A kind comment from a reader:
Art at ArchFest 2018 (August 7)
Impressive variety of art in both subject and media.
Well done to all the artists!
Continuing my quest to visit every site featured in the 2017 temporary exhibition, ‘British Art: Ancient Landcapes’, last week my wife and I visited the Devil’s Den, near Marlborough. This is a neolithic passage tomb, thought to be about 5000 years old, and featured in at least two of the artworks in the exhibition. One was John Piper’s 1981 cartoon for the stained glass window in Wiltshire Museum, Devizes (Fig. 1) and the other was in a cabinet in Gallery 1 which, if I recall correctly, was A.C. Smith’s ‘Cromlech in Clatford Bottom – The Devil’s Den’, (Fig. 2).
The Devil’s Den was first recorded in 1723 by the antiquarian, William Stukeley, whose illustrations show a long barrow of considerable length with several large sarsen stones, of which only three remain today, arranged similarly to a Welsh cromlech.
As pointed out by various commentators on ‘Trip Adviser’, the Devil’s Den is not easy to find and it’s difficult to get to as it’s on private land, albeit with permissive access, and with no convenient parking. Not having an appropriate Ordance Survey map to hand, I had to rely on an aged Readers Digest/AA Book of the Road, on which the Devil’s Den wasn’t marked. Hence I downloaded the route from the AA Classic Routefinder, which instructed us to leave Salisbury on the A345, turn right onto the A4 towards Marlborough and then take the first left towards Fyfield Farm.
This particular lane was marked ‘No Public Vehicular Access’, so we parked on the verge at the start of the lane. I walked back to a finger post to check that it directed us to the Devil’s Den, but it was just a ‘bald’ sign with no directions to anywhere marked!
We walked up the incline to the end (Fyfield Farm). En route we met a delivery van coming the other way and stopped him to ask if the lane led to the Devil’s Den and were surprised to hear he’d never heard of it. This was another experience shared with commentators to ‘Trip Adviser’! At Fyfield Farm we again asked directions and this time were directed along a u-shaped track between hedges. The lady confirmed that there were no signposts to the Devil’s Den, and further assured us that we would be the only people there!
At the end of the track was a gate into a field warning us to ‘Beware of the bull’ (Fig. 3) … but the cromlech was nowhere in sight!
Climbing a hillock, I was relieved to see the cromlech, still some distance away across a field. This field was dotted with large boulders (Fig. 4) of which we’d seen several more on the approach lane and track – a classic glacial boulder field, and presumably the source of the Stonehenge sarsen stones. As noted by others on ‘Trip Adviser’ the paths leading to the cromlech/dolmen1 are not well worn and, in fact, are very indistinct, indicating that the monument is not frequently visited.
On arrival we found an impressive structure consisting of two standing stones, a capstone and two fallen stones (Fig. 5) , these being all that remain of what was the entrance to a long mound thought to have been about 230 feet long. The capstone is believed to weigh in excess of 17 tons.
As might be expected with an ancient tomb, there is much folklore associated with the Devil’s Den. Indeed, the Devil himself, is said to yoke up four white oxen in an attempt to dislodge the capstone. Another local tradition says that if water is poured into hollows in the capstone (Fig. 6), the water mysteriously vanishes during the night having been consumed by the demon who haunts it. Yet another tale concerns the eerie baying of a hound at night.
When we visited, these hollows contained evidence of substances having been burned in them, as I’ve witnessed still happens at Stonehenge during the solstices.
Having spent a good half hour at the Devil’s Den we made our way back, lingering to harvest a good 2lb of blackberries in the lane, which we’d spotted earlier, and later that evening made into a delicious blackberry crumble.
Also on the way home we stopped to take photographs of the White Horse at Alton Barnes, another site which featured in British Art: Ancient Landscapes.
As part of the Old Sarum Landscapes Project 2018, a collaboration between the Universities of Southampton and of Swansea, art sessions were organised in the museum earlier in July. Work by University students, Volunteers and children from Stratford sub Castle CE Primary school appears below, with apologies that we couldn’t include it all!
The Old Sarum Landscapes Project, a collaboration between the University of Southampton and the University of Swansea, is continuing its excavations near Stratford sub Castle this summer (more news of this later) and we look forward to the talk by Alex Langlands this week on this very topic.
Meanwhile, as part of the project, Volunteers and students from Southampton Archaeology have been collaborating for more than a week now on an art activity associated with the project.
This Volunteer, always happy to have a go with pen, pencil or brush, arrived one day last week, and with another Volunteer and a talented young History student, Sam, and were introduced to things by Luke Sollars. Luke is a freelance archaeologist who is usually to be found in Egypt, in an office behind the temple at Karnak (!), but he is also a bit of an artist.
The room was piled high with papers, paints, glue, scissors, pastels, pencils, pens and ink. At first the brief seemed very odd – produce artwork based on Old Sarum or other archaeological landscapes showing the link with the archaeological methods and processes. We all got going, however, and the remarkable results can be seen this weekend at ArchFest, and at the Society of Antiquaries Open Day on 27th July.
This was another lovely opportunity for Salisbury Museum Volunteers. Did you miss it?
Daily art workshops, with a tutor, for Volunteers at the museum, with small groups of University of Southampton archaeology students who are also learning.
These are being organised by the Department of Archaeology at the University of Southampton as part of the Old Sarum excavation project.
Create works of art based on Old Sarum, using pen and ink, charcoal or pencil, watercolour, linocut and similar. The artwork produced will then be used in a final display for the Festival of Archaeology at Salisbury Museum; at a day event in the Society of Antiquaries; and will be used in the future for the Old Sarum Landscapes Project.
Would you like to take part? Some details:
· Workshops will run each day from 10am-4pm at the museum
· You only need to commit to one workshop – but you can opt to do more if you would like
· The workshops run from Monday 9 July – Tuesday 24 July (week days only)
· Each workshop can only accommodate 2 volunteers – you need to book via me
· All equipment will be provided – there will be no cost for the workshop
· There will be a tutor to give support and advice
· No prior experience in necessary
Do let me know if you would like to book onto one of the workshops: email@example.com 01722 332151