone Circle, is thought to date back to the first century and has solved a mystery spanning hundreds of years.

Historians always predicted there was a Roman presence in the Keswick area and now the underground remains of an ancient structure the size of eight football pitches has been found.

The site, two miles east of the town, was almost certainly a base for soldiers campaigning north of the Border or resting on their return.

The remarkable chance breakthrough came as a team of volunteers working with the Bassenthwaite Reflections programme were searching for a second stone circle or 14th century castle at the prehistoric Castlerigg site.

Armed with magnetometers instruments which can detect buried walls the team stumbled on a giant enclosure which experts say is probably a missing link in a jigsaw plotting the Roman occupation of Cumbria.

Leading the search, archaeologist Mark Graham said he thought there was little doubt that the 200m by 200m find, with interesting curved corners, was a temporary camp, capable of holding large numbers of troops.

He explained: “It could have been an important part of the first push to ‘Romanise’ the area, perhaps as early as 70AD , a militarisation that extended across the county for 300 years. It possibly serviced campaigns into Scotland and acted as a base for soldiers heading north, or withdrawing.”

English Heritage has been informed and while there are no immediate plans to organise a formal dig, Mr Graham said it would be the only way to accurately date the structure. Further exploration could also reveal important artefacts.

“There is quite literally nothing to see above ground,” he said. “In fact, the land was ploughed until 30 years ago and is now used for hay and grazing. But standing on the site, it’s clear to see why it was chosen.

“In sight of Castlerigg Stone Circle, which was already 3,000 years old at the time of the Roman occupation, the elevated position was strategically well placed for defence. It also has lovely views over Bassenthwaite and to other Roman camps at Troutbeck.”

Mr Graham paid tribute to the unstinting work of volunteers. He said there was still a great deal of work to do in analysing the results and assessing the full implications of the discovery.

Mark Cockbain, of Rakefoot Farm, said his family owned and farmed the land and he was thrilled.

He said: “An aerial photograph by Stuart Holmes revealed a crop mark which I thought might have been the lost manor of Castlerigg. “That’s what the volunteers were looking for, or a possible second stone circle.

“What they’ve found is amazing,” he said.

Roman settlement on Cleveland coast found

From The Northern Echo

Roman settlement unearthed in field

7:00am Wednesday 3rd September 2008

By Graeme Hetherington »

AN archaeologist has uncovered the foundations for a Roman settlement on the picturesque east Cleveland coast.

Steve Sherlock, whose painstaking work in a farmer’s fields near
Loftus uncovered evidence of Anglo-Saxon royalty last year, has
returned to the site – and been able to go even further back in time in
the latest dig.

Mr Sherlock, who has been helped by volunteers from Teesside
Archaeological Society, was thrilled and surprised by the look-out
station, discovered just inches below the surface.

And his painstaking work has resulted in him discovering a 1,600 year-old site for creating jet jewellery.

He said: “It’s another completely exciting find – even though I
didn’t expect to find it. I came here to find a Saxon settlement and
I’m discovering a very significant Roman site, too.

“To find a significant Roman site at Street House that is
contemporary with the Roman signal station at Huntcliff is fantastic.
Here at Street House we have found a Roman jet working site that would
have made jet jewellery.”

Aerial photographs first guided Mr Sherlock’s Iron Age research
project to the location in 2004, showing evidence of an Iron Age
enclosure, then last year, the site revealed 109 Anglo Saxon graves,
dating back to the seventh century.

A hoard of brooches, pendants and beads was also uncovered in
superb condition and a gold brooch – a bracteate – will go on show in a
special display at Redcar’s Kirkleatham Museum this week.

Coun Sheelagh Clarke, Redcar and Cleveland Council’s cabinet member
for culture, leisure and tourism: “This is another magnificent find
that shows what a rich and varied cultural heritage we have in east

An open day on Sunday, September 7, from 10.30am-4pm, including
guided tours at the site will clearly show visitors the entrance to the
building, a cobbled road leading to the entrance and the stone

The event will also feature a craft session for people to paint a
clay replica of the brooch, then have it glazed while they tour the
site on a visit, expected to last 20-30 minutes.

Archaeological dig confirms Roman presence in Moray

From the Press and Journal

Ball pin head, a dagger and pieces of harness among artefacts found

Published: 03/09/2008

ARCHAEOLOGISTS and volunteers at the Birnie dig site, near Elgin, have uncovered more evidence of the Romans’ presence in Moray.

The team, led by Fraser Hunter, curator at the National Museums of Scotland, is excavating two 2,000-year-old roundhouses.

During the last week, they have uncovered several items, including a small glass ball pin head, a dagger and the remains of a bronze horse harness.

Mr Hunter said the artifacts are further evidence of the high status of Birnie’s former Roman inhabitants, and show that it was one of the most powerful places in Moray during the Iron Age.

He said: “There have been some good items found this year.

“The glass ball pin head is particularly rare, and a very unusual thing to find here.

“This excavation is producing a wealth of information of how the site must have looked back then.

“It is also helping us understand why the Romans came here and why it was so important to them.”

The site came to prominence eight years ago when about 300 silver Roman coins were discovered there.

Archaeologists have since returned to the site every year to search for more treasures.

Mr Hunter’s team will continue to dig at the site for a further two years to finish the excavations.

He is also opening the site for public tours on Sunday, and said that some of the pieces found this year will be displayed at Elgin Museum.