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William Cunnington - Commemorating 200 years of one of Britain's first archaeologists

I posted something about William Cunnington, 200 year anniversary of death, at the beginning of December (now removed to avoid duplication). Am glad to see the Wiltshire Heritage Museum are marking the occasion. A 'must visit' to the museum some time very soon.

(From their website)
The Wiltshire Heritage Museum will be commemorating the 200th anniversary of the death of one of Britain's first archaeologists, William Cunnington, by displaying two fragile manuscripts not normally seen by the general public – the original account of the discovery of Bronze Age gold objects from a woman's grave at Upton Lovell, near Warminster, and beautiful watercolour drawings of the objects, painted by surveyor and artist Philip Crocker. Cunnington, who died on 31 December 1810 and is buried at Heytesbury Church, excavated hundreds of Bronze Age barrows in the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, and discovered the most outstanding group of early Bronze Age finds in Britain, most of which are on permanent display in the Museum.

A wool merchant and linen draper from Heytesbury, William Cunnington became an archaeologist after being told by his doctor to 'ride out or die'. He was fascinated by the prehistoric remains he saw all around him, and in 1803 he began to excavate for Sir Richard Colt Hoare, the owner of the Stourhead Estate and a member of a wealthy banking family. Colt Hoare, who was by his own admission 'barrow mad', provided the finance for the excavations and later published the results in the pioneering History of Ancient Wiltshire - the first account of the archaeology of the County.

Cunnington was a pioneer of excavation and the first scientific archaeologist. He was thorough, paid careful attention to detail when excavating and had a painstaking regard for the facts. He wrote many comprehensive reports and the Museum holds thirteen manuscript books, bound into three volumes, containing the records of his excavations. The objects he excavated were acquired by Sir Richard Colt Hoare in 1818 and in 1883 they were acquired for the Museum where they are still on display and remain vitally important for archaeological research.
Lisa Webb, Curator says, "the Stourhead Collection contains many unique and rare artefacts including fine examples of prehistoric pottery, weapons and jewellery, which form the core of the permanent displays at the Museum. I am delighted that we are able to put on display some of the unique and beautiful drawings made by Philip Crocker which we rarely show visitors because of their fragile nature."
The items will be on display until late January. Usual Museum admission charges apply.
tjj Posted by tjj
26th December 2010ce
Edited 26th December 2010ce

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