New museums book is suburban chic

Press Release: 08/07/2008

Close up of a silver bird-headed pin from a Roman child’s grave in St Martin’s Close

A new book has been published detailing more than 20 years’ work by the archaeologists who excavated the city’s defences and historic suburbs.

The book, edited by Winchester City Council’s Curator of Archaeology, Helen Rees, and jointly published with English Heritage, examines nearly 3,000 objects ranging from a stunning silver bird-headed pin from a Roman child’s grave in St Martin’s Close to the more humdrum items that tell us about the crafts, industry and everyday life of the last 1700 years.

Artefacts and Society in Roman and Medieval Winchester: Small finds from the suburbs and defences, 1971-1986, is one of a series of books reporting the results of excavations in the 1970s and early 1980s.

Finds are catalogued according to the manner of their use, and arranged under headings like ‘Personal Adornment and Dress’ or ‘Bone and Hornworking’. Brief descriptions place the individual sites in context, with the last section of the book offering a synthesis and discussion.

Helen Rees, an archaeologist and pottery specialist, has worked with Winchester City Council since 1991, and had the task of managing the English Heritage funded and monitored project. This involved dealing with two dozen contributors and a vast amount of data.

She said: “It was such hard, painstaking work for so many people to research this collection, and then for me to edit the resulting reports into a seamless whole: I can hardly believe it has finally made it into print.  We are all celebrating the book’s arrival.”

Cllr Patricia Stallard, Portfolio Holder for Heritage, Culture and Sport, said: ”I am very proud of Helen and her colleagues for bringing this fascinating book into being. It’s all too easy to enjoy the exhibitions and events that our museums team lay on without realising that everything we do is underpinned by this slow and highly specialised academic work. Publications of this kind have helped to build a national reputation for our Winchester Museums.”

English Heritage added: “Winchester is one of our greatest and most interesting historic cities, and we hope that this work will provide its present-day inhabitants with a greater understanding of its past. We are proud to be associated with this project and congratulate the hard work and dedication of Winchester Museums Service staff, past and present, who have contributed to this impressive report.”

Helen and her colleagues have already turned their attention to the next major volume which is called Food, Craft and Status in Medieval Winchester which is expected out later this year.

The illustrated 433 page book – priced at just £36 – is available from the City Museum in The Square, Winchester. Alternatively contact Winchester Museums on museums@winchester.gov.uk or (01962) 848 269